If the plains of northern India are shivering and dense fog is spoiling New Year celebrations, head for the hills of Himachal Pradesh. There will be a lot of relief as the long sunny days have rendered the hills unusually warm.
Members of the hospitality industry say it's the prevailing bright sunny days that are attracting tourists, mainly from the plains, to the hills. They estimate the tourist footfall is likely to cross the 50,000-mark across the state to ring in the New Year.
"As the sun is eluding the residents in the plains due to dense fog, a bright morning in the hills is an added attraction for tourists," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl told IANS.
Shimla's meteorological director Manmohan Singh said the popular tourist destinations Shimla, Kasauli, Narkanda, Dharamsala, Palampur, Manali, Chamba and Dalhousie have been experiencing sunny days for over a week and this would continue till Jan 2.
He further said the days were quite pleasant in the hills compared to the plains but the night temperature has been quite low in Shimla, Narkanda, Kasauli, Manali, Dalhousie and Chamba.
General manager DP Bhatia of Clarke's Hotel here said: "We are advising the tourists to travel to Kufri and Narkanda if they want to enjoy snowy landscape."
Narkanda, the heart of the apple belt some 65 km from Shimla, has good accumulation of snow. Skiing is an added attraction there.
Shimla - known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India - saw the season's first snowfall on December 13-14.
Manali in Kullu district, about 250 km from here, which remained out of bounds for almost a week after the December 13 snowfall, is again a magnet for holidaymakers.
"The current trend of tourists indicates that most hotels will again be packed to capacity before the next year dawns," Manali-based prominent travel agent MC Thakur told IANS over phone.