is a pass on the Indo Chinese boarder (La meaning Pass in
Tibetan). The place is 56 kilometres from Gangtok
and passes through Tsongmo Lake.
The place is covered with snow for most part of the year.
The pass was traditionally used by merchants of India and
Tibet for trading. It was part of the famous Silk route connecting
plains of Bengal with Tibet that ran through the Zuluk - Memenchu
- Jelepla route.
After Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950
there were major migration of Tibetans to India through the
Pass. Today Tibetan migrants constitute a substantial part
of the population of the Sikkim and Darjeeling hills. During
the 1962 Indo-Chinese war, the Nathula Pass witnessed heavy
fighting between the two countries. Since then the boarder
remained closed until recently.
The boarder was opened for trade on July
6th, 2006 after prolonged negotiation between the two countries.
Dignitaries from both countries met at Nathula on this historic
occasion and trade between the two countries resumed on a
limited number of items. The future of the pass seems to be
bright as state and the Central government plans big for the
Pass. Tourism may also get a major boost as the boarder is
planned to be opened for tourists in the future.
At present the tourists are allowed to get
close to the international boarder and the Chinese soldiers
can be seen protecting their side of the boarder. On specific
days the Chinese authorities also allows tourists to visit
the area and on those days the tourists of the two countries
can see one another.
Nathula is a half day sightseeing excursion from
Gangtok. The distance from Gangtok is about 56 kms. Most tourists
start the tour in the morning between 8 to 10 AM and return
to Gangtok by 2 to 3 PM. Late evening drive is not suggested
as the road is very hostile and often gets blocked by landslide
etc. There is no tourist accommodation after Gangtok town.
In case the tourists are stuck here, the Indian army provides
them accommodation for the night. There is an alternative
route for visiting Nathula through Zuluk, Memenchu road. But
tourist permits are not given through this route.
Note: Nathula has witnessed
heightened tourist interest in the last few years. On the
other hand the restrictions on visiting the boarder are quite
strict. This has resulted in a demand supply mismatch especially
during high season. More tourists are interested to visit
the boarder than the number of passes available. Also tourists
are allowed to visit Nathula only on specific days of the
week. There is restriction on the number of vehicles that
can visit Nathula on a given day. Tourists are advised to
make reservation for the tour well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Foreign tourists are allowed to travel only upto Tsongo lake.