Jai Mata Di! The glorious chant echoing in the caves of Jammu is bound to leave you mesmerized. Katra serves as the base camp of the holy journey to Vaishno Devi. With more than 500 hotels in this small town, it surely is a delight to be surrounded by like-minded religious folks, who have been summoned by the Hindu Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi. Vaishno Devi Mandir, where the Goddess is enshrined, is located at the Trikuta Mountains, within Jammu. The Temple or Bhawan is 13.5 kms from Katra and various modes of transportation are available from here to ferry you to the Bhawan, including ponies, electric vehicles and paalkhis. Helicopter services are also available up to Sanjichhat, the ascending point to Vaishno Devi Mandir, which is 9.5 kms from Katra.
Traditionally, this journey is a hike to the Bhawan. Hence, it becomes advisable to take a night’s rest at Katra. With so many options available, it is not a problem to find the right hotel that suits your needs the best. However, choosing the right hotel needs some research. There are hundreds of pocket-friendly hotels that are just next to the railway station. Each provides its own unique experience. Many hotels in Katra offer scenic views of the green valley, besides spacious rooms and efficient services, one from these hotels are best to choose, if they meet your budgets as the beautiful view and positivity flowing in the air, makes the stay memorable and worthwhile. But to choose the best hotel, a traveler also has to keep in mind the proximity of the hotel from the railway station and the Shrine Board, where travelers can arrange for helicopters, if required. You could also check for some hotels that offer spa services. A relaxing massage before or after the journey is a great idea. These hotels are a delight to people who are ready to embark on the pilgrimage the next day and also to those who are returning from the Holy Shrine.
When in Katra, a tasteful all-vegetarian meal adds to the heavenly experience. Tourists can choose from elaborate spreads of pure-vegetarian cuisine and specially crafted menus, or stick to the traditional Vaishno thalis and assortments available, the hotels are all geared up to please the taste palates of the pilgrims from all walks of life.
Apart from the religious significance the city has, Katra is also known for its scenic beauty. Tourists can go to Himkoti, which is situated on the new track, and is at a distance of 8.75 kms from Katra, via Adhkunwari, that marks the half-way checkpoint of the journey to the Holy Cave and is about 6 kms from Katra.
The Shrine Board has also set up a view-point at Himokti and the area is flooded with restaurants, dosa counters, cooked meal shops, medi-care shops and cassette counters. An artificial pond, a garden and a meditation centre in Himkoti make this place adequately spacious to rest, relax and enjoy the scenic beauty.
So, no matter what your budgets are, when you embark on your spiritual journey to Katra, make sure to add an extra day to experience the scenic bliss this city offers, besides the soul satisfying experience, the journey to Vaishno Devi brings.