The stars are mansions built by nature's hand, And, haply, there the spirits of the blest Dwell,
clothed in radiance, their immortal vest Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand, A habitation marvellously planned
&ndash William Wordsworth
A clear night sky filled with hundreds of twinkling stars is one of the most serene and calming things in life. Since time immemorial, humans have always been fascinated by stars and galaxies displayed in all their magical glory on a clear night. People interested in planets and constellations travel around the world to spot these.
Uttarakhand&rsquos hill stations, known for their pristine lakes, scenic spots and adventure activities, are now offering travellers an out-of-this-world experience by providing glimpses of eclipses, meteor showers, moon craters and binary stars.
Astro Tourism means nature based tourism that involves stargazing. It's a way to forge a connection with nature in pristine locations. In the coming years, Astro Tourism is set to flourish as a popular tourist activity in Uttarakhand.
Uttrakhand Tourism's seamless Astro Tourism spots provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to world tourists. With clean cities, well-covered street lights and dipper lights, as also judicious use of light and electricity by households, star-gazing opportunities are maximized here.The state has opened observatories in unexplored places away from the dust and pollution of civilization where tourists can have a majestic view of the sky and locate stars, planets, constellations, the Milky Way, and other astrological phenomena.
To preserve the ecology of these places, no new construction is being allowed here. Observe the stars will be difficult in a place with dust, smoke or light pollution, or even the formation of gas clouds all which might cover the night sky.
A few spots in the state offering uninterrupted views of a star-studded sky include Gurson Bugyal (near Auli), Jeolikot (near Bhowali), Kedarkantha (Uttarkashi district), Munsiyari (Pithoragarh district), Majhkhali (near Ranikhet), and Chakrata.Local Tour operators provide camping facilities for astro tourists.
Benital in Uttarakhand is also known as the Astro Tourism village of India. Situated at an altitude of 2,600 meters above sea level and surrounded by two mountain ranges, the area is rich in biodiversity and teeming with mountain goats, leopards and macaques. Large observatories and telescopes are installed at the topmost elevation of Benital. A night sky sanctuary is in the pipeline too. The place is merely 6 km from the Adi Badri pilgrimage site. In Dec 2021, an Astro Tourism party was organized in Benital and more than 250 astro tourists had come for the two-day Astro Tourism event.
Located 23 kilometers from Kathgodam railroad, and close to Nainital, Bhimtal is a popular Astro Tourism destination in Uttarakhand. Footfalls at Bhimtal Observatory are increasing too.
Then, there's Kausani, a block in Kumaon district of Bageshwar, situated at an altitude of 1,900 metres above sea level. It lies on NH 24. The Kausani Observatory has grown organically, by word of mouth, to become a popular destination in the district.
Filled with lush coniferous forests, magnificent meadows, and majestic glaciers, Gangotri National Park is a glimpse of heaven on earth and the skies here offer a glimpse into the great beyond through its blanket of twinkling stars that leave one enchanted.
Close to Tanakpur and Kathgodam, Khaliya Top, Munsiyari is a treat for ardent star gazers. Its location in a zero light pollution area makes it perfect for unbelievable night sky experiences.
Keep a watch on Uttarakhand Tourism Minister and Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) Chairperson Shri Satpal Maharaj's tweets. He regularly posts pictures of these breathtaking Astro Tourism spots.
With inputs from Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board.