Neelum Valley, situated in Azad Kashmir, (Pakistan-administered) is a dream destination for tourists seeking natural beauty and tranquility. For those planning a trip to explore this pristine region, here’s a guide on how to make the most of your journey.
Travel from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad
To reach Neelum Valley, you can start your journey from Islamabad via the Express Highway and continue on the Murree Road. Once you reach the end of the Express Highway, take the left turn onto Murree Road, which leads to the capital of Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad.
Use Hazara Motorway for Hassle-free Travel
Tourists coming from Hazara can use the Hazara Motorway for a more convenient journey. It’s essential to note that due to its proximity to the Line of Control (LoC), mobile phone services are limited in Neelum Valley. Only SCOM (SCO Mobile) services are available in most areas, providing 4G internet. However, Ufone’s signal can be found in roaming mode, but internet services are not guaranteed. So, it’s advisable to get a SCOM SIM card in Muzaffarabad before proceeding further.
Choose Your Stay in Muzaffarabad or Neelum Valley
Upon arriving in Muzaffarabad, you can decide whether to stay overnight or continue your journey to Neelum Valley. Traveling to Neelum Valley at night is generally discouraged due to safety concerns. If you arrive in Muzaffarabad during the evening, it’s recommended to stay overnight in the city. Muzaffarabad offers a variety of hotels and guesthouses to suit different budgets, ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 PKR per night.
Traveling to Neelum Valley
If you decide to continue your journey the next day, head towards Neelum Valley via the Murree Road or Link Road from the city center. Along the way, you’ll pass through various tourist points, such as Punggran Waterfall, Dhanni Waterfall, Neelum Jhelum Dam, and the Line of Control Chelhana Checkpost. It takes approximately 3.5 hours to reach Keran from Muzaffarabad.
Stay Options in Keran
In Keran, you’ll find multiple guesthouses and hotels for accommodation. The rates can vary from 2,500 PKR to 8,000 PKR per night. Choose your stay according to your budget.
Exploring Sharda and Sharda University
From Keran, you can plan a day trip to Sharda, known for its ancient temples and Sharda University. Enjoy the natural beauty of the area and soak in the cultural heritage.
Ratti Gali Lake Trek
For trekking enthusiasts, Ratti Gali Lake is a must-visit destination. You can trek through picturesque landscapes to reach this stunning alpine lake.
Leepa Valley and Beyond
Leepa Valley offers unique beauty, apple orchards, and a glimpse into the local culture. You can also explore further destinations like Toli Pir, Sudhan Gali, Banjosa Lake, and Rawalakot, all known for their distinct attractions.
Stay in Neelum or Return to Muzaffarabad
After exploring these beautiful locations, you can either stay in Neelum Valley or return to Muzaffarabad for the night, depending on your itinerary.
- If you plan to visit Ratti Gali Lake, make sure to carry energy snacks, instant drinks, and essential trekking gear.
- Consider hiring a local driver with a 4WD vehicle for safe travel, especially on challenging roads.
- Remember that Neelum Valley has limited mobile phone service, so it’s essential to plan your communication accordingly.
- Neelum Valley offers a breathtaking experience for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Whether you prefer trekking, enjoying the tranquility of nature, or exploring cultural heritage, Neelum Valley has something to offer every traveler. Enjoy your journey through this picturesque region and make lasting memories.
Dowarian to Ratti Gali
The journey from Dowarian to Ratti Gali Base Camp, where vehicles can go, is approximately 18 kilometers and this 18 km distance takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to cover. Spend the night at Ratti Gali Base Camp where you can set up your own tent, otherwise tents are available for rent at the base camp. After spending the night at Ratti Gali Base Camp, start trekking on foot towards Ratti Gali Lake in the morning, the lake is approximately 40 minutes away from the base camp.
Spend the most beautiful day of your life at Ratti Gali Lake and after estimating the weather conditions during the day, reach back to the base camp by 12 o’clock and then start the journey back to Dowarian. After reaching Dowarian, head for Sharda. The distance from Dowarian to Sharda is approximately 2 hours.
Remember that the road condition is not very good after Dowarian, so drive carefully. Spend the night in Sharda, where there are many hotels and guest houses. Here you can also do motor boating and cross the Sharda Bridge to visit the ancient Sharda University. If you have time and intend to go ahead, you will reach Kel about 1.5 hours after Sharda by driving very carefully. Park your car in the parking lot and leave for Arang Kel from Kel by chairlift.
After the chairlift, there is approximately 35 to 40 minutes of hiking. (Remember that the chairlift often closes before sunset) Spend the night in Arang Kel and wake up early in the morning to see the beautiful valley. After that, return from Kel and leave for Taobat from Kel by jeep or personal 4WD vehicle.
The distance from Kel to Taobat is approximately 40 kilometers which takes about 3 hours to cover. The rent for jeep booking is approximately 12 to 13 thousand. Try to spend the night at a perfect place in Taobat, if you intend to return then leave for Kel around 2 o’clock in the day. Try to reach Kutton or Kundal Shahi back at night.
After spending the night, get up the next morning and head towards Jagran Baboon Valley via Kutton or Kundal Shahi. You can take your own car to Jagran or you can take a 4WD vehicle from Kundal Shahi or Kutton which will be available for 10 to 12 thousand. You will reach Jagran in half an hour.
From Jagran, you will reach Baboon Valley in about 2 hours and as soon as you reach, the first word that will come out of your tongue will be something like this. “Wow Baboon what a thing” After seeing Allah’s natural beauty all day long, spend the night back in Kutton or Kundal Shahi. After breakfast in the morning, start your return journey while watching Kundal Shahi Waterfall. May Allah be your protector
Some important Tips:
Neelum Valley is a mountainous area, drive with extreme caution. And especially driving continuously in a state of sleep can prove extremely dangerous.
When coming to Neelum Valley, keep warm shawls, warm clothes, jackets, hats, gloves and socks according to your need.
Since it is not possible to reach hospitals etc quickly in Neelum Valley, keep emergency medicines such as fever, colds, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation etc., bandages and iodine etc with you.
Ratti Gali and Baboon Valley are located at a very high altitude from sea level so keep good quality sun block creams with you to protect your skin from ultra violet rays.
During any area tour, respect and privacy of local people there and do not make any home or woman’s picture without permission, it can cause quarrels and embarrassment for you.
Do not try to take any vehicle other than a 4WD vehicle on raw or soling roads because it can be dangerous for your life. Jeep rents go up and down so don’t assume these are fixed rates.
Note: This is a general tour there are many other places besides this to visit which include Shounter Valley, Chitta Katha Lake, Gutia.