For those interested in the skiing in winters, the nearest place around Rawalpindi/Islamabad is Malam Jabba. Some 40 kilometres from the Saidu Sharif (Swat) and approximately 300 kilometres from the federal capital, this picturesque fairyland sits atop the Hindukush Range with a panoramic view of the Karakoram and black mountains. The resort is rich in lush green meadows amid torrential streams. Although, in summers it has its own charm, but in winters, the resort is clad in thick cloak of snow, ideal for skiing. The skiing resorts just over looks the motel of state owned tourism development corporation. It also has a 800 metres long chair lift facility taking the tourists to an awesome 9200 feet above sea level. In summers, the temperature ranges from 10oC to 25oC, but reaches as low as –5oC to -10oC. Those who can get up before sun rise, can have a majestic view of it with sun rays falling on one contour after the other, one valley or hill top after the other - a mesmerizing life time experience.
Malam Jabba Ski Resort - PTDC Motel
Besides being a skiing resort, the area is home to the remains of ancient civilization. One can find 2000 years old archaeological remains situated at an altitude of 2600 feet that include two Buddhist stupas and a few monasteries. The main stupa is a circular plinth, with a diameter is 13 meters and height of about 5 feet. About a kilometre from Malam Jabba is an ancient mound, surrounded by mountain slopes characterized by slabs of schist. A water spring is the centre of attraction for those charmed by health effects of fresh spring water.
Naltar Valley - Naltar Lake - Wooden Bridge over gushing Ice-cold water
Naltar: Talking of skiing, one cannot stay without mentioning Naltar - a wonderful valley just about 2 hours drive from Gilgit. Naltar was a hill station for the British and now has the Pakistan Air Force winter survival school, which gets activated during winters for the survival training courses for the personnel of the Armed Forces besides other ski lovers. Like every year, in February 2007, the 15th National Skiing Championship was held at Naltar. Surrounded by five to six thousand meters high peaks, the place was once a great home of wildlife. In the highlands, one may get a glimpse of Ibex, Markhor, Ram Chikor and Chikor etc. There lie some lovely lakes on the trek before crossing Naltar Pass at 4600m. These peaks attract climbers each year. Sentinel (5260m) is a moderately difficult alpine climb, while Shani peak (5887m) is a very serious mixed rock and I snow climb. Trekkers enjoy the meadows up valley, and the Pakora Pass trek from Naltar to Pakora has become a popular walk. Naltar has green fields and lush green alpine trees. The green and forested Naltar Valley receives more rainfall than other areas in the Hunza Valley, and its alpine scenery is a refreshing change in the arid Karakoram. The Naltar Valley runs north-west from Nomal village, on the west bank of the Hunza River 25 km north-east of Gilgit.
Left: Ishkoman Trekking - Right: 15th National Skiing Championship participants (picture courtesy PPI)
Abbotabad: 116 km from Rawalpindi and 217 km from Peshawar, Abbotabad is a popular summer resort, located at the end of Murree-Abbottabad hill tract at a height of 1255 Metres. This tourist resort is known for its verdant parks, gardens, golf course and pine covered hills. Abbottabad is also known for the nearby town of Kakul, which houses the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy. It is also the gateway to most of the mountain peaks of Pakistan - the Karakorams, the HImalayas and the Hindukush. One can reach Swat, Kohistan, Dir and Chitral of the Hindukush Range from here, besides Naran, Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum, Lipa and Jhelum Valley of beautiful Azad Kashmir are also connected through Abbottabad.
Just a half hour drive from Murree is the small town of Bhurban. Unlike Murree, it is a clean, rather detached from the hustle bustle of Murree and can be termed as one of the most picturesque places of Pakistan. recently, wit the construction of a five star hotel and a golf course, the place attracts the CEOs and other multi national companies to host their annual conferences and events. The area is rich in a rare variety of flora and fauna, not found elsewhere in Pakistan.
For some Abbotabad is known for the Pakistan Military Academy, some few miles from it in nearby town of Kakul, but in fact it attracts lot of visitors during summers and winters to enjoy its cold weather. Just some distance away from the city, there is a 2691 Metres (9,000 feet) high Thandiani Hills. Going up the steep winding road, one reaches the hill top and can feel the pollution free air. The area generally came to limelight after the state owned television installed its booster. One should not adventure the area in the winters as these can be very harsh with mercury dropping to -20 degree C, besides heavy snow fall which may sometimes pile up to 10-12 feet of snow. Thandiani offers lush green lovely views. At night the lights of Hazara District and Azad Kashmir are clearly visible. To the east beyond the Kunhar River, one may see the snow covered mountain ranges of Kashmir, to the north and north-east, the mountains of Kohistan and Kaghan are sighted, to the north-west are snowy ranges of Swat and Chitral.
Ayubia: 26 kilometres from Murree, four mini resorts namely Khairagali, Changlagali, Khanspur and Ghora Dhaka, spread over an area of 25 kilometres were developed in the 60s and given the name of Ayubia. Ayubia was the first resort in Pakistan where cable lift were introduced and had been the only of its own kind till the development of Patriata. There are riding trails, hiking places and picnic spots in abundance around the area. The chair lifts take the nature lovers up to the summit of the nearby range for a panoramic view of the forested hills.
Patriata, some 25 km from Murree has been developed as an alternative to old tourist resort of Ayubia. There is chairlift and cable car system which takes visitors up to Patriata Ridge in two stages from Gulehra Gali. The first stage is by chair lift up to Patriata Bazaar. From here visitors transfer to cable cars for the ride up to Patriata Ridge. A restaurant has also been established. Further plans include development of a wildlife park at the mid-station.
Around Murree, there are many small hill stations dotting the landscape. These areas are called as "Galyat" in the native language, meaning by the Valleys. Some of the famous Galyat are the Nathiagali, Gohragali, Doongagali and the Jheekagali. These are basically roadside small towns turned into tourist resorts. Perhaps the most sought out is the beautiful Nathiagali perched 2501 Metres high about 32 km away from Murree. The bracing air of the surrounding mountains is as pure as fresh spring water. While Ghoragali is famous for its educational institutes. Doongagali is a picturesque small resort situated on the slopes of the Mukshpuri hill (2376 m.). It commands a charming view of a series of wooded spurs projecting towards the river Jhelum on the western side. From Doongagali one can climb the 2813 m peak of Mukhshpuri, which is the highest point in the range. Natural springs abound on the slopes. It is 30 km from Murree.
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15 February 2007
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