It may not be much more than a verdant hillock but that doesn’t lessen the significance of Patnitop to Jammu residents, who’ve been coming here forever to escape the scathing heat of the plains. And if that’s not enough altitude, take a short drive, or even better, trek up to neighbouring Natha Top from where snowclad peaks beckon at arm’s length. And if you follow the road till the end to Sanasar, you’ll be rewarded with an alpine-esque meadow truly cut off from the cares of the world. It’s certainly not Kashmir, but it comes pretty close.
On the Jammu-Srinagar highway, Patnitop (2024m) seems no more than a roadside pit stop, but take a few steps along the lane leading up to the hillock and you’re instantly sequestered from the traffic and the noise. The walk along Circular Road, which encircles Patnitop, is likely to be the highlight of your trip. You don’t have to follow the road all the way – cut across the hill and picnic on the slopes. The main meadow is pretty but small, and not really capable of handling the deluge of schoolchildren it sees on weekends.
A half-hour drive on the road to Sanasar, this gigantic mound has spectacular 360-degree views of snow-draped Himalayan peaks to the east and the plains to the south. The real treat, though, lies in trekking here from Patnitop – a two hour climb with scenic views and charming little mountain hamlets along the way. If you’re trekking make sure you catch the last bus back to Patnitop which passes by at 5pm. In the winter, Natha Top’s slopes become ideal venues for sledding and skiing.
Located 19km northwest of Patnitop, this idyllic cup-shaped meadow surrounded by giant conifers is ideal if you’re looking for a spot of tranquillity away from the madding crowds. Here you’ll find great views, lots of trekking options and a persistent cool breeze even in summer. Sanasar is the first glimpse of what lies north, including a very Kashmir-like vibe, complete with horses (which you can ride) trotting across the rolling green field. The Sanasar Golf Club comes alive only when the army hosts a tournament, and on a clear day, this is a fantastic spot for teeing off – or settling for a picnic or a horse ride if you don’t play.
Top Tip: Easy trekking
You need no facilitation or assistance for the fabulous three-hour trek from Patnitop to Natha Top, which begins just off the road to Natha Top. You’ll find plenty of shepherds to guide you along the way although you’ll feel like the only person on the planet for most of it. You can also trek from Sanasar to Natha Top (1.5 hrs).