A largely undiscovered paradise for adventure lovers, Tawang offers sweeping views of mountain lakes and rare wild flowers at a height of about 3,048 metres. Follow this guide to make the most of your trip to the place. By Radhika Sikaria
Beyond the snowy peaks of the Sela Pass, Tawang is one of India’s best kept travel secrets. Bordered by China in the north and Bhutan on the west, the place is historically known as the land of the Monpa tribe. A spiritual destination for Buddhists, Tawang has some of the most spectacular monasteries of India. Come here to pray, trek, hike, camp, and live a little more. Here’s a guide to help you have a slice of this natural paradise.
Indian tourists need to obtain the inner line permit to enter the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. You can have the permit from the offices of Deputy Residence Commissioner in Kolkata in West Bengal, and Guwahati and Tezpur in Assam. Foreign tourists in a group of two or more need to have a protected area permit that is valid for 30 days. Once you have the permit, begin the journey to Arunachal Pradesh from either Guwahati or Tezpur by flight. You can then take a helicopter ride to Tawang directly. If you have a road trip in mind, begin from Tezpur, which is a four-hour drive from Tawang.
The best way to experience the local lifestyle and cuisine is a stay at Hotel Mon Paradise (suites at Rs 3,500). The hotel offers cosy accommodation and the perfect base to explore the hilly town.
Sample the traditional Monpa cuisine, which uses a generous amount of chillies and fermented cheese. The popular local dishes are zan, khura, and gyapa khazi.
THINGS TO DO
One of the biggest draws of Arunachal Pradesh, this monastery was built in 1680, and to this day, remains the largest monastery in the country and second largest in the world. The monastery comes alive annually during Tawang-Torgya, an important festival in the Buddhist calendar that falls in the second week of January.
Pangang Teng Tso
Drive upwards from the Tawang Monastery for 45 minutes to reach an elevation of 13,000 feet, where the breathtaking Pangang Teng Tso lake is located. The lake is surrounded by snow-clad mountains on all sides. Enjoy the natural beauty of the land or embark on a walking trail to witness the remote Himalayas up close.
Sessa Orchid Sanctuary
A part of the Kameng Protected Area Complex, an elephant reserve, Sessa Orchid Sanctuary gets more than 200 orchids during the peak months, October to April. Follow the trekking route developed by the Department of Environment & Forests to explore orchids in their natural habitat of deep gorges and rugged valleys.
Due to the remoteness and the erratic climate of Tawang, a trip here needs advance planning. The best time to visit is between October and November, and between March and April.
At Sela Pass, war and romance greet you at 13,700 feet. Legend has it that Sela, a tribal woman from the region, fell in love with an Indian sepoy, Jaswant Singh Rawat, stationed at the pass during the Indo-Chinese War. It is believed that the soldier single-handedly fought the Chinese for three days before being captured and killed. In agony, Sela took her life soon after. The battle site has a brass bust dedicated to the brave soldier, and the pass is named after his lover.