Pakistan is abundant with natural beauty. And one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan is the Kaghan valley.
For me, if heaven were located on earth, then – besides Kashmir – Kaghan valley would be it!
Kaghan is named after the town of Kaghan that lies within it and is also known as the valley of lakes. The Dudipatsar, Lulusar and Saiful Muluk (the most popular) lakes are some of the more famous of the dozens of lakes found here.
The valley has everything you can think of when planning a great vacation. It has glaciers, mountains, dales, streams, lakes, waterfalls, ideal villages, forests and more. The following are some of the most popular destinations in and around Kaghan valley.
This village looks like a scene out of a fantasy novel except that it is real. A quaint settlement in the middle of a forest, surrounded by mountain peaks and a beautiful river flowing through it. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of my friends. Another famous lake called the Siri Paye is also found here.
Saiful Muluk Lake
One of the places to visit when in Kaghan is the Saiful Muluk Lake (although it lies in the nearby Naran valley). A three hour drive from the village of Shogran, the lake is breathtakingly beautiful; in fact there are no words to describe the beauty of the lake under the full moon. Some say that the rays of the moon look like fairies descending on the lake.
The lake has a famous folktale attached to it called ‘Qissa Saiful Muluk’. According to the story, this was the place where a Persian prince and fairy met.
The Dudipatsar Lake
If you are in for an even more serious adventure you can go hiking for 7 hours to reach the Dudipatsar Lake. Sounds like a very difficult trek, but the green pastures and blue green water of the lake makes you forget all the hardship faced.
The Lulusar Lake
This is a lake shaped like an ‘L’ and has an unmatched view of the surrounding snowcapped mountains. The blue and green water of the lake reflects the surrounding mountains giving a magical experience.
As you may have guessed by now, Kaghan is a very popular tourist destination. To get to the Kaghan valley one needs travel upwards from Abbottabad and then north east from Mansehra. On your way there, you will pass the Naran valley and the Babusar pass which lies at approximately 13,690 ft.
The local residents are generally shepherds. You can see them all across the valley, on road sides, in their pastures, walking their herds, etc. Although the local language is Hindko and Gojri, due to the heavy tourism, you can also get by with Urdu.
The best time to visit Kaghan is during the summer as it gets too cold in winter!
Kaghan Valley is a scenic wonderland. Kaghan is a jewel among the many beautiful valleys in the Mansehra District of Hazara in the North West Frontier Province (Khyber Pakhtoon Khuah) of Pakistan. The valley extends 160 km, rising from an elevation of 2,134 feet (650 m) to its highest point, the Babusar Pass, at 13,690 feet (4,170 m).
Kaghan valley is named after the town of Kaghan rather than for the Kunhar River which flows through the length of the valley. This valley has most popular summer holiday spots for both Pakistanis as well as foreigners. If you love hiking, trekking or fishing, then Kaghan Valley is like heaven.
Lofty peaks crown the mountains ranges on either side like turrets, ranging in height from 12,000 to 17,000 ft and more, with the eastern range higher than the western. The bed of valley slopes up from 3,000 ft at Balakot, which, as it were, the gateway of the valley, to 12,000 ft at Gittidas beyond which the valley crosses at Babusar Pass 14,000 ft.
The road to Kaghan is frightening because on your left are the deep slopes to the river and on your right are the lofty mountains. The first ten miles or so are largely barren, but when the valley raises to about 5,000 ft forests of pine and fir appear, densely overgrown with a variety of plants, which has won for Kaghan the epithets of ‘the botanists paradise’. The forests continue till about Naran 8,000 ft.
The road from Balakot ascends along the Kunhar River through lovely forests and the villages of Paras, Shinu, Jared and Mahandri. The valley is somewhat narrow along this stretch and the views are limited but as you ascend, the surrounding peaks come into view.
One spot that is quite famous for its spectacular view and scenery is ‘Shogran’. This village, surrounded by peaks and forests, is east of the main Kunhar River. It hosts the famous Siri Payee Lake mountain with breathtaking views at its top.
The region is Alpine in geography and climate, with pine forests, crystal clear lakes, cool mountain streams and meadows dominating the landscape below peaks that reach over 17,000 feet.
You’ll find the Himalayan peaks hidden with clouds or snow, somewhere you’ll find the beautiful fairy tale lakes, which will attract you toward them, and you might decide not to leave this at any cost. Where Kaghan is full of scenic beauty there it is full of thrill and excitement for the mountaineers and treks. That’s why it is called virtual paradise, unbelievably in pristine state and still unspoiled by the human.
The mountain scenerey, the dales, lakes, water-falls, streams and glaciers are the main reason to come here. Further north from Babusar Pass, a jeep track leads to Chilas, which is now on Karakoram Highway (the road that connects Islamabad to Xinjiang province of China via Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjerab Pass. Before Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978, the only road access to Gilgit was through Kaghan Valley.
The river Kunhar, originating from Lulusar lake, runs through the city and merges with Jhelum River just outside Muzaffarabad in Pakistan administered Kashmir. The river is muddy in the plains but as you go towards the mountains it becomes clearer. Road goes along the river Kunhar, meandering now to one side and now to the other. But keeping most to the bed of the valley and never too far above the bank of the stream except in the very first state.
If you like climbing this is a place for you because there are mountains all around you. You can explore the scenic and pictorials landscape and valleys by climbing up hiking.
Kaghan Valley is a place where you defiantly want to spend few days of your leisure.
In May the temperature ranges between a maximum of 11 °C (52 °F) and a minimum of 3 °C (37 °F). From the middle of July up to the end of September the road beyond Naran Valley is open right up to Babusar Pass. Movement is restricted during the monsoon and winter seasons.
The best time to visit Kaghan is in summer months (May to September). From the mid – July up to the end of September, the road beyond Naran, snow-bound throughout the winter, is open right up to Babusar Pass. Movement may be restricted during the monsoon season due to heavy rains and landslides.
Places to See:
Balakot is the gateway to Kaghan valley because Kaghan valley starts from Balakot, which is famous for the Mausoleum of two Muslim warriors Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed who laid their lives fighting against Sikhs in the 18th century.
Balakot is located at about thirty-eight kilometers north-east of the city of Mansehra and 72 km from Abbottabad, in Hazara Province. It is a historical town, a famous tourist destination of the region and the gateway to Kaghan valley of the Hazar Province of Pakistan.
Balakot is one of the main cities of Mansehra District. It serves as the chief city of Balakot Tehsil, which is the largest Tehsil of Mansehra District. It is also a Union Council and administers the many surrounding smaller towns and villages.
This beautiful small town is situated on either banks of Kunhar river at the foot of the mountains that goes thousands of feet above. The toy huts, which are amazingly perched on their slopes. On other side is the Kunhar River, which accompanies you all along your journey.
Journey from Abbottabad to Balakot is a charming experience. The road passes through beautiful green hills and thick forests. The views are spectacular especially between Attarshisha and Garhi Habibullah. A famous battle was fought here between the Sikh Army and Mujahideen in 1831. The Mujahideen leaders, Hazrat Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Hazrat Shah Ismail Shaheed lie buried here along with other martyrs.
The town was destroyed during the 2005 earthquake and later rebuilt with the assistance of the Government of Pakistan and Saudi Public Assistance for Pakistan Earthquake Victims (SPAPEV), a Saudi relief organization.
13 miles away from Balakot to Kaghan is Kawai in these 13 miles you’ll reach the altitude of 4000 feet starting from 3000 feet which means that you have covered 1000 feet of altitude in just 13 miles.
The main place here to visit is Shogran, which is 5 miles jeep able trek from Kiwai, and further 5 miles you’ll go up another 3000 feet. Now you are 7000 feet above the sea level and rightly so because Shogran means “Forest in the sky”. You’ll be able to view the some of the lofty peaks from here, which are ” Moosa Ka Musalla ” and ” Makra “having height of 14000 feet, and Malika-e-Parbat (Queen of the Mountains) (17000 feet).
Forest Rest House, Shogran:
You should not miss a trip to Forest Rest House. Most of people sit and relax in its huge lush green lawns. Entry might be restricted when senior officials visit or stay at rest house. Views of Sri Paya and Musa Da Mussalah peak are really nice from the lawns of rest house.
Mini Zoo, Pine Park Shogran:
Pine Park Shogran is a nice tourist resort with impressive facilities. For children’s attraction there is a mini zoo. Some unique n beautiful varieties of birds are on display.
Shogran’s real asset are the views it offers. The air is impregnated with the scent of flowers and the fine forests around. If one for something totally out of the world in the deep pine forrest and wonderful alpine trees, it would be suggested to chose Shogran.
The eveing views of the forest and the mountainsnearby are spectacular. you can also go for an evening walk to the traditonally built resturants and shops in the heart of the settlements. And dont forget to taste the tasty Green tea as well. It is an expensive resort with limited number of hotels and facilities.
Siri and Paya:
From Shogran, a steep climb through dense forest of fir and pine brings you to a plateau of great scenic beauty of Siri and Paya. Sri and Paya are one of the most beautiful places. Siri and Paya is a plateua above the hill station of Shogran. At Paya there is a very small lake, and further up at Siri is the plateau.
From Shogran there are many jeep and hiking treks lead you to the wonderful meadows of Siri and Paya. The road going up towards Siri and then Paya is very adventurious but very dangerous. On your left is the lofty razor sharp rocks and on your right thousand of feet down will be Shoran which you just left behind..So prepare yourself for the ultimate adventure.
Hike is also possible from Shogran but its gonna take you two n half hours. Keep in mind its very tough hike. You can also camp at Paya if you are in group with having all necessary equipment n stuff. Once you reach Paya the discomfort of the journey is forgotten.
Paya is one of the most beautiful places. It is at an altitude of 11,200 feet (3413.76 m) above sea level. You would feel your self out of this world once you reach at Paya. The feeling is like if you are on a fairy land.
Most of people just sit at resturants at top but it is strongly recommended that you not to do that because for real beauty of this spot you would need to hike a bit more. Then you can view the beautiful lake and lush green meadows. A trip to Paya is journey of life time, most beautiful and amaizing!
Just after five minutes of ride on your jeep you would find yourself at a really lovely place named Sri. There is small green colored forest rest house in Sri where you can sit and view this amaizing place. Mostly this place is covered with thick clouds but the view is simply awesome and out of this world.
Here in Siri and Paya you would find yourself surrounded by a spectacular view of lush green meadows. The views are breathtaking. On the grassy plains of Siri and Paya one can experience the grandeur of Musa-ka MassalaPeak (4,267m), Malka Parbat 17,156 feet (5,229 m), Makra Peak 15,030 feet (4,581 m). One can also hike all the way to Mt. Makra (1 day hike).
To climb makra peak you have to track around 6 hours, its a moderate type of climbing but some death occur. Some student of Punjab university were on Makra trip but then they disappeared and nobody knew about them. Locals has the believe that single person cannot come back from Makra. Thats mean you also have to track in group. From top u can enjoy the view of Muzaffarabad, Malika purbat, Musa ka musallah, Thandiyani, Kashmir, Hazara and many other places.
Manna meadows is really beautiful place full of natural beauty, it is located very right side of Makra mountain. Atleast 4 hours taught hiking from Paye meadows you can explore this beautiful place.
Manna Meadows is 8000 feet above from sea level.Its lush green meadows where u can get the many aspects of natural beauty. Best season to come this place is August when u can find out hundred of flowers at the meadow. Overall its good place if u want to explore the whole valley then this track is best for you. From Manna meadows you can track to shogran also which is at least 3 hours from here. You have to pass Peerang Village. There is also a forest rest house.
Some 6 km further ahead north of Kewai is the small village of Paras. Most public transport stop here for tea and snacks before moving on to Naran. At Paras a rough track crosses the river and climbs 15Km to Sharan, in the middle of nowhere at 2,400m.
From Paras you can hike through the forest or trek overnight across beautiful Siran Valley, north of Mansehra (though a local guide can help you find the trail and avoid the occasional black bear and wild cat). The next stop is a small village of Sinhu and from there the road continues to Jared.
A 16 km jeep-road from Paras on the other bank of the Kunar leads to the dense forests and absolute wilderness of Sharan; located at a height of 7,872 ft. Campers seeking absolute isolation usually head here. The only population is that of a forest rest-house and a youth hostel. It is part of the mountain range with Musa Ka Musalla as its peak at 13,372 ft. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Apart from different species of birds, it is also home to cheetah’s and bears.
From Paras you can hike through the forest or trek overnight across beautiful Sharan Valley. Local guide can help you find the trail and avoid the occasional black bear and wild cat. The next stop is a small village of Sinhu and from there the road continues to Jareed.
Just beyond Paras is known for its trout hatchery of the Fisheries Department. It is from this hatchery that brown trout and rainbow trout are stocked into the upper Kunhar river and the lakes Saiful Muluk, Lulusar and Dodiputsar.
Jared is known for its handicrafts. The N.W.F.P government operates a handicraft developement centre at Jared, two hours from Balakot. State-run and private shops sell traditional-style carved furniture, hand-made woolen shawls and other work.
The altitude of Mahanderi village is 5,800 feet the landscape and the scene changes here and becomes wilder. The river Mahanderi is still with you but you’ll feel it much closer to you.
The 4100m high above sea level, Manur Gali connects Lake Saiful Malook to Muhandri. This rout is an extravaganza of nature painted with crystal clear streams, flowering meadows, cascading glaciers and dense forest.
Just a little distance from Mahanderi is the Khanian. Khanian is a small but attractive, peaceful village on the right bank of the Kunhar. It is the starting point for a trip to Kamal Ban Forest and Danna Meadows.
destroyed by the earth quake so dana is no more Jeepable), and about three hours on foot. On foot u cant make it back in one day as its a steep climb.So a over night stay is must at Danna.
Another jeep track to the south from Khanian climbs up the ridge to the Kamal Ban Forest. The forest rest house at Kamal Ban is at an altitude of 6500 feet and was built in 1924, being one of the oldest in the area. It also offers a beautiful view of surrounding mountains. There is a jeep-able trek leading to Manna Meadows on right and Kamal Ban on left. Further trekkers can also enjoy the Kamal Ban to Jarid path.
Local elders are friendly and very helpful. If you are trekking from Khania, you can stay a night at the Rest House and wander in the area. There are things like centuries old fir tree, with more than eight meters of dia and 58 meters high. More interesting thing include a red color crop which they use to roast with sugar for the winter season.
One way or another, Kamal Ban is a thick forest with some wild animals like Tiger & Bears. There were few accidents in the area this season as man come across the path of these wild animals.
Musa ka Musalla:
1. From Mandakucha/Jacha village:
One can reach here through Mansehra – Shinkiari. Public transport is available from Mansehra for Mandakucha with a fare of Rs. 150 per head (May 2010). The road goes through Jabori and takes around 2-3 hours. One can also hire a hiace van or a jeep that can be taken up to Jacha village. Porters can be taken from Mandakucha village. From the starting point, the trek to the top of Musalla takes 8-10 hours. One can camp at Bikhi or Khori on the way which are 4-5 and 6-7 hours of trek from Mandakucha respectively.
2. From Naddi Bangla:
One can reach Naddi bangla from Balakot on a jeep road which comes through Hangrai and takes around a couple of hours. Rest house here is mainly used to monitor the forest and is not in a very good condition. The road is metalled up to Hangrai and a little beyond after which a left turn takes one to a jeep only road. A normal jeep would take Rs. 3000-4000 one way up to Nadi Bangla and can accommodate a maximum of six persons. A loader jeep if available can be hired if one wants to save some bucks. It charges between Rs. 2000-3000 and can accommodate a group of 10+ people along with the luggage very easily. The disadvantage of a loader jeep is the lack of proper sitting space and often you have to spend the journey which standing in the open roof jeep which is quite an adventure in itself. It is recommended to take the jeep further few kilometers ahead to a place called as Kachal Katha from where the trek can be started. From here one can take a) Bagheer meadows route towards Northeast of Naddi Bangla b) Maidan route towards Northwest. Both the approaches converge at Shaddal Gali (also known as Thandi Gali) where one can also camp. Fresh water is available here at a short walking distance. From Bagheer, one can reach the top of Musalla in 5-6 hrs via Shaddal Gali.
3. From Kund Bangla / Shaheed Pani:
4. From Sharan:
Sharan is a beautiful forested place that can be reached from Kaghan (Paras) on a jeep. There is a rest house and youth hostel available at Sharan. This is the most difficult option in terms of steepness and is not generally recommended for reaching the top. This option can be considered however for coming back which is all descend and takes around 7-8 hours.
Out of the above mentioned options, Naddi Bangla option via Bagheer is the most recommended path in terms of natural beauty. It is advisable to get the porters arranged beforehand as the population is scarce and locals might not be willing to go on a time of your choice.
Best time to do this trek is from mid June to mid September. Some groups also attempt it in winters in harsh conditions as a winter survival expedition. As with the other treks of the region, porter rates are not already defined and would have to be negotiated. Porters would charge on per day basis and it could be anything between Rs. 500 and 1000. A horse or mule can be hired on something between Rs. 1000 – 1400 per day (Rates as per summer of 2010).
Just 5 km ahead of Khunia at 7000 feet is the wonderland and important town of Kaghan; after which the valley itself is named, here river is 800 feet below the road. The town has plenty of hotels of various variety. Although tourists usually aim to head for Naran, they do stay in Kaghan especially in winters or the start of the tourist season when the road to Naran is blocked due to snow.
Shingri is locted just above the Kaghan village, while standing in kaghan bazaar you can see the ptcl towers on Shingri Top towards east at 12,700 ft above sea level offering superb panoramic views of Kaghan Valley.
Mukhlaian is a small charming village on the way to Shingri. It is about 8 km from Kaghan town and can be reached by jeep after a danger drive.
Onwards a 3 hour drive away from Shogran is Naran. Naran is the middle point of Kaghan Valley and it is a place where you defiantly want to spend few days of your leisure. It is a small tourist village open only during the tourist season of May to September. The rest of the time it is covered with snow. All visitors come to Naran to pay a visit to the Saiful Muluk Lake (10,500 feet) 6 miles east of town. If the road is open transportation by jeep can be arranged. If the road is closed, it is an easy, gradual three-hour walk, and the lake is a lovely spot for a picnic.
Naran is a hamlet in Pakistan and is one of the favorite holiday destinations of the world. Tourists from across the world come to Naran to witness its undulating terrains that are dotted with crags and massifs as well as pristine lakes.
Naran is awash with hotels, restaurants, and shops, all neatly arranged on both sides of the Kaghan road. The roar from the gushing waters of Kunar River creates a pleasant atmosphere.
Naran is the place of out-door pleasure. Here you’ll depart from the river Kunhar and on both sides of road there are vast fields. Don’t look here and there the melody you are hearing is provided by the river Kunhar who is with you on same level. If you like climbing this is a place for you because there are mountains all around you. You can explore the scenic and pictorials landscape and valleys by climbing up hiking. If you like fishing get your fishing license we have trout and mahasheer for you fishing here for tourist is must.
The river itself is still unexplored. There is a potential for white water rafting, and other water sports associated with fast flowing rivers.
For hikers and Safari Lovers there are plenty of stuff to see in Naran. From the height of Nuri Top to the banks of Lulusir and the romantic Lalazar and many more. Huge range of Kohistan is blessed with plenty of rain and weather is wonderful from May to September.
Naran is the best base for treks and walks in the valley. There are options for accommodation and restaurants. Naran is best reached by jeep from Balakot some 200 km north of RawalPindi / Islamabad.
There is a village named damdama at 4-5 km after crossing naran and going towards batakundi. Damdama top is really fantastic place Naran is visible from the top.
For adventure lovers there is a lovely footpath leads from Lalazar Plateau down to lake Saiful Malik, taking 5-6 hrs involving camping for a night. Its not an easy track. One can get a chance to see the rare wild life variety of “Markhoor” on this track during the months of October and November.
Lalazar is a place where one would enjoy camping. It has large grassy grounds and there is no fear of falling rocks or being in way of a broken glacier. And then something strange happened!