Tawang is one of the most beautiful destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. And it was also the first place that we visited in the state. Our Tawang trip introduced us to many firsts. It was our first interstate road trip. That is why the Guwahati to Tawang road trip always brings a fond memory. We were also introduced to the Buddhist culture for the first time on this trip. The land of Monpas had been a kaleidoscope for us. In this article, we are sharing our experiences and all the essential requirements for Guwahati to Tawang road trip.
“Tawang is a utopia” We had heard this from an acquaintance who had visited the place almost 20 years back. She could vividly describe her experiences in Tawang and we could only sense her excitement when she spoke of the place. She had only good things to say about the beauty of Tawang and only a few complaints about the tricky roads towards the destination. Her excitement was contagious and soon we were ready for our first road trip from Guwahati to Tawang.
Why do we recommend Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip?
Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh remains one of the most sought after destinations of Northeast India. Ancient monasteries, rugged landscapes, beautiful lakes, high mountain pass and waterfalls all along the way are only a few of the attractions of this remote northeast Indian destination. The entire journey from Tezpur to Tawang is full of surprises and attractions. Bhalukpong, Dirang and Bomdila are beautiful destinations all worthy of your attention and time.
The winding mountains roads as you approach Tawang are equally beautiful and dangerous. Guwahati to Tawang road trip is an ultimate adventure for all those seeking the thrill of the road.
Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip Routes
There are actually 2 different routes for the Guwahati to Tawang road trip. One is through the NH13 starting from Guwahati, while the other is through the Chariduar – Tawang Road. Both the routes meet a little before Bomdila and take almost the same time. The route through NH13 is a little faster, but you will miss out Bhalukpong through this route.
Route 1: Chariduar – Tawang Road (512 km, 16 hours approx)
Guwahati – Nagaon – Tezpur- Balipara – Bhalukpong – Bomdila – Dirang – Sela – Tawang
This is the most common route for Guwahati to Tawang road trip. We had taken this route to Tawang.
Route 2: Via NH13 (450 km, 15 hours approx)
Don’t get fooled by what google map says. It takes almost 15 hours of continuous drive on the road to reach Tawang.
Guwahati – Sipajhar – Kalaigaon – Udalguri – Bhairabkunda – Kalaktang – Rupa – Bomdila – Dirang – Sela – Tawang
Bhairabkunda is a popular picnic spot near the junction of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan. The place is also the meeting point of three rivers Jia Dhansiri, Bhairavi and Daifam.
What is the recommended vehicle for Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip?
If you plan to self-drive on the Guwahati to Tawang Road trip, you must be a very good driver and must have experience driving on the mountain roads.
As for the car, any good SUV will be good for the roads. Your car should be in good condition. Please select any car that has high ground clearance. If you are hiring a car from Guwahati or Tezpur, please see the condition of your car beforehand.
If you are from another country and planning a road trip in India then you need to get an IDP on International Driver’s Association.
You can also cover this trip on a bike. Just like cars, your bike should be in good condition. You can read our article on Ladakh Bike trip to know about the tips of doing such a bike trip on the mountain roads.
Guwahati to Tawang by Public Transport
You can travel from Guwahati to Tawang by public transport as well.
Guwahati to Tezpur
From the ASTC Bus Stand beside Guwahati Railway Station, you will get both buses and shared sumo to Tezpur. The sumos run from morning till evening. You will also get buses to Tezpur from ISBT Guwahati. Buses tale about 5 hours to reach Tezpur from Guwahati.
Tezpur to Tawang
There are shared sumos running from Tezpur Sumo Stand all the way to Tawang. These sumos cover the entire 500 km in one day. They start as early as 5.30 am or 6.00 am and reach almost after 8.00 pm in the evening at Tawang. They provide stops for breakfast and lunch and tea 3 to 4 times throughout the journey.
If you want to visit Dirang or Bomdila, you can get off at these places.
Tezpur to Bomdila
Shared jeeps are also available from Tezpur to Bomdila.
Bomdila – Dirang – Tawang
From Bomdila, you will have two options. Buses start from Bomdila at around 5.30 am while shared sumos starts from about 6.00 am. Sumo from Bomdila to Tawang takes about 8 hours to reach while buses can take up to 10 hours.
You can stop at Dirang and can take another bus or sumo to Tawang from Dirang.
Please note that the buses and sumo all start at an early hour from these places. The distances are large and the roads are not in the best conditions.
If you wish to travel by bus, please keep track of the timings and bus time table. While our return from Bomdila to Tezpur, we had decided to take the morning bus. It so happened that the last 2 days were some holidays and buses did not ply. As a result, the only bus from Bomdila to Tezpur was fully packed with the local people and we did not even get a place to stand. We later had to rush and get the shared sumo to Tezpur.
Tentative Itinerary for the Guwahati to Tawang Trip
The distance between Guwahati to Tawang is almost 500 km. This trip is not possible to cover in a single day. The roads are also not in very good conditions at many of the places. When we visited Tawang, we took the route through Tezpur and Bhalukpong. This is the most common route taken by travellers.
- Day 1: Guwahati – Tezpur (181 km, 4 hours)
- Day 2: Tezpur – Bhalukpong (60 km, 2 hours)
- Day 3: Bhalukpong – Dirang (140 km, 5 hours)
- Day 4: Dirang – Tawang (135 km, 5-6 hours)
- Day 5: Tawang
- Day 6: Tawang – Bumla Pass – Madhuri Lake – Tawang
- Day 7: Tawang – Bomdila (175 km, 6-7 hours)
- Day 8 : Bomdila – Guwahati (269 km, 8-9 hours)
Here is the detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Guwahati – Tezpur (181 km, 4 hours)
We reached Guwahati Railway Station at around 10.00 am in the morning. From the ASTC Bus Stand near the Railway station buses and shared jeeps are available to Tezpur. We took a shared jeep to Tezpur and started at around 12.00 noon.
Travelling by shared vehicles always takes more time than hired or own cars. They stop at various places take up passengers and what not. So it took us almost 6 hours to reach Tezpur and we reached there at about 6.00 pm. We stayed at our uncle’s house at Tezpur for night.
Day 2: Tezpur – Bhalukpong (60 km, 2 hours)
The real journey begins after Tezpur. The scenic landscape and beauty of the surroundings cannot be missed. Bhalukpong is a small town on the Assam – Arunachal border where your ILPs will be checked. The last stretch of the road towards Bhalukpong is extremely beautiful. The road goes through the forested area. The forests have very beautiful names – Sonai on one side and Rupai on the other.
It is here on this road we saw a huge wild elephant on the road. As we were passing through the forest road under the supervision of military personnel, suddenly a wild elephant came out from the forest and stood in the middle of the road. We had seen elephants in jungles before at Dooars as well, but we had not seen something as large as that one. Our car driver did not wait for a moment and simply turned back and took us through a different route through the village. He told us that the elephants were quite dangerous in those areas and he did not want to take a risk. Good for him!
We reached Bhalukpong by noon. When I first heard of Tawang, I had also heard about the River Jia Bharali. And instantly I had fallen in love with the name. It was my wish to stay at Bhalukpong for a night and romance with Jia Bharali.
Jia Bharali is beautiful. It is a small rocky river, something that we have seen earlier as well. But at Bhalukpong, everything felt new and refreshing. There are villages beside the river and occasionally we could see a few people sitting on the banks of the river. The river is known as Kameng in Arunachal Pradesh. Its origin is in the glaciers of Tawang.
Things to do in Bhalukpong
- Spend time beside the Jia Bharali River
- Visit the Tipi Orchid Centre
- If time permits, visit Nameri National Park
You can also visit the Nameri National Park and stay there.
Day 3: Bhalukpong – Dirang (140 km, 5 hours)
We left Bhalukpong the next morning towards Dirang. We were now on the way towards Upper Himalayas and quite naturally, it started getting colder. The narrow BRO roads were bumpy and dusty, but the surrounding greenery made up for it. We were amazed to see so many waterfalls on the road. A waterfall would spring up at any corner! We had visited just after the monsoon and that could have been the reason for so many waterfalls. Nevertheless, we kept on moving and looking at the scenery and the small villages that came on the way.
Finally, we reached Dirang after crossing the Sangti valley. Dirang is an absolutely delightful place. At one side of the serpentine road is the Kameng River while the village is on the other side. Kiwi farms are found beside the roads. The small market place has a few shops and homestays for accommodation.
You can spend a couple of days at Dirang doing just nothing. The place is simply mesmerizing. We stayed there for a night and then left for Tawang on the next day.
Things to do at Dirang
- Visit the Khastung Gompa
- Sit down by the Dirang River
- Visit the Thubsung Dhargyeling Monastery
- Explore the villages and interact with the locals
- Explore Dirang Dzong
- Visit the beautiful and picturesque Sangti Valley. Infact, you can stay at Sangti Valley as well. Sangti Valley is also the home of black-necked cranes during the winter season between November to March.
Day 4: Dirang – Tawang (135 km, 5-6 hours)
It might take more time depending on the time you stop on the way.
We would recommend you to start early in the morning, especially if you are self-driving. Just like most of the high altitude passes in India, it is better to cross Sela Pass before 12.00 pm. Very cold and strong winds blow after that time and sometimes the weather condition becomes really bad. The visibility near the Pass becomes poor after 12.00 noon, more so if you are visiting during the monsoon season.
If you are going by bike, we would definitely recommend you to start early and cross Sela before noon. During our trip, we heard about a few bikers who faced problems in the afternoon due to clouds and low visibility.
We started at Dirang at about 8.30 am. It takes about 2-3 hours to reach Sela. Before reaching Sela, there is a stretch of zig-zag roads that can be quite tricky to navigate. A very good driver is required to navigate these roads.
Finally, we reached the grand gate saying “Welcome to Tawang”. Numerous prayer flags were fluttering in the strong wind. There are numerous stories about the bravery of Indian soldiers during the India-China war and few of them are related to Sela Pass as well. There is an army canteen where you can have some hot tea or coffee.
When we reached the Sela Pass, the weather was quite cold and a strong wind was blowing. Just beyond the Sela Gate, is the Sela Lake. The Lake remains frozen for most of the time, but it was completely blue in October, when we visited. We spent some time near the lake, posed for some pictures and then started our journey again.
Jaswant Garh is about 20 km from the Sela Pass. This is also a must-visit place on your way. Jaswant Garh is the memorial of the brave Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The brave Indian soldiers not only faced harsh climatic conditions but also had outdated arms and ammunitions to face their Chinese counterparts. Even though, they hold their ground. The memorial is built on the memory of Jaswant Rawat, who single-handedly resisted the Chinese soldiers for a couple of days before being killed. He is worshipped as a god here.
There is an army canteen here as well that provides free tea, samosa and Maggi. There is a clean washroom as well. We stopped at the canteen and had a conversation with the army personnel there. He told us about his life in the army and heard our stories as well.
We finally started from Jaswant Garh towards Tawang. The Jang village falls on the way that is famous for the Nuranang Waterfall. We decided to visit the waterfall on our way back and headed straight towards Tawang.
If you wish to visit the mighty Nuranang Waterfall, take a diversion from the Jung village. This is another awesome place to visit on your Guwahati to Tawang road trip. If you are not visiting it while going, please do visit it while returning.
We finally reached Tawang after 7 hours. Didn’t I tell you the time to reach Tawang will depend on the length of the stops you make on the way!
Day 5: Tawang
After travelling through the rugged mountain roads we finally reached Tawang. A place so hidden from the world, it seems we have finally reached the utopia. Tawang district shares its borders with Bhutan. The place is also influenced mainly by Tibetan culture. As I said before, we were first introduced to Tibetan Buddhism at Tawang. Home to the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tawang is a peaceful place with maroon robed monks moving around with a serene smile on their faces.
Tawang houses the largest monastery in India. The Buddha statue inside the main prayer hall is something to look at. I stood in awe in front of the statue for minutes.
Since we had been on the road for the last few days, we decided to take it easy this day. We stayed at Tawang and explored the town. There are a number of places to visit in Tawang. The Tawang Monastery itself will take up half a day if you wish to explore it properly.
Places to visit in Tawang Town
- Tawang Monastery
- Urgelling Monastery
- Samten Yongcha Monastery
- Tawang War Memorial
Day 6: Tawang – Bumla Pass – Madhuri Lake – Tawang
We were told to start early for Bum La and Madhuri Lake. Very soon we understood why. Bum La is the Indo-China border situated at an altitude of 16000 feet. It is located about 35 km from Tawang city, but the roads are in the worst conditions. You need to have a very good car for the journey lest you want to avoid back pains.
Bum La is accessible to Indian only. No foreign tourists are allowed since it is a border area. Even for Indian visitors permits are required. We reached Bum La at around 9.00 am. It was extremely cold in the open. We visited near the India-China border, stood in front of the Indo-China Friendship Board, took photographs all within a few minutes time. We kept on wondering how our army stays and guards the borders at such harsh conditions!
After our visit to Bum La, we drove back towards our next destination, the famous Madhuri Lake. The actual name is Sangestar Tso (Lake), but it is now known as Madhuri Lake after Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit had shot for a movie here with Shah Rukh Khan!
We were the only visitors to Madhuri Lake. We were surprised to see no tourists there. October was supposedly a peak season. After spending some time at the Madhuri Lake, our driver took us to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Well, this is not the Tiger’s Nest Monastery or Taktsang Monastery of Bhutan. This seemed to be a smaller version of the one in Bhutan.
After our visit to the monastery, we started our journey towards Tawang town. On the way, we stopped at a few other lakes of Tawang like P. T. Tso (Pankang Teng Tso), Kyo-Tso Lake, Kheset Tso, Tsobri and a few others whose name we did not know.
Day 7: Tawang – Bomdila (175 km, 6-7 hours)
Finally, it was the time to bid adieu to the beautiful land of Tawang and return back. While on return we took a detour from Jung village and visited the Nuranang Falls.
The waterfalls cascade down a height of 100 metres and looks magnificent even from a distance. Standing below the waterfall, we felt so little compared to its height. Everything about the place was spectacular.
We retraced the same way and reached Bomdila. Bomdila is a small town and also the district headquarters of the West Kameng district. At Bomdila, you can visit the Bomdila Monastery and the Craft Museum & Ethnographic Museum. You can also visit the Bomdila viewpoint.
Day 8: Bomdila – Guwahati (269 km, 8-9 hours)
While return, you can take the NH15 route. However, we returned by the same way we went. We did not stop at Tezpur and then finally to Guwahati.
What are the Best Places to visit en route Guwahati to Tawang?
I have covered this in the itinerary itself. Here is the list of places where you must stop en route Guwahati to Tawang.
- Sela Pass
- Jashwant Garh
- Nuranang falls, Jung village
What is the Best Time for Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip?
Before planning your Guwahati to Tawang Road trip, please be aware of the weather conditions in Tawang. It is a place where the weather remains pretty uncertain.
April to May
This is the best time for all those who seek refuge from the heat of the plains. It is the summer season and temperature ranges from 5 to 22 degrees. You might still get to see snowfalls in the higher altitudes and Sela Lake might be frozen during this time. This is a good time for a road trip.
June to September
This is the monsoon season in Arunachal Pradesh. While the entire region becomes very beautiful in the rains, travelling, in general, is a bit risky due to the bad road conditions. The area around Sela Pass remains cloudy and visibility is very poor. We would recommend you not to take a road trip at this time. Roads can also get stuck due to landslides.
Late September to October
The autumn brings clear skies and cooler weather. Road conditions are better now and the waterfalls are also in their full glory. The lakes in Tawang are in their true colour and not frozen. We had visited in October. Tawang Festival also takes place in October.
November to March
This is the winter season in Tawang. December and January see entire Tawang in a blanket of ice. Many of the major attractions become inaccessible due to snow. Temperatures often go below zero during this time. While you can visit Tawang during this time to experience the snow, but I don’t think this is an ideal time for a road trip.
The best time for Guwahati to Tawang road trip is between April and May and October and November.
How to get Inner Line Permit (ILP) for Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh?
Getting an ILP for Arunachal Pradesh is perhaps the easiest among the northeast Indian states. You can apply ILP for Arunachal Pradesh online.
Offline ILPs are issued from Arunachal Bhawan in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, North Lakhimpur and Jorhat.
What are the Places to stay during Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip?
Tawang has a number of hotels and homestays.
Best Places to eat during Guwahati to Tawang Road Trip
During the entire travel route, you will get a number of eateries along the way. On the journey, try having proper meals. Avoid excessive spicy food.
Important Tip: Try not to have alcohol while travelling towards Tawang. Alcohol and high altitude do not work well together. There are chances to get AMS and that can happen to any individual, however, fit he may be.
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