"Famous Hill Stations & Valleys in Pakistan..Part 1" Pakistan Travelogue by WAHEEDASLAM
Pakistan Travel Guide: 3,835 reviews and 8,591 photos
Lord Curzon, a former viceroy, said, "The little state of Hunza contains more summits of over 20,000 feet than there are of over 10,000 feet in the entire Alps." Visitors to Hunza are deeply overwhelmed by the rugged charm and the fragrant breeze singing through graceful trees and the lushious green attractively carpeted fields all set against a background of snow-covered mountains. Situated at an elevation of 2,438 metres, Hunza Valley's tourist season peaks from May to October. The temperature in May is 27 C maximum and 14 C minimum. While the October temperatures range from: 10 C maximum to 0 C minimum. Glaciers abound in this valley, including the 30-mile long Batura and the immense Virjerab and Hispar glaciers. The Nubra, Braldu, Hushe and Saltoro rivers are born in the glacier-laced Karakorum; the Shyok River encircles the eastern flanks of the range; but only the Hunza River actually cuts from north to south completely through the Karakorum Range. The Hunza River has its origin in name at the juncture of the Kilik and Khunjerab nalas, some 100 miles from the river's mouth near Gilgit. Carving a gorge between 25,000-foot peaks and receiving the waters of scores of glaciers, this is by far the largest and the grandest tributory of the Gilgit River watershed.
Most parts of Hunza offer an awe-inspiring view of Rakaposhi (7,788 metres). The snows of Rakaposhi glitter in the moonlight, producing an atmosphere of ethereal magnetism. The fairy-tale like castle of Baltit, just above Karimabad, is a Hunza landmark built about 600 years ago. Stilted on massive legs, its wooden bay windows look out over the valley. Originally, this was used as the residence of the Mirs (the title of the former rules) of Hunza.
The Hunza Valley is composed of "Hunza Proper" (as Hunzakuts call it) in the midvalley, while the larger upper valley region is called Gujal and is populated by the Wakhi-speaking ethnic Wakhi. Nagar, another former state, is located in two areas, and you will visit its narrow glaciated canyons as you proceed up the valley. The Nagarwals speak Burushaski with their own accent. Practice your Burushaski, with those you meet; people will enjoy it, and you may be asked in for tea. Burushaski is a complex language with four genders, and it is a "language isolate," unrelated to any other tongue. The famous Hunza water (famous for long life and youth) is locally called "mel". Four clans live in Hunza, and each is said to have originally come from a different region: Dramatin from Tartary, Barataling from Russia, Kurukutz from Persia, and Broung from kashmir. The 6-mile long fertile oasis beginning at Hassanabad contains small villages among terraced fields and is the center of the former state. Not far beyond Aliabad a link road branches uphill to the north of the KKH (Karakorum Highway)and is the direct way to Karimabad and Baltit (65 miles from Gilgit and ranging 500 feet up and down the hill at roughly 7,800 feet in elevation). Because of their inns and their spectacular location overlooking Rakaposhi and the green fields of Hunza and nagar, these two towns, Kareemabad in particular, function as the focus of Hunza for most visitors.
Just beyond 'Ganesh Village' below Kareemabad, the KKH (Karakorum Highway) crosses the Hunza river on a large, graceful bridge. Within walking distance from the bridge right on the roadside is 'Haldikish' (Place of the Rams), also known as the "Sacred Rock" of Hunza. This large rock has many carvings from different eras and in varying scripts. At Shiskot the KKH crosses the west side of the river and soon reaches Gulmit (about 8,000 feet). Gulmit has a couple of lodges and the town in itself, is an attractive one to visit. Just above the lodges is the Hunza Cultural Museum.
Hunza is an ideal place for mountaineering, trekking and hiking. Every area in the Hunza Valley up to, but not including , Chapursan is officially considered an openzone, even the dicey Hispar Glacier. Most treks in this valley are'nt particularly long ones but there are exceptions; the Hispar-Biafo walk and the hike to Shimshal are among such exceptions. Hunza genuinely offers an experience of a lifetime!
At an elevation of 4,900 feet and 365 miles from Rawalpindi lies the splendorous Gilgit Valley. This unique little town of Gilgit is blessed with spectacular beauty. The peak tourist season is from May to mid-October nevertheless, tourists keep pouring in all year round. The maximum temperature in May is 33 C whereas the minimum goes down to 16 C, while in September, temperatures show a maximum 28 C and a minimum of 11 C. Such pleasant temperatures make Gilgit a must-visit place during these months. Planes from Islamabad-Rawalpindi arrive frequently in Gilgit. If you arrive by air, the main bazaar in Gilgit is a short mile away, and to get there you can grab a small van or whatever vahicle seems to be taking passengers. Giglit's main street runs generally, east-west, paralleling the river. East of the Airport ans away from town is the area called Jutial, where there are numerous military compounds and few small lodges. Just 10 kms from the town of Gilgit, is a Buddha carved into a stone face, a remnant of the era over seven hundred years ago when Buddhism held sway accross much of what is now the North-West-Frontier Province, the Northern Areas and Afghanistan. To see this rock carving, take a local van west of town continuing past numerous walled compounds, green fields and the suburb of Napur to the Kargah Nala. South of the main road and up this nala, a large rectangular niche well above the trail frames a ten-foot-high standing Buddha. The Kragah Nala is now a game sanctuary. You could take a day hike up this nala, for it has many trees and make a pleasent walk. Ambitious trekkers could consider a trek south that begins in this nala and eventually crosses the 14,000-foot Shinghai Gali en route through high pasture lands to the Indus Valley at Chilas. You should go with a local to show you the way, for the route is not clear, especially in the high country, and as you proceed farther south you will be in a region inhabited by Kohistanis
A victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago, is located at 30 kms from the town of Gilgit. One can easily reach this monument by jeep.
'Polo' (the game of Kings) is Gilgit's most favoured sport. The locals claim that this sport originated in Gilgit. It demonstrates a more rugged and free-style version of Polo than the sedate and subdued variety experienced in the plains. The polo tournament is held from 1st November to 7th November. It is a festive occasion and draws large number of visitors.
As for those who have a knack for fishing, the streams and lakes of Gilgit are full of trout fish. These are at Kargah Nullah (10 kms. from Gilgit), Singal (56 kms), Gakuch (73 kms), and Phandar (117 kms from Gilgit). Permits for fishing are issued by the Assistant Director, Fisheries, Government of Pakistan, Gilgit. Today Gilgit is growing rapidly, and you'll see many diverse people here: taciturn local Shina-speaking farmers and shopkeepers, outgoing Hunzakuts ( as people from Hunza are called), rugged Kohistanis visiting the Bazar and steely eyed Pathan truck drivers or businessmen. Gilgit is a key transit point for trekkers because of its location between Chitral and Baltistan and just South of Hunza. It is indeed a splenderous valley, have a pleasant journey!
The lush-green valley of Swat, with its rushing torrents, icy-cold lakes, fruit-laden orchards and flower-decked slopes is an ideal place for holiday-makers who intent to relax and enjoy the fruits of nature. Apart from its natural attractions, Swat owns a rich historical past too. The valley of Swat sprawls over 10,360 sq. kms at an average elevation of 975 metres. The maximum temperature is maximum 21 C and minimum 7 C. The tourist season continues all year round. From the Second Century B.C Until the Ninth Century A.D, Buddhism flourished in Swat, and the vale was the birth place of Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism. In the eighth century the historical figure who has come to be known as Guru Rimpoche or Padmasambhava left Swat, or Uddiyana as it was called then, and embarked on his long journey of conversion through Ladakh and Tibet. The Nyingma sect of Buddhism that he taught is still followed in many regions within Ladakh, Tibet and Nepal. Scores of archeological sites in Swat recall its Buddhist era, a period that lasted in a small way untill the sixteenth century.
Swat was also the historic land where muslim conquerors like Mahmud of Ghazni, Babur and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to the conquest of the subcontinent. The ruins of great Buddhist stupas, monasteries and statues are found all over Swat.
The upper valleys of Swat Kohistan, "Swat's Land of Mountains," rise up to steep, pine-covered ridges that lead toward scores of snow-clad 18,000-foot peaks. Swat receives adequate monsoon rain and has an Alpine flavour reminiscent of the Rockies or Alps.
The headquarters of Swat Valley, Saidu Sharif, houses the Swat Museum which contains one of the finest collections of Gandhara art in the world. Mingora, 3 kms from Saidu Sahrif, has yielded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas. Thirty miles north of Mingora is the pleasant town of Madyan in the last open stretch before a pine-clad gorge leads to Swat Kohistan and, in another 30 miles, to Kalam. In the upper Swat, look for the unique mosques constructed entirely entirely of wood that are found in most villages. These mosques have a quiet beauty despite their modest size.
Marghazar, 13 kms from Saidu Sharif is another captivating spot worth visiting which is famous for its "Sufaid Mahal" (White Mahal). This is the white marble palace of the former Wali (ruler) of Swat. The town of Bahrain is another popular riverside resort, situated about 66 km from Saidu Sharif, only 10 km from Madyan. The Ushu (2,286 meters), Utrot (2,225 meters) and Gabrial (2,286 meters) valleys, north and west of Kalam respectively, are the best trekking areas in Swat (take a local guide along for safety purposes). These valleys are considered to be the best trout fishing zones of Swat and the sorrounding thick pine forests are excellent for hiking. The 6,257 meters high snow
capped 'Falaksair Peak' is clearly visible from Matiltan (3,000 meters). Some 23 km beyond the Matiltan valley is 'Lake Mahodand'. This lake is as beautiful as the famous lake Saiful Maluk in Kaghan valley.
8'700 feet above sea level, Malam Jabba Ski Resort stands on top of a mountain of the Hindukush range, north east of Saidu Sharif.
Surrounded by mighty Karakorams and stunning black mountains, Malam Jabba is more than just a Ski Resort. It is a holiday resort that caters to all interests and is also known to host the remains of ancient civilizations. It offers a host of facilities to travelers like; 2 skiing platforms, Chair-lifts, Roller/Ice Skating rinks, Restaurant offering both local and international cuisine, Telephone facility, Snow clearing equipment etc. Situated on one of the most important offshoots of the Karakoram Highway, Malam Jabba is 314 km from Islamabad and 51 km from Saidu Sharif Airport on Saidu Sharif-Kalam Road. The road diverts right from Manglor to Malam Jabba. Malam Jabba is a part of Swat valley, which sprawls over 10,360 sq.km. This area has been inhabited for over 2000 years and is known to be as the cradle of Buddhism. The area has also been the battle ground for many battles of Alexander The Great. The area is full of mighty ranges of Hindukush, the Karakoram and Black Mountains, gentle slopes, placid plains, torrential streams and unlimited sights.
Malam Jabba is a summer cum ski resort the idea for the resort is given by the Ambassador of Austria in 1962, the project was completed in two years and the cost incurred on the project was 120 million. The place gets 6 to 10 feet of average snowfall annually. The main attractions of the resort are ski and chair lift. Chair lift can carry 56 pax to the height of 10500 feet; a separate chair lift is also available for beginners. Along with this Helipad and indoor game facilities are also available. The enchantment of Malam Jabba goes beyond its natural beauty. The 2000 year old archeological remains situated at an altitude of 2600 feet above sea level includes 2 Buddhist stupas and 6 monasteries, it scatters over the slope opposite to the main structure of the ski resort, measuring about 310 meters north to south and 500 meters east to west. The main stupa uncovered in these remains depicts a circular plinth, with molding. Its diameter is 13.01 meters and the maximum surviving height is 1.50 meters. The lower wall gently curves inwards along with this, there is a small projection that steps out to a short distance at the base of the actual stupa. Still more historical sightseeing lies 1 km from Malam Jabba - the ancient mound. It is surrounded on all 4 sides by mountain slopes characterized by slabs of schist. A water spring, which must have been used in the past also, is the main attraction for those charmed by health effects of fresh spring water. Besides these sights, Malam Jabba boasts off two major trekking treks paved amidst beautiful scenery. One trek winding through Ghorband valley and Shangla top, is 18 km from the resort. It is a jeepable trek overlooking the Miandam settlement and reaches Shangla top in 1-? hours from where adventure seekers can proceed to the Karakoram highway. The other major track leads to Saboney valley, 17 km from the resort through thick Pine forest and peach and apple orchards. If Malam Jabba and its surroundings have already began to charm you, then you must visit the site and experience the enchantment!
The Chitral Valley located at an elevation of 1,128 metres is one of the most popular spots amongst mountaineers, anglers, hunters, hikers, naturalists and anthropologists. The 7,705 metres Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindukush mountains, dominates this 322 kms long exotic valley.
The Chitral district has Afghanistan at its north, south and west. A narrow strip of Afghan territory, Wakhan, separates it from Tajikistan. The tourist season in Chitral is from June to September. The maximum temperature in June is 35 C and the minimum is 19 C. In September, the maximum goes upto 24 C and the minimum temperature falls down to 8 C. Which makes your stay pleasant and comfortable. The Muslim tradition of offering hospitality to the 'muzzafer', the traveller, is observed throughout Pakistan's Northern Areas, but in few places is it offered so genuinely as in Chitral. If someone should invite you to stay in his house, it will be an unforgettable experience. Most village homes in Chitral have a large family room called "Baipash". In the middle of the Baipash is a fire place with home spun rugs arranged near it upon which the family and neighbours sit. Some well-to-do people have a separate room especially for visitors called an "Angotee". Chitral has a strong musical tradition. The "Chitrali Sitar" a graceful string instrument, is heard daily at small workingmen's teahouses in Chitral Bazaar. The 'Chenai' and 'Dol' (Oboe and Drums) frenetically accompany all polo matches. One of the major attractions of Chitral, is the famous Kalash valley - the home of the Kafir-Kalash or "Wearers of the Black Robes", a primitive pagan tribe. Their ancestry is enveloped in mystery and is the subject of controversy. A legend says that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedonia settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kafir-Kalash. Over 3,,000-strong Kafir-Kalash live in the valley of Birir, Bumburet and Rambur, south of Chitral. Bumburet, the largest and the most picturesque valley of the Kafir-Kalash, is 40 kms. from Chitral and is connected by a jeepable road. While Birir and Rambur are located at a distance of 34 and 32 kms respectively from Chitral. The Kalash women wear five large braids of and the 'Cheo', a black woolen homespun dress, red-beaded necklaces by the dozen, and an exceptional head piece (shaped differently in each valley) covered in cowrie shells, beads and trinkets that flow down their back.
The Kalash are a friendly and cheerful bunch, who love music and dancing, particularly on their religious festivals like Joshi Chilimjusht (From 14th - 21st December). Polo is the most popular sport of Chitral. It holds similar importance amongst the Chitral & Gilgit populations. Polo matches are great attractions and festive occasions for all tourists. Even if you do'nt have a knack for this game you'll surely love the atmosphere it creates. A regular Polo tournament (Shandur Polo Tournament) is held every year (First week of July) at Shandur Pass. It is indeed a wonderful tourist attraction!
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