Ratti Gali Lake:
Ratti Gali lake is an alpine glacial lake in Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir. It is one of the most beautiful lakes of Azad Kashmir. The altitude of the lake is about 12,130 feet (3,700 metres) above sea level and the water source is the nearby glaciers, which nestle between the lofty mountain peaks of the valley.
Ratti Gali lake is accessible through Dowarian, through a shingle road which is about 19 kilometres (12 miles) and it takes an hour to reach the lake from the base-camp, Dowarian. An easy hiking trek leads to the lake towards the hill-top. These trekking trails have glimpses of breath-taking and mesmerising scenery of the lush-green hilly-slopes, large shady trees, wild-flowers as well as rare animal species, along all the treks.
The Transportation & Accommodation:
The journey from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad takes three and half an hour in total. Where Public/Private transport is easily available on the route. Contrary to this, comparatively little means of transportation are available between Muzaffarabad and Neelum Valley. However the Bus service is functioning well, on a daily basis, which takes the tourists straight up to Kel valley. The distance between Muzaffarabad and the base-camp of the lake, Dowarian is about 100 kilometres. Overall condition of the road is good, yet it gets deteriorating especially in the monsoon season due to heavy rains and snow falling. The land-sliding occurs excessively during the rainy season, so that’s why travelling takes more time than usual in August-September.
Although accommodation facilities are available in the whole Neelum valley, tourists can easily find it particularly in Dowarian for the overnight stay. There are a number of Rest Houses and Hotels at Dowarian, equipped with all the essential amenities of modern day life. After taking plenty of rest at Dowarian, it’s time to set out for trekking towards the lake. While reaching the lake, there is a Tent village, just on the brink of it. It is set up by the Department of Tourism AJK.
The Porters and Guides are readily available from the Bus Stop. Tourists can avail their services on the daily-basis agreement. Tourists can hire all kinds of suitable vehicles as well, to access the lake.
The track towards the lake are naturally beautiful with lush-green thick forests. This track with all types of biodiversity is full of greenery. It lies parallel to the freshwater Ravines (Nullah), streams and waterfalls. Therefore visitors can use plenty of fresh, hygienic and healthful water from the natural reservoirs.
Tourists would start trekking from Dowarian towards the Ratti Gali lake which is the main trek. It is a consecutive ascent of 1,550 metres (5,085 feet) to 3,150 metres (10,335 feet) above sea level till the base-camp. Furthermore it is a 500 metres (1,642 feet) or more ascending above sea level from the basecamp to the lake. Tourists can enjoy off-roading on the shingle road which is about 17 to 18 kilometres in length. Only a kilometre or so trekking is left for the hiking lovers which takes between 45 minutes to one and half an hour in total, depending on fitness level.
There are actually two lakes in a row. The smaller one is formed by the gushing water of the main lake which is called Barkatia lake and often misunderstood as Ratti Gali lake. However the actual lake exists a little upward to the little one. Its altitude is almost 3,650 metres (11,975 feet) above sea level. There is an interesting fact about the main lake that a part of it remains frozen even in the summers.
To reach Ratti Gali lake, there are four access points.
- From Dowarian Village to the Lake: Initially the trekking time was 1.5 days but now it is merely 1.5 hours only.
- From Burwai in Kaghan Valley through Ratti Gali Pass: If the tourists start trekking from Burwai village of Kaghan valley, it takes about 2 days on foot. There is a road as well which connects Burwai in Kaghan valley to Dowarian in Neelum Valley hence the approaching time has cut down manifolds.
- From Nuri-Nar Top through Dowarian Pass: It takes 2 days from the Nuri-Nar Top side and it is the most beautiful trek to access Ratti Gali lake.
- Gattian Lake via Gattian Pass: Gattian lake is on the left-hand side of the mountains, in the neighbourhood of the Ratti Gali lake. Local people cross the Gattian Pass and descend directly to the Ratti Gali lake. Tourists can reach Nuri-Nar Top through trekking from the lake and can descend to Sharda via Ratti Gali Pass.
- Tourists should get ample knowledge of the treks and routes before going anywhere.
- They must carry the map as well as the guide along-with them.
- Moreover carrying an appropriate stock of snacks, water and all other essential items is advisable. Because there is no proper food corner or kiosk available over there.
- They must hire a trained Guide or Porter, who should have relevant and accurate knowledge of the treks.
- Furthermore they ought to have appropriate information on the changing weather conditions.
Words of Advice:
- Tourists should refrain from littering.
- Littering includes wrappers of the snacks, tissue-papers, empty-bottles, wastage of food, garbage of the camping, pampers etc. which are clearly visible along the treks.
- Littering makes the environment filthy and polluted. Consequently the mountains are suffocating.
- It’s a humble request to all and sundry that please try to keep the atmosphere clean.
- It is advisable to carry an extra big shopper for collecting the trash and dumping it properly on return.
- It is our own homeland, so let’s not try to pollute it.
- Add your due share in preserving nature and keeping the environment refreshing, pure and healthy.
Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan