State capital and gateway to Ziro Valley: Itanagar, Arunchal Pradesh
The city of Itanagar, is also the state capital of Arunachal Pradesh, the biggest of the seven sister North Eastern belt of India. Itanagar is situated on the foothills of the Himalayas at an altitude of around 1150 feet above sea-level (351m).
To enter any district of Arunachal Pradesh will require you to obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) which is easily available at the tourism counter at Guwahati airport or railway station for a hefty price of ₹450 per district. A photograph and a copy of a government approved identity proof needs to be submitted.
There are multiple ways to reach Itanagar. The best option is the take a flight to Guwahati in Assam and then a connecting bus or shared sumo. Buses leave twice a day once in the morning and evening, it’s advisable to cross check the bus timings a day before your journey. The journey by bus is cheaper and takes around 10-12 hours to cover 345 km.
Sumos also leave twice a day and do the same route in 8-10 hours but cost about double the bus fair. These 10 seater shared sumos are the preferred mode of transportation even by locals. The fastest way is to take a connecting flight from Guwahati to Lilabari in Assam which is around 67 km from Guwahati. Pawan Hans also has a helicopter service between Guwahati and Itanagar that runs thrice a week.
Once in Itanagar, the best way to get around the city is to hop in and out of one of the numerous tuk-tuks (autorickshaws) this is the most economical, convenient and fastest way to get around the capital.
Itanagar at first glance will give you a very similar vibe to Paltan Bazaar in Guwahati, Assam which is a busy place with crowded streets and traffic jams. A walk around the place and one will notice plenty of street hawkers selling meat, corn, cigarettes etc. The meat stalls sell everything from pork, chicken, beef to even dog meat.
The capital is inhabited mainly by the Nishis tribe but just like most of our state capitals, Itanagar today is pretty much of a bustling metropolitan city in India with people from every nook and corner of the country now residing in Itanagar for over two or three decades. Hindi is the language used to communicate in Itanagar and in the rest of Arunachal Pradesh as a result.
The main attractions in Itanagar include, Ita Fort, ‘the fort of bricks’ from which the state capital derives its name. The fort is situated in the heart of the Itanagar and has an irregular shape, built mainly with bricks dating back to the 14th-15th century of Mayapur of Ramachandra, a king of the Jitari dynasty. Hiring a tuk-tuk is the best way to reach the fort as it is a steep 70° climb up a 1.2 km road.
The next place worth visiting is the Jawaharlal Nehru Museum which has a rich collection of textiles, weaponry, household articles and handicrafts items reflecting the tribal culture and heritage of Arunachal Pradesh.
Just adjacent to the museum is the Itanagar monastery, which was consecrated by the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist temple, a beautiful yellow roofed shrine reflects the extensive Tibetan influence and gives travellers an excellent view of the city and surrounding countryside.
The final place to visit is the legendary Ganga Lake, which is locally known as Gyakar Sinyi. It is the perfect spot to be around during sunset, located 6 kms away from Itanagar, a green forest lake surrounded by primeval vegetation, orchid masses on tall trees, tree ferns that provide a small taste of the magnificent forest.
Itanagar has plenty of ATMs and excellent cell phone coverage all over the city and is an extremely safe place to travel with absolutely no trouble. Life moves on just like in other parts of our country in perfect harmony.
The best time to visit Itanagar is during the winter months from November to the end of March. The monsoons are heavy in this region and landslides are in plenty which makes travel around difficult.
Accommodation in Itanagar are in plenty with rooms to meet the needs of all kinds of travellers. Budget backpackers can find decent accommodation around Ganga bus stand. Food options are also in plenty with a good mix of international brands and local cuisine. The Apathani rice beer and beef rice which is a must try while in Itanagar.
Itanagar is not only the state capital but an important entry and exit point to the state. The city is also base village while travelling to Ziro Valley. A one night stay in Itanagar is more than enough to cover all the sights worth seeing and it’s worth a halt because when will you come to this part of the world, again.
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