The largest state in the North-East, Arunachal is a sleepy giant, displaying few signs of the social or environmental crises that scar other parts of the country. Its topography is marked by a series of valleys that run from the Himalayas in the north to the Brahmaputra in the south. Arunachal’s most popular tourist destination is in many ways its unlikeliest. Tawang only came under de facto Indian administration in the 1950s and then fell briefly to the Chinese in 1962. It’s some 350 km of winding hill road from Tezpur, but nevertheless attracts tourists and trekkers alike with its natural beauty.
In Arunachal Pradesh, at 3,400m, near the Tibet and Bhutan borders, 347 km from Tezpur and 187 km from Bomdila
HOW TO REACH
Recommended airport: Guwahati (530 km/ 17 hrs). From Guwahati Airport to Tezpur (178 km/ 4-5 hrs), taxis charge INR 3,500. Shared taxis available from Tezpur for Tawang at INR 650 per head; these leave at 5.30 am from Tezpur Main Market. Full taxi (Tavera/ Bolero/ Scorpio) fare for Tezpur-Tawang is INR 5,000 plus fuel and driver cost (minimum 5 days). Flights to Tezpur are erratic. Contact In Tezpur, call BS Tours and Travels on +91-94350-81418 or +91-3712-222717
Nearest railhead: Guwahati. For onward journey, see By air above
From Guwahati, take NH31 to Baihata Chariali, then NH52 to Balipara via Mangaldai and Tezpur, and then the long state highway to Tawang via Charduar, Bhalukpong, Bomdila (overnight), Dhirang and the Se La Pass
Try the 80-min Tezpur-Tawang helicopter ride, but for spectacular views, drive instead. En route lies Sari Duar, a traditional trading centre, the Nameri Wildlife Reserve and Bhalukpong, popular with anglers and picnickers. A 100 km later is Bomdila, from where the scenery gets interesting, climbing to the Sela Pass (4,215m). Other attractions include the ‘Madhuri’ Jheel just outside Tawang, which was used as a location in the Shah Rukh starrer Koyla.
Tawang Monastery, the largest in India, at 3,050m, dominates the skyline like a medieval fortress. To the south-east is Urgeling, birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama. The Sange Ryabgelling shrine is close by, as is the Khinme Monastery. On the Tawang-Bumla Road is the Singshur Nunnery. Taktsang Gompa (12 km) is one of the holiest Buddhist shrines in Arunachal. And en route is the serene Sangeshar Lake.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Take your pick from Hotel Alpine (Tel: +91-3794-222515; Tariff: INR 850-1,350) and Hotel Nefa (Tel: +91-3794-222419; Tariff: INR 800-1,800) in Nehru Market, Tourist Lodge (Tel: +91-3794-222359; Tariff: INR 300-1,050) near the telephone exchange and Tawang Inn (Tel: +91-3794-222172; Tariff: INR 1,000-2,500), near the main bus stand. They have almost the same facilities including a restaurant. No credit cards accepted. With no great restaurants either, stick to simple eateries and items (momos and butter-tea are always nice).
All tourists need permits to enter Arunachal, available (carry valid ID) from:
● Deputy Resident Commissioner Guwahati. Tel: +91-361-2412859
● Tourist Information Centre Arunachal Bhavan, Kautilya Marg, New Delhi. Tel: +91-11-23013915. See Website: arunachaltourism.com
● All visiting foreign nationals require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), routed through state accredited tour operators (see website given above). Available against a valid passport and visa, the RAP (US$ 50) can be obtained from any Indian mission abroad, the Home Ministry in New Delhi, and the office of the Home Commissioner, Itanagar (Tel: +91-360-212339) for a period of 30 days only, for a minimum number of 2 people