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Of Mountains and Monasteries

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Western Arunachal Pradesh

Of Mountains and Monasteries, A Monpa Chapter

Western Arunachal Pradesh - Of Mountains and Monasteries, A Monpa Chapter (7N/8D)
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Arunachal Pradesh – One of the most unexplored destinations in the world

Arunachal Pradesh has always been one of the best kept secrets of North East India. The remoteness and challenging terrains of the region have helped in retaining the pristine natural and cultural beauty of the region, making it one of the most unexplored destinations in the world. Prior to the year 1972, all of present Arunachal Pradesh and beyond was grouped into one territory collectively known as NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). Thereafter, till 1978, the region was renamed and considered a Union Territory of India. Finally, statehood was announced in the year 1978.

Biodiversity in Arunachal Pradesh

With nearly 80 percent of this high altitude state attributed to forest cover, one can only imagine the biodiversity that one may find here. From rare birds endemic to the state, to new species being discovered every passing year, all spread across changing terrains based on altitude, Arunachal Pradesh proves to be an absolute treat for the adventurous nature lover. (Fun fact-Arunachal Pradesh harbours the world’s northernmost tropical rainforest and is estimated to have nearly 50% of the total flowering plant species of India).

People of Arunachal Pradesh

In terms of the communities that live in the state, there are 26 major tribes that are officially recognised and over 100 sub-tribes, all of whom have their own dialects and cultures (including food, outfits, rituals and beliefs). Hindi proves to be the common language. Many aspects of the cultural diversity of the state remain undocumented till date.

We believe that a lifetime is not enough for one to explore and understand Arunachal in its truest sense. In this chapter, we will be taking you across the western belt of this massive state. The major tribes on this belt are Monpa and the Sherdukpens, some of the warmest people that we have come across. Mahayana Buddhists by religion, the people share close cultural and religious affinities with people from Tibet and Bhutan. In fact, some of the villages that you will be visiting have even been taxed by Tibetan rulers not too long back. In fact, in the year 1959 when his holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet to India, where he now resides, he used this very route to come down to the plains.

A trip not meant for the faint hearted, join us as we take you on a journey up to 16,200 feet and back this winter!

  • Visit the land of the Sherdukpens and interact with a community of less than 10000 people in the world
  • Enjoy local rice beer and wine at homestays across West Kameng and Tawang
  • Visit the Indo-China Border at 15,000+ feet and high-altitude lakes nearby
  • Go for a nature food walk and try multiple edible plants, leaves and fruits in a short walk
  • Hike to a shepherd’s house at 10000+ feet
  • Stay on all nights
  • Breakfast from Day 2 to 8
  • Lunch on Days 3 and 7
  • Dinner on Days 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7
  • Trip lead throughout the trip
  • Local guides at Shergaon, Bumla, Sangti and Mandala
  • Forest walk at Nameri with Forest guard and all permits
  • Transport from Day 1 to Day 8 in an Innova/Tempo Traveller (Based on group size)
  • Arunachal Pradesh registered vehicle for day trip to Bumla Pass
  • Inner Line Permits to enter Arunachal Pradesh Bumla Pass permits to visit the border
  • Meals not mentioned in the inclusions
  • Entry fees to sightseeing points (Ranges from Rs. 10 to Rs. 100 at most places)
  • Protected Area Permit (For Non Indian Passport holders)
  • Hotel, guide and driver tips
  • Any personal expenditure
  • Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary/ stay on account of flight cancellation due to bad weather, ill health, roadblocks and/or any factors beyond control.
  • Anything not specifically mentioned under the head “Inclusions”.
  • Flight or Train Tickets
Map
Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Arunachal Pradesh called 'The Land of dawn-lit mountains'?

The name ‘the land of dawn-lit mountains’ refers to the position of Arunachal Pradesh as the easternmost state, where one can see the first sunrise of India. With its borders touching China, Bhutan, and Myanmar, it is located on the north-eastern tip of India. It is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Orchid state, and Botanist’s Paradise. Join us on a trip to Arunachal Pradesh to find out why!

Which river flows through the Sangti Valley in Arunachal Pradesh?

Through the heart of the Sangti valley flows a tributary of the Dirang Chu river called Sangti itself. During the winter months, rare black-necked cranes visit the valley from China. The sound of the flowing stream mixes with the zephyr and the chirps of birds creating an everlasting melody.

How far is Sangti Valley from Dirang? How do I reach Sangti Valley?

Sangti Valley is 13 kms away from Dirang, which is a 40 min one way drive. To access the road leading to Sangti Valley, you will need to turn at Dirang Basti Village (not Dirang City) and cross the bridge over the Dirang Chu River. It’s best to have your own vehicle, as there are no traditional buses that go to Sangti Valley. Local taxis can also be found in the market.
Dirang’s West Kameng circuit road is an easy drive from this ‘off-beat’ destination. Even if you are on a road trip to Tawang, you can definitely take the time out to visit the magical Sangti Valley.

Tawang Monastery: Why is it famous?

“Gaden Namgyal Lhatse”, which translates to “the divine paradise of complete victory.” is commonly known as Tawang Monastery. As per the wishes of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the 5th Dalai Lama, Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso, it was founded in 1680–1681 by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso. It belongs to the Geluk school of Vajrayana Buddhism and has a religious association with Drepung Monastery of Lhasa.
With the main compound wall measuring 925 feet (282 meters), the monastery has three levels. There are 65 residential buildings within the compound. It also houses a significant library which holds ancient scriptures- mainly Kangyur and Tengyur.

When should I visit Sela Pass?

It is possible to visit Sela Pass at any time of the year. However, the most ideal time to visit Sela Pass is in October, November, March, April, and May.

Where is Sela Lake located?

The Sela Lake is located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng Districts of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

Will I feel breathless in a high altitude place like Tawang?

Since the journey to Tawang is a long one where you gradually climb altitude by road, your body should acclimatize naturally and you should face no issues. However, one cannot discount that the altitude of some of the places that you may visit near Tawang is quite high, with Sela being above 13,000 ft and Bumla being above 15,000 ft., it must be noted that the air is thinner there.
If you have any respiratory issues, we recommend you come prepared with your inhaler (especially if you generally use one). You must take the necessary precautions.

Where is Mandala Top?

Mandala is a 32 km drive away from Dirang town. The drive to the top includes a beautiful winding road which would take you around one hour. Mandala has been known as a birding enthusiast’s secret amidst the right circles for a while but off late, since the 108 buddhist stupas were made there, more travellers are visiting to enjoy the pristine beauty. On a clear day, one can see stunning views of the Eastern Himalayas from Mandala. In the winter, the village can get snowed out so please pick your vehicle accordingly.

Does one experience snowfall in this circuit?

The weather in Arunachal Pradesh is very unpredictable. However, snow is quite common in the winter months in destinations like Sela, Mandala, Tawang and Bumla. Some days could get completely snowed out but the army officials in the region do a great job in clearing the roads and not letting the weather hamper movement in the region.
In terms of views though, as long as the skies are clear, you will definitely see the peaks of the mountains around you covered in snow.

What type of properties are we staying at during this trip?

  • Shergaon- Homestay
  • Tawang- Lodge/guesthouse
  • Sangti- Riverside cottages
  • Nameri- Jungle Camp

Do I need a permit to travel to Arunachal Pradesh?

Due to the state being in a border area, all Indian Nationals need to obtain an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter and travel around Arunachal Pradesh. For Foreigners visiting the state, a PAP (Protected Area Pass) is a necessity. Please note that these are mandatory. We can help you with both these documents based on your nationality. We will need your Identification documents and address proof. Please make sure you submit them on time as the processing could take a while.

Are there vegetarian food options everywhere?

Vegetarians do not need to worry. While a lot of the local delicacies are meat-based, with the influx of tourism there are multiple vegetarian options at all places. You must also try out the seasonal fruits and vegetables in the region.

What is the circuit that we will be covering during this group trip?

Arunachal Pradesh is a massive state with many circuits or trails that are now popular. This chapter through Western Arunachal Pradesh is structured in the following manner: Nameri-Bomdila-Dirang-Sangti-Tawang-Shergaon
A rough sketch of the itinerary is as follows-:

  • Day 1 – Guwahati to Nameri – Start from Guwahati at noon and drive to your campsite in Nameri, and spend your evening around a warm bonfire.
  • Day 2 – Nameri to Sangti – Enjoy the Forest walk in Nameri, and then drive to Sangti Valley.
  • Day 3- A full day in Sangti – A day trip to Mandala top, and Momo making with the Monpas.
  • Day 4- Sangti to Tawang – Visit the Dirang Monastery, Sela Pass and Sela Lake.
  • Day 5- Trip to Bumla Pass – Explore Bumla Pass and the markets of Tawang.
  • Day 6- Tawang to Shergaon – Visit Chillipam Gompa, Khinmey Gompa, and explore Jang Falls
  • Day 7- A day in Shergaon – Spend your day in the peaceful village of Shergaon, and visit the local apple and kiwi orchards.
  • Day 8- Shergaon to Guwahati – Drive back from Shergaon to Guwahati Airport.

Please request the complete detailed itinerary here.