Top 10 Places to visit near Tawang
One of the most visited places in Arunachal Pradesh, is the town of Tawang known for its scenic valleys, beautiful mountains and rugged terrain. An epicentre of Tawang tourism is the host of sights that are located nearby and we highlighted the 10 must see places during your trip to the Land of the Dawn lit mountains.
Tawang Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in India and the second largest in the world, making it the most important site of pilgrimage in India for Buddhists. Also known as Galden Namgey Lhatse, the beautiful monastery truly lives up to its name. The monastery is located near the top of a mountain, at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, with a panoramic view of the Tawang river valley, which comprises of snow capped mountains and coniferous forests.
The monastery has a huge assembly hall, 65 residential homes for monks and Lamas, a school and a Buddhist cultural study center, and can accommodate 450 monks. Dukhang or the assembly hall, which is the central part of the monastery, consists of a large image of Lord Buddha that is of 18 ft height and is believed to be donated by the 5th Dalai Lama.
Gyangong Ani Gompa
Now this is one of the most exciting places to visit in Tawang and the epitome of Tawang tourism. The Nunnery is located right opposite to the Tawang Gompa, on a massive hill and can only be reached via a cable car ride. The cable car ride is pretty scary, traveling hundreds of feet above the valley floor and during this half hour you can enjoy magnificent views of the meadows below.
The location of nunnery and the customs being followed here by the nuns reminds one of a bygone era, when Buddhism was preached in a calm and serene atmosphere under the shades of a tree.
The Urgelling Gompa is located at a distance of 3 km from Tawang and is said to be the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Tashi. It was built in 1487 AD here, and His Holiness, the 6th Dalai Lama, was born in 1683 and resided in Urgelling Village. It is a small monastery that holds great significance for the people of the Buddhist faith.
It is believed that before he left for Lhasa, he stuck his walking stick into the ground just inside the monastery gate, and it eventually grew into a giant oak tree. Within the main hall are hand-painted portraits of all the Dalai Lamas, and imprints of the forehead and feet of the sixth Dalai Lama. Locals believe that the leaves of the tree planted by the Dalai Lama 6th can cure illness when kept in hot water.
Zemithang is a hidden paradise and a Monpa settlement in Arunachal Pradesh, known for its vast golden cultivable lands, open valleys, and majestic mountains. It is located at an altitude of 8,000 feet and lies next to the Namjang Chu River flowing in from China. The remote village is connected to Tawang via a narrow broken road, and the 90-kilometer journey can take 4-5 hours to complete. However, the route is very scenic as it passes through forests, streams, and small settlements.
As you enter the village, you will see a mountain to the left and access that is restricted only to the ITBP. After winding through the thick shadows of bamboo and pine trees, when you enter Zemithang village, the gorgeous Gorsam Chorten Monastery can be seen in front. The town is not a tourist hotspot since there are no tourist sites to see. But you can stay here in the serenity for a couple of days or trek the nearby mountains if allowed.
At an elevation of 15,200 feet, the Bum La Pass marks the Indo-China border. Bumla Pass is accessible only by permission and for the permits, you need to visit the Office of the Deputy Commissioner in Tawang District and then Indian army cantonment of Tawang. The roads are pretty bad and it is advisable that you hire a 4*4 vehicle to go there. Even bikers are advised to travel by car since in the event of a breakdown, no help is available on the way.
Since the road to Bumla may not be in the best of conditions throughout the year, the ideal time to visit the place to enjoy its limitless beauty would be from May to October.
The Sangestar Tso Lake is also called as Madhuri Lake, which is located on the road from Tawang to Bum La Pass near the Indo-China border above 15,200 ft above sea level. The lake was renamed so after the shooting of Bollywood movie Koyla, starring Madhuri Dixit, the beautiful actress. It is currently managed by the Indian Army and has a cafeteria near the lake where visitors can relish on hot Maggi, coffee, samosas, and momos.
The best time to visit Madhuri Lake is between April and October, as during the rest of the year, the area is frozen. The road to Bum La Pass is also a historical route; the People’s Liberation Army of China invaded India during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Here in Bum La Pass, one of the fiercest battles took place in the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Pankang Teng Tso Lake is another highlight of Tawang Tourism. This lake is also known as P.T. Tso. and is surrounded by a vivid backdrop of the snow-clad Himalayan Mountains and gushing cold waters of the rivers. It is located at an altitude of 12,000 feet in the Eastern Himalayas.
From Tawang, you will need to travel 17 kilometers, which will take you through narrow, winding roads, and the journey can be completed in 1 hour. On the way, you can stop at the Giant Buddha Statue and then proceed towards the lake. The roads are inaccessible during peak winters, so try to visit Tawang during summers.
Sela Pass & Sela Lake
The Sela Pass is the gateway to Tawang tourism and a lifeline for the people of Arunachal Pradesh as it is the only way that connects Tawang district of the state to the rest of the country. The Pass is a breath-taking place covered in snow, providing beautiful views of the eastern Himalayan range. The rocky pass is also home to one of Arunachal’s most beautiful lakes – the Sela Lake. The Sela Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass located at the height of 13,700 feet.
Situated on the pass is a small army-run cafeteria serving refreshments and is a must-stop place after the grueling ride to the top! And after the gate to your left is the Sela Lake that has an immense religious significance for the Buddhist community. Small rivers flow out of the lake, and during the grazing season, you can see plenty of yaks in the region. While Sela Pass does get heavy snow in winters, it is usually open throughout the year unless landslides or snow require the pass to be shut down temporarily.
These are also known as Jang falls, or Bong Bong Falls, and are located 24 kilometers after Jaswant Garh memorial towards Tawang. Situated at an elevation of 6,000 feet, they are one of the most stunning waterfalls in Arunachal Pradesh state. The locals believe that this milky white waterfall has been named after Nura, a Monpa tribal girl who probably helped an Indian soldier by supplying arms and also gave shelter to him at the time of the Indo-China war.
After visiting the falls, you can also pay a visit to the Hydel power station, which is located nearby. These waterfalls shot to fame after the shooting of one of the songs Tanhai Tanhai of Shahrukh Khan and Madhurai Dixit starrer Bollywood movie Koyla was done here in 1997.
Jaswant Garh Memorial
On the way to Tawang lies the Jaswantgarh war memorial at Nuranang. This war memorial, set in scenic terrain just below the Sela pass, commemorates the bravery of the martyred Indian soldiers of the 1962 Indo-China war. This memorial was built as a homage to rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, Mahavir Chakra Awardee (Posthumous) of the 4th Battalion of Garhwal Rifles Infantry Regiment.
Jaswant showed his bravery by fighting and holding the Chinese back for 72 hours all alone during the 1962 India-China war, and remained at his post at an altitude of about 10,000 feet before succumbing to an enemy bullet. The post that he held to repulse the Chinese troops has been renamed Jaswant Garh in recognition of his sacrifice.
The war memorial has two rooms on each side with maps, photographs, artifacts of the war heroes, and a sound and lightshow room. Just outside the memorial on the cliff is a small cafeteria that sells refreshments, and you should have a snack before resuming the 53-kilometer journey to Tawang from here.