As part of the international observance of the New Moon week, which occurs every April, stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts can look forward to a series of rare phenomena and on-ground events. It was recently reported that four planets would align in the night sky this week along with the moon, and a series of astronomy experiences organised by observatory chain Starscapes, intends to bring the best out of this opportune moment. In the ongoing International Dark Sky Week, Starscapes will conduct astrophotography sessions, a sighting of the planetary parade, and the ‘Messier Marathon’ from April 22 to 30, across India. These events will be held at their observatories in Kausani and Bhimtal, mobile observatories in Virajpet, Madikeri, Goa, Munnar and Pondicherry.
Following close on the heels of World Earth Day, the week-long event, which debuted in 2003, is aimed at bringing about a global awareness of the night sky, creating a conversation around protecting it from pollution, and creating interest and opportunities in research. Starscapes, which is India’s “first and only” observatory chain, recently partnered with the Uttarakhand Tourism Board to develop Benital as the country’s first astro village. Astro tourism is tipped to gain good ground in India in the coming years, with work on promoting and conserving Dark Sky Locations in the country progressing steadily.
Also read: Cosmic Quest in Benital
Adding to the burgeoning wave of international tourist favourites dropping pandemic curbs on travel, including mask mandates, Switzerland is set to welcome visitors with pre-COVID-19 rules for entry to the country, starting May 2. Another European favourite, Greece has lifted almost all pandemic-era restrictions, with no entry rules to apply for travellers, said Thanos Plevris, the country’s minister of health. The Mediterranean nation has also dropped all domestic COVID-19 protocols. The new relaxation in rules has been brought in for the summer season and curbs might be back up in September, it is reported. Thailand, another South-Asian tourist hotspot, is following a staggered approach for the relaxation in pandemic entry rules.
Travel guidelines for Thailand:
1. Fully vaccinated travellers don’t need to produce a negative RT-PCR test result or undergo a test on arrival. However, they do need to get a Thailand Pass, carry proof of a complete schedule of vaccination, and travel insurance worth $10,000 (₹7.65 lakh).
2. Non-vaccinated travellers need a Thailand Pass, a hotel booking for a five-day quarantine and travel insurance worth $10,000 (₹7.65 lakh). At the end of the quarantine, they are required to take an RT-PCR test on the final day.
It is known as the last surviving home of the Asiatic lion, but wildlife buffs could soon expect to see tigers in Gujarat’s lush southeast. If all goes to plan, the state’s Dang district, with its thickly forested hills and local tourist favourite Saputara, will receive a tiger safari park with eight zoo-bred tigers. Around 29 hectares of land have been earmarked for the project, which will come up at a four-hour driving distance from Kevadia, known for the Statue of Unity. To be planned and designed on the lines of the Devaliya lion safari, the park will allow visitors to drive around in open jeeps.
Trivago, a unit of the U. S. travel booking platform Expedia, has been fined close to $33 million for misleading customers by promoting rooms at partner hotels as the cheapest available options, as reported by Reuters. The Federal Court in January 2020 had found that the travel booking website employed an algorithm that promoted hotels that would pay the “highest-cost-per-click fee” and not the cheapest options, as was purported. “This penalty sends a strong message not just to Trivago, but to other comparison websites, that they must not mislead consumers when making recommendations,” said ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
Come 2025, and travellers might see all-weather connectivity between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The much-anticipated Nimmu-Padum-Darcha Road (said to be much safer than the Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways) will come up in the next three years along with a tunnel under Shinku-La, at an elevation of 16,580 feet. The tunnel, reported to be the world’s longest highway tunnel at this altitude, will be 4.25 kilometres in length and will provide easy access between Ladakh and Himachal to both residents and tourists, and also cut travel time for the defence forces.
Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.