Although most foreigners head straight towards the Kashmir Valley, there are a couple of places you might consider stopping near the road to Srinagar, which is predictably punctuated by army signs spouting militaristic slogans – “the power behind the punch” is a common one. Around 40km north of Jammu a road branches off to the small town of Katra, which is the base for the 12km hike to Vaishno Devi temple, the second most visited shrine in India after Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, drawing around eight million pilgrims a year. It lies at a comfortable altitude of 1615m and is approached by a relatively easy and well-trodden path. The cave shrine itself is entered via an ankle-deep stream, whose chilly waters you must brave in order to get darshan of the image of the goddess, a triple incarnation of the female Shakti.

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