Pakistan is blessed with the best by Mother Nature and Swat Valley is no exception. With Swat River flowing through its chest and Hindu Kush Mountains stationed in the backdrop, it is 15th largest District of the province of KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). It remained under great influence of Gandhara Civilization (Buddhist Community) until the civilization took its last breath before the spread of Islam.
Its name has stemmed from “Savastu” (Clear azure water) or “Shveta” (White) of Sanskrit language. Both words indicate clearness and freshness linked to Swat River. With plenty of natural wonders sprinkled along the Valley, the place is iconic and inviting. Swat Valley is also referred to as “Switzerland of the East”. Snow-capped mountains, splashing river, plenty of lakes and ideal weather call for an ideal vacation.
Let’s explore out what Swat Valley has in store for us.
1. Kalam Valley-Picturesque face of Swat
Count your steps towards the North-Eastern part of Swat Valley where there is waiting for you the most picturesque hotshot of the town. Kalam Valley (sub-Valley) is nestled between the mountains at an elevation of 2000 meters with a small capacity of farming land. Swat River stems from the lap of Valley which joins the flow of Ushu and Gabriel River on its way down.
Move 11 km from Kalam Valley to enjoy some panoramic views of the place at Matiltan. The spot is known for its lofty glaciers and thick forest sprinkled along the way. Forget about binoculars as Matiltan offers breathtaking views of the peaks of Falaksair Mountain. Mouth-watering Brown Swati Trout is waiting for you at 20 km from Kalam at Gabral.
Trekking is one of the most favorite activities of Kalam Valley as there are many tracks stemming around it. Trek to Kindol/Spinkhor Lake or Trek to Desan Meadows, both has its own hidden treats. Hit upon Kalakot, Qandeel, Damlai, and Madyan to explore Kalam at its best.
2. Trek to Kundol Lake
Residing in the lap of Utror (sub-valley), Kundol Lake is at a 20 km drive from Kalam Valley. It is often linked with a fairy tale that every night in a month, there appears a golden bowl in the waters of the lake. Nobody has ever succeeded to touch it due to its magical powers. To check out that whether it is true or not, you will have to take a track from Utror (Ladu Valley) to uncover this hidden gem present at an elevation of 3032 meters.
Once you are in Utror, trekking for 3 and a half hour will take you to Kundol Lake. The track is quite well worn down leaving no clue for you to get lost. Do not get surprised by a herd of wandering sheep welcoming you in the way. The journey will be an experience in itself as you will meet locals, come to know their customs, lifestyle, enjoying their hospitality, and paying for a fee to continue trekking up to Kundol Lake (100 PKR-0.65 USD)
Up in the mountains, the Kundol Lake stands all alone adorned by Pine, Cedar, and open meadows. Feel the fresh air moving down to your lungs giving a sense of freshness altogether. Stay by the calm waves of water or continue trekking to reach to Spinkhor Lake. Be sure to take your camping gear along with you as these two lakes can’t be aced in a single day.
3. Usho Forest-Breathtaking setting
In the sub-valley of Usho resides Usho Village. Present at a distance of 8 km from Kalam Valley, it resides at a height of 2300 meters. An un-metaled road serves as a linkage between two valleys. The highlight of Usho is the rain forest which offers a road to reach Mahodand Lake.
The forest is crowded with cedar and pines. When the dropping temperature of winter arrives, the trees get all covered in snow. The road to Mahodand is inaccessible however, a foot trip through the forest will leave you amazed by surroundings dipped in the snow.
4. Mahodand Lake-Go for Fishing
At a drive of 40 km from Kalam Valley is the most adorable gem of Swat Valley-The Mahodand Lake. The emerald green water is stretched to nearly 2 km at an elevation of 2865 meters. Matiltan and Mahi Banal are the most inviting stops along the road to Mahodand. Feast your eyes on small and big waterfalls articulated beautifully through alpine and cedar trees.
The glistening beauty of Mahodand is leveled up when you are on the boat snaking through its calm waves. The banks of lakes are crowded with meadows, pines, and pastures offering the best spot for camping in the summers. The waters of the lake are flooded with trout fish which is open to catch to be on your BBQ steaks. Fishing, Boating, & Camping at the foothills of Hindu Kush Mountains, what you want more?
5. Bahrain-Merger of two rivers
Do not get startled by how Bahrain has moved to the Swat Valley. This Bahrain is the local product of Swat Valley as the word is translated as “two rivers” in the Pashto language. Situated by the bank of Swat River (37.2 km from Kalam) at a height of 1435 meters, it is known for the junction of Daral and Swat rivers. The place is studded by resorts and captivating backdrop. Do not miss the local handicrafts displayed by the roadside. It is also used by tourists as a basecamp while starting trekking to Daral & Sadgai Lakes.
6. Fizagut Park-Recreational Spot
Prior to its present name, the place was known by the name of Qazagat. Qaza means “Punishment” and Gat means “Place”, so it sums up as Punishment Place. During the rule of a wali of Swat (Miangul Abdul Wadud), people were punished here. Another story links it to the accidental deaths of natives due to a lack of safety embankments in older times.
The park was established in 1984 (91 km from Kalam) and it underwent many changes and expansions till its present form (covering 5 km). Traveling from Mangora (the capital city of Swat Valley) to the park, there is an emerald mine and splashing exists from Swat River which makes the journey a memorable one. It is the first effort in presenting the scenic valley of Swat through recreational beauty.
A stream from Swat River snakes through the Park. Zoo, Cable Car, and boats are prominent entertainment factors. An amusement park is also side by to elevate up fun for the kids. There are installed tent villages outside of the park to give a comfortable sensation to the tourists during their stay.
7. White Palace-Marghzar
Miangul Abdul Wadud served as the first king of Swat. He was much captivated and enthralled by the iconic setting and breathtaking surroundings of the town of Marghzar. The White Palace was built in 1940 on the directions of King of Swat due to the enchanting beauty of the place. The palace is situated by the sacred water running down from Mount Elum. This place is much pious for Hindus as one of their religious figures (Ram Chandra Jee Marajah) meditated here for 3 years.
It is referred to White Palace due to the use of White marble in construction of it. The White Marble is the same as the one used in Taj Mahal India. It is constructed in the image of Victorian architecture with several layers of roof (A sandwich of Bronze, Wood, Lime, Mud, Wood, and Iron). The setting includes 24 rooms, Royal Suite, two conference halls, Lord Block (6 Rooms), and Prince Block (8 rooms). Bringing honor to the White Palace, Queen Elizabeth-II stayed in Royal Suite in 1961 for 3 days.
During King Abdul Wadud’s reign, the palace was used as an administrative and political center. Nowadays, it is used as a tourist resort. Each room is attached with a balcony to feast the mesmerizing view of the surroundings. There is also a Royal Garden linked to it. The White Palace pictured with snowcapped trees and mountains in the background is a magical spellbind.
8. Malam Jabba-Join Skiing
The most celebrated ancient land in the Swat Valley is Malam Jabba. Its history dates back to 2000 years with various Stupas and Buddhist monuments sprinkled along its boundaries. The upper stretch of mountains is littered with Buddhist monasteries which are a treat to watch. Want to do trekking along these snow peaks? Malam Jabba has two tracks in store for you. The first laps around Ghorband Valley and Shangla Top and others can be spotted across Sabonev Valley.
The highlight of Malam Jabba is 800 meters long ski-slope equipped with an ice-skating rink, cable cars, and a ski resort (one of two main skiing resorts in Pakistan). This slope is an open invitation to all experts and amateurs to grab their skiing sticks and roll across the snow floor. The ski resort offers 800 meters long ski runs, 4 chairlifts, ice-rink, and five stars & three stars hotel. Various ski sports activities are often arranged in the area to promote tourism.
Check the best resorts to make your stay at Malam Jabba a memorable one.
9. Jarogo Waterfall-A Hidden Beauty
Off the beaten path away from the highlights of Swat Valley, Jarogo Waterfall resides in Chatekal Valley of Matta Tehsil. The tallest waterfall of Pakistan has covered nearly 120 meters of the area and is flooded with diverse flora and fauna of Swat Valley. Trek to the waterfall and uncover the natural wonders along the way. The trek is open for a family vacation with camping.
10. Shingardar Stupa-Glimpse into the Past
The largest stupa of the Indian Sub-continent can be located along the road to Barikot. It is precisely located in village Shingardar (109 km from Kalam Valley) from where it got its name. Due to Buddhist influence upon the area, there can be seen various remnants of Gandharan Civilization, but this is the most significant and celebrated of all.
Uttarasena (who is recognized as Buddhist King of Swat from the literature) erected this stupa to store relics of Buddha to pay a tribute to him. The constituents of the stupa are large stones bridged by thin slates. Originally it was square in shape, but the property got ruined with time. Despite all the wreck, it still stands speaking of its history and Buddhist Civilization.
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