I am not religious, but I believe in a higher power. Vaishno Devi Yatra and Golden Temple are the two religious trip on my wish list ever since I can remember. I did the former and planning the latter (will write about it, once I visit it). We friends cooked a plan to do this trip along with some sightseeing in Jammu. The trip to the shrine is not difficult. One can rent horses or take the helicopter, but we wanted to walk. If your physical activity day to day is just traveling to your office then the tips below would be useful.
1. If you are traveling during summers,as I did then try reaching the place by noon. Take a morning flight to Jammu and from their take cab to Katra which will drop you near the temple around noon.Take some rest .For the budget travelers, Kapoor palace is a good option
2. I would suggest to explore the market same day if pressed for time.As you will be dead tired once u finish the darshan. You can buy the prasad, almonds, walnuts. Look around for some pretty handicrafts.Eat food in the small dhabas. More tasty and less expensive.
3. Morning till evening ,temperature during summers in Jammu is above 40.The weather is more pleasant in the night.Start the journey to the shrine in the night. It will be less tiring.
4. Travel light. Carry a glucose packet only. There are numerous shops offering water, food along the way. Carry caps,scarfs and sunglasses for the return journey.
5. The toilets are not very clean,so if you have public toilet phobia eat n drink accordingly.
6. There are 2 ways - stairs and normal pavement.For the less physically active,avoid stairs.
7. Adi kumari was the first stop we took.However the queue was long.We ate our dinner there and went ahead.
8.With few more breaks we managed to reach the shrine by 4. After the darshan we rested for nearly 2 hours.
9. We then continued to Bhairav Nath temple which is further ahead. Though the distance is less,but the journey becomes more tedious,as you are already tired. We reached by 8. the temple gives some good views of the city.We rested for a while and then started our journey back.
10.Though downward journey sounds simple,it was the most difficult part. Also the sun shines bright,thus adding to the weariness. We took the stairs to alight. After a while your legs start shivering and the pain becomes excruciating. The only way to not think about it is to keep alighting fast. Take less breaks,because once you take a long break,it gets difficult to stand up and walk again.
11.Supplement yourself with fruits (watermelon and cucumber) on the way.We managed to complete the downward journey by 11.30 am.
12.As you come back,there are masseurs waiting to serve your tired feet.You can try them to relax your feet.Also put your feet in lukewarm water.It will help lessen the pain.
13.Do not plan to travel anywhere else immediately.Rest for the night at Katra.
With a little determination and will,the journey can be completed smoothly.
Next day,we started towards Patni top. I would recommend to see the Pandavas temple . Not many know about it(we were the only tourists there),but it is a hidden gem and a little difficult to find.But worth the effort.
As we reached Patni top ,the temperature dropped a little.The journey is pretty and refreshing. There are various view point as you reach the top.Must do- The horse ride -The horse walks through the narrow lane of the mountain making your heart skip a beat at first. However later the ride becomes fun and you feel like a pro. The owners of the horses were friendly locals . It was May and there was still some snow left,so they took us there. Patni Top by itself is a nice quiet place. There are houses in the garden which you can rent for a night.(we realized it later and regretted not knowing about it).We left in the evening for Jammu Tawi to catch train back to Delhi.
The entire trip can be done in 3 days. Even if you are not a believer, I would still recommend doing the trip for experience.