My driver and I drove by the Line of Control as we passed through an area opposite to the Keran sector of Indian-held Kashmir. From the Chella Bandi Bridge – just north of Azaad Kashmir’s capital Muzaffarabad – to Tau Butt, a valley stretches out for 240 kilometres; it is known as the Neelum Valley (literally, the Blue Gem Valley).

Neelum is one of the most beautiful valleys of Azaad Kashmir, and it hosts several brooks, freshwater streams, forests, lush green mountains, and a river. Here, you see cataracts falling down the mountains; their milky-white waters flowing over the roads and splashing against the rocks, before commingling with the muddy waters of River Neelum.

Athmuqam is the capital city of Neelum Valley. It has been administratively divided into two sub-districts: Athmuqam and Sharda. From Muzaffarabad, a tarred road comfortably leads you to Sharda, whence you need to travel on a rocky and curvy jeep track, which can take you to the farthest town of the region, Tau Butt.

An aerial view of Tau Butt. An aerial view of Tau Butt.
Tau Butt. Tau Butt.
Tau Butt (long exposure). Tau Butt (long exposure).

Before Partition, this region was known as Drawah. The Azaad Kashmir government, in 1956, the ninth year of its rule, held a cabinet meeting to rechristen the River Kishanganga as the River Neelum, and the Drawah region as Neelum Valley.

The new names were proposed to the cabinet by war hero, Syed Mohammad Amin. The cabinet approved them, and thus, Drawah of the yore is now Neelum Valley of Azaad Kashmir.

When the far-flung Kashmiri villages located at the feet of the Himalayas beckoned me, I bade adieu to my job and my city before packing up for Kashmir, where lush green mountains were ready to take me in.

After we arrived in Jhelum district, I stopped on the bridge to look down into the River Jhelum. The muddy water flowed down slowly. I was going to meet the same river upstream, where it enters into Pakistan from Azaad Kashmir (and changes its name from Neelum to Jhelum). The river seemed too sluggish in the plains of the Punjab, but I knew that up in the mountains, it is furious and noisy, with green waters winding through narrow mountain passes.

Jhelum, aka Neelum, aka Kishangana. Just then the song playing in the car switched to:

Kis naam say pukaron, kia naam hay tumhara
(What shall I call you, what is your name)

Tau Batt. Tau Batt.
Houses in Tau Batt. Houses in Tau Batt.
Tau Batt. Tau Batt.
Tau Batt. Tau Batt.

Cities, town and villages went by one after the other; Rawalpindi was gone; then from Murree, the car darted towards Muzaffarabad. The road from Kohala to Muzaffarabad was narrow but tree-lined; the car travelled under the shadows of the trees. The surrounding mountains had worn the newly-sprouted bright-coloured grass.

There was greenery everywhere, punctuated with pomegranate trees that lined up the road and proudly held out their red petals. Against their green backdrop, the red petals seemed almost seductive. I thought of stealing them from the pomegranate trees, but the very next moment, Jon Elia intruded my subconscious, saying, “dekh lo phool, phool torro mat” (Look at the flowers, don’t snip off the flowers).

The pomegranate petals continued to dance along the road until we reached Muzaffarabad – a densely populated city, with houses literally sitting on the roofs of other houses.

After crossing over the River Neelum Bridge, I had to leave the car and hire a jeep, which was to take me to my destination, the Neelum Valley.

The suspension bridge in Tau Butt. The suspension bridge in Tau Butt.
The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure). The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure).

As I was being driven along the River Neelum, I was amused to notice how contentedly this river flowed, serving as natural border between Pakistan and India, oblivious to their animosity.

Pakistan is building the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower dam on the River Neelum. It was summertime, but the project still appeared to be frozen. The jeep entered Athmuqam and moved through its crowded streets before emerging on the other side that faced Keran. At the other end of the bridge that spanned over the River Neelum, was Indian-held Kashmir.

Travelling along the Line of Control, I felt that although the two Kashmirs had been divided by a border, they held many things in common: on the both sides of this divide, jeeps and buses play the same music; culture and cuisine is the same; the population on both sides belongs to the same ethnicity, draws water from the same river, and lives under the same clouds; the difference is seen only on the masts that hoists the national flags – the flags are different, so are the governments and perhaps the hearts, too.

The driver notched up the music volume and the song that rolled off the cassette player now said:

Gham-e-dil ko en ankhon se chalak jana bhi aata hai
(The grief is wont to roll down from these eyes)

The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure). The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure).
The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure). The River Neelum in Tau Butt (long exposure).
Tau Batt. Tau Batt.
Tau Batt. Tau Batt.

We arrived in the village of Dowarian. From this point on, a trail leads to the Ratti Gali Lake. Nature probably worked long and hard to create Ratti Gali, first carpeting it with green velvet grass, and then speckling it with yellow, blue, and orange shades.

The blue waters and scenic beauty of this lake gravitate tourists with such a pull that they would battle mountains, rivers, and the hardships of trekking to arrive at this spot. A sight of Ratti Gali Lake is worth all the trouble.

The jeep continued to move along. At a little distance from the turn to Ratti Gali, a road branches out and treks up the mountain to meet the village of Upper Neelum. Perhaps, the entire valley takes its name from this village.

The jeep arrived in Sharda and stopped at its main marketplace. My eyes strayed to a few donkeys standing on the rooftops of houses and shops and grazing wild grass that had sprung up there. Seeing donkeys on rooftops particularly struck me as quite hilarious.

In Sharda, houses are built on the steep mountain slopes in a way that their roofs are partly stuck into the mountain. It allows animals to easily walk onto the rooftops. The donkeys were perhaps attracted by the sweet smell of the grass here.

A suspension bridge in Tau Butt. A suspension bridge in Tau Butt.
A suspension bridge in Tau Butt. A suspension bridge in Tau Butt.
Cattle. Cattle.

Sharda is one of the two sub-division of the Neelum Valley. In ancient times, it was a seat of knowledge and wisdom. If you cross over the river bridge, you would arrive at the ruins of a site that looks like a fort but which in fact used to be an academy. It falls somewhere between a city and a village, as the basic necessities of life are available in abundance at the local stores. But after leaving Sharda, it is just villages. The road turns rough, too. River Neelum fattens up here.

Some historians believe that Sharda was the name of a Hindu temple. Research is wanting on whether Sharda was a temple or an academy. Findings by one of the Azaad Kashmir’s renowned researchers Dr Ahmed Deen Sabir suggest that Sharda and Saraswati are two wives to Brahma, the Hindu god of creation (in Hindu mythology, they are the goddesses of knowledge and wisdom). In the ancient age, temples would serve not only as places of worship and meditation but also as centres of education. Al-Beruni describes the geography and conditions of this temple:

“After Multan’s Sun Temple, Chakraswami temple of Thanesar, and the Somnath Temple, Sharda, too, is a big temple. It is a famous house of idols located at a distance of two or three days towards Kohistan-e-Balour from Srinagar.”

In the 21st century, the town of Sharda, overlooking the River Neelum, is known only as a tourist attraction. The River Neelum flows downhill, quietly touching its feet.

We resumed our journey. The tarred road came to an end, and the rocky dirt track began. Several brooks intersected our path. The jeep would slow down to cross through the water and then resume its bumpy journey.

Sitting inside, I felt as if I were riding on camel-back. The sunlight was hurrying up to escape from the mountain. The chir pine trees grew their shadows long. When the jeep arrived at Kail, a earth-scented breeze rushed to welcome me; it dallied everywhere.

Gujjar Rivulet in Tau Butt (long exposure). Gujjar Rivulet in Tau Butt (long exposure).
Gujjar Rivulet. Gujjar Rivulet.
A mountain stream in Tau Butt (long exposure). A mountain stream in Tau Butt (long exposure).
A mountain stream in Tau Butt (long exposure). A mountain stream in Tau Butt (long exposure).

After checking into the tourism department motel, I chose to sit in the balcony of my room to watch the hustle and bustle of the valley as the sun set. To my right, on a rooftop two kids were playing tennis with a green plastic ball. On another rooftop, just next to them, four boys were playing another game, perhaps Stapoo or a variation of it.

Far below in the valley, on a slope that had been girdled by wood logs, some women trod a wet dirt trail, carrying on their heads pitchers made of bronze and copper and filled with water. At the starting end of the trail flowed a clean brook; a fallen tree trunk forming an arch over it. On the banks of the brook and over the tree trunk sat a few other women doing laundry. The women who carried water on their head had filled the pitchers from this same brook, walking home in pairs.

Next to this lavoir was a field enclosed with wooden planks. Two young girls were playing in the field, they would whirl round and round, and shortly after, fall down in the unsown furrows, their heads spinning. They would keep giggling for several minutes. I could hear the sound of their giggles, coupled with the laughter of the tennis-playing kids. The girls would then get up again, spin round and round and collapse; the game continued for several rounds.

The Kail Valley. The Kail Valley.
The village of Kail. The village of Kail.
Trekking towards Gagai. Trekking towards Gagai.
Trekking towards Gagai. Trekking towards Gagai.

Just below my balcony, in a field, a large number of dandelions had blossomed. A brown cat pawed through them, sniffing. The rays from the setting sun had fired up the edges of the dandelions. To my right, smoke rose from the chimneys of the houses. The roof-slopes were painted red, white and orange. Sometimes, a jeep or a motorcycle would stir the rocky jeep track, which otherwise lay still and silent.

A little later, the last rays from the declining sun began to redden the puffed faces of the two clouds that had stubbornly stayed in the sky. As the red colour took over the sky, the chill in the air grew stronger. Before the red sky turned black, the lavoir had been emptied of its occupants, the children had ended their games, and the brown cat too, had returned home.

Now, the chimneys were emitting more smoke; dinner was being cooked. The weather suddenly grew colder and darkness engulfed everything. Dozens of lights begin to glitter in the valley. I, who had grown all weak-kneed from this beauty, was barely able to gather myself to go back into my room.

The village of Phalwai. The village of Phalwai.
A view of the houses near Sardari. A view of the houses near Sardari.
The village of Sardari. The village of Sardari.
The village of Sardari. The village of Sardari.

I returned to the balcony around 11pm. The stars had come out, the night was otherwise dark and moonless. Silence echoed through the valley. The only sounds I heard were that of a brook and my beating heart. The chimneys had fallen cold too. The town was sleeping.

When dew began to fall on Kail, the stars, too, grew obscure. Far away, dogs barked relentlessly. The valley that was quiet a few minutes ago was now echoing mysterious sounds. I returned to my room, but the moment I closed my eyes, the entire Kail valley materialised in my mind’s eye. I felt dizzy and fell asleep where I had lain. The goddess of slumber had drawn the valley close to her heart, and every activity in the universe came to a halt, until the sun rose the next morning.

A young boy with an ewe. A young boy with an ewe.
Wildlife on the move. Wildlife on the move.
A local boy. A local boy.
A group of girls walk by the river. A group of girls walk by the river.

At daybreak next morning, I departed from Kail. The jeep continued its bumpy journey, somehow negotiating the wavy track in this difficult terrain. We registered at several military checkpoints along the way.

For a portion of my journey, the track ran parallel to River Neelum, almost touching it. The jeep was running on the track just one foot higher than the river. Then, we came across a cataract washing the road with its water, and spewing a lot of mud. As the jeep passed before the waterfall, a sprinkle of cold water washed over my face.

The road running along the River Neelum began to gain altitude again, and I felt the jeep almost taking off. The river had been left below in the mountains. Next, we were to pass by the villages of Sardari, Phalwai and Hilmet, before arriving in Tau Butt, where the jeep was to end its journey.

That day, after leaving Kail, I noticed that women in this region were very industrious. They worked hard in the fields and took vigilant care of the cattle. I also noticed that almost all of the women wore red; perhaps they favoured this colour. Eight out of the 10 women there wore red dresses.

We passed by several groups of Bakarwal nomads that travelled along the road with their flocks of sheep and goats. The animals would readily give way to the jeep as soon as they heard the engine. The Bakarwal tribes are known for taking regular long journeys from Kashmir to the Deosai plain, passing through the highest mountain passes of the Himalayas. After arriving in the Deosai plain, some of their groups would journey to Skardu and others would travel to Astore.

Since snow at the Deosai plain had not thawed yet, the Bakarwals were moving at a very slow pace, camping with frequent intervals. Making a stay near every village that they came across.

Nomadic life is quite strange. Nomads bury their dead wherever they die. Their graves can be found scattered from Kashmir to Skardu and Astore. One of the nomads told me that for centuries, their generations had lived the same life. Their elders had trodden the same path. The nomads had spent entire eras existing in unending journeys .

Upper Tau Butt. Upper Tau Butt.
Trekking towards Gagai. Trekking towards Gagai.
Upper Tau Butt. Upper Tau Butt.
Upper Tau Butt. Upper Tau Butt.

I saw a Bakarwal slaughtering his goat near the riverbank. The sight stunned me. I knew that Bakarwals would never slaughter their animal even if they were dying with starvation. What had led this man to kill his goat?

On inquiring, I learned that the goat had fallen off a mountain and broken both of its hind legs. The nomads carried it in their arms for one day, but it was not possible for them to continue to do so. It reminded me of Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi who says, “In the entire Islamic World, I have not seen a single goat die of natural causes.”

The journey continued. The track crossed through streams that flowed over it. The jeep marched on. Hearing the sound of the jeep-horn, a nomad girl turned around with a start, and quickly hid her face in her palms. Behind the fingers her green eyes dilated. She was carrying a tea kettle and a transparent plastic bag, in which, two tea cups and a few dry rottis (flatbread) were visible.

I wished I could tell her, ‘If you are a nomad, I, too, am a homeless person at this hour. If both of us are humans, why should one hide from the other?’ The jeep moved on, leaving the gypsy girl far behind. In my rear view mirror, she stood still.

There was a time when I had given thought to the idea of travelling across Kashmir with these nomads to arrive at the Deosai plain, and then journey on to Skardu, enjoying the hospitality of the Bakarwals gypsies, sipping tea from steaming cups. Who knows, one day maybe this dream will come true.

We arrived in Jaam Garh, the town of refugees. When Hindu-Muslim violence had escalated in Indian-held Kashmir, the entire population of a village situated along the Line of Control, left their homes and, crossing over the river under the cover of night, migrated to Azaad Kashmir. These refugees have been accommodated in Jaam Garh by the state government.

The entire village has painted its rooftops with a single colour: orange. Every house has a tale of suffering, every person remembers someone they left behind and everyone mourns their burnt down houses. The jeep passed through the town silently; there was silence everywhere, as if the people were mute or had lost their voices permanently.

Jam Garh village. Jam Garh village.
Farmland in Tau Butt. Farmland in Tau Butt.
Farmland in Tau Batt. Farmland in Tau Batt.
A path goes through the woods. A path goes through the woods.

After a four-hour bumpy drive from Kail, we finally entered Tau Butt. It is an isolated, mountainous village with wood-framed houses, specifically designed for this region. The fields were enclosed by barbed wires, perhaps, for demarcation. The River Neelum flowed fast and furiously in the middle of the valley. Farmers were tilling their fields for the next crop.

A few young children looked out from the windows of the houses and waved at me. Some old men were seen gathered outside small shops. Red scarves fluttered in the fields. I was to spend the night in this village.

The next morning, soon after leaving my bed, I started walking towards the last human habitation of Kashmir. It is a village named Gagai, and you can get to this place only by travelling on foot. I went through a series of fields and jungles, meeting birds and animals, including one or two marmots.

The Gagai rivulet was running along me, furious and foamy. Soon I found myself in a clearing at the foot of the mountains, where the Gujjar rivulet flowing down from the Barzal Pass meets the Gagai rivulet, forming a single stream that would end up in the River Neelum at Tau Butt.

The sun began to shine brightly. A wild squirrel descended from a tree top, only to climb up a wood log where it then enjoyed a sunbath. The air was still chilly. I could hear shrilling marmots, which must be nearby. Before arriving at my destination, I had to pass through yet another jungle.

Between Tau Butt and Gagai. Between Tau Butt and Gagai.
Between Tau Butt and Gagai. Between Tau Butt and Gagai.
Between Tau Butt and Gagai. Between Tau Butt and Gagai.
Between Tau Butt and Gagai. Between Tau Butt and Gagai.

Finally, after trekking continuously for four hours, I was in the village of Gagai, which is home to only a few dozen people. If you continue to trek further ahead, you would arrive in the district of Astore, but not before passing through several jungles, rivulets, and many lonely places, some of them quite terrible.

This village that remains buried under snow for seven months every year, is splendidly beautiful. I asked one of the villagers, an old man, how they spent this period of hibernation. The man smirked and said, “Every home has no less than one dozen children.”

As I was about to leave the village, a man advised me to turn around and go back to Tau Butt, but I wanted to travel a few furlongs in the same direction, hoping to get a good shot. I had barely taken a few steps when I met a woodcutter coming back from the jungle; he carried his axe and a bundle of wood on his back. At the sight of me, he blurted out:

“Man, don’t go in that direction. What if someone captures and slaughters you. It would bring trouble [for us].”

I was stunned. Going back to Tau Butt, his words echoed in my head, “It would bring trouble… it would bring trouble… it would bring trouble.”

Before turning back, I drew my hand over my forehead to have a look at the snowy Barzal Pass. Snow-capped mountain peaks stood in the distance. The Brazal Pass goes through these mountains. Beyond them was the Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan region.

My journey to the last human habitation of Kashmir had come to an end, but I knew that my destiny was planning another adventure for me.

The travel lines in my palms were growing thicker. I knew, sooner rather than later, my feet would be longing for another odyssey. Tired, I bent my head down in submission to Nature. The moment I shut my eyes, I felt my body crumble with fatigue. My knees collapsed into the soil of Kashmir. My forehead touched the land. I was prostrating before the Lord, the one who delivers one from a thousand prostrations.

Gagai. Gagai.
Gagai. Gagai.
Gagai. Gagai.
Gagai. Gagai.

Kashmir is breathtaking beauty. I toured this region as much as I could. What is there on the other side of the LoC, I do not know, except that there are thousands of graves; thousands of lost hopes; entire forests of sandalwood trees burnt down; valleys that once glowed with caravans of fireflies now host to merely dens of ants.

In the Dal Lake, the gondoliers who once sang the songs of freedom have grown old.


Whenever we think of Pakistan, all that comes to our mind is terrorism, extremism, sectarianism, corruption, load shedding and inflation but despite all these issues, we immensely love our country.

Amidst all the chaos we have forgotten the beauty of our landscape.

Pakistan is full of breathtaking locations which will make you fall in love with this country all over again. If you are a tourist or love travelling then you must compile a list of places you plan to visit next year. frequently publishes pictures of stunning tourist spots and historic places of Pakistan to highlight the positive image of the country and to generate awareness among the people.

Here are 16 destinations from our list which you must visit in 2016. Your experience would be, indeed, unforgettable:

1. Naltar valley

Naltar is famous for its colourful lakes, it is situated at a drive of 2.5 hours from Gilgit. World’s tastiest potatoes are cultivated here. Covered with pine trees, this valley doesn’t seem to be a part of this world.

If you really want to experience paradise in this world, you should visit Naltar at least once. This place will make you fall in love with it.

— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

2. Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir

Opposite to the Keran sector of Indian-held Kashmir. From the Chella Bandi Bridge – just north of Azaad Kashmir’s capital Muzaffarabad – to Tau Butt, a valley stretches out for 240 kilometres; it is known as the Neelum Valley (literally, the Blue Gem Valley).

Neelum is one of the most beautiful valleys of Azaad Kashmir, and it hosts several brooks, freshwater streams, forests, lush green mountains, and a river. Here, you see cataracts falling down the mountains; their milky-white waters flowing over the roads and splashing against the rocks, before commingling with the muddy waters of River Neelum.

— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

3. Shangrila resort, Skardu

In the extreme north of Pakistan, Skardu the central valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, is an epitome of beauty, serenity and wilderness.

After Jaglot on the Karakoram Highway, a narrow road turns towards Skardu. During the seven-hour journey, one is greeted with several streams, springs, and the hospitality of the local people.

After crossing the old wooden bridge built over the River Indus, one reaches Shangrila, a paradise on earth for tourists. It is a famous tourist spot in Skardu, which is about 25 minutes away by drive. Restaurant in Shangrila rest house is highlight of this place, which is built in the structure of an aircraft.


Shangrila Resort — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Shangrila Resort — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
Shangrila Resort — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Shangrila Resort — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

4. Gojal Valley

The Gojal Valley borders China and Afghanistan, with its border meeting the Chinese border at Khunjerab — 15,397 feet above sea level — and remains covered with snow all year long.

In the north west, there is Chiporsun, whose border touches the Wakhan region of Afghanistan. Wakhan is about six square miles in area, after which starts Tajikistan. The Karakoram Highway which connects Pakistan to China also passes through Gojal Valley and enters China at Khunjerab.


— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
Karakoram Highway in Gojal — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Karakoram Highway in Gojal — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

5. Deosai Plains

Deosai is located on the boundary of Karakoram and the western Himalayas, and at no point it is less than 4000 meters above sea level. It remains covered with snow for 8 months. The rest of the year, it hosts a range of beautiful flowers of all hues and colours, but not a single tree is found in this plateau spread over 3000 sq. km.

Sheosar lake is also part of this. This lake is one of the highest lakes in the world. The deep blue water, with snow-covered mountains in backdrop, and greenery with wild flowers in foreground offer such a view in summers, that one is left amused for the rest of his life.


Desosai Plains — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Desosai Plains — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
Sheosar Lake — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Sheosar Lake — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

6. Rama Meadow

Just a little ahead of Rama Village, which is 11 kilometres from Astore, is a beautiful and serene plain called Rama Meadow.

If you ever happen to find yourself in plain, ice-cold and milk-white water flowing in streams, sheep and cows grazing in peace, pine trees, Chongra’s ice-covered peak in background, and Nanga Parbat’s southern ridge is in view, then you are probably in Rama Meadow.


— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

7. Paye

Shogran had seen an influx of tourists, who trampled over its beauty, leaving it jaded. Siri Paye, nonetheless, still retains its strong attraction for tourists as a green plateau on top of the Hindu Kush. Engulfed in clouds and fog more often than not, it entices many as a rendezvous which allows one to observe Nature play peek-a-boo.

Here, you see numerous small ponds filled with freshwater, meet horse-riders wandering about, and smell wild yellow flowers blooming everywhere. With the Makra Peak set as a backdrop, the beauty of the Siri Paye meadows comes to life.


Paye meadows — S.M.Bukhari's Photography Paye meadows — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

8. Ayun and Bamburet Valley

Ayun district is a village of Chitral. Located 12 kilometres south of the city at the confluence of the River Bamburet . There are no words to describe the beauty of the mountains surrounding the village. Beyond Ayun valley is Bamburet Valley, it is one of the three Kalash valleys.

Bamburet is nearly two-hour journey from Chitral. Locals trace their roots to Alexander the Great and Greece. Bamburet valley is a picturesque valley with lush greenery and mountains that give you a sense of calm and solitude.

— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography
— S.M.Bukhari's Photography — S.M.Bukhari’s Photography

9. White Palace Swat

White Palace Marghazar is the only breathtaking location in the Swat district that’s situated at a distance of around 12 km from the city of Mingora. Not only do tourists visit Marghazar for its natural beauty and pleasant weather but also to visit the historic White Palace (1941), built during the era of Swat state.

After the White Palace was constructed on the directives of the founder of modern Swat state, Miangul Abdul Wadood also known as Badshah Sahab, Marghazar became the capital of Swat state during summer season. Even today, after seven decades, White Palace remains an attraction for tourists.

The Palace doesn’t just look beautiful in summer; even during winter it remains enchanting especially after snowfall. Also read: Swat’s White Palace: Cut from the same stone as the Taj Mahal


—Photo courtesy Amjad Ali —Photo courtesy Amjad Ali
—Photo by Fazal Khaliq —Photo by Fazal Khaliq

10. Kerthar area

The Kirthar range stretches from Sindh to Balochistan, serving as a natural border between the two provinces. This mountain range includes the scenic Gorakh Hill (5700), Kutte Ji Qabar (6877) and Bandu Ji Qabar (7112).

This region is not just known for its breathtaking beauty but also for its rich history. Spread across 150 miles, it is an ideal tourist spot due to several streams, springs and historic locations, however, it’s unfortunate that few tourists prefer to visit. The local population is eager to welcome visitors and want to make this area a better place.

—Photo by Farooq Somroo —Photo by Farooq Somroo
—Photo by Farooq Somroo —Photo by Farooq Somroo

11. Mubarak Village Karachi

Mubarak remains the second largest fishermen village in Karachi. Bordering with Gadani (Balochistan), the landscape encircles a stark contrast of golden hills and turquoise clear waters.

Away from the city frenzy, this place welcomes you with a lot of love. As soon as you park near the shore, numerous boats are anchored floating on crystal clear waters, beneath the expansive blue sky.


—Photo by Shameen Khan —Photo by Shameen Khan
—Photo by Shameen Khan —Photo by Shameen Khan

12. Rural areas near Punjab river

Punjab has been gifted with countless blessings including fertile land and lush green farms. Nature has also blessed Punjab with colors of every season, as winter ends vivid colors of spring spread around.

According to Syed Mehdi Bukhari, Sialkot, a city standing near the banks of River Chenab, is also known as the centre of artisans. Perhaps, not only the soils straddling this river, but also the people living near its banks owe their fertility to Chenab. Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Shev Kumar Batalvi, and many other fertile minds have their roots here. The River Chenab flows from Marala, 24 kilometres from the city of Sialkot.


A village near Marala — S.M.Bukhari A village near Marala — S.M.Bukhari
— S.M.Bukhari — S.M.Bukhari

13. Ghanche District, Gilgit–Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghanche district stands almost aloof with its beautiful valleys and settlements inhabited by the most hospitable locals and river irrigated lands. The central location in the district is Khaplu, which is a beautiful landscape with high summits, flowing blue waters and waterfalls.

The people of this small settlement on the bank of River Shyok, are warm and loving, as they were centuries before.

Going a little ahead from Khaplu, the curvy road takes one to the delta of River Shyok, where it splits up, flowing through the gravel filled river plain. The peak of Mashabrum mountain can also be seen in the backdrop.


Road to Khaplu — S.M.Bukhari Road to Khaplu — S.M.Bukhari
Shyok river — S.M.Bukhari Shyok river — S.M.Bukhari

14. Ranikot Fort

Ranikot, with a circumference of about 26 km, is the largest fort in the world. However, this has not been enough to convince the authorities to develop it as a major tourist attraction.

This fort is easily accessible from Karachi through the National Highway. After departing from Karachi, head to Dadu through on the Indus Highway. The road is in excellent condition. It’s an hour-long journey to San, the home of Sindhi nationalist, GM Syed. A little further from the town there comes a diversion. A rusty board announces that Ranikot is some 30 km away. Even though the road is in pathetic condition, the distance can be covered in 30 to 40 minutes.


—Photo by Farooq Somroo —Photo by Farooq Somroo
—Photo by Farooq Somroo —Photo by Farooq Somroo

15. Bahawalpur

The princely state in Punjab boasts a treasure of historic buildings, monuments and parks that many have never heard of. Bahawalpur – a city located along the left bank of the Sutlej river. Along with desert areas, Bahawalpur is known as the land of lush gardens that soothe your eyes whereas the splendor palaces don’t fail to impress you.


Noor Mahal in Bahawalpur — Photo by Usman Miski Noor Mahal in Bahawalpur — Photo by Usman Miski
Abbasi Mosque in Bahawalpur  — Photo by Asma Shahid Abbasi Mosque in Bahawalpur — Photo by Asma Shahid

16. Gorak Hill

Snowfall in Sindh — sounds more like fantasy but no, there’s one place in Sindh where it really snows in winter, to the extent that in 2008 the mountains got entirely covered with a layer of snow.

Gorakh is a scenic plateau situated at a height of over 5,688 feet and is part of the Kirthar Mountain Range that covers the entire Sindh’s border with Balochistan in the west.

— Photo by Amir Riaz Somroo — Photo by Amir Riaz Somroo

There are many travel and tourist attractions located within short driving distance from Lahore. Recently on a weekend a group of friends decided to join some die-hard camper couples for a camping and team-building expedition to an island in the River Jhelum.

The plan was to drive down to Bhera, a historical city near Sargodha, embark on a beri or wooden boat and cruise down the Jhelum to disembark on the island, and camp there overnight. We planned to spend the day in various activities, and then sail back to land and drive back home.

We flew to Lahore from Karachi and early next morning we set off on the Lahore Motorway, driving along the left bank of the Jhelum river. The well-maintained infrastructure of motorways, toll booths, and rest stops made the journey a comfortable one.

A ‘luxury’ trip through the heart of Punjab and to an island in the middle of the Jhelum

The green countryside, a blue sky and red brick buildings make a pretty colour palette. Sadly, red bricks which make the city so pretty and hide the squalor with their aesthetic appeal are made in brick kilns that smog the environment and often run on bonded and even child labour. On the brighter side, it is heartening to see that many of these buildings are functional schools.

This is the heart of Pakistan’s food basket. Irrigation canals make a shiny grid in sugarcane, mustard, spinach, radish, rice, turnip and wheat fields to name a few. Groves of orange trees bedecked like Christmas trees line the motorway and honey farms are plentiful. The water bodies, rich soil and fields attract a wide variety of birds.

Men, women and children can be seen tilling, planting and harvesting the land. The people are poor but the land is rich enough to sustain them. Small patches of crops such as bananas, spinach, tomatoes and squash have been planted outside most of the makeshift dwellings made from mud and brick while the walls are splattered with dung cakes made from buffalo, cow and goat droppings. Dried up, these are used as fuel. The cold, crisp air is a mix of familiar village odours of manure, damp soil and burning wood.

From Bhera we drove for half an hour towards Malakwal, and then made a detour towards Victoria Bridge in Chak Nizam where we were greeted by local village children and slumbering buffalos. Built with iron, the Victoria Bridge is a beautiful railway bridge constructed in 1890 during the British rule. It was quite picturesque to see the river flowing underneath the red bridge and its yellow brick abutments and piers set against lush green trees.

That was the starting point of our river cruise. After loading all our camping gear on two beris and a back-up speedboat berthed at the Victoria Bridge, we boarded the beri. Beris are local wooden boats that use bamboo sticks as oars and a rudimentary motor to propel it. They are seaworthy enough to transport tractors and busloads of wedding guests across the river.

Irrigation canals make a shiny grid in sugarcane, mustard, spinach, radish, rice, turnip and wheat fields to name a few. Groves of orange trees bedecked like Christmas trees line the motorway and honey farms are plentiful.

Navigating their way around vast mudflats and islands, the beris sailed along the refreshingly clean Jhelum River that flows down from the Mangla Dam. While the boats coursed gently upstream, we basked in the winter sun on the deck, lunching on sandwiches and freshly-plucked oranges.

An hour later, we made a stopover at the Flamingo Island where flamingos arrive from colder lands to roost from December to February. Numerous flamingo footprints and droppings encircle puddles left on the island by river tides. These are full of tiny fish and make ideal watering holes for flamingos.

By mid-afternoon we reached our final destination — the island where we were to camp overnight. Since it was a luxury trip, our personal sleeping tents, toilet tents, kitchen tent, snack and tea bar with an endless supply of tea, chips, dry fruit and other snacks, running water, and other facilities had already been set up for us before we arrived. The organisers had reconnoitred the place twice to ensure smooth operations.

We swam in the freezing Jhelum River, which one should do only under supervision with a lifejacket and swim shoes whilst being mindful of the undergrowth, and the direction and strength of the water currents.

By nightfall the temperature fell to five degrees Celsius, and we sat as close as possible to the bonfire, sharing jokes and stories over moong phali (peanuts), sipping steaming soup and tea, followed by an elaborate dinner.

As it was the 18th eve of the lunar cycle, we got two hours of a starlit sky before the moon rose. By 4 am the moon shone directly overhead like an over-bright orb with a rainbow halo.

We figured how to keep the bonfire going for as long as possible — by placing fresh logs with calculation — and soaked up the heat from its dying embers till day break. Although our tents were insulated enough to give us a relatively comfortable sleep, most of us woke up from the cold and managed to catch the rose-gold sunrise.

Breakfast was an all-out desi affair with paratha cooked in desi ghee (what a delicious smell in the cold air), chholay, khageena, and sooji ka halwa, followed by chai and farm-fresh oranges.

There was a raft race the next morning on rafts that we made from tyres and bamboo poles. There was also open land; enough for a game of football for the young and spirited. A questionnaire helped with self-evaluation.

Our tour manager had a strict ‘leave-no-traces’ policy. “We will carry all our trash back to Lahore: peanut shells, fruit peeld, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, tissue paper, bottles — all of it goes back with us,” he announced determinedly. At the end of the trip he organised a clean-up activity involving the younger members, and personally supervised the clean-up, not leaving behind even a candy wrapper.

After lunch, pack-up and clean-up we left for our return journey. The boats dropped us at Pind Dadan Khan, a small city in the Jhelum district on the right bank of the river, after which we took the motorway back to Lahore from the Lilah junction. Only the incessant noise of a pump in the distance marred the rural peace of our stay.

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Pakistan, a country home to a plethora of tourist hot-spots, travel in Pakistan is almost considered sacred. Locals, settlers, foreigners, people from neighboring countries, everybody loves traveling across the land of beauty. From Gilgit-Baltistan to Balochistan, tourists find hundreds of different traveling prospects to enjoy and feed their thirst for beauty.

However, travel in Pakistan is not the easiest task one can wrap their fingers around; travel in Pakistan requires a number of tips to be followed, in order for the perfect experience whilst traveling. These tips, if followed, will result in an enhanced experience while you travel from one location to another. You will enter the field prepared and ready to take on any challenge that the travel in Pakistan can throw your way!


bohemian traveler

Remember, you cannot control everything, that is why patience is virtue of necessity. To travel in Pakistan, you need to let loose of other emotions; not get angry, too happy, too excited, too sad or bored. Do not let things get to your head. If you cannot find an ATM while looking for one, do not worry, freakish things happen in the freakiest places when you travel in Pakistan.


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Always, always, always keep some extra cash. Travel in Pakistan has one thing assured; everything might not turn right for you (in all honesty). You need to keep a good amount of extra cash with you while traveling. Remember keeping the extra cash away from your purse, because of the purse goes, so do the emergency funds. Take care of your belongings and look out for pickpockets and robbers.


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To travel in Pakistan, you must master the art of hitchhiking. There will be so many times when the train would be late or there would be no train at all, similar is the case for buses or planes. You must be able to convince other travelers to give you a ride from one place to another. You may have to travel on top of a bus, in the back of a truck or pillion-ride a motorbike. However, make sure that you judge the person correctly before taking a ride with them.


Tips To Travel In Pakistan -


Make sure the people think you are always in a good and positive mood while you travel in Pakistan. People of the country take moods and personality outlooks very seriously. A little greet, a smile or a distant wave will go a long way for you and the process of smiling and greeting will help you attain the perks of Pakistani hospitality, wherever you go. The thing about Pakistani people is that


Tips To Travel In Pakistan -


Getting involved in other peoples’ affairs while you travel in Pakistan is not a very good idea. Let other people handle their own matters and move on. Do not try to resolve disputes or debates you encounter on the road and try to avoid them as much as you can. Remember, not everything is worth getting your hands dirty for.


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Confidence is key when you travel in Pakistan. Your personality, body movement, your facial expressions and the way you talk, everything counts as confidence. Meet new people, engage with confidence, share your bits just as much as they do. You must always be in control of the situation or travel in Pakistan will actually get to you and it will not be a very pretty sight.


Tips To Travel In Pakistan -


Planning is not for the huge hearts and definitely for the people who travel in Pakistan. Go with the flow, wherever it takes you. The only thing you need to plan is to stay alive and enjoy as much as you can, and the rest, you need to let go off. Just keep faith in God and in your skills. The positive outlook and seldom planning will lead to one of the best experiences of your life, especially when you’re visiting up North.


Tips To Travel In Pakistan -


Too much packing is not one of the traits you need with yourself while you travel in Pakistan. Less is more. Just keep enough clothes and stuff for you to survive. When traveling in winters, make sure you pack warm clothes, especially jackets. When in summers, as less as you can because handling extra stuff would make the heat unbearable. Also, if you lose your stuff while you travel in Pakistan, the majority of chances are someone with a good heart will send it back to you, where it belongs.

All in all, to travel in Pakistan, you must follow the aforementioned tips and brainstorm other such do’s and don’ts. Traveling is often said to be done without much thinking or planning, yes, that is agreed with to a certain extent. However, when you travel in Pakistan, meet different people, see different places, environments, cultures and other such entities; you are bound to work around a substantial amount of tips that will enhance your experience of traveling around the country.

One of the keys to travel in Pakistan, which you will not find in any book or guide, is that this is going to be the best trip of your life. You will have a time that will never be able to replace and memories that will never fade away. There is something promiscuously special about the picturesque scenery of Pakistan which no other country in the world has, so to say. Following these travel tips and your journey will end up as a once in a lifetime experience!

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