The Sound of Siyom River was audible. The snow-capped mountains were vaguely visible as we stood under a tent late in the evening. I was shivering and all I needed was piping hot food and bonfire to make myself comfortable in the freezing cold weather of Mechuka. Next thing I remember is that I was sipping Chhang (Local drink) at a home-stay as we all huddled around the fire. Welcome to Mechuka!
Mechuka-the secluded paradise of Arunachal Pradesh is still far away from the tourist’s radar. Considered as one of the most gorgeous valleys in the eastern most state of India, Mechuka can give you some serious wanderlust. Nestled between snow-capped mountains, Mechuka is lesser explored and often considered as an offbeat destination. Encircled by the giant mountains, virgin forests, vast meadows, quaint villages, fluttering prayer flags, rhythmic Yargyap Chhu (Siyom River), hanging bridges, grazing horses, and sacred Buddhist monasteries, the valley is the picture perfect postcard destination in Arunachal Pradesh for discerning travelers.
Mechuka was never on my plan when I visited Basar to attend the unique cultural festival named Basar Confluence. It has to be the most unplanned adventure of my life. I was unsure until I boarded the bus to embark on a journey like never before. Some travels are beyond destinations. Rather, it becomes all about the people with whom you travel. This is what precisely happened with me. I refused to part away from the amazing bunch of travelers, now friends, whom I met in Northeast India and decided to accompany them to Mechuka, even though I was supposed to be back in Assam on that very day. What a crazy adventure it was.
Table of Contents
Where is Mechuka?
Located at a height of almost 6000 feet above sea level, Mechuka is a small picturesque valley in the West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, just 29 km away from the famous McMahon line separating India and China. It was used for its strategic military landing strip during the 1962 Indo-China War. The official name of the valley is Menchhukha, popularly referred as Mechuka. The name literally means ‘medicinal water of snow’ in local language. The valley is mainly inhabited by four main tribes, namely, Memba, Ramo, Bokar, Lingbo and Ta gin.
The unfiltered views of the scenic landscapes can make you awestruck. The grazing wild horses in the grassland on the bank of the river, wooden bridges with colorful Buddhist prayer flags, crisp air, blue sky, hanging fluffy cotton ball like clouds, and dotted scattered houses, the surreal beauty paints the best visually stunning painting of nature in front of your eyes. Waking up with the radiating sun-rays, perched through the snowy mountains and embracing the cold breeze when I used to open my eyes in the tent in the sun-kissed mornings seemed blissful. It was beyond surreal.
The connectivity from rest of the world is the real reason of its exclusivity as many haven’t reached the remote land of Northeast. I find it a blessing. The Adventure at Mechuka Festival has been able to draw adventure junkies to this remote part. Mechuka is slowly visible on the Tourist Map. If you are into slow travel and never mind travelling a few extra miles on a bumpy road to experience something unique in a far-flung land, Mechuka is an ideal place for you.
How to Reach
To reach Mechuka, one needs to travel literally miles on a hilly terrain. Mechuka is a distant valley in Arunachal Pradesh, which demands long hours of journey, breaking it in different destinations to reach. There are two main routes for people who are flying down to Assam via Dibhrugarh or Guwahati, the gateway of Northeast India.
Route: Dibhrugarh-Silapathar-Jonai- Pasighat-Along-Mechuka
Total Distance: 436 Km
Days: Two Days
If you are flying down to Dibrugarh (Read how to reach Northeast Guide), you need to take a cab from Dibrugarh, crossing the newly opened Bogibeel Bridge, covering Silapatha, Jonai and Pasighat. Spend the night in Aalo and book another shared cab from Aalo to Mechuka, the next day.
- If you are flying to Guwahati and want to reach Mechuka, you can board Lachit Express to Silapathar. It will take 9.5 hours to reach Silapathat from where you can take a shared cab to Aalo. You will reach Aalo (formerly known as Along) in around 6 hours. Spend the night at Aalo and take another shared cab to reach Mechuka. You have to travel another 8 hours to reach Mechuka.
- You can take Donyi Polo Express to Naharlagun from Guwahati. The shared taxis are available from Naharlagun to Itanagar. It will take around 40 minutes. Then book another shared cab from Itanagar to Along. Duration of the journey will be 8 hours. Spend your night at Along. Take another shared cab early in the morning to Mechuka. It will take around 8 hours on a hilly terrain.
Places to See
When in Mechuka, soak in the surreal beauty of the nature. You will be awestruck by the abundance of scenic landscapes, brown barren hills and striking blue color of the sky. You won’t mind spending time by the Siyom River just to get mesmerized by the unfiltered views of those humongous mountains. The valley is best explored on foot. A place like this demands you to slow down. Walk around the valley, trek in the hills, visit monasteries, have delightful conversations with locals and sip local Chhang in the evening around the bonfire.
There are a few must visit places in Mechuka which you can’t afford to miss. Find out below:
Samten Yongcha Monastery
One of the must visit places in Mechuka is the 400 years old monastery named Samten Yongcha Monastery. Located 14 km away from Mechuka town, the monastery is nestled on a hilltop. One needs to trek up to the monastery from the base of the hills. Small cars still manage to drive up to the top. The winding trek route up to the monastery is quite beautiful. One can enjoy the serenity of the landscapes, hills and the village down below along with the road. It is a moderate trek and anyone can do it.
Unlike typical monasteries, the structure of the Samten Yongcha Monastery is quite different. The two storey building is made of wood which houses statues of Guru Padmasambhava, ancient inscriptions, traditional masks, musical instruments, etc. You will not find any residing monks there.
Monks visit this monastery during festivals. There is a sole caretaker on the premises who looks after the monastery. If you wish to stay at the monastery, there is a dormitory available. The monastery is believed to be older than the famous Tawang Monastery.
The fluttering prayer flags at the monastery add rainbow of colors to the landscape. The panoramic view of the Mechuka valley from the hilltop was absolutely breathtaking. How would you feel when you sip a hot cup of tea offered by the humble caretaker of the monastery, sitting on the edge, allowing the cold breeze to play with your hair and the sound of laughter by the best travel companions dominates the surrounding?
Moments like these are meant to be lived for ever.
Guru Nanak Taposthan and Gurudwara
Another must visit place in Mechuka is Guru Nanak Taposthan, built by soldiers from the Sikh regiment in 1980s. The Gurudwara is perched over the river. According to the legend, Guru Nanak is believed to have stopped here and meditated on his way to Tibet. The Gurudwara was built in his honor which is maintained by the Indian Army.
The peaceful location of the Gurudwara was one of the highlights for me. Also, I was floored by the hospitality of the Indian Army who offered us Tea and also asked us to join them for Langar (Free lunch) they serve to people who visit the Gurudwara during lunch time.
Dorjeeling village is like a fairy-tale secret corner in a distant land of North East India. Dotted with scattered houses, vast grassland with grazing horses, swinging tall grasses and Siyom River peacefully makes its way through the village. You would hardly see anyone on the road. Towering mountains look like a guarding wall.
Captivating serene views of the village literally confuse you between reality and dream. Those scattered wooden houses on the hillock can make you leave everything back home to live a peaceful life in the hills. The village is best explored on foot. You will see hanging bridges dangle over river Siyom. As you walk around the village, you will end up at a Gompa at the end of the village.
Ever since I came back from this quiet and scenic village, I am yearning to go back to live a few days peacefully. If you are looking for solitude, Dorjiling is the place for you.
Another popular attraction in Mechuka is “Hanuman rock face” wherein a natural rock formation resembling Hanuman (Hindu God) is clearly visible in the hills. There is a Hanuman Temple also. A permanent Indian Army camp is also located there which is the last camp before Indo Tibetan border, just 29 km away from the town.
If you are fascinated about the hanging suspension bridges, Mechuka is the place for you. You will come across numerous old hanging bridges over river Siyom. These rickety bridges connect villages located on both sides of the river. The locals use it extensively for their daily commute without any qualms. It is quite a task to walk on those wooden plank bridges over the swelling river as these bridges are clinging together with the help of two iron rods on both sides which can be used for support to cross over.
It is extremely captivating to look at from far, but walking on it is not an easy task. It is a bit scary. But I thoroughly enjoyed crossing the river. Standing on the edge, when you see the last sun-rays before leaving the valley, the untainted views of the valley, with the swinging bridge and the river Siyom looks like a beautiful dream.
Dzogchen Samten Choeling Monastery
This is a newly constructed monastery in Mechuka on a hillock, which is easily accessible. It doesn’t have the charm that the old monastery carries. The only thing you would enjoy from the monastery is the panoramic view of Mechuka town from the top. The white giant chortens with the view of the town along with the surrounding hills and huge mountain range is truly breathtaking.
Meet the Tribes
When in Mechuka, meet the locals and stay in a local home-stay to get the best authentic experience. How about living like a local in Memba Tribal home in Mechuka? You will not just live like a local, but get to see the local lifestyle of the tribal people from close proximity. Sample their traditional delicacies, sip some local Chhang (alcoholic beverage), sing with them and share laughter.
Siko Dido Waterfall
Don’t miss the spectacular Siko Dido Waterfalls on your way to Mechuka. Located in Irgo village, a few kilometers before Mechuka, this is a sight to behold. Cascading water from a height of 200 feet, the enormous vertical waterfalls is a visual delight and can’t be missed. Since it is located by the main road, a stop at Siko Dido is worth your time.
Where to stay
Since Mechuka is still not considered as one of the mainstream tourist destinations in Arunachal Pradesh, you will not find any hotels or resorts in the remote valley. Due to the recent influx of travelers and especially adventure junkies for the annual Adventure At Mechuka festival, villagers have opened their homes for the travelers.
So, you can choose your accommodation (home-stays) in Mechuka based on your budget.
There are a few known Home-stays mentioned below:
- Grace Homestay
- Potala Homestay
- Almost Heritage Homestay
- Gayboo’s Traditional Lodge
- Yargyap Chuu Homestay
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Time to Visit?
The best time to visit Mechuka is from November to April. It is advisable to travel after the monsoon season as the road condition is not very conducive during the rainy season. So avoid travelling during that time. The weather is perfect from November to April as temperatures dip since winter begins and it is the best time to enjoy the snow-capped Himalayan range and bright sunshine.
How to reach Mechuka with public transport?
The best way to reach Mechuka using public transport is via shared taxi. You will find shared taxis from Along, Pasighat and Itanagar. I am not aware of any public bus service on this road.
How much time does it take to reach Mechuka?
It depends from where you are travelling to Mechuka. If you are travelling from Dibrugarh, you have to break your journey at Aalo and spend the night there and take a shared taxi early in the morning to reach Mechuka. It takes around 8 hours from Aalo to reach Mechuka. It takes 5 hours from Pashighat to reach Mechuka. Around 7 hours to reach from Silapathar to Aalo. Basically, two entire days to reach Mechuka from Dibrugarh.
What language do they speak in Mechuka?
People of Mechuka speak their traditional tribal languages. But most of the people can speak fluent Hindi language. And, Basic English is spoken and understood by the locals.
What are the food options available there?
You will get basic Indian food like Daal (Lentil Soup), Rice and mixed vegetable there. Apart from that, you can relish traditional Tibetan cuisines like Momo, Thukpa, Thenthuk, Butter tea, Millet Beer, etc. The market has small cafes where you can enjoy snacks like Samosa, Omelette, Noodles, etc.
How many minimum days are required?
I would suggest minimum 3 nights for Mechuka. Go slow and enjoy the surreal beauty leisurely.
Where to get an Inner Line Permit and Protected Area Permit?
Inner Line Permit (ILP)
Duration: ILP is issued for 15 days initially and can be extended.
Requirements: One needs copies of passport size photographs and an Identity Proof ( Aadhaar Card/ Voter ID)
Cost: INR 100
Indian tourists need to obtain permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh. You can apply for the permit ONLINE or you can get it done by the issuing authorities of Government of Arunachal Pradesh which have offices in Delhi, Kolkata, Shillong, Guwahati, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, and Jorhat.
PAP (Protected Area Permit)
The foreign nationals require PAP (Protected area Permit) to enter Arunachal Pradesh. They can obtain the PAP from All Indian Missions Abroad, All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRRO) in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Home Ministry, Govt of India, and Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradeshand Itanagar.
Duration: The validity for PAP is 30 days and it can’t be extended under any circumstances.
Requirements: It is to be noted that PAP can’t be applied ONLINE. It is advised that the foreign nationals contact Registered Tour Operators in Arunachal Pradesh for the permits.
Cost: The PAP costs $30 USD
Note: If you are a foreign national and want to travel independently, you must apply for the permits at Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Resident Commissioner’s Office in Kolkata or Guwahati. These two places have the authority to issue PAPs to independent foreign tourists and single tourists.
Tell me about Mobile Connectivity?
Only BSNL post-paid network works there. Unfortunately, when I visited there was no network for a few days. So, I was completely cut off from rest of the world which was a blessing for me.
Is there any ATM?
Yes, there is one State Bank of India ATM. But I would suggest carrying enough cash as you never know when the ATM runs out of cash, considering the fact that there is only one ATM in the town.
Are there any restaurants?
There are a few small cafes in the market. You will not find any big restaurants in the town.
How is the weather condition?
In the winter months, from November to March, the temperature dips, making it extremely cold in Mechuka. The rest of the year, the weather is pleasant there.
What to carry?
If you are travelling during the winter season, please carry heavy woolens. You need to layer up to protect yourself from the chilly air and freezing cold. Also carry two pairs of shoes. You never know when you might need the other one. A few of the must carry things are hand gloves, woolen caps, fleece, down jackets, sport shoes, boots, raincoats, sunglasses, hats, etc.
Since it is a sensitive location, bordering China, it is advisable to carry important documents with you always. A proper ID (Aadhaar card, Voter ID and Passport for Foreign Nationals) and also your ILP (Inner Line Permit) and PAP(Protected Area Permit) needs to be carried with you. You can be stopped anywhere by the Indian Army to check your ID.
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