Today, we look at a tiny hill station in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The state is famous for its Himalayan destinations such as Gulmarg and Amarnath. But little is known about the town of Patnitop. While most Indians do not know about it, the city of Jammu has been considering this little town a getaway for a long time. During weekends, the entire urban population of Jammu can be seen at Patnitop. This pine tree lined hill station is to Jammu, what Lonavla is to Mumbai / Pune, Nandi Hills is to Bengaluru, Shimla is to Chandigarh and Ooty is to Coimbatore / Mysuru. A convenient one-day or a weekend trip to escape the big city. Let us learn more about this town.
Geography of Patnitop
Jammu lies in the north-west corner of India. To the south of Jammu are the plains of Punjab. Contrary to what people might believe, not all of Jammu & Kashmir is mountainous. Jammu city and district are very much in the plains with mountains at least 50 km to the north. To the north-west of Jammu are the Trikoot hills. Maa Vaishnodevi at Katra is part of the Trikoot range. To the north-east, beyond the town of Udhampur, is the Chainani range.
Patnitop is a town on the Chainani range. The old highway between Jammu region to Kashmir region passes through Chainani and Patnitop. With this road, vehicles had to ascend to the top of the mountain range and descend to the town of Batote. In 2015, the national highway was shortened drastically as a tunnel was bored through the mountains, such that vehicles go from Chainani to the village of Nashri completely skipping Patnitop and Batote. Suddenly, the highway between Jammu and Patnitop got quieter, since the vehicles proceeding to Kashmir had no reason to take the winding hilly road.
So Patnitop became a destination unto itself, mainly as a getaway for the urban, affluent families of Jammu city. To the north of Patnitop at the base of the mountain range is the town of Batote. The Chenab river flows in a massive rapid just beyond this town. The river can also be seen from a vantage point on the hills of Patnitop, along with the Baglihar dam and hydroelectricity project.
People of Patnitop
While agriculture, cattle and horse rearing is the main occupation in the Chainani range, Patnitop has grown into a town that caters to tourism. The local population here owns hotels or restaurants or works in them. During off-season, most people move to Jammu or Udhampur for work. Patnitop has a healthy mix of people following three religions. Hindus are the majority, while Sikhs and Muslims are also in sizeable numbers. Most hotel owners and business community are Sikhs. Hindi and Punjabi are the most widely spoken languages at Patnitop. In fact, this can be said for all of Jammu region of J & K. If you happen to drive in from Punjab's Pathankot to Jammu, you will hardly notice any change in language or culture. Only a checkpost lets you know that you are in Jammu & Kashmir. The whole of Jammu region, including Patnitop, seems to be an extension of Punjab.
Let's look at the places to see at Patnitop.