Azad Kashmir situated in the north east of Pakistan is truly a land of beauty. It is an autonomous administrative division of Pakistan. It covers a land area of 5134 square miles. The population density is about 258 persons per square kilometer. A literacy rate of 60% prevails in the region and is growing. There are a total of ten districts in the Azad Kashmir.
The main rivers flowing through the Azad Kashmir are the Jhelum, Neelum and Poonch. This region is full of thick forests, fast flowing rivers and streams flowing drinkable pure water. The topography comprises mainly of hills, mountains with terraces, valleys and plains at some point.
In this unique, one of a kind project, we will take you to a tour of the Azad Kasmir. Let me assure you that you are in a for a treat. We will be starting off from a road travel from Islamabad to Pattikka and from there onwards to the rest of Kashmir which will comprise of the following destinations;
- Pir Chinasi
- Leepa Valley
- Ghari Dupatta
- Nerian Sharif
- Mangla Dam
- Ram Fort
Patikka is a town in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on GPS coordinates 34° 36′ 46″ N and 73° 22′ 03″ E, Paikka is located 146-208 km from Islamabad depending on the route taken and 19 km from AJ&K. One of two routes can be taken to reach Patikka, the routes are as follows:
Route one: the first route could via Murree highway (Route N75) i.e. Islamabad to Murree, Murree to Muzaffarabad and Muzaffarad to Patikka. This would take about 3 hours and the journey would be around 146km.
Route two: the second route could be via Karakorum highway (Route N125) i.e. from Islamabad to Haripur, Haripur to Abbottabad, Abbottabad to Mansehra, Mansehra to Muzaffarabad and Muzaffarabad to Patikka.
The second route would take about 5-6 hours travel time and would be about 246km. this route would be more scenic since a lot of places would between the starting point and the point of destination.
Patikka is well known for the beautiful zoo that the wild life commission AJ&K has setup. The zoo is an attraction point for both the locals and the tourists, the zoo houses the animals and the birds found in the natural habitat of Muzaffarabad region. These include the Golden/Chinese Pheasant, Lady Amherst’s Pheasant and the elusive Himalayan Goral.
Patikka is also known for its local fish hatchery, the main attraction of the hatchery is that it serves freshly caught fish in the restaurant setup inside the hatchery.
There are various tourist resorts in the surrounding areas of Patikka, but the most appreciated tourist resort is the PC Muzaffarabad, Muzaffarabad is 19 km from Patikka as already mentioned so it can be a likely place to set up camp.
Red fort also known as the Muzaffarabad fort is 16.7km from Patikka. Red Fort is on the skirmishes of the Muzaffarabad city.
The construction of the Red Fort was started in 1559 during the rule of Chak Dynasty; however it was severly damanged in the clashes between the Chaks and the Mughal emperor Akbar. The Fort was later reconstructed/ repaired by Sultan Muzaffar Khan, after whom the Fort is now named.
The Fort has a strong strategic importance; it is covered on three sides by the water, preventing it from any land based attacks. At the time of construction of the Fort the navy attacks were not as +severe as the land based attacks. The fort provided a strong line of defense for the residents of the nearby areas.
The Red Fort was severely damaged by the 2005 earthquake, the tourist development and archeology department of AJ&K has not been very effective in preserving this great landmark in AJ&K’s history.
The word Domail is actually a Urdu word which when split is Do i.e. two and Mail meaning meeting of /combining of. The word sangam also means the meeting or combing of. Domail/sangam is the area where the two rivers i.e. the river Jhelum and the river Neelum meet. Domail is 4.3km from the Red Fort.
The Jalalabad gardens are a point of attraction for the tourists, these gardens are open for all and provide good ambiance for a family picnic. The lush green grass and the beautiful fountains in the park are an amazing sight for all.
The Domail food street also attracts locals and tourists. The food street offers a large variety of food, which includes traditional cuisine as well as international cuisine.
There are a lot of resort options in Domail such as the City Hotel, The Sangam Hotel etc. The resorts have varying rates depending on the seasons.
Pir Chinasi is 27km from Domail, and is located east of the Muzaffarabad city; it is approximately 30 km from the muzaffarabad city.
Pir Chinasi is mainly known for its scenic beauty. It is a resounding 2924 meters above sea level at its highest point. Pir Chinasi is named after Shah Hussain Bukhari, a saint whose shrine is also located in Pir chinasi. The Shrine is filled with the followers of Shah Hussain Bukhari.
The areas surrounding Pir Chinasi are Pir Asimar and Phanwa Da Dana; these areas are also blessed with natural beauty and provide a chance for hiking and camping.
A tourist resort is set in Saran, Saran is a place on the base of the Pir Chinasi cliff, and the resort is often packed with tourists or closed due to difficult weather. The visiting season for Pir Chinasi is between April to August.
Langarpura Lake also known as Subri Lake is 9km from Domail.
The lake was formed in 1975 by a natural cause. A cloud burst over the surrounding mountains of the River Jhelum near the Langarpura village which caused the mountain to block the way of the water and hence the lake was formed. The lake is on the skirmishes of the area called the Langarpura village and hence the name Langarpura lake.
The main attractions of the Langarpura/Subri Lake are the water boats that give a ride of the lake.
The Langarpura area is very fertile. The main agriculture of the area is Rice and Maize.
A rest house is set up on the skirmishes of the lake called the Ansler’s hut. The hut provides for accommodation of the tourists and has a reasonable low rate.
Leepa valley is 48 km apart from Langarpura/Subri Lake. Leepa valley is one of the most mesmerizing valley throughout the world. The valley has an altitude ranging from 3200 meters above sea level to 1677 meters above sea level.
Leepa Valley is 38km from Resain(1921 meters above sea level). Tourists can come till Resian on normal transportation; distance from Resian to Leepa can only be covered through Jeeps due to the rigidness of the terrain. The main agriculture products in the summer is Rice, where as apple, walnut, cherry and honey are also produced in the valley. The valley is covered in snow throughout the winter season and is closed for tourists; the tourism season starts from May and remains open until October.
Dao-khan is another tourist location near Leepa valley; Dao-khan has an altitude of 2490 meters above sea level. Dao-khan has become a tourist attraction due to its beautiful scenic view and its high altitude; furthermore the accommodation facilities are also overwhelming. The three main accommodation providers are the tourist Rest House Facility, the Forest Rest House Facility and the AJ&K Tourism Dept. Housing Facility
Ghari dupatta is situated approximately 13.9 kilometers from Langarpura. This place is situated on the banks of river Jhelum. It is a small village in the valley with a beautiful view of the landscape which includes lush green mountains and river Jhelum flowing in the middle. This place is easily accessible by road and takes a mere 20 minutes drive from Subri Lake to reach. It is recommended for sightseeing during the day only because there are no good quality hotels to stay the night.
Recently our ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani inaugurated Degree college Gharri Dupatta which is the first degree college in this region. Mobile network coverage is also available in this village for all networks.
25 kilometers away from Ghari Dupatta is a place called Chikkar. It can be reached by following the Chakothi road and Sudhan gali road.
The biggest tourist attraction in Chikkar is the Zal Zal lake that is3.5 km long and 350 ft deep which was created during the earthquake in year 2005 because of a mountain slide which blocked the river flow and due to which five villages went under water.
There are markets, hospital, banks, post office and educational institutes which provide the basic necessities of life.
Another feature of this destination is its breath taking scenery and healthy environment.
After visiting Chikkar, next place to visit this route is Palandri which is 126km awayfrom Chikkar and it takes around 2 hours and 40minutes to reach there. The best route to take for this trip is rawalakot road through sudhan gali and bagh.
The importance of Palandri is that it was the first capital of Azad Kashmir. The beauty of Palandri lies with its beautiful weather and many historical forts and hilly landscapes. In summers, you can enjoy the mild temperature from 20 to 30 degree centigrade whereas winter are very cold and range from -5 to 15 degree centigrade.
After resting a night in Palandri, first place to visit in the morning is the Cadet College Palandri which is a military high schools and students over here are trained for the defense and their nation’s security. This college has the beautiful depiction of infrastructure and scenery around it. Then comes the time to visit the riding track and enjoy the horse ride in a beautiful weather. Another beautiful place to visit while being in Palandri is Biral Fort.
After leaving Palandri, we will take the Hajira road for around 45 minutes and 28 km later comes a place known as Nerian Sharif; which will be our next stop for this trip. Nerian sharif is a popular place because of the prominent saints which includes Naqshbandi Chain and Khwaja Pir Ghulam Mohiuddin Ghazanvi and is the centre of spiritual guidance.
Nerian Sharif was once an uninhabited place but because of the endless efforts of Khwaja Ghulam Mohiuddin Ghaznavi it became a blessed land and due to his efforts and the prayers, a tomb was made for Khwaja Ghaznavi and his brother which is visited daily by the people and now this tomb is known as Darba e Aalia Nerian Sharif. This Darbar is one of the places to visit while being in Nerian Sharif.
The next place to visit after the Darbar e Aalia is the Mohi-ud-Din Islamic University the name of which was also the tribute to Hazarat Sahab and is a huge institution for the Islamic and other studies in this region.
Continuing our journey further , the next place to visit is Mangla Dam. The route of which is through Kotli-Mirpur Road and takes around three and a half hours for 150 km long drive.
Mangla Dam is the 9th largest dam in the world and is located in the Mirpur District on the River Jehlum. It is also one of the most visited places and a great tourist attraction. Mangla Fort is also a great place to visit.
While you are in Mangla, you can enjoy a great variety of food which includes fish, desi food, Italian food and many other. One can also stay the night in mangla as many hotels are there which also includes a fours star hotel “Pearl Continental” which gives its customers a very good service and many other entertainment opportunities.
Other tourist activities in Mangla include Speed Boating, Paragliding, Skiing, Fishing and many others.
The next stop after the Mangla Dam is the Ramkot Fort which is 90 km from Mangla Dam through Kotli road and it takes almost two hours and 15 minutes to reach there. Another route which is shorter to get to Ramkot Fort is through the boat, which is only 13 km away and it takes aroud 30 minutes to get there.
It is a very beautiful place along the river and its beauty and architecture is the main attraction for the tourists. It is basically built over the old temple which belongs to the Hindu god “Shiva”. It is a great place to take pictures and to spend a a few hours while you are visiting Mangla Dam.
With this our journey comes to an end and we drive back almost two and a half hours to Islamabad, covering the distance of 118 km.