Pakistan is a great mix of metropolitan cities, natural beauty and a very attractive culture that results in a lot of people visiting Pakistan every year. When it comes to travelling, everyone has different taste. Some people like to visit metropolitans which are culturally rich but offer all facilities to the tourists. Our bigger cities and cultural destinations like Lahore and Karachi attract both foreign tourists and local tourists from extreme southern part or from northern part. The people who have interest in archeology have places like Taxila or Harrapa and Moenjodaro to cater to their interest. Mountain trekkers have K-2 and Nanga Parbat as their key interest. Both of these peaks are above 8000m.
In a nutshell it can be stated that northern areas of Pakistan attract a lot of foreign tourists to Pakistan every year. In fact majority of foreign visitors visit northrn mountain ranges of Pakistan as their primary interest. When one talks particularly about local tourists, there is one big misconception. Many people from Pakistan consider all mountain ranges of Pakistan as Northern area of Pakistan which is not true. Pakistan in fact has numerous mountain ranges located in various parts of the country. North of Pakistan is truly rich in its tourism potential. With world’s highest mountain peaks, some great lakes, biggest glaciers and the valleys of huge rivers which make Pakistan an agrarian economy, Pakistan has a lot to offer.
There are many reasons for Pakistani tourist’s major interest in travelling to lower Himalayas and not to actual northern Pakistan. One reason is their busy schedule. Another reason could be budget. As a result the following regions are the most popular tourist attractions for Pakistani travellers.
Murree & Galliat Area
Gali or Galliat in Pakistan are probably the most popular region for local tourists. In local language Gali means mountain pass. These passes or galliat provide a route through the ridges which is pretty much natural. Murree and the Galliat located near Murre are easily accessibl and very cool in summers so they are a very attrative tourist destination. Pir Panjal Range is probably the most beautiful of these. At a distance the visitors can see snow covered peaks, the alpine forests are fragrant and refreshing and there are many scenic views.
Beauty lies in the eyes of observer. Considering this fact we can’t say that Muree in Galliat area is the most beautiful place but is definitely the most famous spot.
- It is highly accessible as it is just one hour away from Islamabad by road
- Most of the domestic tourists especially those coming from the plain areas of Sindh and Punjab like to stay at Murree
- Murree is 7250 feet above the sea level and most popular hill resort of Pakistan
- In winters heavy snowfall is experienced here. Summers are cool
- Murree is a smjall town of 5 kilomters and it spreads between the Kashmir point and Pindi point.
- Murree is also popular with the tourist as it is a great shopping area for the visitors. Mall Road Murree is the center of attraction thus.
Besides Murree, Galliat are most popular with the tourists. There are lots of reasons and opportunities in Galliat area including sightseeing and fun, which makes this region the favourite of majority:
- The most important factor that makes Galliat one of the first choices for local tourists is its accessbility. Being at a 1-3 hours drive from Islamabad, Galliat are accessible.
- Accommodation is probably one of the most important factors which bring a majority of tourists to Galliat. Hotels, private lodges and guest house of various standards are available here for proper accommodation.
- Great and reliable infrastructure
- Shopping opportunities
- Wild life
- Recreation & amusement activities including horse riding, Chair lift ride & water parks etc.
- If you want to walk through the fragrant alpine forests with your family, Lalazar, Pipline and Mukhpuri etc offer great opportunities.
- If you are a young trekker, you can take short hikes and 2-3 days trekking opportunities
- Some great overnight excursions could be:
Walk to the top of Miran Jani Mountain which at 9970 feet is the highest point in Galliat area
Thandiani is located at 8832 feet above sea level and is the third highest point in Galliat
Nathiagali, situated at 7500 feet
Ayubia & Khanaspur etc.
For young trekkers a 2 days Nathiagali–Thandiani trek covering Dagri at 9000 feet & Biran Gali 6300 feet can also b a good idea
A visit to the roaring Jehlum River
Kaghan Valley is 92 mile long. It is terraced from river to hilltop. Kaghan valley is truly green with a lot of alpin forest cover. Kaghan valleys lush greenry reminds you of the Alps. Kaghan valley offers great trekking opportunities. Many people visitng Kaghan valley go for Jeep safari. Kaghan valley is very beautiful. Travelling through the valley you can follow the bends and turns pof River Kunhar and see the beautiful towns of Shogran, Kaghan and Naran. Basel at a height of 3,266m is a settlement for the Gujjars which has beautiful Pasteurs and great scenic beuaty. Lake Lulusar is located just beyong Basel and it is a beauty to visit. Road from Basel leads to Babusar top which is the link and divider between Kaghan valley and northern areas of Pakistan.
Domestic tourists find Kaghan Valley to be their favorite and there are several reasons for that. Scenic beauty of Kaghan is one of them.
- Relatively easy accessibility with around 6-8 hours drive from Islamabad.
- Accomodation of every standard is available. You can choose the rest houses, hotels or lodges as per your budget.
- Kunhar River is a beauty. Kaghan valley has many lakes which are equally beautiful. It also offers treks to snow covered peaks.
- Some of the most beautiful places in Kaghan are
* If you have any interest in archeology, you can visit the capital of Gandhara Buddist civilization (dates back to 500 BC to 500 AD)
* Balakot acts as the gateway to Kaghan Valley
* Siri and Paya Meadow
* Naran at 2405m
* Lake Siafulmaluk is probably the most important place in Kaghan valley. It is located at a height of 3200m where the peak of Malka Parbat (5390 m) is mirrored in the crystal clear waters of SaifulMalook. This lake got its name after a fairy tale prince who fell in love with a maiden whom he saw bathing in this lake.
* Lalazar Meadow
* Lulusar Lake at 3439m
* If you are up for 2-3 day trekking, Dudupatsar Lake at 3920m can be your ideal place to visit. Trek starts from Beyal.
* Babusar Pass at 4173m
* White Water Rafting in Kunhar River
Swat valley is one of the most beautiful valleys located in Pakistan. Some years back a military operation kept tourists from visiting Swat but now the situation is back to normal and Swat is yet again the paradise visited by many families coming from the plain areas of Pakistan to enjoy some cool summers. Most of the tourists visiting Swat get the first taste of its culture in Mingora. Mingora is located at the bank of River Swat, and is a town known for its extremely tasty Trout fish. River Swat is a beauty to watch. The following scenic places and activities make Swat one of the most popular tourist destination in Pakistan among the local tourists.
- Mingora and Saidu Sharif ar capital cities of Swat area. They are located at 3250 feet
- In Pakistan Swat valley is nicknamed as Switzerland of Pakistan
- Swat is surrounded by Himalayas and Hindukush. The valley is full of fragrant fruit orchads, rivers, gushing streams and some glaciers.
- If you are up for Trout fishing Swat is the right valley and Bahrain at 4500 feet is the right spot
- Kalam is located at 7250 feet above sea leavel. It is at a distance of 30km from Bahrain
- At Kalam the valley is wide, and thus there are many pastuers for the local shepherds.
- Falakser, the heighest peak of this region which has a height of 20,500 feet is a beautiful sight
- Some moderate or difficult trekking routes to Northern areas of Pakistan
- Lake Mahodand
- Malamjaba at 7000 feet is a very popular hill station in Swat valley. It now has a new ski resort.
- Some Buddhist archaeological sites
- Trekking routes from Swat valley take you to Gilgit and Chitral
- While coming from the plain areas in Pakistan to visit Swat, Peshawar can be a good addition to your travel plans.
Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtoon Khwah province of Pakistan, has always been important in the history of sub-continent because of the location of Khyber Pass. Some important reasons to visit Peshawar while you plan to visit the Swat valley are:
-Mahabat Khan Mosque
-Museum of Peshawar
-Kissa Khawani bazaar, a famous street which has a lot of story tellers
-Kasera bazaar which is also called th street of gold
-River Indus and Kabul meet just beyond Attock Bridge and that is a beautiful place
Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK)
Azad Jammu Kashmir is also called as heaven on earth by its regular visitors. Azad Jammu Kashmir offers a lot to its vistors. While in the Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir the tourists can view snow covered peak, visit many beautiful valleys like Leepa, Neelum, Jehlum, Kuttan and Keran etc. AJK has some most beautiful rivers and streams and also it offers good but cheap accomodation to the tourists. For the local tourists, all these factors act as great reasons to visit AJK.
There is one restriction with AJK however and that is its bounday with Indian held Kashmir. To the east of AJK is located the LOC, the line of control and as it is a senstive line for Pakistan; the foreigners are not allowed to visit areas very close to LOC. Any foreigner visiting AJK has to report it to Interior ministry of Government of Pakistan and get an NOC. All Pakistanis can visit AJK but considering it a sensitive area, they are advised to keep their identities with them all the time.
AJK is easily accessible both from Abbotabad and Islamabad. Neelum River, Jehlum River and Poonch River pass through this valley. Mountains to the north of AJK rise up to 6000m above sea level.
Muzaffarabad, Jehlum & Neelum Vellay
Muzaffarabad is administrative capital of Azad Kashmir. Muzzaffarabad is located at the point where Jhelum and Neelum rivers meet. Muzzaffarabad is a regular scattered town like any other hilly capital. What differentiates it from the others is the beauty of majestic mountains surrounding this city. Some tourist attractions here are:
- Red Fort of Muzzafarabad is surrounded from 3 sides by the Neelum River. Sultan Muzzafar Khan built it in 1646 to guard the city.
- If you are a fan of Kashmiri shawls and walnut carving etc, do not miss the opportunity to shop here in Muzaffarabad.
- Pir Chinasi is located at a height of 2900m. Drive through the road climbing above the town and it will take you to Pir Chinasi from where you can have a panoramic view of Jehlum Valley, northern mountains and mountains of Neelum Valley.
- Chikar Lake is a new attraction. This lake was born after the 2005 Earthuake.
- Sudhangali is situated at a height of 2134m. If you are up for trekking, you can go to Bagh from Chikar and on to Ganga Choti which is an important mountain locally.
Neelum Valley runs parallel to Kaghan valley and its total length is 240 km. This valley is lush green, offers a lot of scenic veiws, water sports opportunities and trekking opportunities for all those who are interested. There are many rasons for the tourists to visit this valley however; the following reasons make Neelum Valley matchless for the tourists.
- If you are one of those who enjoy short walks in alpine atmosphere, Patika is the right place for you.
- Sharda Valley at a height of 1981m is popular for its scenic views. Along with the lush green mountains, you can visit ruins of an old Buddhist Monastery and a fort.
- In Neelum Valley there is a village where Shardi and Nardi mountains are located. It is a beautiful place to visit.
- Kel is only a 19 km long valley. It is located at a height of 2097m. It is the last camp if you go trekking to base camp of Sarawal Peak. Shounter Nullah a tributory of Neelum joins the river here. On your way to Kel from Muzzafarabad you can visit Keran Valley, Kuttan Valley, AthMuqam and many other picturesque sites.
- Sardari, Tao Butt, Halmat, Janawai are unspoiled and extremely beautiful village areas near the border.
- There are very artistic and attractive wooden houses in Leepa Valley and Neelum Valley.
- There are many trekking opportunities.
Leepa Vellay & District Poonch:
Without any doubt, Leepa is one of the most beautiful valleys in AJK. Pakistani tourists can visit this valley in the summer months before the routes close due to snow fall. The foreigners are not allowed to visit it. Leepa is located at a height of 1900m above sea level and at a distance of around 105km from the capital city Muzzafarabad. Poonch district is politically very important for Pakistan. It is a lush green valley. It has many treks and walking paths for the adventurers. Rawalakot is the regional headquarter of Poonch District. Rawalakot is accessbile through road from Islamabad through Lehtrar, Azad Pattan and Dhalkot. It can also be reached through Sudden Gali.
- Banjosa is an artificial lake. Its surroundings are beautiful and attract a lot of tourists.
- Ghori Maar is the place from where you can enjoy the scenic beauty of Rawalakot and Bagh valleys. It is at a distance of 30km from Rawalakot.
- Toli Pir hill station is probably one of the most popular and most beautiful places in AJK. A road from Ghori Maar can take you there.
Kotli and Mirpur Districts:
Mirpur district is most famous as it is home to Mangla dam, Pakistan’s second biggest dam meant for hydroelectricity production. Mirpur (1010 sq miles valley) and Kotli (1862 sq miles valley) are more famous for water sports.
-Mangla dam is a popular destination for people from various parts of Punjab up to Lahore from Rawalpindi for a day excursion.
-Mangla dam offers boating opportunity for the travellers. There is a small resort built at Mangla offering a panoramic view of the dam and its lake which attracts lots of tourists every year.
- Army water sports club is also located in this region which offers water sports opportunity to the visitors.
-Presence of spped boats at water sports club makes it an attraction to all water sports adventurers.
(For further information, please visit http://www.heaven-ventures.com
Photos by : Majd Uddin )