A visit to Sikkim is often told as incomplete if someone does not visit the Nathula Pass from Gangtok on India China border. Here is a guide on planning your trip and visiting the Nathula pass.
Nathula pass Travel Guide
Nathula Pass Permit cost
Nathula pass permit cost is INR 200. A permit can be obtained by applying to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. Or you can also apply at through a registered travel agent at Gangtok taxi stand. A photo ID proof and two passport size photographs are required which is collected one day in advance and you get the permit next day morning.
Nathula pass permission online
There is no online system through which you can get online Nathula pass permits. I hope they introduce that in the future.
Gangtok to Nathula Pass taxi fare
You need vehicle permission to visit Nathula pass, the process starts one day in advance as there is a limitation on the number of vehicles per day to the border. I would suggest you join a public taxi, It costs around 1000 per person in a shared vehicle and exclusive ones might charge around 5000-6000 per vehicle. Nathula is open to Indian visitors only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturday, and Sundays.
Best time to visit Nathula pass
Best time to visit Nathula pass is Summer i.e. from April to June and then monsoon comes. Later, you can also visit the pass just before winter i.e. from October to November).
I preferred visiting the Nathula in winters because of snow, frozen lakes & less crowd. However, most of the people suggest traveling Nathula in Late March, April, and May. Traveling in summer can be a problem (at-times because of early monsoons) because of landslides.
However, Rainfall and cloud covers including fog may also hamper the visibility. Monsoon period between June to September in the off-season in Sikkim because of these problems. Traveling becomes extremely tedious will long detours and at times waiting for hours for the road to be cleared.
After spending some spellbinding time at Kyongnosla waterfall and Changu (Tsomgo) lake, we moved ahead towards Nathu la pass at Indo-China border at almost 14000 feet.
As we moved ahead of Changu lake also called as Tsomgo lake, the abruptness and inclination of the hills increased. The weather turned out to be cold and dry even when the warm sun was there. The vehicle moved heavily.
The dome of the house at the border seen in the picture over hills
Roads were parked with snows both sides. This part of the Himalayan range was barren and futile with patches of brown grasses, wired fences, small bushes, shrubs, snow, and boulders. Amidst these was a narrow road taking us to the Indo-china border.
It was the first time in my life when I would be standing across the fences. We reached there and the first view of the border was like a temple of thousand sacrifices to me. One and only word which instantly came out of our mouth was “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
Indian side border view at Nathu la Indo-China border
Something I learned at 14000 feet:
Some of the physical changes that I experienced were decreased hearing ability due to cold; you can’t climb the stairs running, it took us almost 10 minutes to climb around 100 stairs. Due to pressure difference at such higher altitude, climbing up a single ladder requires much energy.
The border was mostly painted in saffron which is a color of sacrifice. Even the ladders that took us to the fence were painted in saffron indicating the sacrifices of the martyrs protecting our border. I felt proud to see the tricolor hoisted at the border and representing the true spirit of India at 14000 feet with pride.
A Chinese soldier at the Nathu La pass border
And, when we reached the border, the first thing we could not resist to see was a Chinese soldier. A doll, fully covered in winter suits. Shake hands and take photographs. He also took our photographs. Someone said after taking our photographs they sent our photos to their military HQ. Whatever, I did not mind sending my photo to Chinese military HQ. It was very funny to know that Indian soldiers call them “Basanti”.
At Nathu la pass, wired fence and Chiese side of border Visible in BG
The location was extraordinary. We were at thousands year old silk route. There were frozen lakes, brown grasses, barren mountains stretched square miles.
At Nathu La pass:
- The temperature dips to -25 in winters. –There is no “no man’s land” at the border only fencing is there. –Very strong and cold winds can swipe you over. –Purchase Chinese coins, A certificate to visit to Nathu la from the shop at the border. — In the local market, take a look at a few Chinese products
- Enjoy squared Himalayan ranges, brown grasses, White sparkling snow in the sun
- Shake hands with Chinese soldiers, take tons of photographs of the area around — enjoy the magnificent Himalayan ranges and peaks around –And in the end, feel the blood of an Indian running in your veins
A Himalayan Peak is seen from Nathu La
Chinese Coins bought at Nathu La
The highest golf course in the world at Nathula
After spending some time there at the border, we started descending down.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Shrine, Nathula pass
The Shrine of Baba Harbhajan is almost 15 kilometers from Nathu La. There is a story behind this shrine. Here are few direct lines from Wikipedia:
Major Harbhajan Singh drowned in a glacier following the 1962 Sino-Indian War in 1968 while escorting a column of mules to a remote outpost. A manhunt was launched to find him. He was found after three days and cremated with full military honors. According to legend, it was Major Harbhajan Singh who led the search party to his body, and later, through a dream, instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a shrine after him.
Legend also has it that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers three days in advance. During the flag meetings between the two nations at Nathula, the Chinese set a chair aside for the saint.
Every year on September 14, a jeep departs with his personal belongings to the nearest railway station, New Jalpaiguri, where it is then sent by train to his village. As per train rule the train reserved seat never left blank, but for baba, reservation is done to travel him at his home town every year with soldiers to drop Baba at his home town. A small sum is also sent to his mother each month.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple on the way from Nathu la pass
Miraculous Totally frozen and partly frozen lakes on the way from Nathu La
Every story comes to an end and our journey to0 came to an end. We returned back to our stay by evening leaving behind the guarding soldiers in winter at the border, frozen lakes, great Himalayan wilderness, sparkling snows, brown grasses etc behind.