Swat, once a hot-bed of militants and religious extremists who poured in the valley from the adjoining Agencies in the north, has now been restored comprehensively following a brilliantly-executed operation by the Pakistani military.
The last two years in general and the current season in particular, received an overwhelming influx of tourists in the region, never experienced before. Notwithstanding the fact that every entering vehicle is scrutinized before entering the valley, interrogated by a check post almost every 50 kms, it was something the new generation of tourists were willing to undergo to quench their thirst and witness the brilliance of the valley.
Unlike Naran-Kaghan valley, the hotel and tourism industry in the valley was not able to develop with the passage of time and although the valley has only a handful of quality hotels to offer, they are good enough o provide the basic amenities to the visitors who come driving and riding from the bustling metropolises of the country.
An average hotel charges approximately 1000 PKR for a double-room during the off-season while charges for a similar room soar to a whooping 6000PKR during the peak season. The season kicks off with the announcement of summer vacations in schools and colleges and lasts till the end of August, providing a healthy window of three months when the hotels are able to make enough to sustain the winter stretch of low turnout.
The valley holds some of the picturesque glacial lakes in the country, including the famous Mahodand Lake seated some 35 kms from Kalam, deep inside the valley. Other prominent but less explored lakes include the emerald green Kharkhari Lake, Spil-Khor Lake, Kandol Lake alongside the gigantic granite structure, the Falak-sair peak in the Hindukhush range.
Trudging along the Swat River, the road was completely washed away by the floods of 2010 and the current road, dug out a few meters away from the old one, is rugged and tiresome. Yet, this was not enough to deter the enthusiastic tourists from heading towards the scenic valley which has remained off-limits for almost five long years.
To cite a recent example, one of the hotel owner narrated the ordeal of a family stuck in a 20km long traffic jam during the Eid holidays this year and had to return back to Lahore as the Hotel owners had to cancel their advance booking in wake of late arrival.
The valley is accessible throughout the winter season as the road is kept clear by the machinery provided by Army and the hotels will also be entertaining the guests through the gruesome winters in the valley.