There is a famous quote “To appreciate the beauty of snowflakes, it is necessary to stand out in the cold” goes well with our last winter trip during December 2019.
It was a well-planned group tour to Vaishno Devi shrine and Patnitop situated in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. I remember, on a cold night, we boarded the overnight train from the Old Delhi railway station and the next day reached Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra station around 11 AM in the morning. We welcomed by one of my friends Rohit and his cousin, both native of Jammu city. The weather was clear with bright sun but the icy wind could be felt.
After the group photograph, we transferred and check-in our hotel. The accommodation was simple with clean rooms and well located on the main road. After fresh n up we all enjoyed the simple food consist of plain rice, yellow dal, mix veg, chapatis, and salad. Later, after a short nap, we were ready for the hike. Around 5 PM we head to the Yatra Registration counter, then took the shared autos up to Banganga check post and continue on the shrine road. It’s a walk of around 14 km one way and to cover this there were plenty of options such as helicopter service (operates during day time and prior booking through official website is required), palki, khajjar ride, pithu and stroller for infants and kids.
We all hiked by foot with two strollers for the kids, which I believe the best way to have full experience of the Yatra. We started our hike around 6 PM and it took us around 7 hours to reach the Bhawan. We took plenty of short breaks for tea, rest, and steaming Maggi. The entire journey along with the chants of “Jai Mata Di” fills the atmosphere with positive vibes, which seems like walking on the path of nirvana.
We reached the temple complex, nestled in Trikuta hills, around 1 AM, and after some rest proceed to take a bath. For darshan, we split into two small groups. The queue was long and it takes us around 45 mins for Darshan of Divine Mother inside the Holy Cave. Thereafter, we collected “Prasad” from the counter and reached the same point where the second group waiting for their turn. The second group took around 50 mins for darshan and met us later at a tea cafeteria we decided before. Its freezing cold, so after some rest along with tea/coffee, we continued our descent to Katra, and by 8:30 AM we were in our hotel room.
After some rest, around 12 PM, we proceed towards Patnitop, situated on a plateau in the Shivalik belt of the Himalayas. We enjoyed our lunch at midway and continue our journey. The distance from Katra to Patnitop is around 85 km. After crossing Chenani, the roads become narrow but soon we came across the panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks, small villages, and farmlands. We entered Patnitop from the JKTDC office side and all around there was snow cover adding to the beauty of the hill station.
After reaching the hotel room, most of the group members choose to remain in the room to enjoy a cup of hot steaming coffee or tea along with a view of picturesque hills. Some of the members along with me enjoyed a leisure stroll in the surrounding. Soon it was dark and the temperature seemed to drop by 10 degrees, which must be around 2 degrees. Later, the group met at the restaurant for next day planning followed by dinner consist of Chicken masala, Cheese, Dal Makhani, mix veg, salad, rice, and hot chapatis/fulka. All rooms were beautifully decorated, comprise of a king-size bed, sofa with table, geyser, and electric bed warmer/blanket. I personally enjoyed the lovely clean bed and fall asleep quickly.
The next morning, we visited the Naag temple, just 5 mins walk away from our hotel. This temple believed to be one of the oldest temples in the region. Thereafter all reached the main park, where the entire area was covered with white snow. The moment was really magical, people were busy enjoying with flakes of snow, taking selfies and pictures. Some were engaged in activities like zipline and cardboard sledding. My daughter was busy making a snowman out of snowflakes.
Patnitop is also famous for other places like Madhatop, Sanasar lake, Shiva Garh, and Nathatop. All these places are best for spending calm and soothing holidays as well as popular for breath-taking views of Himalayas. Due to heavy snow in the region, we decided to stay and enjoy at the main park area only. Around 2 PM, we left for the Jammu city. Enroute we stop at Khud for lunch and famous local sweet “Patisa”. We packed for our homes and continue towards Jammu railway station. Evening, we spend some quality time in and around the Shree Raghunath Ji temple area followed by transfer to Jammu Tawi railway station to board the overnight train to Delhi. The trip ended very well with long-lasting memories. The entire journey, from starting to end, enjoyed by all group members especially by those who witnessed snow for the first time in their life.
If you want to read my previous article then click here