Located in the Northeastern-most tip of India, Arunachal Pradesh is India’s “land of the rising sun”. It is also fondly called “Land of dawn-lit mountains” or “The Orchid State” for the abundance of beautiful and rare orchid species found here. It is a land which offers myriad travel options. With its breathtaking landscape, there is a lot to be explored in this place. The state is rich in culture and tradition and topped with nature’s beauty. You can’t miss out on the beautiful flora and fauna of the place and the amazing views.
The capital of Arunachal Pradesh is Itanagar and the language spoken is Hindi. The period between October to April is the ideal time to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal offers a plethora of things to do – from taking in its natural beauty to trekking, camping, rafting and tribal tours. It has wildlife, history, root bridges and a lot more to offer to its visitors. The following is a detailed guide to help you on your travels to this wonderful state.
Things to prepare before going to Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the states where even Indian residents require a permit. Indians need to get the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and people of other nationalities require the Protected Area Permit (PAP). This is because the state shares itself with foreign borders and there is a strong military presence, and certain areas are deemed as protected space. Hence, necessary permits are required to visit certain parts of the state and to ensure that visitors leave after a specified period of time.
You can obtain an ILP online through www.arunachalilp.com. Arunachal Pradesh tourism offices in all the major cities in India also provide permit applications. Another place to get it is at Guwahati Airport or AP state’s Naharlagun Railway Station.
Carry a valid Photo ID and some passport sized photographs of yourself for the application. Also, carry copies of all these documents within the state.
How to get to Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh currently has few civil and military airports. However, these are not very well connected to major cities in India yet. One can use air connections via Kolkata, Guwahati, and Lilabari. Tezpur airport in Assam is the closest to Arunachal. You can also take a helicopter ride from Guwahati to Tawang.
Taxis and buses are easily available while travelling to Arunachal and are the preferred mode of interstate travel. It is best connected by road from Assam.
If you are taking the train, then the nearest station is Harmuti Station in Assam. It is an hour’s drive (34-40 km) to and from Itanagar from this station. Harmuti train station connects Arunachal to the rest of the prime cities of India.
Within Arunachal Pradesh, it is best to commute in a car/hired cab.
Where to Stay
Arunachal Pradesh offers different types of accommodation, from budget hotels to homestays. You can choose one based on your travel route or itinerary as the state has 7 major travel routes or regions. You can check the list of accommodations available based on respective regions here.
Things to do in Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh shares its borders with the countries Bhutan, China and Myanmar, and the Indian States of Assam and Nagaland. The state is known for its lush forests, rare orchids, glistening streams and snow-capped mountains. The state has something to offer for every traveller. From ancient monasteries to waterfalls, there is a lot to see. It is also the place to be for people who are into adventure sports.
Things to See
Pankang Teng Tso Lake
Also known as Ptso lake, this gorgeous expanse of water situated amidst mountain ranges is around 17km away from Tawang. In winters, the lake is frozen and the nearby mountains are used for skiing and other winter sports. In the summer, the beautiful rhododendrons and colourful chirruping birds will be a treat for the eyes. There are several other natural lakes in the state.
Owing to its close proximity to China, Arunachal Pradesh played a huge role in the India-China (Indo-Sino) war of 1962. The Tawang War Memorial and Jaswantgarh War Memorial were built to pay tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives in service to the country. These memorials are worth a visit to reflect upon the sacrifices made by others to keep the rest of us safe.
Also known as Jang falls (named after the town Jang that lies between Tawang and Bomdila) this gorgeous cascade of water can be found about 40km away from Tawang. The Nuranang river which originates near Sela Pass plunges down the mountainside to join the Tawang river creating this beautiful 100-meter waterfall. The state is home to many such waterfalls.
No travel guide to Arunachal Pradesh is complete without mentioning the famed and gorgeous Tawang Monastery. The Monastery is inhabited by Buddhist monks who belong to the Mahayana school of Buddhism. Built in the 17th century, it has its roots in history and houses printed and handwritten books, manuscripts, valuable antiquities and other artefacts of Buddhism. True to the Buddhist principle of peace, this monastery has an aura of serenity that will leave you feeling tranquil.
Often considered akin to heaven on earth, this motorable road, devoid of vegetation and covered in snow, connects Tawang to Tezpur and Guwahati in Assam. At an elevation of 13,700 ft, it is roughly 78km from Tawang and about 340km away from Guwahati. While there you can also view the gorgeous Sela Lake. If you are lucky, you might spot some yaks grazing away by the side of the lake. In winters, it can get as cold as -10o C here.
Wildlife and Nature
Arunachal Pradesh is a nature lover’s paradise. The state is home to around 8 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. It also boasts of having four big cats – tigers, leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards. The golden cat and the marbled cat are two endangered feline species that can also be found here.
You can also find several exotic species of birds – Temminck’s Tragopan, Bengal Florican, Sclater’s Monal, Mishmi Wren to name a few. Other animal species to watch out for are the Himalayan black bear, red panda and the Takin, one of the many primate species in the state.
Namdapha, Pakhui, Mouling, Kane, Mehao, Dr D Ering, and Eaglenest are some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the State. You can also visit the Dihang-Debang Biosphere Reserve.
Arunachal Pradesh is up and coming as a destination for adventure tourism. With its lush forests, mountain ranges, and gushing rivers, it is the perfect place to seek some adventure.
The best area for trekkers is the Bomdila-Tawang area. For a more challenging or interesting route, one can go to the Tawang Chu Area. There are several other trekking areas dotted all around the state. May and October are the recommended months to go Trekking.
Fishing and Angling
There are five rivers in the state that are used for fishing and angling. The famous Golden Mahseer fish is supposed to set the perfect challenge for anglers as it puts up quite the fight. So catching one is like a feather in your cap for your angling skills.
Please note: Since the Mahseer is an endangered species, anglers are requested to release them back in the water after they are caught. The sport is meant to test skills and not to kill the fish or take it home.
White Water Rafting
The Siang river is the most popular one for this sport. Other whitewater rafting routes are Dibang, Subansiri and Kameng.
You can also go boating at Salley Lake.
Festivals and Culture
The festivals and rich culture of Arunachal are worth experiencing. Festivals in Arunachal are linked to agriculture, nature, music and new year celebrations. It is celebrated on a grand scale, usually for 3-4 days, and the festivals are usually characterised by prayers.
Some of the most popular festivals of Arunachal Pradesh are:
Also called Lhochhar, it is a Tibetan Buddhist festival, primarily a celebration of Tibetan New Year. The dates vary based on the lunar calendar, and sometimes the location and tradition also play a role in determining the exact dates. Losar celebration for 2018 was concluded in February. The dates for 2019 are set to be 5-7 February.
Usually held on the 15th of February in the Lohit District of the state, Tamladu is the prime festival of the Digaru Mishmis Tribe. They offer prayers to the Gods of Water and Earth to protect them from natural calamities and to yield a good harvest. This is one of the oldest festivals of the state and is celebrated with traditional customs and tribal dances.
Ziro Festival of Music
A four-day event, this is purported as ‘India’s greatest outdoor music festival’. This year, the festival will be held on 27-3Septemberer. For more information, visit their official website.
This is another New Year celebration undertaken in Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Assam as well. It is celebrated by the Theravada Buddhist Communities and usually takes place from 13-15 April.
The festival is in some ways similar to the popular Songkran festival in Thailand, as people celebrate by splashing each other with water as a mark of purity and peace. It also consists of a procession where Lord Buddha’s images after being given a ceremonial bath (this holy bath is the most auspicious event in the festival) are marched down the streets to the accompaniment of drums. The 3-day festival ends with the images of Buddha being taken back to its place of origin.
Other things to keep in mind
- Ensure you have your permits – carry copies of your ID (like the passport), your permit and some passport sized photographs wherever you go in the state.
- Carry warm clothes even if you are visiting in the summer as some parts of the state like Sela Pass and other higher altitude regions can be cold.
- Be respectful to the place and its inhabitants – especially the monks and soldiers.
- Preserve the ecology and biodiversity of the place.
Backpack to Arunachal Pradesh and enjoy in the lap of nature. Indulge in the unique culture, gorgeous natural spots and experience various ethnicities. Happy Travelling!
Read more: Travel Guides to other Northeastern States of India.