‘A walk in the clouds’ – that’s exactly how one would describe the picturesque settings of the state of Arunachal Pradesh – no wonder the Eastern neighbour wants it really bad. Ouch! Jokes apart, Arunachal is a land steeped in the mysticism of an ancient Buddhist culture as well as an awe-inducing natural habitat that can turn a cynic into a Sufi. And while Tawang, Bomdila and Itanagar are on everyone’s travel itinerary while visiting the state, very few have ventured in detail into the beautiful valleys of this most amazing hill state.
A Town in Dirang
The small town of Dirang is usually looked upon as an overnight resting ground en route to Tawang from towns such as Guwahati, Tezpur and Johrat. That’s because an average 320 kilometers journey between Tezpur and Tawang can take anything between 12-18 hours because of bad roads that can become quite treacherous in certain stretches. And although resting in this quiet town might be a good idea, an even better one is to step out and look around for some truly gorgeous spots that even includes a colony that has stone houses over 500 years old and a Yak Research Centre. But before you do all those, go over to the bridge on the river Kameng and view the majestic valley cradled between the Eastern Himalayas that make Dirang one of the few unexplored paradises in Arunachal.
Dirang Dzong – The word ‘Dzong’ means Fort which essentially means, ‘Dirang Fort’ – a place which is now in ruins but whose splendid architecture stands testimony to the golden age of ancient Buddhist architecture of the erstwhile Buddhist kingdoms. Some of the surrounding houses are over 500 years old, and the view of the valley from the fort is nothing short of spectacular.
The Hot Springs flowing into the river Dirang are another draw for the weathered traveler as well as the nearby Sangti Valley with a plentiful view of dense forests and fruit orchards. A stroll at the Dirang market in the evening is also a good idea.
The Mechuka Valley was off limits to the regular traveler till just a decade ago and what a mighty loss it was because the very sight of this surreal piece of a dream sequence with its ‘trees of green’ will make you think – ‘what a wonderful world.’
From the dense and evergreen pines to the lush green grasslands with horses running wild, this bowl-shaped valley has it all. Also known as the ‘Forbidden Valley’, Mechuka – which stands for ‘medicinal water of snow’ – was a strategic Chinese base during the Chinese incursion of 1962. And till just about a decade ago, the valley was only connected via an Indian Air Force landing strip.
While at Mechuka, head to the Samsen Yongcha monastery, which is older that the monastery at Tawang and was built in the 15th century. Follow the trail of the river Siang which originates and you’ll find yourself in places totally unexplored but blessed with nature’s bounties. The Sian is Brahmaputra’s (Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan) main tributary and it originates in the Angsi Glacier (the glacier that feed Lake Mansarovar) near Mount Kailash in Tibet.
The Ziro Valley with the town of Hapoli is amongst the most vibrant tourist attractions of Arunachal Pradesh. Located about 100 kilometers from the Assam border and connected via the airport and train stations of Guwahati and North Lakhimpur (Assam), the valley even plays host to an annual music festival. At 1500 feet above sea level, the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is a great attraction for tourists for its endangered species and a wide variety of wild bamboo which is on display.
The Kile Pakho is a ridge offers a spectacular view of the valley and another great adventure would be to hike through the forest area covered with blue pine trees and popularly referred to as ‘Midey’. For picture perfect postcard beauty, visit the 5000 years old Meghna Cave Temple which was only re-discovered in 1962. This is one of the places where you can put a camera anywhere and expect a wallpaper quality photograph without even looking into the viewfinder.
Many spots in the valley have been conferred with the ‘World Heritage Site’ tag and it’s only fitting because very few such places actually remain – untouched, unadulterated & pristine.
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