Shimla, July 4 - As life in most of the plains of northern India is still hot and sweaty - and sizzling - owing to delay in the onset of the monsoon, the rain-soaked peaks of Himachal Pradesh's popular tourist resorts are luring visitors to the state.
Hospitality industry representatives say the onset of monsoon in the hills and delay in the plains would definitely draw more holiday-makers from the plains.
Normally the monsoon arrives here (in the hill state) well in advance compared to the plains. But this time there is still uncertainly about its arrival in the plains. The coming weeks hopefully will do brisk business, Vijay Sharma, deputy general manager of state-run Hotel Holiday Home in Shimla, told IANS.
Shimla and its nearby destinations like Kufri, Chail and Narkanda, Dharamsala and Palampur in Kangra district, Sangla and Chitkul in Kinnaur district and the entire Kullu-Manali region are chock-a-block with tourists, say officials of the state tourism department.
If the monsoon remains erratic in the plains, we are expecting a good rush even in July, Sharma added.
An overcast sky, off-and-on drizzle and aroma of chill perk up one's insipid spirits, Riya Sharma, a tourist from Mumbai, remarked while enjoying the cool climes of Shimla.
Her husband Sukrit said the romance of passing above the clouds and venturing into them was memorable.
Manmohan Singh, director of the Shimla meteorological office, told IANS that monsoon hit the state July 1.
Though the monsoon was delayed by three-four days the state has been experiencing moderate to heavy rains since its onset, he said.
Shimla, popularly known as Queen of Hills, experienced 95 mm rain, the highest in the state, on Wednesday.
Most of the prominent tourist destinations like Dharamsala, Palampur, Manali, Kasauli, Kufri, Narkanda, Chamba and Dalhousie witnessed rainfall, bringing down temperatures to comfortable levels, the Met Office director said.
Hotelier M.C. Thakur, who is based in Manali, said the delay in the arrival of monsoon in the plains has spiked the business of hoteliers and travel agencies.
Higher reaches in the Kullu-Manali region, including the Pir Panjal, Brighu, Chaderkhani and Hampta, have already been experiencing night temperature close to sub-zero.
But a word of caution for the tourists travelling to the hills during the rainy season.
Here are a few tips: Make sure your trip is planned well in advance. Check on general road conditions and confirm whether the high mountain passes are open.
Most of the picturesque destinations in Kinnaur, Chamba, Lahaul and Spiti, Shimla, Sirmaur and Kullu districts are at high altitudes. During monsoon, you must carry woollens, jackets and some eatables as you may have to remain stranded on the roadside for days together due to landslides.
Incessant rains often causes massive landslides on National Highways 21 and 22 in Shimla, Kinnaur, Mandi and Kullu districts, hampering vehicular traffic, even for days.
The water level in the major rivers - the Satluj, Beas and Yamuna - which enter the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana increases abnormally during monsoon.
The tourist arrivals in Himachal Pradesh have already surpassed the state's population of about 6.8 million.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>)
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