What used to be a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Route is now one of the great attractions for travellers in entire Sikkim. This mountain pass is located at the Indian border with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The part of it in India falls to the east of Gangtok town in East Sikkim. Situated at an elevation of 4130 m above the sea level, the climate of Nathula Pass obviously cold with highest annual temperature of 15°C and the pass is blocked with snowfall during winter.
Being related with the Old Silk Route, the history of Nathula Pass naturally belongs to the ancient era. In 1873, when Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling published a report on the significance of routes connecting Sikkim and Tibet, the importance of Nathula was highlighted. It had a prominent role during 1903-1904 British expedition to Tibet. When Sikkim acceded to India, Nathula became a part of Indian Territory.
Because of the elevating landscape, the flora of Nathula basically is varied from the base to the top – from sub-tropical at the base, to temperate vegetation, to wet and dry alpine type of vegetation and lastly clod tundra desert without vegetation. The area surrounding the Nathula Pass also has a variety in fauna, especially avifauna. Yak, pashmina-type goats, Tibetan wolf, snow leopard etc are vital part of fauna here and the avifauna includes ruddy shelduck, golden eagles, blue-whistling thrush, warblers, black-winged kite, blood pheasant and many more.
The nearest major broad-gauge railway station to Nathula is in New Jalpaiguri at a distance of around 173 km. The airport in Bagdogra is the only centre for connecting Nathula with rest of the country by flights. Although location of Nathula is accessible from Gangtok town in Sikkim, it is mostly travelled from Siliguri in North Bengal, as NJP Railway Station and Bagdogra Airport are very close to this city. The National Highway 10 and Jawarharlal Nehru Road connect this mountain pass with Siliguri.