This post covers the top 15 OFFBEAT EXPERIENCES you must have in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. If you are looking for some of the best immersive experiences on your next trip to the easternmost state of Northeast India, this post is for you.
So, ditch the regular tourist places and travel a few miles extra to explore the unexplored on your next adventure in Arunachal Pradesh.
Table of Contents
Where is Tawang?
Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh needs no introduction. Located at a height of 10,000 feet above sea level, Tawang is the crown jewel of Arunachal Pradesh. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Northeast India, Tawang is a promising land.
Home to the largest Buddhist Monastery in India, Tawang offers some of the most breathtaking sights, enriching culture, rich heritage, ancient traditions, and rituals.
Home to Monpa people, Tawang boasts of spectacular valleys, alluring landscapes, high altitude passes, frozen lakes, ancient stupas, hidden waterfalls, hot springs, local Tibetan markets, sacred Gompas, etc.
Not just the quintessential tourist spots, this serene land can surprise you with numerous offbeat places in Tawang that no one told you about before.
Find out all about Tawang, like how to reach, take a pit stop, stay in Bomdila or Dirang, the best way to reach Tawang and the offbeat destinations, and many more. In other words, this is a complete guide to Tawang.
How to reach Tawang?
The distance between Tawang and Guwahati (Assam) is 525 kilometers by road. There are daily taxis and bus services via Tezpur, Bhalukpong, and Bomdila. It takes more than 12 hours to reach, depending upon the road condition. Therefore, it is not possible to reach Tawang on the same day.
Guwahati to Tezpur or Kaziranga: Day 1
After landing at Lokpriya Gopinath International Airport, you need to hire a cab or avail bus service to reach Tezpur or Kaziranga on the first day. Moreover, you need to break the journey before you enter Arunachal Pradesh. If Kaziranga National Park is on your bucket list, you can cover game drives in the national park and spend the first night in Kaziranga.
Kaziranga to Bomdila: Day 2
The following day, start your thrilling road trip covering the mountainous road with changing landscapes and temperature, negotiating on the winding road up the hills to reach Bomdila or Dirang for a night halt. I would recommend Dirang because it is quieter as compared to Bomdila and is located at a lower altitude.
Dirang to Tawang: Day 3
Start your journey towards Tawang early in the morning so that you can spend enough time at Sela Pass. The distance is around 140 km from Dirang which will take more than 4 hours to reach your final destination.
Guwahati to Tawang -550 KM
Bomdila to Tawang -185 KM
Dirang to Tawang-140 KM
Itanagar to Tawang 507 KM
What is the best way to reach Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh?
The best way to explore Tawang is to hire a reputed Travel and Tour agency from Northeast India. I would recommend the Holiday Scout Tour and Travel since I had an immersive travel experience with them in the Northeast this year.
They offer an inclusive package to tourists. For instance, the airport pick-up, taking care of permits (ILP & PAP), customized itinerary, booking accommodations to take you to the most offbeat places, etc. As a result, your trip to Northeast India becomes completely hassle-free.
Where to stay in Bomdila?
I had stayed at one of the most beautiful homestays by the name, Dhe Dhen Gakhyil Homestay in Bomdila. What floored me at the homestay was the warm hospitality and the simplicity of the host. In addition to that, I loved the coziness of that place. It felt more like home. Moreover, the host Kunchok Tsumo made sure that I had the best time at her mountain abode.
So, if you are someone who loves relishing local delicacies, Ara (Local beverage), and prefer a quiet vacation, the Dhe Dhen Gakhyil Homestay is my recommendation.
Where to stay in Dirang valley?
The best place to stay in Dirang valley is the Dirang Boutique Cottages, located on the bank of Dirang Chhu River. Owned by Sange Tsering of Holiday Scout, the riverside boutique resort is known for its exclusive location.
Since I had stayed at Dirang Boutique Cottages, I would highly recommend this place for those who are always on the lookout for secluded locations, away from chaos.
I loved the most about the resort because of the warmth in their behavior and attitude to go the extra mile to make your holiday memorable. Therefore, if you like places that have pristine surroundings, care more about the comfort of their guests, and serve organic food, the Dirang Boutique Cottages is where you should experience your staycation. Moreover, this riverside cottage is budget-friendly as well.
ALSO READ THE DETAILED REVIEW OF Dirang Boutique cottage here.
Whether you are a solo traveler, couple, or traveling with your family, the resort offers everything to make your trip experience extraordinary.
Do you need IPL/ PAP for Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh?
You need an ILP (for Indian Nationals) and PAP (for Foreign Nationals) to enter Arunachal Pradesh. Due to its strategic location, bordering China and Bhutan, tourists are required to have permits for their holidays in Arunachal Pradesh.
How & Where to get the ILP/ PAP?
Inner Line Permit (ILP)
Indian tourists need to obtain permits to visit Arunachal Pradesh. You can apply for the ILP permit ONLINE. You can get it done by the issuing authorities of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh. The offices are in Delhi, Kolkata, Shillong, Guwahati, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, and Jorhat.
ALSO, READ THE COMPLETE GUIDE ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT ILP & PAP PERMITS FOR NORTHEAST INDIA (ALL STATES)
PAP (Protected Area Permit)
The foreign nationals require PAP (Protected area Permit) to enter Arunachal Pradesh and 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 Pradesh and Itanagar.
The PAP (Permit) can’t be applied ONLINE. So, the foreign nationals should contact Registered Tour Operators in Arunachal Pradesh for the permits.
Which are the OFFBEAT EXPERIENCES one should have in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh?
Tawang being a tourist attraction of Arunachal Pradesh, is high on every traveler’s bucket list. Whether you are seeking culture, adventure, nature’s splendor, spiritual wisdom, or remote corners, Tawang is the place for everyone.
The compelling beauty of the land will make your jaw drop by its sheer rawness. Whether it is the unventured terrains, far-flung villages, unheard cultural practices, and sacred monastic festivals, Tawang has a lot to offer to the world when it comes to offbeat experiences in this region. Therefore, you will not find numerous unexplored places in any guidebooks and travel vouchers.
So, find out below the Top 15 Offbeat Experiences you should have in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.
1. Attend Morning Prayer at Tawang Monastery
The Tawang Monastery is the most popular tourist attraction in Tawang valley. Reputed to be the biggest Buddhist Monastery in India, it houses 500 monks on the premises. Because of the grandeur of the monastery and spiritual aura, it has been attracting tourists from all across the world.
In addition, the monastery serves as a religious, spiritual, and cultural center for the Monpa people. The major highlight of the monastery is a 25 feet high golden statue of Lord Buddha in the central prayer hall. It is a sight to behold.
If there is anything that left me spellbound at the monastery was the Morning Prayer session. The aura in the prayer hall, the sound of the Tibetan musical instruments, and the Buddhist chanting create the most powerful spiritual ambiance.
I was amazed to see those little monks attending the prayer session just before dawn. The sights of the sleep-deprived eyes of those monks, wrapped in the red robes, sitting and chanting the mantras in the most disciplined manner, simply made my day.
Therefore, it was worth sacrificing my sleep to have these immersive offbeat experiences in Tawang.
2. Meet Brokpa Tribe & experience their lifestyle
Who are the Brokpas?
The Brokpa tribe is the Semi-nomadic Yak herders of Arunachal Pradesh. They live in remote places in the western part of Arunachal Pradesh. The Brokpas keep moving from one place to another, depending on the grassland, weather, and temperature.
I was extremely lucky to visit one of the Brokpa temporary settlements outside Tawang.
The Brokpas are the herding community who have been herding cows for generations. Yak came to their lives later when Tibetan traders used to barter it for salt.
Since the temperature was perfect for yak rearing in this part of the state, the Tibetan advised the Brokpas to start rearing Yaks. That is how yak has become an integral part of their lifestyle.
Their life is dependent on three seasons, winter, spring, and summer. Just before snowfall, the semi-nomadic Brokpas head down to the valley to live with their families for a few months.
During the summer season, the Brokpas move back to the lower mountain areas for 2 to 3 months and keep moving towards the upper mountain areas as the temperature starts changing.
Despite the harsh weather, the Brokpas were busy with their daily chore. While the Brokpa man was busy milking the yak while chanting Buddhist mantras, the lady was making yak cheese which is an indispensable part of their food culture.
Visiting the Brokpa settlement on the outskirts of town and seeing their lifestyle up close was one of the most offbeat experiences in Tawang I had during my trip to Arunachal Pradesh. This was certainly one of the highlights of my Tawang trip.
3. Get lost in the charm of Sela Pass & Lake in winter
The snow-laden landscapes, colorful fluttering prayer flags, frozen lake, and the icy road up in the hills. These are the common visuals when you travel to Tawang in winter via the Sela Pass. It is a mandatory stop on your way to Tawang.
The Sela Pass looks spectacular in winter. So, it is important to cover yourself with layers of woolens because it gets really cold at this high altitude pass. One needs to be extra cautious if you are traveling in winter.
The captivating sights of one of the highest motorable passes in India will blow you away with its jaw-dropping scenery. The grandeur of the Sela lake encircled by the mountains, the serpentine road view, and the snow-white landscapes can make you fall in love with the land even before you reach your destination.
I had visited Tawang in winter and the road trip from the Sela Pass to Tawang town was nothing less than a dream.
4. Attend Torgya Festival at Tawang Monastery
Have you ever heard of Torgya Festival?
Why should you attend this festival?
I will tell you why. Because it is one of the offbeat experiences to have in Tawang if you are traveling to Arunachal Pradesh in the month of January.
Unlike other festivals, the Torgya is the lesser-known festival of Arunachal Pradesh. This is an annual festival and celebrated in the courtyard of the Tawang monastery with great zeal. This is a monastic festival. Therefore, the highlight of the festival is the sacred monastic dance called Pha Chham which is performed by the monks, wearing masks of the pig at the wee hour.
The 3-day long festival showcases some of the best monastic dance performances by the lamas, wearing eye-catching masks with the music created by the Tibetan musical instruments. The purpose of the festival is to ward off evil spirits and protect people from any natural disasters.
It is one of the biggest festivals for the Monpa people. The monastery sees the incessant flow of crowds from different parts of the state. The environment around the monastery is quite colorful during the festival. So, if you want to experience something different, what better than experiencing a cultural festival that is not known to many.
5. Get mesmerized by the Nuranang Waterfalls
The Nuranang Waterfalls or Jang Waterfalls is one of the must-visit offbeat places in Tawang. Located at a 2 km downhill drive from Jang town, the Nuranang Waterfalls are a visual delight and quite enthralling. The thunderous sound of the waterfall can be heard from miles away. One needs to negotiate the way down through concrete steps to reach the base of the waterfall.
Since it is located on the outskirts of Tawang town, many skip this place in the rush to reach. The 100 meter-high waterfalls are one of the spectacular sights in the region. In other words, don’t miss the Nuranang Waterfalls.
6. GESHILA PEAK
This is an offbeat trek route near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. One of the lesser-known places, this route promises a scenic drive from Tawang town. Located at a higher altitude, the view of snow-capped mountains and dense colorful rhododendron forest look picture-perfect. This high-altitude route is best explored on motorcycles, and mountain bikes. A mountain drive on this road is also a delight for those who prefer to explore offbeat Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
7. Visit Khinmey Monastery
Another offbeat place in Tawang is the Khinmey Monastery. Around 9 kilometers from Tawang town, this monastery is one of the must-visit places in the region. Founded by His Eminence 15th Thektse Rinpoche, the Khinmey Monastery is my absolute favorite. The highlight of the monastery is the peaceful surrounding.
The aura of the monastery is very powerful. The 50 feet great statue of 8th-century Indian master Guru Padmasambhava in the main prayer hall is quite eye-catching.
The intricate details on the wall, door, and ceiling will draw your attention as you proceed to the monastery. The wheel of life depicted on the exterior of the wall outside the prayer wheel is something I found quite fascinating.
They follow the Nyingma tradition which is said to be the oldest tradition of Buddhism which started in the 7th century. The Khinmey Monastery is the only monastery, which follows the Nyingma tradition in Tawang. It makes this monastery one of the important Buddhist sites to visit in Tawang. So, don’t skip it.
One of the offbeat places to visit around Tawang is certainly Lumla. It is located around 45 km away from Tawang town and is famed for the giant statue of Tara Devi, a Buddhist deity. Unfortunately, during my visit to Lumla, the statue was under renovation. So, I couldn’t capture the beauty of the towering statue into my lens. Beneath the statue, there is a massive prayer hall. The eye-arresting landscape of layers of hills was quite a view.
9. Don’t miss Urgelling Monaster
The Urgelling Monastery is one of the offbeat spots in comparison to other tourist attractions in Tawang. This monastery belongs to the 14th century. The 6th Dalai Lama was born in Tawang and he used to reside in Urgelling village. The monastery was named after him and so it is called the Dalai Lama monastery as well.
In earlier times, the Urgelling Monastery used to follow the Nyingma tradition, but now the monastery follows the Gelugpa lineage. It is said that the monastery had a big monastic school, which was destroyed by the Mongolians.
One can also see the oldest stupas preserved at the monastery. The monastery is located 3 km from the main Tawang town. I highly recommend having this offbeat experience in Tawang on your next visit.
10. Mukto Village: The Last Papermakers
Another offbeat place near Tawang is Mukto village which is known for traditional papermaking. The village still practices the traditional way of making paper which is an age-old technique and only practiced in this village by a few skilled craftsmen. This was quite a revelation for me as I was not aware of this unique way of making paper.
I was informed that these papers are mainly used at monasteries. The manuscripts contain these traditional papers which are used to write a religious script and Buddhist chants.
The bark of ‘Shug-Sheng” (A Paper plant) is used to make these papers. They first collect the barks, then sun-dried and boil it in water to make a paste which they spread carefully on a canvas. Once the paste is laid well on the canvas kind filmy screen, they dip the canvas in water and put it out in the Sun to dry. This is a tedious process and is fast disappearing. There is only a handful of people who are still practicing this unique papermaking technique in today’s digital age.
The paper is called Mon Shug (literally Monpa Paper). This has been an important craft for the Monpa community for ages.
11. Thonglek Village
One of the offbeat villages around Tawang is Thonglek village. This village draws attention due to Dalai Lama who had spent a night in this village when he had escaped from Tibet. This is a remote quint village that is the best to spend a few quiet days away from the chaos in the lap of nature.
The village also has a monastery. The scattered wooden houses, those smiling faces, and the welcoming nature of the villager give you enough reasons to experience Thonglek village. This village is hardly 25 km from Tawang.
12. Must visit Tawang War Memorial
The Tawang war memorial is one of the must-visit places in Tawang. It was built in memory of the 2,420 armed forces members, who laid down their lives in the Indo-China war in 1962.
The very first look at the memorial is impressive. The giant white Stupa with vibrant Buddhist flags, prayer wheels, colorful serpents, dragons, and other Buddhist relics are quite appealing.
The memorial has two halls. The museum displays the belongings of the martyrs. It also has a sound and light show which takes you back to the war times. The walls are adorned with framed photographs of the brave soldiers at the time of the war. Photography is not allowed inside the memorial. So keep that in mind while visiting.
13. Visit the Giant Buddha Statue for an aerial view of Tawang City
Want to have a bird’s eye view of Tawang Town? Visit Giant Buddha Statue for an aerial view of the town. This is also a vantage point to capture the captivating Tawang Monastery. This is one of the iconic landmarks which is visible from miles away. It reminds me of the Buddha Dordenma Statue in Thimpu, Bhutan.
14. Visit the Chakzam Bridge
Located around 25 km away, the Chakzam Bridge is one of the must-visit places for offbeat travel lovers. It was built by Tangton Gyalpo, a disciple of the first Dalai Lama, who constructed this iron bridge in the 14th century. He was popularly known as Lama Chag-Zam Wangpo. The bridge was built over the Tawang-Chu River to make a passage through Kitpi and Mukto. The best thing about this bridge is that one can still cross this centuries-old bridge. The Chakzam Bridge is considered an engineering marvel.
15. Visit Thukje Choeling Nunnery
Thukje Choeling Nunnery is another offbeat place in Tawang. Also known as Brahma Dungchung Ani Gompa was founded by a Buddhist monk named Kachen Yeshi Galek. It is said to be the oldest Ani-Gompa of Tawang. It is located in a secluded place which makes it, even more, inviting for people who are looking for offbeat experiences in Tawang.
Apart from the mentioned offbeat places in and around Tawang town, one can also include the Gorichen Peak, Madhuri Lake, Bumla Pass, Sangestar Tso Lake, and Taktsang Gompa.
Where to stay in Tawang
I had stayed in Tenzin Guesthouse in Tawang. This is one of the best places to stay in Tawang. Moreover, Tenzin Guesthouse has earned good ratings on Tripadvisor and some great reviews by the tourists.
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