Nathu La is a mountain road in the Himalayas in the East Sikkim District. It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with Tibet. The pass, at 14,140 feet above sea level, forms part of the ancient Tea Horse Road. Nathu means “hearing ear” and La means “pass” in Tibetan. On the Indian side, the pass is 54 km east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Only Indian citizens can visit the pass, and then only after obtaining a govt permit in Gangtok. Nathu La is one of the three open trade border posts between China and India. Others are ShipKila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh in the triangle of Uttarakhand-India, Nepal and China.
On the Indian side, only Indian citizens can visit the pass on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in Gangtok after obtaining a one-day advance permit. This pass is especially useful for pilgrims visiting monasteries in Sikkim, such as Ramtek, one of the holiest sites in Buddhism. For Hindus, the pass time to Lake Mansarovar is reduced from 15 days to 2 days.