Do you love road trips? Do you feel an adrenaline rush by conquering treacherous roads in dramatic climates? Or are you like me who gets anxiety attacks on wobbly roads and is a victim of travel sickness?
If you belong to the first category, I guarantee that the journey to Tawang will be the ultimate soul satisfying experience for you.
And those belonging to the second category who might be trying to cover up their jealousy for the overtly fit travelers by cracking self deprecating jokes about their nausea and anxiety – I just have one thing to say to you – If I can do it then you can too! (Just keep looking straight and get high on sugar candy).
During our 15 days long trip covering long scenic roads in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, Tawang was our first destination. We broke down the journey from Guwahati to Tawang by spending one night each at Bhalukpong and Dirang while going and at Bomdila while combing back to Guwahati. We spent 3 nights at Tawang. These may seem like too many days especially if you are running on a tight schedule however considering the condition of the roads, weather and overall distance it is implicit that you give yourself time to recover from an average 8-12 hours of tiring drive in the mountains.
Guwahati to Bhalukpong journey gets dramatically scenic as you approach the Assam – Arunachal Pradesh border. Long spreads of lush green rice fields with some traditional cottages sprinkled here and there, laborers – both men and women working hard in the fields, children playing around their houses with chickens watching us curiously The whole memory dripped in golden sunshine of the setting sun makes it one of the happiest and peaceful memories from this trip.
Bhalukpong, Arunachal Pradesh lies along the kameng river. This beautiful town is chosen as a first stop by tourists to break down their journey to Tawang. Make sure you keep insect repellant handy since it is close to the water body and covered in dense forest.
A few tips to make the most of your road trip to Tawang
Keep your eyes and mind open and your camera handy all the time. Make as many stops as you want and remember that the journey matters as much as the destination!
The road to Tawang is simply breathtaking. From Lush green forests to grasslands to barren hills to misty deodar jungles – the view keeps on changing before you can fully indulge into the beauty of it. You leave behind tiny villages with a handful of wooden cottages stocked with piles of wood in front of them. Small stalls selling a gazillion kinds of pickles and jams will make sure that you take some stops to check them out and drink piping hot tea from the stall next to it. You may come across kids with cherry red cheeks that wave at you cheerfully as you pass by. Mountain goats and yaks will keep you company throughout the drive.
On your way to Tawang, you will most probably break the journey at Dirang. This village is like an elixir to a tired soul. Do check out the little treasures hidden in and around this tiny village like the Dirang Dzong and Sangti valley if time permits. Nonetheless, do not skip paying a visit to the magnificent Dirang monastery.
You may think your hardships are in their final stage when you reach the Sela pass. Hold onto that thought. First, check out the cabin like house next to the Sela lake and check if they have momos. As per our driver’s information they were delicious. Sadly, we didn’t get to try them. However the soupy maggi that we tried was very good indeed. From Sela pass to Tawang the road and view is something that we call in today’s language ‘Savage’. Till the Jaswant Garh war memorial the road may simply look like dirt bike track. After that the road gets better gradually. The Indian army has setup a stall here that serves hot snacks and tea and also sells army merchandise. After paying visit to the memorial, do check out their shop. They have some seriously cool stuff especially the gloves which are a highly selling item.
A few kms before you reach Tawang you may take a slight detour to the jung (Nuranang) waterfalls. These stunning waterfalls are unknown to or are skipped by most of the tourists however they are absolutely worth a visit. You can take the staircase that goes right where the water falls to enjoy a splash of ice cold water. I can not mention enough how refreshing it feels after a spine wreaking 10 hours drive!
On your return journey if you rest at Bomdilla for a night, I highly recommend staying at ‘Anu’s homestay’ and visiting Chilipam monastery the next morning which is at appox 1.5 hours drive from Bomdila. It is slightly off the main track thus not visited by many. Situated on a hilltop away in serene surroundings, this stunning monastery is a sheer delight to eyes and the soul.
The majestic yet intimidating landscapes of Arunachal Pradesh intrigue you in every possible way. Your are compelled to surrender to your surroundings here. You know, just like the people who live in these mighty mountains, that you are at the mercy of the nature. It is the raw, earthy and awe striking beauty of this land that makes the whole journey a sublime experience.
Tawang is yet to be fully commercialized like other popular hills stations. This is what makes it so appealing to travelers who are looking for humble, peaceful surroundings deeply connected to the nature. It has fewer options to stay and shop. Additionally, there are no unnecessary sightseeing spots created for the sake of tourism.
I will be covering things to see and do in Tawang in the next post.