Far from the madding crowd, tourists head for HP villages on China border

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This summer, the otherwise sleepy villages in Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh adjoining the China border have become a major attraction, particularly with domestic tourists. The rush of tourists to border villages such as Chitkul has been unprecedented despite the limited amenities.

After a two-year lull due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Himachal Pradesh has seen a heavy tourist influx this year. But rural destinations have become more popular than the cities of Shimla, Dharamshala and Dalhousie as parking problems and traffic congestion have driven them away.

Traffic, parking problems in towns

“The traffic in Shimla is becoming worse by the day. Poor management is to blame. The road near the Lift area is overburdened due to the largest multi-storeyed parking in Shimla and the place connecting the Mall is located nearby. There is a lack of vision. Instead of decongesting the town, a part has been made congested like Sadar Bazaar of Delhi,” says Mohinder Seth, the president of the Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association that has sponsored an honorarium of 60,000 for the 20 traffic volunteers.

“Youngsters get information about remote areas from social networking sites and prefer unexplored areas,” says Rakesh Chauhan, a tour operator in Shimla. “The concept of tourism seems to be changing. Urban tourists are looking for a tranquil getaway far from the madding crowd. They like to visit Spiti and Kinnaur,” he says.

Chitkul, a treasured tourist destination

Chitkul, a village of 650 people, has become a treasured tourist destination. A large number of people are frequenting Chitkul, 70km from the China border. “The number of tourists visiting the village is high this year. Nearly 500 vehicles are coming to the village every day,” says Subash Negi, pradhan, gram panchayat, Chitkul.

There are about 40 home stays in the village at a height of 11,320 feet above sea level it’s the last village on the Indian border. The increased footfall of tourists has led to problems of littering and the traffic in the region. Vehicles are parked on the narrow border roads, leading to jams.

The villagers have sought help from the Indo Tibetan Border Police to regulate the influx of tourists.

Sangla near Chitkul also witnessed tourist rush this month.

Seeking inner line permit for tourists

In the wake of an increase in tourism inflow, the district administration has moved a case for developing border tourism. The cold desert region is forbidden for tourists, who are now seeking an inner line permit (ILP). The 240-km China border is manned by both the Indian Army and the ITBP. “The administration has sought advice from the army authorities about the requirement of ILP so that the list may be pruned,” says Kinnaur deputy commissioner Abid Hussain Sadiq.

Atal Tunnel makes Lahaul-Spiti villages accessible

Tourists are also making a beeline to the tribal villages of Lahaul and Spiti district ever since the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang Pass was thrown open to traffic as it has cut down travel time and reduced a distance of 46km from Manali. A total of 7,515 vehicles crossed the tunnel in 24 hours on the first day of 2022. This is the highest number of vehicles that crossed the Atal Tunnel in Rohtang in a single day after it was inaugurated on October 3, 2020, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Kibber and Gue, the remote villages in Spiti near the China border, have emerged as popular tourist destinations. Gue village is known for its 550-year-old mummified monk, Sangha Tenzin. The mummy was found during a road excavation project by ITBP personnel in 2004.

“There is a rush of tourists this time as the younger generation is more interested in visiting these unseen places,” says Lara Tsering, a hotelier in Kaza. “Snow leopard sighting is also popular with tourists,” he says.

Kibber village in Spiti is the habitat of snow leopards. According to the wildlife wing of the forest department, there are an estimated 73 big cats in the state.


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