"Kaghan Valley: May 2000" Top 5 Page for this destination Naran Travelogue by besal
Naran Travel Guide: 145 reviews and 224 photos
In May 2001, we decided on a trip to the Kaghan Valley, one of the most picturesque vales of Pakistan, which boasts deep forests, lush green meadows, and high alpine lakes, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Kaghan Valley starts from Balakot and extends 160 km, ending at Babusar Pass (which is at 4,175 meters). When most of us talk about Kaghan, what comes our mind is Saif-ul-Muluk, Lalazar, or Shogran. Very few know what lies beyond.
My search on the internet also revealed the same popular attractions (mentioned above). It also appeared as if the creators of these web pages had copied from each other and pasted the same exact details. There were very few details on how to go beyond.
Even my inquiry with the PTDC office in Karachi was fruitless. That day the manager in-charge was more concerned in organizing a day trip to Moenjo Daro for some Chinese delegates, and sorting out a pressing dispute with the local police escorts, who were demanding some gratification for this duty. The package that PTDC offered to Kaghan was the usual 3 day tour for 2 people – Balakot, Naran, Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and back.. When the manager mentioned the cost of this package, it turned me off. In jest I asked if this package included airfare from Karachi. And for my query on how to access Babusar Pass, except for acknowledging that it exists, he had no idea.
An inquiry I floated on the Lonely Planet’s website provided the best information from foreigners who had already done this journey. Some of these ‘experts’ also warned me to be prepared for noisy and bothersome ‘Punjabi’ tourists that are attracted to Naran. Well I “am” one of those Punjabi tourist!
With all the necessary information available, we chalked out our own plan for exploring Kaghan.
In Rawalpindi we convinced our uncle in accompanying us, loaded his 1994 diesel-converted Toyota Corona and started our journey to Naran. To our surprise, FWO were busy building roads in the Kaghan Valley. Except for some bad patches after Paras, the road was magnificent. Later that evening we pulled into Naran, and checked in at the PTDC hotel.
Next morning our tour started with the usual visit to Saif-ul-Muluk, and later that afternoon to the Lalazar plateau. On a single day, we had covered 2 places everyone usually comes to see in this valley. Now what, Babusar?
Our plan for a day trip to Babusar Pass was shot down when the chowkidar at Naran PTDC informed us that a landslide, and a broken bridge on Lulusar Lake blocked the path. This would be cleared after a month or so when the natives resume their normal routine. The furthest we could go was 1 km from Besal, and then a 1-hour hike to Lulusar Lake. So we opted for this elusive lake.
Armed with “Footprint’s Pakistan Handbook”, provisions, and photography equipment, we hired an expert jeep driver, and a local guide, who turned out to be the chowkidar’s son. We got up early in the morning, and left Naran at 5:45 am for a 4-5 hour jeep drive towards Lulusar Lake. The weather was ice cold, with the sun just peeping out. Few nomads with their livestock were making their way further north to the green highland. The trail that we were driving on was the old route to Gilgit before the KKH was built.
After a 1-hour jeep drive, we reached Batakundi – the first hamlet with fields of potatoes and peas. We were told that this is all they grow in the valley. The locals there looked at us in confusion. Rarely any tourists go this far, especially this early in the morning.
On this journey, we crossed several torrents that were formed by snow melting high up on the mountains. Locals had also cut several large glaciers to clear the road.
As we moved further north, the alpine forests became scantier, changing into grassy landscape with snowcapped mountains all around. Sure sign that we were climbing higher. At times we drove right along the river, and at times we were several hundred feet above, barely hanging on a cliff.
After 3 hours of bumpy jeep ride, we arrived at a small junction known as Jarkhand. From this point onward, one track goes to Babusar Pass, the other veer right towards Azad Kashmir. There was a small chai cabin, so we decided to have our breakfast here. We also discovered that at this spot, you could wash your video camera – it slipped out of my better half’s hands and fell into the ice cold Kunhar. After thoroughly drying it out, it still worked, and was much cleaner.
From here on the twisted, narrow, and barely jeepable track started a steep climb. Lets just say that for the next 45 minutes we climbed and climbed, literally hanging on ‘by the seat of our pants.’ One side was the mountain, the other a sheer drop of several hundred feet. At one point while we were climbing the steep path, all four wheels of our jeep lost its grip, and instead of moving forward, the jeep slipped backwards. For that split second, there was total silence, except for the grinning jeep driver.
Asked the driver how high we were? “We are above 17,000 feet,” he replied. With the death defying scenery around us, I was in no mood to argue with him.
My wife has promised never to return until FWO builds a proper 2-lane road. We shall see!
We breathed a sigh of relief when we dropped down to the valley floor, passing the tented settlement of Afghan Refugees. A small “so called” bridge was broken, and a diversion was created over a stream that took us into Besal. We found Besal to be a one-shacked town. This season, the sole proprietor had just moved his inn 500 feet below, and this was due to that broken bridge.
From Besal there are several alternatives for expert hikers to take short hiking diversions and go further into the valley to see 2 isolated alpine lakes, Dudupat and Saral - couple of days walk. For this it is recommended that you have an expert local guide who knows the area, and are physically fit.
After driving another 1 km from Besal, we finally reached the end of the road. A landslide in front of us blocked our path. We got out, picked up our backpacks, and started our hike towards Lulusar.
We inched our way over fallen rocks and debris towards the lake, following the fast flowing Kunhar. The weather, which had stayed cool, turned warmer, and the 3,300 meter altitude was taking its toll. For every 10 minutes we walked, we had to catch our breath for five minutes. Kept asking our guide “how far”, and he replied, “its just around the corner, another 10 minutes.” That ‘corner’ and 10 minutes finally came after one and half hour.
The sight of this elusive lake was magnificent. The water was deep green in color with sheer mountains rising directly up from the lakeside. Its banks were decked with yellow-daisy look alike wild flowers; and a picture perfect reflection on the water. Lulusar is situated remotely at an altitude of 3,350 meters, approx 50 km from Naran. It is shaped like a crescent, two and half kilometers long, 250 meters wide, and 50 meters deep. This lake is the source of the Kunhar River that flows through the heart of the Kaghan Valley.
We crossed a make shift bridge, precariously dangling on two giant logs, with several planks missing in between. Someone must have used those planks for firewood. The only souls that we saw were 2 Afghans with a caravan of donkeys laden with fir branches, and later a fierce looking Chilasi man wearing an army fatigue jacket, high altitude goggles, and carrying an old shot gun. He walked past us, ever so slowly. Must be wondering what are these people doing here? Our guide later told us that this man had gone up high into the mountains to hunt for marmots, and other creatures, which is illegal.
The way our guide and jeep driver talked about this man, we figured out that the local inhabitants of the Kaghan valley, who are mostly Gujars, do not particularly like people from Chilas - who are Kohistani.
Our stay at Lulusar was cut short when suddenly the wind shifted, the temperature dropped, and dark clouds started to loom. It was time to start our journey back. This time the one and half hour walk took only 30 minutes because our track was downhill. Even our jeep driver hastened us to hurry before the storm hit us; otherwise streams caused by torrential rain would block some passes.
For most of our journey back, it drizzled, and we could see falling snow blanketing the surrounding mountaintops. By 7:00 pm we were back at our hotel in Naran for a hot tea, and later a hefty meal.
The extra few days that we spent in Naran exploring the area were well worth it, and the total cost was far less than what PTDC had quoted.
The best time to visit Kaghan Valley is during the warmer months of May to September, though late July sees the onset of monsoons. During winter months (November to March) heavy snowfalls usually blocks the road beyond Kaghan village. It would be a unique experience to visit this valley during late autumn or early winter months to see the difference. Maybe someday!
We have also noticed that if you visit these areas during off-season (other then June, July, or August), you will be able to negotiate better rates with almost everyone; and there are three things that you should understand when you go to our beautiful northern areas.
(1) Be prepared as the weather can change dramatically,
(2) Do not rush your trips; enjoy and relax couple of extra days. Other then the usual tourist traps, find out what else lies beyond; and
(3) When you are hiking and the local says “10 minutes to that place”, add 1-2 hours.
More Travelogues (1)
- See All Jeep Hire
- See All For going the distance
- See All Bees whack
- See All Kaghan's life line
- How many days are you going to spend?
besal's Related Pages
Naran Travel Guide
Member Travel Pages
- "An Unforgettable Vacation In Kaghan (Kagan) Valley"
- "The valley of lovely lakes and amaizing landscapes"
- "Kaghan Valley"
- "The Paradise on earth"
- "A FAIRY TALE PLACE IN PAKISTAN.."
- "Welcome to my Naran page. Have a nice stay!"
- See All...
- Things to Do in Naran
- Hotels in Naran
- Transportation in Naran
- Nightlife in Naran
- Restaurants in Naran
- Shopping in Naran
- Warnings and Dangers in Naran
- See All...
Explore the World
Badges & Stats in Naran
- 25 Reviews
- 24 Photos
- 12 Forum posts
- 7 Comments
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (15)
Have you been to Naran?Share Your Travels
Latest Activity in Naran
Photos in NaranSee All Photos (24)
Top 10 Pages
- Top 5 Page for this destination Karachi Intro, 76 reviews, 307 photos, 3 travelogues
- Thatta Intro, 20 reviews, 80 photos, 5 travelogues
- Taxila Intro, 16 reviews, 45 photos
- Khewra Intro, 16 reviews, 41 photos
- Gwadar Intro, 11 reviews, 46 photos
- Kirthar Range Intro, 12 reviews, 45 photos, 2 travelogues
- Top 5 Page for this destination Islamabad Intro, 11 reviews, 42 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Naran Intro, 25 reviews, 24 photos, 2 travelogues
- Top 5 Page for this destination Hunza Intro, 12 reviews, 35 photos
- Muzaffarabad Intro, 10 reviews, 37 photos