• What to Expect Driving to Tawang | Famous Sela Pass

What to Expect Driving to Tawang | Famous Sela Pass

The main attraction of Arunachal Pradesh and maybe all of NE India is Tawang, pronounced Tawong. To get there you fly into Guwahati and drive north for a very long time. It is what used to be Tibet. To get there you pass over Sela Pass which is 13,700 feet above sea level. The drive itself is worth talking about! It was 6 hours from Dirang up to Tawang.

sela pass arunachal pradesh

sela pass arunachal pradesh

sela passDriving in Arunachal Pradesh takes a lot more time to get from point A to point B than you would think. While looking at the map, you’d think you could cover the whole state in 10 days but you truly can’t. A short distance takes a long time because of bumpy, muddy, and curving roads. The infrastructure isn’t good yet as Arunachal Pradesh tourism doesn’t yet exist.

roads NE India

sela pass arunachal pradesh

roads NE India

roads NE India

Things to See on the Way to Tawang

Nuranung Waterfall

Nuranung Waterfall

Nuranung Waterfall

Nuranung WaterfallWe stopped to see the Nuranung waterfall which has a unique story. Legend has it that when the Chinese were fighting here during the Indo-China war of 1962, there eventually came a time when they almost gave up. Little did they know the Indian side had only 1 fighter left, the last man standing. Two girls from a local Monpa tribe, sisters, went to help. Later, their father who was a traitor would tell the Chinese there was only one man left. One girl was called Sela (hence the Sela Pass) and one girl was called Nuranung (the name of the waterfall).

Sela Pass

sela pass arunachal pradesh

sela pass arunachal pradesh

sela pass arunachal pradeshThe Pass just means that it’s a place to cross. It’s not necessarily a tourist site, but sometimes it’s closed because of weather. People will ask “is the pass open”? If it’s not you could be stuck on one side for some time. The views in this area were really amazing.

Jaswant Garh Memorial

Jaswant Garh MemorialRemember that last Indian soldier? This is for him! It’s a war memorial and to be honest there wasn’t too much to see so I don’t have too many photos to share.

Those are the main stops you want to make on your way to Tawang. Keep in mind with the bumpy roads, you won’t get any sleep in the car because the bumps are very bumpy. I can usually sleep through anything, but not this! The best thing to do is take good music and enjoy the views- because they are spectacular.

Also, take time to play with animals each time you stop! Cats, dogs, goats, baby cows!

animals gods NE India

animals gods NE India

animals gods NE IndiaAnother thing I want to mention about driving in the North East of India is that when you stop for food or a toilet, because there isn’t yet Arunachal tourism, it may not be up to standards you are used to.The toilets tend to me of the outhouse type with a squat toilet. Take your own tissues in the car to bring with you.

indian toiletYou will have lunches that are made to order like noodles, eggs, momos, or the special of the day (whatever local food they have ready). You can have Maggi noodles if you won’t want to risk getting sick on anything. I will eat anything that’s put in front of me, but that doesn’t mean you should haha. You will find potato chips, bottled water, snacks, chai, and more.

food NE india

Places to Visit in Bomdila34roadside kitchen

kitchen india

indian food roadsidedelicious chopsuey, momos, and thupka

food in NE india

roadside food indiamomos & kittens at Sela pass

roadside food indiaI got bored, so there was some selfie taking. Also, I ate a lot of Maggi but I actually really like it when they add onions, tomato, and a few chilis. 

Because the roads are so curvy, the drivers are not like the ones in the rest of India. Before each “passing” the car behind will honk and wait for the car in front to turn on it’s right blinker which means “it’s safe to pass”. Only then, the driver will pass the semi truck in front. It’s all very considerate and safe.

At some steep turns, there were trucks loaded full that just weren’t going to make it. A couple boys would jump out of the truck. They would grab big rocks and when the semi would try to go forward a foot they would jam rocks under the wheels so the truck wouldn’t roll back down. Then, he’d hit the gas and go another foot- the boys would hurry and put the rock under the wheel again. It was insane!

yak roads in the himalayasDo you spy the yak?

roads in the himalayas

roads in the himalayasI also loved the road signs. I’ve seen ones in India like “Don’t go to hell, mate. Wear a helmet.” and “This is a highway not a die-way.” Both signs I’ve seen in Maharashtra. Here I was seeing signs that said…

“When you share your sorrow it divides. When you share your happiness it multiplies.”

…and I thought wow these monks are really peaceful. Then I saw…

Speed is a knife.. that cuts your life.”

…and realized I was still in India! The signs were funny the whole way. As we started to see snow, we worried about the tires since most people don’t have 4-wheel drive, including our car. We said will we get ropes on the tires? The driver stopped and bought rope which he said would do. Indian Jugaad at it’s best!

sela pass

sela pass

sela pass

Did you enjoy this post? Let me know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! I’d love to keep giving you travel tricks & tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail in the big box below. Don’t forget you can follow me on , , & bloglovin‘.



About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Victoria @The British Berliner March 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I really like this post as I’ve been watching a lot of films about Indian Tibet.

    I went to the Berlin International Film Festival (the Berlinale) and one of my favourite films was about a little monk who was a re-incarnated monk leader. The name of film is called “Becoming Who I Was.” It brought us all to tears!

  2. Tell-A-Journey-Tale October 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel.. Loved all your posts on Arunachal Pradesh.. Need some help on planning a trip.. We are travelling to Arunachal Pradesh for 9 days.. Would that suffice to see the major spots (Bomdila, Dirang and Tawang ) ?
    Thanks in advance !!

    • Rachel Jones October 6, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Yes, you can it would only depend if there are road closures due to weather that could delay you

  3. rohan sardana October 10, 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

    good experience….any particular driver you would like to suggest for tawang ///

  4. Seth Hanabarger February 28, 2018 at 3:55 am - Reply

    What time of year did you go? I have a friend from here and I am planning to visit in July. I was just wondering what the weather was like when you were there. Im a little worried that monsoon season will block mountain views?

Like the Article? Leave a Reply