You the majesty, you the monarch….
You won my heart, O Majesty!
Azad Kashmir is a beautiful state in North of Punjab Province and in the East of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. Mother-nature has generously blessed it with all the four perfectly blended seasons and a superb climatic atmosphere. Many different but unique attributes are collected in just one place which are truly magnificent and all the visitors are all praiseful of the creator. One can see here the lofty mountains, the vast plains, the high altitude grassy meadows, the thick forests, the meandering rivers, the entwining springs, the musical waterfalls, the mystic lakes and it all goes on the heavenly route. In this article, I will try to give more relevant information on the famous lakes in Azad Kashmir.
3,199 feet (975 meters)
Samahni Valley, Bhimber
Baghsar is a beautiful lake and it is situated on 975 meters (3,199 feet) above sea-level, in the Samahni valley in Bhimber District of Azad Kashmir. The lake is a popular tourist resort and its surface area spreads over half a kilometre which overlooks the Bandala valley. Baghsar is 12 kilometres away of Samahni town, in the East whereas Jandichontra is only 12 kilometres away. It is suitably an inhabitant place for the local as well as the migratory birds, especially ducks and geese are found abundantly. The lake is surrounded by the hills and pine trees. Furthermore so many water lily flowers are keep on floating over the surface of the lake.
Tourists can also visit to the Baghsar Fort on a hilltop from the lake side, which belongs to the Mughal Era. The four storey granite structure of the historical fort is significantly refers to reigns of Ahmed Shah Abdali, Ranjit Singh and Maharaja Gulab Singh. Mughal Emperor Jahangir is said to be fell ill there, while on his way back from the Kashmir valley and ultimately died in the fort.
Baghsar Lake < Bhimber < 162 Kilometers < Islamabad < 3 Hour-10 Minute
6,499 feet (1,981 meters)
Banjosa lake is situated in Banjosa, Poonch District of Azad Kashmir. It is an artificial lake and a popular tourist resort as well. It is just 20 kilometres (12 miles) away from the city of Rawalakot. Its altitude is 6,499 feet (1,981 meters) above sea-level. The lake is surrounded by mountains and the thick forest of pine trees, which enhances the beauty and charm of the lake manifolds.
The weather of the area remains cool even in the summers and colder in the winters; with mandatory snowfall in the months of December and January, consequently the temperature falls to -5 C°.
Banjosa lake is accessible by a metal road from Rawalakot and Public transport is available between Rawalakot and Banjosa on daily basis.
Accommodation facilities are provided by the rest houses and huts of AJK Tourism and Archaeology Department, Pakistan Public Works Department and Pearl Development Authority, along with some private Hotels, Guest Houses and Tuck Shops. Tourist can avail a market in Chhota Gala town which is at a distance of merely a kilometer (0.62 mile) from Banjosa. Nearly all the GSM operators are working in the area around the lake.
Banjosa Lake < Rawalakot < 114 Kilometers < 3 Hour-5 Minute < Islamabad
13,600 feet (4,100 meter)
Surgan, Neelum Valley
We rightly adore the Neelum valley with the name of “the valley of lakes”, as there are so many lakes in the valley and numerous are yet be explored. The beautiful lake of Saral is among the most beautiful lakes of the valley, which is located at an altitude of 13,600 feet (4,100 meters) above sea level.
The lake is accessible through three routes;
- From Sharda by a Jeep track and a hiking trek via Surgan village/pass which takes two days to reach to the lake.
- The second trek is through Jalkhad < Nori-Nar Road < Jabba Galli Top. It is comparatively an easy route because it is a jeepable road. Jabba Galli route takes merely 2 to 3 hour of trekking to reach to the lake.
- The third route is through Dudipatsar lake and it takes 5 hours to access the lake from there.
Saral Lake < Neelum Valley < Neelum Road < Muzaffarabad < 125 Kilometers < 3 Hour-10 Minute < Islamabad
2,417 feet (737 meters)
Subri lake (also Langarpura lake) is 10 kilometers (6 miles) in the South-East of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir. The lake is formed within the Jhelum River at a place called Subri and nearly got disappeared due to past heavy flooding. It was beautiful lake and river Jhelum fed it. The lake was along the Jhelum valley road and can be accessed just in 10-minute drive from Muzaffarabad. There is literally no trekking to get there.
Islamabad < 125 kilometers < Muzaffarabad < Langerpura < 10 Kilometers < 10 Minute < Subri Lake
10,200 feet (3,100 meter)
Shounter Valley, AJK
Shounter lake is another beautiful lake of Neelum valley of Azad Kashmir. This spoon-like lake is found in Shounter valley, a valley which connects to Neelum valley and located at an elevation of 10,200 feet (3,100 meters) above sea level. The source of the lake is the inflow of the glacial water of the surrounding snowy mountains. One can see the lush green patches of grasslands with abundance of Iris hookeriana around the lake. The lake is accessible through Kel by a jeep track.
The best time to visit Shounter valley is from May to August, because otherwise it remains snow-stricken most of the year. Jeep track is feasible only in the summer months; moreover trekking is the only option to get there.
Tourists can access Naran through Noori-Nar Top from Sharda. They can avail the exciting opportunity to cross the Shounter Pass from Shounter village and to reach Astore valley in 2 to 3 days through trekking. The treks from Jagran as well as Baboon valley trek can also be explored through this route. From the Lower Neelum valley, tourists can go to Makra Basecamp and from there descend to Shogran from Bhairi in 2 days of trekking. Another trek is from the Neela Pahar and Ganja Pahar en-route to Bhairi area of Neelum valley, where Machiara National Park can also be visited. The Park is set up for the protection of the endangered wild-life species of the area.
Islamabad < 125 Kilometers < 3 Hour-10 Minute < Muzaffarabad < Neelum Valley < Shounter Valley < Shounter Lake
Chitta Katha Lake:
13,500 feet (4,100 meter)
Shounter Valley, AJK
Chitta Katha lake is another gem of the Shounter valley of Azad Kashmir. Its elevation is 13,500 feet (4,100 meter) above sea level. Chitta Katha is a local name which literally means white stream. The stream is gushing out of the lake called Chitta Katha Sar (lake) from the Mount Hari Parbat. This mountain is considered a sacred place for some people who relate it to the Lord Shiva (an abode of their Lord) and identify it as Kailash.
Kel is the base-camp to the lake. Shounter valley lies next to Kel, whereas the trek starts from Domel. If tourists will go in ascending, along with the Shounter Nullah (Ravine), they will find a shortcut on their left hand side to access the lake. Though the tourists can reach to the lake in just 3 hours but it is a bit risky trek. Tourists usually opt for a rather longer route to the lake, which takes about 8 hours of trekking to reach there to the lake. On this route tourists mainly prefer camping at Duk I, for an overnight stay and then go to lake on the next morning. From Duk I, ascending gets a bit steep. They can complete trekking to the Chitta Katha within a day and can come back to Domel Bala at night.
Islamabad < 125 Kilometers < 3 Hour-10 Minute < Muzaffarabad < Neelum Valley < Shounter Valley < Chitta Katha Lake
9,652 feet (2,942 metres)
Ganga Choti, Bagh
The charm and charisma of Ganga Choti in Bagh District of Azad Kashmir is called Ganga lake or Ganga-Sar. It is a high-altitude lake, at an elevation of 2,942 meters (9,652 feet) above sea level. It lies in the foothill of Ganga Choti Peak in the Pir Panjal Mountain Range which is a sub-range of Himalayan Mountain Range. The lake is accessible through a Jeepable track from Bagh.
Islamabad < 147 Kilometers < Bagh < 3 Hour-32 Minute < Ganga Choti < Ganga-Sar (Lake)
5,997 feet (1,828 meters)
Chikar, Azad Kashmir
This lake is aftermath of Earthquake of 2005. It was created when the severe landsliding blocked the course of the river and consequently five villages were inundated which caused a massive destruction of the surrounding area. Afterward a spillway for the smooth inflow of water was created.
The lake is situated in Lodhi-abad near Chikar, at a distance of 46 kilometers from Muzaffarabad in the South. A metal road leads from Dhanni Baqallan which is a small beautiful village. It is about 33 kilometers away from Muzaffarabad which further leads to Chikar. It is a summer hill station of Azad Kashmir. The elevation of Chikar is almost 5,997 feet (1,828 meters) above sea level. The main attribute of this beautiful place is its cool climate in the summers and its picturesque scenery. Tourists can see the magnificent view of the nearby sub-valleys as well.
Islamabad < 125 Kilometers < 3 Hour-10 Minute < Muzaffarabad < 46 Kilometers < Chikar < Lodhi-abad < Zilzal Lake
Hans Raj Lake:
Hans Raj lake is one more beautiful lake in the Neelum valley and tourists can access it through Ratti Galli lake trek. The tourist season for Hans Raj lake starts from mid-June to mid-September. There are three routes to Ratti Galli as well as Hans Raj lake;
- Dowarian to Neelum Valley,
- Burwai to Kaghan Valley,
- Jalkhad to Kaghan Valley.
The first trek is from Jalkhad (Nuri-Nar Top) < Dowarian < Noori Lake < Hans Raj Lake < Ratti Galli.
It can further be elaborated as;
- Naran to Jalkhad
The trek starts from Naran and it takes about 2 hours by a private jeep/van to reach to Jalkhad. The Jeeps/Porters/Guides can be hired from the starting point of the Nuri-Nar Top.
- Jalkhad to Nuri-Nar Top
It may take up to three hours to reach Nuri-Nar Top. Its merely a 17 kilometer track from Jalkhad.
2. Nuri-Nar Top to Noori Lake
The trek is divided into two sub-treks, which go further in two different directions; one goes to Noori lake and the other one goes to the Ratti Galli Pass.
3. Noori Lake to Hans Raj Lake:
First of all, it takes about half an hour trekking to the starting point from Ratti Galli Pass which might take up to 2 hours to cross the Pass. After crossing the Pass, the journey starts towards the Shounter Pass (Top). It is the same point from where visitors may take a glimpse of the deep bluish Hans Raj lake which is visible from the Shounter Top. Almost an hour of further trekking needs for reaching to Hans Raj lake from the Top.
It seems like moderately steep descending towards Dowarian when finally the journey towards home starts via Muzaffarabad.
Hans Raj Lake < Dowarian < Sharda < Athmuqam < Muzaffarabad < 125 Kilometers < Islamabad < 3 Hour-10 Minute
Logistic Support: Saral Lake/Chitta Katha Lake < Iftikhar Alvi Alvi
Logistic Support: Hans Raj < Mobeen Mazhar
Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan