Tribes of Central Arunachal Pradesh
Ziro - Daporijo - Aalo - Pasighat
An experiential road trip through the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, blessed with bountiful rain and tropical forests – you will travel across the central tribal belt of the sta
te which is inhabited by followers of Donyi-Polo; worshipers of the Sun & Moon. In the spectacularly landscaped valley of Ziro, you will meet the Apatanis, peaceful hill people who still give importance to their ancient customs and sustainable ways of life. Land management is a high priority for the tribe as houses are built close to each other and paddy farms are surprisingly also used to rear fish. They also have an indigenous salt for their iodine consumption, prepared from the ashes of certain burnt plants. Conservation, productivity, and respect for nature are at the core of their culture. Even today, the elderly tribeswomen can still be seen in their traditional dresses, bearing tattoos, and large nose plugs. In Ziro, your stay will be at a homestay with a local family, thus giving you a deeper insight into the lives and culture of the Apatani people.
In the Subansiri Valley, you will come across the Tagins. Smoking skillfully handcrafted pipes and wearing intricate cane hats, they appear proud, like kings of their land. In the Siang Valley, in the most splendid countryside, you will meet the Adi sub-tribes, a warrior tribe justly proud of ambushing British advances many a time during the colonial era. Here, the Siang River forms a mighty valley as it enters from the high plateaus of Tibet after having traversed about a thousand miles from its source, the holy Mount Kailash. The Adis have built complex bridges of cane and bamboo to cross the Siang. Sustainable as they are, they have inspired many early explorers like W Robinson who wrote, "The skill in constructing these bridges is really surprising, and is such as would not to discredit to the more civilized nations." The Adis are also one of the few tribes who do not practice shifting cultivation, carving beautiful terraced farms in the mountains. In Tibetan Buddhism as well, the Siang is considered a very mysterious entity, a beholder of the Beyul of Pemako; the most important of Buddhist paradisiacal realms.
This region remains the last frontier of ancient traditions and forests, a treasure trove in terms of diversity of natural and cultural elements. A responsible low-scale approach to tourism acts as an inspiration to preserve the richness of the area, bringing steady income directly to the hands of local guides, property owners, and artisans, thus encouraging them. Local festivals are promoted during some months where communities come together in glory and respect to the way of their ancients.
Day 1 | Dibrugarh - Silapathar
Upon arrival at Dibrugarh Airport, you will drive to Silapahar (3-4 hours) for an overnight stay in a standard hotel. En route, cross the mighty Brahmaputra River in a scenic ferry ride.
Day 2 | Silapathar - Ziro
After breakfast, drive to Ziro (7-9 hours), a splendid valley surrounded by farms and pine-conifer forests and home to the Apatani Tribe. The drive will thus enter into scenic tribal hinterlands, through the tropical forested areas of central Arunachal Pradesh. Evening at leisure with a campfire. Your stay in a homestay will provide you with a glimpse into the lives of the tribal community.
Day 3 | Ziro
Spend the day exploring Apatani villages such as Hong, Hari, and Dutta, and the nearby Nishi village, if time permits. In these villages where the Apatani build houses adjoining each other, you will get to interact with the locals, especially the tattooed elders who still live a very traditional life. Visit the unique Apatani farms. An interaction session with an Apatani shaman is possible. A visit to the local market will help you learn more about Apatani culture, customs, eating habits, attires, and ornaments. The evening will be at leisure. A cultural performance depicting Apatani culture can be organized for larger groups. You may also taste their ethnic cuisine over dinner.
Day 4 | Ziro - Daporijo
After breakfast, drive from Ziro to Daporijo (6-7 hours), which is the headquarters of the Upper Subansiri District. En route, you will get to visit villages of the Nyishi, Tagin, and Apatani tribes as time permits. Evening at leisure. Your stay will be in a standard hotel.
Day 5| Daporijo
Go on a full-day tour around Daporijo. Drive upstream to the beautiful emerald Subansiri River and through the quaint villages which fill the landscape here. You can visit a cave and temple in the mountains. Visit the villages of the Tagin tribe and get to know about their simple tribal culture and traditional lifestyle. There are also a few sandy picnic spots along the riverbank; a picnic lunch can be arranged upon prior request.
Day 6 | Daporijo - Aalo
After an early breakfast, leave for Aalo (6 hours), home to the various Adi sub-tribes and situated near the Siyom River. En route, you will visit the villages of Tagins and Gallong Adis for cultural interactions. Gallong houses are peculiar as they are built on stone without the use of nails. Afternoon if time permits, visit the museum, craft center, and an animist temple of the Donyi-Polo religion. The evening will be leisure. Your stay will be at a hotel with budget amenities or in Kabu Village in a homestay.
Day 7 | Aalo
Spend the day exploring the verdant villages around Aalo of the Adi Gallong Tribe such as Kabu, Jirdan, and Kayin. Visit homes and interact with the villagers to gain more insight into the inter-relation of animist cultures present in Arunachal Pradesh. In Kabu cross a cane hanging bridge which is famous for its native ingenuity. The evening will be at leisure at Darka Village, one of the largest Gallong settlements.
Day 8 | Aalo - Pasighat
After an early breakfast, you will leave for Pasighat (6-7 hours) which is located in the plains. The drive will be exceptionally scenic crossing through the valley of the mighty Siang River, known famously as the Brahmaputra. The Adi sub-tribes have since long thrived in this mysterious valley, carving beautiful terraced farms at places. En route, visit the Adi Minyong villages such as Yaksi and Panging which is one of the largest Minyong villages with more than five hundred houses. The majority of women here are into traditional weaving. The evening will be at leisure. Your stay will be in a standard camp.
Day 9 | Pasighat - Dibrugarh
After breakfast, leave for a drive to Dibrugarh (6-7 hours) a pretty town located midst the large tea-growing tracts of Upper Assam and beside the mighty Brahmaputra River. The evening will be at leisure or walk around the upbeat market area of the town, maybe dine in a nice restaurant.
Day 10 | Dibrugarh
After breakfast, leave for Dibrugarh Airport as per your departure schedule. Tour ends.
With a small town open atmosphere, The Gymkhana Clubhouse in Dibrugarh is run by enthusiastic town folks and provides splendid modern rooms and amenities such a pool and a gym. The charming clubhouse which was built in 1923 consists of a restaurant and a well stocked boutique barroom.
Homestays are important in promoting sustainable tourism in Ziro, the land of the ancient Apatani culture, while also engaging visitors to have an authentic experience of staying with an Apatani family and learning about their ways. The rooms are simple, airy, clean, with fairly standard amenities.
In a town as remote and badly administered as Daporijo, Hotel Singhik comes as a savior, a business hotel offering clean modern rooms and standard amenities.
Donyi Hango Camps is run by the Dai family who have been early promoters of tourism in Arunachal Pradesh. The campsite is fairly standard with clean and spacious camps, and Mrs. Dai, a strong Adi lady of her own, is always happy to host travelers from around the world. The property is the best option to stay while in Pasighat.
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