Leepa is an alluring and beautiful valley in Kashmir and lies at an elevation of 2,133 metres (6,998 feet) above sea level. It is accessible through Reshian and Dao Khan, 105 kilometres (65 miles) away from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir. Leepa valley is located along the Line of Control (LOC). Naukot is the biggest village of the valley and 8 kilometres away from the main bazar of Leepa. The valley remains snow-stricken throughout the winters. The tourist season starts from May till November.
Leepa valley, formerly a Princely State of Azad Kashmir, and earlier its name was Karnah. It is connected to Muzaffarabad through Naili, Reshian Galli and Dao Khan. The elevation of Reshian Galli is about 3,200 metres (10,499 feet) above sea level. From Dao Khan a downward journey starts towards the Leepa valley. The elevation of Leepa valley is 1,677 metres (5,502 feet) above sea level.
Naukot is the biggest village of the valley. Moji, Lubh Garran, Said Pura, Chak Muqam, Banna Mula, Kahsra, Gajj Pura, Batllian, Gijjar Taahr, Satt Pura, Mandal, Kasr Kot, Huddan, Chanola, Muda Kulli, Chananian, Khalwara, and Karayaan are other villages of the valley. Leepa is a very fertile and rich valley. The real charm of it lies in the rice fields which are a real summer treat. The variety of its rice, especially the Red rice is its forte. Its tasty, mouth-watering and aromatic fruits like Cherry and Apple are popularly well known.
The architectural style is ancient and wooden. The structure of every house is a masterpiece in itself. Typical Kashmiri architecture makes the building worth visiting place. The Walnut of Leepa is widely appreciated everywhere and is even exported to the various countries of the world. Almost all the families of the valley have an asset of walnut trees in their possession and they earn a handsome amount from its export. Their living standard is significantly higher. Besides Walnut, Cherry Apple, and many other fruits, the valley produces the best quality honey.
The people of Leepa valley speak Kashmiri, Hindko and Urdu as well. The population of the valley is about 75,000 inhabitants. Their earning source relies on farming, cattle rearing, and business like selling of walnut, fruits, honey. They happily provide services to the tourists. In short, they are mainly self-employment.
There is a small hydro-electric project in the Leepa valley, which produces 2MW of electricity. It is quite sufficient for the local population.
The highest peak of the Leepa valley is Shamsa Bari, which remains snow-capped nearly all the year round.
Since Leepa is located along the Line of Control (LOC) between Pakistani and Indian Kashmir, an NOC is essential for Pakistani tourists to visit the valley. NOC can be obtained from the DCO Jhelum Valley (Hattian Bala). Tourists should have to bring their CNIC for the approval.
A metal road leads to the valley, along the right bank of River Jhelum up to Reshian through Muzaffarabad, Garhi Dopatta, Dhanni Baqallan, Hattian Bala, Naili, Sain Bagh, Reshian, Dao Khan and finally enters the Leepa valley.
Reshian is the gateway to the valley. There are three different routes, which lead to Leepa;
- The Defense Road, which connects to the valley at Hanjna.
- Barthwar Galli.
- Bali Camp.
Mode of Transportation:
A car can go up to Dao Khan, but afterward the road is shingle. A Jeep or any Four-Wheeler is a must for safe and enjoyable journey.
A Private Tourist Rest House and Forest Rest House provide accommodation facilities to the tourists. But as the number of tourists increases manifolds in the summers, Tourism Department of AJK provides Tent Services as a substitute.
The best tourist season is from May to September.
Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan