The sickening work schedules and grueling corporate culture delivers a devastating blow to the mind and spirits of those who find their solace outdoors. Like the hibernating amphibians, these shackled wanderers wait patiently for that time of the year when they can stretch themselves and travel the uncharted territories.
With the end of March, It’s the wonderful time of the year again when the spring with all its glory and color revitalizes the minds and souls of the nature lovers. In the scenic Hunza and Gilgit, Cherry and Apricot Blossom is all set to cover the valleys with their eye-catching fiery colors and fragrance. Northern Areas of Pakistan are already receiving heavy tourist influx for the last few years with their numbers rising progressively. Still, there are places which have eluded the eyes of the rugged travelers who can go to any extent to explore breathtaking places.
Following is The Bucket List 2018 of Top Ten least explored and heavenly places in Pakistan
10. Taobut, Kel, Arang Kel
The farthest point on the Neelum Valley road, Taobut is recklessly omitted by travelers visiting this breathtaking valley. With its unusual architecture where houses are mostly built out of straw wood and dried grass, Taobut, Kel and Arang Kel valleys in Neelum Azad Kashmir welcome tourists for a unique experience. Bordering with the arch rival India, Neelum valley attracts thousands of tourists in the region. Majority of these tourists make a final stopover in Sharda and miss out the opportunity to visit the valleys ahead including Kel and Arang Kel.
From Sharda onwards, the road is pliable for only 4x4 vehicles and it is important to gather firsthand information about road conditions before proceeding. Arang Kel is on the other side of the river and takes a spectacular 1.5hr hike to get to it. Decent accommodation including hotels and guest houses are also available. There is also a chairlift which takes tourists and locals from Kel to Arang Kel for a meager amount of money.
Taobut is the official end of the Neelum Valley road while those who have the contacts with the military arrangments in the area can trek further crossing over to Minimarg through three main passes including Chich, Shontar and Kamri. Chich Pass is dangerously close to LOC and permission to crossover through it is likely to be turned down. It is better to avoid crossing these passes during Monsoon. Beautiful valleys include Taobut, Halmat, Janawai and sardari. Lack of facilities for being at the border area and often suffering LOC ceasefire violations, these valleys have stayed in their pristine and unspoiled state offering tourists a treat for the senses.
09. Kumrat Valley Upper Dir
The spectacular and serene Kumrat Valley in upper Dir is one of the must-see destinations for explorers and enthusiasts. The valley has remained off-limits for a few years as the region embroiled in terrorism and counter-insurgency operations but it has attracted attention for the last few years with the hostility subsiding gradually.
People are friendly and one of the most hospitable in entire country. Some of the famous and breathtaking places include Jahaz Banda Lake, Katora Lake, Do Kala Chasma, and Pajgora river. Region is rich in flora and fauna including Markhors, Snow Leopards, Chakor, Deer, brown beer etc. Jahaz Banda and Katora Lakes also offer serene Camping sites and delicious Trout for Anglers.
08. Supat and Palas valleys Kohistan
West of the Kaghan road and southeast to the Karakorum Highway lies the serene and least explored Supat and Palas valleys of the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw. Kohistan is inhabited by people of some of the remote cultures of Pakistan. Bound by lush green Deodar forests, Nullahs and fresh water streams, Supat and Palas valleys offer rich grazing grounds for the cattle herders.
These valleys are rich in wildlife primarily because of lesser human interference. Ibex, Markhor, Snow leopards, deer, Marmots, and a wide variety of birds can be easily spotted while trekking in these valleys. Travelers interested to explore these valleys are advised to inform the local Police Station prior to leaving for the trek. It is also better to avoid carrying heavy cash, jewelry or expensive equipment etc. information for the route/guides and porters etc can be gathered from Damdama Village a few kilometers beyond Naran.
07. Dodipitsar/ Saral Lake Kaghan Valley
Located in the famous Lulusar-Dodipitsar National Park, these two lakes are some of the most sought after, yet difficult to reach lakes in Kaghan Valley. The trek leaves from Beosal on the right side of the road, crossing over the Kunhar River through wench pulleys. This is at least two days round trip if the explorers intend to witness the glory of both Dodipitsar and Saral Lakes.
Best time to barge on this trek is from mid-July to mid-September. These vast valleys are also rich in wildlife and mostly dwelled by seasonal cattle herders. Ideal for Angling as Dodipitsar is famous for the rare and delicious Golden Trout. These valleys are relatively safe then Kohistan region but traveling light is recommended.
The road to the ancient Silk Route, Ghizer is the western most district of Gilgit Baltistant. With its capital as Gahkuch. These areas are some of the scenic destinations on the Gilgit-Chitral road leading all the way into Shandor valley of Chitral. Safe for all travelers and easily accessible by road, Ghizer is relatively less traveled by mainstream tourists although it has a bounty of breathtaking sights and places.
Ghizer has five sub-divisions including Phander, Punial, Gupis, Ishkoman and Yasin, all of which have beautiful places to visit. Ghizer offers several beautiful Camping and fishing spots on the famous lakes including Handarap Lake, Phander Lake and Khalti Lake. Ghizer is also the gateway to the legendary Broghil through the Wakhan Corridor enroute to Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
05. Haramosh and Kutwal Lake
The exquisitely breathtaking and sparsely explored the beautiful Haramosh Valley and Kutwal Lake presents one of the top ranked destinations on this year’s Bucket List. The jeep track starts 53kms from Gilgit on Gilgit-Skardu road right from the shoulders of the raging Indus. Two day trek will lead us over tough hikes alongside gushing streams and dense coniferous forest crossing Mani glacier into the Kutwal Village.
Kutwal Lake campsite offers beautiful sites of Kutwal Lake, one of the high altitude lakes of the world at 3260m ASL, Haramosh Peak 7409m ASL, the legendary Laila Peak (south side) 6096m ASL and Haramosh pass 4800m ASL. Strictly a Camping trek, explorers are advised to carry warm clothing and all the necessary paraphernalia of camping and grocery items. People of the valley are friendly and always ready to help for a small amount of cash.
04. Diamir Base Camp Nanga Parbat
Diamir Base Camp is particularly notable for its rich history of climbing expeditions spanning for more than 100 years. From the early days of imperial expeditions to the mainstream explorers, all the way to the renegade Hippy climbing bums, Daimir Face has been the center of attraction thereby boasting of a unique climbing history unlike any other face of the mountain.
This trek, however, is not a weekend-trekker’s ball game. Contrary to the much hyped Fairy Meadows and Raikot face of Nanga Parbat, Diamir aka Diamoro (in local dialect) is much rugged, long and a raw trek. It takes a painstaking three days of a continuous trek to reach the south-western face of the mountain from where one can directly see the main summit standing at an altitude of 8,125m.
Strictly a camping affair, the altitude gain can be roughly broken down to 1000 vertical meters each day. Base Camp altitude is 4800m ASL. Explorers engaging this trek must be physically strong and experienced trekkers. The initial Jeep track leads from Gunar Das on KKH and takes to Jail- the last jeep able stop. From there onward, it takes three days to reach the Base Camp on foot. Region is safe and tourist friendly. Porters can be hired from Jail village.
Far from the madding crowd, Minimarg and Domel are normally out-of-bound for the usual tourist squad primarily for being at the border with India. For those who have the necessary will can always get a pass to trudge along these breathtaking valleys.
This difficulty in access has kept these places pristine and heavenly and away from the littering crowds who throng the neighboring Deosai with no regards to the environment. The only road access to Minimarg is via 4000 meters high Burzil Pass. This area remains disconnected from rest of the world for 7-8 months because of the snowfall.
This is also the road to the infamous Kargil region which was the flashpoint of 1999 war between Pakistan and India. Reaching upto 3500m ASL, the undulating slopes of Minimarg and Domel are lined up with never-ending Birch and Deodar tress adding to their immense beauty. Rainbow Lake is one of the must-visit places in Minimarg. This lake is known to change color throughout the day giving a mesmerizing look whenever a photograph is taken. Right connections in the Pakistan Military can ease out the travel red-tapes, opening up clean and nice places to spend the night and quality food along the lake side restaurants.
One of the trekkers dream destination is the remote Shimshal Valley and pass in the eastward of Passu on Karakorum Highway stretching all the way to the Chinese border. This is a two-day trek from Passu Upper Hunza and takes the trekkers northward of the Karakorums, presenting jaw-dropping sites of the mountain range. Difficult to access and one of the remote regions, Shimshal is a world which shoots right out of antiquity.
Remoteness of the region has helped Shimshali’s retain their thousands of years old traditions and culture. The road to Shimshal is perilous and presents a feat of workmanship. Most of the trek is handmade, piling stones and carving debris and rock. Home of some of the legendary mountaineers of Pakistan, Shimshal offers interesting climbing milestones for both amatuers as well as professionals. Destaghil Sar, Shimshal white horn, Minglik Sar are some of the widely known while there are yet others which have never been climbed or even named. Shimshal is truly a heaven for the explorers and adventurers.
01. Wakhan Corridor Lower Pamirs
Finally the Lion’s share as the most spectacular and least explored destinations goes to the legendary Wakhan Corridor in Lower Pamirs. One of the oldest routes on the Silk Road, Wakhan used to be the gateway to many ancient Caravans crossing over to the Central Asian states.
The Boroghil region along the Wakhan Corridor is an area yet to be explored. There exist secluded virgin valleys and grazing lands touching Afghanistan and the Central Asian states through this famous strip. While trekking we cross three passes starting with an easy stroll through the valleys and pastures. The scenery is captivating and out of this world.
There are two ways of getting into the Wakhan Corridor. From Chitral further north one can hire a 4x4 all the way upto Lasht. Another four days of trek will lead to the breathtaking Karombar Lake in the heart of Wakhan. To make it more exciting, Chilingi Pass to the Southeast can be taken which will eventually open up in Hunza Valley. Wakhi people are famous for their hospitality which is such that if you pass a village during a trek, you would be stopped and given salted tea, dildongi (flatbread) and dral (sweet dish similar to pancake).