maa vaishno devi
Maa Vaishno Devi is a famous Indian Goddess having a temple near Katra, J&K. It is on a mountain and a climb of about 14km has to be undertaken to reach it. While most devotees prefer to walk both ways, many of them ride a pony for part of or entire journey. There are Palkis available for the elderly. Please note unless you are exremely fit and used to doing daily strenous exercise, it is advisable to avoid climbing steps in the upward journey as this could lead to extreme pain in calves & thighs the next day. A mix of steps and walking could be done during the return journey.
Following are the options to reach Maa Vaishno Devi temple from Katra.
1. Katra to Ardh Kuari - 6 KM.
2. Ardh Kuari to Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan - 6 KM
3. Katra to Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan directly - 12 KM
4. Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan to Bhairo Baba temple - 2 KM
5. On the way back - Similar are the options on the way back. However, on the way back, you can go directly from the Bhairo Baba temple to Ardh Kuari. You don't need to come back via Bhawan.
6. There is an alternate way to go to Bhawan from Katra directly, without going to Ardh Kuwari. The initial way is same. After about 5 km from Katra there is a division; one way goes to Bhawan via Ardh Kuwari and the other way via Himkoti. The way via Homkoti is around a kilometer shorter and this way is ideal if you are looking for a quiet path without the crowd and the ponies.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (http://www.maavaishnodevi.org) which manages the temple has its website with extra details.
The best season to visit vaishno devi is during October-March as you can visit the original cave of Mata vaishno devi and accommodation is very cheap also at that time.