Tucked away in the towering mountains of Arunachal Pradesh lies the entrancing Ziro Valley that hypnotises anyone who dares to take on this formidable journey with its natural beauty, infectious charm and a whole different way of life. Over recent years, Ziro Valley has gained some popularity among music lovers, thanks to the annual cultural extravaganza – the Ziro Music Festival.
Other than that, the place remains largely untouched by tourists, making it the perfect retreat for travellers willing to embark on arduous journeys to reconnect with nature. It is a great destination for adventure lovers too. This travel guide to Ziro Valley will tell you everything you need to know about the land of quaint villages, rice fields, rolling green hills, soulful trekking trails and exhilarating camping experiences:
What Makes Ziro Valley Special
The Ziro Valley lies between the Kamla and Panior rivers that flow through Arunachal Pradesh. The region is also referred to as the Apatani Valley, as it is home to the Apatani tribe, a sub-group of one of the many tribes of Arunachal known as Tani tribes.
The Apatani follow the Donyi-Polo religion and believe that the entire human race shares the same ancestor, Atu Nyia Tani or the primal ancestor. Donyi-Polo is an animist religion and the words literally translate to ‘sun-moon’. This means the Apatani people are worshippers of the sun and the moon as well as nature and believe that every natural component of the universe comprises a soul. You won’t find any temples or designated places of worship in the area or even in the natives’ home, a flag bearing the Donyi-Polo symbol can be spotted atop a few houses.
The women of the native tribe of the Ziro Valley were once characterised by their huge dual nose plugs called the Yaping hullo and facial tattoos known as Tiipe. The tradition is now obsolete, though you can still stop some aged women sporting these traditional markings.
The houses in the region are built close together in cluster-like settlements to free up maximum space possible for farming. In ancient times, this also helped create a sense of security and harmony in the community. Since the houses are fairly compact, each village or settlement has at least one platform for performing rituals. These platforms, known as Lapang, are raised structures resting on bamboo poles, and used for public events, celebrations, discussions as well as performing religious rituals.
The houses of every settlement follow a uniform pattern – a structure with open space in the front and back secured with a bamboo railing. The houses too are built on a raised platform and the vacant space underneath is used for housing pigs. The Apatani homes also lack chimney or windows and use hearths to keep the place warm.
Travel Guide to Ziro Valley: Travel Permits
As with any protected area within the Indian territory, even Indian citizens need a special permit called the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to travel to Arunachal Pradesh of which the Ziro Valley is a part.
The ILP is issued by the designated authorities of the Arunachal Pradesh and can be obtained from offices in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Jorhat and Lakhimpur as well as the Arunachal Tourism office at the Guwahati airport. A government-issued identity card such as Driving License, Voter I-card or passport and a passport photograph with a white background are needed for the ILP. Aadhar Card is not an accepted document if you are applying for an ILP offline.
You can also apply for ILP online. Processing of online application can be anywhere between 30 minutes and a few hours. Learn more about the ILP here.
Foreign nationals need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to travel to Ziro Valley. More information about these permits can be found here.
Travel Guide to Ziro Valley: Getting There
Getting to Ziro Valley can be an arduous and adventurous experience in equal measure. You can fly to Guwahati, Assam, which is the nearest airport to Ziro Valley and from there begin a long-winding road trip to your destination. In this travel guide to Ziro Valley, we tell you different approaches for getting there:
- The simplest way is to hire a cab from Guwahati to Ziro. The highway is newly built till Itanagar and is in fairly good condition. However, this will work out to be the costliest.
- Alternatively, you can board the Naharlagun Express from the Guwahati Railway Station at 9.20 pm and reach Naharlahun, the twin city of Itanagar, early next morning. From here you can rent a cab or hitch a ride in a shared taxi.
- You can also board a bus to reach Ziro valley from Itanagar. It is a four-hour drive on a road marred with potholes, so be prepared for one helluva bumpy ride for the last leg of your journey.
Travel Guide to Ziro Valley: Best Time to Travel
The Ziro Valley is blessed with a cool climate all year round. However, the weather gets extremely cold in the months of December and January. Anywhere between March to October is a good time to visit. The best time, however, depends on the kind of experience you seek from your travel.
This travel guide to Ziro Valley breaks down the best time to travel for you:
- If you want to bask in the glory of lush green paddy fields, it is ideal to plan your trip just after the monsoon.
- Music lovers should definitely plan their visit in September to attend the Ziro Music Festival, a four-day extravaganza that showcases the independent music scene in the country.
- Those who enjoy local cultural fiestas, March is the recommended month of travel, as the native tribes hold their traditional festivals at this time of the year.
Important Tips for Travelling to Ziro Valley
Sometimes it is the smallest oversights that can mar an entire holiday experience. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you after you’ve taken on a forbidding journey to this exotic but remote location, we offer have included some important tips in this travel guide to Ziro Valley:
- If you are planning to get an ILP on arrival, make sure you have all the necessary documents on you.
- Keep a government-issued ID that carries your address on it with you at all times.
- When hiring a cab, pay attention to the condition of the vehicle and hire one that seems to be in good shape, even if it means shelling a little extra for your ride. It is better than being stranded in the middle of nowhere due to a breakdown.
- Rain lashes this part of the country unannounced, at any time of the year. So, always carry a raincoat and umbrella with you.
- Respect the local culture and traditions, and do not be too intrusive.
- The cuisine of the place is primarily non-vegetarian, which means it can be a struggle for vegetarians to get three decent meals a day. Thanks to the recent trickle of tourists, a place named Hopoli in the Ziro Valley now has a few small eating joints you can rely on for food. It is a good idea to keep some instant noodles and ready-to-eat meals handy.
- Don’t forget to bring a camera. The breathtaking views here are a treasure you cannot miss out on capturing.
- Language can be a barrier, try to liaison with locals who speak/understand basic Hindi or English.
Where to Stay in Ziro Valley
Once again, thanks to the Ziro Music Festival, the place now has a few decent resorts and homestays you can book for your stay. The top accommodation options in this travel guide to Ziro Valley include:
- Siro Resort
- Ziro Valley Resort
- Abasa Homestay in Siiro Village
- Dogindo Homestay
Go explore this land of mystical beauty and charm, and come back with a rejuvenated heart. Need help planning the trip? Give us a shout out.