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Itanagar Travel Guide

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    The mystique capital city of Arunachal Pradesh along the Eastern tip of India, Itanagar is fondly known as the 'Land of Dawn lit Mountains'. Nestled between the lofty snow-capped Himalayan mountain ranges, this pristine city boasts of untouched natural splendor. Set up on the backdrop of picturesque landscapes, Itanagar offers snow-white mountain peaks, lush green valleys, enchanting lakes, diversified wildlife and thoroughly pleasant weather all over the year.

    Located close to the Indo-Tibetan border, Itanagar attracts nature lovers due to its mesmerizing scenic beauty. With its mist-clad green valleys and untouched tropical forests, Itanagar is an ideal place for trekking. Trekking through the unchartered territory around Itanagar is an appeal too hard to resist for hikers and mountaineers. Snowfall is another attraction at Itanagar that tourists love. Moreover, Itanagar exhibits a unique combination of cultural heritage where the tribal culture blends seamlessly with the Buddhist spiritualism - something that draws attention of tourists from round the globe.

    A Brief History of Itanagar:

    It is believed that the first human inhabitants at this place travelled from Tibet almost 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the history of Itanagar can authentically be tracked back to the 6th century when the Monpa Kingdom of Monyul prospered here. In the 11th century, it was the capital of the Jitri dynasty. During those days, the place was known as 'Mayapur'. It used to be predominantly inhibited by the members of 'Nyishi' tribe.

    During the tenure of Jitri King Ramachandra in the mid of 14th century, Mayapur witnessed a strong influence of Tibetan culture and architecture. The King facilitated communication and trade with the neighboring states. As a result, Mayapur witnessed an influx of other tribes, as well as Buddhism followers from across the Tibetan border. Besides constructing the famous Ita Fort, several Buddhist monasteries were established during King Ramachandra's period.

    From 14th to 16th century, Itanagar was ruled by several tribes including Nyishis, Adis, Galos, Apatanis and Miris. Then the Ahom dynasty of Assam took control of the region in the 16th century and ruled here till 1858, before losing out to the British forces.

    After Arunachal Pradesh was recognized as a Union Territory in 1972, the modern day Itanagar was declared as the capital since 20th April 1974. In 1987, Arunachal Pradesh was promoted to the status of a state and thus Itanagar became a state capital.

    Did You Know? The earliest mention of Itanagar or Mayapur was found in the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata where the mythological characters of Parashuram and Rukmini were portrayed to be originated from this region.

    Best Season to Visit Itanagar:

    Situated at an average altitude of 440 meters above the sea level, Itanagar is blessed with a subtropical alpine climate. The weather remains mild for most of the year, although the winter days can be freezing cold.

    The summer days of May and June are usually hot, but the level of humidity always remains modest. Monsoon arrives here by the end of July and Itanagar receives rampant downpour till middle of September. The greenery of Itanagar is at its absolute best during the post-monsoon months and the city experiences an influx of tourists between October to January. February to April can also be a pretty decent time to visit Itanagar and its surrounding areas.

    If you are primarily interested in trekking through the lush green valleys and hilly terrains, then avoid getting there during monsoon or right after monsoon. For trekking enthusiasts, December-January is the right time to visit Itanagar.

    How to Reach Itanagar:

    By Road:

    Itanagar is easily accessible via road transport. A well spread road network connects the city with all the important cities of the neighboring states. Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya are well connected to the city of Itanagar. Arunachal Pradesh and Assam State Government operated buses are the primary mode of road transport to Itanagar. Private buses are also available from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Shillong and Imphal.

    Whether you are coming from any of the North-Eastern states or from North, West, Central or South India, your gateway to Itanagar would be Guwahati, the state capital of Assam. Situated at a distance of 337 KM through NH37, the journey from Guwahati to Itanagar takes around 9 hours by bus. You may also avail taxi/cab services from Guwahati which can save you at least 2 hour's travel time.

    By Rail:

    Itanagar has no railway connectivity, but the adjacent town of Naharlagun (NHLN) does have an extension line connecting to the nearest railhead at a distance of 33 KM in Harmuty, Assam. North Lakhimpur in Assam is a major station situated around 65 KM away from Itanagar. Both Harmuty and North Lakhimpur belong to the main network of NF Railways with connecting trains to Guwahati, Tezpur, Silchar, Kolkata, and New Delhi.

    By Air:

    Itanagar doesn't have any commercial airliners, but Pawan Hans helicopters ply from Guwahati's Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport to Itanagar.

    Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and SpiceJet operate commercial flights to three domestic airports close to Itanagar. You may use these flights to alight at North Lakhimpur's Lilabari airport (65 KM), Jorhat airport (75 KM) or Tezpur airport (98 KM) and hire a taxi to reach Itanagar.

    For more details on Pawan Hans helicopter service, kindly refer to their official website.

    Getting Around:

    Itanagar is not a huge city. Tourists can visit most of the interesting places within Itanagar either on foot or by cycle rickshaw. For the attractions around Itanagar, the most preferred mode of local transport is the auto-rickshaw. You may also hire local taxis (mostly Tata Indica and Ambassador) for sightseeing purpose.

    Tourist Attractions at Itanagar:

    Gyakar Sinyi (Ganga Lake):

    A beautiful picnic spot 6 kms away from Itanagar, the Gyakar Sinyi lake is set up amidst a green forest cover. Surrounded by primeval vegetation, tall woods, sparkling orchids and a variety of ferns, the lake has a magical charm of its own. Situated on the edge of a hilly region, you will be amazed by the breathtaking vista-views it has to offer to the tourists. A romantic boat-ride on the crystal-esque water of the lake can be a memorable experience for the newly-married couples.

    Ita Fort:

    The most striking architectural site in Itanagar is the Ita Fort - from which the city draws its name. The fort is located in the centre of Papum Pare district and it has an imposing presence over the capital city. Now mostly in ruins, the fort was originally constructed by the Jitri King Ramachandra in the 14th century. The Ahom rulers, who ruled the region during the 16th century, further extended this structure.

    The citadel is protected with high fencing walls having a thickness of over 1 meter. The entire Ita Fort was constructed with red bricks.

    Buddhist Monastery (Buddha Vihar):

    Itanagar is an abode of Buddhist spirituality. Buddha Vihar is unarguably the most well-known monastery in the region. The monastery has a distinct exterior that resembles the typical Tibetan architecture.

    Set amidst lush green surroundings, the golden-yellow painted monastery is a must visit place at Itanagar. The main temple has a beautiful gold-plated idol of Lord Buddha and the corridor of the monastery is studded with ancient Buddhist artifacts of religious significance. Perched on top of a hillock, the place offers a panoramic view of the entire Itanagar city.

    Itanagar Wildlife Sanctuary:

    Itanagar has a sprawling wildlife sanctuary set up on the foothills of Himalayan mountain ranges right in the heart of the city. Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, the most common animal sightings here include slow loris, hoolock gibbon, pigtailed macaque, black bear, red panda, musk deer and the common langur. The sanctuary is also a heaven for the bird lovers and you can spot a numerous migratory and native birds in this tropical forest.

    Namdhapa National Park:

    The amazing biodiversity of Itanagar can best be witnessed at the Namdhapa National Park. This wildlife sanctuary is world-famous for housing the rare snow leopards and the endangered clouded leopards.

    Unlike most of the wildlife sanctuaries in India where animal sighting is purely based on luck, here you need not have to wait for hours to spot one. You can be assured of spotting both snow leopard and clouded leopard on a single safari ride down the park. This well maintained national park is also home to other animals like the Himalayan bear, the snow deer and the Red Panda. So don't miss the chance to catch a few glimpse of rare animals and capture them on your camera during your tour to Itanagar.

    Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum:

    Jawaharlal Nehru Museum is a showcase of the tradition, history and culture of Arunachal Pradesh. It provides the tourists an overview of the local tribal culture. A wide collection of wooden carvings, metal artifacts, musical instruments and other handmade articles made by the tribal craftsmen are the highlight of this museum. It also has a few ancient items excavated from the Ita Fort - which are of great historical significance. Besides, the open library in the museum is pretty rich in its collection of books related to Arunachal Pradesh.

    Polo Park:

    Polo Park is a botanical garden that has developed as a popular tourist attraction in Itanagar. Besides the well maintained lawn and flower garden, the park also has a mini zoo. If you are travelling with kids, then don't forget to pay a visit here.

    Festivals of Itanagar:

    Losar Festival:

    Losar is the New Year festival of the Monpa tribe. It is celebrated for a duration of 15 days from the end of February to the beginning of March.

    Mopin Festival:

    A harvesting season festival celebrated for the demise of evil spirits, Mopin is the main festival for the Galo tribe. The highlight of this festival is the famous Popir folk dance where young girls, dressed up in traditional attires, perform the dance for the prosperity of their community. Mopin is usually celebrated in the month of April.

    Reh Festival:

    It is celebrated during the month of May by the Idu Mishmi tribe to appease Goddess Nanyi Inyitaya. Priest dance is the main attraction of this festival.

    Podi Barbi Festival:

    Celebrated with lots of fun, frolic and dancing, Podi Barbi is the main festival for the Adi Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It takes place in the first week of December amidst great fanfare.

    Where to Stay in Itanagar:

    For spending good time, tourists need good accommodation within their budgets. Itanagar does have a number of decent staying options ranging from economical guest houses to luxury resorts well-equipped with modern facilities. So you can surely find a hotel room on a par with your budget. Listed below are a few reliable hotels and guest houses located within the city limits of Itanagar -

    NoHotelLocationMinimum TariffContact
    1Hotel ItafortBank TinaliINR 750(+91) 360 221 3253
    2Hotel TosumNaharlagunINR 900(+91) 360 224 7228
    3Hotel Pine RidgeMarket AreaINR 1250(+91) 96129 23927
    4Hotel BenjaminNaharlagunINR 1500(+91) 360 235 1202
    5Hotel S.C. ContinentalVivek ViharINR 2000(+91) 94360 75875
    6Hotel TODOSector BINR 3000(+91) 360 229 0347
    7Donyi Polo AshokSector CINR 4000(+91) 360 221 2626
    Must Try Food/Drink:

    1. If you are not a teetotaler, then make sure to taste 'Apong' - an alcoholic beverage prepared by the locals from rice and millet.

    2. 'Thukpa' is a Tibetan delicacy (noodle soup) popular with both natives and tourists. If you are keen to taste an authentic 'Thukpa', then make sure to satisfy your taste buds from one of the many road-side eateries at Itanagar.

    Things to Buy:

    1. Vibrant shawls and carpets with detailed embroidery.

    2. Thangka paintings made using vegetable dyes.

    3. Handicraft items made of bamboo/cane.

    Itanagar is a melange of diversified tribal cultures. The sprawling valleys, spectacular hills, untouched forests, tranquil lakes and salubrious weather make Itanagar a dream destination for the nature lovers. When you visit this lovely little paradise, be assured to be bowled over by Itanagar's simplicity, uniqueness, hospitality and natural splendor.