Western Arunachal in North East India
19 days/18 nights
2290m - 5782m
Moderate to Tough
Spectacular monasteries at Tawang, Bomdila, Chander & Namshu, crossing the high Sela Pass (13,714ft/4,180m), peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, visiting the birthplace of the Dalai Lama, interaction with local tribes like the Monpas and Sherdukpens, insight into Sikkim's amalgam of Tibetan & Bhutanese influences
This trek takes you to Tawang, the fountainhead of the Gelug-pa followers of the Monpas and Sherdukpens - the two Buddhist tribes of Kameng, the westernmost district of Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang is the birthplace of the 6th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706 AD) and it was here that the present Dalai Lama sought refuge after fleeing Tibet. The famous Tawang gompa stands on the spur of a hill and offers a commanding view of the Tawang-chu valley. It is surrounded on all sides, except the east, by snow-clad mountains, with lush pine forests below.
Following the mandate of the fifth Dalai Lama (Nawang Lobjang Gyatso), Lodre Gyatso or Mera Lama established Tawang gompa sometime between 1643 and 1647. The Dalai Lama gave Mera Lama a ball of yarn and told him that the boundary lines of the site of his monastery should be of the same length as the ball of yarn. Mera Lama was given the freedom of choice of the site in other respects. Mera Lama returned to Tsosum (now known as Tawang) to the Sanglamphe gompa. He was greatly worried over the right choice of the site.
One day, he went to a hill called Bramdongchung, 3 miles north of Tawang. He went into a cave, leaving his horse outside, and sat down to pray for divine light. When he came out, he did not find his horse - this was strange, as the horse had never strayed away from its master. He followed the hoof marks and came to a place known as Tana Mandekhang that was the site where once stood the palace of one of the Tawang kings, Gyalpo Kala Wangpo. Mera Lama at once perceived that the divine help had shown him the site of the monastery. In recognition of the part played by his horse in choosing the site, he called it Tawang (ta = horse, wang = chosen) or "the place chosen by horse".
Day 01: ARRIVE DELHI
Arrive IGI airport Delhi, complete customs, immigrations formalities and exit to arrival hall meeting lounge to be met by 'Wild World India' representative. Transfer to hotel for overnight stay.
Day 02: DELHI
After breakfast combined tour visiting important sites of New and Old Delhi - Qutab Minar a 12th century tower and one of the tallest of its time, Humayan's Tomb considered to be one of the forerunner of the Taj Mahal and evening drive pass President House, India Gate and other colonial buildings. In Old Delhi visit 16th century Red Fort the ultimate symbol of Mughal power in India, take a cycle rickshaw ride in the narrow alleyways of Chandni Chowk which once served as royal market, Jama Masjid one of the biggest mosque in India built during the same time as Red Fort and the Raj Ghat. Overnight at Hotel
Day 03: DELHI to GUWAHATI - TEZPUR
In time transfer to the domestic airport to board the morning flight for Guwahati. Arrive at Guwahati and board the awaiting vehicle for the drive to Kaziranga (197km/ 05 hrs approx) and Tezpur nearby. Overnight at Jungle lodge
Day 04: TEZPUR to BOMDILA (6 hrs straight drive)
Leaving the cantonment town of Tezpur behind, the road heads north to Bhalukpong across the plains towards the Arunachal Pradesh border. Although you pass through flat farmland, the rural scenery is interesting with people working in the fields wearing huge cane hats. Huge areas of highly fertile land farmed by hand spread in every direction. After crossing a pretty gorge you reach a fantastic prehistoric landscape covered in stunted trees choked by vines and creepers. The road becomes a little hair-raising characterized by one hairpin bend after another. It takes an hour to do the last 37 km to reach Bomdila - the headquarters of the West Kameng District. It has a tourist lodge, a craft center, apple orchards and one or two Buddhist monasteries. The top of the ridge above the town offers good views of the mountains to the north. Overnight at hotel
Day 05: DRIVE TO THEMBANG (2½ hrs/45 km, last 20 km gravel dirt road)
After a quick look around the shops for last minute supplies we drive to the top of the ridge from where you can see the Thembang on the other side of a huge valley. The road zigzags down to an iron bridge with a drop in altitude of over a thousand meters, and then turns up a steep road to Thembang (7,027ft/2,142m). It's worth making the short walk up the hill to visit the Buddhist gompa, which is in a rather dilapidated condition but has some large new chortens to one side, which 'vibrate' at times of the full moon. The monastery is Yellow Hat or Gelugpa and apparently contains precious relics from Lhasa. The village sits on a sort of knoll with the gompa on the hill behind and offers good views all around. Afternoon orientation and acclimatization trek around the village. Here you may interact with the village folks and meet the headman and his wife. Overnight in Inspection Bungalow
Day 06: TREK TO PANGMA (7544 ft, 6 km)
Leaving Thembang, you walk on a wide path contouring the hillside through a forest of Himalayan oak, pine and rhododendron. After half an hour you reach a small farm, enter dense forest and emerge after an hour at Dhing Nongbo (6,726ft/2,050m), a large white-painted stone building. Originally it contained a large prayer wheel run by water, which is now a little overgrown with shrubbery and the prayer wheel is broken. It was built to ward off an evil spirit residing in the forest which devoured passers-by. A few yards from here a faint path turns left up the hill. Climb for 500ft/152m to arrive at a timber-made school (6,903ft/2,104m) for the village of Ghunthung, which lies below. It is worth detouring for five minutes to see the three-tiered chorten on top of a small hill built to contain an older chorten inside. It is about 1½ hrs to this point from Themgang. A level walk past several Maney walls and chortens brings you to the large attractive village of Pangma built on a much flatter part of the hillside. In the evening witness the Monpa cultural program by the village folks by the campfire. Camp overnight
Day 07: TREK TO LAGAM VIA SEMNAK (4½-5½ hrs)
You wake up to the sight of smoke rising from the roof of the houses in the early morning light. An hour's walk gets you to Semnak (6,535ft/1,992m), where houses are half-stone, half-timber and have giant wooden phalluses hanging from the corners of the eaves. This practice of hanging wooden phallic symbols originates with Drukpa Kunley's teachings, a renowned Tibetan/Bhutanese saint known as the Divine Madman. The style of construction is similar to the villages of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan. From Semnak a half an hour downhill walk past fields brings you to a stream followed by a hard climb of 800m to the village of Lagam. First the path climbs through huge areas of cane and bamboo with the river to your right. Two slow hours bring you to a small clearing and a large tree with a lot of upright sticks and prayer flags attached. This is a pleasant place to rest and is called Phancharsa (7,005ft/2,135m). Now begins the weary haul through moss-laden hardwood forest. Finally you rise to see the pretty village of Lagam with its striking white and orange gompa housing a large upright statue of 'Jambay'. There are a couple of attractive Tibetan amulet boxes and a very old looking manuscript, supposedly written on bark. You have lovely views over forested foothills and the valleys in between. Camp overnight
Day 8: TREK TO CHANDER (5 Hrs, 8 km)
Chander (9,603ft/2,927m) is about 4-5 hours from Lagam. After breakfast climb about 1,000ft/300m through forest. A few lucky visitors have reportedly seen the highly endangered red panda here. An unused jeep road makes for a very pleasant walk, contouring the steep mountainside, often with massive drops to one side and then descends gradually. After an hour, we sight the village of Chander, which still looks a long way off strung out along the top of a ridge. Finally we leave the road and start to climb. On a clear day Chander offers great views of snowy peaks to the north like Mount Kangto, Gorichen, Chomo, etc. There is a very basic shop, lodge and teahouse worth stopping by for a cup of tea and some much deserved rest. The headman's son of the village, incidentally, has trekked into the high mountain areas next to the Tibetan border and takes his herd of yaks up there in the summer. In the evening interactive get together with the village folks who are mostly yak herders. Camp overnight
Day 9: TREK TO NAMSHU (3 hrs, 6 km)
After breakfast we will follow the road curving around the ridge for just a short while until it starts to descend in earnest. After the first hairpin we take a path to the right. To begin with this traverses high above the valley below with big drops until it heads down through the forest. After about two hrs we come to a wide, open pasture and a Mani wall. From here it is only another half an hour trek to the large village of Namshu. The path looks down on the rooftops, very often covered with red chilies drying in the sun, we now skirt round to the right and climb through some trees and fields to a large and beautiful monastery (6,863ft/2,092m). The key to the monastery is kept in a farmhouse nearby and instead of going into the obvious ground floor door, you will be taken up to the first floor temple. You may be surprised to find only the head and upper body of Chamba - Buddha of the Future. The feet and lower body are on the ground floor. The setting of the monastery is absolutely beautiful. Evening interact with the village folks and camp overnight near the monastery
Day 10: TREK to SANGTI (5-6 hrs) & DRIVE 10 km to DIRANG
Leaving the first monastery behind, the track traverses across fields to another monastery around the corner. Built in a 3-tiered style and flanked on either side by identical chortens, the gompa is quite unusual and equally impressive. The ground floor has a giant prayer wheel, driven by a stream, which issues out underneath the temple. The key is kept in the same farmhouse and probably children will show you around the temple, which contains a fine statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. In both monasteries the main murals are of Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Chenrizig, the Buddha of Compassion and Mahakala are the other deities. Now follows the hard part of the day - the climb over the forested mountainside to the next village. The path angles its way diagonally across the densely forested hillside, passing a ruined house. After 45 minutes we arrive at a large white chorten, Mani wall and small chorten at 7,493ft/2,284m. From here you climb again till the path levels out after another 45 minutes (8,474ft/2,583m) and rounds the mountain, past some cleared forest and drops down to Khalebok village (7,260ft/2,213m), which is about 1½ hour on from the top of the climb up the forested hillside. This village is stepped up a hillside and very dirty. The people here are very shy and may not want photographs taken; we should definitely check first. From up here we can see row upon row of foothill mountain ridges, marching into the distance. Way down below (2,600ft/800m) is the flat valley bottom with a river winding along and we can see the upper part of Sangti village. Now it is down and down while leg muscles protest, to the flat valley floor, with a patchwork of fields and fed by a river from Tibet. We cross a sturdy suspension bridge to the lower Sangti village (5,315ft/1,620m), which has a road coming up from Dirang. It has a couple of small shops and feels like relative civilizations. The vehicle will be here to meet us before the 10 km drive to Dirang Dzong (seat of former Tibetan Administrators). Overnight at Hotel
Day 11: DRIVE OVER SELA PASS TO MUKTO (95 km, 4-5 hrs) BEGIN TREK
We leave early and crawl up the innumerable hairpin bends to the pass. This part of the drive is likely to take an hour and a half or so. At the top there is a colourful arch and some buildings where we stop for tea. Views of the big peaks to the north are fantastic, but it is pretty cold on top of Sela Pass (13,714ft/4,180m). We hurry down through a barren mountain landscape. There is a large lake below the pass and at 10,672ft/3,253m we reach the memorial and grave to an Indian soldier who was the hero of the fight against the Chinese, who invaded Arunachal Pradesh in 1962. Legends about the spirit abound of how he still moves around his belongings. The local army contingent still prepares meals and his bed at night for him. They confirm that he often eats the food and disturbs the bedclothes. The road eventually comes out into the top of a huge valley. Villages are scattered on the other side and Tawang, although still not in sight, is further on down the valley. The road now plunges down through a town via serpentine hairpin bends to the river at the bottom. However, we turn off to the right and begin a trek of about 3 km to Mukto (7,874ft/2,400m) through scattered villages from where we can see on the other side of the valley. Tawang gompa is clearly visible across the valley and snow capped peaks can be seen over the river to the right. Overnight at camp or Inspection Bungalow
Day 12: TREK TO KIPI (5 ½ hrs)
The start is a descent of about 600m down to a river to reach the pleasant village of Chakdjam, followed by a 500m climb to Kipi (7,464ft/2,275m), with time to relax in the afternoon. The people of this area are Monpas and wear beautiful costumes. The men have either yak hair coats dyed red or jerkins made of the skins of animals turned inside out. The women also wear very colourful costumes with necklaces made out of turquoise, jade and amber. Both men and women wear strange yak hair hats. In this part of the trek we pass through villages that few westerners have visited before.
Day 13: TREK TO TAWANG (6 hrs)
It is a half hour gentle descent to a river with a rock painting of Chamba, the future Buddha. The village of Sehru on the main road is reached in less than 2 hrs where tea is available. The trek continues up to a ridge, passing by a small gompa, stopping for lunch with a distant view of Tawang gompa. It's still a walk of a few kilometers to the sprawling town of Tawang.
Day 14: VISIT TAWANG MONASTERY, TAWANG MEMORIAL & CRAFTS EMPORIUM
We drive 15-20 minutes up to the monastery, which has 350 monks, 200 of whom are boys, all hailing from Tawang district. The main temple has a three storey high-seated statue of Sakya muni (Buddha). We will also be shown around a fine museum, which contains fascinating relics like the articles used by the 6th Dalai Lama, a pot reckoned to be 1,200 years old, thangkas, statues, old guns, an ancient cannon and a fine collection of vessels and jugs in silver and gold. The monastery and all its sub temples and cells for the monks rival many of the large gompas found in Tibet and Bhutan.
Day 15: DRIVE TO BOMDILA (7 hrs. 185 kms)
After an early breakfast we depart on the drive back to Bomdila, enroute visiting Jang Water Fall and drive over the Sela Pass again, 2½ hrs, (we would require warm clothes as this area can get quite cold). Stop perhaps at Sange, 1½ hrs, and on to Dirang 1¼ hrs before arriving at Bomdila in 1½ hrs. Evening free to explore the local market. Overnight at Hotel
Day 16: DRIVE TO ADABARRIE TEA ESTATE (171 km 3.5 hrs)
Early morning start drive to Tezpur and arrive at Adabarrie Tea Bungalow at Balipara. Full day at leisure or free for optional activities
Day 17: ADDABARRIE TEA ESTATE
Full day explore Nameri followed by a stay at Wild Mahseer Camp [Addabarie Tea Estate]. This is a 62 years old planter's bungalow owned by George Williamson Ltd but now under a new management has recently opened to visitors. The tea estate is known as Addabarrie Tea Estate. And lies 25 km north of Tezpur. The Nameri National Park is 18 km away on a good road. The lodge has seven double rooms in 3 bungalows. It is a Heritage property
Day 18: TEZPUR TO KOLKATA & DELHI
Fly from Tezpur to Kolkata and transfer to the departure terminal to board the flight for Delhi. Arrive Delhi and check in at the hotel for overnight stay
Day 19: DEPART DELHI
In time transfer to the international airport to board the flight for onward destination.
Trekking Tours in India:
Trekking in Binsar
, Maneater of Mohan Trail
Corbett to Nainital Trek
, Nanda Devi Trek
Roopkund Kuari Pass Trek
, Sandakphu and Goechala Trek
Snow Leopard Trek India
, Tawang Trek Arunachal
Valley of Flowers Trek