Rawalakot also known as Pearl Valley is located in the heart of district Poonch of AJK. This beautiful valley is famous for its breathtaking views and sceneries. It is a saucer shaped valley with an altitude of 1615m. It is situated at a distance of 80km from Islamabad.
People in Rawalakot are very warm hearted and welcoming. Hospitality is their passion. The city has a mixture of luxury and necessary commodities of life available in different bazars. Woolen clothes, shawls, wooden carvings are very famous in these bazars. Mushrooms, honey, walnuts, apples, cherry, medicinal herbs, deodar are very famous there. Equipment for hiking such as diggers, camping tents, stoves and sleeping bags are available at very economical price.
The weather in Rawalakot is quite erratic. The average temperature during the summer season varies from 25°C to 35°C. However in winters there is heavy snowfall which starts from December and last till January. The winter season lasts from November to March. The valley also experiences the rainy season from April to June. The autumn season brings its own beauty the whole valley gets covered with hues of first gold, then russet and then red. The overall weather throughout the year usually remains cold and chilly.
The major attractions for tourists and travelers in Rawalokot include
- Mountain based adventure tourism
- Rock climbing
- Summer camping
- Water based adventure tourism
From Islamabad/Rawalpindi it takes you about 2 and a half hour to reach this beautiful valley, via Azad Pattan and dhalkot. The Guoien Nalla road connecting Rwalapindi to Rawalakot through Azad Pattan had considerably reduced the traveling time. Throughout this road there are amazing natural scenes to be seen.
Rawalakot has an airport but unfortunately since 2001 it is non-operational because PIA has stopped giving its services to this area.
Lodges, private and governments owned hotels and guest houses are available in the area. Restaurants however are not frequently found but traditional and continental foods are available in the hotels and guest houses. Gulf In Hotel is the major attraction for tourists.
Public transport is easily available to Rawalakot.
From Rawalakot when you move forward after 17 kilometers ahead, there is a place called Koyian surrounded by thick dense forests, which makes it fascinating and lovely.
Koyian experiences an erratic weather behavior. The summer season varies from 16°C to 24°C average temperature. The calm and serene environment and beauty holds the eye of the viewer.
Guest houses are not easily available in the area however a Tourist Lodge has been constructed by AJK tourism department. Koyian International Private Guest House Rawalakot is one of the famous guest houses in Koyian and a major attraction for tourists. Apart from that government of Pakistan is also taking steps to improve the conditions of the area especially the drinking sanitary facilities.
This place gives you and easy access to Banjosa which is situated at a distance of only 5km from koyian.
Moving forward approximately 20km from Rawalakot you reach to this captivating beautiful place of Banjosa Lake. It is situated at an altitude of 1981 meters.
The unique and interesting thing about this lake is that it is a manmade land, the only planned tourist resort in the place which means that it is an artificial lake not a natural lake. It is very famous because of its beautiful and amazing views and fabulous greenery and lush green trees and mountains. The lake is the center of attraction as the water of the lake reflects the surrounding i.e. trees, flowers and mountains which makes it unique and attract tourists.
Banjosa Lake is a very cool and calm place. In summers the weather temperature is usually between 15°c to 25°c but the winters are very cold, the heavy snowfall is there which makes the lake frozen. Extreme winter’s months are January and February while the rest of the year is moderate and pleasant. The valley enjoys monsoon also in the month of august and September where there is heavy rain.
One can enjoy the captivating beauty of the Lake, can enjoy boating and swings for kids. Charge of boating per person is Rs.200 depending upon the demand the rate can go high in summers. Stay in nearby constructed rest houses in the surroundings of lake is a delightful experience.
There two routes to access this Lake from Rawalpindi first from kahuta road which takes approx. 3 hrs to reach Banjosa. The second route is through Mangla then kotli then khaigala and finally Banjosa Lake. Throughout the way beautiful scenic beauty and natural views entertains you.
In close proximity there are some beautiful places like Jandali situated at a distance of 4 km, Devi Gali at 12 km and Toli pir situated at 42 km from this lake. All these places reveal the gorgeous natural beauty waiting for the visitors to come and explore the natural beauty.
Apart from PTDC motels and hotels private guest houses lodges and hotels are also available in the vicinity at reasonable price starting from Rs. 500. Like Tourist Lodge Banjosa, Abdali Guest House, Banjosa Road Chahr Service Station to luxury hotels like, Banjosa Night Bridge Guest House. You have to make reservations of thehotel before visiting because the availability of rooms is limited especially in summer season.
Public transport is easily available from Rawalpindi to Banjosa. You can also hire a taxi which will cost the complete visit Rs.600 only.
Moving forward from Banjosa Lake a worth seeing place comes called Jandali located at a distance of 83 km from Islamabad. It is beautiful village located in the Rawalakot Tehsil of Poonch District. This beautiful attraction for tourist located in the hills above the Jhelum Valley is as eye catching as other parts of the Azad Kashmir.
This district was majorly affected by the 2005 earthquake and also suffered from 2006 flood in Pakistan. However this village is rich in inherent natural beauty which captivates the eye of the tourists.
The main language of the people living there is Pahari.
Jandali is famous for its chewing tobacco which is the major export there.
The place is easily reachable through land routes and air route as well as there are almost 5 airports near the place Rawalakot Airport, Bhurban Heliport Airport, Muzaffarabad Airport, Abbottabad Airport and Mansehra Airport.
Accommodation is not easily available however some private guest houses are available.
One of the famous guest houses in Jandali is “Jandali Hills Guest House” near Banjosa Lake and it is a major attraction for tourists and travelers visiting Jandali.
Moving approximately 30 km forward from Jandali the place of Ghori Mar comes which is nest to Phakhar. It is a populated place situated in Poonch district of AJK. Its original name (with diacritics) is Ghori Mār Dhok. Is is located at a distance of 84km from Islamabad. It is located at an elevation of 2357 meters.
You can easily reach this place via khaigala which is a fair whether road leads to Gori mar. From here the tourists and travellers can enjoy the breathtaking eye catching scenic beauty of the sub valleys of Rawalakot and Bagh.
Accommodations are provided by AJK Tourism Department to the visitors of the Ghori Mar. where one can find comfortable environment to stay and spend some time. Ghori mar Rest House near Toli Pir is very famous and provide comfortable accommodation.
Cities, towns and places near Ghori Mar Dhok include Saujal, Dapli Pir, Sari Mang and Soanj.
Toli Pir is a hilltop area situated in Tehsil Rawalakot in the Poonch District of Azad Kashmir. Its approximate height is about 8800 ft above sea level. It is about 30 km, or a 45-minute drive, from Rawalakot in Azad Kashmir.
It is the highest mountainous location in the northeastern area of Rawalakot; it is the point of origin of three different mountain ridges. The tourist rest house on the way to Toli Pir is also situated in a scenic location. There are some remains of an old Mazar on the highest hilltop.
A ridge is a geological feature consisting of a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest for some distance. Ridges are usually termed hills or mountains as well, depending on size.
Toli Pir is most accessible during the summer months; the weather is generally pleasant but becomes colder from October through March. The area’s natural beauty is at its peak from April to August.
The road access to Toli Pir is easy because of the mettle roads. Electricity facility can also be availed in the area. There are beautiful rest houses located where extremely scenic view can be enjoyed. The water in the area is available through the natural ground water springs.
Toil Pir offers peaceful and clam atmosphere. There are immense number of lush green gardens and meadows with natural beauty. The area provides captivating view to the tourists because of its unique charm.
Abbaspur, Bagh and Poonch River are visible from the hill top.
The beautiful snowcapped mountains of the Peer Panjal add to the magnificence of the area, it makes the place out of this world.
Devi Gali is a village situated in the heart of Poonch District of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan which is a great tourist attraction too. It is located 8 kilometers from Hajira, 12 kilometers from Banjosa, and 32 kilometers from Rawalakot an altitude of 5,480 feet. Devi Gali is connected with Hajira which is the tehseel head quarter and Tratkhal which is near Tasheel Sudhnoti
Devi Gali is known as Aamir Hussain Shaheed Gali abbreviated as Shaheed Gali which is a very serene place with a very delightful atmosphere. It has a lovely and attractive view because of its lush green grassy grounds surrounded by densely pine forest and mountains.
Paniola is a town located on the road of Muzaffarabad near Rawalakot Azad Kashmir Pakistan. Paniola is situated 17 kilometers from Rawalakot towards Kohala and 52 kilometers from Kohala. The Tourism Department has constructed a rest house for tourist in the area because of its calm and charming characteristics. Transport can be easily availed for this area from Rawlakot. Other hotels and motels are here for the accommodation facility. Fast food and eatables are available here. Petrol pumps are available but CNG are not available here. ATM facility cannot be availed here so one needs to carry sufficient amount of money while in the area. Transport facility is available throughout the area. Market and shopping centers provide all kinds of shopping material from daily grocery to clothes and other small electronics. Mobile coverage facility will be soon available in the area. Initial health care facilities are also present.
Hajira is a small town in Poonch District of Azad Jammu Kashmir, Pakistan. It is the Head quarter of Tehsil Hajira. Hajira is located at latitude 33° 46′ 18.12″ N, longitude 73° 73° 53′ 45.96″ E and an altitude of 3168 feet. It is 27 kilometers which is almost 17miles from Rawalakot and 142 kilometers (88 miles) from Islamabad, Pakistan. The town is situated on the bank of Rangar stream in a narrow small valley surrounded by hills. It is the nearest town from the Indian occupied Kashmir, specifically Poonch. The climate of Hajira Valley is moderate neither too cold nor too hot.
All the basic necessities of life can be availed in Hajira. Health and Education institutes exist in town. It is easily accessible from Rawalakot by road. Daily public transport is available from Rawalakot and Hajira and vice versa all day long. Hotels and guest houses are present for tourists easy stay. The town is covered by all GSM operators hence, mobile phones can be used. A market is also present with variety of products.
The area has slight controversy since the people of Hajira have faced a lot of trouble in past because of its presence on line of control (LOC) between India and Pakistan but recently cross border attacks from India have been stopped and Hajira has become a safer town because of the Indo–Pak agreement.
The 2005 Earthquake also demolished about a quarter of this town but after the reconstruction and rehabilitation process, the town has been rebuilt.
Education system in the area is vast. There is a Government Boys Degree College and a Government Girls Degree College in Hajira along with several other private colleges in the town. Literacy rate of this town is almost 60%. Almost Seventy percent of the population of Hajira earns salary through foreign employement. Ten percent are doing government services and rest own small businesses. At least one person almost from each family is doing his job in foreign countries especially in Middle East, Europe, UK.
Seven union councils (Sarari, Bango, Phagwati, Gammer, Akhorban, Dawarandi and union council nar) attached with this city. The main villages are attached with this valley are: Narian, Kathiyara, Manjoura, PothiChapriyan, UodPhagwati, Dwarandi, Gangil tar, Davigali etc.
From the end of the 17th century up to 1837 A.D Poonch was ruled by different Muslim Rajas of Loran. It then fell in to the hands of Raja FalzTalab Khan of Rajori. In 1846, this area was handed over to Maharaja Ghulab Singh under the Treaty of Amritsar. Before this transfer, Poonch was considered a district of Lahore. Maharaja Ghulab Singh handed over Poonch and some other areas to his nephews, Jawahar Singh and Moti Singh, with the condition that they would not make any administrative change without the consent of the Maharaja of Kashm
Poonch was annexed and converted Into Jagir by Maharaja Han Singh in 1935-36 by the deposing Raja of Poonch the Dogras always found it difficult to establish their rule in Poonch. In 1947 when Pakistan came into being, the people of Poonch started an armed struggle against the Dogra and Indian forces and got the area liberated which now administratively stands divided into three districts namely Poonch Sudhnutti and Bagh ,RawalakotKot, Muttay Khan, Chape-ni-Dahar(Gulshan-eShuhda),Banjosa, Koian, Ghori Maar &Tolipir.
Hot springs (TattaPani)
TattaPani is situated on the right bank of the river poonch, at a distance of 29 kilometers from Hajeera and is connected with two fair weather roads i.e. via Hajeera-Mandol and Balouch-Pakhonar road. It can also be reached from Kotli, the district headquarter district, by covering a distance of 29 meters.TattaPani is famous for the cure of skin &rheumatic ailments. AJK Tourism Department has constructed a tourist lodge and bathrooms for the convenience of the visitors here. Transport services for TattaPani are available in good number from all important points of the Poonch, Mirpur &Kotli districts of Azad Kashmir.
Bagh is one of the cities and district headquarter of Bagh District which is one out of 8 districts of Azad Kashmir. This district was first a part Poonch but then it was declared as separate district in 1988. It has three subdivisions Bagh, Dheer Kot and Haveli. To the north of the city there is Muzaffarabad and to the south Poonch is located. It is linked with Muzaffarabad, which is the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, through two ways. One way is via Kohala which takes approximately 100 kilometers to reach Muzaffarabad. Kohala is the gateway to AJK. The other way is via Sudhan Gali which takes 80 kilometers. From Islamabad it takes 205 Kilometers to reach Bagh.
Many years ago the landowner of this area cultivated a garden, which is called “Bagh” in Urdu language. From this, it is given the name of Bagh. On that area now forest department of Azad Kashmir is located to encourage and preserve forestry. It is a mountainous area which slopes from north-east to south-west. The mountain range which passes from this region is “Pir Panjal” range. This range is located towards inner Himalayas. It is the longest range in lower Himalayas which goes across disputed Kashmir as well, even Muree and Galiyat Mountains are also situated in this range. The total area of the district Bagh is 1,368 square kilometers. Total population, according to a survey in 2009, is 503000 and density is 424/kilometer square. Altitude of Bagh valley is 3405 feet.
Languages that are spoken in Bagh are Pahari, Potohari and Majhi. However, a small fraction of people speak Urdu and Punjabi as well. People of Bagh are very brave, courageous and skilled. Two flour mills are operating in Bagh one at Kohala and the other one at Arja.
Bagh has a little part of tourism for everyone, every individual and every market. Those who want to visit culture can look at its rich culture, those who are interested in history can look at the fascinating history of Bagh and off course beautiful tourist attractions are also there. Following are the few of the beautiful places in Bagh which are attracting a lot of tourists from abroad and Pakistani people as well.
Dheer Kot is a town and one of the subdivisions of Bagh District. It is situated at 25 kilometers from Kohala. It is very fascinating and a charming place for people, who live in the hustle and bustle of cities, due to its lovely climate and healthy environment which is very close to nature. A very peaceful place with beautiful landscape. It is famous for its easy access, apart from that, thick calm forests and beautiful scenery make it an attractive place to visit.
From Bagh city, it takes 15 kilometers to reach Lasdana. There is a metal unpaved road which leades to Lasdana however, that way is not so rough, one can reach in 30 to 45 minutes. There is tourism rest house in Lasdana constructed by tourism department. Keeping stay at this rest house, tourists can visit several beautiful places adjacent to Lasdana. These places include Mahmood Gali, Kahuta and kailer. All these places are just 15 to 20 kilometers away from Lasdana.
Panjal Mastan National Park
It is a tourist resort in Bagh valley. A very pleasant, fascinating, charming place and one of the beautiful plains of this valley. Elevation of this area is 2800 meters above sea level and it covers the area of 300 square kilometers. It is famous for its popular flora and fauna of Pir Panjal range. In spring season this park is covered by wildflowers of this region and gives the view of heaven.
HAJI PIR PASS
Haji Pir pass is situated 32 kilometers from Bagh and has a significant strategic importance as it connects Azad Kashmir to Indian Disputed Kashmir via Uri. This pass is situated on Uri-Poonch road and it is famous for its history. People cannot forget the Battle of Haji Pir Pass in 1965 which was the result of Pakistan infiltration in Kashmir against India under the name of operation Gibraltar. It is very tough places for battle due to strenuous climbing still problems is created at this Pass even now when there is a stretch in India Pakistan relations. It was occupied by Indian forces in the war of 1965 however; it was given back to Pakistan as a result of treaty of Tashkand held between India and Pakistan to bring this war to an end. Major portion of Uri- Poonch road is under the control of Pakistani forces and few heights are also captured by our forces from which they can have a constant eye on the activities of Indian forces in Indian Disputed Poonch.
Haji Pir Pass is named as “Haji Pir” because right over the pass is the shrine of a Muslim Saint Hazrat haji Pir. His ‘Urs’ is held at this place every year and a lot of people come to the Urs to pray for fulfillment of their wishes. Apart from scenic beauty, it attracts tourists due to its history and strategic importance.
Sudhan Gali is a part of Bagh district and is situated on a main road that connects Bagh to Muzaffarabad.There is a two hour drive from Muzaffarabad to Sudhan Gali. It is located at a hieght of 2134 meter above sea level. There are two guest houses constructed in this region for tourists. Summer is the best season to visit this place however, despite of land sliding, it is accessible throughout the year. Sudhan Gali has forests which have the rare pine trees and some of them are even hundred years old. It serves as base camp for trekking near mountains including Pir Kanthi peak and Ganga choti.
Ser groung is a cricket ground located near Ganga peak and is situated between two mountains. It is beautiful ground where tourists come and enjoy cricket matches every year.
There are sixteen teams from Muzaffarabad and Bagh, which participate in cricket tournament. This is a huge tourist attraction in this region especially in the seasons of summer and spring.
The most famous and beautiful place in the region of Bagh is Ganga Choti. Due to its fascinating and captive beauty, it is known as the “Crown of Bagh”. It is also situated at Pir Panjal range. A lot of foreigners and local tourists come to trek this mountain. Sudhan Gali is base camp for trekking Ganga Choti. It is a lifetime adventrous experience to trek this choti. It is three to four hours of tough trekking because a trekker gets height at every step. Trek from base to the choti is bordered by thick forests of pine trees and at night stray dogs and other animals also come around, therefore, one must be very careful and go with a guide. The most suitable season for trekking Ganga Choti is summer and spring season from April to September. One can easily stay at one of the tourist’s guest houses in Sudhan Gali and take out one day for trekking this mountain.
There is a lake near Ganga Choti which is known as Ganga Lake. This lake is located at the height of 9655ft. A very calm and peaceful place that adds to the beauty of this area. However, it is not easily accessible as only a jeep track leads to this lake. Those who want to visit can hire a jeep from Bagh and reach the lake via jeep track.
Neela Butt is a part of Bagh district and located 36 kilometers from Bagh city. It is situated at a hieght of 6600 ft. Apart from the stunning and beautiful scenery it is famous for its historic background. Kashmir movement was initiated at this place and there is a monument constructed in memory of this movement known as “Neela Butt Monument”. Mujahideen e Kashmir got together and raised voice under the leadership of Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan who’s role is very significant in Kashmir liberation movement. They raised voice against Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947. He and his ancestors sold Kashmir, without the consent of Kashmiris, against their own interests and a very little money which was not equal to even a very small part of the value of this region. Hence, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan with some of his companions started this movement and it was initiated at this place known as Neela Butt. This place has huge attraction for tourists who are interested in history. This area is easily accessible and only 6 kilometers away from Dheer Kot.
Tourists can reach all above mentioned areas easily. If they have their own car or van, it is good enough. However, local transport is also available from the capitals of both states, that is, Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. Tourist’s guest houses are also there to provide them with the facilities and make their journey a memorable one.
After exploring all the stunning places mentioned above, it can be said that these places are worth visiting. Most of the people plan their holidays and go to Switzerland, Italy, Venus or France where they are treated as a second grade citizen and pay a lot of money to say “wow” on someone other’s land. But after exploring this region they would certainly realize what they have been missing in Pakistan. Best thing for Pakistanis visiting their own area is that here they are free to go anywhere and visit places which are equal in beauty and peace to any other place outside Pakistan. Hence, we Pakistanis should take pride in our own country and should explore the natural beauty God has blessed our country with.