40 Fun Things to do in Arunachal Pradesh with Holiday Scout

bum la pass route

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.

homestay bomdila

Tete e tete with Priyanka and Sange

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.

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.

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.

old age home arunachal

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.

Shanti deva school bomdila

Assembly time at Shanti deva school

Holiday Scout sponsored cricket bats, badminton racquets, footballs, basketballs, board games and several other items to kids studying in these schools.

govt school bum la pass

Happy faces at the govt school 🙂

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.

Giant Buddha Statue

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.

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.

bum la pass route

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.

TDL monastery

How incredible is this view? I could gawk at it all day! So peaceful too!

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.

TDL monastery

Morning prayer at TDL monastery

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.

grl bomdila monastery

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.

zengbu gompa

So much so that it looks like a pretty jungle home from afar. Dainty and charming – lighting a candle here bought me instant peace.

monasteries of Arunachal

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.

Khastung Gompa

Khastung Gompa – Exterior

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).

Khastung Gompa dirang

Khastung Gompa – Interior

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.

tawang monastery

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.

Lamas at Khinmay Monastery

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.

yak meat bomdila

Yak or yuck – try for yourself 😉

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.

sela pass dirang point of interest

Yours truly at Sela Pass

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 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.

momo making dirang

Ideal student – esp since I get to eat the momos later ;p

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.

birding dirang

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.

Dirang Dzong dirang

Warm welcome to Dirang Dzong by a bunch of friendly locals – The non-witchy kinds 😉

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?

Dirang Dzong

Notice the small door entrance guys? Eeekss..Spooky!

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.

sheep 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.

sheep breeding farm dirang

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.

sangti valley dirang

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).

dirang village walk

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.

prayer room arunachal

Tsering’s prayer room

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.

shingka

These lovely ladies were our homestay hosts and ensured we had a hassle free stay!

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.

dirang boutique cottages hotel

Everything from the stunning views, beautiful cottages, cute nooks, river side picnics, birding trails, treks and more – were just what we needed.

relax in dirang

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.

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.

carpet weaving at craft center

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.

amma market bomdila

Amma proudly showed me around her small shop

Trek to Choskorong Waterfall

Choskorong falls is a popular waterfall in the small cute village of Shergaon.

Choskorong waterfall arunachal

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.

tibetan mastiff

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.

ara arunachal

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.

mandala making by monks

Monks making intricately detailed mandala

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.

yak sela pass

Cute Yak frolicking around Sela Pass (one of many you can spot here)

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

bunkers at Jaswant Singh War Memorial

Bunkers 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

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

TIBETAN BHALEY BREAD

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.

5 Comments

  1. It was such an interesting read. Thank you so much for sharing this. North East is one region I have been longing to visit for the last 2 years. But, it couldn’t materialize because of covid. I plan to visit Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya this summer now.

  2. Arunachal Pradesh is incredible! The scenery is breathtaking! We would totally love to explore the state and do the things you have recommended in this post. Holiday Scouts sound like a wonderful company to travel with.

  3. nice post Where are you planning a trip this summer?? check best & budget friendly options The Land Of Wanderlust

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