From North to North-East Travel

 By: Sarfraj Ahmed
Now that summer has started working its highly avoidable spell on the city, the hills beckon. Though, what's the point of going 2,000 metres above sea level if you've to rub shoulders with the same people you wanted to get away from? Far from the madding crowd, the search for tranquility, lush green landscapes and that tiny curiosity to unravel newer secrets is leading Delhiites to explore the virginal northeast.

They have given the cold shoulder to the Shimla, Manali and Nainital of the world, to zero in on the picturesque, snow-clad peaks of the Seven Sisters. Experts in the travel industry say the traffic is headed to places such as Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh; Cherrapunjee and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya; and Gangtok, Yuksom and Pelling in Sikkim. Even the most ignored state in the North-East, Assam, has some hidden gems to offer - Manas and Nameri national parks, for instance.

The number of hits for destinations in the northeast on leading travel websites such as eTravelsIndia.com and Yatra.com has risen by 15 per cent from last year; queries about places of interest and actual bookings are up by 30 per cent. They have experienced more traffic to the north-east this season, especially from Delhi. Nearby states such as Delhi residents have exhausted Himachal and Uttarakhand, so the northeast is a new holiday destination to check out.

Traditional hill stations are getting overcrowded and a host of other problems are plaguing them. Shimla is facing an acute shortage of accommodation. And with Himachal seeing deficient rainfall and soaring mercury - the average temperatures are 6-7 degrees above normal this year - visitors are in for a tough time. Plastic is banned in Himachal Pradesh, but the steady flow of tourists ensures that the dirt and filth continues to pile up. On the other hand, shrouded in mystery and holding out the promise of the exotic, the north- east now not only offers better infrastructure and connectivity, but also has picturesque trekking trails, limestone caves and scenic waterfalls.

Some of the states also have tea gardens or orchid sanctuaries (especially in Sikkim) to draw visitors. The domestic travellers are clearly dissatisfied with Himachal's famous crowd-pullers. And not only are they willing to cough up huge sums to make their summer vacations memorable, they are also keen on checking out new destinations.

According to the website, between January and March this year, traffic flow to the north-eastern destinations went up by 15 per cent.

Promotional activities of the government and private players have also played a role in mainstreaming northeastern states. Flooded with requests to provide information on tour packages to Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. With an increase in the traffic to the north- east, the state tourism departments and private players are offering good promotional packages. The scenic beauty of the north- east provides a breathtaking stage for an array of adventure sports and leisure activities such as rowing, sailing, water scootering and river cruises. But what makes a real difference to the traveller is the undiscovered natural wealth of the region.
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