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Traveling Solo as a Woman to Sikkim’s Nathu La Pass

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Nathu La Pass solo trip will prove to be one of your greatest travel experiences. The beautiful terrain, the purity of nature and the lovely people will leave you in awe of Sikkim.

In the North East region of India, there exists a land of shimmering lakes and rolling hills, a land picturesque enough to fit right into a postcard. This is the land of Sikkim. A place where clouds stroll the paths freely and fill your soul with pining.

This fog encased land is where I planned a trip recently. Nathu La Pass solo trip was a dream come true for me. Travelling alone for the first time and with barely enough money, I was unsure and confused. But all of that vanished as I first breathed the chilly air and let it fill my lungs. All the pre-planned itinerary went for a toss as soon as I embarked on my Nathu La pass solo trip and witnessed the magnificence of nature around me.  

Sikkim is sweet, lovely and somewhat naïve. It still seems untouched by the craziness of the world. Everywhere I went, friendly faces smiled at me.  I went there a cynic and came back dreaming.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Located at 14000 feet, Nathu La is an important strategic location between India and China. Photography by Arnab Chakravorty

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip: Travel Information for First Timers

Weather conditions Being a mountain pass, Nathu La Pass is covered in snow for most of the year with exception of the summer season when most of the snow melts.
Food options available Few tea and snacks stall present in Nathu La Pass. To enjoy local cuisine, there are a lot of options available in Gangtok with specialties being Thukpam, Phagshapa, and Momos.
Nearest accessible towns Gangtok (56km), Phodong (85km)
Places on the way Tsomgo Lake, Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, Sarathang Lake
Temperature Climbs up to a maximum of 20°C during summers and the minimum stays around 12°C, while during winters, it dips to -25°C during nights.
Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Nathu La Pass from a distance. Photography by Divya

Traveling Solo as a Woman to Nathu La Pass: Considerations

There are a few aspects that need to be taken into consideration if you are taking the nathu la pass solo trip as a woman. While the number of women who travel alone, or with their girlfriends, seems to be growing in India, what one also notices are the increasing number of cities that have been deemed unsafe for such backpackers. Keeping such things in mind, it gets hard at times to convince our families and even ourselves to venture out alone.

Therefore, on your Nathu La Pass solo trip, bear the following things in mind –

1.Always inform friends and family about your place of stay. Make sure they have the contact numbers of your place of stay.

2.Do a thorough research about your place of accommodation in advance. Seeking help from a trustworthy staff in arranging cabs will always come handy.

3.Keep enough cash with you at all times owing to the less ATMs in the region

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

The entire way to Nathu La is filled with magnificence. Photography by Gaurav Baid

Nathu La Pass : An Overview

Location North-Eastern India
State Sikkim
Mode of Travel By road (56 km from Gangtok)
Best time to visit April to mid-June, October to November
Budget accommodation Guest Houses, Hotels in Gangtok
Pre-Requisites Being an Indian national with proper identification proof
Precautions Low Oxygen level, Risky roads during winter.
Visiting Days Wednesday to Sunday
Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

A yak bathing itself in the sun near Nathu La. Photography by Prathit Shrestha

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip from Gangtok – The Nearest City

It takes almost two hours to reach Nathu La Pass from Gangtok – the capital of Sikkim. It is advised that you start early and get back early to avoid any traffic jams. The terrain is rough (yet beautiful) and there can be chances of landslides especially during monsoons. If you are all by yourself on your Nathu La pass solo trip, make sure to get back before dusk.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Beautiful orange brown mountains on the way to Nathu La. Photography by Akansha Vashisht

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip for a Woman : What is the Best Way to Visit ?

There aren’t many options when it comes to taking the Nathu La Pass solo trip. The government authorized vehicles, such as Jeeps and SUVs, are the only vehicles allowed to pass through the protected area. One can take these shared rides from Gangtok and can cost around Rs.700 (including the permit fee) per person during high season (April to June or October to November). The ride covers Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir all the way to the Nathu La Pass.

A reserved vehicle, like an Innova or a Scorpio, however, will cost you around Rs.7000, again including the permit fee, while ones like Sumo or Max will cost you around Rs.5000.

It is a 2-3 hours’ ride to the Pass and the vehicles usually leave by 8 am. If you choose to visit not only the Pass but also Baba Mandir and Tsomgo Lake that the trip would easily take an entire day, so you should plan accordingly.

Visitations are limited to Indian Nationals so no Foreign Nationals, NRIs or OCIs will be allowed to go. Indian Nationals who wish to visit the place will require a valid PAP (Preserved Area Permit) which should be applied for at least one day prior to your planned date of visit. A tour operator verified by the Sikkim government can easily get the work done. You will need a valid ID proof like a PAN Card, Aadhaar Card, Passport, Voters Card etc along with two passport size photos.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

At present, Nathu La Pass can be visited only by Indian nationals. Photography by Simardeep Singh

Procuring an Online Permit for Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

It needs to be mentioned here that there is no online permit for Nathu La pass solo trip. Also, only foreign nationals are allowed to visit. Only local travel agents from the region (Sikkim) are allowed to procure the permit for their clients.

The cost of the permit for your Nathu La pass solo trip will depend upon the season and the vehicle being used. The number of vehicles allowed daily are 75.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

A gorgeous lake on the way to Nathu La. Photography by Parul Agarwal

Crucial Aspects of Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Since the Nathu La Pass is situated at a very high altitude, the level of oxygen there is pretty low and may cause health-related issues for certain people. For this very reason, one should consult a doctor beforehand and get Acetazolamide Tablets. Carrying inhalers along might also be a good idea for everyone.

In case your problem is more severe, you might also want to consider carrying portable Oxygen cylinders from Gangtok which last around 4-5 hours if used non-stop.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Frozen lakes on the way to Nathu La from Gangtok. Photography by Ishan Modak

Heading on the Nathu La Pass Solo Trip: The Complete Experience

It was on such a chilly day that I took a shared jeep to Nathu La pass at 14140 feet (4310 m). I had spoken to the people at my hotel the day before and they had helped me get a pass. All I needed to do was provide my ID and some passport size photographs. The helpful people at Hotel Sai Kripa even helped me book a shared ride to the pass and back. Thus began my Nathu La Pass solo trip.

Making Friends Among Strangers: Pool a Cab and Save Money

On the first day of my Nathu La pass solo trip,  I made my way to the Gangtok taxi stand. I was sharing the vehicle with three dreamy-eyed honey-mooners so it did get a bit weird in the beginning. Initially, I wasn’t too sure about sharing the ride with strangers, but it was way cheaper than other options, so I had to cave.

We made our way to the Nathu La Pass stopping twice on the way to show our identification card and trying to drown ourselves in liters of tea. Shivering slightly as the air got steadily thinner and chillier, we kept climbing higher and higher. At one point, we left the final lines of trees behind to find only bald hills, crystal lakes and tiny waterfalls that had frozen into clumps of ice. Our ride dropped us a little below our destination.

Wheezing and coughing, we made our way to the Nathu La Pass and the stern-faced guards that marched along the lines of the Indo-Chinese border. At over 14000 feet, when it feels like the earth’s atmosphere has abandoned you, there are only two things that will save your life- warm beverage and inhalers- and I had made sure I had plenty of both. But in case you have added health issues, you might want to bring along oxygen tanks from Gangtok. As our breathing eased, the seven of us sat in front of the 14ooo Feet Café, drinking tea and trying to comprehend our own insignificance amidst those giant cliffs.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

India – China Border at 14000 feet. Photography by Eva Flynn

 

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

The very courteous owner of a cafe near Nathu La. Photography by Sayan Sayal

Jamming and Karoke at Nathu La Pass Solo Trip : Music at 13000 Feet

On the way back of my Nathu La pass solo trip, we passed through the breath-taking (not that we had much breath left) Tsomgo Lake and Old Baba Mandir and my ride-mates stopped to take pictures. From then on, things changed. Our group laughed and teased and talked as if we had known each other for years. Our driver, like every other local I met, was amazingly friendly and obliged each time we asked him to stop and let us take pictures. As the evening sun climbed down from its perch, we sat around one table at this tiny shack at about 13ooo feet. The lovely women who ran the shop fed us steaming bowls of spicy Maggi.

There we made one of the best decisions of my life. We croaked along some Bollywood songs, pretending that it was karaoke, and believe me, karaoke at 13ooo feet does not sound very nice. Laughing, we climbed into our jeep and made our way back into Gangtok just as the sun vanished behind distant cliffs, our laughter and bad singing lighting the way along with the jeep headlights.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

The Old Baba Mandir should be visited on the way back from Nathu La Pass. Photography by Rohit Dey

 

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

The splendid Tsomgo Lake. Photography by Vidadwan Vigya Jha

 

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Nathu La covered deep in clouds and evening shimmer. Photography by Aishwarya Mohanty

Nathu La Pass Solo trip was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. You too should step out of your comfort zone and travel alone soon.

Happy wayfaring 🙂

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

Aananya Bhowmik

Ananyaa Bhowmik has a Masters degree in Comparative Literature and has been writing ever since she learnt to spell. When asked about her love for words, she talks about her grandma. Married off before she could get to high school, her grandmum had already read her way through all the local libraries by the time Aanyaa was born. The first memories are of summer afternoons, betel-tinted teeth, and stories of lands faraway are all associated with her grandmum.  In those afternoons, the wilderness of Africa was in their backyard and they just needed to cross the verandah to dip their feet in the icy waters of the Arctic. Grandma was her first reader and a fellow traveler. Three years ago, she passed away, breaking her promise of travelling the world with the author. Ananyaa now wanders  the paths alone and writes to feel closer to her grandmother.

Nathu La Pass Solo Trip

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