The pilgrims visiting the shrine of Vaishno Devi has risen from 1.4 million to 8.2 million in two decades, and that has only added more number of shops to the buzzing market of Katra. Shops here sell everything from handicraft to junk jewellery, small souvenir items, dry fruits, jackets and offerings for the temple. Having a small population of approximately seven and a half thousand, the place is forever buzzing with shopkeepers selling various items and pony rides and auto rickshaws attracting pilgrims at the top of their voice. Earlier, a trek or a pony ride was the only option of reaching the shrine from Katra, but of late, environment friendly autos and helicopter rides have been introduced to make the journey of pilgrims easier.
Katra serves as the base camp for pilgrims who visit Vaishno Devi. It has a thriving tourism industry that offers plenty of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, dhabas, fast-food joints that fit all kinds of budgets. Free accommodation is provided by some registered trusts in the form of Sarais for the poor. The number of pilgrims that visit the shrine every year has increased from 1.4 million in 1986 to 8.2 million in 2009. Over the years, a lot has changed, but one should not miss the opportunity to walk through the main bazaar (market) for buying (do not forget/hesitate to negotiate a bit) souvenirs, dryfruits, woolen garments, hosiery, leather jackets, etc. To reach Vaishno Devi temple the pilgrims have to register at the Katra before starting the trek. By registering, the pilgrims get accident insurance while on the trek for 1 lakh INR. It is a trek of 14 km.
There is another trek (1.5 km) from Vaishno Devi temple for Baba Bhaironnath. It is said that the pilgrimage is not complete until you visit this temple at last. The scenery throughout the trek is picturesque. Environment-friendly auto rickshaws and helicopter services are available, to make the journey a pleasant one.
Places to Visit in Katra
How to reach Katra
By Train:- Jammu Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link connects the Katra railway station of Northern Railways to the rest of Indian railways network.
By Road:- The National Highway connects Katra with other parts of India. One can hire taxis which are easily available at Jammu and Katra.
By Air:- Nearest Airport from katra is Jammu Airport. It is 55kms from katra.Prepaid taxis are avilable from airport to katra on 24 X 7 basis.
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