Snowfall in West Bengal’s Sandakphu brings cheer among tourists

Tourists are celebrating the inaugural snowfall of the season at Sandakphu, the highest point in West Bengal. Against the stunning backdrop of the Kanchenjunga mountain range, visitors are engaged in playful snowball fights, creating vibrant scenes against snow-blanket landscapes. As temperatures dropped in the elevated reaches of Darjeeling district, the Meteorological Department anticipates a substantial decrease of three to five degrees Celsius in minimum temperatures across eastern India in the coming days.

Reports of the first snowfall in Sandakphu and Tonglu prompted a surge of tourists to flock to the elevated regions of the district. Perched at an elevation of 11,930 feet on the Singalila ridge in the Himalayas, Sandakphu stands as West Bengal’s highest point, providing breathtaking views of the Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, and Kanchenjunga peaks.

Darjeeling, referred to as the “queen of hills”, recorded a minimum temperature of 6.6 degrees Celsius and received 4.8 mm of rainfall in 24 hours until Friday morning, according to the weather office. Snowfall in the region has become a regular occurrence since 2018, with periodic intervals during the winter seasons of 2021 and 2022. Local tour operators told PTI that the region received snowfall in 2018 after nearly a decade.

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Amid the snowy spectacle, tourists were spotted revelling at Sandakphu. Raj Basu, convenor of the Siliguri-based Association for Conservation of Tourism, reported an upsurge in inquiries from across India following reports of the first snowfall in the Darjeeling hills. He added that the initial snowfall marks the commencement of the winter tourism season in North Bengal and Sikkim.

“The first snowfall acts as a kickstart for the winter season for tourism in the region, encompassing north Bengal and Sikkim,” he told PTI. Anil Punjabi, a national committee member of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), noted nearly full occupancy at hotels and homestays.

He was optimistic, about the occupancy, which was currently at around 90%, would reach full capacity in the coming days. A tourist from Kolkata told PTI, “The last time I visited Darjeeling was in 2014. For the past few years, we have read about snowfall in the hills, but we didn’t expect snowfall at this time. It is a really memorable trip.”

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