PHYSIOGRAPHY OF THE PROVINCE
The province is broadly divided into three different zones with their peculiar physical stratum. The northern part of the province is adorned with beautiful valleys having 5 rivers running roughly north to south inter alia the Chitral, Dir, Swat, Indus and Kaghan. These valleys are on the northern edge of the monsoon belt, fairly green and partially wooded in their southern sections. The mid part had been the seat of the ancient civilizations particularly Peshawar remained the hub of activities for different civilizations including Buddhist Hindu Shahi, Sikh, Islamic and British culture all having their mark on the city. The southern part of the province is below the monsoon belt and consists of low, rocky mountain and wide, gravely plains. The important cities and areas of the province are described for the convenience of the reader.
The region of Hazara is like a door to heaven, opening up to visitors a world replete with natural beauty. It was a favourite gateway from the plains into Kashmir during Mughal, Durrani and Sikh rules. It is a large area some 10,000 sq. km. The world famous Karakoram Highway starts from Havelian, a town in this region at a distance of 101 km from Islamabad. The mighty "Lion River" Indus or Abasin flows through the entire length of Hazara. It is strategically located between the Northern Areas, Azad Kashmir, Punjab and the rest of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Hill stations collectively known as the Gallis and the Kaghan valley are the best known parts of Hazara. Pakistani and foreign tourists throng its cool and serene valleys during sizzling summer.
Located at 81 km from Islamabad on Hasan Abdal-Abbottabad road, Haripur was founded in 1822 by Hari Singh, a general of Ranjit Singh's army. He was the Governor of Hazara in 1822-23. A fort built by the Sikhs called Harikishan Garh is at present being used as a police station. There is also a British cemetery.
Abbottabad is named after its founder James Abbot, Hazara's first British Deputy Commissioner. It is at a distance of 121 km from Islamabad via Hasan Abdal. It is 1220 meters above sea level and is situated at the crossroads of most of the areas of tourist interest in Pakistan like Nathiagali, Murree, Thandiani, Kaghan valley, Swat valley, Skardu, Gilgit and Khunjrab. Taxila, one of the most important archaeological treasures of the subcontinent is not very far from here. There are two hills towering above Abbottabad, Shimla Peak and Sarban Peak. There are very fine panoramic views of the town and its surroundings from Shimla Peak. The famous Pakistan Military Academy is on the hill to the north-east side of the town. Shimla Park located on a nearby hill with a pine forest is well worth a visit. Abbottabad has still a very British air with its European style bungalows, the club, the church and the cemetery.
Thandiani means "cold" in the local language. Therefore being a cool place it got the name of "Thandiani". It is 2700 meters above sea level on a small plateau surrounded by pine forests. This beautiful spot can easily be approached from Abbottabad, which is 24 km away. It is totally unspoiled and has the loveliest of views of all the hill stations of Pakistan. The scenery here is breathtaking and superb.
Nathiagali clad in pine, walnut, oak and maple trees, is the prettiest hill resort in the Galiyat region. It can be approached both from Murree and Abbottabad. It is 34 km from Abbottabad as well as from Murree. Nathiagali is 2501 meters above sea level and is surrounded by lush green lofty mountains. The British tried to create a little England here with its small timbered churches, parks, bungalows and the Governor's House. Breathtaking landscapes, spring water and fresh air make it one of the most peaceful hill stations in Pakistan.
This beautiful tourist resort is situated on the slopes of Mukshpuri Hills. The hills are wooded and present a beautiful view. Behind.Dungagali stands Mukshpuri, one of the highest peaks in the area (2800 m).
A cluster of four small hill stations of Khanaspur, Khairagali, Changlagali and Ghora Dhaka is called Ayubia and was named after President Ayub Khan who belonged to Haripur district of Hazara. The complex is spread over an area of 26 km. The central place of Ghora Dhaka has a chairlift, which gives a panoramic and mesmerizing view of the surroundings.
Mansehra is named after Man Singh, its Governor General under Ranjit Singh. This town is at a distance of 24 km to the north of Abbottabad. It has a very lively bazaar. The major tourist attraction of Mansehra are the three granite boulders on which edicts of Ashoka the Great have been inscribed. This great Mauryan king ruled this area in the 3rd century BC. After his conversion to Buddhism he tried to dictate a new morality based on piety, moderation, tolerance and respect for life.
Out of the numerous beautiful valleys of Hazara, Kaghan is the most attractive of all. A holiday retreat with alluring scenic beauty, the Kaghan valley is about 160 km long and between two to four thousand meters above sea level at various places. Towering peaks of Himalayan Range, glaciers, water falls and crystal clear water of the lakes are still in a pristine state and make the valley an unspoiled paradise. Kunhar river with plenty of trout fish flows through the valley and has the villages of Balakot, Kaghan, Naran on its banks. The nomads take their flocks of cattle to the high pastures of the Kaghan valley in spring and bring them down again in autumn. Their women are colourfully dressed.
Balakot is the gateway to Kaghan valley. Balakot itself is 72 km from Abbottabad. This beautiful small town is located on the banks of Kunhar river. Journey from Abbottabad to Balakot is a charming experience. The road passes through beautiful green hills and thick forests. The views are spectacular especially between Attarshisha and Garhi Habibullah. A famous battle was fought here between the Sikh Army and Mujahideen in 1831. The Mujahideen leaders, Hazrat Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Hazrat Shah Ismail Shaheed lie buried here along with other martyrs.
Shogran, one of, the most beautiful plateaus in the whole area is situated at a distance of 33 km from Balakot via Kawai. From there a jeep track leads to this tranquil summer retreat of superb climate and spectacular views. The air is impregnated with the scent of flowers and the pine forest around. It is at an altitude of 2326 m and mighty peaks of Himalayan Ranges such as Musa ka Masalla (4419 m) and Malika Parbat (5290 m) are visible from here.
About 86 km from Balakot lies Naran, the main attraction of the Kaghan valley. This town is situated on the banks of Kunhar river at an altitude of 2498 m at a point where the valley widens. The river is wider and quieter here. There is a very good view downstream, with some tree-covered islands in the foreground. It is a starting point for lake Salful Muluk, Battakundi, Lalazar Plateau, lake Lulusar and Babusar Pass. Outstanding attraction of Naran is its air of peace and serenity.
LAKE SAIFUL MULUK
It is situated at a distance of 10 km from Naran at an altitude of 3500 m. It provides an excellent view of the 5290 m high Malika Parbat (Queen of the Mountains). The lake and its surroundings have a touch of unreal about them and are breathtakingly lovely. There is a charming legend about a prince called Saiful Muluk who fell in love with a fairy of the lake. The lake is named after the prince. The best way to reach the lake is to walk but you may also take a pony or a jeep.
Babusar Pass is at a distance of 80 km from Naran. It is on the way to the pass that the Kaghan valley's scenery becomes most dramatic. Battakundi is at a distance of 16 km from Naran and provides access to Lalazar Plateau, lake Dodiputsar and lake Lulusar which is the biggest natural lake in Hazara and the source of Kunhar river. From Babusar Top mighty Nanga Parbat (8126 m) can be seen on a clear day.
MALAKAND AND SWAT REGION
The Malakand division of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan covers one third of the total area of the Province. The region is further divided into Chitral, Dir, Swat, Buner, Shangla Districts and Malakand Agency. It's distinctive features make the area a "Tourist's Heaven".
The area has a reich history, covering thousands of yers. Alexander the Great traveled through the region in 327 BC. The famous Gandhara Buddhist Civilization later flourished in the valleys of Swat and Dir, There are many stupas and Buddhist settlements in the region. The Famous Chinese travllers Huein Tsang and Fa Hien came here for learning and a great Buddhist missionary Padma Sambhava, belonging to Swat traveled to Tibet to spread Buddhism.
A forest around Malakand gives a very refreshing view. Malakand is a fertile valley surrounded by hills moderately cold in winter and pleasant in summer. An excellent road extends from the main Malakand Highway to Swat.
NIMOGRAM BUDDHIST STUPAS
While travelling from Chakdara towards Saidu Sharif, one reaches Landakai. About 7 km from here, a road leads towards Nimogram, which is further 21 km away. A Buddhist monastery is situated here on the top of a hillock, giving an overall view of the area. There are three main stupas, surrounded by a number of small votive stupas. Dressed stones have been used in the construction and bear similarity to Andan Dheri monastery.
About three kilometres from Barikot, one gets a glance of a magnificent Buddhist stupa on the right side. This stupa is perhaps the only one, whose dome is complete. The period of its construction is estimated between third and fourth centuries AD. Just about one and a half km away from this stupa, one can see large figures of Buddha carved on the rock.
Mingora has been an important trading centre for the last 2000 years. The bazaars are interesting to explore for semi precious stones, hand-woven and embroiled clothes, shawls, bedsheets, woodwork, tribal jewelry and antiques of different kinds. The hills having the world famous "Emerald Mines" are located to the north of the town.
Saidu Sharif and Mingora are twin cities. Saidu Sharif has several government buildings, the Swat Museum, the Tomb of Akund of Swat and the archaeological remains of the Butkara Buddhist Stupa.
This museum is situated between Mingora and Saidu Sharif. The archaeological finds belong to Gandhara Buddhist art of Swat. The samples of local embroidery, jewelry and carved wood objects are on display.
Marghzar is a small town situated at the foot of Mount Ilam about 13 krn away from Saidu Sharlf. It is famous for its White Marble Palace, built by the Wali-e-Swat in early 1940's. The palace now serves as a hotel. While going towards Marghzar, a road turns to Islam Pur, which is famous for its woodwork, shawls and blankets.
This is one of the upcoming hill resorts, about 56 km away from Saidu Sharif. The surrounding area offers natural beauty, with forests, orchards, mountains and streams which can be enjoyed by hiking.
Madyan is a tourist resort on the banks of Swat river. It is 1312 m above sea level. The town is famous for handicraft, embroidery and antique shops. A trout hatchery is also located here. Many beautiful side valleys can be approached from here. The distance of Madyan is 56 km from Saidu Sharif.
The town of Bahrain is situated 66 km from Saidu Sharif and is 10km from Madyan. It is another popular riverside resort, with bazaars worth exploring for their handicrafts. The surrounding area has beautiful valleys and is suitable for hiking. The mosques and buildings are worth seeing for wooden carved pillars and other fixtures.
Kalam is the main town of Swat Kohistan. It is about 40 km north of Bahrain. Kalam is inhabited by Kohistanis having their own language and customs. Beautiful valleys of Ushu (2286 m), Utrot (2225 m) and Gabral (2550 m) are accessible from here through thick pine forests. The 6257 m high snow capped Falaksair Peak is clearly visible from Matiltan (3000 m). Lake Mahodand is about 23 km beyond Matiltan valley. The rivers offer good chances for trout fishing.
DIR AND CHITRAL REGIONS
The Chakdara Museum is situated about one km from the fort. It has an excellent collection of Buddhist Gandhara Art, from first to seventh century AD. It helps people to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the area.
Close to the Chakdara Fort, a picket crowns the hillock towards the west. This is known as the Churchill Picket because Winston Churchill came here during the Pathan Revolt of 1879. This place was used by him for sending reports. He was then a war correspondent.
The world famous Kalash People live in the three valleys of Birir, Bumburet and Rambur. The Kalash are an ancient tribe and have a religion and a culture of their own. They have many festivals around the year during which the men and women perform colourful dances. The major festivals are Chilamjusht, Phool and Chawas.
Chitral is the "Jewel of the Hindukush" guarded by the majestic Trichmir Peak. The famous town of Chitral is situated about 322 km from Peshawar. It is also connected to Peshawar by air. The whole area is mountainous, having green valleys and the towering Trichmir Peak (7700 meters) of the Hindukush. The Chitral Fort is one of the famous monuments of the town. There is also a palace inside the fort and a beautiful mosque outside the fort. All the foreign visitors to Chitral must register with the police on their arrival. Chitral is about 322KM (10 hours jeepable journey) from Peshawar. Daily two flights are available from Peshawar to Chitral.
Joshi or Chilimjusht (14th and 15th May) This festival is held in spring, when girls pick first flowers of the year. The days are marked by dancing, visiting each other and exchanging flowers, milk and milk products.
Utchal Mid July) It is celebrated to mark the harvest of wheat and barley. The celebration lasts for two days, which includes dancing, singing, and feasting.
Phool (20th to 21st December) The festival is to mark the reaping of grapes and walnuts harvests. (Subject to weather conditions).
Chowas (18th to 21st December) Chowas is a winter festival celebrated to welcome the New Year. The entire population remains indoor. It is celebrated by feasting, drinking and merry making until the elders, who sit on hill top watching the sun reaching the orbit, then declare the advent of the new year. They come down from the hills, light their torches, perform their dance and sacrifice goats at the altar.
Nauroze (21st March) It is celebrated in ltkuh, Mastuj, and Turikho Mulkho by Ismailis, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Agha Khan.
Chitral The date for celebrating the Chitral Festival is fixed every year. The Festival eminent features are Polo matches, equestrian sports, wrestling, tug-of-war, colourful folk dances and music by the Kalash with exhibition of the local handicraft.
Also known as "Hot Springs". The village by the same name is about 45 km to the north west of Chitral. The jeep journey takes about 3 hours. These hot springs contain sulphur in their water which is good for healing skin diseases, headache and other pains and gout. The village has a big market, where the caravans from Badakhshan bring precious stones and other products. The town gives a look of "Caravan Sarai". It is also famous for "Patti" a typical woolen cloth.
The world famous Shandur Pass is about 3738 m above sea level and lies midway between Chitral and Gligit. The distance from both Chitral and Gilgit is about 168 km. These areas remain snow- clad in winter and turn into a green heaven during summer. There is a big lake in the area. One can approach the Shandur Top by jeep from either side. The traditional Polo Tournament between the Gilgit and Chitral teams is held here every year in the month of July. Foreign tourists and natives come to see the festival.
It is the capital of the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa is a frontier town and quite different from any other city in Pakistan. It has a modern university, first-class hotels, international banks and one of the best Museums in Pakistan. The Bala Hisar Fort overlooks the mass of narrow streets in the old town and the elegant Mughal Mosque. One the other side of the railway is the cantonment, its wide treelined streets bordered by gracious administrative buildings and spacious bungalows in large gardens.
MAHABAT KHAN MOSQUE:
The beautifully proportioned Mahabat Khan Mosque is at the top of the hill on the fight; a narrow gateway between the jewellary shops leads onto its large courtyard. Built in the 1670s, the Mughal mosque is orthodox in design, with an ablution pond in the middle of the open courtyard.
The Gor Kharti is a large Mughal caravanserai at the top end of Sethi Street. The caravan serai was built on a spot that has been a holy place for nearly 2,000 years. In the 2nd century AD it was a Buddhism declined it became a Hindu shrine.
The Peshawar Museum has one of the best collections of Gandhara Art in Pakistan, all well arranged and labelled. Sculptures illustrating the life of Buddha are laid out in chronological order. The fasting Buddha here is even more haunting than the one in Lahore Museum. There is also an ethnological section, the Hall of Tribes, With wooden carvings form the Kalash people in Chitral and a Muslim Gallery.
Jamrud Fort, made of rough stonework and faced with mud plaster, was built by the Sikhs in 1823 on the site of an older fort.
Sphola stupa, of the second to fifth centuries, stands on the right of the road above the railway at the village of Zarai, 25 km from Jamrud. The stupa has a high hemispherical dome resting on a three-tiered square base. Beautiful Gandharan sculptures were found here when the site was excavated at the beginning of this century some of which are now in the Peshawar Museum.
KHYBER STEAM SAFRI :
The Khyber Railway from Peshawar to Landi Kotal is, for rail enthusiasts, a three-star attraction. It has 34 tunnels, which add up to five km of darkness, as there are no lights on the train, and crosses 92 bridges and culverts.
BALA HISAR FORT:
Located on the entrance of Peshawar on left side of G.T. Road, Bala Hisar is an old fort constructed by the British Government. Since partition it is occupied by the army.
It was earlier a Monument designed by the local authorities . However very recently it has been redesigned and reconstructed by PDA.
QISSA KHWANI BAZAR:
This place is famous for its specialized bazaars as well as its name is said to have come from the old caravans passing by this place and narrating their journeys to those present and other caravans.
Mardan, 60 km north-east of Peshawar is famous as the birth place of the Guides the Queen's Own Guide Corpos, an elite British regiment of North-West Frontier soldier-spies founded in the 1840s. The town itself has little to offer but it acts as a base point for seeing a concentration of Buddhist and other ancient sites of Gandhara civilization.
By far the best and most complete of all Gandhara ruins are those of the 7th century AD. Bushiest monastery, spectacularly placed on a rocky hill 15 km north-west of Mardan. It was excavated (and stripped of statuary and friezes) from 1907 to 1913, and later reconstructed. From the top of the hill behind the monastery on e can see down across the plains as far as Peshawar on one side, and up to the Malakand Pass and the hills of the Swat on the other Surrounding the monastery on the ridge above it to the south, and on the spurs to the east and west, are the ruins of private houses, some of which are three storey high. Federal Archeology department is the administrative authority for the operation & maintenance of the old relics. It is also on UNESCO list and is a National Heritage.
SHAHBAZ GARHI AND THE ASHOKAN INSCRIPTIONS:
Shahbaz Garhi is located 13 km east of Mardan on the road to Swabi. Sown a dirt track to the right, a few meters, are the famous Ashokan inscriptions, carved in two rocks on a hill about 300 meters to the left. The Ashokan inscriptions date from the 3rd century BC and are the oldest surviving writings of any historical significance in the Subcontinent.
At Shahbaz Garhi 12 edicts are carved on the rock, two on another, Shahbaz Garhi is important to Buddhists because f its association with prince Sudana, or Buddha in one of his previous incarnations, Sudana means of noble charity; the area is still popularly know as the Sudana Plan.
The ruins of a monastery and a beautiful courtyard of stupas are on a hill-top overlooking the village 15 km north of Mardan. The view including Takht-i-Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi, is especially grand at sunrises sunset.
Kohat is basically a cantonment with in it is the Garrison Town. The main road by passes it, but it is worth going through the centre to see the old British establishments.
This site has been selected for a restaurant presently under construction by the corporation within the protected area of the Wild Life Park there.
This rest house located on main Pindi Kohat road has been transferred to the Corporation and has been offered for lease to the private sector through print media.
D. I. Khan is the getaway to Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa for the tourists entering Pakistan from Balochistan and Punjab. Majority of the tourists entering from the western border on motorbike follow this route to Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa . Most of them however just pass through D.I. Khan. There are two ancient sites, one is on Chashma Road know as "Kafir Kot" just 1 km towards left near Bilot Head Works, and the other is Rehman Dheri, which is about 25 km on the Bannu Road, very few people know about it.
On the west bank of river Indus near Hotel Midway an amusement park may be developed for local residents. This is easily approachable and in the evening local communities stroll on the river side. The river side is very crowded on Fridays when families come for a picnic.
KAFIR KOT FORTS:
On the way to Chashma Barrage (from D.I. Khan), The Southern Kafir Kot Fort stands on low (Marwat) hills and is clearly visible from the road. Kike the Northern Kafir Kot Fort, 38 km further up the Indus, it was built at the time of the Hindu Rajput Kingdom (8th to the 10th century) and was destroyed by Mahmud of Ghaznavi in the 11th century. Neither fort was rebuilt.
As the Southern Kafir Kot Fort there are three main temple and shrines on the same plinth. THe carving deep chiselled and reminiscent of Mayan sculpture, is fine and well preserved.
The Northern Kafir Kot Fort is about 6 km north of the western end of Chashma Barrage. The fort commands a splendid defensive position. It covers a rubble-strewn area of about 25 hectares (62 acres). Inside there are four temples, two badly eroded, the others intricately carved. The best preserved walls including a fate, are on the north side of the fort; the walls are about 8 Meters (20 feet) high.