Dalai Lama once said
“Once a year go someplace, you have never been before”
As luck would have it, we explored the very route by which He came to India from Tibet in 1959! It was our first visit to Arunachal Pradesh. We had only read about the stunning landscapes, the culture of the many tribes, the festivals, the cuisine, the borders with Tibet, the war with China, among others. We made our debut with an 11-day visit to the western part of Arunachal Pradesh, beginning with Bhalukpong via Bomdila, Dirang, Tawang and back via Shergaon. In this article we will focus on the remarkable things to do in Bhalukpong, West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh, but first some information Arunachal Pradesh.
A Short Introduction to Arunachal Pradesh
If you are looking for an offbeat destination to explore, then Arunachal Pradesh is the perfect place for you. From pristine forests to picturesque mountain villages, there are so many breathtaking things to experience in West Arunachal Pradesh, one of the most beautiful regions of India.
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful yet quite unexplored places in India. Situated in the northeastern part of the country, it is bounded by Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the west and Myanmar in the east and partly to the south-east as well. The state is home to some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world, which could make it a popular destination for tourists from all over the globe.
Arunachal Pradesh is also home to several fascinating tribes, each with their own unique culture, language and traditions. The state is a melting pot of various ethnic groups, and this is reflected in the food, music and dance of the region, that we experienced.
The government has identified 12 tourist routes for the convenience of tourists. We undertook, what is called the “Tawang circuit”, the West Arunachal Pradesh which is home mainly to the Monpa tribe among a few others. Largely speaking we traveled to Bhalukpong, Bomdila, Dirang, Tawang, Shergaon in that order. We call this the Glorious Things to see and do in West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh!
Things to do in Bhalukpong and Nearby Areas
Bhalukpong, Arunachal Pradesh is a beautiful small town located in the northeastern state of India. It is situated on the banks of Kameng river, one of the major tributaries of the massive River Brahmaputra. The town is surrounded by lush green hills and is home to a variety of flora and fauna.
Bhalukpong is about 60 KM from Tezpur and 220 KM from Guwahati airport and most of the time, this would be the first stop. We soon found that Bhalukpong was also the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh on this route. As we approached Arunachal Pradesh, the road was through lush forest, part of Nameri National Park and Forest Reserve. It is a city that straddles across the two states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is called Bhaluk-pung in Assam.
This is also the place also where we had to register our ILP or inner line permit, about which we will elaborate in another article. It was amazing to note that up to the border, it was plains and no sooner had we crossed the border into Arunachal Pradesh, there was a gradual ascent of the Eastern Himalayas.
The town is the perfect place to commence exploring west Arunachal Pradesh, the beginning of the Indian part of Eastern Himalayas.
Orchid Research Center, Tippi Village, Bhalukpong
Arunachal Pradesh is rich in orchids and is often called the land of orchids. This region has over 600 species of orchids! Located on the west bank of Kameng river, the Tippi (sometimes spelt Tipi) Orchid Research Centre is famous for its studies on about 300 varieties of orchid species, making it not only a popular tourist destination but also for horticulture specialists. Amongst the various units comprising of tissue culture lab, museum, herbarium, a huge garden and office buildings, the main attraction is the orchid glass house or Orchidarium, which features a display gallery of over 1000 orchid plants, in their well-marked pots.
Another attraction, you may explore is the garden which has orchids as well as other flowering plants. The helpful botanist there will give you a quick lesson on the characteristics of an orchid and how to identify one.
Did you know that Vanilla, which often translates, in corporate or software slang, to “ordinary or having no special feature” is actually an orchid! Not so ordinary, right?
|Opening Times||8:00AM to 4:00PM – Monday to Friday|
|Ticket Price||All inclusive Adult – 10.00 INR (About 10 US cents!). Children under 19 free. for the upper Belvedere and 14.00 EUR for the lower Belvedere. Free with Vienna Pass. Gardens are free.|
|Time Needed||About 1 hour depending on your interest|
|Location||About 5 KM from Bhalukpong on the Road to Bomdila|
|Altitude||About 200 Metres above MSL|
Sessa Waterfall and Orchid Sanctuary
The official at Tipi Centre told us, they grow about 300 species at Tipi center and the temperate varieties are grown at Sessa nursery some distance away at a higher altitude. The nursery is part of the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary which is spread over an area of 100 SqKm.
On the way we spent a few minutes at Sessa waterfall. Not a big one but soothing to the eyes and gave us a break from driving. Soon some low clouds made the visibility and the temperature low, so we had to continue on our way to Bomdila. We were informed that the grandeur of the waterfall is best witnessed during the peak monsoon.
Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve
Nameri is in Assam and not in Arunachal Pradesh. However, it is part of the same protected forest area as Pakke Tiger Reserve. We decided to stay in Nameri as it was too late to get to Bhalukpong, from Guwahati.
No vehicle is allowed inside the protected region. One can either do river rafting or hike into the forest with the help of armed guards and guides.
The next morning, we did a little walking “safari” in the buffer zone as the park was closed. The bonus was we could interact with the villagers.
Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary & Pakke Tiger Reserve
There are a few more things to do in Bhalukpong and nearby places. As a first timer to Arunachal Pradesh, we decided to stick to our strict schedule and stick to our cultural exploration of West Kameng and Tawang Districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
If you are interested in wildlife, then Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary and Pakke Tiger Reserve are two of the most popular destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. Situated in the huge green region between Bhalukpong and Bomdila, these two places offer a unique experience to visitors, with a wealth of natural beauty, flora, wildlife and biodiversity to enjoy. In fact, these two and the Sessa Orchids Nursery, are part of the bigger Kameng Elephant Reserve making it one of the largest contiguous protected wildlife reserves in India.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable wildlife experience, these are the places to go.
Bhalukpong fort was built in the tenth century on the banks of the Bharali River. It was constructed by the then king Bhaluka, probably of Aka tribe, and boasts of the rich traditional and historical glory of the place. The fort is in ruins and has a few remains in the form of stone blocks and bricks on the slope of the hillock, as well as a pond and well of bricks. Although Bhalukpong fort is not in a good condition now, its historical significance draws a lot of attention from tourists.
How to reach Bhalukpong?
The best way to reach Bhalukpong and continue on your tour of Tawang Circuit would be…
By Air: Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati is the most convenient airport. Bhalukpong is about about 220 KM away
By Car/ Taxi: In this age of internet it is quite easy to hire a car with driver or self-drive car from the airport or railway station. Your travel agent will be glad to arrange one for you.
By Shared Cab: There are a number of “Sumo” or similar services available to go to almost all places in Arunachal Pradesh. They are quite cost efficient but folks get stuffed into the vehicle like sardines! Also this limits your luggage size. Great for backpackers though.
By Train: A convenient option for people living in West Bengal is to take a train to Tezpur and then by Car. There are a few infrequent trains to Bhalukpong too. However it may not be not convenient if Bhalukpong is not the only place to visit.
By Bus: There are a few bus services from Guwahati or Tezpur to Tawang. Recently I heard they had started an air-conditioned bus service too. We will update this section, when we get more info.
Where to stay in Bhalukpong or Nameri
Best Time to visit Bhalukpong
Bhalukpong, being almost on the plains, is an year round destination however if your plan is to go higher and deeper into Arunachal Pradesh then the best time to visit Bhalukpong is from October to April.
- Even though roads are quite good, it takes a bit of time to reach a place. The distance of between Guwahati airport and Bhalukpong takes about 6 hours non-stop. We started late from the airport so we had to stay at Nameri for the night.
- It is better to apply for the Inner Line Permit beforehand. It is possible to do it online
- The phone connectivity is fine in most places except some far flung places.
- Not all hotels or place stay would have wifi facility so keep your phone data mode well topped up.
- Almost all people understand Hindi and many people, especially those connected with hospitality industry may also speak English. If you need help with any other language, it is better to inform your travel agent upfront.
- This Tawang Circuit was curated by Holiday Scout, one of the best Tours company in North East
Our Articles on Arunachal Pradesh
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