To Tawang Via Sela Pass: World’s Second Highest Motor-able Road

A taxi bound for Tawang from Bomdila
A taxi bound for Tawang from Bomdila
The last green hill before entering the barren and snow covered Sela Pass
The last green hill before entering the barren and snow covered Sela Pass
Fresh snow by the roadside
Fresh snow by the roadside
Stopping to get some photos on the way to Sela Pass
Stopping to get some photos on the way to Sela Pass
Boot marks on snow
Boot marks on snow
Army trucks are the most commonly seen vehicles in this part of the world
Army trucks are the most commonly seen vehicles in this part of the world
First snow of the season on pine canopies
First snow of the season on pine canopies
Snow covered twigs near Sela Pass
Snow covered twigs near Sela Pass
Withered flowered hardened by fresh snow
Withered flowered hardened by fresh snow
Mountain tops peeping out above the clouds near Sela Pass.
Mountain tops peeping out above the clouds near Sela Pass.
Sela Lake near Sela pass
Sela Lake near Sela pass
Sheets of hardened ice on Sela Lake
Sheets of hardened ice on Sela Lake
Rocky mountain terrain and an army camp at the base of the mountain
Rocky mountain terrain and an army camp at the base of the mountain
A giant mountain and receding pine trees made for a sad sight
A giant mountain and receding pine trees made for a sad sight
Jung Village is a stopover place for tea and food on the way to Tawang
Jung Village is a stopover place for tea and food on the way to Tawang
Waves of mountains seen from Jung Village near Tawang
Waves of mountains seen from Jung Village near Tawang

Tawang is a town in the far flung North East. It is best known for China’s invasion during 1962 and the Tawang Monastery, the second largest Monastery in Asia and largest in India. Since then, India has taken steps to built better roads and infrastructure. Tawang is around 35km from the China border at Bumla. China has always claimed Arunachal as part of its territory which is still a great cause of concern for India. Because of its closeness with China, it is an important strategic location for India.

Tawang is 319 km from Tezpur, the nearest big town. Though Tawang shares border with China and Bhutan the only road connecting Tawang to the outer world is through the Tawang-Tezpur road. The road is small at most places cracked open. And during winter when the snowing gets heavy, this only lifeline is closed. 

The road from Tezpur to Bomdila is well built and maintained but the same can’t be said of Bomdila- Tawang road. Travelling 8-9 hours on this road was one of the most painstaking journeys I have ever taken. To make it even worse we made the journey with 11 passengers in a Tata Sumo. As the jeep careened and swerved, we were like pigs being carried to the slaughter house; our heads covered with a sheet of dust we squealed slightly when the jeep pumped up and down the dusty road. At most places the black top of the road had come off and bared it all to dust. It had not rained for a while and the road was dry and dusty, but it was by far one of the best seasons to visit Tawang. 

Tawang is just 181km from Bomdila and on a normal road it wouldn’t have taken more than 4hours, but it’s a different world here. Difficult mountain terrain makes the journey a lot more strenuous than it should be. The mountains are not just any mountain; but giant ones, brownish with trees at the base and rocky parched peaks. Bomdila is on a big mountain at an altitude of 2217m. From there the road descends down to the Dirang Valley; a town by the Kameng River banks at a relatively low altitude of 1479m. From here the climb begins again. The road leading up to the Sela Pass at an altitude of 4170m was the hardest. The road spiraled up a single giant mountain but before the climb we stopped at a small hotel run by a Nepali family and had one of the best meals in a long time. 

These giant mountains which are hardly habitable are occupied by the Indian Armies. From that stretch of land from Bomdila to Tawang there are more Army Camps than one can count. Army trucks slowly crawled up the mountains all the way to Sela pass.  It takes a lot of patience to travel on this road and a lot more to drive. 

Higher up, you get to see pine trees covered with thin sheet of fresh snow. The peak nearer to Sela Pass above the Army Camp was shrouded with fog and damp wind. On the road we stopped to watch the first know of the season clumping on twigs. It was lovely to behold. There seemed to be no end to the mountains; it goes on and on as if you are driving into an unknown abyss covered by fog. 

It was beginning to get cold even inside the Sumo. All windows were shut and the vehicle was stuffy but we feared the chill more than the discomfort. Snow continued to fall and the road was covered with fresh snow. The jeep swerved at a slow pace for almost 45minutes like that until we crossed Sela Pass and emerge out in the sunshine once again. Sela Lake is a grand sight chiseled out between rock jagged-mountains. The lake water frozen even at noon looked azure and it was a wonderful treat after a cold ride. Altitude sickness doubled with the cold and insufficient fresh air had stirred my head and made it heavy but a little bit of sunshine and the amazing view did wonders to my body and mind. The ride down towards Jung and up towards Tawang was considerably easier.

Jung is a small town 25km before reaching Tawang and is known for the Jung waterfall which was popularized as a set of Shah Rukh Khan starred film Koyla. Though the beautiful waterfall is a great view, it alone is not enough to stop travelers but occasionally people do stop at Jung. I met a French couple who did just that. 

Every turn I was amazed by the exotic landscapes that looked like another world. The mist at Sela Pass makes it more mystic; like a gateway to another world. 


53 Responses to “To Tawang Via Sela Pass: World’s Second Highest Motor-able Road”

  1. Dr B. R. Shah says:

    Hi Jim
    A real good write up.
    Kindly let me know the dates when you had driven through this pass.
    It would help me decide if it is doable in the month of December.
    Regards and Thanks
    bharti from Mumbai- India

    • moitours says:

      Thank you for visiting.
      I was there in the last week of November. And it was the coldest place I’ve been to. It gets really cold in December and Occasionally, the road gets blocked by fresh snow. You could get stranded for days but people still travel to see the snow covered town. All the best!

    • Arshad Basit says:

      We are Assam Bikers we did in january on our bikes, and its like risking ur life to death. We conquered sela pass at night 6.30pm and travelled further 22kms just before reaching jainath bridge which took 6hours i.e 12.30am where we found a B.r.o official who sheltered us for the night, or else we would have been dead.
      Note: Don’t risk ur life by riding on sela pass from December to april.

      Website: http://www.ride.assambikers.in

  2. anupama pandit says:

    Hi Jim, We are travelling to tawang on 19th Oct your blog has been really informative.thanks

  3. manas says:

    Hi Jim
    Can You provide me some suggestion to go to Tawang . We are 9 people. How we will go from guwahati and where i will get the vehicle booking. How much Cost.

    • moitours says:

      Hi Sarma,
      The best way to reach Tawang from Guwahati is Via Tezpur. You can take a bus to Tezpur and book a 10 seater taxi for Tawang for around Rs.13,000. Best wishes for your trip!

  4. Rich says:

    hi thanks its great info, what is the weather like late November?

  5. surender paul says:

    I want to go tawang

  6. Bepinkumar D says:

    Eight years before i am seviced there in indian army very very cold area but nice place

  7. mohit says:

    Hi jim! Very informative write-up. We are 8 people planning for tawang in first week of march but we also want to cover cherapunji first then go tezpur via jovai and nartiang. Please provide some suggestions and is it right time to go tawang? Also in total how much time is needed from tezpur to tawang and again tezpur?
    Thank You

    • moitours says:

      Hi Mohit,
      March is a good time to visit. But do check the weather conditions before leaving for Tawang.
      It takes 13-15 hrs of ride on a taxi to reach Tawang from Tezpur. For a round trip to Tawang, do keep at least 5-6 days.
      Please read my other blogs on Tawang to know more about the town.
      Best wishes for your travels!
      Warm Regards.

  8. Pankaj Kumar says:

    Hi, I visited Tawang on 22/03/2014, it was very cold even in March. Sela Pass was full of snow and our vehicle skidded twice on the way, which was really very frightening. But SUMO drivers from Bomdila to Tawang are smart enough to deal with these situations. I would suggest everyone not to go with personal vehicle .

  9. Mohit Saggar says:

    Hi , its a very intrsting writeup… n i totaly agress , its a trechrous journey. I passed sela pass in jan frst week in 2013…. hardest thing was dat jst 15km fr sela pass wen our bikes were giving up, it started snowing.. bt we drove thru da pain n nw its a lifetime memory… u can chk out da video on youtube “mtv roadies X journey tawang”

  10. Manojkumar sahu says:

    I’ve quite interested to visit this Sela pass n Lake on Coming Mid October. Alone as a solo trekker. Jim Can you guide me, point to point How can I’d reach there from Itanagar or Naharlagun rail hub. Because I’ll go upto End point[Naharlagun] by Indian railway from Kolkata Via, NJP Rangaiya.

    • moitours says:

      Hi Manoj,
      From Itanagar there are no direct taxi or bus to Tawang but you catch a bust to Bomdila and than take a shared taxi to Tawang.

  11. Ravin says:

    Is there a road connecting Tawang directly to Bhutan (rather than coming down to Tezpur/Guwahati via the Sela Pass)? I read online (2012 articles) that there is a proposed Tawang-Lumla-Tashigang road. However there is no news of whether this is ready at the moment.

    • moitours says:

      Hi Ravin,
      I too heard about it before i made my visit and i made a point to visit the border. There is a road to Bhutan but there are no dealings at the border. No transport facility. I guess not much have been changed since then.

  12. rafi says:

    if I am riding my bike to tawang.,wats your suggestion…..I like to know the best time period and approaximate time taking gor the ride from tezpur to tawang

    • moitours says:

      Hi Rafi,
      The best time to visit Tawang is from April to October. By taxi it takes around 13hrs to reach Tawang from Tezpur. All the best!

  13. sharayu says:

    Lovely write up.
    Two of my friends and myself are travelling to Meghalaya, Assam and probably Tawang in last two weeks of December. Do get in touch if any of the travelers want to join the adventure.

  14. Gaurav Sharma says:

    If ur visiting tawang then dnt miss bumla pass…. 16500 ft above sea level and just 35 km from tawang.. better to take a bike there bcz roads dsnt luk like roads… Or u can hire a sumo …. Feels great visiting the indo china border, dnt frgt to take pass from tawang Dc office and carry i cards with u.

  15. subrack300 says:

    We are a couple of bikers planning to visit Tawang and Bum La pass in 3rd week of november. Just want to confirm if you are allowed to take two-wheelers to Bum La??

  16. Dhivakar says:

    a very nice writeup. thanks.

    myself and two of my friends are planning to do a ride to NE starting from Guwahati on the 7th of December. We will be riding for close to 25 days. And Tawang is the first in our plan. If someone is interested to join, please do mail me at dhivakar.n@gmail.com

  17. Ojal Pardesi says:

    We around 9 people approx. are planning a trip for tawang.. in the month of May. Please suggest whether to take sumo directly from guwahati to tawang and back or to go to tezpur and hire vehicle. What would be approx cost.

    • jayadeva B N says:

      It is a wonderful place to visit.You have o take a bus drop taxi upto tezpur. From tezpur you have to hire taxi for round tip to tawang. Thhey say you can make it in 4 days it is incorrect. Yoy will star from Tezpur in the morning and by the time you get permit at B pong it will be unch time. Slow journeyfrom there to Bomdilla.night halt there. next day by evenig u will reach Tawang. Not many good hotels.Next to to the snow points and then frozen disaster made rather earthquake made lake etc. Wonderful journey. omeback to Tawang halt.Next day return journey.to Bomdilla.halt shopping.5th day return.to Tzpur by 2pm. Better finalise terms with taxi for full journey donot agree for 4days. Have nice time.

  18. Gourav Kr. Nath says:

    We around 7 people are planning a trip for tawang.. in the month of February. Please suggest whether to take sumo directly from guwahati to tawang and back or to go to tezpur and hire vehicle. What would be approx cost.

  19. Maithron says:

    Doubling in ds trip s possible or nt?? N wit a Gal is it Safe to go on ds bike trip frm ghty to Twang?

  20. Kaustabh says:

    Will there be any possibilty of getting a glipmse of snow at Sela Pass & Bumla Pass during first week of May, 2015??
    While visiting Bumla PAss, P T Tso Lake, Madhuri Lake & Taktsang Gompa, is it mandatory to book local Tawang cars or can I avail it by the car which I will be hiring from guwahati?

    • moitours says:

      Yes You’ll be able to see snow at Sela Pass.
      As for the transportation, I don’t think there would be any problems taking your car along. But that is an unnecessary risk. The road is not in the best condition and local taxi drivers who are used to commuting this road will do far better job.
      Thanks for writing. Hope this is useful.

  21. afzal says:

    we are planning to visit tawang in june… Could u please suggest a comfortable economic stay in tezpur and tawang… How much time wil take for a ride from tezpur to tawang..

  22. sumedh says:

    Can i get a bike on rental basis in guwahati to tawang , only 1 way is needed ?

    • moitours says:

      It’s difficult to locate bike rentals in Guwahati and the road conditions are tough. It would be less taxing to travel by local taxis as they know the terrain well

  23. kinshuk says:

    Hi…we 6 people planning to visit arunachal in this oct last week.can we expect some fresh snow at that time..?if yes then plz share your views..

    • moitours says:

      Hi Kinshuk,
      October is one of the best time to visit Arunachal. You can expect fresh snow on the higher mountains at this time of the year

  24. sanjay says:

    We are a couple of bikers planning to visit Nepal,Bhutan and Bum La pass in 1st week of June. Just want to confirm if you are allowed to take two-wheeler to Bum La and all paces we can ride in arunachal pradesh and do we need to have permits to ride in these area.
    please share if someone has some itinerary from delhi

  25. KPN Sharma says:

    Hi Jim
    We are planning to go to Tawang via Tezpur in the first week of April 2015.
    We are four adults of 50+ yrs plan to hire Innova jeep and on way halt for one nigh at Bhalukpong, one night at Dirang & 3 nights at Tawang & on return halt one night at Bomdila .
    Is our journey comfortable keeping our age factor ?
    Is it the rt. time to visit ?

    • moitours says:

      Hi Mr Sharma,
      April is a good time for the trip you mentioned.
      Age will not be a factor. Also the fact that you will be stopping regularly along the trip will make it easier.

  26. Agarwal says:

    Hi. Would it be possible to cover tawang for 2 days in 10k ? are there any good busses that reduce cost for a single traveller ? What all passes are needed and how much do they cost ?

    • moitours says:

      Hi Agarwal,
      Tawang is a far flung town. It will not be possible to cover Tawang in 2 days. At least keep 4-5 days for Tawang. Travelling on a mountainous road take its toll and it will do well to travel slow.

  27. Nitin Raikar says:

    Hi @ Moitours

    You are truly an evangelist by helping and guiding tourists visiting Tawang! God bless you!

    We are planning to travel to Tawang during the last week and I was a bit anxious about my 10 year old daughter. Will she be able to make it as we are from Mumbai. Please advise!

    Secondly what would be the car rentals approx for a return trip from Tezpur.

    Thanks in advance!

    • moitours says:

      Hi Nitin,
      Thank you!
      Your daughter should do fine. It is a difficult trip but hiring a vehicle will make it a lot easier. You can make as stops on the road.
      The rental fee might have gone up but it should be approximately around Rs.13000 for a one way trip. Best Regards

  28. Sandip Singha says:

    We have planned to go to Tejpur- Bomdila- Tawang- Dirang – Bhalukpong between the dates 23-May-2015 and 30-may-2015. Requesting to please assist me by providing the information on how would be the weather and road condition? And if this would be safe during this time?

  29. Subhamay Ganguly says:

    Hi @ Moitours,

    We (2 people) would like to have a trip to Arunachal Pradesh on coming October’15 for 7/8 days

    Would you please tell me in details what could be the itinerary. Moreover, what could be the cost involved

  30. Navajit Sarma says:

    Hi everybody !!

    Welcome to NORTHEAST.
    The nature lovers delight is one of the most bebeautiful regions of INDIA.
    Northeastern each states has blessed with everything unique and charismatic.
    ststream or majestic rivers, rich landscape or wonderful islands, verdant forests or the lushy grassy plains, blooms of exotic flora or rarest fauna and virtually everything…..

    northeast voyagers has been supporting all kind of tourists cabs like INNOVA, TEMPO TRAVELLERS to the in bound tourists. If anybody wants transport service please contact with Mr. Navajit Sarma @ 9085500150. or mail us at- travellerguwahati@gmail.com

    • Subhra Maji says:

      We 2 person planning for tawang from guwahati at 9th of november. Can you please provide information on shared taxi rate and timmming from guwahati to bomdila.

      • moitours says:

        HI Subhra,
        It takes around 7 hrs to reach Bomdila from Tezpur at around Rs.700. Taxis for Bomdila should leave early morning, like most travels in North east India but do confirm from any travel or booking agency.

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