The Ziro Valley, covered by the verdure of pine and bamboo, is as scenic as a postcard. Standing beneath the watery blue sky and breathing in a lungful of fresh mountain air does something for my soul.
The destination more than makes up for the unexpectedly long journey from Itanagar. Theoretically 4 hours away from the capital city, the actual journey can take almost twice as much time, depending on the roads and weather conditions. After an unsparing passage through the winding roads of the state, with incessant rain for company, I almost overlook the sights as I rush to grab a cup of tea inside my homestay.
But when I do look up and embrace the sight that Ziro valley presents, I am struck by its virgin beauty.
Layers of rice fields form an amphitheatre that crown over the flowing river. Tiny villages dot the ambit and I am overcome by an urge to hike to a hilltop and spend the day lying under the azure sky. It is no wonder that the town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is impossible to talk about the Ziro Valley without mentioning the people that make it up. Ziro Valley is home to the Apatani tribe who live in harmony with nature, practicing age-old traditions. Most tribes in Arunachal have distinguishing features such as headgears, jewellery or markings on their body.
However, Apatani women stand apart due to their distinctly plugged noses and tattooed faces. This practice was started to discourage other tribes from stealing them away because these women were said to be so beautiful!
The town of Hapoli, known locally as Hao-Polyang, has a busy small-town life with small markets and a couple of banks. Local delicacies include adventurous items like mithun and rat meat. If you’re not up for the exotic, try the bamboo chicken or the luscious momos. The couple running the homestay I stayed at served me some mouth-watering local food, all fresh from their garden or the local market.
Walking through the Apatani villages is like a walk back in time. The houses sit on low stilts and it is common to see young children running about outside their houses, or a group of women huddled together sipping on the local brew. The people work in tandem with nature on their paddy fields, without new age machinery of any kind. They have settled in the Ziro Valley for years and co-exist peacefully with its ecosystem.
Despite being largely sequestered from the rest of the country, Ziro Valley has been gaining popularity not just for its stunning vistas, but also for the Ziro Music Festival. Held every year in September, this festival draws music lovers in throngs. The festival is an eclectic mix of Indian and international music, for both rock as well as folk music lovers. Tourists camp on the green hillsides and it is a time for laughter and friendship. Perched atop one of the rolling green hills, with the pleasant breeze in your hair and the warm sun on your face, mingling with new people while sipping on rice beer, this is an experience that must be undertaken. Rarely will one find views as stunning in a music festival like this.
While there are some famous temples and even the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary close by, what truly stands out about Ziro Valley are the astounding views of unspoiled nature. Go here for a walk back into time, the thrill of waking up to lush greenery and singing birds and the warmth of its people. I went to Ziro Valley with little expectation and came back with big memories.
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
After days of research, we finally came across a facebook page called ‘Unwind Outdoors’. It seemed like our dream was going to be finally true. Very reasonably priced and Sunil from Unwind was like a know-it-all person.
The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
We landed in Leh in time for cloudbursts and flashfloods and landslides (along with mud and rocks sliding too). Despite Nature's fury, Sunil and Skarma made sure we were utmost safe and comfortable. These guys are just not into travel business, they help people fulfil their travel dreams. Truly! Go guys!!
Barclays Bank, Bangalore