Katra, a small town in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is the gateway to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi. Nestled in the lap of the Trikuta Mountains, the town of Katra is approximately 42 km from Jammu and is a major stop-over destination for tourists visiting the temple of Mata Vaishno Devi.
Katra is also the place where travellers have to register before commencing their journey to the shrine at the top of the mountains. Registration at Katra gives the travellers an insurance cover of INR 1 lakh for the 13.5 km journey to the shrine.
The town, situated at a height of approximately 750 metres, has plenty of accommodation options for the pilgrims. Free accommodation is also available at Katra which are provided registered trusts in the area.
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.