Dirang to Tawang Valley
Climbing from Dirang, Arunachal's worst road is a seemingly endless series of zigzags which cross several army camps and landslide zones to finally top off at Se La, an icy 4176m pass that breaches the mountains and provides access to Tawang. From here, the road plummets down the mountainside into the belly of Tawang Valley.
Ziro to Pasighat
Passing through a most pristine landscape marked by forested hills and tribal settlements, the highway linking Ziro to Pasighat via Along offers great photo-ops of dizzying suspension footbridges and thatched Adi villages. Tourism is low key in this rough and remote area and villagers are likely to be more welcoming if you visit with a local tour guide.
Laid out along forested plains by the banks of the Siang River, Pasighat feels more like Assam than Arunachal Pradesh. The town hosts the interesting Adi festival of Solung, marked by rituals performed to seek agricultural prosperity and protection from evil spirits. Through the rest of the year, the most interesting sight around here is the sunrise over the Siang.
Arunachal’s capital takes its name from the mysterious Ita Fort, the brick ruins of which crown a hilltop above the rapidly booming town. A concrete-fest of sorts, this somewhat characterless urban hub merely serves as the state’s power centre (your travel permits for Arunachal are issued here). There’s a stack of ATMs and internet cafes along Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Marg.
One of the prettiest landscapes in all of India, the fertile Ziro Valley nestles within Arunachal's formidable mountainscape like a mythical kingdom. A layered landscape of rice fields, rivers and picture-postcard villages of the Apatani tribe, it is an undisputed high point of any trip to Arunachal.
A necessary stopover midway along the long drive from Ziro to Pasighat, Daporijo is dirty, characterless and unsophisticated. However, its riverside location on the banks of the Subansiri River gives you the option of a few walks and hikes. Start early from Itanagar, and you’ll be here by lunch.
A nondescript highway town en route to Pasighat from Daporijo, Along is a dusty and scruffy settlement with little on offer for travellers. There's internet at Eastern Infotech Cyber Cafe opposite the APST bus station and an SBI ATM. Next to the Circuit House, also on Main Rd, is an informative little district museum.
Dirang is the gateway to the Tawang Valley, and serves as a useful overnight stop. Tiny Old Dirang, 5km south of New Dirang, is a picture-perfect Monpa stone village. The main road separates its rocky mini citadel from a huddle of picturesque streamside houses above which rises a steep ridge topped by a timeless gompa (Tibetan Buddhist monastery).
An alternative sleeping place to Dirang, 50km away, Bomdila is a tiny settlement incorporating a bunch of administrative offices, hotels, local markets and wayside eateries. The traditionally decorated Doe-Gu-Khill Guest House, located just below the large monastery, provides fabulous views of the town spread out below.