Ziro Valley – A Comprehensive Guide to Plan Your Trip
As a child, I remember someone asking me – “Have you seen paradise”? Not sure, what he meant when he spurted the word paradise but I found my answer in the picturesque ZIRO valley. I was slowly falling in love and soaking my soul into experiences, a perfect valediction to all the invisible shackles. The valley smelt of freedom, love, joy, happiness, beauty, simplicity and beyond any parlance. An irresistible desire to absorb all of these feelings landed me in the land of Apatani Tribe and golden paddy fields, to attend Ziro Music Festival, 2018.
Oh Ziro! The cast you spell, it was a sweet assault to my senses, perceiving extraordinary through the mundane. The golden yellow of the far stretched paddy fields dotted with rustic wooden huts, guarded by the green hues of pine trees and mountains, ups the idyllic view. To layer it up, the cobalt blue skies and cottony clouds complete the euphoric feeling of the moment.
As I stood on the edge of the paddy fields overlooking the mountains, I stretched my arms and whispered to self – “If this does not feel like freedom, what else will?”
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About Ziro Valley and Apatani Tribe
Ziro Valley is a paradise for solace seekers cradled between the mountain foothills. It is a hypnotic landscape tucked in the Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh, the pristine horizons yet to be touched by fangs of massive tourism. The isolation and remoteness of the sprawling golden paddy field laid valley has managed to keep its rawness intact. The bewitching landscape wrapped under a thick blanket of flora and fauna is perched at an elevation of 5500ft above the sea. It is known for its golden paddy fields, lush bamboo grooves, pine trees, fish farms and gorgeous villages peppered with stilt wooden houses.
The quaint town is home to Apatani Tribes, their traditions and cultures have fascinated people across the globe. The Apatani tribes are known to be the oldest tribes in North East India with heaps of stories surrounding their existence and being. The older women of Apatani Tribe are known for their iconic facial tattoos covering their forehead, nose and chin and large nose plugs. There are many stories revolving their characteristics look but none is confirmed by the ladies holding up the tradition. The Apatanis are known to practice Donyi-Polo meaning they worship sun and moon.
Must Do Things in Ziro Valley
Check out the Unique Agro Fishing Techniques
As the balmy afternoon brings in the sunshine, the valley peppered with paddy fields looks awe-inspiring. The interesting part is the combination of the paddy cultivation with pisciculture. The agriculture fields have a number of fishery pockets bringing in the unique technique of fish farming. The paddy fields have small pockets of water in between them for culturing fish. The fish feeds on the paddy while the water also serves for irrigation purpose. The natives fish out their catch for food from the water pockets of paddy fields.
Visit High Altitude Tarin Fish Farms
Pisciculture is one of the most important techniques adopted in Ziro. The Tarin Fish Farm is a high altitude fish farm where the pisciculture is done on interconnected artificially dig ponds. It is located in the Bulla Village and covers an area of nearly 7.4 hectares. There are a lot of things to explore in and around the fish farms. It takes almost half a day to explore the area and understanding everything about how the seeding and culture is done.
Walk around the Second Largest Asian Village, Hong
Hong Village is the second largest village in Asia and brings in authentic Apatani experience to your plate. The paddy fields are dotted with wooden huts that more or less appear as makeshift accommodation required for cultivation. The Apatani style wooden housing built on stilt makes the village an enticing piece of magic, simple yet gorgeous. There are walking trails laid on the paddy fields that help the villagers to walk through it during the cultivation and harvesting season.
Every household mostly have small ponds adjacent to the paddy fields for pisciculture. Hong Village is a colossal landscape for appetite with bamboo groves located little away from the homes towards the end. The best way to explore the village is to walk around it. Almost everything is made of bamboo which makes the place pretty environment friendly.
Learn a little on Organic Farming at Taw Tibe
After a fall out with the modern rising Ziro civilization, Roto Pani & Roto Yaming – a married couple, designed their own life through organic farming practice. They moved to the isolated Taw-Tibe region and established Roto Pani Organic Farm in the year 1968. Throughout these years, they dedicated towards creating a sustainable surrounding through organic farming and pushed over the skilled even to the next generation. The Apatani couple has gracefully aged and now in their 90s but still active. The family – be it their daughter in law or helping hands are generously welcoming. The organic farm is surrounded by mountains on all sides, half a day or more is required to embrace the essence of the place.
Note: There are stairs that leads up from Tarin Fish Farm through the jungles. It is not a very difficult hike and can be completed in an hour. Start climbing the stairs and follow the trail to reach the Roto Pani Farms at Taw Tibe.
Walk around – It’s all a paradise
The best way to explore and delve into the terrains and practices of the Apatani land is to walk around. Trust me, people are warm and welcoming and will help you understand their culture like a native. There are a number of villages in and around Ziro which mostly have the similar type of landscape. Biirii Village is the coolest during the music festival season with a number of camping setups. Next to Biirii village is the Mudang Tage and Hari Village which offers some spectacular vantage points. It was a beautiful experience walking from Biirii Village to Old Ziro along the paddy fields under the cottony blue skies.
Attend Ziro Music Festival
The 4 day music festival in Ziro must immediately be a drop in your bucket list if you have not yet made it to Ziro. It is an outdoor music festival conducted annually during the month of September (mostly by end) with line-up of independent musicians and bands. The stage is set on a hillock surrounded by the paddy fields overlooking the pine trees. A mix of soul lifting and feet thumping live Indie, rock, blues, Jazz, rock and folk music from across the country and world makes it an incredible experience. There are 4 day passes as well as single-day passes available for entering the venue ground.
Best Time to Visit Ziro
Well, I will repeat it a million times – Ziro Music Festival is the best time to visit the gorgeous valley. Despite the sudden influx of tourists, the festive mood sets in and melts your soul. It is a celebration of vagabondism and freedom, celebration of happiness and cheering to the feeling of being high on life. The vibe can only be experienced and felt, not explained. But if the festival doesn’t excite you, the best time to visit is somewhere between August to October, when the valley is lit with colors of nature and sun shines bright on the paddy fields.
How to Reach Ziro
Ziro is not the easiest place to reach and in majority of the cases, the journey needs to be broken down (unless travelling with your own vehicle). The journey via public transportation is broken into two legs.
Take Donyi Polo Express from Guwahati to Naharlagun. You will reach Naharlagun at around 5am. Board a shared sumo from Naharlagun taxi stand for Ziro.
Next option is take a bus to Itanagar or North Lakhimpur from Guwahati. Board a shared cab from either of the places to Ziro. Generally, the cabs move early in the morning, so plan accordingly.
Yes – Everyone except Arunachal Natives Require Permits
If you are not from Arunachal Pradesh or don’t have a work permit in the state, you will have to take an extra permit for Ziro. It is different for Indians and foreigners.
Inner Line Permit (ILP) – This is a permit that is required for Indians other than ones from Arunachal Pradesh to enter Ziro and any other part of Arunachal Pradesh. The best way to apply for the same is via the online website www.arunachalilp.com. The process takes a day or two for approval. There is a fee of only Rs 100/- that needs to pay online after the ILP is approved.
Protected Area Permit (PAP) – This is required by the foreign nationals before their entry into Arunachal Pradesh. The permits can be obtained from All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRRO) at Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi or from Deputy Commissioner’s office at Guwahati and Itanagar. The solo travelers can obtain permits but travel is restricted to tourist places like Tawang, Ziro and Bomdila. The permit is available for 30 days at a cost of $50 per person.
Accommodation in Ziro Valley
If you are travelling for Ziro Music Festival, it is best to opt for the carefree package from Kite Manja. The package includes everything from and to Guwahati – A/C return tickets, pick and drop from and to Naharlagun, camping for all four days of the music festival, fooding and the event passes. This will make the trip less of a hassle and a picturesque location to wipe your eyes to in the morning. Biirii Village is the hip place to stay with camps around the paddy fields. However, if you are planning to visit Ziro some other time apart from the festival dates, it is best to stay at Hapoli town making it easy to commute from place to place. The accommodation mostly starts from Rs 1000/- and beyond.
Conveyance and Transportation within Ziro
Being a small and remote town, conveyance can be a little problem if you are planning to rely on public transport. The best option is to hire a cab for the entire day from Hapoli Tempo Stand at Rs 2500/- per day. The rates of commuting from one place to another are fixed by the taxi union and hence there is rarely any bargaining possibility. The charge of taxi to and from Tarin Fish Farms from Hapoli Tempo Stand is around Rs 600/- with waiting charge of Rs 150/- per charge. There are different fixed rates and the rate chart is fixed on the board in the stand. The taxi charge from Hapoli to Biiree Village is Rs 250/-. Next option is hitch-hiking, people are nice – it is possible.
As I close my eyes, a gentle breeze tickle my senses transporting me back to the land of Golden Paddy fields. The enchanting remote town is not just a place but an emotion that planted beautiful memories in my heart, enough to get my soul stirred. All I see is the gorgeous landscape, sweet smiles, friendly banters, music, love, freedom and happiness – Such is the memories I carry in my heart.
Disclosure: Special Thanks to Kite Manja for making me feel at home away from home, you guys rock. Ziro would have been a little less amazing if it was not the fun and life you fuelled in the campsite. I am taken for life.
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