Neelum valley is situated in the North & North Eastern side of Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir. Its elevation is 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level. The marvelous landscape, utmost scenic beauty, panoramic view, sky scraping hills occupy both sides of the meandering River Neelum. Lush green thick forests, enchanting streams and attractive surroundings make the valley a dream place to visit and spend some time in leisure. It is magnificently stretches as a jewel in the Heaven on the Earth; the valley of Kashmir. There are many sub-valleys in the beautiful Neelum valley; hence they are equally majestic and superb.
The Shounter valley is one such valley which lies in the Upper Neelum valley. Tourists can access it through a jeep track from Kel which remains open hardly for a few months of a year. The elevation of Shounter Pass is 4,420 meters (14,501 feet) above sea level, in Neelum valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. From Shounter valley, one can come across the Shounter Top (Pass) which opens into Astore valley at Rattoo village. Shounter lake is a small spoon-like beautiful lake which lies in the Shounter valley. The valley is the base-camp of Sarvali Peak, Chitta Katha lake and the crossing point of the Shounter Pass into Astore valley.
Shounter is quite a famous lake of the Shounter valley. The elevation of the valley is 10,200 feet (3,100 meters) above sea level. The water source of the lake is the inflow of the glacial water from the icy peaks of the surrounding mountains. The water of the lake reflects the snowy mountain peaks, greenery and the specimens of Iris hookeriana, which surround the lake and give it a eye-catching view. The lake is accessible through Kel in Neelum valley, by a jeep track.
The best time to visit the Shounter valley is from May to August because it remains snow-stricken most of the time in a year. Tourists can reach there by a Jeep track which remains open in four or five months in the summers; otherwise trekking is the only option to get there. The whole valley is famous for its beautiful lakes, in Pakistan as well as all over the world. The landscape and scenery of the valley is really enchanting and breathtaking.
Routes and Treks:
For the alpine trekkers, Neelum valley offers a lot of trekking opportunities. Tourists can reach Naran through Nuri-Nar Top from Sharda whereas Ratti Gali lake is another beautiful lake of the valley. The trek to the Ratti Gaii lake starts from Dowarian and it leads further to Naran. Tourists can reach to Chitta Katha lake from the Domail village, Kel in Neelum valley. It is an exciting opportunity to cross the Shounter Pass from Shounter village and then to reach Astore valley in 2 or 3 days by trekking. It is a less explored area of the valley rather it gives a promising experience to unveil it. Its beauty and charm is well narrated in the Travelogues by the travelers and the peak time for the trekking is, in the months of July and August.
There is another route from Jagran to Baboon valley from the Lower Neelum valley. Furthermore tourists can reach to Makra and from there downward to Shogran en-route to Bhairi in the time span of two days. In addition to it, there is another alternate trek which reaches to the Neela-Pahar as well as the Ganja-Pahar from Bhairi, Neelum valley. In the same area one can locate the Machiara National Park; which is established for the protection of the rare and valuable but vanishing wild-life species of the valley.
Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan