Tawang is a district as well as a town in western Arunachal Pradesh. The town is located at an altitude of 11,500 ft at the extreme North West corner of Arunachal Pradesh surrounded on three sides by Bhutan and China. This makes Tawang difficult to reach. But the visitors are well rewarded with the grand views of the alpine mountains surrounding Tawang.
Apart from the grand mountain and lakes that create an extremely beautiful background for the town, Tawang is also famous for the 17th-century Tawang Monastery which is the second largest in Asia and also one of the most beautiful. The local tribe “Monpa” are well known for their friendly smile and the headgear they wear.
What to See
Jaswant Garh - On your way to Tawang, about 14 km before Sela-pass and about a couple of hours journey still left to reach Tawang, you will reach Jaswantgarh War Memorial. The place is a memorial for the soldiers who fought the 1962 Indo-Chinese war. There are a number of crematories of the soldiers and you can see a large number of bunkers as remnants of the war. This is a good place to stop over on your way to Tawang and have a cup of "Chai".
At an altitude of about 13700 ft, this is one of the highest passes in the area (la in the Tibetan language means pass). Sela can be reached after a steep ascent and the last mile to the pass is quite treacherous. There is a very long ridge that separates the Tawang area from the rest of Arunachal. Sela is the only pass through which a tourist can reach Tawang.
There is a lake on the pass offering a beautiful view. You may stop over at the tea stall near the lake and take a break provided you are ready to brave the chilly wind blowing through the pass at almost all hours.
As you move on from Sela pass you will soon get to see Tawang on the mountain in front. But to reach Tawang you have to go down to the valley below, cross a small stream and climb the hill on the other side, spending more than 2 hours in the process. As you reach the bottom of the hill, you will pass by a small village called Jang. From Jang, you take a right turn and drive a couple of km to reach the Nuranang Water Fall. It is a large waterfall amongst the beautiful surrounding. The site has been used for some Hindi movies as well. There is a 6-megawatt hydroelectric plant adjacent to the waterfall.
The Monastery can be identified from a distance due to the unique yellow rooftop of all the buildings. The Tawang Monastery is the second largest in Asia and was built during the 17th century. The Monastery is located a couple of kilometres away from the centre of the town. The Monastery is perched on top of a hill. There is a museum inside the Gompa which showcases a large number of articles of historical as well as religious significance. The monastery follows the Gelugpa sect of the Mahayana School of Buddhism. At the centre of the Monastery, a complex is the location of a large Assembly hall that contains a 28 ft high golden Buddha. There are 17 smaller monasteries in the area which are controlled by the Tawang monastery.
Visit the lakes:
As you travel further North from Tawang, the terrain fast changes. Tall trees are soon replaced by small bushes and the terrain starts resembling closely the adjacent Tibetan plateau. This area beyond Tawang offers a breathtaking view of lakes - the area is said to have more than a hundred lakes. A normal tourist itinerary includes a visit to Sangetsar Lake, also known as Madhuri lake. On the way, you will be passing by several lakes each offering its own attraction. Sangetsar lake is the last destination. The lake was originally a grazing ground. In 1973 an earthquake occurred which resulted in a landslide blocking a stream nearby. As a result, the lake was formed. The trees that once stood in the land are all dead but their black trunks come out of the lake water to create a special effect for the beholder. The Sangetsar lake was the sight where the Bollywood movie 'Koyla' was shot with famous heroine Madhuri Dixit dancing around the lake. This gave the lake its popular name Madhuri Lake.