With less than 50,000 people, Tawang is among the least populated districts in India. Historically, it was a part of southern Tibet and became part of British India after the McMahon Line was drawn in 1914 consequent to the signing of the Simla Accord between Great Britain, China and Tibet. The town of Tawang later played a major part in His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s flight from Lhasa when Chinese forces occupied the Tibetan capital in 1959. In 2009, the Dalai Lama visited Tawang to a rousing welcome.
Tawang is situated at an altitude of over 10,000 feet above sea level in India’s frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh. Perhaps half the joy of travelling to Tawang is in the journey itself. It is reached from Tezpur, Assam, by a rocky but picturesque road trip lasting 12 hours. The most striking feature of this outpost, besides its stunning landscapes, is the Buddhist monastery, said to be the largest outside Lhasa.
The landscape around Tawang, approached by a gruelling road journey, is what woos the travellers who fight all kinds of hardships to get there. While the altitude is not as challenging as Ladakh in India’s far north, the scenery is equally stunning, especially when it snows. The road follows the Kameng River, winding alongside it to unveil bucolic vistas. Frozen lakes, snow-cloaked peaks and plunging valleys might be a distraction for the driver but they are only more reasons for co-passengers to catch their breath at every turn.
Accommodation is basic so don’t go to Tawang expecting five-star luxury. There are a handful of decent bed-and-breakfast options as well as inns. The pick of these are Hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang and Hotel Tawang Inn. The cuisine is similar to Tibetan food, with which many in India are familiar. Dragon Restaurant in Lumla is widely considered a good place for a fulsome meal.
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