Complete Guide to Arunachal Pradesh – Tawang Circuit – Part 1

Arunachal Pradesh – the land of the rising sun, the heaven where clouds descend to greet the curious travellers and rivers and waterfalls dot the extra green landscape every few meters. Monasteries adorn the hill tops, glimmering lakes under the sun reflect the surreal mountain scapes and high mountain passes offer the thrill to adventure lovers. 

Arunachal Pradesh is one place where I truly felt no pictures or videos could ever do justice to its unparalleled beauty. It is only to be experienced in person. So here is a complete guide to help you plan your trip to Arunachal. This is part one of the guide that will contain detailed itinerary along with places to visit and any pointers related to the attractions. For other details such as Permit, Accommodation, Budget and other important info for planning, please refer to Part 2 of this guide.

The exquisite natural beauty of Arunachal Pradesh - Nuranang Falls
The exquisite natural beauty of Arunachal Pradesh – Nuranang Falls
The spiritual side of Arunachal Pradesh- Night at TDL Monastery, Dirang
The spiritual side of Arunachal – Night at TDL Monastery, Dirang

Daywise Itinerary for Arunachal Pradesh

Here is the itinerary we followed for our Arunachal Pradesh trip. 

Day 1: Reach Assam (Guwahati) and drive to Arunachal. Reach Shergaon and stay overnight.

Day 2: Explore Shergaon and drive to Dirang. Overnight in Dirang.

Day 3: Visit Dirang Monastery, Mandala Top and Sangti Valley. Overnight in Dirang.

Day 4: Dirang to Tawang. Visit Sela Pass, Sela Lake, Jaswant Garh War Memorial and Jang Falls on the way. Night stay in Tawang.

Day 5: Visit Bumla Pass and Madhuri Lake. Evening at Tawang Market. Overnight in Tawang.

Day 6: Visit Chakzam and rest of the day for Tawang sightseeing. Overnight in Tawang.

Day 7: Tawang to Bomdilla. Bomdila Sightseeing. Overnight in Bomdilla.

Day 8: Bomdilla to Guwahati. Sightseeing on the way depending on available time. Night stay in Guwahati.

Day 9: Fly back to your city

What would we have done differently

We would have liked to stay one more night in Dirang and explore the place by foot. Or may be visit nearby villages of Lubrang/Thembang. Or simply do nothing sitting by the river and setting up a picnic. There is just so much more to do in Dirang that 1 night may not feel enough, especially if you are someone who likes to take things slow instead of rushing to tick off attractions. 

Itinerary breakdown for Arunachal Pradesh

Day 1: Reach Assam (Guwahati) and drive to Arunachal Pradesh. Reach Shergaon and stay overnight.

Fly to Guwahati and start your road trip to Arunachal Pradesh. We recommend taking an early morning flight to Guwahati so that you can reach Shergaon before evening. If you reach Guwahati by afternoon, stay in Bhalukpong for the night and proceed to Shergaon the next day. This will add an additional day to your trip.

Take any of these 2 routes on your way to Shergaon and the other one on the way back. I would definitely recommend the Nameri route at least one way since it’s very scenic.

Route 1: Guwahati  →  Mangaldai → Orang → Kalaktang → Shergaon

Distance: Approx. 250 kms

Time taken: Approx. 7 hours. But actual time will be more depending on stops made on the way. 

Sightseeing: There is not much to see in this route in terms of sightseeing. You can make a stop on the way to see Bhutan border. Apart from lunch break, depending on time, you can make stops in between since its a long journey.

Route 2: Guwahati→ Nagaon → Tezpur→ Nameri → Bhalukpong → Rupa → Shergaon 

Distance: Approx. 350 Kms

Time taken: Approx. 8 hours. Actual time will be more depending on what sightseeing you do on the way or the number of stops made.

Sightseeing: Mahamrityunjay Temple at Nagaon, Nameri National Park, Waterfall at Tippi, Lumum Waterfall etc. In my opinion, this route is better taken on your way back (from Dirang/Bomdilla/Shergaon to Guwahati) as it is longer and also you will be able to decide on the sightseeing considering available time. 

Most probably it will be evening by the time you reach Shrgaon. Check into your homestay and rest for the night. We reached Shergaon at night since there was a landslide on the Kalaktang route and we had to take a long detour. So we just made a stop at Tippi and proceeded to Shergaon. The highlight of this day was seeing the full moon rise over the mountains amidst lingering sunset colours. It was such a beautiful sight.

A Spectacular Moonrise
A Spectacular Moonrise

Day 2Explore Shergaon and drive to Dirang. Overnight in Dirang

After breakfast, it’s time to explore Shergaon. Here are a few must visit places in Shergaon.

Shergaon Monastery (Lower Monastery): Start your day by visiting the lower monastery of Shergaon, just at the foothills of Zengbu Gompa. This is a recent addition and is a beautiful place to visit. We met some wonderful locals at this monastery who were having their village meeting. They guided us through the monastery and invited us to join them for some butter tea. So this place will always remain one of my favourites in all of Arunachal Pradesh.

Shergaon local Monastery
Locals having their meeting in front of Shergaon Monastery

Zengbu Gompa: Though a small one, this monastery dates back to approx. 400 years. Perched on a hill, you can reach here by car (or by walk if you have time). It is just 5-7 mins drive from the lower monastery of Shergaon.

Zengbu Gompa, Shergaon, Arunachal Pradesh
Zengbu Gompa

Choskorong Waterfall: After visiting the monasteries, proceed towards Choskorong Waterfall. Its like a hidden treasure that can be reached by a fairly easy hike. If you start from main road, it would take 30 mins, but vehicles can go till the nearby farm. In that case, it is just 10 mins walk to the waterfall. The last stretch is steep, but manageable. And the waterfall surrounded by dense foliage is a treat to the eyes.

Choskorong Waterfall - A visual delight in Arunachal Pradesh
Choskorong Waterfall – A visual delight

Buddha Park: This is not exactly in Shergaon, but in Mushaksing village which is close by. The park is not inaugurated yet and the inside of the monastery is still work in progress. But the Golden Buddha statue outside surrounded by stupas and prayer flags and overlooking the valley is a magnificent sight. 

Buddha Park - See how serene it looks
Buddha Park – See how serene it looks!

If you have time, try visiting Chillipam Monastery too on this day as it is just 15 kms away from Rupa. 

Once the sightseeing is done, proceed towards Dirang which takes 2-2.5 hours from Shergaon. There is a high chance that it would be almost evening by the time you reach Dirang. So check into your homestay and rest for the night.

Day 3Visit Dirang Monastery, Mandala Top and Sangti Valley. Overnight in Dirang

Start your morning early by visiting Thupsung Dhrgye Ling (aka TDL) Monastery, just a kilometre away from Dirang market. Surrounded by mountains and overlooking Dirang valley, the design and architecture of this monastery is noteworthy. Indeed it is one of the most beautiful monasteries we came across in Arunachal Pradesh. You can also enjoy some coffee and Maggi in the small cafe of the monastery.

Early morning at TDL Monastery, Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh
Early morning at TDL Monastery

Your next destination for the day is Mandala Top. It is about 25 kms from Dirang and takes an hour to reach due to the serpentine uphill road. At the hill top, there are 108 stupas surrounding a Buddha Statue and the place offers amazing views of the distant mountains and valleys. Since we visited in Oct end-Nov time, we could see Autumn colours all around. Do not forget to stop for some chai and momos at the Mandala Cafe on your way down. 

Mandala top, Arunachal Pradesh
Stupas at Mandala Top
A little walk on the way back Mandala top
A little walk while our chai and momos were getting ready

After coming back from Mandala Top, finish your lunch in Dirang and then proceed towards Sangti Valley. The valley is around 15 kms from Dirang town and takes 30 mins to reach. It is famous for its fruit orchards, farmland and scenic beauty. In November, we could see Oranges, Kiwis, tomatoes, leafy vegetables and even chillies adorning the valley everywhere. With a river flowing through the valley, it is an ideal place to set up a picnic and spend hours with loved ones. While coming back, visit the Govt. Sheep Breeding Farm, not just for the sheep, but for the lovely views of the valley, especially during sunset. Stay options are also available in Sangti Valley although limited in number.

Sangti Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
We could sit here for hours
Sangti Valley - Just like a painting
Sangti Valley – Just like a painting

You will still have sometime left. So visit Dirang Market for some shopping and snacks and then return to your homestay. 

Day 4Dirang to Tawang. Visit Sela Pass, Sela Lake, Jaswant Garh War Memorial and Jang Falls on the way. Night stay in Tawang.

Dirang to Tawang takes around 4 hours covering a distance of approx. 135 kms. But the actual time to reach Tawang will be 6-7 hours or more depending on the sightseeing spots covered on the way. And also the time spent at each spot. So it is advisable to start your day early at around 8-8:30 am. 

On the way to Tawang, you can visit the following places.

Sela Pass: At a height of 13700 feet, this place offers some mesmerising views. If you are lucky, you will be able to see clouds descending down and creating a heavenly scene. There is an army run canteen at the pass for a quick bite or a hot cuppa to enjoy in the cool weather.

When the clouds came down to greet us at Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh
When the clouds came down to greet us at Sela Pass

Sela Lake: Lying in the vicinity of Sela Pass, this stunning lake with crystal clear water reflects the towering mountains like a mirror. There is a walkway constructed around the lake to take a stroll and enjoy its beauty. On the day we visited, the lake looked absolutely surreal reflecting the enchanting blue colour of the azure sky. 

Sela Lake on a clear day
Sela Lake on a clear day
The crystal clear water and the reflections
The crystal clear water and the reflections

Jaswant Garh War Memorial: This war memorial was constructed in the memory of the the 1962 war hero Jaswant Singh Rawat. The brave soldier single handedly fought the Chinese troops for 3 days, killing almost 300 Chinese soldiers. There is a temple for him and a Smriti Sthal cum small Museum that houses his belongings. An army run cafe is just outside the memorial where they serve free tea and water to the visitors.

Nurnang Falls / Jang Falls: If you remember Tanhayi tanhayi… song from the Bollywood movie Koyla, then you have already seen this waterfall on the screen. Still looking at it in person is an experience like no other. A roaring waterfall falling from a height of 100 metres with a full rainbow around it looks absolutely breathtaking. Make sure to visit before 3-3:30 pm max if you want to see the rainbow effect. From the parking place, you need to walk for 5 mins through a set of steps to reach the waterfall. 

After visiting the waterfall, proceed towards Tawang. You can have your lunch in Jang town or in the War Memorial canteen as it would be past lunch time when you reach Tawang. If you have time and energy left, spend your evening at the War Memorial and enjoy the Light sound show. Or just rest at your home stay or hotel.

Jang Falls with its iconic rainbow
Jang Falls with its iconic rainbow

Day 5Visit Bumla Pass and Madhuri Lake. Evening at Tawang Market. Overnight in Tawang.

For Bumla Pass, you need to take a local taxi from Tawang and a permit from DC office. Both need to be arranged beforehand. So talk to your home stay or hotel in Tawang and get this done before the day of your trip. We recommend starting your trip early, around 7:30-8am so that you can be back by 2:30-3pm. 

Bum La Pass trip covers Bum La Pass and Madhuri Lake (Sangetsar Tso). But this trip is more about the journey than the destination itself. The whole route is gorgeous dotted with numerous Lakes (I counted 19), mountains blanketed with Rhododendron plants and at places, the landscape was entirely barren apart from little shrubs here and there.

One of the lakes on the way to Bum La, Arunachal Pradesh
One of the lakes on the way to Bum La
Bumla - A different experience
Bumla – A different experience

Madhuri Lake is unique among all other lakes you will come across in this route with dead tree trunks standing vertically inside the Lake. You can easily spend half an hour to one hour at the lake. At Bum La, you get to see the actual Line of Control and thats about it. There is nothing else as such to do there. Indian Army takes people in batches of 10-15 to the Actual Line of Control and brief about history, Indo China war etc. You can even see Chinese Soldiers at the other side of the border.

As soon as you reach Bum La, submit your permit at the counter where they will give you a number and wait for your turn to be taken to the LOC. Enjoy some tea/coffee or Maggi at the Army run canteen as there is no other option for lunch until you return to Tawang. On the way back, you can stop at PTSO lake, or any other point depending on available time. 

Maduhri Lake in Arunachal Pradesh as seen from the road above
Maduhri Lake as seen from the road above – See those tree trunks in the lake?
Madhuri Lake
Our fav spot away from the crowd
PTSO Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
PTSO Lake glittering under the afternoon sun

Once you are back in Tawang, freshen up and after a little rest head to the market. There are 3 markets in Tawang – Nehru Market, New Market and Old Market. We visited Old Market and did a little shopping before finishing dinner and coming back to our home stay. 

Day 6Visit Chakzam and rest of the day for Tawang sightseeing. Overnight in Tawang.

This day is for sightseeing in and around Tawang. We chose Chakzam specifically to see the iron suspension bridge that is approx. 700 years old. If you do not wish to visit Chakzam, you can very well spend the day by visiting other places in Tawang. 

Chakzam Bridge and Kitpi Village: Start your day by visiting Chakzam, around 25 kms from Tawang. The drive takes almost an hour with the road being a little bumpy. The main attraction of the place is the iron suspension bridge made on the Tawang Chu river. With a base made of bamboo and supported by iron chains, this bridge is an architectural wonder of the old times. It was made to connect Kitpi and Mukto villages with the rest of Tawang. There is a parallel iron bridge made now for regular commute, but walking on this bridge while the river roared below transports the mind into the ancient era. On the way back, you can make a stop at Kitpi village. During October, Cosmos flowers bloom abundantly in this area.

The iron suspension bridge of Chakzam
The iron suspension bridge of Chakzam
A little stop near Kitpi village to see the remnants of Cosmos bloom
A little stop near Kitpi village to see the remnants of Cosmos bloom

After coming back from Chakzam, you can visit the following in Tawang.

Khinmey Monastery: Another beautiful monastery to visit in Tawang. It has the statue of Medicine Buddha inside with a very colourful interior. This is not exactly in the main town, but almost 10 kms away. You can visit this on the way back from Chakzam.

Tawang Monastery (Ganden Namgyal Lhatse): After visiting Khinmey, proceed towards Tawang Monastery. The largest monastery in India and the 2nd largest in Asia, this monastery is beautifully sprawled on a hill overlooking Tawang town. With its yellow tin roofed houses, the monastery is prominently visible from different points of the town as you drive through. Inside the monastery compound, there is a museum, a beautiful prayer hall with balconies that allow seeing the Buddha statue up close and then a view point offering stunning views of the town. Expect to spend 45 mins – 1 hour here. 

Tawang Monastery as seen from a view point in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang Monastery as seen from a view point in Tawang
 Prayer Hall inside Tawang Monastery
Prayer Hall inside the Monastery

Giant Buddha Statue: The giant Golden Buddha is located on a small hill, just 5 mins drive away from Tawang Monastery. The Golden Buddha on a decorated platform looks stunning with the backdrop of mountains. You can have lovely views of Tawang Monastery from this place. Since there is not much to see here, keep 15 mins before proceeding to the next attraction. 

Giant Buddha Statue in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Giant Buddha Statue

Urgelling Monastery: This is not visited by many as there are a lot of monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh much grander than this. But this is the monastery I strongly recommend to people who like peaceful and historically or religiously important places. The monastery is approx. 600 years old and is the birthplace of His Holiness Dalai Lama the 6th. It also has an interesting story that is written on the monastery wall and the surroundings are absolutely meditative. 

 Urgelling Gompa
Urgelling Gompa

Tawang War Memorial and Light Sound Show: The war memorial is built as a Chorten and has names of 2000+ Indian soldiers written on granite plates who were martyred in 1962 war. There are 2 halls inside the memorial that house the belongings of martyrs along with some maps, photographs and weapons. 

Before visiting the war memorial, first acquire the Light and Sound Show ticket from the amphitheatre just behind the memorial. The 1st show happens at 5:30 pm and there are subsequent shows later. Each show goes on for half an hour showcasing the beauty of Arunachal Pradesh, its culture and the history of 1962 Indo China war. Once you get the tickets, visit the War Memorial and then come back by showtime to the amphitheatre. 

Near the parking spot, do not forget to try the Aloo Chop (my fav Odia snack from Childhood) and chai sold by the army. If you are here around sunset, then this place offers the most beautiful view of Tawang Monastery under the sunset sky.

Light sound show ticket: INR 50 per person

Tawang War Memorial in the evening
Tawang War Memorial in the evening

This marks the end of Day 6. Return to your homestay and rest for the night.

For more information on other tourist places in and around Tawang, visit their official website.

Day 7Tawang to Bomdilla. Bomdila Sightseeing. Overnight in Bomdilla.

Tawang to Bomdilla takes approx. 5 hours. So depending on your journey start time and no. of stops made on the way, you can cover the sightseeing spots in Bomdilla accordingly. Apart from lunch break, we made only 2 quick stops on the way, but had to miss a few things in Bomdilla as we started late from Tawang. So target to reach Bomdilla by 2-2:30 pm to cover everything. Here are a few things to see in Bomdilla.

The views from Upper Bomdilla
The views from Upper Bomdilla

Bomdilla Monastery: Bomdilla has an upper Gompa, a middle Gompa and a lower Gompa. If you have time and interest, you can visit all. The one we visited was the Upper Gompa which is considered the main monastery and is perched on top of a hill. The drive to the gompa was beautiful and the monastery itself offers lovely views of the valley. We luckily met a monk who was kind enough to explain about the concepts and beliefs of Buddhism and engaged us in a very insightful conversation. 

Evening at Bomdila Monastery
Evening at Bomdila Monastery

Bomdilla War Memorial: This is a must visit in Bomdilla. Because everyone we met told us about the amazing views this memorial offers due to its location. Also, this memorial holds significant importance as this is the same site where the last battle took place between Indian and Chinese forces. We could not visit the place as it was not open to civilians at that time. You can club this with a visit to the monastery.

Craft Centre and Ethnographic Museum: If you are an art lover, then the Govt Craft Centre in Bomdilla is a must visit. Here you can have first hand experience of how different handicrafts are made. At the same time, buy authentic and good quality items from their shop such as rugs, wooden items, cushion covers, wall hangings etc. 

When you are done with the sightseeing, make a stop at Choudhury Tea Stall near to Bomdilla Market for some yummy samosa and chai. Then check in to your home stay and rest for the night.

Day 8Bomdilla to Guwahati. Sightseeing on the way depending on available time. Night stay in Guwahati.

This is going to be a long journey. So again start early. You can take breaks in between and visit a few places on the way back.

Chillipam Monastery: Like I said before, try to cover Chillipam Monastery when you are leaving Shergaon. Otherwise, it’s a detour and takes time. We had to do it on the way back to Guwahati due to lack of time previously. Nevertheless, this is a monastery you should NOT miss. Set on a hill, it has the most beautiful surrounding and gorgeous views all around. They also have a cafe in case you are in mood for some coffee.

Chillipam Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Chillipam Monastery
Surroundings of Chillipam Monastery
Surroundings of the Monastery

If you are taking the Bhalukpong->Nameri route on the way back, you can visit Lumum Falls. It is located just beside the main road approx. 25 kms before Bhalukpong. Though small compared to the other bigger waterfalls in the state, it is worth making a stop for 10-15 mins. 

Lumum Falls
Lumum Falls

We also made a stop for a couple of minutes at the river in Nameri National Park, Assam. It’s a beautiful place to spread a picnic or just sit down with feet dipped in the river. If time permits, you can also visit the Mahamrityunjay Temple at Nagaon Assam. Do talk to your taxi driver or travel agent beforehand for these places to be included in itinerary to avoid any last minute conflicts as these are in Assam and not in Arunachal Pradesh. 

Nameri, Assam on the way to Arunachal Pradesh
Nameri – How could we not stop here?

You can stop for lunch either in Assam or in Arunachal Pradesh depending on time. We stopped at Sessa Hotel in Arunachal, but honestly did not like the food at all. Once you reach Guwahati, check into your hotel and rest for the night.

Day 9Fly back to your city

We specifically booked a flight for the next day instead of day 8 when we returned to Guwahati. First we did not want to hurry on our last day in Arunachal Pradesh and 2nd we did not want to make it too tiring. If you are okay and have a late night flight available, you can return on Day 8 itself.

This is the end of 8 day long itinerary for Arunachal Pradesh. We have provided as much detail as possible to help you plan your itinerary. If you have further queries, let us know in the comments below.

For Permits, Accommodation, Budgeting and other important pointers for Arunachal Pradesh trip, please refer to Part 2 of this blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *