For those looking for an offbeat adventure in the Indian Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh is the last outpost in the east that rewards the seeker with ample excitement. Away from the milling crowds of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Ladakh, the state offers escapades that are as thrilling as they are unique.
Shrouded in the mystery that most of northeast India remains in, Arunachal Pradesh may not be the obvious choice for a grand adventure. However, for the offbeat traveller looking for a new destination that breaks free from the list of usual suspects, the state is a treasure trove of surprises. My fascination for the northeast started over a decade ago, but it was more of the cultural aspect that I sought when I first ventured into the then relatively unexplored region. Having already done treks like the Everest Base Camp in Nepal, the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan, and several other trails in the Indian Himalayas, it was culture that I went to Arunachal for, but unexpectedly returned with a big dose of adventure.
For starters, my maiden trip there was fuelled by my desire to see the Tawang monastery. En route, it was the spectacular sight of Sela Pass early morning that first bowled me over with Arunachal Pradesh’s natural beauty, and became the trigger for returning multiple times over the ensuing years. At over 12,000 feet, it is the gateway to the Tawang district and is snow-clad pretty much round the year. After Tawang, on the way to the Bum La pass, lies the remote Tsangetsar Lake surrounded by plenty of trails that can easily be done as day hikes. Nicknamed Madhuri lake after it shot to fame thanks to a Bollywood movie filming, it is one of the farthest outdoor spots in the state.
The most popular hiking trails in the state, however, include the include the Bailey Trail, 7 lakes trek, Pemako Trek, Passang Sonam Tso Trek, and Talley Valley trek, among others among others. Not only do these trails take you through lush rainforests and river valley landscapes, but also give you a good dose of culture whenever passing through or spending the nights in village homes. For those who want to balance the culture quotient with soft adventure, day hikes and camping are a great option that go extremely well with homestay experiences.
An added adventure awaits those interested in avifauna, with the state being home to some of the most stunning biodiversity. Distinct birds like the Mishmi Wren babbler, found only in the Mishmi hills and nowhere else in the world, to rare butterflies and moths that are spotted in its hotspots, are a treat for wildlife travellers. Pick from its smattering of national parks from Namdapha to Eagle Nest sanctuaries, and from Dibang to Pakke reserves, for an exclusive tryst with the deepest jungles of India.
An increasingly popular outdoor sport gaining traction in Arunachal is mountain biking, currently hugely popular in some parts of North Indian Mountain states. With one of the world’s highest endurance biking races conducted in there in the recent years, the sport and the destination are slowly getting the recognition they deserve. Beat the regular mountain biking crowds and experience this in the breathtaking, remote Anini valley, or in the far east area above Tawang, for an unmatched experience. You can also take your love for exploring the area on wheels a notch further up, by motorbiking through this fascinating state.
No adrenaline fuelled trip to Arunachal is complete without a rendezvous with one its mighty rivers. Rafting down the azure hues of the sweeping Siang, or the expanse of the mighty Brahmaputra, is a high unlike any other. The Subansiri is equally challenging and heady, and while the Lohit is best left for experts, most of the rivers here offer grade three or four rapids which are ideal for seasoned rafting fans. You can do all this and more, while floating down some of the most pristine rivers in the world and past stunning wilderness. These can be single-day adventures, though multi-day expeditions with overnight camping work better and do true justice to the landscape and the experience. The untamed, rich rivers of Arunachal Pradesh also offer plenty for recreational angling, albeit within limitations. Follow the regulations and obtain proper permits, and you can try your hand at catching anything from trouts to the prized, golden mahaseer.
In the backdrop for a long time simply known as one of the seven sisters in the northeast, and known now, at best, for its Ziro festival, there is more to Arunachal Pradesh than meets the eye. The state is bubbling with a smorgasbord of activities and adventure, revealed only if you scratch its surface to go deeper. It is the land first blessed by dawn in the nation, finally emerging to bask in the glory of the spotlight it deserves.
Arunachal’s very own homegrown Everester, Tine Mena, organises treks and mountain biking trips into the heartland. Mishmi Hills Camp is run by Jibhi Pulu, a passionate birder and local environment advocate who also leads camping and birding adventures for his guests. Rafting adventures are best done with Aquaterra, a leading name in the outdoors that specialises in Siang expeditions.
For more info, visit www.arunachaltourism.com
In Partnership with Arunachal Pradesh Tourism