PATNITOP ~ HEAVEN ON EARTH
Once upon a time there was beautiful pond surrounded with lush green meadows lined with Deodhar and Pine trees crowned with the eternal snow peaks of the Himalayas. The pond was so enchanting that it came to be known as the “Patan Da Talab” meaning “Pond of the Princess” because the local princes used to bathe in its water. It is quiet likely that the English got the pronunciation wrong and it is still not when Patan Da Talab got transferred into Patnitop.
The pond have long dried up and has lost its past glory but don’t be disheartened the endless meadows lined with towering pine trees and the panoramic views of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas are enchanting enough to turn Patnitop, along with its twin town of Sanasar, into your next holiday destination.
Located 105 km from Jammu on the Jammu – Srinagar Highway (NH1A) Patnitop (2024m) is an important tourist destination and since it is located on the Jammu side of Jammu & Kashmir state it is free of militant activities and can serve as a perfectly safe tourist destination.
Patnitop is famous for its four distinctive seasons, each with its own peculiar character and charm. Spring sees a million blossoms turning the ground into a riot of colours. In summer the entire valley turns into a mosaic of varying shades of green. In autumn the green turns into gold and finally to rustic red. In winter the landscape turns bare only to be covered with the white mantle of the first snowfall. I was lucky to be in Patnitop a day after it received its first snowfall of the season.
My journey to Patnitop kicked off from Jammu on a fine mid December afternoon on a Tata Sumo. After a short lunch break at Kud I reached Patnitop in about 3 hours. It was already dark and I checked in one of the numerous hotels calling it a day after more than 40 hours of train & road journey from the other end of the country.
Early next morning I set out to explore Patnitop, and its twin town of Sanasar, on a Maruti van. Sadly there was no snow
in Patnitop but the surrounding hills were covered with a fresh layer of snow. One such hill was Nathatop my first destination, which not only provide fresh snow but also panoramic view of the snow clad peak of the Himalays. Nathatop, located 14 km from Patnitop, is a hub of adventure activities like paragliding, skiing, sledging and pony rides.
Within a few km from Patnitop I encountered my first snow along with a host of Himalyan Peaks dominating the North – Eastern horizon. At Nathatop I was out in the snow enjoying a snow ball fight with other tourist. But it was bad news for adventure sports. The snow was enough to stop the paragliding and pony rides but not enough to start skiing. The only activity was sledging but it was nothing adventurous. The sledges are nothing but indigenous version of the Calcutta hand pulled rickshaw, where you are pulled along the snow in a wheel less wooden carriage by a fellow human being. I decided to give the sledge ride a skip but in the process denied a poor man of his income.
I spend about half an hour on Nathatop enjoying the snow as well as the views and last but not least a refreshing cup of hot tea. I was soon on my way to Sanasar, which was located 5 km away. This entire stretch of the road was covered with snow and made driving extremely difficult taking 15 minutes to cover the 5 km stretch.
Like Patnitop the prime attraction of Sanasar are its meadows, pine forest and views of snow peaks but in Sanasar the meadows are much larger, the pine forest more enchanting and the snow peaks much more closer. But the star attraction of Sanasar is its isolation as most of the “see the snow only tourist” return from Nathatop, giving me the opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty of Sanasar all on my own.
Reaching Sanasar I was out to explore the place. I took a walking trail which took me past the J&K tourism tourist complex and past the meadows to a forest lined with pine trees. There were several benches but I decided to sit on the grass to enjoy my breakfast of biscuits, cakes & chocolates brought all the way from Calcutta.
Soon I was out to explore the place all on my own feeling like a “monarch of all I survey.” After about 2 hours of
exploration I decided to head for Patnitop. I reached Patnitop at about 2pm and after a heavy lunch & a short rest I was out to explore Patnitop.
I headed for the Patnitop Tourist Complex located just above the bus stop. The complex houses the resort of J&K Tourism complete with cottages and restaurants. The landscape is similar to Sanasar but much smaller in magnitude but it is more touristic with hawkers selling Kashmiri artifacts & dresses along with fast food like puchka & bhel – puri. I waited in the complex long enough to enjoy my last evening in Patnitop.
Getting There: Jammu is the nearest rail head. Jammu is connected to Calcutta by Himgiri & Jammu Tawi Express. Jeeps & busses are available from Jammu (105km) and Srinagar (280km). Jeep fare from Jammu Rs150 (takes 3 hrs) and Srinagar Rs250 (takes about 5 hrs). Prices are subjected to bargaining.
Places to Stay: Both Patnitop & Sanasar have J&K Tourism tourist complex. Room / cottage rates vary from Rs800 – Rs3500. Both the places have several private hotels to suit all budget.
Getting Around: Taxi is essential to visit Nathatop & Sanasar. Cost around Rs1000. Patnitop can be explored on foot.
Places to eat: All the hotels have restaurants and there are several road side eateries selling excellent food at throw away price. Tea & snacks are available at Nathatop as well as Sanasar.
For more Information Contact: J&K Tourism Office, 12, Chowringhee, Calcutta. Ph 2228 5719