The small hill stations of Uttarakhand, known for their pristine lakes, scenic spots and adventure activities are now offering out-of-this-world experience to travellers.
With international trips becoming dearer due to revenge travel after over two years of the pandemic, more tourists are looking at domestic destinations such as Bhimtal and Kausani, propelling astrotourism among top attractions.
Astro observatories are treating travellers to rare glimpses of solar eclipses, meteor showers, moon craters, binary stars and many other celestial events. Paul Savio, the CEO and co-founder of Starscapes Observatory in Bhimtal noted that visitors comprise all age groups.
"This includes, families, couples, children who are adding exploration of the celestial bodies to their bucket list," Savio said. In spite of unpredictable rains in April and May, Savio said, the observatory received hundreds of visitors during the two months, a number he believes will only rise.
With more domestic travellers discovering the thrills of astronomy clubs, local campsites and accessible destinations with spectacular night views, hotels in and around Bhimtal and Kausani are cashing in on the 'astro boom'.
"In addition to the lake aquarium and adventure sports, the main attraction near our hotel is the space observatory, which is seeing a rising interest among the visitors," says Deepak Dubey, General Manager of the Fishermen's Lodge perched at the edge of the Bhimtal Lake.
Dubey said the interest of the visitors in astrotourism has led the hotel to offer such visits on their travellers' menu.
Shiv Kr. Mehan, COO, Leisure Hotels Group, noted that although astrotourism is still in its early stages in India, it is certainly an upcoming avenue that travellers are looking forward to after the pandemic.
"Post-Covid, travellers are looking for new avenues of experiential tourism. Astro tourism is still gaining popularity in India, as it is still in its early stages," Mehan said.
Mehan said remote locations such as Bhimtal and Kausani, where the hotel group has its experiential properties, offer a perfect place for stargazing and explorations of the sky and far beyond.
"Away from the city, the remote locations with higher altitudes offering clearer & darker skies are ideal for stargazing," Mehan said. "Astro enthusiasts arrange travel ahead of time, to see solar eclipses, meteor showers, and study the constellations in the heavens above," he added.
Starscapes hopes to tie up with hotel chains and eco-tourism operators to upscale their offerings. The startup is hosting an Astro Camp in Mukteshwar, Nainital till June 30, offering a series of astronomy-related activities from celestial shows to planetary parades.
There are efforts to tap into the growing potential of astrotourism In the country. According to reports, plans are afoot to turn Benital village, located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, into an astrovillage.
(With PTI inputs)