Situated in a cave in the Trikuta mountain in Jammu and Kashmir, the Vaishno Devi temple is one of the most popular pilgrimages in India. Perched at an altitude of 5200 feet, it involves a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. Despite this arduous journey, it is estimated that the shrine gets over one crore visitors annually, and more so during the Navratras.
The climb of Vishno Devi Yatra 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. A second, cleaner track (it doesn’t allow ponies) separates from the main one half-a-km before Adhkuari. For other ways to reach the shrine, refer to the how to reach section below.