Way To Nathula Pass
Road To A Higher World
Nestling at an altitude of 14,140 feet above sea level, Nathula is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. Around 56 Km east of Gangtok, this mountain pass in Himalayas is located on Indo - China border and connects Indian state Sikkim to Tibet Autonomous Region in China. Nathula was once an offshoot of ancient silk route connecting Lhasa in Tibet to plains of Bengal. But the pass was closed after the war between India and China in 1962 and was reopened only in 2006 July. Since then, it sees a huge number of tourist visiting the pass everyday.
The best part of traveling to Nathula pass is the travel itself. Once you start your journey from Gangtok, it is virtually a journey through heaven. The mist shrouded peaks, the zig zag roads, roaring waterfalls, all become your partners for the entire trip. As we reach close to Nathula Pass, you will see the area dotted with army settlements. You have to leave your vehicle few paces away from Nathula pass. From there you have to climb steps to reach Nathula Pass. It is advised that you don't rush up these stairs, as at 14000 feet, you can get really out of breath. At Nathula, you will get to meet not only Indian soldiers, but Chinese counterparts as well. Don't forget to get a photo clicked with a Chinese soldiers. And if you wish to converse with them, you will get the best tutor standing right next to you. There is a board on which are written common Chinese phrases and their translation in English.
Towards the Chinese side, there is a pilgrim destination dedicated to Baba Harbhajan Singh. He was a soldier who fought and lost his life in 1962 war. It is one of the very few structures that you will find here. He is revered not only by Indian soldiers, but Chinese as well. In fact, during every flag meeting, Chinese keep a chair aside for him as they believe his spirit still patrols these valleys. There is no habitation for many miles on sides of the border. From Nathula Pass, one can see deep into Chinese territory, which is dotted with sky touching peaks covered with show. After a 2000 feet downhill, there is a splendid blue water lake called Tsomgo Lake also known as Changu. Nothing can be more relaxing than some lone moments by the banks of this lake.
This place also turns out to be a great destination for people looking to shop for some locally items. There are many small shops by the side of Tsomgo Lake that sell sweaters, shawls, scarves and thermals, all with a tag saying 'Made In China'. Also enjoy a Yak Safari on the banks of the lake, which might not be as fast and thrilling as a roller coaster ride, but definitely entertaining.
You need to know a lot, before you are ready to travel to Nathula Pass. At 14000 feet the environment is totally different from what you find in lower altitudes. It is not only the freezing temperature that makes it difficult, the level of oxygen too is drastically low. So it is advised that don't rush into things and do everything slowly and gradually. Apart from wearing thick woolen clothes, carry with you sunscreen lotions and hats to save yourself from high levels of ultraviolet rays. Ask soldiers and they will tell you that here you can get cold bites and sun burns at the same time. Nathula Pass is located just 56 km from Gangtok. So there will not be a problem to reach here by road. You need to hire 4 wheel drive vehicles which have got required permits. Private vehicles are allowed near Nathula Pass as the area is under Indian Army. There are no hotels near the pass apart form the ones that are in Gangtok. Best time to visit Nathula Pass is i summers when temperature hovers around 15 degrees. In winters, the temperature dips to as low as -25 C.