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Unexpected snowfall in Sandakphu in October

Unexpected snowfall in Sandakphu in October
DARJEELING: An unexpected, early snowfall in Sandakphu last Sunday October has led to a sudden rush of tourists to Darjeeling.

Even though most are likely to be disappointed — it snowed for just an hour in Sandakphu and an encore is not expected — hoteliers and travel agents expect the rush to continue since it has brought the mercury down sharply. Tourists, they believe, will settle for the early chill even if they can't catch the snow. Tiger Hill near Darjeeling had received heavy snowfall in January this year.

Sandakphu, located at a height 11,900 feet, is nearly 60 km from Darjeeling.

On Sunday, it received a sudden snowfall, taking locals and visitors by surprise. It usually snows in Sandakphu between December and March. As word spread, many drove to Sandakphu from Darjeeling, though the snowfall had stopped within an hour. "It has led to an overnight spurt in the number of tourists. We have been flooded with enquiries and booking requests. The tourist season is still on so rooms are difficult to arrange. But it seems everyone wants to catch the snow in Darjeeling," said Rajesh Rajak, general manager, Hotel Anand Palace.

Ranjit Ghosh, a tourist from Kolkata, rued missing the snow by a whisker. His hotel manager had informed him about the snowfall and even arranged a car for him to drive up to Sandakphu. But by the time Ghosh reached, it had stopped snowing. "I am not planning to return. But will definitely give it a try in January," said Ghosh, who is travelling with his family.

Most hotels in Darjeeling are booked to capacity. But the snowfall has come at a good time for the hill station, said hoteliers. The season was about to end in a week's time, only to resume in mid-December. "But with new tourists coming in, the season is likely to be extended. We have also gained from the flood in Jammu and Kashmir. A substantial number of tourists, especially from the northern and western parts of the country have changed their travel plans to visit Darjeeling," added Rajak.

Till five years back, the December-January period was predominantly a season for foreigners in Darjeeling. It has changed over the last few years with thousands of locals travelling to Darjeeling during the peak winter period. Lower air fares and the occasional snowfall has helped to draw in winter tourists, according to Anil Punjabi, chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of Eastern India.

"People now make their travel plans well in advance to avail cheaper air tickets. Many have started timing their trips to Darjeeling in December-January when it is likely to have snowfall. It has been a big attraction. Also, many have started visiting Darjeeling over extended weekends. It is no longer just a long-holiday destination. This unexpected snowfall has led to a surge that may lead to a rise in the number of winter tourists for Darjeeling remains an eternal favourite," said Punjabi.

The mercury has slid sharply in Darjeeling. While day temperatures have been hovering around 13-14 degree mark, the mercury has been dipping to 8-9 degrees in the evening. In January this year, Darjeeling had seen a similar temperature drop after a heavy snowfall in Sandakphu. Hundreds had visited Sandakphu to witness the rare occurrence, braving a thick blanket of fog that halted traffic on the road.

Source: TOI

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