Tawang Gompa

Top choice in Arunachal Pradesh

The magical Tawang Gompa, founded in 1681 in what was then a Monpa royal palace, overlooks the town from its ridgetop site. Reputedly the world’s second-largest Buddhist monastery complex after Drepung Monastery (in Lhasa, Tibet), Tawang has over 400 lamas, whose yellow-roofed living quarters surround the central buildings. It's famed in Buddhist circles for its priceless library, standing next to a magnificently decorated prayer hall that contains an 8m-high Buddha statue. Come at dawn to witness monks performing early-morning prayers.

Across the courtyard from the prayer hall is a museum containing images, robes, trumpets, gongs and ancient masks and manuscripts, along with some personal items of the sixth Dalai Lama and (upstairs) photos of visits by the 14th Dalai Lama and Indian leaders. Three days of spectacular masked chaam dances are held in the courtyard during the Torgya festival.