The emerging trend of Astro-tourism in India

N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

Co-founder CEO of Confirmtkt Dinesh Kumar Kotha said, "The juxtaposition of tourism and science piqued the interest of travelers of all backgrounds in the United States as a recent phenomenon. The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 witnessed a participation of around 7 million people, which also marked the beginning of the upcoming big travel trend, Astro-tourism."

As the name suggests, Astro-tourism combines astronomy and tourism, allowing travelers to partake in stargazing under the skies free from light pollution. Lately, this latest trend in tourism is gaining tracking in a number of Indian cities as well.

But before you relish a vacation admiring the beauty of the universe, there is a list of things you might want to know to make the best of the vacation. Dinesh Kumar Kotha speaks to IANSlife to give us a complete picture of Astro-tourism, starting from what to expect to the best observatories to visit in India.

Astro tourism in India: What to Expect?

Dinesh: Astro-tourism, a part of eco-tourism, thrives on sustainable travel and draws a chunk of travelers to remote communities. Such a form of tourism not only parallels the existing popular forms like Adventure and Wildlife Tourism but also is more environment-friendly comparatively. The emergence of Astro-tourism in India is driven further by the recent initiative involving the Ministry of Tourism to discuss and explore 'Nature-based Tourism.' The concept was promoted by the Ministry through the webinar series "Dekho Apna Desh".

With the joint effort of the State and Union, arrangements are being made to explore the untapped potential of rural villages as hotspots for Astro-tourism.

For instance, the Benital Village in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, located at 2,600 meters above sea level, is set to be one of the first Astro-villages in India. Astro-parks are also developing in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh and Jaipur, introduced by the State Department of Art and Culture.

Moreover, the Ladakh administration has launched initiatives to promote Astro-tourism in Hanle Village in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

Certainly, the unadulterated atmosphere of rural India, coupled with the thrill of stargazing, sun observation, star parties and experiential science activities, make the most of what one can expect while Astro-touring.

Best Observatories in India to Visit for Astro tourism

Dinesh: Below is a list of the best observatories to visit for Astro-tourism in India:

Jaipur Permanent Observatory:

The villages of Bhimtal and Kausani in Jaipur have permanent observatories for all astrophotography enthusiasts. The observatory is equipped with an 8 or 11-inch motorized Go-to telescope and other equipment like high-end DSLR cameras, planetary cameras and photographic mounts.

Pangong Lake, Ladakh:

The Astrostay near Pangong Lake is not just a serene getaway for visitors during the day but also a spot for gazing at the constellations at night. The Astrostay has a five-member team of locals who narrate their traditions and folk tales while guiding the tourists toward the stargazing hotspots. Visitors can also access equipment like a Dobsonian telescope and stargazing mobile apps to fall in love with the night skies.

Hanle, Ladakh: The Hanle observatory offers a zero-pollution atmosphere for the tourists to stargaze through the night in the valley. The tourists also have access to several photographs taken at the observatory, which are transmitted to scientists in other parts of the country for research.

 

What to Keep in Mind while Astro Touring?

Dinesh: Astro-touring is an overwhelming experience of a lifetime. Therefore, you would want to ensure that you are equipped to make your stay worthwhile. It is important to check the weather forecast before you visit and dress accordingly, as temperatures may drop/increase significantly on most nights. Astro-tourism is an incredibly fun activity that appeals to people of all ages. Therefore, Astro-tourism is here to stay and flourish as a popular tourist activity in the upcoming years.

(N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe can be contacted at [email protected])

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