In an effort to take tourists deep into the lap of nature, the Himachal Pradesh government is considering opening scores of its quaint forest rest houses to visitors.
Under the new eco-tourism scheme, double-bed rooms will be available for hire at Rs 500 a night in 183 of the 550 forest rest houses spread across the hill state. The caretakers of the rest houses will cook simple and cheap food for the tourists.
However, if one is looking for some pampering and luxury, the package can be raised to Rs 750 or Rs 1,000 per day that will include food being served in the rest house garden by a bearer.
Officials said guides and porters would be available to take tourists for sight seeing. They can also wander into the forests by themselves and relish the scenic and rich animal life of Himalayan forests. Local folk singers and dancers will entertain tourists during their stay at the rest houses.
The luxury package will be available in only those rest houses that are connected by motorable roads, explained forest department officials.
"The state government has given permission to go ahead with this eco-tourism plan and has requested the central government for funds," said J S Walia, a forest department official.
These rest houses will be run with the expertise of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC), a state-run company that manages 57 properties across the state.
Forest Minister Ram Lal Thakur said: "Once this plan gets under way, it will give a big boost to tourism in the lesser known areas of the state."
Some of the forest rest house bungalows belong to the British era and are located in some of the most scenic locations. But many are in a dilapidated condition due to shortage of funds.
Currently, only forest department employees and other top officials with special passes can stay in the forest rest houses.