Tawang , Arunachal Pradesh – enclosed by glaciers

Driving to the remote part of Arunachal Pradesh in the north east corner of India was an exhilarating experience . Colours change with every curve in the mountains and so does the scenery. bright yellow mustard fields merge ith some brilliant orchids that suddenly morph into dense forests with rivers gliding past them to snow clad mountains and conifers kissed by snow flakes to frozen lakes to a valley of clouds that wrapped mountains…

and more

Chennai:4 am . what a way to start a holiday . i would have ideally liked to start the day late and sleep it off, but airlines have a way of making you work hard even on a holiday.So here we are packed and ready , travelling from south of India to the north east corner . 4 cities,3airports and one long drive…thats what day one was all about.

We flew from Chennai to Kolkatta ,waited at the airport to get our connecting flight to Gauwhati. We crossed Bangladesh border and snow capped mountains, wrapped with clouds and reached Gauwhati , the capital of Assam. Our holiday had begun as we started our drive to Tezpur ,our transit point before driving 400 kms uphill to Tawang located at 10,000 feet .

We had heard that there was a bit of unrest in Assam and Arunachal and there was heavy security . We crossed the Brahmaputra and were given instructions that we cannot take a photograph of this majestic river or the bridge . The sun had already set – it was just 5pm and we had reached our destination. The town was shut – we were told that there was a bandh .A dull beginning to a holiday .

Day two seemed more promising.We were to cross into Arunachal Pradesh from Assam .Our journey was to take us from Tezpur to Dirang, another transit point enroute to Tawang . Tezpur , as a town has a mythological connection with the Hindu epic mahabharataha . A beautiful garden overlooking the Brahmaputra was once the prison of a princess, a few ruins scattered here and there and a serene temple located uphill were our sightseeing experiences . Nothing much to right home about, we continued and the scenery changed dramatically. Beautiful golden mustard fields, lush dense forests with rivers gushing past and beautiful orchids filled our landscape as we reached Dirang,a petite hill station. We stayed in a lovely resort,with some courteous boys , who did everything to make our trip great and comfortable. The cold had just set in…we had no idea that this was just the beginning …but I had begun to enjoy my holiday.

If there is heaven on earth, this is it . A valley of clouds that hid everything from mountain peaks to grasslands , flowers and birds and touched our cheeks gently as we got down to capture it on our lens .

Day 3: We were driving from Dirang,a small hill station in Arunachal Pradesh towards Tawang set high in the Eastern Himalayas The mountains curved as River Kameng flowed along with us . It had just snowed. All of a sudden, it was white all around. Snow,ice and clouds – all around. A glacier , snow clad mountains wrapped in a valley of clouds was all we could see till we came to a gate guarded by dragons with bright coloured flags fluttering all around.

We were at Sella Pass , where history and romance meet at 13700 feet. At the height of Indo-China war in 1960s, Sella was a local maiden who had fallen in love with Jaswant Singh , an Indian soldier . She died a martyr and the pass was named after her and was marked as a boundary between India and China. Jaswant Garh,a memorial for the soldier is also close by.
We had none for company except for a couple of dogs and a small tea shop that served us some hot tea and noodles . The cold breeze tickled the bones as we stopped and stared hard at the placid clouds , tugging at the mountains . A bright shaft of sunshine pierced through our skin as we let the heat in and rubbed our frozen fingers in glee . It was just us, the dogs and nature at its silent best .

Day 4 : It is an understatement to say that Tawang was freezing cold. This is a town which sees the first rays of sun in India, but ironically the sun never shines . The temperature was many numbers below zero. We stuffed ourselves with as many layers of clothing as possible and decided tomove out of our room in Tawang Inn . Tawang is famous for its monasteries,gompas on one end, a war memorial on the other .Its a town ravaged by war and was once in possession of the Chinese. The home of the Mompas, Tawang is known for the lakes and waterfalls.And we set out looking for them.

A thick layer of mist hung over the roads as we drove up hill . This is the road that takes us to Tibet and China, but as we did not have the requisite permits to get there .Our driver told us that there were more than 100 lakes up hill and if the army gives us permission, we would get there . A little cajoling with the army got us trudging uphill in our jeep .

The mist descended even thicker and many times we stopped dead in our tracks wondering if there was a curve ahead or if we were at a cliff . Visibility was at zero.And suddenly the veil was lifted . And we saw the blue sky . And a sea of clouds . The sun shone brightly out of a clear and spotless sky . Small peaks jutted out of the clouds which had spread themselves . We stared right into the clouds and could not see anything below.

We kept climbing uphill till we came to the first lake – the Patang Teng Tso or the PT Tso lake It was just 20kms from tawang and it seemed like a long journey . There was not a soul around,not even the occassional yak or the mountain goat. Even the army was not there .

Snow was snow scattered all over , carpeting a mountain here and there , while the lake was frozen. There were several lakes , a mix of water and ice ;some with coloured flags fluttering high,some dotted with a small temple . The colours were stark,blue and white ,black and brown . I had not seen anything so majestic, ,peaceful and beautiful. I wanted to capture every image in to the lens , but a lot is still in my mind’s eye .

We saw several bunkers used by the Indian army way back in the 1960s . It is a scary thought that this peaceful place was once a battle field. And to give assurance was a temple tucked away in the ice..

Getting there
Tawang is in Arunachal Pradesh and you need a permit to visit AP. You can get one at Gauwhati which is my first port of halt…a long journey by road via Tezpur and a stop over at Bomdila or Dirang is a must .Ideally break the jouney into two days . And believe me, the drive is worth it !

Extremely basic. Tawang Inn is decent and clean but not warm enough to protect you.There is no power most of the time and the sheets used to become absolutely cold..But this is the only good hotel there. You could also stay in Bomdila , but I prefer Dirang , enroute to Tawang. You need a permit to get here . For details, check out www.arunachalpradeshtourism.com


  • Nandan says:

    I think I would read again but wanted to write that this appears so much out of the blue. esp the part where you write that there was no one else.

    I would save a bigger comment for later today when I really read it well.

    Thanks backpakker

  • manish says:

    Yet another beautiful travelogue.

    I was thinking to request you to post bigger size photos. And in this post it was like this.

    Beautiful photographs, beautiful description.

    Keep on posting.

  • backpakker says:

    Thanks nandan and manish
    ..tawang is so much out of the blue and I was so excited when I saw the sea of clouds …no where had I seen such a view except of course from flights …
    ..I meant this to be a photo essay actually ..but had to write as well ..

  • Ojas says:

    Nice essay.

    Been there couple of years back and enjoyed every moment of the trip. Some of the interesting things include the road signs that said “Caution: Wild Elephants”, rigorous checking at Bhaluk Pung, Continuous landslides and rains, only Tata Sumos (and not Sumo Victas or other variants) making it till Tawang, the beautiful sight of Dirrang (the place i instantly fell in love with, and decided to spend my life after retirement), working women (and not men!!) in whole of Aunachal Pradesh, hostile people, the beautiful kids (two of which you have managed to capture), funny and curious students in the monestary, cheap liquor, spending more than 12 hours to reach Tawang from Tezpur…. i can go on and on…

    Some of our snaps are here —

    Thanks once again for the brilliant post. You refreshed too many memories..


  • backpakker says:

    ojas – your comment brought back memories that i havent written abt..feels like ive been there yesterday though i actually started 2007 with this place..
    there were rigorous checking too and i loved the orchids at Tipi and the caution signs – i kept hoping I would actually see an elephant – lol ..thanks
    btw, your site wasnt opening when i tried

  • Shaguna says:

    Nice post. Sounds (and looks) heavenly! Reminded me of the visit to Ladakh. Looks like a difficult place to visit, but is surely added to my “to go” list.


  • nandanjha says:

    Today only I read about following news

    Apparently it seems that its pretty close to China and is been in some disupute for long. Somehow the pics and the text make you feel like one of those old english movies where you see something which was there only in past.

  • backpakker says:

    Thanks Shaguna – let me know if you need any help . I would def say must go

    Nandan – Thanks for the info..Its been in dispute for quite some time..They say the original Chinese still stay there and it was supposed to have been captured during the Indo-China war. The Chinese are demanding AP and its part of their five finger strategy to control ..Hoope our govt doesnt give in

  • backpakker says:

    actually one thg i forgot to mention is that the war memorial is one of the must visits there ..it gives you a history of the war as well

  • KaraN says:

    Hi backpacker,
    Lovely Pics. My first visit to the site. Am an avid traveller and hope to contribute too.
    Plannin to travel to Arunachal this December with Wife & Kid. Any concerns about December being inappropriate to travel.

  • backpakker says:

    Hi Karan
    Thanks . I dont think Dec is an issue ..I left on Jan 1st last year -but pls check political situation in AP and Assam and the weather as well..Tawang is extremely cold ..let me know if you need any more details

  • John says:


    We are two of us from Bombay, planned to visit Tawang this December, please instruct us the route from guwahati and the necessary tips required for the trip..

  • backpakker says:

    Hi John

    You need to first get a permit to visit tawang , which you can get from Guwahati . Pls apply for it earlier and ensure that your documents are there . You need to drive down from Guwahati and its a 2 night/ 3 days drive . Suggest you take a break at tezpur and one at Dirang or Bomdila . Dirang is warmer. tawang is extremely cold and tawang inn is a good place to stay. Please have sufficient warm clothes .

    If you need any thing else, pls feel free to ask

  • suresh says:

    i want to visit ap. iam also from chennai. whom should i contact for booking tours?

  • aditya biswas says:

    we are planning to visit tawang in December….one thing which really got me worried was the part about persuading the army to visit the lakes.is it really that bad during winters?

  • Thank you for any other excellent article. Where else could anyone get that kind of info in such an ideal manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *