Into the Indian Unknown

Getting there: The best gateway cities for accessing Arunachal are Guwahati (daily flights from Delhi [3hrs] and Kolkata [1hr]), Tezpur (non-daily flights from Kolkata [2hrs]) and Dlbrugarh (daily flights to Delhi [4hrs] and Kolkata [1.5hrs]), all in the neighbouring state of Assam.

Alternatively, trains link Guwahati to Delhi (around 27hrs) and Kolkata (18hrs). There are no border crossings into Arunachal to/from Bhutan, Tibet or Burma for foreign tourists.

Getting around: Private car is by far the most comfortable, flexible and efficient way to travel; a 4WD is not strictly necessary. Slow public buses link most places; shared taxis run some routes. Note, there are lots of winding mountain roads.

A helicopter service has resumed flying some routes after being suspended in 2011 after several accidents. Treat with caution.

Accommodation. Arunachal has relatively few hotels. Most offer simple rooms with bathrooms. Prices are slightly higher than equivalents elsewhere in India; standard doubles typically range from Rs1,300 to Rs2,000 with so-called deluxe options costing between 50-100% more.

Food & drink. Indian and quasi-Chinese food are the most likely offerings in the limited eateries, though in Tawang and Itanagar you can find Tibetan-style momos. Most visitors tend to eat in their hotels, which usually have attached restaurants. Local hospitality often includes apong, a mild country home-brew made from rice.

Permits & itineraries. In addition to a valid Indian visa, all foreign visitors to Arunachal must obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP; US$50pp) through a locally recognised tour operator. Travellers must be in a ‘group’ of at least two people and travel on the prescribed tourist ‘circuits’ or itineraries – these sound restrictive but in reality cover more than most visitors would have the time/inclination to see.

Highlights:

  1. Tawang: Great drive to remote monastery town near Tibet and Bhutan.
  2. Nyamjang Valley & Zemithang: Picturesque valley with Monpa hamlets and Gorsam stupa.
  3. Itanagar: The city’s Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum gives a good tribal overview.
  4. Ziro Valley: Charming and picturesque valley, home to the Apatani tribe.
  5. Along: Explore nearby Galo villages, especially in the pretty Siyom River Valley.
  6. Mechuka: Remote outpost near Tibet in a lovely valley with Memba tribespeople.
  7. Slang/Brahmaputra River: Sweeping down from Tibet, you can track the great river en route to Pasighat.
  8. Namdapha National Park: One of India’s largest protected areas, covering an expanse of evergreen forest in the Eastern Himalaya.
    namdapha-national-park
    Namdapha National Park
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