Maa Vaishno Devi Mandir/Temple (Hindi: वैष्णोदेवी मन्दिर) located near the Katra town of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India is the holy place for the Hindus. This temple dedicated to Shakti (Power), is the most visited place in India, its the second most visited religious temple after Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple. The shrine is at an altitude of 5200 ft & around 14 km from Katra town.
Information on how to reach there, how long it takes, modes of transportation (Katra to Maa Vaishnodevi Shrine), various services, ... will be provided in this blog.
Starting point at BaaNa Ganga
View of mountains from BaaNa Ganga
Another picture of the starting point
Getting to the Maa Vaishnodevi Mandir from Katra:
From Katra town, you need to go to a place called BaaNa Ganga which is around 2 km from the town of Katra. One can get an auto rickshaw from Katra town to BaaNa Ganga.
From BaaNa Ganga, the shrine is around 13 km. There are 3 options to reach the shrine
1) By walk : Can take anywhere from 6-7 hrs one side. You can go by walk any time, 24 hrs a day, there are enough lights & facilities on the way, you can find lot of people going by walk along the way.
2) By Pony or Horse : Charges for pony/horse for up & down is around 1200/- INR as of April 2011. Travel time on pony/horse will take 3-4 hrs one side.
3) By Doli/Palakki : Preferred for senior citizens. If you don't get Helicopter tickets, then this is the best option. Charges are little higher, it costs around 3400/- INR + Kharcha Paani for them. 4 people carry the doli & it takes around 4-5 hrs one side.
There is also another mode of transportation from Katra to Maa Vaishnodevi Temple, the helicopter service. You can get the tickets online or in Katra town. There are 2 companies giving the helicopter service to Vaishnodevi one is Deccan Aviation & the other is Pawan Hans. Ticket fare keeps changing every month as the tender for serving that month will be awarded by the Maa Vaishnodevi Shrine Board.
Online its very difficult to get, as the tickets will be booked much in advance.
Getting in Katra town is also difficult. You need to stand in the queue early in the morning around 2-3 AM to get a ticket for that day. For a day, there will be only 40 trips & each trip can carry only 6 people, so its really difficult to get the helicopter tickets.
If you get the helicopter ticket then you'll be really lucky, as the travel time is just 8-10 mins from Katra to Sanjhichatt. From Sanjhichatt to Vaishnodevi shrine, you need to again walk or take pony, its just around 2-3 km.
More details on how to book online & price details can be found in this link:
View from half way to the temple from the mountains
Pathway to the Shrine
Another view from mountains from half way to Temple
Yet another view
View of path way to the Shrine on the mountains
Few tips & suggestions for this trip:
* Try to leave as early as possible in the morning if you are going by pony/doli
* If going by walk, starting in the evening/night is a better option
* Just to make a note, Navratra season 9 days (can fall in March/April) it'll be too crowded. First day of Navratra will be Ugadi in South India. So plan accordingly
* If bachelor, go trekking, it'll be exciting
* Senior citizens prefer Doli or Helicopter
* During winter/rainy season, it'll be too cold (Sept to April), so carry enough warm clothing.
* Evening temple closes at 5 pm for pooja & opens again at 9 pm, not sure about the morning pooja, you need to check that out.
There are a lot of Hotels in Katra. All types of hotels ranging standard/budget/luxury are available in Katra. Visit to Maa Vaishnodevi Shrine from Katra can be done in one day, if left early in the morning or previous night. Restaurant of both North & South Indian cuisine can be found in Katra.