Dirang is a small village in the West Kemang district of Arunachal Pradesh in India. It is a popular choice for a transit stop when on the way to Tawang. However, many visitors to Dirang miss out to explore the surreal landscapes of Dirang, lush green plains, crystal clear water flowing gently in the river, and a huge variety of birdlife. This post will give you reasons on why Dirang in itself a great destination to be explored, rather than just being a place for overnight halt.
Hot Water Springs
About a kilometer or two from the main town of Dirang, you can visit the natural Hot Water Springs. This place is accessible by climbing down about 200 steps from the main road. This natural Sulphur water springs is considered to be a holy place, and the water itself is known to have medicinal properties. There are two streams of hot water that flows naturally here, and eventually joins the river that flows nearby. A small tank is constructed next to one of the streams where the hot water gets accumulated. Visitors can take a dip in the tank, and enjoy the warm water in the otherwise cold mornings. The water from the other stream does not flow to the tank. Visitors who do not want to take a dip can stand beneath this stream to take a shower, or just experience the feel of natural hot water.
The place next to hot water springs has a Buddhist temple and a Shiva temple. Due to the presence of these two temples, the place is also considered holy. Apart from these attractions, you can also get a glimpse of lush green hills on all sides, and a river flowing in the valley. The sight of rising sun, the river water reflecting the sun’s initial rays, the greenery of the plains next to the river, and the green hills definitely makes this place a picture perfect location.
Thembang Heritage Village
Thembang is a village located at about 20 km from Dirang. The village has a strong historic background, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortified village is located at an altitude of 2140 m / 7000 ft above sea level, and is surrounded by lush green hills, deep gorges, and snow clad mountains. The village has witnessed a lot of wars in the past, and the whole village was fortified. Two strong stone walls were built to enter the village. The houses, stone walls, and the entry gates are built around the traditional architecture and construction style of the Monpas (the local tribes in the region).
There are about 40+ houses in the village, and a population of about 200 people. A small walk around the village will give you a glimpse of the simple life that people live here. It is really amazing how friendly the people are in the village. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to their home for a cup of tea! Simple conversations with the locals can get very interesting. They are more than happy to share their way of living. They are also curious about what we (as visitors to their village) think about them, how do we feel about their village etc.
Namshu is a picture perfect farming village that has lush green grasslands all over. This is yet another place where you can truly experience the hospitality of Monpa people. There are very few houses in this village. However, the village has a historical monastery that is believed to be the oldest in the region. The speciality of this monastery is that the huge statue of sitting Buddha spans across two floors of the monastery. From the ground floor, you can only view the feet of Buddha, and from the first floor, you can view the face!
Sangti Valley is a paradise on earth. The beauty of this valley cannot be explained in words. It is something that has to be seen, felt, experienced. It is located at about 15 km from Dirang, and the route itself is so beautiful. The valley has a river that flows gently. With the crystal clear water, you can actually see the colourful stones at bottom of the river. Though the river is not very deep, the water current at few places is very high, and you may lose balance! Sunset is an awesome time to be here at Sangti Valley, as the setting sun illuminates the surrounding hills with various colors.
The valley is very sparsely populated, and it is also very less frequented by visitors. This means that you are amidst the magical beauty, and all by yourself. You can easily spend the whole day at Sangti Valley, just by sitting and admiring the stunning natural beauty. You can only hear the sounds of the gentle breeze, or the water flowing in the river, or the chirping of birds, or the sounds of few animals around.
You can also visit a sheep farm at Sangti Valley. There are several breeds of sheep here, some of which are imported from different countries. The farm has awesome grassland where the sheep are left for grazing though the day. Towards the evening, the sheep are then taken to their home just below the grassland. The grassland also offers some astonishing views of Sangti Valley.
Bird Watching by River Dirang
River Dirang Chu flows through this beautiful town, and is an awesome place to just sit by and relax. There are several wooden benches by the banks of the river, where you can spend awesome time with the nature. You could also sit by one of the rocks next to the water. The clear water of the river attracts numerous birds. If you are bird watcher, be sure to take a good binoculars when you travel to Dirang.
If you like exploring a place on foot, then Dirang is a place you should not miss. Strolling through the narrow lanes/roads of Dirang, you could find a surprise at every corner. From stunning panoramic views of the valley, to amazing birdlife, to beautiful bridges across the river, to colourful Buddhist prayer flags tied to the bridges/trees, stupas of all sizes, and some awesome Gompas/Monasteries (Dirang Dzong, Khatsung Gompa, Kalachakra Gompa to name a few).
How to plan a visit?
Dirang is often chosen as a transit stop to Tawang. However, now that you have read about it, Dirang is definitely much more than a transit stop. If you are planning to visit this circuit of Tawang, then you should definitely spend a day or two at Dirang before heading towards Tawang.
Entry to Arunachal Pradesh is allowed only if you have an Inner Line Permit (for Indians residing outside of Arunachal Pradesh), and Protected Area Permit for foreign nationals. You can apply for ILP online at http://arunachalilp.com/ for Rs 100 or you can apply by visiting Deputy Commisioner’s Office at Guwahati, Delhi, Kolkata, Shillong and other major cities in Assam. If you apply online, it takes about 2-3 working days to get the permit, and one day after you pay the fee to receive the soft copy of the ILP. You can also get a permit at the Bhalukpong entry gate, but it takes about 2-3 hours (sometimes more) to get the permit.
How to reach?
The nearest airport is Guwahati which is 300 – 380 km away (depending on the route you take). The nearest railway station is Tezpur in Assam.
As far as public transportation is concerned, you can find many shared Tata Sumos plying between Guwahati/Tezpur to Dirang. It may be overcrowded at times, but is definitely the cheapest way to reach Dirang.
Where to stay?
The town of Dirang has many hotels / budget rooms to stay. There are also several camp sites by the river. You can even share rooms with other travellers to get cheaper accommodation. However, if you are expecting a luxury stay, then the options are very limited.