Surrounded by snowy mountains, the Amarnath Temple is a Hindu shrine located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is 141kms away Srinagar, the summer capital of the state. The cave is located at an altitude of 3,888 m. The cave is open to the public once a year during the Shravan month in the Hindu calendar and attracts lakhs of pilgrims from all over the world. It is said to be one of the most difficult and holiest pilgrimages in the country for the Hindu community.
Amarnath yatra is considered one of the toughest Hindu pilgrimages in the country. Children below the age of 13 and those above the age of 75 are not allowed to trek past the first base. While it is recommended for healthy people between the ages of 14 to 74, there are many restrictions in place. People who fail their medical examination, have a heart condition and women who are more than 6 weeks into their pregnancies are not allowed to go on the trek as well.
The story of the Amarnath temple is an interesting one. Legend has it that lord Shiva made the climb to the Amarnath temple with his wife, goddess Parvathi, to tell her the secret to his Amar Katha. As no one should know the secret of life and death, he took the goddess Parvathi to the cave leaving behind everyone, including his ride, Nandi the bull, the moon on top of his head, his snake and even lord Ganesha – his son on the way. He chose the place as the trek was so difficult that only Gods themselves could make it to the top. Now, Hindu devotees from all over the world come to the shrine to pray and take Baba Amarnath’s blessings in the Shravani Mela. It is also believed that the lingam or Shivling grows and melts with the lunar cycle during the summer.
Address : Baltal Amarnath Trek, Forest Block, Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir-192230
Dates : Every year the yatra is opened for a period of 2 months approximately during the Shravani Mela. In 2019, the yatra took place between 1st June to 15th August, lasting for 1.5 months. Next year, the yatra is expected to take place between 28th June to 3rd August. The final dates are still unknown. However, registrations will open in March, so anyone who is interested should register as soon as the lines open, otherwise you may miss your chance in 2020.
Hiking, Ponies and Dandies
There are two routes to reach the Amarnath cave via Pahalgam and Baltal. Both these routes have different terrains, which affects the amount of time it takes to climb to the top.
The first route is the northern route via Baltal, Domial, Barari and Sangam. The trek is about 14 kms and takes about 2 days to make a round trip to the cave and back. It is the shorter route and is also the steeper one. People with any medical conditions are not advised to take this route. Only young people seeking an adventure take this route. You will not find ponies on the entire route, however, there are dandies that go to the cave. The weather conditions are unpredictable, which means that it can take a turn for the worse anytime. The pilgrims prefer this route for their descent from the shrine, as opposed to making the ascent.
The second route is through Pahalgam. It is the longer route and ranges from 36 to 48 kms. It takes around 3 to 5 days to trek to the top via this route and, you can either hike or ride ponies and dandies. The route is wider than the first one and slopes gradually.
On both these routes, you will find the best facilities one can find in such extreme conditions. There are many resting camps and food stalls spread across the area. The government, army and many other private organisations are responsible for all the food and safety around the camps.
Helicopter : If you do not want to walk the entire length to the shrine, there are helicopter services available on both the routes. The helicopter will drop you off at Panjtarni, which is 6 kms away from the cave. From there, the pilgrims can either walk or hire ponies or dandies to complete the rest of the trek. Do keep in mind that the ponies will drop you off 2 kms before the cave due to the extreme weather and slight slope. Himalayan Heli Services Pvt. Ltd is one of the helicopter services operating in Amarnath. The one-way ticket is around Rupees 3000 and is different every year.
Want to make one of the most holy pilgrimages in India? Explore our travel packages to Kashmir to make the trip!