Nathula Pass
A Day Trip From Gangtok

Located at an altitude of 14,140 feet and 56kms from Gangtok, Nathula Pass was the place through which the famous Silk Route used to operate until 1962. This used to be the silk trade route between India and Tibet. Lines of mules used to carry silk, gold and many other items from Tibet to India and take daily essentials back to Tibet. The route in Tibet goes down the Chumbi Valley to Yathung, a place about 30kms away which once used to be a major trading township (no longer so). In fact on a clear day you can see this route winding down the valley. If you look at the eastern horizon, you can see the magnificent peak of Chomolhari of Bhutan. 
The fenced Indo-China border is also few meters away and you can see both Indian and Chinese soldiers guarding the border. The guards are friendly. A stairway leads to the border. There is no 'no mans land' here. Even today, mails are delivered across the border on certain days of the week. There is an engraved stone here called Nehru Stone which marks the visit of former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru who visited in 1958. 
Nathula Pass in October 
Nathula Pass 
Source: Wikimedia Commons 
When the war broke out between India and China in 1962, the Indo-China border at Nathula was relatively quiet. But in 1965 a firing across the border took place because of a dispute around the location of the fenced border. In 1967 a major confrontation took place here between the two countries and many lives were lost on both sides. You will find a memorial here constructed in honor of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in this battle. 
After some 44 years of closure, the old Silk Route again reopened on 6th July 2006 allowing limited trade between India and Tibet of China. Items such as wool, raw silk, yak hair, yak tail, China clay, horses, sheep etc can be imported duty free from Tibet of China through this route while 29 items including clothes, tea, coffee, rice etc can be exported to China. This is however limited only to a border trade and participated by 100 odd businessmen. 
This Indo-Chinese trade market operates from 1st June to 30th September every year and from Monday to Thursday every week during that period. Trade marts have been set up on both Indian as well as Tibet side. The Indian trade mart is located at a place called Sherathang about 3kms below Nathula pass. It has a well developed shopping mart and India's highest altitude internet Cafe. Trade mart on Tibet side is located at Rinchangang
As a tourist you can visit the border trade market at Sherathang. Close to Sherathang is another place called Kupup which mostly remains covered with cloud. It has the second highest golf course in the world. Among other things in Kupup, you will find the Gnathang Monastery, and Gnathang War Memorial which was built in memory of the British soldiers who died in a war with Tibet in 1800s. 
On the way to Nathula, you will come across a place called Thegu which has an ATM. This is the highest altitude ATM in the world. It operates with a generator and a special fuel that does not freeze in such high altitude. You can withdraw cash or just check your balance & take the slip as a souvenir. 

A note of caution

Because of the high altitude at Nathula, oxygen level in the air is quite low. Few (adults or children) can face breathing problems at Nathula. If you already have breathing or other health problems, you should consult a doctor before the visit. You can take Acetazolamide Tablets (consult doctor for dosage) while visiting Nathula. It helps to cope with high altitude sickness. 
You may also consider carrying portable oxygen cylinders. They come at various sizes. Larger ones last continuously for 3-4 hours. There are also small cylinders. Each small one lasts for about 15 minutes. If you start having breathing problems, you should immediately come down. You will get portable oxygen cylinders in Gangtok at Medical shops. Your hotel can also arrange if necessary. If unused, they are returnable but refund is usually partial. 

Permits for Nathula

Note that Nathula is a protected area. Foreign nationals, NRIs or OCIs are not allowed here. Indians require a valid Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit Nathula. 
You need to get the permit done through a tour operator authorized by Sikkim government (there are plenty of them in Gangtok). And you can visit Nathula only by a vehicle provided by such a tour operator. You can not take a city taxi or a self driven vehicle to Nathula... you won't be allowed. The permit is issued by the Sikkim Tourism Department in Gangtok / Police Check Post. 
You will need photo ID proof like Passport / Voters Id Card (PAN card is not accepted) and two passport size photos each. Update: Effective September 2019, Aaadhar card is no longer accepted for issuing the permit. 
Application for permits are done in the morning and the permits are usually issued in the afternoon or sometimes next day. So you should apply for the permit at least one day before your planned visit. Note: Journey to Nathula starts in the morning. 
If you do not want to spare a day in Gangtok for the permit, you should then send your documents (photo copies) and self photos to your tour operator in advance to get the permits done before you arrive. Permit cost includes Rs. 200/- per person for the form provided by the tour operator (it can vary) and additional Rs. 20 for the permit itself. 
NOTE: Permits are not issued to children of age 5 years or below (officially not permitted). Some travel agents might suggest otherwise and you may be tempted to take your infant at your own risk... this is not recommended at all. There are good chances that you might be stopped along the way at a check post and disallowed to proceed any further with the child. 
For more information about permits, read Sikkim permits for restricted & protected areas
Note that Nathula Pass being an Indo-Chinese border area, photography and videography are not allowed. However tourists do take pictures and this prohibition is not strictly implemented. 

How to visit Nathula

Take a round trip tour package from an authorized tour operator in Gangtok. Nathula is on Jawaharlal Nehru Road which originates from Gangtok and located at a distance of 56kms. It will require a full day trip from Gangtok to visit Nathula. It is usually combined with visits to Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir. Vehicles from Sikkim government approved tour operators are only allowed for Nathula. Click here for some of such well known operators
Tour operators also operate such tours in groups in high season that operate on per person rate (i.e. on sharing basis). This is a more affordable option. However the permit process is the same. In low season, shared vehicles are usually not available due to lack of demand. The road condition is not good. Only Jeep or SUV type vehicles (like Bolero, Scorpio, Sumo etc) are suitable. Sometimes due to snow, landslides and other road conditions, traffic gets held up for hours on this route. 
Fare updated: January 2020 
The cost of Nathula tour can vary depending on season. During high season (like April to June, and October to November) shared vehicle would cost about Rs. 900 - 1,000 per person for Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula including permit fee. A reserved vehicle like Scorpio or Innova would cost around Rs. 8,000/- including all permits. Reserved Sumo or Xylo would cost Rs. 6,500/-. 

Best time to visit Nathula

First you should note that Nathula is open only from Wednesday to Sunday of the week. It's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to public. Good time to visit is between May to October when the temperature hovers around 10 to 15°C. On a clear day you can see the entire pass and the landscape with towering mountain peaks in the background. You won't usually get any snow during this time. 
Winter starts from November and peaks between December to February. This is when heavy snowing takes place and the temperature can easily go below -25°C. Often the route to Nathula remains closed during winter when it snows heavily. However if the route is open and you make a visit during the winter, pick up snow boots and heavy winter-wears along the way. There are stalls that offer such snow gears on rentals. The two months - November and March are good time to see Nathula covered in snow. The route usually remains open on these two winter months. 
However from Mid December till third week of April too you can get snow at Nathula. From May onwards the snowing usually stops although there can be exceptions on certain days. 

Recommended Resources

The eBook on Darjeeling & Sikkim is a great resource to plan your tour and get deep insights into various attractions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim including trips, tours and rides. 

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Visitors' Reviews/Comments

Praveen Gupta (March 2020) 
Hi Raj ji, I want to plan a visit for nathula pass in 8th april 2020 with my family including two daughters aged 16yrs and 14yrs old. I want to know which documents will be need for my daughters as they are not adults yet. I have Aadhar cards of both only. Thanks in advance. 
Raj ( March 2020 
Hello, Aadhar is no longer accepted as an Id Proof for Nathula. One needs a Voter's ID Card or a passport. In any case, permits for Nathula have been temporarily suspended effective March 5th, 2020 as a measure of protection against Coronavirus... Nathula pass being a corridor to Tibet of China. 
Manoj Lakhanpal (February 2020) 
Thanks Raj. Information in the web site is very exhaustive and rates have been updated as of Jan 2020. Two of us want to visit Nathula on 23/02/20 (Sunday). I wanted to check on following: 
1. Is Nathula open these days. 
2. Are shared cabs for Nathula available at this time 
3. We are reaching Gangtok on 21/02/20 (Friday) at about 3 pm. Will we have enough time to apply for permit for going to Nathula on 23/02/20 (Sunday). 
Raj ( February 2020 
Hello, this is the peak winter time and routes are often closed due to heavy snowing. You can visit Nathula if routes are open. Shared trips are usually not available around this time due to lack of tourists. You will have enough time to get the permits. 
D Harsha Vardhan (January 2020) 
Hello, I would like to ask some questions about Protected Area Permit documents. 
Q1) Do all the Travelers in a group require Photo ID proofs? Because one of our traveler doesn't have Photo ID proof but only has AADHAR CARD 
Q2) Do we need to carry Original Photo ID or a Xerox copy is enough for the permit? 
Q3) Is Nathula pass open in March 2nd week? 
Raj ( January 2020 
Hello, yes all travellers need valid photo ID proofs. You should carry both original and photocopies. Nathula Pass has its own weekly closure days (Monday and Tuesday), otherwise, it is usually open in March unless there is no roadblock or other army activities. 
Anandaraman (September 2019) 
Dear Raj, Thanks for the nice website, we are 14 members planning to visit Gangtok on 2nd OCT, 2019 to 5th OCT, 2019. In our group we have one infant of 2.5 years old. Shall we plan for Nathula pass on 3rd OCT. 
Raj ( September 2019 
Hi, no you should not, infants below 5 years are not officially allowed in Nathula. 
Tavisha (May 2019) 
Hi Raj, Thanks for sharing very informative details. Just wanted to know is Driving license considered as ID proof for Nathula pass. Also can you please advise whom to contact in case if someone has a real emergency? 
Raj ( May 2019 
Hi, yes driving license is a valid ID proof. You should go down to the check post or get in touch with a security officer if there is an emergency. 
Zakir Hossain (March 2019) 
Dear Sir, We are from Bangladesh, want to visit Nathula pass. Can we get the permission to visit Nathula Pass? 
Raj ( March 2019 
Foreign nationals including Bangladeshis are not allowed to visit Nathula Pass. 
Biju Nair (February 2019) 
Hello sir, Thank you for the very informative website that you are maintaining. Understand from local taxi operators that access to Nathu la and Tsomgo are currently closed.  Is there any site, official or other, from which we can verify the open / close status? 
Raj ( February 2019 
No, there is no such website providing current status of Tsomgo/Nathula route. 
Jahidul Islam (December 2018) 
Hi, I'm a Bangladeshi citizen. Can I visit Nathula pass in 1st week of June, 2019. If yes what is the procedure for taking permission. Please mention. 
Raj ( December 2018 
All foreign nationals are prohibited from visiting Nathula Pass and Bangladesh nationals (along with that of China, Myanmar and Pakistan) require special approval from Home Ministry (Delhi) to visit any part of Sikkim. 
Bineeta (October 2018) 
Dear Sir, We are going to Gangtok on 25th December 2018. Is it possible to get shared vehicle for Nathula at that time. What will be the charges. Do we have to pay separate charge for permit to Nathula for shared vehicle or driver will arrange our permit. Whether normally Nathula will be accessible at that time. How many passengers are allowed in shared vehicle including Driver. 
Raj ( October 2018 
Hello, both reserved and shared day trips to Nathula/Tsomgo are offered by registered tour operators. While reserved trip is offered as a full package, the shared trip price is on a per person rate, and both include permit charges along with vehicle. A vehicle like Xylo, Sumo etc usually takes up to 7 persons apart from the driver. Shared trips are usually available in high season when there is good demand for such trips. Some times the route remains closed in December-end due to snow. 
K Desai (August 2018) 
Hi Raj, I am planning to take solo trip to north east in first week of October 2018. would it be safe for a solo woman traveler to take nathula pass. Further shared vehicle would be available during this period and again is it safe generally in shared vehicle to travel alone on this route? 
Raj ( August 2018 
Hi, yes it's usually quite safe in shared jeeps. October being a high tourist season, there will be shared jeeps. 
Kakoli Chakraborty (June 2018) 
Hi...can I visit Gangtok and Nathula in mid July with 7 month old baby??? Please advise. 
Raj ( June 2018 
Hi, firstly you should not visit Nathula Pass with an infant. In fact it is not recommended to visit Nathula with a child below 6 years. Mid-July is in heavy monsoon time. So avoid Nathula anyway... there are good chances of land slides. You can however visit Gangtok. 
Vinod Kumar (June 2018) 
Hello Raj, your write-up on Nathu La Pass is extremely informative. We are planning visit in mid June, along with our daughter who is 7 years old. Please suggest if it would be ok to visit Nathu La with our daughter. Thanks. 
Raj ( June 2018 
Hello, 7 years of age is usually okay. Below 5 years is not advisable. 
Probhat (April 2018) 
Hi Raj, Thank you for sharing lots of information. Only one information I need... are there any registered tour operators in Siliguri for Nathula pass as we are reaching Siliguri on Saturday night and only Sunday is there for nathula pass. we are again coming back on Wednesday. So, we have no other options. Thanks . 
Raj ( April 2018 
Hi, 'registered operator' here means local tour & travel operators having offices in Sikkim and registered with Sikkim government. No operator out of Sikkim is registered for conducting tours in protected areas of Sikkim. However, if you go through an operator in Siliguri, they can arrange the tour through a local Sikkim based operator and take a commission. 
Mukesh (April 2018) 
Hello Raj, Thanks a lot for sharing lot of information. We are planing to visit Nathula pass on 21 April, so my question is: what about permit if we take shared vehicle as we don't know vehicle detail before a day? as mentioned in the site, we should apply for permit a day before. Thanks, 
Raj ( April 2018 
Hello, shared vehicles to Nathula are also operated by registered tour operators. So you should book the tour through one of them while in Gangtok and they will take care of the permits. You should book minimum one day in advance. 
Kritee Sukhija (December 2017) 
Hello sir , I know you receive a lot of msgs but hoping u would reply . M travelling for Nathula on 22nd December 2017 with my parents aged (55 ) . Is it advisable since I read that there cn be oxygen problems . Please advice . Thanks. 
Raj ( December 2017 
Hi, while age of your parents is not a concern, the breathlessness problem or altitude sickness is more of an individual issue ... some have the problem while many do not. One should take it really easy and slow while climbing the stairs at the pass. For additional precaution, consult a doctor. Medicines like Diamox (or any Acetazolamide) can help. 
Pavan Kumar V (November 2017) 
Hello Sir, We are a group of 4 Indian citizens who wish to visit Nathula pass . We are riding with our bikes. I read somewhere that we MUST have travel agent for document submission in order to receive permit. Can you please clarify on that? Is it ok if we submit our own documents without a travel agent? Thanks 
Raj ( November 2017 
For taking self driven bikes to protected areas such as Nathula, you need to get special permission from the Sikkim Home Department in Gangtok. You do not need to go through a tour operator for taking your personal bike. But bear in mind that permission is not always granted and is issued on a case to case basis. 
Pradeep (November 2017) 
Great website, Raj, storehouse of information on Darjeeling and surrounding areas. We will be in Darjeeling during second week of February. Will you recommend visiting Sikkim during this period? Planning to hire motorcycle from Siliguri for the trip, can I ride to Nathula on motorcycle at that time? 
Raj ( November 2017 
Route to Nathula and north Sikkim are usually closed during February due to heavy snowfall. 
David (October 2017) 
Hi Raj, I'm planning to travel to Gangtok 21-23rd December with my mother aged 70 from Australia. Is it advisable for my mother is visit Nathula based on her age? Additionally, it is likely the roads will be closed due to snow in December? If so, if the roads are blocked does this prevent visiting Tsomgo, Baba Mandir? Kind Regards. 
Raj ( October 2017 
Hi, only Indian nationals are allowed up to Nathula with Protected Area Permits. It is not quite advisable for a 70-year old to visit Nathula anyway. Road blocks due to snow is a definite possibility around that time... holds true for Tsomgo and Baba Mandir as well, but you may be lucky. You can only decide once in Gangtok. 
Abhinash Kumar (August 2017) 
Hi Raj, Thanks for your informative website. I am planning to travel to Gangtok from 10th Dec for three days. I am also planning to visit Nathula pass. So, please let me know whether it is open during this time. Also, I want to know whether shared cabs are available during this time to Nathula and other places (since it is winter). As we are two persons, I think taking a private taxi would be expensive for us. 
Raj ( August 2017 
Often the route to Nathula remains closed in December due to snow, otherwise you can go. You are quite unlikely to get a shared tour in such off season, you need to plan a private tour. 
Ankita (May 2017) 
Sir, I came across your article about Nathula pass also. You have mentioned that we need to make the permit a day before or send documents to tour operators if we plan to visit the next day of our arrival. But Sir, if we are travelling alone, I mean independently and want to visit Nathula pass the very next day of our arrival what should we do?? How do we in that case make the pass?? Please help me out. I want to visit Nathula pass, Changu lake and the temple at a go. 
Raj ( May 2017 
You can not visit Nathula Pass other than through Sikkim govt. authorized operators. 
Mamatha P (March 2017) 
Hi, Thanks. It was very informative. We are planning to visit Nathula pass during 2nd week of May 2017. Will we able to experience snow as we are coming from South India we do not want to miss touching snow :), Please help. 
Raj ( March 2017 
Snow in Nathula is unlikely in May unless you are very lucky. April beginning is a better time for snow. 
Ramkumar (January 2017) 
Hi Raj, Thanks for your informative website. I am planning to travel to Darjeeling and Gangtok from 26th Jan till 31st Jan. I am also planning to visit Nathula pass. So, please let me know whether it is open during this time. Also, I want to know whether shared cabs are available during this time to Nathula and other places (since it is winter). As we are two persons, I think taking a private taxi would be expensive for us. 
Raj ( January 2017 
Nathula route can be closed due to snow. Shared jeeps (i.e. group tours on per person rate) usually operate in high season. You won't likely get that in January. 
Selvam Cyril Abraham (May 2016) 
Dear sir, Your advise and suggestion will be very helpful for us. So I humbly request you to reply. In our tour, 4 people are senior citizen aged from 60 to 69. Is it advisable for me to  take them to Nathula pass on 18th may 2016. Secondly is it possible to cover tsomgo lake, baba mandir and Nathula pass and we have to catch the train at 9.00 pm on same day at new jalpaguri onward journey to Kolkata. 
Raj ( May 2016 
While catching the train is possible, but you may be cutting it too fine. Suggest you make a trip to Tsomgo lake and get back to Gangtok by early afternoon so that you have enough time for transfer to NJP. As for seniors, they can make it, but going up the long flight of stairs at Nathula is not advisable. 
SV Varun (September 2015) 
Dear Sir, Planning to visit Gangtok and Darjeeling in end of February 2016. we are aged about 52 years My doubts are: 1) whether I can see the snowfall at Nathula at that time 2) is it advisable to visit nathula during last week on February 3)whether any road obstructions at that time. 
Raj ( September 2015 
Route to Nathula is often closed around that time due to heavy snow. 
D S Bansal (September 2015) 
Dear Raj Sir, Planning to visit Gangtok and Darjeeling in jan 1st week 2016. My doubts are: 
1. Does it rain during this period? 2. Is Nathula pass open during this period? 
Raj ( September 2015 
It doesn't rain that time. But route is likely to be closed due to snow. 
Jitendra Kumar Pandey (July 2015) 
Dear Raj, Is it advisable to travel to Tsomgo lake, Baba mandir and Nathula pass in mid October with kid of age 21 month. I have heard about the problem of low level of oxygen and very low temperature there. Kindly advise me. It will be of great help. Thanks. 
Raj ( July 2015 
You should avoid Nathula with kids (actually kids below 5 are officially not allowed at Nathula although one can take an infant at one's own risk), and with Tsomgo and Baba Mandir you should be extremely cautious and take all necessary measures. Better to avoid. There have been ample cases of kids having problems including nausea, headaches etc. Lack of oxygen is the main issue.