Arunachal Pradesh – the land of the dawn-lit mountains

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Sunrise at Dong Valley in Arunachal Pradesh

One of the eight northeastern states in India, Arunachal Pradesh is often sidelined by more well-known and ‘touristy’ destinations like Assam and Meghalaya. Yet, like many places not overwhelmed by tourism, it has an untouched beauty that’s just waiting to be discovered. The green landscape is home to a variety of wildlife, including big cats, hundreds of species of birds, and nearly as many types of orchids.

GRL Monastery, which houses Buddhist Lamas and monks at Bomdila

Arunachal Pradesh is one of those places that offers visitors something different on each of its 12 tourist circuits. Which one to choose is entirely up to you and your idea of beauty. For instance, the Tezpur-Bhalukpong-Bomdila-Tawang route introduces you to a world of changing scenery with Tezpur peppered with historical ruins and the river Kameng running along Bhalukpong. Picturesque Bomdila and its monasteries and orchards give you glimpses of the Himalayas while Tawang takes you closer to the mighty mountain range through the Sela Pass. Traveling in the cold season is like entering a winter wonderland.

Itafort – the ‘fort of bricks’ from which the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar, derives its name

Although the Tezpur to Tawang circuit is one of the more popular ones, you shouldn’t give the rest a miss especially the one that starts from Itanagar and goes through Ziro, Daporijo, Aalo, and Pasighat. While in Ziro, you should try to learn about the Apatani tribe, known for its preservation of the environment and ecological knowledge. The older generations stand out with their large nose plugs and facial tattoos. It almost seems like time has stopped at this old village and the feeling is wonderful!

Arunachal Pradesh has a rich heritage that shines through in monuments and archeological sites. The 17th century Tawang Monastery is one of the largest in the country and houses invaluable manuscripts and books. For those of the Gelukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism, the monastery is the ultimate pilgrimage center. Even if you are of a different faith, this is one place you cannot afford to miss. As you travel all the way to the east, you will come upon the hill fort of Bhismaknagar that dates back to the 12th century. The view from the top is excellent as the town is laid out before you.

Tawang Monastery – housing invaluable manuscripts and books

Arunachal Pradesh is an incredibly diverse state. Over a dozen major tribes contribute to this varied fabric of society. One of the best ways you can see this is at festivals like Tamladu, Saga Dawa, Mopin, Choekhor, and Losar. Song, dance, and dramatic performances mark the colorful events. But it’s not just traditional festivals that you should try to catch; the town of Ziro plays host to a huge outdoor music festival that draws thousands from around the country. Local, Indian, and international artistes enthrall music fans over four days. You can bring your own tent or rent them from the organizers. You can also choose to put up at homestays in and around town.

The culturally diverse state of Arunachal Pradesh has around 26 tribes and sub-tribes

Before traveling to this land of the dawn-lit mountains, you need to apply for an Innerline Permit (domestic travelers), which you can get from several states including Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, and Shillong. ILP on arrival is also available. International tourists, on the other hand, will have to apply for a Protected Area Permit. You can get it from Delhi or Itanagar. For more details, visit www.arunachaltourism.com.

Mopin – a popular festival of the Galo community of Arunachal Pradesh

Adventurous travelers eager to experience a taste of a seldom-explored land will find Arunachal Pradesh to be perfect. It has everything needed for an unforgettable trip, whether you’re a history and culture buff, an outdoor enthusiast, a music lover or just someone looking to get away from it all. Pack your bags and set off to discover the wonder that is Arunachal Pradesh!

Image courtesy: Arunachal Pradesh Tourism, mapsofindia.com, tawangtravel.in  

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