Gone are the days when a vacation in the mountains would mean freezing temperatures trekking through the snow while donning layers of fluffy overcoats to keep you warm and the sun a distant reminder of warmer days. Now, a new type of tourism is emerging among travellers, who are interested in visiting mountainous regions not for the snow but to take in the incredible sunrise and sunsets that the high peaks offer. These tourists are exploring ways to enjoy the pleasant sunshine and the glorious rise of the mountain ranges. This combination creates an ideal environment for wellness and relaxation and allows people to indulge in adventurous activities in the great outdoors.
Known as Sun Tourism, Santosh Kumar, Country Manager for India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia at Booking.com, explains that they have been witnessing Indians explore this trend of late. “This trend has been reflected in our H1 data which showcases how Indians travelled in the first half of 2023. Hill stations such as Manali and Rishikesh topped the list of most popular Indian travel destinations in H1, demonstrating the increased demand for wellness-focused travel experiences and relaxing excursions in the mountains surrounded by nature,” he says.
One of the primary attractions of sun tourism is the opportunity to witness the most scenic sunrise and sunset views from mountain summits. Not just Orophiles (mountain lovers), Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel, says, “Sun tourism has a distinctive allure, especially among India’s adventure enthusiasts across segments of millennials/young professionals, Gen Z and solo travellers. This unique trend is witnessing high interest from not only India’s metros and mini metros but also Regional India/Bharat’s tier 2-3 cities.”
On the international front, the popular sun tourism locales for tourist include the Alps, Rocky Mountains, and Andes. Closer to home, Kasauli, Shimla, Dharamshala, Narkanda, Palampur, Manali, Chamba and Dalhousie are attracting domestic tourists says Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited.
D’Souza adds, “Customers are keen to explore mountain locales to enjoy the serenity and grandeur of mountains, combined with the pleasant climate of sunny regions. The contrast between the cool mountain air and the warmth of the sun creates a rejuvenating environment ideal for a range of outdoor activities including mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding and more.”
For those with an adventurous streak, sun tourism allows them to enjoy the pleasant weather while also indulging in mountainous activities like going on hikes, playing golf or taking part in a variety of water sports in the lakes and ponds high up the mountains, shares Kale.
With no idea that this would be a trend, Nidhi Jacob, a media professional, visited Nagarkot, a mountain village in Nepal after completing she wrapped up her Masters in June 2018. An hour’s (approx 32km) bus ride from Kathmandu (capital of Nepal), Nagarkot was a budget trip that she visited for two days. Jacob says, “Personally, the sunrise at Nagarkot was one of the most stunning ones I’ve witnessed to date. This is mainly because, on a clear day, you get to witness the Himalayan ranges including the Mt Everest peak and the Kathmandu valley. The view is magnificent. For clear skies, you can visit during the summer (March to June). The views are enchanting during other seasons as well.”
Owing to the rise in popularity of sun tourism, Rajasthan is proactively identifying and promoting such spots across the state to attract tourists, at both a local and global level. Dalip Singh Rathore, deputy director of the Rajasthan Tourism Department, says, “In addition to foreign tourists, home tourists are increasingly interested in sun tourism. Mount Abu is the only hill station in the state with a designated sunset viewing point and people flock there in droves, but forts and fortresses built on the hills of Rajasthan are also fostering sun tourism.” Some of the best places in Rajasthan to spot a glorious sunset would be Nahargarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, along with Jaisalmer and Barmer.
Kaushik Ghelani, Wildlife Film-maker is fond of chasing sunset and mountainous landscapes. In March this year, during his recent trek to Chandrashila in Uttarakhand,, he specifically chose the areas depending on where he could “witness the sunset in all its beautiful yet dramatic moods”. Not new to this trend, the photographer also follows another trend – moonrise. He says, “I have visited various places in the Himalayan mountain ranges to witness the changing hues of not only the sun but the moon as well. Witnessing such events introduce me to nature’s beautiful side. The Moonrise is surreal as well, especially when it’s rising above divine Himalayan snow-capped peaks. Kinnaur Kailash is the most beautiful place to witness the rising moon above the kinnaur kailash peak. I even went to Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh on a full moon day to witness the rising moon in its glory.”
Seeing the alpenglow of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, in Darjeeling (West Bengal) was a dream come true for Priya Bandyopadhyay. She witnessed her 2019 trip, the She says, “I was eagerly looking forward to the spectacular view of the iridescent Kanchanjenga lit by the first rays of the sun. The trek up Tiger Hills in the unearthly morning hours was an uphill task. While the weather didn’t seem conducive, I was lucky to spot the glowing peaks break through despite the dense fog and the opaque mist.”
Nandi Hills in Bengaluru is “famous for its sunrises” shares travel and food blogger, Merrill Fernandes, who visited the spot last month. I couldn’t miss going to Nandi Hills during my trip to Kozikode. We took a bike ride on a chilly morning to get to our destination. The views on the journey were spectacular, but the view once we got to the was mesmerizing. While there weren’t as many clouds as we had expected, those that were there passed by us very swiftly. The chilly breeze and the city view from the top of the hills was so worth it. It was really crowded so I guess everyone knows about this new trend, but i think it is best visited on weekdays. You also have to make sure you reach the area before the sun rises to capture that amazing view and take in the glorious sunrise.”
Calvin Fernandes, a postgraduate student visited Wayanad last year in July during his trip down south. He says, “During our trip, we met a very helpful cab driver that suggested visiting this not-so-well-known sunrise viewpoint in Wayanad at Kurumbalakota. While the sunrises and sunsets were lovely all throughout the trip, this spot, he said had the best. So off we went. To reach there by sunrise we had to take a three-hour drive and left our hotel in Kozhikode by 3 am. After a point, vehicles aren’t allowed so we had to trudge up and went offroading in a jeep. While the journey to the top was so exciting, once we saw the view I was speechless. It felt as if we were sitting on top of the clouds. Words cannot describe the sunrise and it made all the pain of waking up in the middle of the night and travelling all the way totally worth it.”
While the sun is a permanent feature in our day-to-day lives, there is a part of the world that doesn’t see the sun for several months of the year – the Arctic. However, from the months of April until August, the sun becomes a constant presence as it doesn’t completely set in these months and it is known as ‘Polar Day’. Documenting her life living in Longyearbyen, a village in Svalbard, an island close to the North Pole, Cecilia Blomdahl talks about the midnight sun and summer nights in the Arctic. “We have polar day which means that the sun is going to be above the horizon for four months,” the Swedish citizen tells her Insta followers, adding, “The endless daylight is a lot. But I am super happy over how sunny and warm it is.” When she says warm, the temperature can go as high as 4 to 6 degrees in the summer. With varying landscapes of mountains, glaciers and cliffs all around, seeing the setting midnight sun is breathtaking.