This year, after 13 years my father succeeds in planning as well as visiting a hill station with family and I would love to share the overall experiences to help you plan a better vacation especially if you are also planning to visit Jammu & Kashmir
either for fun and entertainment or for religious purpose or for a combination of both like me and my family and we came back happily with some bitter as well as happy moments in our memory forever.
P.S Don’t get confused with the event of deadly disaster because that affected Uttar Kashi of Uttarakhand not Jammu & Kashmir.
It was a week long vacation and believe me it was actually a torture for all and that’s why everyone decided that from next time we would not include religious visits for vacation and all the prayers or else would be conducted only from home or local holy hubs.
Jammu Trip Highlights
- 27 Hours inside the Train
- High Temperature Environment
- Vaishno Devi, Katra via Bus
- On Spot Hotel Search
- Free Yatra Parchi for Devi Darshan
- 20 Hours of regular Torture to the Body
- Local Tourist Places to Visit in Jammu
- No Rooms Situation
- Dry Fruits Everywhere
- On the Train to Return Home
27 Hours inside the Train
Our journey began on 15th June, 2013 early morning and we had 6 seats reserved in 2 Tier AC coach of 18109 Tata Jat Muri Express that covers really a long route from Jharkhand, Bihar Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab to reach the Jammutavi railway station of Jammu & Kashmir.
We were with all the comfort because home made desi fast food was packed that lasted till the 17th and we enjoyed our journey by playing with the 2 little kids of another family who met us time to time during our Devi Darshan, mountain climbing.
I spent most of the time reading some magazines, comics and humors of Akbar and Birbal.
High Temperature Environment
Before leaving my home town Allahabad I already checked the weather conditions of Jammu & Kashmir multiple times to decide that we have to carry the hot clothes or not and we traveled without that extra luggage and that was a wise move because there even at the hill station temperature was always between 30 to 40 degree centigrade and I never felt the cool environment except a single moment at the top of the hill and I’ll go into detail about that too in the below sections.
Vaishno Devi, Katra via Bus
From the Jammutavi railway station you have to travel some 40 kilometers to reach Katra where you can stay and start your journey on your feet, helicopter, horse or palki to reach at the top of the hill and see the Vaishno Devi Bhawan.
We decided to take private bus service to reach there and they charged Rs.50 for each passenger to drop us at the Katra bus depo and yeah there is no need to look here and there because under 500 meters you can stay in a good hotel room, dharamsaala room or dormitory.
It was all planned and prepared by my father and that’s why nothing gone the online way or I have saved a lot of time and money sitting in my office, anyway me and my uncle looked some 2-3 hotels and found a great one named Hotel Bandhu Palace and honestly it was the only place we liked most in the entire tour.
In the photo above there is my mother, me, my youngest brother and uncle – from left to right.
They charged Rs.700 for a normal room and we booked 2 for next two and a half day, they were not providing the food.
We tried different types of desi food from different restaurants and dhaba’s and believe me dhaba was beating the well maintained restaurants when it comes to taste and rate of the food not for the services they offers we really don’t need because all the time we got packed our order and carried to our hotel room.
Free Yatra Parchi for Devi Darshan
Adjacent to the Katra bus depot there is a Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board office to distribute the Yatra Parchi to the devotees and please note it that the parchi is available for free and only to help the board to better manage the security of the place and right ratio of the devotees on the mountain at a particular period of time.
I was not aware about the parchi
system or I had given a try online but now you are aware about the same and should save your 4-5 hours of registering the Vaishno Devi Yatra Parchi
20 Hours of regular Torture to the Body
Like most of the devotees my family believes that mountain climbing on feet would be the better way to visit that religious place known as Vaishno Devi and Bhairav Baba and that’s why I followed them and started mountain climbing from the early morning of the 17th of June and for our bad luck that day was clear and the sun was burning us from the very beginning when we crossed the Banganga check post that was 1 Km from Katra.
We followed the route as mapped below –
As you can see the distance to cover was only 14.5 Km even then people suggested throughout the route that our journey would take at least 30-40 hours if we would take a rest in between but we were in no mood to take rest and that’s why keep walking until we came back to our hotel room.
We have chosen the long route that was plane while we had another option of stairs but we were aware that the stairs would suck our energy more than required and then it would not be possible to return just after visiting the temple so we ignored some 5,000 stairs that would have cut our journey time to almost half.
My brothers and uncle reached before me, my mother and father because I have had to accompany my mother and that was beneficial because my uncle took the tickets at top and when we reached our group number was running as displayed on the various LCD then we left my younger brother outside the security check with our little luggage and shoes because he was not interested to face the rush inside the temple so got security check and submitted the Prasad at one end and collected at the last on other end in between we saw the Vaishno Devi situated in a cave. When we were returning then a cloud came and hit the same side of the mountain where we were at that moment and that hit broke the cloud and we faced a heavy rain that helped us shivered for the first time at this journey and that’s why we also bought plastic rain coats that helped us to save ourselves from the cold.
After the cave we have had to go other side at the distance of 1.5 Km to visit the Bhairav Baba temple because as per as beliefs and information the journey would complete until we would visit there.
Finally we completed this memorable journey in some 20 hours and till then we had covered some 30 Km, 45,000 steps measured by some android app my younger brother was using.
But I would recommend you to book a Pawan Hans Helicopter (a govt. enterprise) tickets because from the helipad you only have to go 2 Km via footpath to visit the top.
Helicopter charges only Rs.800 (single side) and you could get more details about the service by checking this page.
Note* – Other options like a horse, pitthu or palki would not cut the time because the carriers also take rest in between the journey and you have to pay almost equal or some time more than the helicopter charges so that would not be a wise decision if you are in hurry or not in the mood of doing a heavy exercise equivalent of a year long exercise in a 1 or 2 days straight.
Local Tourist Places to Visit in Jammu
We were not prepared and our cell phone was also dead there so we have had to depend upon the taxi driver’s information about the tourist places and that’s why we hired one who dropped us in a hotel nearby the Jammutavi Railway Station via various tourist places that took around 6-7 hours and 100 Km run.
And the charges were only Rs.1600 for a conditioned SUV.
In shortlist –
- India’s biggest aquarium
- Only park in Jammu
- River side Temple
- New Bridge
- First Temple with Holy Well
- Some temple in Cave
To read more about the tourist places of Jammu please join my mailing list because I’m about to update them in some other articles after this one.
No Rooms Situation
If you are also visiting Jammu without prior bookings then it might hit you bad and you have had to search for too many hotels to stay because this is the place where people don’t wait for any particular season and hence the rooms goes filled fast all the time.
Katra was full of hotels and hence we found a good one with vacant rooms but here at the Jammu city there is the limited number of hotels and limited number of rooms to choose from, finally we managed to live in an average hotel I would not like to take even the name of that because I could hardly sleep there in that dirty and suffocated environment but we have no other option available.
Dry Fruits Everywhere
The next day when we reached to the railway station to catch our train then this point came in my mind that there we were surrounded by the dry fruits almost everywhere and that was making a odd environment when we were searching for a good restaurant or bakery shop.
Finally we left empty handed, yes we couldn’t locate any section like that around the railway station and thought about the IRCTC catering.
We also had the dry fruits but only as Prasad and carried from Katra where it was cheaper that other places.
On the Train to Return Home
It was again the Tata Jat Moori Express, 18010 and we were lucky that day we found average lunch and dinner by IRCTC catering.
In return we were tired and most of the time spent by sleeping.
Please Comment or Ask Your Questions
I hope this article and some upcoming one would help you a lot if you are planning to visit Jammu & Kashmir anytime and I would like to see if you have any comment or question regarding my experience on this trip.