India’s first astrotourism festival in Mussoorie. This is how it went

Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board in association with Starscapes, inaugurated ‘Nakshatra Sabha’, India’s first-ever annual campaign dedicated exclusively to promoting astrotourism.
India’s first astrotourism festival in Mussoorie. This is how it went
Jaano Junction

"Mussoorie mein kabhi itni garmi nahi thi (It was never this hot in Mussoorie)," says Dharam Singh, our driver, as we drive back to Dehradun from Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, rolling up the window and blasting the AC to find some relief from the sweltering heat.

Dharam, who has been living in Mussoorie and working in this business for more than 40 years, tells us, “The last time it was this hot was in the year 2013, I think.”

Dharam is not wrong. Mussoorie, a hill station in Uttarakhand, was known as the "Queen of the Hills" for its scenic beauty, Himalayan mountain views, and charming colonial architecture.

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India’s first astrotourism festival in Mussoorie. This is how it went

However, lately, the Queen has been having trouble keeping her crown as she faces problems like overcrowding and rising temperatures that are reaching as high as 35 degrees Celsius.

There is no doubt that Mussoorie is a popular weekend getaway, especially for Delhiites and North Indian cities, and the gateway to the Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. This popularity has made it difficult for tourists to find a moment of peace (due to overcrowding in almost all famous tourist spaces)— one of the main reasons people visit a hill station.

However, Mussoorie is not alone in this predicament. Many other hill stations are facing similar challenges. For instance, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla, another hill station, received 72 lakh tourists between in just January and May in the year 2023.

But is there a way to manage over-tourism, and find other ways to still find serenity and peace in the hill station? Apparently, yes. Sometimes, gazing at the dark sky and stars is all the therapy one needs. Who doesn’t want to witness the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis? However, not everyone can afford a trip to Iceland or be lucky enough to witness it in some other parts of the world (Ladakh also witnessed it recently).

What is it? As the name sounds, astrotourism, or astronomical tourism, is a niche form of travel where one can journey to destinations specifically to observe celestial events, stargaze, and delve into the wonders of astronomy.

Experts say that this unique travel experience often includes visiting places with minimal light pollution to marvel at stars, planets, and other celestial objects.

India’s first ever

Astrotourism has gained prevalence in many Western countries, with Iceland being a prime example that has made it onto the bucket lists of numerous travel enthusiasts.

However, India is not often thought of when discussing astrotourism. This trend is slowly changing, as after the pandemic, people are seeking unique travel experiences.

Recently, we had the opportunity to visit India’s first ever annual campaign dedicated exclusively to promoting astrotourism.

The event was organised by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board in association with Starscapes, an astrotourism company, and was known as ‘Nakshatra Sabha’.

Held on the peak of George Everest, this three-day event (from May 31 to June 2) was filled with activities, shows, and fascinating talks by accredited experts, offering plenty of things to do (we will get into the details in a bit).

So, on Day 1, we arrived at Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun after a short 45-minute flight from Delhi’s Indra Gandhi International Airport. The weather was unexpectedly warm during the day, although it did get a bit chilly in the evening.

Reaching Mussoorie from Dehradun took us almost an hour and a half (thankfully, there was less traffic), and after freshening up, we were ready to head to the peak of George Everest. This is where the real excitement began.

The first day's festivities started around 4 pm and included 3D shows (where we learnt about our Earth, space, and the universe, and some facts that we should know) and made a model of mini-rockets that could be launched into the sky.

It was a breath of fresh air as, unlike the other touristy spots in Mussoorie, the peak of George Everest was not crowded with tourists, allowing for peaceful moments to watch the sunset and the sky turn pink.

The slow, cold breeze provided a welcome break from the 48-degree Celsius heat we had been experiencing in Delhi.

The celestial show

The event had plenty of activities to keep us entertained, but the highlight was undoubtedly the celestial shows that made us question everything we saw around us.

During the show, we were asked to put away our phones. This was done so that we didn't strain our eyes and, after a five-minute warning, all the surrounding lights, including streetlights, were shut off to eliminate any light pollution, allowing us to see the stars clearly.

For the show, a substantial setup of six telescopes was arranged, and we were invited to peer through them to observe different types of stars, including Vega (a single star), Alcor and Mizar (binary stars), and the Hercules Cluster (a cluster of stars).

“When you look at these stars that are light-years away, doesn’t it make you wonder how tiny your existence is?” remarked one of the experts who guided us throughout the entire show.

Day 2

Our agenda for the next day of the event included a variety of activities, from panel discussions by astro experts, to solar observation. The event also featured 3D shows and a small makeshift shop where you could buy souvenirs ranging from fridge magnets to laser lights.

Around 3 pm, our panel discussion started, slightly delayed due to the weather. The panel consisted of well-known experts like TV Venkateswaran, former director of Vigyan Prasar; Prabhas Pandey, a retired professor from Delhi University and geology expert, and Aakash Sinha, adjunct faculty at Shiv Nadar University and CEO of Omnipresent Robot Tech. Each expert shared their unique perspectives on astrotourism.

The third day of the event was reserved for announcing the winners of the photography contest that was held during the event.

“A sustainable way to travel”

"We have all seen the effects of over-tourism, so we want to offer new destinations and activities to people that have a lesser impact on the environment," said Sumit Pant, director of marketing and publicity for Uttarakhand Tourism, explaining why the Uttarakhand government wants to focus on astrotourism.

As we mentioned, there has been a surge in travel, with people travelling more than ever since the pandemic. In fact, data shows that India's tourism industry is around USD 178 billion. "1,100 screws, 700 kilos, and 18 people within a span of a month is what happens backstage," he adds.


The event is weather-dependent and even though the weather reports are tracked continuously and the dates chosen are non-monsoon ones, there is still a chance of passing clouds affecting the event.

Fact Sheet

  • Prices start at Rs 799 per person (event access), and go up to Rs 4,250 (premium package).

  • FYI: The next event will be held in the month of September (after the monsoon season) in Harshil village of Uttrakhand.

Source: India Today

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