|WARNING: There have been recent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Check on current conditions before you visit the region.|
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the northeastern states of India. It is bordered by Bhutan in the west, China in the north and northeast, Myanmar (Burma) in the southeast, and the states of Assam and Nagaland in the south.
Although most of Arunachal Pradesh is also claimed by China (as South Tibet) and Taiwan, it is under the effective control of the Indian government. As visitors wishing to visit have to obtain Indian visas, permits and so on, we treat it as a part of India here. This does not represent a political endorsement of the claims made by either side of the dispute.
- 1 Itanagar — the state capital
- 2 Bhalukpong — home to Pakke Tiger Reserve and the Tipi Orchard Research Centre
- 3 Bomdila — a small town with 3 famous Buddhist monasteries
- 4 Deomali — a village that is a treat for environmentalists, biologists, and nature lovers, with several varieties of fruits and rich flora and fauna
- 5 Dirang — a city with several forts and the remnants of Dirang Dzong (a fort)
- 6 Pasighat — one of the oldest places in the state, and an educational hub
- 7 Tawang — a Himalayan town with the second-largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the world, built in 1681
- 8 Tezu —
- 9 Yingkiong — a small town often used as the start of the journey to the Pemako area, on the border with Tibet
- 10 Ziro (Zero) — a picturesque town included the Tentative List for UNESCO's World Heritage Site for the Apatani cultural landscape
- 1 Mouling National Park — (humid and wet area) named after Mouling peak part of the Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve
- 2 Namdapha National Park — the largest national park in India, known for its biodiversity and for being home to the northernmost rain forest in India
Arunachal Pradesh was part of Tibet until 1914, when a treaty between the British government and the Tibetan government brought the Himalayan region under British control as part of British India. However, China considered the Tibetan government to be a local government that had no power to sign treaties with another sovereign state. As a result, China refused to recognise the treaty, and continues to claim the region as part of Tibet.
Arunachal Pradesh was known as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) till 1987, when it was renamed to the current name. The current name literally means the "province of the dawn-lit mountains".
The only modern book written about travelling through this state is Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent's Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains from 2017. This book is well worth reading for anyone interested in visiting.
People of Arunachal Pradesh can speak and understand Hindi and often English. There are more than 36 major tribes and more than 306 sub-tribes, many of whom do not understand each other's languages, with Hindi generally used as the common language between them. English is commonly spoken well by educated people, but don't expect everyone to understand it.
In Buddhist areas near the Chinese border, such as Tawang, it is common to see signs written in Tibetan, which is understood at least by monks and some older people.
Fees and permitsEdit
Foreigners need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter the state. The PAPs are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and it may be possible to get your Indian visa with a special endorsement allowing travel in the state. If you will be entering as part of a tour group, the tour operator will handle all permits for you.
If you're traveling independently and already in Northeast India, the easiest way is to visit the Office of the Deputy Resident Commissioner of Arunachal Pradesh in Guwahati. It's not necessary to hire help for this - the officials there are very friendly and familiar with the rules and process, even for solo travelers, despite what you might read or hear elsewhere. The permit typically takes 3-4 business days to be approved, and can be sent to you by email or Whatsapp, so you don't need to visit the office again or stick around in Guwahati. It should also be possible to apply at the offices in Kolkata or New Delhi.
Individual travellers are granted up to 30 days in the state, but are only allowed to visit the districts of West Kameng (Bomdila and Dirang), Tawang, and Lower Subansiri (Ziro), and have to promise not to visit non-tourist areas or take any pictures of military facilities. You will be asked to fill out a proposed itinerary, but you don't have to stick to it, so its advisable to invent one that covers the maximum amount of time and number of places you might go, to make sure you receive authorization for the whole thing. You must leave photocopies of your passport, visa stamp, and a printout of your permit at the police checkpost when entering Arunachal, and inform the police when you leave. Police from each district will likely be in touch with you repeatedly during your visit, to verify details of your travel plans and offer you assistance.
If you want to visit other parts of the state, it's possible to get permission to travel other routes if you have a group of two or more people, especially if your trip is arranged by an Indian travel agency.
Indian citizens require an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter the state, which is now applied for online. The ILP is provided for each of the following sectors:
You can get the ILP for any one of the above sectors.
Arunachal Pradesh has four commercial airports at Itanagar, Pasighat, Tezu and Ziro.
There is a helicopter service available from Guwahati to various destinations like Pasighat and Tawang. The service is operated weather permitting. The fares are reasonably priced. There are no public taxis operating at the helipad in Tawang. If you want to trek from the helipad to Tawang town, make prior arrangements for road transport before boarding the flight.
If you are visiting Bomdila sector, then the easiest way to reach there is by road from Tezpur (Assam). One can then go to Tezpur by state transport buses. From Tezpur, shared vehicles are available every morning from 05:30. It's recommended to use a reputed travel agency to book seats. Requesting your driver to stop at Sela pass during the winter allows you to see picturesque snow-covered views. The roads are good and well maintained by Border Road Organisation (BRO), but there can be landslides in the rainy season.
For first-timers driving by your own in mountainous roads is not recommended. There are numerous rental cars available in almost all cities in the state. The rental cars are generally safe and charge reasonably.
Arunachal Pradesh State Transport Services provides daily bus services between the cities. The bus might get jam-packed sometimes. The prices are very cheap and the journey is safe.
- Bomdila is a great place for adventure sports, rafting, angling and trekking. The best time for trekking is October to February.
- Pasighat is one of the oldest cities of Arunachal Pradesh. This is a great place for tourists who wish to experience the beauty of nature. The city is the entrance point for the Arunachal Pradesh.
Places to visit around Tawang include:
- Tawang Monastery. A Tibetan Buddhist gompa (fortified monastery) that was constructed in 1681. It is the second-largest Buddhist monastery in the world.
- Anni Gompa, a Buddhist monastery managed by nuns.
- Nuranang Falls, a large waterfall near Tawang.
- Tawang War Memorial is not to be missed. It is maintained by the Indian Army and has inscribed therein the names of those who died defending Tawang during the Chinese intrusion in 1962. A sombre place, it elicits awe, gratefulness and perhaps a tear in the eyes of many Indian visitors.
- Greener Pastures - An Eco-tourism venture that offers travelers an escape into the unexplored mountains of Arunachal Pradesh. They organize tribal cultural exchanges, treks, extreme river rafting challenges, and sightseeing tours around the region.
- Kameng River Rafting: - This River was known as the Bhareli River, before it was renamed Kameng. This river flows on the India-Tibet border, in India it flows from Arunachal Pradesh. This is one of the most challenging rivers for river rafting in India.
- Rafting - Brahmaputra is counted as one of the best rivers for rafting in the world. This river gives an amazing and exciting, lifetime memorable rafting expedition experience into the North-East of India. The Tsang Po River flows in the east side of Tibet, passing through great Himalayan. This river also passes through the Namche Barwa, highest unclimbed mountain and then reaches to Arunachal Pradesh. Brahmaputra river rafting is an challenging activity in which one can experience the “Zebra ock” and “Roaring Rikor”. Tourists can also set their camp on beaches in the night time. This journey also includes a ride at Dibrugarh on the Brahmaputra River also the densely forested river valley from the plains of Pasighat.
- Biking - The curvy mountainous roads of Arunachal Pradesh offers stunning views of valleys. It is known as a biker's paradise. Biking through the sights of snow-capped mountains is a great experience.
Tibetan delicacies like thupka, momos or simple and delicious paratha-sabzi eaten hot from the roadside shacks on cold misty days are a treat. Most restaurants in Tawang serve them. A small shack called Annapurna serves delicious alu (potato) chips. The traditional Monpa cuisine uses a generous amount of chillies and fermented cheese which has a strong flavour.
Some traditional Arunachal dishes are:
- Gyapa khazi is a type of pulao made of rice, fermented cheese, small dried fish or shrimp, chillies, ginger and other spices.
- Khura is a pancake, often taken with tea.
- Momo is made by stuffing minced pork and onions into dough and then steaming the dumpling in a three-layer steamer or frying them.
- Thukpa is a soup filled with noodles, minced meat and vegetables, also known as der thuk. Ashum thukpa is made of maize, beans and meat.
- Zan is the staple dish of the Monpa tribes. It is usually made of millet flour, and is served with vegetables or meat, to which fermented cheese, soya bean or herbs are added.
Getting tea or coffee is quite easy in Arunachal Pradesh. There are many local drinks which include local beers.
- Saraku is a local alcoholic drink.
- Apo is a local beer. It can be categorised as a rice beer. You cannot find it in shops as they are usually brewed in households and often served along with rice and chutney and is a part of a tradition and culture.
Arunachal Pradesh is a safe state. The inhabitants are generally friendly and ready to help visitors. However, there are dangers of altitude sickness for the visitors of the state, especially in the high mountainous areas. You are not advised to visit sensitive places near the Indo-China border. Stay inside your hotel and its premises in the night as going out between the mountains during the night might not be a good idea. The most important, Drive Carefully!, if you are driving in mountainous roads, speeding or overtaking might not be a safe choice. Avoid visiting the state in the rainy season. The heavy rains cause the roads to get really muddy and landslides are frequent which lead to road blocks. All the places are well guarded and the crime rate in this region is very low.
- Assam - known for its lush tea gardens and wildlife,
- Nagaland - known for its unique landscape and culture.
- Meghalaya- known for its exceptional wildlife and natural beauty. The world's wettest place Cherrapunji is also located here.