Tawang, an ancient hamlet studded on the craggy peaks of Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh, is the last bastion of Tibetan Buddhist monastic community. The indigenous Monpa tribesmen harps on the olden historic way of life. A well chalked out road-trip to Tawang from the plains of Guwahati is a delight for a mountain lover. In this Tawang travel blog, I recount my days of exploring the dramatic landscape of the high Himalayas. The week long road trip to Tawang touched the heart of Bhalukpong, Dirang, Bomdila, Bum La on the way, where mountain life thrives in its glorious existence.

A Visit to Tawang Monastery

The pride of the pictorial hill town, Tawang Monastery is Asia’s second-largest monastery and India’s largest which controls 17 Gompas in the region. An important seat of Mahayana Buddhism, the famous Buddhist monastery in India of the Gelukpa was founded during the 17th century by Mera Lama Lodre Gyaltso.The notable delights of the monastery is the imposing three-storied assembly hall, the 28 ft high golden statue of Lord Buddha, vast library with an impressive collection of ancient books and manuscripts. Do not miss to take a look at famous gold inscribed Buddhist scriptures Kangyur and Tangyur.

Timings: 8 AM – 7 PMEntry Fees: FreeBest time to visit: March to May, September, and October

How to reach Tawang Monastery: Take a train to Ranagapara railway station, from where Tawang Monastery is only 320 km away. You can take a bus or cab to reach the monastery. Similarly, the nearest airport is located in Salonibari, around 324 km away.

Pass through Sela Pass

Sela Pass at 13,700 ft, is among the highest motorable mountain passes in the world and an important reason why you must visit Tawang. The mountain pass is the only way to gain access to Tawang by road.The view of the Sela Pass in its snow-covered glory and views from the pass are truly out of the world. On the way to Sela pass, stop at Paradise Lake. Like its name the lake is ethereal, you will be in love with it, at just one glance.

  • Timings: 8 AM – 8 PMEntry Fees: Free, but you need a special permit. Best time to visit: March to May, October to November

    Distance from Tawang: 72 km (approx.)How to reach Sela Pass: Use the local transportation like a bus or cab in Tawang to reach Sela Pass

    Marvel at the beauty of Shonga-tser Lake (Madhuri Lake)

    • Shonga-tser Lake is famously called Madhuri Lake is one of the most scenic lakes in India and not just in the North East. It is said that Shonga-tser was lush grassland but the lake was formed after an earthquake in 1971.The picturesque sight is one of the reasons why you must visit Tawang. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains it is a beauty few can match to. Spending some time here is one of the best things to do in Tawang. Do not forget to get as many photographs as much as you can.

      Best time to visit: SummerDistance from Tawang: 42 km (approx.)How to reach Shonga-tser Lake: The lake is located on the way from Tawang to Bum La Pass and can be reached by private vehicle.

      Urgelling Monastery

      Urgelling Monastery is one of the popular tourist attractions in Tawang. It is considered sacred as it is the birthplace of Tsayang Gyatso, the sixth Dalai Lama. The temple was built around 1487 and it became truly holy with the birth of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsanyang Gyatso on 1 March 1683. His Holy Highness was the descendant of the treasure revealer Pema Lingpa, and Tsewang Lhamo, hailing from a royal family of Bekhar Village.

      Timings: 6 AM – 6 PMEntry Fees: FreeBest time to visit: All around the yearDistance from Tawang: 3 km (approx.) How to reach Urgelling Monastery: You can either take a taxi or reach the monastery on foot.

      Enjoy delicious local food

      A taste of the delicious food is what makes a holiday truly memorable. Momos and thukpa are the delights of North East India, and you will find them aplenty in Tawang but the unique taste comes from the traditional Monpa cuisine.The tribal cuisine is quite flavorsome and features a lot of chilies. Do try out the authentic dishes of Tawang like Zan, Khura, and Gyapa Khazi.Have a glimpse of their Culture Influenced by the Tibetans and the Buddhist way of life, the culture of Tawang is one of the reasons why you must visit the scenic hill town of Arunachal Pradesh. Losar is one of the most important festivals in Tawang.It is considered to be the New Year festival, celebrated in February for 8-10 days. The charm of this festivity is the lion and yak dance. Torgya, celebrated in January is a ritual to chase away evil spirits. Other important festivals are Cheokor, Gaden Ngamchoe, Dukpa Tse-She and Saka Dawa.A part of the way of life in Twang is the exquisite art, crafts, dances, and music. Do take a look at the local splendid wood carving, Thangka painting, carpet making, weaving, wooden bowls, and bamboo woven products.

      Marvel or scale the Gorichen Peak

      Tawang lures tourists from all over the world, not just with its natural beauty but the thrilling scope of the adventure. Gorichen Peak is the highest peak in Arunachal Pradesh with 22500 feet of height. The gorgeous mountain is not just a beautiful sight but is also considered sacred to the Mogpa tribe and possesses a high challenge. The majestic peak offers adventure opportunities to seasoned climbers, however, beginners will be able to trek in the area surrounding the mountain.

      Best time to visit: April to June, September, and October. Distance from Tawang: 57 km (approx.)

      Get Welcomed by the Indian Army at Bumla Pass

      Explore Bumla Pass, one of the most offbeat paths in Arunachal Pradesh. Lying at a height of more than 15,000 feet, it has been featured as one of the most dangerous roads to cross in India. Maintained by the Indian Army, you can witness how Indian soldiers protect the Indian border in such harsh weather conditions.The pass is covered with fluffy snow all year which makes it difficult to pass. Besides, Bumla Pass is a historical place to visit in Tawang and it definitely puts your adventure spirit to the test.To reach the pass, you have to cross many scenic villages and sparkling lakes, which makes the whole experience more delightful. Everyone who has been here must tell you how welcoming the soldiers are and offer refreshments. They also give you tips on how to adapt to cold weather. There is a telescope and a few binoculars if you want to see what lies beyond the borders.

      Best time to visit: Summers Distance from Tawang: 37 km (approx.) How to reach Bumla Pass: Get a permit from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner in Tawang itself and then from the Indian Army Cantt. of Tawang. Get a car with an experienced driver and drive to Bumla Pass.

      Witness the Majestic Geshila Peak

      Finding more reasons to visit Tawang? Geshila Peak is one of the best places to visit in Tawang. Serene and spectacular are the best words to describe the beauty of this peak that attracts many tourists from all over the country. If you are looking for a peaceful spot in Tawang, Geshila Peak is the best place to visit. People believe that Geshila Peak in Tawang is their guardian angel and protects them from all the evils.Adventure lovers can hike to Gehsila Peak and spend quiet moments in nature. Plus, shutterbugs will have a great time clicking some spectacular shots of the peak and its surrounding beauty. Visiting Geshila Peak is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you cannot afford to miss.

      Best time to visit: April to October Distance from Tawang: 25 km from Khrimu, Tawang (approx.)

      Dip in the Refreshing Waters of Thingbu Hot Spring

      How does a natural hot spring amidst the cold weather of Tawang sound? Great, right? Thingbu is a natural; hot spring located in a small village called Thingbu. Located 3 hour drive away from the town of Tawang, it is one of the best tourist places in Tawang. People visit here with their better half, friends, and family to take a dip in the hot waters and relax their muscles.Thingbu Hot Spring has abundant sulfur, which is known to cure multiple skin ailments. So, why wouldn’t you visit?

      Best time to visit: October Distance from Tawang: 3-hour away from Tawang and 1 hour away from Jang.

      How to reach Thingbu Hot Spring: Hire an experienced driver who knows the area as this hot water spring is a 3-hour drive away from Tawang and 1 hour from Jang.

      Get a Glimpse of Buddhist Faith at Taktsang Gompa

      Finding inner peace in the most serene surroundings is one of the most famous things to do in Tawang. And Taktsang Gompa provides you with the perfect ambiance for that. Located on top of a hill, this gompa is encompassed by dense coniferous forests and lofty mountains. It is also said to have been consecrated by Guru Padmasambhava’s visit in the eighth century.Taktsang Gompa is divided into three tiers and each of them is dedicated to a Tibetan deity. The gompa also houses the lair of Guru Padmasambhava at the back of the main monastery complex. If you want a unique experience, add Taktsang Gompa to your list of places to visit in Tawang and experience calm like never before!

      • Timings: 8 AM – 4 PM Entry Fees: INR 500 per person Best time to visit: Summer

        Distance from Tawang: 40 km (approx.)

        How to reach Taktsang Gompa: Choose to drive on the Bumla Pass. At Y junction, take a turn to Sangetsar Lake, from where you need to trek for 15 minutes to reach Taktsang Gompa.

        Behold the Beauty at Nagula Lake

        Another reason to visit Tawang is the mesmerizing Nagula Lake. One of the most picturesque places in Tawang, the lake attracts many nature lovers and romantic couples. The peace and views of this lake provide the perfect ambiance to bond over sweet conversations. The water of the lake is crystal clear and reflects the lofty mountains around. Providing pure bliss to the onlooker, Nagula Lake will surely leave you fascinated.At a height of approx. 13,500 feet, It is a high altitude small lake and is home to many Brahminy ducks. Owing to its location, you can see heavy military at this lake. Despite this, Nagula Lake remains a major attraction.

        Best time to visit: April to May, September, and October


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History of Tawang

sela lake
sela lake

Even though Tawang is naturally endowed, it also has a significant history. Tawang was historically a part of Tibet. Tawang Monastery was built in 1681 according to the wishes and recommendations of 5th Dalai Lama, and is now the second-largest monastery in the world, after Lhasa’s Patola Monastery.In 1914, according to the Shimla Agreement, Tibet defined a borderline called McMohan Line, which relinquished several square kilometres of land to British occupied India. This includes the Tawang district, and it is because of this reason that Tawang is now part of India. Though the McMohan line was an agreement between India and Tibet, when Tibet was taken over by China, it disregarded the McMohan line as an international border as it believed that Tibet was not a sovereign state to sign such treaties!


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