Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in Northeast India with a total area of 83,743 km2 (32,333 sq mi). The majority of its landmass is covered by Hills, Jungles and the mighty Himalayas. Many travellers visit this part of India for its wondrous natural beauty. While every place of this state is indubitably captivating and has its unique charm, it may be confusing for many to pinpoint a place to explore. So here’s to narrow down your search, the top three places to visit in Arunachal Pradesh.
1. TAWANG (Birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama)
Situated at an altitude of 3048m, Tawang is a district of Arunachal Pradesh. The total area is approximately 2085 km2. When talking about visiting Arunachal, Tawang is probably one of the very first places that come to mind.
In medieval times, it was a part of Tibet and later became a part of India as it felt towards India’s side of the McMahon Line (Indo-Tibetan border). China still claims Tawang and most of Arunachal to be a part of Tibet Autonomous Region.
Tawang has an alpine climate with short and moderate summers and snowy winters.
What to explore in Tawang?
a) SELA PASS
You would miss this because it falls on the route to Tawang. Situated at a height of 4170 m (13700 ft), this pass connects Tawang to Dirang. The place is usually covered with snow and witness heavy snowfall during winter. Sela Pass is open throughout the year and one can visit anytime considering there isn’t any blockage due to snow or landslide. Out of 101 lakes of Tawang district, Sela Lake and two other is located in this area. So, upon reaching, halt for some time to experience the beauty of the place and the surreal view by the lake.
Photo by Soumyajit Dash on Unsplash
b) TAWANG MONASTERY
The Largest in India and the second largest in the world, Tawang Monastery is situated amidst the scenic landscape valley of Tawang Chu near the town of Tawang. People following Mahayana Buddhism considered this Monastery as one of the holiest places. Build like a huge palace, this monastery is a three-story high and has a school for the young monks, a library and residential quarters. The main temple is decorated with paintings, carvings and sculptures and has a large statue of Buddha which is about 18 feet high. Visiting this place will surely make anyone feel at peace and calm.
c) SANGESTAR TSO (Madhuri Lake)
Located about 35 km north of Tawang, it is one of the most popular lakes in Tawang. This lake was formed after an earthquake hit the area. Circled by astonishing valleys and snow-capped mountains, it’s certainly a sight to behold. It came to be known as Madhuri Lake after the popular Bollywood actress, Madhuri Dixit shot a song for her movie Koyla in this location. The Lake freezes up completely during the winters and becomes heaven for migratory birds during the summers. The Indian Army maintains the location and also runs a small self-service café beside the lake.
d) BUMLA PASS
Just 37 km away from Tawang, Bumla pass is a border pass between Tibet and India. It serves as a trading point between the two and also is one of the official Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China. Situated at an altitude of 15,200ft above the mean sea level this mountainous pass is quite adventurous and offers a beautiful view of the Tibetan plateau. On the way to the border, few natural lakes can also be seen which looks quite stunning from afar. The temperature remains very cold throughout the year and visitors could get to witness snow in some places even during summer.
Please note that only Indians are allowed to visit SANGESTAR TSO (Madhuri Lake) and Bumla Pass. A special permit should be obtained by every visitor from the office of Deputy Commissioner, Tawang and the same has to be stamped by the Indian army cantonment of Tawang.
Other notable places one can visit near Tawang-
Tawang War Memorial.
How to reach?
The only way to visit Tawang is by road. You can either take a bus, car or motorcycle to reach the destination.
The nearest airport and train station is quite far away. However, you may have to take a train or flight if you are visiting from afar and direct road transportation is not possible for you. Tezpur has the nearest airport from Tawang (330 km). It is not an international airport and the availability of a flight to here may be difficult from your location. The better option would be landing at Guwahati airport (450 km from Tawang) which is well-connected to all parts of the country. Wherever you land, the next part of the journey is only possible by road.
The next option would be by train. Again based on the availability of trains from where you are starting the journey, you may choose to travel to Tezpur or Guwahati.
Now, if you are at Guwahati you have two options.
a) Hire a Taxi and reach Bhalukpong. Upon reaching, make your Inner Line Permit (ILP), if not made already and continue your journey. You may have to stay at Bomdila or Dirang overnight and resume the next morning.
b) Hop on a train or Bus to Tezpur. From here take a Bus to Bhalukpong. Get the ILP at Bhalukpong. After that reach Bomdila or Dirang. Stay overnight there and take a bus to Tawang the next morning.
From Tezpur, you can either hire a Taxi to Tawang or you may travel by bus as mention above. Inner Line Permit is mandatory.
2. MECHUKA (Forbidden Valley of Arunachal Pradesh)
Mechuka also pronounced Menchuka or Mechukha is located just about 30 km away from McMahon Line. With its enchanting landscapes and peaceful vibes, this offbeat place in Arunachal is a treat to one’s eye and soul. The Mechuka town is situated at an altitude of 6000ft or 1829m above sea level towards the eastern Himalayan Range. The Siyom River which rises on the south of the Assam Himalaya passes through Mechuka, enhancing the charm of the rich alpine valley. Here the river is locally known as Yargyap Chu.
Due to its picturesque scenic beauty, tourism is steadily blooming in the valley.
What to explore in Mechuka?
a) MENCHUKA LA
The Menchuka La is one of the many hills in Mechuka and is very close to the town. Hiking up to the peak will offer you a bird’s eye view of the town as well as a stunning view of snow-capped mountains. Carry water bottles, snacks or packed meals (if you wish) in a bag to enjoy eating it while admiring the splendid view. Hike light and do not carry anything that won’t be needed. Do not litter the place and carry back the waste and dispose of it in the town safely.
Bird’s eye view from Menchuka La
b) HANGING BRIDGES
Wooden hanging bridges used by the locals to cross the river are common in Mechuka. Unlike other bridges these are not always stable and crossing one is surely a thrilling experience for a first-timer. With the river water rushing below your feet, the racing heart does sometimes skip a beat.
c) THE GURUDWARA & TAPOSTHAN
According to popular belief, Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed and meditated on the spot (Taposthan) on his way to Tibet. There is a legend that he was meditating on top of a boulder one day and suddenly a bear tried to attack him. At that moment, the boulder, on which he was meditating rose up high and protecting him. Another legend says that a huge rock split apart into two as it was blocking the way for Guruji to cross the river. People believe that only the ones who have not sinned are able to cross the split rock which now looks like a cave. There is also a small beautiful waterfall on the spot whose water is considered to be holy.
A Gurudwara was built near the location which is now maintained by the Indian Army.
d) DORJEELING VILLAGE
Dorjeeling Village is located approximately 5 km from Mechuka town. Apart from Salman Khan point, which is only a viewpoint, there aren’t any specific tourist spots here, but the views of the valley are quite amazing. The mesmerizing panorama of the snow-capped mountains is picture-perfect that would leave anyone spellbound.
Other notable places to visit in Mechuka-
- Hanuman Camp.
- Yarlung Army Camp.
- Dzogchen Samtan Choeling Monastery.
- Samten Yongcha Monastery.
How to reach?
Nearest Train station- Murkong Selek (Assam)
Nearest Airport- Dibrugarh, Assam.
After reaching The nearest Train Station or Airport. Hire a Taxi or hop onto a shared taxi or bus. ILP is required. So if you don’t already have it, Stop at a place called Ruksin, the border town between Arunachal and Assam, just a couple of kilometres away from the train station mentioned above. The ILP can be made here in the Additional Deputy Commissioner’s (ADC) office or you could approach an agent for convenience.
Mechuka is connected by roads in the year 2003. The journey is not smooth and the roads are bumpy and narrow. Therefore the travel time takes longer than expected. After crossing the border of Assam, the next stop would be Aalo where you have to stay overnight. Shared Taxis from Aalo to Mechuka leaves in the early morning. So, to increase your chances to get a sit on one, book a ticket the day you reach Aalo.
3. DONG (Witness the First Sunrise of India)
The easternmost village in India. Visit the Dong valley to behold the first sunlight of the country. Situated on the banks of the Lohit River and Sati river and at an altitude of about 4060 ft, the grand beauty of this place is wondrous.
What to explore near Dong?
a) HIKING TO THE HILLTOP TO SEE THE SUNRISE.
To catch the first rays of the sun, before anyone else in the country, you must get to a hilltop. It’s not a difficult hike but accompanying a local guide is best as finding the right route may be difficult for a first-timer.
If you have camping equipment you could choose to camp at the top, spend the night and waited for the sun. The other option would be consulting the local guide as to how much time it would take to reach the hilltop and starting the hike accordingly so you wouldn’t need to spent the whole night there. Normally the hike would take 2-3 hours.
b) THE HOT SPRING (Tilam)
If you are visiting Dong during the winter months, this is just the place you would need to relax and re-energize after the long travel and the tiring hike to see the sunrise. The spot is also a good place to pitch your tent to spend the night.
d) KAHO KIBITHOO
Just about 20-25 kilometres north of Dong, Kaho and Kibithoo are respectively the easternmost village and town of India. Situated near the Indo-China’s Line of Actual Control (LAC) Kaho is the last border village. Although there isn’t any specific spot to see, the valley is quite beautiful and the drive or ride to the place is really lovely. Civilians are not allowed to go up to the border but you may be able to see it from afar.
There is no place to stay here so, it’s better to plan the trip for a day and return back before dark. Walong and Dong are only the two places where accommodation is available.
How to reach?
Nearest Train station- Tinsukia.
Nearest Airport- Dibrugarh, Assam.
From the Station or Airport, book a cab/get a bus/share a taxi and reach Tezu. At Tezu stay for the night and book a cab for the rest of the journey, which would be about 210 km.
ILP is required and can be made at ‘Dirak Gate’ if you don’t have it already.
Ziro valley is a popular tourist destination in Arunachal Pradesh famous for its music festival (Zero Music Festival) which attracts music lovers from all over the country. Usually organized in the month of September, this is the time when most tourists visit the valley. Apart from this and the rich valley, there aren’t any special places for typical sightseeing. You may interact with the locals, learn about their culture, roam around and explore the valley, hike a hill or perhaps you would rather relax amidst nature with friends and family.
How to reach?
Nearest airport- Lilabari, North Lakhimpur (not well connected, approx 120 km from Ziro)
Well Connected Airport- Guwahati. (450 km from Zero)
Nearest Train Station- Naharlagun (100 km from Zero)
From here you could either hire a cab or take a bus to the destination. ILP is required.
Arunachal Pradesh is a beautiful destination to visit which offers a lot to explore. The beauty of these places can’t be presented or expressed through pictures, videos, words or blogs like this and can only be experienced by being present physically at the spot. The journey to reach these places itself is an adventure with a mixture of smooth, bumpy to no roads. But once you reach your destination, its charm makes you forget everything and when you return back to your home only good memories remain.
So, have you visited any of the above places? Do you think any other destination deserves to be in the top three? Let us know below in the comments. Also, share this with your travel buddy, friend and family who loves to travel.
Thank you for your time. 🙂