June 18, 2024

Amarnathji, the must visit pilgrimage destination for devout Hindus stands at the end of the Lidder Valley at a height of 3888 meters in the Himalayas. The Amarnath Yatra is an arduous trek that starts at Pahalgam and covers a distance of 45 kilometers or from Baltal. It is tough going from Baltal over rugged terrain and you need to be physically fit to undertake the walk or alternatively take ponies.

For the visit to go off smoothly you must plan in advance and also book with the appropriate tour organizer. You could choose the surface route or, better still, have a delightful helicopter Yatra, offering a breathtaking view of the Himalayas and the countryside from the air. Most organizers arrange for a pickup at Srinagar and transport to Baltal from where you clamber aboard the helicopter for this short trip to the helipad, about 5 kilometers from the Shrine. From there you walk or take a pony. Regardless of whether you walk from Baltal or go by copter there are a few things you must know to make the trip go off smoothly.

1. You need a permit to visit the Holy Cave. Check if the Yatra organizers manage this. If not apply for one and get it before you do anything else. Get the card and carry it with you on the trek. Plan your trip for summer, before the rains start.

2. Go in for a thorough medical check up since you will be trekking at heights of over 3500 meters and the air is thin. It takes time to get acclimatized to the height otherwise you experience shortness of breath, even for the 5 kilometer stretch. You must practice walking for at least 10 kilometers a day for a month before you undertake this holy pilgrimage.

3. It is cold up there in the mountains so please make sure you carry warm woolens, socks, boots and caps to keep yourself fully protected against biting chilly winds. Your boots must preferably be ankle length and must have good soles with non-skid grips. Also include a raincoat in your pack; a disposable one will do nicely. You can buy these at Chandanwari if you like or in your home town.

4. Food can be a problem so carry high energy, nutrition rich packaged foods to keep you energized during the walk. Carry a stick along with you for support.

5. Up there in the rarefied atmosphere the amount of UV will be high so protect your exposed surfaces with sun screens.

6. Insure yourself and carry identification papers.

7. Rather than travel alone, go with a friend or better, in a group. It is more enjoyable and safe.

8. If you cannot carry luggage, you can hire coolies but make sure to fix prices and schedules and keep in contact.

9. If you are short of time or do not have walking practice, opt for a helicopter ride.

10. Carry cash and documents separately in a pouch you can keep securely in your pocket or clothing, separate from your shoulder pack.

11. Follow guidelines and advice and avoid any shortcuts.

12. Do not use plastic containers and dispose them off on the route.

13. Do not carry drugs or alcohol on the trek.

14. While at the cave of Shri Amarnathji, the culmination point of the Yatra, please do not touch the Lingam or shower it with flowers as is customary in other places.

The best way is to go as part of a group and go by helicopter for the Amarnath Yatra for a smooth, enjoyable pilgrimage that will fill you with a sense of peace and of having done your duty.