Benital, India’s first Astro-Village – A gateway to the cosmos

Picture this: you leave behind the noise and pollution of the city and find yourself surrounded by nature’s serenity. As you look up, the night sky unfolds, adorned with countless twinkling stars. It’s like a magical painting coming to life, captivating your senses and leaving you in awe. You’re in a place where the line between our world and the cosmos blurs. It’s where you can escape the chaos and find solace in the beauty of the night sky. 

Astro village Benital

Now, let’s face it—most cities in India don’t offer the best view of the stars. You’re lucky if you can spot the Moon, Venus, Mars, and a handful of constellations. Our night skies often get dimmed down thanks to air pollution and light pollution. But fear not! There’s a ray of hope.

Uttarakhand’s government has decided to work magic and create a haven for astronomy enthusiasts. Benital is India’s first Astro village. In this little slice of celestial paradise, you book a Savaari and bid farewell to the chaos of city life and immerse yourself in the universe’s wonders. In this article, we will take you on a lowdown on Astro tourism, Astro village and what makes Uttarakhand’s Benital unique for anyone craving a celestial adventure.

What is an astro-village, and why Benital?

Astro village Benital

Ever wondered what an Astro-village is? Well, as you might think, it’s not a village filled with astronomers. An astro-village is a place where tourists can fully immerse themselves in astronomy and stargazing. It’s a destination designed to provide an incredible experience for those fascinated by the wonders of the night sky.

Astro-tourism is gaining popularity as a new travel trend. It combines people’s fascination with astronomy, night sky photography, and exploring remote locations. Several places in India, like Ladakh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, are being developed as astro-sites. However, the district administration of Chamoli has chosen Astro-Village Benital to be India’s first astro-village, and here’s why.

In the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,600 meters, Benital offers clean air and a lack of light pollution. This makes it an ideal destination for Astro-tourism in India. Astro-Village Benital is so far from artificial light that the only light you can see here comes from light-years away. Recognizing its potential, the government of Uttarakhand has decided to transform Benital into a haven for stargazers and astronomers. 

Following the success of its ‘Astro Party’, the tourism board, in collaboration with the Astro-tourism company Starscapes, is working to create a celestial paradise in Benital. In this place, you can escape the hustle and bustle and indulge in your passion for the night sky.

Benital was chosen as the location for Astro Village because it meets all the essential criteria for an astro-village. It boasts a pristine environment free from light and air pollution, ensuring optimal conditions for stargazing and astronomical observation. Situated at least two hours away from the nearest city, it offers a secluded setting that minimizes interference from urban activities. Additionally, its elevated position atop a hill provides residents with breathtaking 270-degree views of the Himalayas. This enhances the overall stargazing experience. Furthermore, Astro Village Benital plans to install permanent telescopes, further solidifying its commitment to providing state-of-the-art facilities for astronomy enthusiasts. As an Astro-village, Benital will let its guests have a close-up view of planets, astronomical events and stars. This is aided by night domes and gigantic telescopes. 

Benital Astro-Village – A game-changer for domestic tourism

Star gazing in India

To make Astro-Village Benital easily accessible and raise awareness among tourists about its unique offerings, the government has begun repairing roads from Simli to Astro village and installing informative signages along the way. As part of the project, the Tourism department is constructing various amenities in Benital, including large telescopes, a night-vision dome, cottages, pathways, a tent platform, a restaurant with a reception area, and two parking lots. The estimated cost for the entire project is around Rs 5 crore. The development of Benital as an Astro-Village can significantly contribute to domestic tourism in several ways:

  1. Unique experience: Benital’s transformation into an Astro-village creates India’s distinctive and niche tourism offering. It allows domestic tourists to engage in stargazing, astronomy workshops, and other celestial activities. These activities are not commonly available in mainstream tourist destinations. This unique experience can attract astronomy enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers from across the country looking for offbeat and enriching travel experiences.
  2. Cultural exchange: Benital’s development as an Astro-village also presents an opportunity for cultural interaction between domestic tourists and the local community. Visitors can engage with the warm and welcoming villagers. They can also learn about their customs, traditions, and local cuisine, and participate in local festivities. This interaction fosters a deeper understanding of the region’s culture and heritage, creating a more enriching travel experience for domestic tourists.
  3. Boost to the local economy: Establishing an Astro-village in Benital is expected to generate employment opportunities for the local population. As domestic tourists flock to the village, there will be a demand for various services such as accommodation, food, transportation, and guidance. This increased tourist activity can lead to the growth of local businesses, homestays, and handicrafts, thereby contributing to the local economy and the region’s overall development.
  4. Tourism infrastructure development: The development of Benital as an Astro-village involves the construction of essential tourism infrastructure, such as roads, accommodations, and amenities. This infrastructure development not only facilitates the growth of Astro-tourism but also enhances the overall tourism potential of the region. It creates a ripple effect, attracting more domestic tourists to explore nearby attractions and destinations, thus contributing to the overall development of domestic tourism in the surrounding areas.

An extraterrestrial experience on Earth

Astro camp in Benital

In the upcoming Astro-village of Benital, you can expect exciting features and activities centred around astronomy and the night sky. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  1. Astronomical facilities and activities: Benital will offer state-of-the-art astronomical facilities, including a dedicated observatory with telescopes and other instruments. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional astronomer, you can explore and marvel at the wonders of the cosmos. From observing distant galaxies and nebulae to identifying constellations and planets, the village will provide opportunities for awe-inspiring astronomical experiences.
  2. Fun and interactive activities: Explore the fascinating world of astronomy with fun and interactive activities, including rocketry-making, astronomy tambola, mystery star identification, meteor spotting and constellation viewer. 
  3. Stargazing experiences: Immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of the night sky with captivating stargazing experiences in Benital. Knowledgeable guides and astronomers will lead sessions where you can gain insights into celestial objects and their significance. Witness the brilliance of the Milky Way, identify star clusters, and even observe meteor showers under the unpolluted skies of Benital, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Astronomy workshops and seminars: For those who seek a deeper understanding of the cosmos, Benital will offer astronomy workshops and seminars. These educational events will cover various topics, such as astrophotography techniques, celestial navigation, and the latest astronomical discoveries. Engage in discussions with experts, exchange knowledge with fellow enthusiasts, and expand your understanding of the universe.
  5. Nature and adventure: While Benital is renowned for its astronomical offerings, it also provides opportunities to immerse yourself in the surrounding natural beauty. Explore the picturesque Himalayan landscapes through nature walks, embark on adventurous treks, or indulge in birdwatching. Combining celestial wonders and breathtaking scenery makes Benital a holistic destination for nature and astronomy enthusiasts.

Additionally, for those just beginning their astro-journey, the Benital Astro Camp provides an excellent opportunity to witness the beauty of the night sky. The Astro Camp typically takes place in May every year. The camp will provide telescopes, binoculars, and other equipment to facilitate observation of the night sky.

How to reach Benital?

Benital in Uttarakhand
Benital during the day | Image credit: Travel My Globe

To reach Benital, you have multiple transportation options available:

By air: The nearest airport to Astro-Village Benital is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, approximately 214 km away. You can easily book an airport taxi from the airport for a hassle-free journey to Benital.

By rail: The closest train station to Astro-Village India Benital is Haridwar Junction, around 230 km away. From Haridwar, you can book a car rental to reach Benital comfortably.

By road: Benital is well-connected and is approximately 430 km from Delhi. Please note that since Benital is a remote location, it is essential to plan your transportation. If you are travelling from Delhi, booking a reliable taxi service that will ensure a smooth and convenient journey to this Astro village is advisable. 

Celestial sojourn: Other Astro tourism spots in India

Milky way spotting

India offers several cities and spots for astro-tourism, where visitors can enjoy stargazing and witness the beauty of the night sky. If you’re looking to escape the confines of concrete metropolitan cities and indulge in incredible stargazing experiences, there are destinations in India worth exploring. These locations offer the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of the night sky. Here are some popular Astro-tourism destinations in India:

  1. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir: Ladakh is famous for its pristine landscapes and high-altitude clear skies, making it an ideal destination for stargazing. The Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso Lake are famous for their breathtaking night skies.
  2. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh: Located in the Himalayas, Spiti Valley is a remote and sparsely populated region with minimal light pollution. The clear skies here offer excellent opportunities for observing celestial objects.
  3. Hanle, Ladakh: Hanle, a small village in Ladakh, is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, one of the highest observatories in the world. It is a restricted area, so you should obtain special permission to visit and explore the observatory.
  4. Rann of Kutch, Gujarat: The vast salt marshes of the Rann of Kutch provide a unique setting for astro-tourism. During the Rann Utsav, a festival held from November to February, visitors can enjoy stargazing camps and astronomy sessions.
  5. Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu: Situated in the Western Ghats, Kodaikanal is a hill station popular for its picturesque landscapes. The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory and the Kodaikanal Observatory offer solar and night sky observation opportunities.
  6. Nainital, Uttarakhand: Nainital is a beautiful hill station famous for its scenic lakes and mountains. The Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) is located here and offers opportunities for astronomy enthusiasts.

Like any other hobby, stargazing can help you unwind, cut yourself off from the rush of daily life, and recharge your batteries before returning to the world of slow-moving traffic and PowerPoint presentations. In addition, it provides a solid connection to nature and has the potential to influence you on a metaphysical plane. To embark on a stargazing road trip accompanied by a knowledgeable chauffeur, simply download the Savaari app

As one of the emerging Astro-tourism destinations in India, Benital showcases the country’s commitment to offering diverse and extraordinary travel experiences. So, whether you’re an astronomy enthusiast or intrigued by the mysteries of the universe, Benital’s celestial paradise awaits, promising unforgettable moments under the pristine night skies of the Himalayas.

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Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Swati Deol

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Benital, India's first Astro-Village: A gateway to the cosmos
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Benital, India's first Astro-Village: A gateway to the cosmos
Explore India's first Astro-Village, Benital, and gain comprehensive knowledge about this celestial haven. Unlock the secrets of the cosmos.
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About the author

Shabari, a modern-day wanderer, seeks out the hidden stories within the world's serene landscapes and vibrant cultures. She views each person as a living, breathing tale, a unique signature in the grand narrative of existence. With an insatiable curiosity for local customs and traditions, Shabari explores the rich drapery of humanity wherever her journey leads. Her passion is to unravel the secrets of tranquil temples, scale majestic mountains, and share the ancient wisdom they hold. Join Shabari on her quest for solace amidst the world's quiet corners and let her writing transport you to the heart of these captivating adventures.

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