If you ask any person living down in the southern areas of Pakistan regarding where the ideal vacation spot on the country would be at any time of the year, the answer would undoubtedly roam somewhere around in the famed ‘Northern Areas’. Everyone knows that these ‘Northern Areas’ house some of the most beautiful sites the country has to offer, what with the magnificent mountains touching the skies and beyond, the untouched lakes snaking down steep slopes, and the dense blanket of all natural greenery laid down wherever you go- to sum it all up, you can imagine it to be akin to a piece of land that broke off from heaven and found itself gravitating towards the Earth.
However, you never truly understand the gravity or the honesty behind these words and claims until your own two eyes experience in reality what has only existed in mental images or physical ones in the form of the picture frame hanging in your living room. I had the opportunity to travel when I got some time off in the month of September and I am certainly glad that I chose to give the heavenly valleys of Naran and Kaghan a visit.
My very first stop on this trip was Kaghan valley- after a rather tiresome journey by train, I was able to reach what I can only describe as one of the most beautiful places I have had the honor of staying in. I had rented a small house for a day so I could rest after the journey and re energize myself for what was to come, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Waking up to beautiful alpine trees surrounding and bordering you as you walked across an expanse of lush green grass with the crisp, cool air brushing your face is not bad at all!
Using this as a starting point, I embarked on my first key place to visit, which was Shogran. I used jeeps for majority of my traveling as the steep and rocky roads demand nothing less than a powerful engine with huge wheels pulling you up and keeping you steady unless you want your head to hit the roof of the car every other second or become incapable of moving because of motion sickness. Anyways, hiring jeeps for travel in the north is not a particularly difficult task as they are prepared for tourists. You can get a jeep for relatively cheap, somewhere around 500 to a 1000 Rupees to travel from one key location to the other.
I got to Shogran via Kewai and experienced some of the thickest and most awe inspiring forests and steep slopes I have ever seen on the way. The road we traveled on was rather scary but nothing I couldn’t handle. From Shogran, I embarked to see the famed ‘Siri and Paye’. I am not talking about the food we all enjoy for breakfast occasionally, but a pair of mountain peaks that have been named rather paradoxically considering Paye (feet) seemed to be a bit higher than Siri (head). Regardless, I am still unable to get that breathtaking view out of my mind. I hiked for a bit on the two mountains and also had the pleasure to stop for some light food and snacks between them, which you will find in abundance at that location.
After this regressing stop, it was time to go to Naran, the valley that holds tremendous view after view like stars stitched onto the night sky. Returning to Kewai, I hired a jeep once more and traveled to Naran, a journey that lasted over two hours but was made a breeze thanks to the stunning sight of a lake running right beside the road we were running on. While I got to fulfill my desire of trying my hand at fishing by the Kunhar river and failing, might I add, as well as walking over the bridge that hung over the body of water, albeit holding on to the railings for dear life, the best part of my journey was undoubtedly getting to walk all the way to Jheel Saif-ul-Malook. What a sight! Taking in the tall and intimidating mountains framing the clear as mirror lake as I walked over the lightly snow capped peaks was an unbelievable experience. I made it a point to take lots and lots of pictures at that location. I was also able to spot the Malika Parbat or the Queen of the Mountains, the highest peak at the lake but only from a distance. I was informed that there was a small market a short distance away so I gave that a visit too- a small but cozy place with basic amenities and little souvenirs.
That concludes my little trip as I returned back after a few days stay in a local motel at Naran. It certainly was not as costly as I initially thought, especially if you are willing to compromise on luxury in terms of where you stay and where you eat. The local food at the small shops scattered throughout the area was quite enjoyable and a big part of my experience. I certainly wish I had more time to explore the place more. The Babusar Pass, the Ansoo Jheel, and many other sights are still on my checklist and I hope to tick them off very soon!