Arunachal Pradesh was on my bucket list for a very long time but considering how daunting it can be to travel to northeast as a solo traveler, I put it on the back burner. Finally, when I learned about Holiday Scout, I knew this was the time to go and explore the various amazing things to do in Arunachal Pradesh, with a trusted local guide by your side.
There are many tourist attractions in Arunachal Pradesh and just 40 things don’t do justice to this amazing land. However, I must mention here this was just the western Buddhist circuit of Arunachal that we covered in our 10-day itinerary and not the entire state.
Holiday Scout has been single-handedly putting northeast India on the tourist map since its inception. The owner Mr. Sange Tsering is helpful, kind, and a complete believer in community living and giving back to society. Our trip was a mix of traveling for a purpose as well as leisure.
We visited old age homes, schools, nunneries etc to donate sports equipment and food items/ essentials, as required. This made a big impact on me and gave purpose to this entire trip.
Hence traveling with Holiday Scout turned out to be not only interesting but also gave me life lessons to abide by forever.
So, without further ado let me take you all around western Arunchal and how any of these incredible experiences would be impossible without Holiday Scout’s expertise.
Table of Content
- 40 Awesome Things to do in Arunachal Pradesh (Western Circuit)
- Donate Essentials to Old Age Homes
- Distribute Sports Equipment to Schools Across Arunachal
- Take Photos with the Giant Buddha Statue
- Explore Bum La pass and its exquisite Scenic Drive
- Pay Homage to Various Monasteries
- Try Local Delicacies
- Take a Stop at Sela Pass
- Check out Mandala Top 108 Stupas
- Try your Hands at Momo Making
- Go for Bird Watching Sprees
- Uncover Urban Legends of Dirang Dzong
- Frolic with Sheep in Pristine Landscapes
- Gawk at Sangti Valley Scenery
- Spend time with Locals
- Pose in Traditional Dress of Monpa Tribe – Shingka
- Visit Craft Centers in Every Destination
- Check out Local Markets and Produce
- Trek to Choskorong Waterfall
- Trek in the Mountains – Dirang Valley Trek
- Camp in Nature at Shergaon
- Spend time with Tibetan Mastiffs
- Take a Stop to Witness the Nuranang Waterfall
- Get High on Ara
- Enjoy the Greenery
- Watch Monks Make Mandalas
- Photograph Cute Yaks
- Get a History Lesson at Jaswant Singh War Memorial
- Gawk at Stunning View of Tawang
- Watch Tibetian Bread (Bhaley) Making
40 Awesome Things to do in Arunachal Pradesh (Western Circuit)
From amazing social causes we participated in, to breathtaking monasteries we visited, lush green valleys, and picture-perfect viewpoints; there were so many interesting things to do in Arunachal Pradesh for a first-time visitor exploring the western circuit.
Our itinerary started with 2 days in Bomdila, moving to the beautiful Dirang Valley, followed by the popular hotspot Tawang and finally a short day trip to Shergaon. All in all, we covered the best of Western Aruchachal in a span of 10 days with travel experts of Holiday Scout.
Donate Essentials to Old Age Homes
When you travel, do you ever think about how you can help local communities? I know all I think about is pretty places and cool new places to visit. This expedition to happiness with Holiday Scout opened up my eyes to a different type of travel – Traveling for a cause.
While visiting smaller towns and remote villages we must always be mindful of supporting the local communities by buying local produce, handicrafts and donating (if we can, in whatever capacity).
We visited the lovely Mahabodhi Karuna Old age home in Tawang and my heart melted at the happy-go-lucky seniors in that home. They were given ample space to garden, cook, read, meditate and spend their last days in comfort, peace, and serenity.
Inspired by Holiday Scout, I bought them some cookies, rice, milk, and eggs. This made me feel even more grateful than they could possibly feel. It ignited the power of giving in me (once again) and I wished I could do more for them. As you know, just visiting and spending time with them – even if you don’t speak the same language, is worth more than anything else.
I also realized there are many people who might be donating to animal shelters or old age homes in their cities and metro cities hence getting a lot of donations. Such remote locations in Arunachal don’t have much support and every little bit counts.
So if you happen to visit a remote village next time please do your bit by donating some old books/ clothes or buying some snacks/desserts for kids – You will see how it makes YOU feel and this would change traveling the way you see it – forever.
The biggest perk of traveling with Holiday scout was opening myself up to traveling for a cause.
They even got a solar heater installed in a nunnery during this trip. The sense of community is so tight in Arunachal that you can’t help but feel compassionate.
Distribute Sports Equipment to Schools Across Arunachal
We visited the stunning Shanti Devi school in Bomdila, another govt school en route Bum la pass and a few other smaller organizations to donate sports equipment.
Holiday Scout sponsored cricket bats, badminton racquets, footballs, basketballs, board games and several other items to kids studying in these schools.
We could see their faces light up instantly as they started playing with their new gifts.
Take Photos with the Giant Buddha Statue
You will find many Buddha statues all across Arunachal Pradesh. However, the most popular one is the Giant Shakyamuni Buddha in Tawang situated at around 10000 ft.
This spot also gives a birds eye view of the valley making for excellent drone shots.
Explore Bum La pass and its exquisite Scenic Drive
Visiting Bum La Pass was perhaps less exciting to me than the stunning drive to it showcasing snowcapped peaks and mesmerizing lakes. The views en route made us stop at almost every lake and viewpoint in awe at the immense natural beauty around us.
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Bum La Pass is the Tibet-India border in Tawang district and one of the most visited attractions of Arunachal. Situated at over 16500 ft, be prepared to get motion/ altitude sickness and carry required medication.
Once at the pass, you leave your bags and cameras in the car and simply follow an armed officer to the waiting area where you are briefed. You are then taken to the point from which you can see Tibetian land and hear the stories of war and freedom.
You can visit the famous Madhuri lake on your way back to town – its a great stop for snacks, photos, and sometimes even birding.
I was almost fooled into thinking I spotted the migratory Mandarin ducks but was proven wrong soon after. However, I can see how these high-altitude lakes can attract specific water birds.
Things to note when you visit Bum La Pass –
– You need to get your tourist permit signed by army personnel to enter the area.
– No photos or videos are allowed at the border but you can take pics en route and just outside the border area.
– Bum la pass is located around 40km from Tawang at a height of 15200 ft.
– Be prepared for high altitude. Stay hydrated and arrive early as you need to exit by 1500 hours.
– Enroute you find 108 lakes and spectacular 360-degree views.
– Don’t exert yourself and allow your body to acclimatize.
Pay Homage to Various Monasteries
When you are in Arunachal Pradesh, your top places to visit will surely be the various monasteries spread all over. Even if you are not religious (like me), you can feel a strong sense of calm, peace and serenity in these monasteries. I do feel they ignite spirituality within me and awaken my senses. Here are few of the top monasteries we visited in Arunachal –
Morning Prayer at TDL Monastery
TDL aka Thupsung Dhargye Ling monastery in Dirang is one of the newest monasteries of Arunachal built on a stunning mountain top surrounded by green valleys and mountains. The entire scenery surrounding TDL is breathtaking and gives an aura of peace.
Attending the morning prayer at TDL can be a very rewarding experience as you sit in silence and watch the monk play different soothing instruments. I almost felt like I went into a deep meditative trance for a few minutes.
Witness Ceremonies at GRL Bomdila Monastery
GRL aka Gontse Gaden Rabgyel Ling monastery is home to several monks and lamas. It is a huge space hosting various cultural events and the popular Torgaya festival.
Light a candle at Zengbu Gompa
Surely one of my favorites, situated in the small town of Shergaon, The monastery is cute, charming, and quirky.
So much so that it looks like a pretty jungle home from afar. Dainty and charming – lighting a candle here bought me instant peace.
Pray at Khastung Gompa
Khastung Gompa in Dirang made me want to just sit and meditate in peace. The upper floors especially made me feel a special pull to stay and spend more time here.
I made a personal pact to revisit Dirang for few weeks and spend quality time meditating in the monastery (as well as exploring more spots in Dirang which I enjoyed).
Pay Respect at Tawang Monastery
Tawang monastery is the largest and perhaps even the most popular monastery of India. Personally, I liked the smaller gompas and monasteries with views but this is surely a must-visit when in Tawang. You simply cannot skip it for the cultural value.
Donate to Lamas at Khinmay Monastery
Not just to schools, Holiday scout even donated sports equipment to happy lamas at the Khinmay monastery in Tawang. Another excellent location built on a large scale.
Visit Urgelling Gompa
Urgelling gompa in Tawang is one of the oldest monasteries. It is very small and this certainly adds to its charm.
Try Local Delicacies
Trying local food is a must in every destination I visit. So when Sange of Holiday Scout asked me to try Yak meat momos, I didnt hesitate at all. I even tried Yak meat fried rice.
I have also tried strange delicacies across the world like Ostrich and Wildebeest meat in Africa so it’s safe to say while I don’t really have an adventurous palette, I do like to try everything once.
Take a Stop at Sela Pass
Connecting Tawang to Dirang at over 4100 meters, Sela pass is another high altitude pass of Arunachal.
As always, there are plenty of photo opportunities, maggie points and cute yaks frolicking around here.
Check out Mandala Top 108 Stupas
Imagine the sacred chat “Om Mani Padme Hum” inscribed across 108 stupas – That’s the newest tourist attraction of Dirang – Mandala Top 108 Stupas.
Mandala top is an amazing spot for high altitude birding, excellent bird’s eye view of Dirang valley, scenic route to the top and ofcourse the stunning stupas to gawk at. A trip to Dirang is certainly incomplete without a visit to this top attraction.
Try your Hands at Momo Making
Eating is one thing, but cooking is surely not my forte. However, trying my hands at new things is always a mini adventure in itself so I was very excited at the prospect of learning how to make momos – by a local, in their house.
We ended up making over 100 momos together and it was fun to get my hands dirty whilst supporting local community living.
Go for Bird Watching Sprees
Arunachal is a mecca for avid birders. Whilst I was utterly disappointed when my booking at Eagles nest (only one of the best birding spots in the world, which happens to be in Arunachal) got canceled; I realized there are ample birding opportunities all around.
Mandala top, Madhuri lake and even the fields around Dirang boutique cottages – all were excellent options for a lazy morning birding spree.
Uncover Urban Legends of Dirang Dzong
While you walk around this 17th century fort, you realize the walls hold so much history. If you know about the urban legends of the place, it can easily give you goosebumps.
One interesting urban legend I heard was all the doors in this village are small in height – this is to keep the towering evil witches at bay! They can’t enter if they can’t fit into the door right?
Frolic with Sheep in Pristine Landscapes
One of my absolute favorite times during my entire Arunachal trip was a visit to this sheep breeding farm. Think about the Swiss Alps and fairytale sceneries – well, you find it all on this farm on a sunny day in Dirang.
This was another spot I could revisit several times without getting bored. Definitely one of the best things to do in Arunachal Pradesh – hands down.
Gawk at Sangti Valley Scenery
Right next to the sheep breeding farm is a stunning picture-perfect view like our childhood drawings – mountains, sun, cute cottages, and a lazy river passing by – that’s the exact beauty of Sangti Valley.
Spend time with Locals
Spending time with locals gives you an instant insight into the local lifestyle, culture, habits and so much more. Meeting a local over a beer would tell me more about a place than reading about it online. Thankfully, when you travel with local tour operators like Holiday Scout, you get an opportunity to meet locals both formally and informally.
Visit a Local’s Home
With Holiday Scout’s tours, you can get many chances to interact with locals (even their tour guides are locals).
They especially offer village visits where you can visit a typical local home, see their prayer room, learn weaving/ cooking or just sit and have a chat.
Party with Locals
Yes! You can even party with locals as they are super friendly. Either head to a bar and get chatting or ask your tour guide at Holiday Scout to make this happen.
Stay with Locals in Homestays
There is immense support to local communities and small, authentic homestays when you book with Holiday Scout. They ensure you only have the authentic local experience.
All of the homestays we stayed in were exceptional and we simply didn’t want to leave. Arunachal has very hospitable people so it’s hard to leave every place we visited, really.
Spend a few nights at Dirang Boutique Cottages
One of my top stays in Arunachal was Dirang Boutique Cottages, owned and managed by locals from Dirang.
Everything from the stunning views, beautiful cottages, cute nooks, river side picnics, birding trails, treks and more – were just what we needed.
Pose in Traditional Dress of Monpa Tribe – Shingka
Inspired by my friend Priyanka, we got into a local Monpa tribe dress called Shingka. We had fun wearing matching hats and clicked a gazillion photos that day in Bomdila.
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Another perk of traveling and living with locals.
Visit Craft Centers in Every Destination
All of the places we visited had craft centers. It is advisable to visit the various sections like shoe making, Carpet weaving, wood carving, painting and more. Once you see how these items are handcrafted with care and long hours, you need to visit the Emporium where you can buy all these products.
I would highly encourage you to buy just one item at least to support local communities. There are many cute souvenir options to gift to friends or bring back as your memories of Arunachal.
Check out Local Markets and Produce
Every city, town, and village will have a market for fresh produce and various goods. Some popular local markets we visited on our trip were – Bomdila market & Amma market.
Trek to Choskorong Waterfall
Choskorong falls is a popular waterfall in the small cute village of Shergaon.
I loved the trek leading up to the fall and then being rewarded by a stunning fall amidst dense forestation.
Trek in the Mountains – Dirang Valley Trek
Arunachal has some amazing trekking options and our group did the lovely Dirang valley trek (Though I had to skip it since I was under the weather). Here are video snippets of the trek via Holiday Scout –
Camp in Nature at Shergaon
Shergaon also has several options to camp under the stars, by the lovely flowing river. There are mountains and trees all around making for surreal camping spots which will give you memories of a lifetime.
Spend time with Tibetan Mastiffs
Tibetan Mastiffs are cute, large, cuddly dogs and you can easily fall in love with them. We got a good chance to spend time with this breed in one of the cute homestays in Tawang.
Take a Stop to Witness the Nuranang Waterfall
Jung falls (Aka Nuranag waterfall) is a 100-meter plunge into a rock face making for a spectacular watch. Walking up to the falls is incredibly refreshing and the views are breathtaking.
Get High on Ara
Ara, the local concoction is a form of rice wine served piping hot and sipped like tea. It is very potent and just a few sips make you warm instantly. The perfect remedy for a cold climate.
Enjoy the Greenery
Arunachal is over 70% covered by forests – how cool is that? As a nature lover, I was just amazed by the lush green tree-covered mountains all around. All I did was soak in the natural beauty and jump at every opportunity to take incredible shots with green backdrops.
Watch Monks Make Mandalas
This was perhaps one of the most interesting things to do in Arunachal for me. This intricate mandala making for the upcoming Torgya festival at the GRL Bomdila monastery had me amazed.
After over a year of training, monks get to make these intricate Mandalas by blowing colored powdered stone particles. They take a week to finish the Mandala and destroy it after a short showcase.
This was another epic “behind the scenes” experience that was only possible via Holiday Scout.
Photograph Cute Yaks
You can find Yaks almost all over Arunachal. If you love Yaks, you will get ample opportunities to gawk at them at the passes especially.
I find them adorable and I could see myself running after them for a picture – whilst keeping safe distance as I was told they can charge sometimes.
Get a History Lesson at Jaswant Singh War Memorial
For all the history buffs, a visit to the Jaswant Singh war memorial en route Tawang is an absolute must. This is a shrine to the great rifleman Jaswant Singh, at the very same spot where he bravely fought the Chinese army. Tourists flock to this attraction to pay tribute to this war hero.
Gawk at Stunning View of Tawang
You can see the entire Tawang valley from the Tawang monastery. It’s a great spot to fly your drone or be amazed by the views.
Watch Tibetian Bread (Bhaley) Making
At the Tawang monastery, we even got to go behind the scenes (thanks to Holiday Scout), to watch how monks make Bhaley (Tibetian flatbread). It was quite interesting to watch as they slapped one flatbread after the other on their huge pan. Being the largest monastery in India, they were perhaps making bread for an army.
So these were my personal 40 amazing things to do in Arunachal Pradesh. What are yours? Share in the comments below.