Tawang is an unexplored paradise. Located in the western part of Arunachal Pradesh at a height of about 3500 m above the sea level, the place is both historically and naturally endowed. Because of its remote location, travelling to Tawang is often perceived as difficult to some. But, it is one of the most beautiful places of the north-eastern Himalayas. Surrounded by the Tibet in the northern part, Bhutan in the Southwest and the Sela ranges in the east, the place can boast of the natural beauty of glacial lakes as well as the snow covered peaks.
Tawang is historically known as ‘Mon-yul’ or the land of the Monpa tribe. In fact, Tawang was traditionally inhabited by the Monpa tribe and they are the majority still now except for the Shyo village that is dominated by the people of Tibetan origin.
Tawang is the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and is thus of immense importance for the Tibetan Buddhists. The Tawang Monastery is around 400 years old and is of unparalleled significance to the Buddhists.
Tawang and Inner Line Permit
All visitors need an Inner line permit (ILP) to visit Tawang, or in any part of Arunachal Pradesh. The Permit is granted as a routine for the tourists and so it should not deter any tourist from coming to Arunachal Pradesh. ILP is issued at these cities – New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, North Lakhimpur & Jorhat. Now, one can obtain ILP online too.
How to reach Tawang
Tawang does not have a railhead or airhead. Tezpur (325 km) in Assam is the nearest domestic airport. Guwahati (480 km) is the nearest international airport.
From Tezpur, you have to take bus or jeep or private car to go to Tawang. It takes around 12 hours from Tezpur to Tawang. But the scenic beauty of the road more or less makes up for the arduous journey. Enroute Tawang, you have to go through Bhalukpong, Dirang and Bomdila.
Places to see in Tawang
#1. Tawang Monastery
The main attraction of Tawang is the Tawang Monastery or the Gaden Namgye Lhatse. It is also the largest monastery in India. Situated majestically on a hilltop, the monastery overlooks the entire Tawang district and is considered as a magnificent artwork and the kernel of Buddhist culture and tradition. The monastery was established in 1680 by a monk Mera Lama to preach the tenets of Buddhism. Currently, the monastery houses more than 400 monks. The Parkhang library is also a heritage structure, which stores age old manuscripts. The monastery also has a museum that displays religious objects and artifacts from Tibet and Tawang.
#2. Urgelling Monastery
Urgelling Monastery is a 400 year old monastery known for being the birthplace of the Dalai Lama VI. This monastery was destroyed during the Mongol attacks and the battle between the Tibetans and the Bhutanese. Only a part of the monastic structure remains today. It is a serene and calm spot with a very few visitors. There is a sacred tree planted by the Holy Dalai Lama VI which is revered and worshipped the locals.
#3. Tawang War Memorial
The war memorial was built in memory of the martyr soldiers of the Indo-China war of 1962 that was fought in this region. The memorial has a beautiful stupa. The best part is that the names of all the 2420 Indian soldiers who fought in the war are written here. Various artifacts of the 1962 war are also preserved here. A visit to this place will definitely make you proud of our soldiers.
#4. Nuranang Falls or the Jang Falls
Nuranang Falls is one of the most magnificent waterfalls of eastern India. Falling from a towering height of 100 metres, it is simply a spectacular sight. It is around 2 km from the city near the Jang village and is also known as the Jang falls.
#5. Sela Pass
Sela pass is situated on the way to Tawang. Situated at a height of 13,714 meters, the pass is one of the highest motorable passes of India. Stop at the pass, rest your aching backs from the long journey and look around to see the breathtaking views surrounding you. The snow covered peaks, the colorful fluttering Buddhist prayer flags will make your trip memorable. Move up a little more to see the beautiful Sela Lake.
The Sela Pass is one of the most important passes of India. It connects Tawang with Tezpur and the rest of India.
#6. Jaswant Garh
Jaswant Garh falls en route Tawang just about 25 km from the city. This is also a war memorial in the scenic backdrop commemorating the brave martyrs of the Indian army during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. The memorial stands in the name of Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat of the 4th Battalion of Garhwal Rifles Infantry Regiment. Jaswant Singh was an exceptionally brave soldier who had single-handedly fought and held back the invading Chinese army for 72 hours during the war. He did not move from his post at an altitude of 10000 feet before succumbing to an enemy bullet in the war. He was awarded the posthumous Mahavir Chakra in recognition of his grit and bravery. The post he held to repulse back the Chinese army was named Jaswant Garh after him.
#7. Lake hopping
Tawang district is the home to as many as 108 lakes. Some are quite famous and provide your eyes soothing vistas. The crystal clear waters of the lake coupled with the tranquil atmosphere are an absolute delight for the sore eyes and the tired souls. The famous ones are the Sanget Sar Lake or the Madhuri Lake, P. T. Tso and the Sela Lake. While travelling this district, you will see so many lakes, some having names while others are unknown. You will definitely have the urge to stop and look at the calm water bodies.
#8. Bumla border
The landscape beyond Tawang opens up to spectacular wetlands and some diverse sceneries serving as nature’s eye candy. While visiting the Madhuri Lake, you can go on a visit to Bumla Border. Only Indian nationals are allowed to visit the border. It is the Indo-China border situated at a height of 16000ft and is about 37 km from Tawang city. The road conditions are bad, but the scenic beauty makes up for all the trouble. The army post at Bumla border is extremely friendly. They will also invite you for a cup of tea and will be very happy to share their stories with you.
Also, visit the Tiger’s Nest Monastery nearby. Do not confuse this with the one in Bhutan!
Read our post on Tiger’s Nest Monastery or Taktsang Monastery of Bhutan
#9. Zemithang village
Visit the Zemithang village to experience the life of the local Monpa tribe, their traditions and culture. Visit the Gorsam Stupa which is a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site. The landscapes of Zemithang are a bit different from Tawang having more of greenery and trees. Staying for a day in Zemithang is highly suggested.
Best time to visit
Tawang can be visited throughout the year, but the monsoon months from July to September should be avoided. The winters can be really cold with temperatures as low as -10 degrees at night. Mornings are comfortably warm. From April to October, the weather changes from spring to fall and you can experience both sun and rain. During April, the region becomes alive with different flora. In October, the skies are clear and are the best time to see the lakes in their splendor.
Where to stay
Tawang has a few basic hotels. There are a number of cheap and budget hotels near the market area. There is also a Government Tourist lodge and a circuit house where you can stay after obtaining relevant permits.
Visit Tawang, the pristine paradise filled with Buddhists chants and benign monks. Immerse yourself in the heavenly views, experience the serenity of nature and enjoy the surprises that nature has in store for you.
The journey from Tezpur to Tawang is a long one. It is highly recommended to break down your journey in two days. Bhalukpong is 57 km from Tezpur, Bomdila is 154 km and Dirang is 196 km from Tezpur. Bhalukpong is a beautiful spot near the Kameng river and lies on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Bomdila is also an important town and has a monastery to visit. Dirang is also a small picturesque town along the Kameng river and having apple orchards. Places of interest in Dirang are a hot water spring, Dirang Dzong and Kalachakra Gompa.
It is advisable to stay at either of these places while going to or coming back from Tawang.
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