The famous Amarnath pilgrimage draws thousands of Hindu devotees each year and they trek through the rugged terrain to reach the Amarnath Temple. Located in Jammu and Kashmir, this region is not just noted for its religious significance but is also a popular tourist attraction for its natural beauty. The ice-capped mountainous peaks around the Amarnath Temple and the sightings en-route to the place are a sight to behold.
The pilgrimage to the holy cave temple of Amarnath is an ancient practice and the significance of this place dates back to the 11th Century AD when Queen Suryamati gifted items like trishuls and banalingas to the temple. As per the mythological tales, this was discovered by Bhrigu Muni and is one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas.
Things to do and Major Attractions:
It is easily among the most challenging treks that you would have undertaken and is roughly 43 km from Nuwan and Chandanwari base camps in Pahalgam. Usually, tourists stop for the night at Panchtami and Sheshnag Lake camps. The Amarnath Cave Temple is, of course, the most popular attraction among the places to visit in Amarnath. The frozen ice structure up to the cave wall is regarded as the Shiv Linga and is a major attraction. Tourists also make it a point to stop by the beautiful Botanical Garden in Kokernag that is in close proximity. The Aishmuqam Shrine and the Martand Sun Temple are some of the other major attractions.
Among the things to do in Amarnath, tourists have been known to explore the city of Pahalgam prior to their trek. Baltal is also among the most visited places because of its close distance from the city.
People and Culture:
The local people mostly constitute of Shia Muslim Bakarwal-Gujjars and they are mostly involved in providing services to the pilgrims. This is how they earn their living. Despite the threats of terrorist activities by some Kashmiri militant groups, the security has been beefed up over the years to ensure a safe pilgrimage.
Local Food and Popular Shopping Items:
There are food stalls en-route and you will find the usual North Indian food consisting of rice and rotis. You can have meals of zeera rice, khichri, naan bread, poha, low-fat milk, etc. Do not expect exotic cuisine since the resources here are rather limited. It is advisable to carry some dry food with you.
For those who are looking to do some shopping, you can pick up some of the finest Kashmiri shawls and carpets from Pahalgam. During the trek, there are not many options to buy things and even the ones present are overpriced.
Best Time to Visit:
The ideal time for travel to Amarnath is during the months of May to September for those who are looking to experience the natural aspect of the region. For the pilgrimage, however, you must visit between July and August.
Availability of Accommodation Type:
The trek to the Amarnath caves requires halting for the night, and for that, there are many non-government organizations that set up tents for free. Some are also set-up by the locals near the shrine and there you are required to pay a nominal fee for the same.