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Arunachal Pradesh – The Land of the Rising Sun

Arunachal Pradesh – The Land of the Rising Sun

Arunachal Pradesh, the land of the rising sun, with its snow clad peaks, towering mountains, roaring rivers, high altitude meadows and vast unspoiled sub-tropical forests is aptly known as the’Last Shangri La on Earth’. Located on the north eastern tip of India with its borders touching China, Bhutan and Myanmar, Arunachal Pradesh has been endowed with a natural landscape that is awe inspiring and majestic. Its thundering peaks, untamed  rivers, gurgling waterfalls and wild forests, teeming with a dazzling array of flora and fauna, are a testament to the genius of mother nature. Few other places in the world come close to the raw, rugged beauty of Arunachal Pradesh.



Arunachal Pradesh is located between 26.28° N and 29.30° N latitude and 91.20° E and 97.30° E longitude and has 83,743 square kilometres of land area. The state shares an international border with Bhutan [160 km] in the west, Myanmar [440 km] in the east and the People’s Republic of China [1,080 km] in the north.  The state also shares domestic borders with Nagaland to the South East and Assam to the south.  Most of Arunachal Pradesh is covered by the Himalayas. However, parts of Lohit, Changlang and Tirap are covered by the Patkai hills.


The land is mostly mountainous with the Himalayan ranges running north south. These divide the state into five river valleys: the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit and the Tirap. All these are fed by snow from the Himalayas and countless rivers and rivulets. The mightiest of these rivers is Siang, called the Tsangpo in Tibet, which becomes the Brahmaputra after it is joined by the Dibang and the Lohit in the plains of Assam.


The climate of Arunachal Pradesh varies with elevation. Areas that are at a very high elevation in the Upper Himalaya close to the Tibetan border have an alpine or tundra climate. Below the Upper Himalayas are the Middle Himalayas, where people experience a temperate climate. Areas at the sub-Himalayan and sea-level elevation generally experience humid, sub-tropical climate with hot summers and mild winters.



The history of  Arunachal Pradesh remains shrouded in mystery.  Oral histories possessed to this day by many Arunachali tribes of Tibeto-Burman stock point unambiguously to a northern origin in modern-day Tibet.


Recorded history from an outside perspective only became available in the Ahom and Sutiya chronicles. The Monpa and Sherdukpen do keep historical records of the existence of local chiefdoms in the northwest as well. Northwestern parts of this area came under the control of the Monpa kingdom of Monyul, which flourished between 500 B.C. and 600 A.D.  This region then came under the loose control of Tibet and Bhutan, especially in the Northern areas. The remaining parts of the state, especially those bordering Myanmar, were under the control of the Sutiya Kings until the Ahom-Sutiya battle in the 16th century. The Ahoms held the areas until the annexation of India by the British in 1858. However, most Arunachali tribes remained in practice largely autonomous up until Indian independence and the formalisation of indigenous administration in 1947.



Arunachal Pradesh can be roughly divided into a set of semi-distinct cultural spheres, on the basis of tribal identity, language, religion and material culture: the Tibetic area bordering Bhutan in the west, the Thanyi area in the centre of the state, the Mishmi area to the east of the Thanyi area, the Tai/ Singpho/ Tangsa area bordering Myanmar, and the ‘Naga’ area to the south, which also borders Myanmar. In between there are transition zones, such as the Aka/ Hruso/ Miji/ Sherdukpen area, which provides a ‘buffer’ of sorts between the Tibetic Buddhist tribes and the animist Thanyi hill tribes. In addition, there are isolated peoples scattered throughout the state, such as the Sulung.


Within each of these cultural spheres, one finds populations of related tribes speaking related languages and sharing similar traditions. In the Tibetic area, one finds large numbers of Monpa tribes people, with several sub tribes speaking closely related but mutually incomprehensible languages. Within the Thanyi area, major tribes include the Nyishi. The Apatani also live among the Nyishi, but are distinct. In the centre, one finds predominantly Galo people, with the major sub-groups of Lare and Pugo among others, extending to the Ramo and Pailibo areas. In the east, one finds the Adi with many subtribes including Padam, Pasi, Minyong and Bokar, among others. Moving east, the Idu, Miju and Digaru make up the ‘Mishmi’ cultural-linguistic area.


In the southeast, the Tai Khamti are linguistically distinct from their neighbours and culturally distinct from the majority of other Arunachalese tribes. They follow the Theravada sect of Buddhism. They also exhibit considerable convergence with the Singpho and Tangsa tribes of the same area. The Nocte and Wancho exhibit cultural and possibly also linguistic affinities to the tribes of Nagaland, which they border. Finally,the Deori tribe is also a major community of the state, with their own distinctive identity. The Deoris are one of the only Arunachal Pradesh tribes in the historical records—which shows they are among the first ethnic groups to inhabit the Himalayas of the districts of Dibang Valley and Lohit.


Tibetan Buddhism predominates in the districts of Tawang, West Kameng, and isolated regions adjacent to Tibet. Theravada Buddhism is practiced by groups living near the Burmese border.


Arunachal Pradesh State Symbols

The Mithun, or the semi domesticated gaur is the state animal of Arunachal Pradesh. The Mithun is found only in the north-eastern states of India.


The Great Indian Hornbill found in South and Southeast Asia is the state bird of  Arunachal Pradesh.


The Lady Slipper Orchid is the state flower of Arunachal Pradesh


Places of Interest

1. Tawang

Situated 10,000 feet high above Mean Sea Level and surrounded by lakes, Tawang is perhaps the most popular destination in Arunachal Pradesh with its breathtaking valleys, misty rivers and stunning waterfalls.  The location of the land in itself is fascinating with Tibet to its northern side, Sela range of West Kameng to the east and Bhutan in the southwest direction. Tawang is also home to the second largest monastery in Asia and the largest in India, established by Mera Lama Lodre Gyasto during the 17th century.


Places to visit in Tawang

Sela Pass

Tawang Monastery

Taktsang Gompa

Gorichen Peak

Shonga-tser Lake

Nuranang Waterfalls

Pankang Teng Tso Lake

Bumla Pass

Bap Teng Kang Waterfalls


2. Roing

Roing is one of the most important tourist attractions in Arunachal Pradesh. It is located in the Lower Dibang Valley. The picturesque beauty of the place attracts tourists from all parts of the world. Nature lovers, archeologists and adventure seekers will find the place engaging, educative and interesting. The place has many lakes and waterfalls and is considered a perfect place if you want to be in solitude.


3. Itanagar

Itanagar is the capital of Arunachal Pradesh.  The Itanagar Sanctuary, Ita Fort, Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum, Indira Gandhi Park, Ganga Lake, Polo Park, Buddhist temples are all situated here. The Itanagar Wildlife Sanctuary is a sprawling sanctuary that houses various species including langur, antelopes, Himalayan black bear, porcupines, goral and many more.


4. Bomdila

Bomdila is a perfect place if you are aiming to have a stunning view of snow clad Himalayan mountain ranges. It is situated 8,000 feet above the sea level. The snow-clad mountains, apple orchards and the Bomdila monastery are the main attractions.


5. Ziro

Ziro is famously known as the Apatani Plateau and is one of the oldest hill stations of Arunachal Pradesh Declared as a World Heritage Site, Ziro offers some of the best attractions in Arunachal Pradesh. Ziro is rich in biodiversity. The ‘Paddy cum Fish culture’ of Ziro is very famous, practiced by the Apatani tribe.


The Ziro Music festival has also become a popular destination for music lovers from all over the country. The festival is held in September every year.


Places to visit in Ziro Valley

Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Kile Pakho


Ziro Puto

Dolo Mando


6. Bhalukpong

Bhalukpong is the destination for outdoor folk. If you seek adventure Bhalukpong offers the options of hiking, trekking and river rafting. The hills that surround Bhalukpong offer you a great opportunity to go trekking. For angling enthusiasts Bhalukpong offers some of the finest angling opportunities in the north east.


7. Namdapha National Park

Namdapha National Park is the largest national park in India in terms of area. The park covers an area of 1,985 sq km of which 177 sq km is in buffer zone and 1,808 sq km in the core area. The park is bordered by Dapha Bum Range, Patkai Range and is an important tiger reserve forest. This park is situated in Changlang District and covers varying altitudes from 200 meters to more than 4,500 meters. This wildlife repository is rich in rare species of animals like Asiatic Small Bears, Eurasian Otters, Wolves, Clouded Leopards, Dholes, Red Foxes, Tigers, Red Pandas, Musk Deer and Fishing Cats.


8. Dirang Valley

Located at a distance of 42 km from Bomdila, Dirang is an attractive hill station and an ideal place to spend quality time in the lap of Goddess Nature. Dirang has enormous options to explore vividly. The region is located at an elevation of 4,910 ft above sea level and on a picturesque valley in between two major getaways – Bomdila and Tawang. This land of kiwi and apple orchards is cooled by the freezing river air. Dirang is the base camp of trekking and bird watching at Mandla.


9. Sangti

Sangti is an ideal getaway for the avid bird watcher and photographer. The calm and serene location perched with gurgling river water and deep greenery attracts picnic lovers from distant lands of the neighbouring plains. During the winter season, black-necked cranes come from the distant lands of Siberia for breeding.


10. Aalo/ Along

Located 297 km from Itanagar, Aalo is a picturesque valley at the confluence of the Sipu and Siyom rivers. Surrounded by hills and beautiful orange orchards, this is another exotic nature getaway in Arunachal Pradesh. Aalo is the headquarter the of West Siang District and offers all basic amenities.


11. Mechuka/ Menchuka

Mainly inhabited by the people of Memba Tribe, Mechuka is a wonderful hill station which has both historical and religious significance. The 400 year old Samten Yongcha monastery is located on a hill top overlooking the undulating terrains. One can witness a few age old statues which are well preserved till date. The Siyom River runs through the valley adding serenity to its scenic view and enchanting Buddhist Gumpas set amidst the open meadows enrich the glow of diverse landscape.


12. Upper Subansiri District

Do stop by to visit the naturally carved cave of lime or semi-lime stone in the upper subansiri distt. around 12-16KM from the district H/Q Daporijo. [1]


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[1] We thank Mindu Phuntso for the correction in spelling 



About Rohan K. Abraham

A simple attempt to document my travels, observations and experiences in this fantastic region of the world - The North East of India. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and diversity of this region, so click on the Instagram button here for the picture story.

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