Planning a roadtrip to Tawang? I think that you will find the information in this post useful.
If you’re planning a trip to North-East India, chances are that a road trip to Tawang is one of the options that you are considering. Not only is this little town, nestled deep within the mountains in Western Arunachal Pradesh, a gorgeous high-altitude getaway, but the journey to and from it makes for a memorable adventure in itself.
I rode my Royal Enfield motorcycle to Tawang in May 2017 and in this post, I share with you everything that I think you need to know to plan a ride/drive to Tawang. And, to tempt you to make it happen soon, I’ve laced this post with some of my favourite images from my trip to Tawang.
First and foremost, for any travel into Arunachal Pradesh, you need to obtain an Inner Line Permit. You can read more about why you need such a permit and how you can get one in my more detailed post HERE.
Most journeys to anywhere in the North-East begin at Guwahati (also known as the gateway to the North-East. This is the route that you would likely follow on a road-trip to Tawang:
Guwahati – Nogaon – Kaliabari Tiniali – Tezpur – Balipara – Nameri – Bhalukpong (Border) – Bomdila – Dirang – Sela Top (through Sela Pass) – Jang – Tawang.
The return journey would be the reverse of the same route.
ROAD CONDITIONS (as of May 2017)
Guwahati to Nogaon – great roads, 4/6 lane highway with divider
Nogaon to Tezpur – Narrower roads with several bad patches
Tezpur to Balipara – Narrow road with several bad patches
Balipara to Bhalukpong – Very good road
Bhalukpong to Bomdila – climb into the mountains begins, narrow roads with several bad patches
Bomdila to Dirang – first 10kms bad road, thereafter very good road until Dirang
Dirang to Sela Top – Good road initially, but deteriorates for about 10-15 kilometres. Road once again becomes good on the ascent to Sela Top but visibility might be poor
Sela Top to Jang – Poor road conditions with brief good patches
Jang to Tawang – short bad patch followed by a good road for the last 20-odd kilometres
9-day (relaxed) Itinerary –
Day 1 – Arrive in Guwahati (get permits etc.)
Day 2 – Guwahati to Tezpur/Nameri (stay at Tezpur or one of the eco-camps in Nameri Forest
Day 3 – Tezpur/Nameri to Dirang
Day 4 – Dirang to Tawang
Day 5 & 6 – Tawang and places around
Day 7 – Tawang to Bomdila
Day 8 – Explore Bomdila
Day 9 – Bomdila to Guwahati
Shorter Itinerary (if you have obtained ILP before hand)
Day 1 – Guwahati to Bomdila
Day 2 – Bomdila to Tawang
Day 3 – Tawang and around
Day 4 – Tawang to Bomdila
Day 5 – Bomdila to Guwahati
THINGS TO SEE/DO ON THE WAY
Nameri Wildlife Reserve – I wouldn’t categorise this as a must-do, because it isn’t really much, in terms of wildlife reserve standards. But, if you have the time to spare this a fun place to spend a night (at one of the eco-camps) and possibly do a short walk/trek through the forests around.
Bomdila – The first ‘big-ish’ town on the route to Tawang, it is home to a few beautiful monasteries and also has a funky market street. Again, if you’re on this route just for the adventure, you can skip spending time here. But, if you enjoy towns with a strong Buddhist vibe and are inquisitive about monasteries, I would recommend making some time for Bomdila.
Dirang – One massive monastery that is particularly beautiful at night, when it is fully illuminated. There isn’t much else to see here but given that it’s just about 50 km from Bomdila it’s worth considering as an alternate location to stop at for the night (preferably on your way towards Tawang).
The Several War Memorials – there are several war memorials along this route in remembrance of soldiers who laid down their lives for the country in the 1962 Indo-China war. You will notice tombstones at several points along the way and also some larger memorial structures in a few places – the Nyukmadong War Memorial, the Jaswantgarh Memorial etc.
Sela Top – Obviously, if you make the climb up the challenging Sela Pass, you must spend some time taking in the site of Sela Lake and the surrounding mountains. Hope that the fog doesn’t swoop in and play spoil sport though.
Jang Waterfalls – A few kilometres past Jang (on your way towards Tawang), take a slight detour to catch a view of a gushing (and gorgeous) waterfall. There’s also a guest house right next to the waterfall in case you’re interested in sticking around for a while.
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND TAWANG
Tawang Monastery – even if you do nothing else in Tawang, you should not miss a visit to the monastery. It’s massive (really massive) and is also one of the most beautiful and peaceful monasteries that I’ve ever visited.
Bum La Pass + Madhuri Lake – You need to get an additional permit to visit these places (after you reach Tawang) but I’m told they are worth the effort. Unfortunately, at the time I went, foul weather meant that I couldn’t go find out for myself.
Buddha Park – A massive Buddha statue and a pretty nice view of Tawang town.
The Prayer Wheel Circle – It’s not actually called that, but do find out and go catch a glimpse of the traffic island with a Prayer Wheel in the centre. I’ve never seen something like that anywhere else.
Tawang is a town that is not unfamiliar to tourism, so you do have several accommodation options available. If you’re an extreme budget traveller or searching for extreme luxury, you might be a bit disappointed. There are a few clean and reasonably modern hotel options (more expensive) and several average (and maybe less than average) hotel/lodges which offer you the basics at a slightly more affordable price.
Overall though, expect to pay more than what you think is value for money (in the range of INR 600 to INR 3500 for a twin-sharing room).
There are some restaurants that serve food that tourists would find more familiar. But, the menu at most simple restaurants consists of four items in varied forms – Momos, Thukpa, Chowmein and Fried Rice (vegetarian or non-vegetarian).
Fuel is surprisingly easily available on this route. All the way up to Bomdila, there are petrol pumps within a range of approximately 100 kilometres (or less) of each other (Guwahati, Nagaon, Tezpur, Bhalukpong, Tenga and Bomdila. Thereafter, you will find a fuel pump at Tawang (about 180-200 kilometres away). So, you don’t really need to carry additional fuel with you.
However, after you enter Arunachal, I would recommend checking with the locals as to whether trucks have been supplying fuel to the pumps further up the route. When I was there, the truckers union was on a strike and several of the pumps along the way had not received supply in over a week (and were hence dry).
Note: I filled up fuel at Tenga and I think the petrol wasn’t clean because I had a fair bit of trouble with the bike until I eventually refilled again in Tezpur. So, if possible, I would suggest avoiding the Essar petrol pump in Tenga. But, of course, if you have no other choice, some fuel is better than no fuel.
WHEN TO VISIT
This is a bit dicey. Generally the periods between February (end) to May (end) and October (end) to December (beginning) are said to be good. The peak winter and peak monsoon periods are not advisable due to the risk of snow blockages and landslides, respectively. That having been said, Sela Pass is known to be a bit notorious in terms of weather and therefore it is possible that the route might be closed down (temporarily) at any time of the year depending on the prevalent weather conditions.
Ideally, it would be best to plan your trip around the middle of a good-weather period rather than a time closer to the winter or the monsoon.
GEAR YOU NEED
You’re going to need all-weather gear because you will be travelling across a range of climatic conditions. The weather in Assam is usually quite warm (often insanely hot), but as you climb into the mountains in Arunachal Pradesh the temperature drops drastically (think snow and single digit or negative temperatures). If you’re riding a bike, please make sure you have all the necessary safety gear too. You can read about the gear that I use in my other posts on the blog.
I hope you found the information in this post useful and that it encourages you to plan a trip to the North-East in the near future. It truly is a spectacular part of India. If you have any comments or questions please do leave them below on this post. If you’d like to know more about my travels and experiences, be sure to watch and subscribe to my YouTube Channel and also follow me on Instagram and Facebook.