Amarnath holy cave is situated at an altitude of 12000 feet from sea level , about 140 KM from Srinagar. The Cave is reachable only during the Month of July and August.
For those who are interested in Trekking would really enjoy the spell-bounding Snowy visuals and climate throughout their journey.
The Journey of Amarnath Trekking will rejuvenate the energy with more surprises from the Snowy Mountains, climate changes from minute to minute. It will be exceedingly an adventurous trip for sure.
How to Reach :
Srinagar is the place where you should land first and from there you would need to choose from which place you wanted to trek. Srinagar can reach by Air/Train from any Major Cities of India. Best connection is through flight from Delhi to Srinagar & Chandigarh to Srinagar.
Trekking Routes :
There are two ways to reach Amarnath holy Cave
1. From Pahalgam 2. From Baltal
Distance to reach Pahalgam & Baltal from Srinagar
From Srinagar to Pahalgam , it is close to 90 KM
From Srinagar to Sonarmarg, it is close to 80 KM
From Sonamarg to Baltal(Baltal base camp) it is 15 KM
Pahalgam Route :
The distance from Pahalgam to Amarnath is 43 KM and it is the longest route to reach Amarnath. I heard that this route has extraordinary scenery and stunning visuals that can be remembered for a long time.
Baltal Route :
The distance from Baltal to Amarnath is 14 KM. I reached Amarnath through this route and it is very steep and adventurous. This route also has good visuals, but the adventure overtook us because of the steep path. Trekking lovers would really enjoy to the core.
Both routes have horses and pony for reaching holy cave. I also see people trek by foot. It’s the individuals interest and health condition has to be checked or reviewed before to decide whether he/she choose to trek by foot. I would think it would take approximately more than 6 hours to reach the holy cave one way if they choose by foot.
Medical Certificate Required and it is a MUST :
To take up Amarnath Journey, Medical Certificate is Mandatory and you will not be able to take flight in a Helicopter and won’t be allowed to trek as well if in case you don’t possess a Medical Certificate. It should be attested only from the Doctor Authorized to issue the Health certificate. The doctor’s list will be revised every year. The doctor’s list and Medical Certificate form/ Other Miscellaneous information regarding Amarnath Travel will be available on this Site.
Note: You will not be allowed if they see any other doctor certifying your Medical certificate other than the list sent by State Governments.
Airtel and BSNL Postpaid works fine in Srinagar. Even in some area, prepaid won’t work well. Only BSNL Postpaid works in Sonamarg, Baltal and Amarnath. No other networks available at that place. When you start trekking and you don’t have BSNL postpaid, you will be completely isolated. I didn’t aware of this information and thought BSNL prepaid would work and finally it broke. One of our family friend who is in the Army helped me to get it covered for Phone.
The climate in July and August will be mixed. There are chances it will rain but mostly we can expect a clear weather but weather in the night will be cold . So take woollen clothes, Jerkins, Hand gloves, Shawls, Shoes.
Caution – Avoid trekking during heavy rain as there are possibility of Land Slide in the route due to unexpected flooding
If your Journey is in the Start of July, there will be “Pandals” organized in Panjtarni & various other places for food. There are also Tea shops in the middle for a short break to have tea/Coffee. I took bread, chocolates and Nuts.
As far as food in Srinagar is concerned, almost in all the restaurants, Punjabi Food, North Indian Thali food, Roti, Pulka, Rice with Dal Curry, Rajma curry, Mixed Vegetable curry will be available. For a Perfect south Indian expecting south Indian food will be a big zero. Food quality and taste are normal. You can anticipate the same kind of menu in Sonamarg hotels. We ordered rice with dal + vegetable curry and some puppet in Sonamarg hotel. Quality and taste is good.
Things to Carry during Trekking – Same day Return
When you start your Trekking, take only very little things that are necessary if you are returning on the same day. You may want to carry chocolates and nuts as they are high calorie and reduce your hunger during your travel. Medicines for headache/Fever and dizziness / Pain balm or Spray/ Any instant energy drinks or Glucose might help. I took Spray / Headache and Fever Tablets.
Time to Start:
I feel, it’s sound to take off the trekking early at least from 4 to 4.30 AM, so you can turn over the holy cave and return by 3 or 4 PM the same day. Return Journey will not consume much time than onward Journey.
As I articulated in the beginning, It depends upon the person and their health, whether they desired to hire Pony or trek by foot. If you choose by foot, start as early as Possible
Stay in Panjtarni & Holy Cave:
I travelled to the holy cave in the month of August, so not much of tents and shops there. When you plan in the month of July, there will be tents available for rent to stay, beds and shawls available for rent as well. It’s your choice to decide whether you wanted to stay there for a night and start your return Journey next day. I returned the same day.
Helicopters to Reach Panjtarni:
There is also an another option to reach panjtarni through Helicopters from baltal and Pahalgam. Its a good option for aged people. From Panjtarni, holy cave is only 6 KM. on Panjtarni , you can hire pony or horse for rent to reach the cave. Helicopter tickets should be booked prior and reach baltal helicopter base camp with the prompt timing specified in your tickets.
Helicopter Ticket Cancellation Policy :
Himalayan weather is unpredictable and helicopters may not fly if there is a bad weather condition. If in case you don’t fly in helicopters, you may ask for a refund. It will get refunded in 45 days.
I booked the helicopter tickets, but helicopter travel was cancelled due to heavy rain and mist on the first day . They agreed to refund the tickets and the travels refunded the amount in 2 months.
We went in the month of August and we couldn’t see much people trekking so early in the morning as it is almost closing days of that season .
We stayed in the Baltal Army Camp in the middle of the Jungle . We started our Trekking sometime early in the Morning around 3.30 AM . The weather was very cold and luckily no sign of rain that day.
The Pony came around 3 AM in the Morning. We took off approximately 3.30AM, Journey was really enjoyable and adventurous as the trekking was on the steep valley. I just looked around and realized no one else is around except us. The only sound which we heard from the surrounding was the river flow sound!!!!!!!!!!! And that was my assumption at that moment.
After a few yards, I could see Army Soldier standing with Guns for Security. A big and Royal salutes to our soldiers for risking their life throughout the season and making it sure all the pilgrims return safe to base. They are polite, brave and helpful. The good thing was they were standing in every 200 to 300m distance to cover us
As we move on, after 6 AM , I see many other people are passing by horse.
A little bit of fear with in me when the pony’s step was slipped in places like this 🙂
The time is around 7.30 AM and we are half a way through and wanted to take a quick break as my wife was really tired and felt a little bit of dizziness . We decided to take rest for 15 min . Ponywalla’s were really helpful and they never rushed us.
As the season is getting closed, I see people closing their shops and huts and coming to base.
As we move on, we could see a GLACIER ahead on the narrow path. I was surprised to see the way Pony handled to cross the glacier. Very Nicely & Smartly trained :)!!!!!!
After the glacier, there was an another surprise awaiting for us, A beautiful falls in the center with a small wooden bridge along the way. We couldn’t hold our eyes away from this place, as it possesses beauty and danger put together in the same space.
on the sangam Junction, we could see Kaali Maatha in the hill
This is the Junction where people from Baltal in the left and people from Pahalgam come from the right heading towards Cave. Panjtarni is on the right side and those who come from Helicopter will be arriving on the right side. We are almost nearing cave , it should be close to 3 KM now to reach Holy cave.
As we are getting close to the cave, we could sense there is a slight climate change !!!
During the start of the season, it would be full of tents and huts, as you see not much of tents as it is almost the close of the season.
After reaching the Cave, still we need to climb 500 steps to reach the top of the cave. My wife almost exhausted and had breathing issues. We do have a workaround to sort this out.
For those not able to climb after a long hours of trekking , Doly facility is available for you . They will carry you to the top of the Cave for Darshan and will get you down once after the Darshan. They will charge around 700, but it looks like it is costlier. Army Soldier said, it should be about 500 or less than that for taking us back and forth.
My wife reached the top of the cave with the help of doly and I climbed slowly on the steps and reached the top for darshan. It was really an extra-ordinary feeling when we reach the top and felt we are blessed. The cave was extremely cool and with bare foot, it’s not possible to stand for more than 5 minute. They do offer wooden chappels to sort this out.
After the Darshan, we spent 1 hour in that place and finished our breakfast. Around 11 AM, we started our return journey to base. It was around 2.30 PM we reached the base. The return journey would be quick but would be painful when Pony tends to run on a flat surface.
To Conclude, Amarnath Season is only for 45 days. It holds everything that you ask for, If you are Nature lover, you will be wondered by the beauty and adventure connected to it. For the trekking lovers, it’s a wonderful spot to enjoy and rejuvenate your vitality. For Pilgrims, The divine and Peace are the prime ingredients for you , which connects all together
Message for Patients :
Just a message of Caution for those who are suffering from Respiratory problems. Please have your medicines on hand. As you approach steeper there are more chances you will have breathing troubles due to lack of oxygen.
Readers can also read my Other Amarnath Series blog on ” Sequence of Events on Amarnath “
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