Experience Mechuka – A Travel Guide to Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh
Nestled in a picturesque valley, surrounded by pine forests and snow-capped mountains, lies Mechuka, a remote village in Arunachal Pradesh which has only been made accessible in recent years by means of single road and a dodgy helicopter service. Mechuka tourism is not yet very developed, but we can safely envisage that changing in the coming years.
Mechuka’s reputation of an unexplored paradise and the last Shangri-la (a name presumably shared with many other Himalayan destinations), is well-known throughout Arunachal Pradesh, although few locals from other districts seem to have visited. Their unfamiliarity with the town did not deter them from sharing two points with us – 1) Mechuka very beautiful and 2) Mechuka very cold.
Mechuka village was set to be one of our last destinations on our Arunachal Pradesh itinerary, and we sincerely hoped that it would live up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful places in the state. After having experienced the charm of Dirang and Bomdila, Tawang and Ziro Valley, we were a little bit skeptical that Mechuka would turn out to be particularly impressive.
Nothing could have prepared us for how much we enjoyed exploring Mechuka village and the spectacular surroundings. Maybe it was the complete lack of connectivity that allowed us to experience a digital detox (more on that later), or maybe it was the remote location that made us feel disconnected from every other place on the planet so that we could focus entirely on Mechuka village, and its friendly people.
Maybe we fell in love with the name (Mechuka literally translates to ‘medicinal water of snow’), or maybe it was our many encounters with wild horses and friendly farmers. There may have been a multitude of reasons for having fallen in love with the little village of Mechuka, but one thing we are certain of… Mechuka undoubtedly deserves its reputation.
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Getting to Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh
Getting to Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh, is a long arduous journey which will make you wonder whether the remote destination is even worth the hassle. We believe it is! The gateway to Mechuka is the town of Aalo (also referred to as Along), in the West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Aalo can be accessed via the towns of Daporijo or Pasighat all of which are in Arunachal Pradesh. Since we were on our way to Mechuka Village from Ziro Valley, we assumed that Daporijo was the logical stop on the way to Aalo. The route from Ziro Valley to Daporijo via shared sumo cost Rs 1,000 each (about €12.50). The sumo departs from Itanagar, arriving in Ziro at around 10.30am (although ours didn’t make it before noon). We needed to pay the full price of the journey from Itanagar to Daporijo, even though we only got on halfway at Ziro.
Imagine our horror when we arrived in Daporijo late at night and looked for a shared sumo to Aalo, only to be told that there are none available and that there never were any (contrary to other reports claiming that shared sumos are available).
The only option of getting from Daporijo to Aalo using public/shared transport would be to take the once weekly bus (cost Rs 270 – about €3.30) departing at 7am on Mondays. For us this meant staying in the rather depressing town of Daporijo with no connectivity (this time this was a curse not a blessing) for a further three days.
Totally not looking forward to the idea of staying in Daporijo any longer, we decided to bite the budget bullet and start searching for private transport. We were told that a private sumo from Daporijo to Aalo would set us back Rs 10,000 (about €123)! We subsequently resigned ourselves to the idea of staying in Daporijo, until we met the only other foreign couple in town who were in exactly the same situation we were.
Despite being told by friendly locals that the quoted price was way above the usual rate, no amount of bargaining would make any of the sumo drivers lower the price (we realise that it was exorbitant), and we were in pretty much a take it or leave it situation. The four of us made the decision to share the cost, and leave there and then, a decision we are still totally glad we took even if our journey by private sumo cost ten times more than the bus transfer.
Daporijo is a good stop on the Ziro to Aalo route if you are traveling via private transportation, or if you can arrange your Arunachal Pradesh itinerary so as to be in time for the Monday bus. You should know that the road from Ziro to Aalo via Daporijo is probably the worst that we have ever traveled on throughout our Northeast India journey, and we were actually thankful for the private, uncrowded sumo on the second half of the journey!
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The sumo from Aalo to Mechuka leaves at 5.30 – 6am from the main sumo stand near the old market. We booked the ticket a day in advance and asked the driver to collect us from the hotel we were staying at (Hotel West, see below), which worked fine. The sumo stands near the Toshi Hotel (a few hundred meters away from the other sumo stands) did not seem to be selling tickets to Mechuka.
Unfortunately, we were assigned seats 3 and 4 (rather than our preferred 1 and 2) on the sumo, and we were incredibly uncomfortable. The road leading to Mechuka is pretty bad but not as bad as Ziro to Aalo. It is also one of the prettiest journeys in Arunachal Pradesh, with dozens of rivers and waterfalls along the way. If only we weren’t so uncomfortable, it would have been a great ride, even if it did last 7-8 hours! The cost of a single seat in the sumo is of Rs 600 (about €7.50).
Accommodation and hotels in Aalo (Along)
There’s little doubt that one of the most beautiful accommodation and hotels in Aalo is Reyi’s homestay, a beautiful house set in a large estate, a few kilometers out of town. We stayed in a comfortable double room with an adjoining bathroom, but the best thing about the homestay is the wonderful views over the estate to be experienced from the terrace.
Hearty dinners, cooked with ingredients sourced from the owner’s fields and gardens are served in a large traditional-style room. Dinners cost Rs 400 (€5) each and breakfast Rs 250 (€3) which is a little steep when compared to meals at other homestays we stayed at in Arunachal Pradesh. The setting is surely worth the expense though!
Reyi’s homestay is the obvious choice if you are traveling on your own transportation. Although rickshaws run from the main town to the homestay and vice versa, they can be difficult and rather expensive to book (Rs 250-Rs 400, €3-€5 depending on your bargaining skills), especially if you need to be in town early morning to catch the only sumo to Mechuka!
If you have your own transportation, do yourself a favour and experience this wonderful homestay. There’s also a tribal village you can visit close by! Rates start from Rs 1,500 (about €18.50) per double room.
Alternatively, if you would like to stay within the main town, Hotel West is one of the better hotels in Aalo. Although we normally prefer homestays over hotel, the location of this hotel is convenient when traveling by public or shared transportation. We paid Rs 1300 (about €16) for a double room with private bathroom including breakfast. The hotel is at a walking distance from the sumo stand, and the driver should have no issues collecting you from this hotel if advised ahead.
Accommodation and hotels in Daporijo
Probably, the only place to stay in Daporijo is the rather uninspiring but perfectly suitable Singhik Hotel. An a/c room with a private bathroom and breakfast included cost Rs 1900 (about €23.50). We did see a couple of other hotels in Daporijo but they looked dodgy, to say the least. We had no data connection on any of our sim cards (Vodafone, Airtel, Jio, BSNL) during our overnight stay in Daporijo. No WIFI is available at the hotel.
Accommodation and hotels in Pasighat
There aren’t too many hotels in Pasighat, but we stayed at Hotel Aane which we can recommend. Best of all, the hotel was clean which is always highly appreciated! The paneer paratha served at the hotel restaurant was to die for too!
Tips for traveling in Aalo, Pasighat and Daporijo will be covered in a separate post.
The village of Mechuka is so tiny that you can walk around it in about an hour. Mechuka tourism is not developed and there are few facilities, although we did spot a seemingly functional ATM. We didn’t try it out, so we have no idea whether it actually worked or not. We recommend withdrawing all the cash you might need prior to your arrival to Mechuka.
BSNL is the only phone network that supposedly shows some connectivity in the area, however the village had just experienced a bandh (political protest/strike) the day before we arrived, resulting in the destruction of the BSNL equipment. The village was thus totally isolated at that point, and we had no access to any sort of connectivity.
There are few eateries and simple restaurants around town serving the usual momos, noodles and thukpas, however we believe that the best food is served at homestays! The little eateries are great for a quick, affordable lunch though!
The majority of the people in Mechuka Valley belong to the very friendly and curious Memba and Adi tribes. As with most Himalayan destinations, Buddhism is practiced in Mechuka, although Animism (Donyi-Polo, translated to Sun-Moon, which is more widely practiced in Ziro Valley) is also present. Our homestay owners had Christian tokens hung up on their walls, so Christianity also seems to have found its way to the remote Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh.
Things to do in Mechuka
Truth be told, there are not a whole lot of things to do in Mechuka village. The allure of the region lies in the spectacular mountain and countryside views. Trekking in the area is highly recommended if you want to experience the magic of Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh!
Some of the best hikes in Mechuka are the following:
A couple of hours walk away from Mechuka village, right across the hills on north-eastern side of town, lies Darjeeling village, a pretty, tiny, secluded place mostly inhabited by cows and wild horses. It is not difficult to access the village if you’re in Mechuka. There’s a foot path used by shepherds and cows leading from Mechuka to Darjeeling, just past Yargyap Homestay, on the opposite side of a large metal bridge that crosses the river into the hills from Mechuka village.
Darjeeling is incredibly scenic, and home to a small gompa which you can visit, if you manage to find the caretaker to open it up for you. The walk to Darjeeling across the hills will provide you with awesome views across Mechuka Valley and village, making this one of the best things to do in Mechuka!
The New Gompa (Monastery)
Climbing up to the New Monastery is one of the top things to do in Mechuka, particularly for some views of the underlying village and Mechuka Valley. The monastery itself is in no way impressive, though this same monastery is only a short walk up from the village.
The Old Gompa (Samten Yongcha Monastery)
This 400-year old monastery is actually located about 14 kilometers out of Mechuka Village and can be accessed on foot or by hitching a ride on a van. The walk to the Old Monastery and back is long, but not difficult and definitely not boring, as the surroundings are nothing short of spectacular!
A double hanging bridge on the way to another small part of the village, makes for an interesting detour. You might get dizzy crossing some parts of the rather long bridge, so be sure to be fully up for it!
Unfortunately, ominous clouds started to gather as we made our way to Samten Yongcha Monastery, so we gave up on our plan and turned back when we were only half-way there. We never got to see the Old Monastery, but we did hear that it is rather beautiful and older than the more famous Tawang Monastery, so we do recommend you include it on your list of things to do in Mechuka.
Homestays in Mechuka
Since Mechuka tourism is still in its infancy, there are no hotels in Mechuka, but the village is home to several homestays, details of which are listed below. We stayed at Grace Homestay simply because it was one of the closest homestays to the sumo stand, but we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and highly recommend it. The owners charge Rs 1200 (€15) for a large double room with private bathroom and western-style toilet.
Non-veg dinners cost Rs 250 (about €3) each for a pretty large quantity of food, including chicken/fish curries, daal, vegetables and of course rice. We really advise you to book beforehand since homestays typically have very few rooms, if you manage to get through by phone that is!
Grace Homestay contact information – near Mechukha Police Station, West Siang, Arunachal Pradesh – 791 003 Contact: Ms. Y. Koje on 9402474078, 9436621827, 9402058062, 8974065606
Other homestays in Mechuka
- Potala Homestay – Contact: 9402292356, 9402456822
- Almost Heritage Homestay – Opposite ALG Menchukha, West Siang-792-051, Arunachal Pradesh. Contact: 03793263215, 09436672849
- Yargyap Chuu Homestay – Contact: 9402663192, 9485282849
- Hotel Nehnang – New Bazar Line Mechukha, West Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh. Contact: 03793263245, 03783222635, 09436411568, 09402423565
- Neh-Bazashree Homestay – Contact: 09402234324
- Dorsom Homestay – Contact: 9402456808, 9402049671, 9402821184
- Gayboo’s Traditional Lodge – Contact: 09436074877, 09402996667
All in all, we found Mechuka to be one of the most beautiful places in Arunachal Pradesh, and we believe that it should definitely make it to any Northeast India travel itinerary! The fact that Mechuka tourism is not yet fully developed only adds to the magic and allure of this charming destination.
We would like to thank Holiday Scout for sponsoring our stay in Aalo. Opinions expressed in this post are, as always, our own.