Swat valley is one of the major tourist attractions of Pakistan. It is known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, has one of the oldest civilizations and is one of the most beautiful scenic places one could ever see.
The average altitude of the Swat Valley is 975 m and reaches a maximum of 2,900 m. The highest peak of Hindu Kush Range in Swat Valley is Falak Sher/Sar Peak which is about 5,900 m.
Swat Valley is located at the foothills of Hindukush mountain range. It is part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The location of Swat Valley has a major strategic importance as it lies in the region where South Asia, Central Asia and China meet. Swat Valley can be reached via Peshawar or Rawalpindi/Islamabad. The total distance from Peshawar is 151 km and from Rawalpindi via Nuwshera-Mardan and Malakand Pass is 270 km. When travelling on personal vehicles, the Motorway (M-1) can be used to reach Mardan Interchange from Islamabad which takes approximately 1.5 hours (131 km). From Mardan, a distance of 112 km can be covered via Takh-e-Bai, Dargai, Malakand Pass, Batkhella, Chakdara to reach Mingora or Saidu Sharif. It takes almost 5 hours to cover the distance. The travelling routes are open throughout the year. Nowadays public transport facilities have also improved a lot, especially since the opening of the new Motorway.
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Nimogram is place famous for its monasteries. It is one of the most famous archeological sites of the Buddhist period. Swat was said to be filled with 1,400 beautiful stupas and monasteries. It is said that the stupas are built with the special kind of stones known as the “dress stone.” They were the best architect of old times and they are said to resemble the “Andan Dhery” monastery which is situated in Dir district. The ‘Shankardar Stupa’ is situated at distance of 3 km from Barikot towards Saidu Sharif. History says it was built between the 3rd and 4th century AD, and it is the only stupa that is left with the original dome still intact. Large figures of Buddha have also been carved on the stones in the nearby places. The second major stupa is called ‘Butkara Stupa’. This was one of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims center and is situated in the ancient capital of Mingawara. Another ‘Gumpat Stupa’ is also a famous site situated in Kandag valley (9 km to the south of Birkot). It consists of a number of sacred images for worshipping and it is said to be the most preserved stupa as compared to the rest.
Swat museum is famous for the old heritage of the Gandhara civilization. It is located between Mingora and Saidu Sharif. The museum showcases the main antiques and Buddhist artifacts which are proofs of this glorious civilization. The ancients jewelry and wooden articles are kept with care for preserving this old culture. A must visit place for history lovers.
This is a great picnic location along the river Swat. Fizagat has beautiful parks and all the finest quality emerald mines. They have the best restaurants and it is best for the children recreational activities in all seasons. They also have a rock city resort, another tourist destination with a 30 km hiking track, which depicts a picturesque nature and also provide fishing facilities. Thames hotel is one the best hotels of Fizagat with beautiful scenery and is famous for the architectural designs.
Malam Jabba is one of the most beautiful resorts in the Swat area. It lies 2,700 m above the sea level. Approximately 314 km away from Islamabad, it is situated on the top of Hindu Kush mountain range, in the Northeast of Saidu Sharif.
The Malam Jabba Ski Resort is owned by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). The Ski Resort was a joint effort of Pakistani government and its Austrian counterpart. It has a ski slope of about 800 m with the highest point of the slope 2,800 m sea level. Two stations at Malam Jabba provide the facility of chair lift for tourists for their enjoyment. Inside the Malam Jabba resort, the facility of indoor games and other ice games are also available. A ski festival is arranged every year in the month of January for skiers and adventure lovers.
The amazing Kalam Valley is situated along the upper Swat Valley. It is located at 270 km drive from Islamabad and lies 2,000 m above sea level. In order to reach Kalam, tourists can use M-1 Motorway to reach Mardan interchange which is about 1.5 hours drive from Islamabad. Mardan onwards, they can use different routes, such as Dargai, Malakand Pass or Chakdara, which will lead to Saidu Sharif. The distance from Mardan to Saidu Sharif is 112 km and estimated travel time is 2.5 hours. From here onwards, public transport is also available. Moreover, Daewoo bus service operates directly from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar to Mingora/Saidu Sharif.
It is 56 km from Mingora city and 560 km from Islamabad. It also lies on the main road that leads to Bahrain, Kalam and other beautiful valleys of Swat. Public transport is also available for tourists.
Madyan is surrounded by green valleys of Chail, Shanku and Bashigram. Mushrooms, fruits and timber is produced here. In addition to this, the rivers and streams have Swati fish and Trout fish, which makes it unique among the other valleys.
Bahrain is 312 km from Islamabad and is 10 km from Madyan. Additionally, it is 1,400 m above the sea level.
Bahrain literally means ‘two rivers’. This is called as such because Daral and Swat rivers meet here. Due to this, the weather is mostly pleasant in Bahrain. There are resorts and bazaars which are known for their handicrafts. Tourists visit this place throughout the year because many hotels can be found at cheap rates. Furthermore, Bahrain is known for its mosques and buildings and the surrounding area has beautiful valleys which are suitable for hiking.
Located in the Northern Kalam, Ushu is a plateau 6 km wide where two rivers Ushu and Utrot intersect (one from the Northeast and the other from the West). It is 10 km from Kalam and is 3,200 m above sea level.
Most locals here speak Kashmiri, Pushto, Persian and Punjabi. There are mountains which are famous for hiking. As the weather in winter is very cold, people are usually cut off in winters and move southwards and return back in spring, when the weather is suitable. For Ushu, tourism is the main source of income.
Lake Mahodand lies in the North of Kalam and 12 km away from Ushu. It takes around 6.5 hours to reach this beautiful lake from Islamabad which is 381 km away. It is famous among nature and peace lovers and Trout Fish hunters. ‘Mahodand’ means ‘Lake of Fishes’ (especially the Trout Fish). Mahodand Valley can be reached through an un-metalled road from Kalam in a 4×4 vehicle. Although the road is rough and tricky, the beauty of the surrounding landscapes is a treat for the visitors. Small villages are scattered in the mountains and the hollering smoke that coils into the sky from the houses, among other attractive views, live in the memory forever.
The valley is long and wide and it touches Chitral boundary in the extreme North. After driving for about four to five hours from the vast valley of Kalam, 35 kilometers away, one can reach the spectacular valley of Mahodand where the small lakes, tall cedar trees and widespread pastures can be seen. Small birds that are called ‘non-game birds’ fill the air with their melodious music all day long. Fishing permits can be obtained from Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) resort in Kalam.
Kundal Lake is situated 21 km from Kalam and 281 km from Islamabad. It lies in the North of Utror valley. Kundal Lake can be easily accessed from Kalam via Utror from where a link road ends in a green valley called ‘Ladu’ in the foothills of the lake. The trail to the lake from Ladu is easy to follow as a huge stream flows down from the lake, which mingles with River Swat in Kalam Valley. Its length is 2 km and width is 1 km. A huge watercourse feeds it in eastern side where huge glaciers melt down in summers. There are two hamlets where two small mosques can provide an accommodation but it is better to have one’s own tents. The mountains around this small valley are covered with tall cedar and pine trees. The lake seems to be an exact duplicate of Lake Saifulmaluk in Kaghan Valley. Both the lakes are almost of the same size and appearance. Location and surroundings of both the lakes are almost identical but one is known and the other is still concealed in the mountains of Swat Valley.
Khapiro/Pari Lake I
The name ‘Pari’ or “Khapiro’ means ‘house of fairies’. It is believed that fairies live there and bathe in the water of this lake. Khapiro Lake is located in the North East of Utror Valley. It has a considerable depth and lies in the foothills of highest mountains. 281 km from Islamabad, Khapiro Lake can be accessed from Izmis and Kundal Lake by trekking. It takes almost 5 hours to reach the top of Izmis and Kundal Lake. Beautiful flowers and green meadows can be seen in the surroundings.
Khapiro/Pari Lake II
Khapiro/Pari Lake II is located near Pari Lake I, at the highest altitude in the mountain ranges of Swat. The Lake is 0.25 km in length and is surrounded by steep pastures. When fodder is limited in the plains, grazers take their livestock to these pastures in summers. It is comparatively greater in size and depth than the other lake situated in its vicinity and remains open in the months of July, August and September. Kundal Lake is situated in the foothills down and water from Pari Lake II flows to Kundal Lake.
Spin Khwar (White Stream) Lake
Spin Khwar is situated towards the North of Kundal Lake and East of Utror Valley. It is 176 km away from Islamabad. The name Spin Khwar takes its name from a small white stream in the east flows down to the lake from the surrounding mountains and is a major source of water for the lake. Spin Khwar Lake can be accessed through two tracks, one from Kundal, and the other from Ladu Valley. The track from Ladu is easy to walk and less tiring, while the track from Kundal is not only difficult but dangerous; although it is short and links Kundal and Spin Khwar.