Jammu, which is often dubbed as the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the popular Hindu pilgrimage centers in India. Renowned for the shrine of Vaishno Devi that is tucked on top of the Trikuta Hills at a height of 1,700 meters, Jammu city also boasts attractions like the Mubarak Mandi Palace, Amar Mahal Palace that is now a Museum, gardens and forts. Further, the city is also the gateway to the lush green meadows and hulking heights of Kashmir and a stopover to Amarnath Yatra in Kashmir, which is a popular pilgrimage tour in India. The city, being nestled at the foothill of the Himalaya, is a doorway to several short treks.
Trekking in Jammu is not a strenuous task. The 13 kilometer trek to the shrine of Vaishno Devi from Katra is just a matter of couple of hours trail. Further, the low undulated terrain, which is covered with a thick forest, surrounding the Mansar Lake, may also fetch travellers for trekking in Jammu. Steering towards Gulabgarh, the trek to the shrine of Machail Mata is yet another divine opportunity for trekking in Jammu. It is approximately a 2 days trek that covers a distance of 32 kilometers from Gulabgarh.
Nonetheless, Jammu is the gateway to the heights of Kashmir, which is the land of beautiful green meadows, skimming streams, towering peaks and high altitude lakes. Thus, Jammu is also considered as the base of several treks. Some of the notable treks in Jammu are Kishtwar to Padum, which is in Zanskar. The trek from Kishtwar to Srinagar that passes through Banderkot, Dadhpeth, Mughal Maidan, Chhatru, Sinthan and Daksum is also an enchanting journey of 5-6 days.
Perched on a hilltop at an altitude of 2024m, Patnitop offers overwhelming view of the Shivalik Range. It is one destination in Jammu region that is widely acclaimed for its immense beauty and the abundant fun activities. For people who want to some quality time contemplating the marvels of nature, Patnitop is just right for them. Visit Gourikund, which holds great spiritual value, one can also see the holy Kailash Parvat. A leisure walk to the Pine forest is ideal for the nature lovers. Enjoy trekking at Shivgarh and paragliding, abseiling (rappelling), rock climbing and camping at Sanasar. At a little distance from Patnitop, there is a village called Kud that is famed for vivid varieties of sweets, make sure that you try some of it and take it back home as a memoir of Patnitop.
Vaishno Devi Trek
Situated in a cave in the Trikuta mountain in Jammu and Kashmir, the Vaishno Devi shrine is one of the most popular pilgrimages in India. Perched at an altitude of 5200 feet, it involves a trek of nearly 12 kms from the base camp at Katra. Despite this arduous journey, it is estimated that the shrine gets over one crore visitors annually.
The climb itself is on a well-paved path with a gentle slope. Its duration varies according to the weather, the crowds and your speed. The route is dotted with shops selling souvenirs and devotional music, with pleasant views all along. You also have the option of climbing up stairs, which are shorter but much steeper and hence, more physically demanding. Key landmarks include Darshani Deodhi, Banganga, Chara Paduka, Indraprastha, Adhkuari, Garbha Joon, Himkoti, Haathi Matha, Sanji Chhat Bhavan, Sher ka Panja and Bhairon Mandir. The mid-point is at Adhkuari, from where you continue to Sanji Chhat, a scenic plateau that has been developed as a helipad and resting point. From here, it is a comfortable two-and-a-half km walk to the shrine.