Nathang Village, Sikkim- A photo tour!
Nathang is a quaint village hidden in obscurity, and surrounded by snow-clad mountains. Until recently it was never on anyone's radar, but there is ample reason it should be. Go there now, to see it untouched by tourism, for a few more years and it would have developed into a popular tourist destination. The village has an ageing population of about 300. The younger generation move to Gangtok to pursue their education or for better job prospects, as Nathang has nothing to offer them.
Nathang village has no school or hospital, and neither does the neighbouring village of Kupup. Though Kupup did have a school up until a little more than a decade ago, but it became difficult to retain teachers, so now the school building is abandoned.
Nathang Village is near the Indo-China border so it is common to see army personnel patrolling the village.
History of Nathang
In 1888, the Battle of Nathang was fought here between the Tibetan & British forces. The fallen British soldiers are buried at a graveyard in the village.
There is also a temple- the Shri Krishna Mandir, and often found without a priest, and a small buddhist monastery- the Gnathang Gadenchoeling Gumpa that houses just a handful of monks.
How to get to Nathang Village
I based myself in Gangtok, and took tours to North Sikkim & Zuluk & Nathang Valley. As Nathang village is at the Indo-Chinese border, it is possible for people from outside Sikkim to travel here only with registered tour agencies. A government permit is required from the government to travel towards Nathang, which the tour agent will organise for you.
It is possible for you to get to Nathang Village on your own if you have your own vehicle. There is no public transport that takes you directly to Nathang Valley from Gangtok.
If I remember correctly, I went with Royal Sikkim Tours from Gangtok MG Marg on this trip (Nathan Valley & Zuluk). Since this isn’t a popular route for tourists, there were no cheap tours available in shared taxis like my North Sikkim trip. So I hired a private tour for Rs. 11,000, ( I found someone to share the trip with me from my hostel) for a 1 night & 2 days trip to Nathang village & Zuluk.
Where to stay
Recently because of an increase in tourists to Nathang, many locals have opened up their homes as homestays. I stayed at the home of a friendly gentleman who with his daughter cooked me the most scrumptious meals. If you've read about my journey through North Sikkim, you will know that I had some terrible food during this trip! My meals here though simple, were the best I had in Sikkim- rice, lentils, chicken curry, vegetable soup, dumplings, egg burji with bread. I had no complaints!
I'm not sure if it was because it was an extremely cold day that I was in Nathang, but I didn’t see many people walking outside their homes. There were a couple of children running about, two adults, and a stray dog, out in the afternoon.
The people here are friendly, and curious of travellers and their adventures, so expect them to stop you to speak with you. A lady I met even invited me over for drinks and whichever cricket match was happening that night around a bonfire with her neighbours. Unfortunately I was in bed shivering as I couldn’t bear the cold, and didn’t make it for the otherwise exciting invitation.
How to survive the biting cold in Nathang
But, my roommate did bring me a bottle of the local cherry liquor which according to the locals, help them get through the harsh winters- they even give it in small doses to babies!
I drank the liquor which helped me get through the night. Up until I had the alcohol, I was in bed, under 4 thick blankets, and still in all my layers of clothes that I was wearing outside, and still shivering.
I’m not saying everyone will be this uncomfortable there, but I do have a very low tolerance for the cold, and don’t enjoy being in cold places. A couple of drinks of the cherry liquor and I was happy to feel the numbness from my face & hands go away, and I could feel my body warm up! So if you are ever in Sikkim, and freezing, look for the local brand of cherry liquor!
It won't be difficult to find, as there are liquor shops everywhere. I did not understand why there were so many liquor shops when grocery shops were difficult to find- but now I did!
Hike up the hill
I hiked up to the highest point in the village to check out the expansive views of the colourful houses of Nathang. The views of the snow clad mountains that surround the village were breathtaking, so this hike up, though quite difficult is definitely worth it. I enjoyed sitting quietly atop the hill, feeling the cold wind on my face. I came back down rejuvenated, as though I meditated amongst the clouds.
Mobile network in Nathang Village
There is no network in Nathang village. BSNL works at certain spots in the village-that too only sometimes. Come here prepared to be cut off from the world!