According to tourism officials here, 960,912 tourists visited the centrally administered city in 2008. Of these, 32,074 were foreigners.
This year, the tourism department is expecting more than one million tourists. The city, with its wide, clean roads and large gardens, was designed by legendary French architect, Le Corbusier in 1950s.
It has pretty places to boast of – the Rose Garden, Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake and the government museum.
“We had an overwhelming response from tourists in 2008 and this year we are expecting their number to comfortably surpass the one million mark. The start of the year has been encouraging for us as a lot of tourists, both domestic and foreign, visited the city during January,” Vinod Kalia, deputy director of tourism, told IANS.
“All the tourist destinations here like Rose Garden, Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, the government museum and the Sector-17 plaza are bustling with thousands of tourists everyday,” Kalia said.
The tourism figures of the last few years shows a clear rise in tourist inflow to the city, considered a gateway to Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab.
In 2005, nearly 638,000 tourists visited the city, while it was 730,000 in 2006 and 954,726 in 2007.
Kalia added: “This overwhelming response is just because of the constant efforts of the administration and tourism department. Last year we had launched many special schemes for tourists like Chandigarh City Card, tourism police and bed and breakfast scheme.”
These days, Sukhna Lake here has become the focal point among tourists with its vibrant environment and diverse activities like boating, bird watching, camel riding and fishing.
It is, however, boating that is the most popular activity at the lake. One usually finds a long queue of people waiting for their turn.
“This is the peak season but during the last few days the rush had been subdued due to foggy weather and the cold. However, we are again experiencing the same kind of response. Our boats are booked throughout the day,” Sonu, who runs a shikara boat at Sukhna Lake, told IANS.
Apart from the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Sukhna Lake is the only other place in north India where one can find shikaras. There are five shikaras here that were introduced 2007.
“Seeing the response, we have recently introduced many colourful pedal boats in the shape of ducks, dragons and frogs. We have also imported a fire resistant jetty with hi-tech engine that is a rare thing in this part of the country,” A.K. Malhotra, general manager of Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) told IANS.
Foreign tourists are also enjoying visiting the city.
“This is my fourth visit here in the last 10 years. Earlier I came here on a business assignment but gradually I fell in love with this city. The greenery all around and wide roads are the best feature here,” said Dale Adams, a German tourist.
Oscar Muller, who is accompanying Adams, said: “This city reminds me of old streets of Paris. I am a great fan of Nek Chand, the curator of Rock Garden. Besides, people here are also very warm and hospitable.”