Sited at an elevation of 4310ft is Nathula the second highest mountain pass of the East Sikkim. Nathula is located at a distance of 56km from the bustling town Gangtok. Nathula has one of the highest motor able roads in the world and it is surrounded by dense forest of alpine trees. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India, the other two are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh / Lipulech) in Uttarakhand. In 1961, this route was closed due to war between China and India. Recently in 2006 the trade resumed after conciliation. Nathu La is a Tibetan phrase, which means ‘the passage that has listening ears’ where the word “Nathu” stands for “listening ears” and “La” stands for “pass”.
Nathula located along the Indo-China Border is one of the major attractions of Sikkim and it is also the trade route which connects Sikkim with Tibet. Strategically perched at the high altitude Nathula for most of the time is concealed under the thick blanket of snow making it look like a winter wonderland but when Nathula is not hiding behind the veil of thick snow, the land is admired with the vibrant color of rhododendron and juniper. The journey towards the second highest mountain pass Nathula is filled with the scenic view of changing vegetation and landscape. Traveling on the winding roads sculpted in the mountainous valley adorned by the lush alpine forest while feasting upon the astounding vista of snow-clad mountain range, glacial lake and waterfall is a visual treat for the visitor offered during the blissful journey towards Nathula. Along with being a scenically blessed location, Nathula is an important historical significant place. During 1903-1904, Nathula played a vital role in British expedition to Tibet, which sought to prevent the Russian Empire from interfering in Tibetan affairs and thus gaining a foothold in the region. During the 1962 Indo-Chinese war, the Nathula Pass witnessed heavy fighting between the two countries. Since then the boarder remained closed until recently in 2006. The sight of daunting Himalayas from Nathula has attracted many tourists traveling to Sikkim in Nathula. Visitors on a clear day can relish the unparalleled view of snow capped mountains looming over the horizon from Nathula and on the other side of mountain pass see the road winding down the Chumbi valley, a sight which have left the visitor bewitched by the alluring charisma of Nathula. There are few points around Nathula which has hyped the interest of tourist. Tourist can visit the highest altitude internet café in Sherathang located 4km from Nathula. On the way to Nathula or while returning from Nathula visitors visit Tsomgo Lake, one of the highest altitude lake in India, and go for a ride around the lake on colorful decorated Yak. Trekking in Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary situated in the area adjoining of Tsomgo Lake and Nathula is another famous activity which visitors partake in while traveling to Nathula. From trekking in the lush alpine forest to riding on the back of Yak, travelers while visiting Nathula can enjoy it all.
Witnessing the majestic snow capped Himalayan mountain range and roads spiraling down Chumbi Valley while being engulfed by the cold yet refreshing mountain air, an experience which can only be felt while traveling to Nathula. Tucked at the far edge of eastern Sikkim, Nathula with its bewitching charisma has become a must visit destination for tourist visiting Sikkim. Nathula lies at a very high altitude, where oxygen levels could be quite low. Adults and children might have breathing problems here. Do not attempt a visit if you know you have any such problem.
To make most of Nathula trip the best time to visit is during late winters and summers (November, March, and April) when the weather is warm and sky is clear to get an unparalleled view of Himalayan range. Visitors must remember the visiting days of Nathula are from Wednesday to Sunday. Extra precaution must be taken while traveling during raining season since the road of hilly region become more prone to landslide after a heavy rainfall.
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