Kaghan Valley an unforgettable experience
Kaghan is a jewel amongst the many beautiful valleys in the Mansehra District of Hazara in the Kyber Pakthunkhwa Province of Pakistan. The 160 kilometres valley features pine forests, alpine meadows, crystal clear lakes and cool mountain streams.
Kunhar River is famous for its trout fish. Nestled along the river are the towns of Balakot, Paras, Mahandari, Kaghan and Naran. Gujar nomads are one of the most interesting features of the Kaghan Valley. While going to Kaghan you will find them camped along the road in their traditional tents or moving up and down the valley with their heard of pack animals, sheep and goats.
The road beyond Balakot was once fit only for 4X4 vehicles, visitors had to live their cars in Balakot and rent jeeps for the rest of the journey. Today the road is suitable for all kind of vehicles up to Naran and Jalkhad. However, there are a few glaciers that have not lost their snowpack, and that makes them difficult to cross by car.
For those opting for public transport they are frequent bus services to Abbottabad from where van shuttles depart to Mansehra, the main station for the onward journey to Kaghan Valley. From Mansehra, one can find direct van services for Balakot, Kaghan and Naran.
At present Balakot has only few suitable hotels to stay overnight as most of the hotels were destroyed by the 2005 earthquake. The hotels in the upper Kaghan Valley (Kaghan, Naran and beyond) survive the earthquake untouched and are open for business. There are more than 100 fully operational hotels of different categories at Naran and Kaghan.
Balakot, located at 72 km far from Abbottabad, is the gateway of Kaghan Valley. The one and half hour journey between Mansehra and Balakot is a charming experience full of spectacular views. Balakot is a small town located on the bank of Kunhar River, but has a tremendous historical significance, being the place of a famous battle between Sikh Army and Muslim freedom fighters in 1831.
Shogran, one of the most beautiful plateaus in the valley, is located 34 km from Balakot via Kewai. One of the nicest places to visit is Shogran’s Forest Rest House. From the rolling grassy lawns of the rest of the house, one can see breathtaking panoramic view of snow covered mountains. Kaghan Valley’s highest peaks, such as Musa Ka Musalla (4419 m) , Makra (3885 m) and Malika Parbat (5290 m) , are visible from here.
Musa Ka Musalla (Prayer Mat of Moses) is situated between Kaghan and Siran Valleys. This peak is visible from several places in Kaghan Valley. It is a trekking peak and has and can be approached from both Valleys.
Khanian is a small but attractive and peaceful village on the right bank of the Kunhar River. It is the starting point for a trip to Kamal Ban Forest House (built in 1924) and Dana Meadows located at an altitude of 10,000 feet, offering an amazing view of snow covered peaks.
Kaghan is the town that gives the valley its name. A permanent settlement located at about 61 km from Balakot, has a hospital, post office, police station and a small bazar where items of daily use can be found in its shops. There are also a few budget hotels and restaurants, providing accommodation and meals to visitors passing through on their way to Naran. There is also a hydro power station and a potato research station.
Naran is the main centre of tourism in the Kaghan Valley, located at 85 km from Balakot. The town is situated on the bank of Kunhar River at a point where the valley widens. The river is also quite smooth here and ideal for throut fishing and easy grade river rafting.
No trip to Kaghan Valley is complete without a visit to the legendary Lake Saiful Muluk, named after Prince Saif-ul-Muluk , who fell in love with a fairy from the mountains. Word cannot describe the beauty and serenity of the setting and picture postcards do no justice. The crystalline waters of Lake Saiful Muluk reflecting the surrounding snow covered mountains is an image that must be seen in person.
Malika Parbat (Queen of the Mountains) is the highest mountain of the Kaghan Valley. The best view of this peak is from Lake Saiful Muluk when on a clear day the pointed peak is mirrored in its deep blue waters.
Ansoo Lake is one of the most panoramic and beautiful lakes of Pakistan. It is located near Malika Parabat in the Himalayan range of Kaghan Valley. The name “Ansoo” comes form its tear-like shape (the Urdu word Ansoo means teardrop). The lake was discovered only recently in 1993 by Pakistan Air Force pilots while flying at a relatively low altitude over the area.
There are many other side valleys in Kohistan, that are excellent for hikers, trekkers, mountain bikers, fishing enthusiasts, photographers and nature lovers. One such area is the Supat Valley that lies in the Himalayan Mountain region, parallel to Kaghan Valley in Hazara Kohistan. The area is also known for its gemstones, especailly Peridot. There are two beautiful lakes in Supat, the Srikatha and the Maheen. In September 2008, trout was introduced into the Maheen Lake.
Kaghan is an execellent destination for trekking and hill walking. Pony ridding is another favourite activity for families during their trip to Kaghan Valley. A ride around Lake Saiful Muluk can be a most enjoyable experience. Fishing for brown and rainbow trout in the crystal clear waters of the valley lakes and in the Kunhar River is a favourite past time for many. Kaghan is an exhilarating place for amateurs climbers to learn the basic skills of mountaineering. Over the past few years, Kaghan Valley has become the venue for one of most challenging mountain bike races in Asia.
Tourist season in the Kaghan Valley starts in mid-May and closes Mid- October. The summer climate (June to September) is ideal, with warm temperatures. The road beyond Naran is snowbound in winter, yet from June to late October, stays open all the way to Babusar Pass. Mid July is monsoon season and vehicle movement is sometimes restricted due to landslides and rains in the lower Kaghan Valley.