Gangtok- A Perfect Base to Start Your Himalayan Journey
Gangtok is amongst the most famous places to visit in Sikkim. It offers as an ideal base for tours and adventure amid natural beauty and spiritual abundance. With its unparalleled magnificence, the capital city of Sikkim is no less than a paradise on earth. It is a place that is sure to leave its tourists awestricken with a happening nightlife, an exotic marketplace for the shopaholics, restaurants and pubs that attract the enthusiastic youth till 11 in the night. The place is dipped in layers of spirituality found in ffan assortment of monasteries including Rumtek Monastery and Pemayangtse Monastery. Undoubtedly, Gangtok is where your authentic Himalayan experience begins midst the impeccable hills and sublime lakes!
Be it a family vacation, or a romantic honeymoon tour, or a quest of an opportunity of adventure, or simply a leisure tour amid prolific nature, Gangtok is the absolute kind of destination for travelers of all genre. Gangtok is the perfect base to embark on a rejuvenating tour in the lap of the Himalayas.
The city offers splendid views of the mighty Kanchenjunga along with its treasure of the best places to visit in Sikkim including Nathu-la Pass and other places of interest dotted in and around it.
Nathu-La Pass- An Impeccable Tour of the International Border
Amid the eclectic tourist places in Sikkim, Nathu-La Pass is one of the favorite tourist hotspots for tourists. Nathu-La Pass is situated on the old silk route at the Indo-Chinese border, and is considered as the highest motorable roads at an elevation of 4302 m. It is also one of the three trading border posts between India and China.
A throng of tourists pour in every year to catch a glimpse of this pristine beauty restrained by barbed wires, huge gates and military bunkers. It is indeed, a fascinating sight of the international border between India and China. The place offers scenic kaleidoscope which is mostly white washed with snow offering a breathtaking view for the tourists. The captivating waterfalls trailing the winding road from Gangtok to Nathu-La against the soaring mountainscape are some sights to behold. And the glorious view of the Chumbi Valley of Tibet under the crisp blue sky is sure to take you by awe and striking splendor.
The terms ‘Nathu’ and ‘La’ are derived from Tibetan terms, meaning ‘Listening ears’ and ‘pass’. The place is blanketed with cold and suspended atmosphere almost throughout the year with fresh mountain breeze blowing about the air. The place is dotted with famous places of Sikkim that are covered along with a tour to Nathu-La Pass. Some of the places include Baba Mandir or the Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple and Menmecho Lake, which is surrounded by the striking peaks and Jelep-La Pass. Places like Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary, Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary are fed with rare species of flora and fauna.
Tourists can also make a solemn trip to the Watershed War Memorial site to pay tribute to the Indian martyrs. It was here, where a major stand-off between the two Asian giants- India and China took place in 1967 fand many brave hearts lost their lives. There is also an Army Exhibition centre in its vicinity for the tourists to cherish the achievement of the soldiers. There is ‘Nehru Stone’, which is an engraved stone and marks the visit of our former, Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The 16 km-winding trail of Nathu-La lead to the sacred and ethereal Tsomgo Lake which is guarded by encircling mountains on all sides. It is a glacial lake believed to be blessed by legends. By this river, adventurers surely cannot miss hoping on a ‘yak ride’.
How to Reach?
Nathu-La Pass to Gangtok is a spine-chilling yet a mollifying journey along the winding roads embedded with rich alpine and scintillating Himalayas. The distance from Nathu-La Pass to Gangtok is approximately of 56 kms. The journey begins at Gangtok, early in the morning. One can reach this place by shared jeeps or other cabs available in the town owned by tour operators under the Sikkim Government. Nathu-La Pass is open for tourists only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
However, before you start your journey, make sure you (only Indians) have your Nathula pass permits. Since Nathu-La comes under a restricted area, one needs to obtain the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok, or through a registered tour agency under the Sikkim Government. The pass permits costs Rs 200 per person and no permits are required for children below 4 years.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Nathu-La is covered in snow during winters so travelers flock together during the summer months to experience the most of this place. Summer months between May and October are the best months to visit Nathu-La as the temperature is not too harsh and varies between 10-15 degree Celsius during the day, and the weather is pleasant. During this time, tourists cfan catch exotic glimpses of the mountains as the skies are crystal clear.
During the winter months, Nathula temperature goes below -25 Degree Celsius and the place is covered under thick blankets of snow. Tourists who dotingly wish to explore the snowy Nathu-La and its charming frozen lakes, winters stand ideal for them, provided they carry ample woolen clothes to fight the cold. However, there are possibilities of snow-blocked roads and extremities of temperature.
Things to Take Note of:
Since Nathu-La is at extremely high altitude, oxygen level in the air is comparatively lower than the plains. So it is advisable for the tourists to avoid visiting this place who have breathing problems or must consult a doctor before the visit. And for the tourists who are not acclimatized with high altitudes must also take precautionary measures to cope with high altitude sickness.
1. How far is Baba Mandir from Gangtok?
Baba Mandir is approximately 60.7 km from Gangtok and takes about 1.58 hours.
2. Do we need permits for Baba Mandir?
Yes, a Protected Area Permit (PAP) is mandatorily required to visit Baba Mandir.
3. Is Baba Mandir open in April and May?
Yes, Baba is open in April and May
4. How to get the permits for Nathula?
Permits can be obtained by applying through the Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok. You can also apply through a registered tour agency under the Sikkim Government. The pass permits costs Rs 200 per person and no permits are required for children below 4 years.
5. What is the cost of Nathula permits?
The pass permits costs Rs 200 per person and no permits are required for children below 4 years.
6. Where is Nathula Pass?
Nathu-La Pass is located on the India-China border at an elevation of 4,310 m (14,140 ft), about 56 km from Gangtok.
7. What is the taxi fare between Gangtok to Nathula?
Private taxi fare may vary from INR 5000- INR 8000. But STDC taxi may cost approximately INR 4725 with GST.