If you’re looking for an escape into the green, hilly terrain of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang is the place for you. Dense jungles, stark icy peaks, and snow-covered envelopes are just the first layer of the beauty that this place holds.
While the natural landscape of Tawang is a treat in itself, the cultural influence that is seen throughout the town only adds to the beauty. The valley is very well known for the Monpa population that resides here. This ethnic group has brought a unique sense of homeliness to the valley with its arts, crafts, and handlooms. When added to the gompas and Buddhist prayer flags that cover the entire valley, Tawang valley has a bold, calming, and welcoming character that every visitor can experience as soon as they get there.
If you’re planning a trip to this one-of-its-kind destination, here’s our Tawang travel guide to help you plan better.
Also read: Top 8 Things To Do In Arunachal Pradesh
It is believed that the town of Tawang received its name after a monastery founded by the Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in the early 1680s. When he was searching for a place to build a monastery in the area in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, he fell to prayers after failing to find an appropriate site.
However, as he woke up one morning to pray, he realized that his horse was missing. After a while, his horse was found on top of the hill where Tawang Monastery has stood ever since. In fact, the name Tawang roughly translates to ‘chosen by horse’.
Coming down to modern history, Tawang was under the control of Tibet until the late 1930s, when the McMahon Line was enforced and the entirety of Tibet was taken under the control of the British-Indian government. Since Tibet was dissolved into the People’s Republic Of China after a short while, the area of Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang has been a topic of stress between India and China.
As tense as its history sounds, the culture of Tawang is as welcoming and serene as you would imagine. The land of Tawang is regarded as highly religious for the people living there, who follow a majorly Tibetan and Buddhist influenced life.
The gompas, or monasteries, serve as cultural and religious sanctorum to the Monpa community, which is a highly creative bunch of people. This community is known for its intricate wood carvings, embroidery, and wool weaving. However, the major sources of income in this area are agriculture and tourism.
Also Read: Places To Go Stargazing In India
Tawang does not have a fully functional civilian airport. However, Tawang Air Force Station has a functional heliport and the IAF has offered the upgraded Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) for civilian operations as well as tourism and the UDAN scheme.
The nearest airport that you can fly to is in Tezpur. The Salonibari Airport is around 325 kilometers away and is well connected to the major cities in India. However, the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati has a higher frequency of flights and you might have an easier time getting here. There are regular flights coming into Guwahati from Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Bangalore. Once you do, there is a 450 kilometer-long journey to this beautiful place called Tawang.
Regardless of which airport you choose to land in, you can take flights with carriers like SpiceJet and Jet Airways. After landing in either of the cities, you can travel to Tawang by taking a bus or hiring a cab.
Due to the geographical location of Tawang, there is no major railway station close to Tawang. In fact, the closest railway station to Tawang is the Rangapara Railway Station in Tezpur. It is 314 kilometers away from Tawang and has buses and taxis traveling to the city frequently.
Just like the airports, the next closest railway station from Tawang is in Guwahati. Since Guwahati is the biggest city in Assam, the railway station here is very well connected to all the major parts of the country.
The quote ‘it's more about the journey than the destination’ fits perfectly when it comes down to traveling to Tawang by road. For quite some time, taking a road trip to Tawang, along with other northeastern states, has been the adventure of choice for a lot of people. There are three ways that you can take the road to Tawang: by bus, by taxi, and by bike.
Since there is no airport or railway station close to the town of Tawang, the government and a few private companies have established a great network of buses, especially between the cities that have those facilities. If you choose to take the whole journey by bus, taking a bus to Guwahati would be your best bet, before getting on one from Guwahati to Tawang. Traveling to other places in the vicinity of Tawang is also very convenient. You can easily find buses going to cities like Tezpur, Silchar, Bhalukpong, Nagaon, Itanagar, and Guwahati.
The drive to Tawang is as beautiful as any in the country. You can start the journey in any part of the country to get here. Our suggestion is to get to Lucknow and use it as a pit-stop. After which, it is a day’s worth of straight highway to Tawang. If you choose to travel by road after getting to Guwahati or Tezpur, you’ll have taxis readily available from the airports and railway stations, along with private cabs that you can book in advance.
If you’re one of the most adventurous ones, you might want to take a bike trip to Tawang. The road to Tawang is beautiful and over the years, there are more than a few amenities on the road to make a bike trip much more convenient. Rental bikes are available from Guwahati and from farther locations like Delhi, too.
At an elevation of 3,048 meters, the town of Tawang experiences seasons in a way that changes the hue of the entire valley. Annually, the temperatures can range between 5°C and 21°C, making it very cold for a majority of the people planning on going here.
This means, the best time to travel to Tawang would be in the summer season, preferably towards the end of the season with a little bit of time while the monsoon is coming in. To put it clearly, the best months to travel to Tawang would be between March and June.
Also Read: Packing List For Women Travellers
Exploring Tawang can be divided into two categories: places inside Tawang and places outside Tawang. If you want to check out all the sites inside the town, you can hire a taxi for half a day, or a full day, and visit places like Tawang Monastery, War Memorial, Emporium, etc. You can check most of Tawang out in half a day and hiring a Maruti Omni would be sufficient.
However, there are beautiful places outside the town’s limits like the Sela Pass, Sangetsar Lake, and the India-China border at Bumla. If you want to visit these places, we suggest hiring a bigger car, if not an SUV, since the roads are in bad shape. Tata Sumos and Mahindra Boleros are easily available to be hired for a day and will take you to all the places you would like.
Also read: Assam Travel Guide
‘Tawang is a place occupied only by Naxalites’
Very frequently, people avoid visiting Tawang because of the idea that it is heavily interfered with by Naxalites and is a disputed territory between India and China. However, that is not the case. Tawang is a part of India and the people living there are very friendly to all those who come to their town. Half of the beauty of Tawang is in its people and that’s not arguable for even one moment.
Constructed in 1681 under the wishes of the fifth Dalai Lama, the Tawang Monastery has been a place of worship to the Gelugpa sect for centuries. It’s also the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and home to many more Lamas.
This monastery welcomes you with beautiful 16th-century architecture and sketches of the Bodhisattvas. There is a silver silk casket dedicated to Goddess Shri Devi, amongst many other works of art. You can see the extent of its beauty during the Losar festival held at the beginning of the new year.
Jaswant Garh is a war memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the war against China in 1962. Rfn. Jaswant Singh Rawat, who fought the Chinese army invading Tawang during the battle of Nuranang, was posthumously awarded the Mahavir Chakra.
Bum La Pass is an old trading route between India and China located about 16,500 feet above sea level. It went from Tawang to Tsona Dzong in China via Milakatong La and Bum La passes. The area is heavily guarded by the Indian Army and requires all visitors to obtain a Protected Area Permit to visit, However, that does not bring the enthusiasm of the visitors down as one of the incentives of coming here is that it’s one of the highest motorable roads in the world.
Why Is Tawang Famous?
Tawang is famous for its scenery, culture, and the 400-year-old Tawang Monastery that still invites people from all over the world.
Is Tawang Safe?
Yes, Tawang is very safe to visit. However, we suggest you avoid going there in December and January as those two months see heavy snowfall, adding another layer of danger to your travels.
What Is The Nature of Journey To Tawang?
Tawang is in a rather isolated location. Due to this, your options in modes of transport come down to the roadways after Tezpur. That being said, you can travel to Tezpur and Guwahati by train or plane, making it a diversified and fun journey.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Tawang?
The best time to visit Tawang is in the summer season when the temperatures are comfortable and you won't have to deal with the rainfall. The best months can be easily quantified into the ones between March and June.