Srinagar: Asia’s largest tulip garden overlooking the famous Dal Lake here was thrown open to the public on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the new tourism season in the Kashmir Valley.
The Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, formerly known as Siraj Bagh, was opened in 2008 by then chief minister of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The idea of the garden, spread over 30 hectares in the foothills of the snow-clad Zabarwan range, was conceived to advance the tourism season in the valley by two months.
The garden was thrown open to the public by J-K chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta on Wednesday.
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Speaking to reporters, Mehta said the last six months have seen the highest-ever tourist footfall in the valley.
He said the tourism has been revived and people are not getting rooms as hotels in the valley are fully booked.
He said the administration was working on opening and promoting 75 new tourist destinations.
This year the garden houses 1.5 million flowers of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and Muscari.
“The flowers include 68 varieties of tulips,” In-charge of Tulip Garden Inam Rehman Sofi said.
He said the visitors will be able to see six new varieties of tulips.
Sofi said last year, 2.25 lakh people visited the garden, and this year “we expect more”.
“Most of the visitors (today) were from outside the UT, which is a good signal. The garden pre-pones our tourist season and I think this is a good omen for this year’s tourist season,” Sofi said.
This year, the department has made provisions for online ticket sales as well to avoid the rush at the ticket counter.
The average lifespan of tulip flowers is three to four weeks, but heavy rains or too much heat can destroy them.
The Floriculture Department plants tulip bulbs in a phased manner so that the flowers remain in the garden for a month or more.
“It feels so good to be here. We are seeing unbelievable flowers, the beauty of Kashmir,” a tourist from Gujarat, Nehal Mehta, said.
Another tourist, Viranshi, also from Gujarat, said, “I had seen flowers in bouquets only so far. This is the first time I am seeing such a vast variety of flowers in a garden, in so many colors. This is beautiful and mesmerizing.” “We have had so many wonderful moments in Kashmir like a Shikara ride and playing in the snow, which is a dream come true. But, this Tulip garden is a cherry on top,” she added.