JANUARY 2020 brought world's attention to the deadly & highly infectious COVID-19 CORONA VIRUS which originated from China and by March 2020 WHO (World Health Organisation) declared it a Pandemic which basically means a global epidemic after thousands of cases of corona infection emerged from almost all over the globe. From there on every passing day is bringing new cases of corona infection along with new restrictions & precautionary measures that are being taken by different governments. Inevitably Himalayas are also affected because of this and by the time we are writing this almost all of it is under lockdown for any kind of tourism activity. Home to around 52.7 million people Himalayas or Himalaya are spread across five countries:India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.
From JULY 2020 Bhutan will not be a free entry country for Indians as Thimpu passes new policy to regulate regional tourists. In a rather historic move, ending decades of free entry to “regional tourists” visiting Bhutan (tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives), the government of Bhutan in Thimphu has decided to impose a daily ₹1,200 ($17) fee for “regional tourists” beginning July 2020. The fee, called a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), is meant to help the government deal with burgeoning numbers in tourist traffic, which it is seeking to regulate through a new tourism policy. The policy was passed by the National Assembly of Bhutan on Tuesday as a ‘Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan’, 2020. The SDF is considerably lower than the $65 charged to other foreign tourists, who are also charged a compulsory flat “cover charge” of $250 per day. This new policy will not impact the other foreign tourists charges in any way. Indians mainly travel to the more developed western region of Bhutan. In a move to promote tourism in Bhutan’s eastern region as well, the government has decided to drop SDF charges for tourists visiting 11 of 20 total districts that fall in the east from Trongsa to Trashigang. Children from India, Maldives and Bangladesh under the age of 5 will not have to pay the levy and those between 6 and 12 years will be required to pay only ₹600. Bhutan’s Tourism Council Director Dorji Dhradul said the idea of the SDF was to provide better facilities for regional tourists. More details on the changes are expected to come in next few weeks! As of now entry to Bhutan for Indians is still free and they can enter just by filling a form upon arrival and showing either passport or voter ID card. There is a vehicle tax of INR 100 per vehicle per day (irrespective of vehicle type) through if you wish to roam in Indian vehicle in Bhutan. Few months back an Indian biker’s visuals went viral who stood upon a stupa like structure on a sacred Bhutani site Dochula after which strong reactions & demands came from most of Bhutan to do something to limit tourist outburst from regional tourists specially from India which government of Bhutan also seem to have taken seriously! We personally think that this charge is not too bad keeping Bhutan’s famous efforts to remain carbon negative country and it also adds a physical value to the responsibility we should carry while visiting a foreign land. Let us know your views in comments.
In a rather historic move, the Government has opened 137 mountain peaks for foreigners desirous of obtaining Mountaineering Visa (‘MX’) for mountaineering and trekking. These peaks are located in the States of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim. While the highest number of 51 peaks have been opened to foreigners in Uttarakhand, 15 peaks of Jammu and Kashmir have also been included in the list. The Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (IC), Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, expressed his gratitude to the Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah for acceding to the request of Tourism Ministry to open up more peaks to foreigners. It is a welcome step towards promoting adventure tourism in the country, Shri Prahlad Singh Patel said. Earlier, while addressing the Tourism Ministers from States/UTs at the National Tourism Conference in New Delhi yesterday, the Tourism Minister emphasized on the need for ensuring the safety of those travelers going for adventure tourism. He urged the States to exercise utmost caution while registering adventure tourism operators and also to ensure that the adventure tourism guidelines are followed by the States. The Indian Adventure Tourism Guidelines 2018 cover the land, air and water-based activities which includes mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, paragliding, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, river rafting, and many other sports. Here is the list of all the mountains thrown open for public:
Sainj: The grand Sainj fair, known better as ‘Laxmi Narayan Sainj Mela’, kicked off on May 3 and i coming to a close on Tuesday at Sainj village’s jalor village. The fair, with more than a hundred stalls and thousands of visitor was a sight to behold this afternoon when women from different village gathered together in their traditional attire ‘Pattu’, and danced along the folk songs. The fair is celebrated at the onset of summer in Sainj valley and also in the honour of the ‘devta’ of village around the valley. The devta or the lord of several villages are taken around the mela, or are given a tour of the whole fair to check if things are fine. The ‘chelas’ or disciples of each of the devta holds them and places them into a carriage with four handles. The lords are covered and clad in colourful clothes on the ocassion. About a hundred year old traditional fair, it came to life only recently as the Mahanati dance performance began last year. Women from different villages and aspects of life register through Aganwadi or Mahila Samiti to enroll their names for the mass dance. The scenario is breathtaking as women go round and round with those subtle yet difficult dance steps with the live music. Atop some of the terraces, one can get a bird eye’s view of the whole dance performance that mesmerizes you as one sees tiny people moving around with gentle hand movements. Prior to the dance performance, the crowd also releases a bunch of colourful balloons that fly away into the sky amid the Himalayan ranges. One of the teachers here, Rakesh Chauhan, said the fair is a yearly entertainment and means of earning for people here. “A lot of stall are set up through which many people earn revenue. Besides, talented women also get a chance to showcase their talent by dancing. The dance, however, started only last year that brought limelight to the fair. Otherwise, it was just a small valley fair,” he added. The roads going to the fair are slightly bumpy but seem worth it after witnessing the mass celebrating life together. The fair commences every year on the same date, i.e., May 3 and goes on for five days only. If you plan to visit it, do not forget to visit other popular and beautiful villages around including Shanghar, the treks and tour packagesof which are available on HMRA website.
Leh: At a height of about 14,000 ft, the Ice Cafe is bringing a whole new experience of sipping a cup of hot coffee and tea! Surrounded by the greater Himalayas, this cafe at Gya Meru village in Manali-Leh highway is all set to give you a surreal, dream-like feeling. The cafe in the shape of a stupa, was created during winters through a natural process by the Border Road Organization officials and several locals. The huge stupa of ice has a pretty restaurant in it where one can order and savour local delicacies the likes of noodle and other hot beverages. The owners, as reported by Curly Tales, intend to use the cafe’s income for organizing trips for people aged 90 and above in the village. This has been built a a part of village-level Ice Stupa competition organized by innovator Sonam Wangchuk, who provided all the material to the youth, for free. He also donated money so that people come up with unique ideas. As many as 12 villages from Leh and Kargil districts have participated in the competition. There are running pipes under the frost lines from which water is pushed out into the cold air that freezes it. It then falls as ice. It also work as an artificial glacier and one of the most effective methods of water conservation in the high desert terrains. The Ice Stupas are a medium to create awareness and do something about water scarcity in the region, of which Ice Stupas help in conservation of water. With this really cool cafe established so beautifully up there, we are more than excited to take you all on trips to the mighty Himalayas. Join us on the Manali-Leh and Ladakh trips coming soon within next two months for memories of a lifetime!
Uttrakhand: The popular Char Dham yatra of ‘Devbhoomi’ Uttrakhand, will commence soon in May. While Yamunotri and Gangotri shall open on May 7, Kedarnath and Badrinath will open on May 9 and May 6 respectively. The land of god will be flocked by devotees and followers from across the country to witness the grand celebration of the four lords. These four pilgrim destination, placed gently in the laps of greater Himalaya, or Himadri, are important hubs of religious travel in North India. According to Hindu scriptures, the tour begins from the West and ends in the East. People start their ‘dhaam’ from Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and finish at Badrinath. It is believed a tour through these four pilgrimages washes away the sins of anyone visiting them with pure belief and devotion. Here’s all you need to know about the four pilgrim destinations of Uttrakhand: Yamunotri- Dedicated to Goddess Yamuna, daughter of Yama, this goes up to a high altitude to Rawai valley. Facing the majestic Bandarpunch peak, Yamunotri is a sight to behold when thousands of devotees chant together the hymns and names. People take a holy dip in Divya Shila, or the hot spring emerging out of a dark rock. Since Yamuna is Yama’s (God of death) daughter, it is believed, bathing in the river blesses a person with protection from untimely death. At 3235 meters in Uttarkahi district, the temple area is usually cold and the maximum temperature is 20 degrees during May-June. Gangotri- As suggests the name, Gangotri is dedicated to goddess Ganga in Uttarkahi district at a height of about 3415 meters. The shrine here overlooks river Bhagirathi, originating from Gomukh. The name Bhagirathi comes from the mythological story wherein King Bhagirath paid penance and came down onto the Earth from heaven. The king meditated here to summon Ganga, who was fierce but mischievous. Lord Shiva took her within the knots of his ‘Jata’ or hair from which she drops down on the Earth. Interestingly, Ganges gets the name only after the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda at Devprayag. Kedarnath- A Lord Shiva temple, Kedarnath is a part of the ‘Panch Kedar’ and the northern-most Jyotirlinga in Rudraprayag district of Uttrakhand. It stands at the height of 3583 meters, close to the source of river Mandakini. It is believed, Adi Shankarcharya attained nirvana, or ‘samadhi’ close to Kedaranath. The Kedarnath peak peeps from behind the temple, presenting a mesmerizing view to the people. Badrinath- Nestled beautifully amid Neelkanth peak and the Nar-Narayan mountain, Badrinath is a Vishnu temple. Situated on the banks of river Alaknanda, this temple is vibrant with colours all pouring in and the greater Himalayas offering a breathtaking view! It is believed that Lord Vishnu meditated here while goddess Laxmi, his consort, took the form of a berry (badri) tree to offer him shade. It beautifies the Chamoli district at 3415 meters height and also houses a hot spring ‘Tapt Kund’ considered very sacred. Interested in the holy ‘Char Dhaam’ yatra? Book with