And it’s easy to see why Naran Kaghan is a scenic wonderland. The valley is a jewel and is the queen of all beautiful valleys in South-East Asia. This place has a natural instinct that sucks you in its spellbound beauty. The only problem backpacking Naran Kaghan is, you don’t want to come back as Naran weather feels like spring all year long.
One of the reasons of Naran Kaghan popularity is its location and easy access; it is just a few hours’ drive from the capital Islamabad (7 to 8 hours is a maximum). The valley is a marvel of the Mansehra district of Hazara in KPK. The valley extends 160 km, rising from an elevation of 2,134 feet to its highest point, the Babusar Pass, at 13,690 feet.
The valley spreads across a large area and has a lot to offer which makes it impossible to discover everything in a single trip. The attractions loaded everywhere, so be ready to come back another time and cover what you missed or plan a stay for more than a week.
Exploring the Area
The best attractions are across the river kunhar which flows through the length of the valley. The road to Kaghan is exciting because of the deep slopes and the lofty mountains stretching side by side ends of the river. The first ten miles are mainly barren, but when the valley rises to about 5,000 ft, the forests of pine and fir appear. The region is densely overgrown with a variety of plants and considered as ‘the botanist’s paradise’. A beautiful river runs the length of the valley with forest and meadows dominating the landscape, as well as numerous peaks that reach over 17,000 feet in the sky.
Planning a Trip
Back Packing Naran Kaghan is gold but for the best, pre-departure planning is important. Here are certain things you should watch for and plan for.
There are two feasible seasons to visit Naran Kaghan. For alpine-skating and ice-skating the best time starts in the mid of December and lasts till the first week of January. This season is for rough and tough adventurers due to heavy snowfall and land sliding.
For family visits the best season starts form may and lasts till the end of July/august. During this session you can easily go till Babusar Pass.
It’s good to spare some time and do proper budgeting before you land in the valley. In seasonal days the prices of food and accommodation gets very high that’s why, save some money before leaving and always ensure to have a backup reserve for emergency cases.
The average cost per person for a trip of 4 days and three nights is around 15,000 approx. The price may vary to the standard of hotel. The best way to save money is move in group of 4-6 people and have shared accommodations.
There are more than 3000 hotel rooms in the region ranging from price as low as Rs.5000 per night for an average room to a maximum of Rs.25000 per night for a luxury spacing. A directory of hotel rooms with their telephone numbers is available on internet, so book rooms prior to leaving; otherwise you may end up sleeping in your car in the middle of the night.
- The car or any other vehicle that you are using is fully reliable and in a position to beat mountainous track.
- The road is a bit frightening and unsmooth so the driver must be tough and experienced.
- You are in a perfect health state, better to consult your physician for advice.
- Talk to your acquaintances that have done a similar trip.
- Read everything you can about the area.
- Draft a rough outline of your trip that might have three or four target points and a variety of ways to get between them.
- Pack light. Only bag essentials. It’s pretty troublesome to carry things in the mountains.
- The locals are very friendly and welcoming.
- Naran has good coverage of mobile signals so you are well connected there. But as soon as you move away from Naran you wont find any signals. Add these numbers to you Phone Book,
- Telephone Enquiry, Naran PTDC Exchange 0997-430000
- PTDC Tourist Information Centre, PTDC Motel Naran 0997-430002
- Post Office, Naran 0997-430017
- Basic Health Unit, Naran 0997-430018
- Police Post, Naran 0997-430075
- FWO Exchange Naran 0997-430156
- T-PAK Tourist Facilitation Centre, Balakot 0997-501061
- PTDC Tourist Facilitation Centre, Abbottabad 0992-501558
You can either make your own way or turn to guided tour companies. Travelers from KPK can directly make their way via Abottabad to Mansehra. However, those coming from south Punjab and Sindh must stay for few hours in Islamabad to replenish energy levels.
Company Guided Tours
The leading tour operators use their expertise and locals fanatics to lead their tours. Choose your tour operator wisely, based on its experience or you can even turn to Facebook to check their reputation. Tour prices can be high, but most participants consider them a trip highlight.
Company guided tours are good for families as it’s make you hassle free and you can enjoy to the fullest. There is no struggle of hotel bookings, food and even First aid in emergency cases. These tour operators have connections around the area with the local residents, hospitals and security departments, so you don’t have to worry at all. Plus they also provide a lot of fun activities for children and families that would have been difficult for you to manage alone.
Self- guided tour is a little tough but, you save handful of money. The best thing about self guided tour is that you can wander around freely with no time restrictions. There are many eating and dine out places that are of good quality and dirt cheap. You can get maximum adventure by the way you want. Spend your nights across the river kunhar, doing bonfire, bbq and all night fishing.
For those who are looking for local transportation means, Public transport runs few times a day from Mansehra in summer. Pakistan Tourist Development Corporation has an air conditioned bus service between Rawalpindi and Naran.
History & Culture of Naran Kaghan
Naran Kaghan is not just about exploring mountains, it’s also a discovery of whole another civilization. People of this ecstatic valley follow a rich cultural tribunal system that has been preserved over the decades and passed on to the next generations systemically.
The international visitors are more vulnerable and instantly fall in love with the customs and norms of these tribes.
One of a Swedish backpackers who got head over heels said,
“In all my years of backpacking, I have seen many communities preserving and celebrating their culture, but I am stunned by the persistence of people of this valley. 1600ft hanging in the sky, the resilient inhabitants have guarded their tradition against the bizarre international happenings, making it a heaven on earth”
The hospitality of locals is worth praising. The crime rate is extremely low and suburbs are peaceful. So, let yourself discover the tranquility of Mother Nature.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and craft is a major source of earning of the locals. The bazaars and local markets are loaded with the beautiful handmade bracelets, scarves, cutlery, cloths, carpets and the list goes on. Women can find a lot of beauty products and household stuff too. Do spare some money for shopping, it’s worth spending.
The folk music is just amazing. The poetry and the instruments are soothing and give tremendous relaxation and joy. Let yourself loose in the folk music especially at night with the bonfire.
Eating and Drinking
It is best to try the local food and traditional cuisines. Give a try to Kabuli Pulao, Dumpkhut, Chapali Kabab and dig into the steaming bowls of soup and platters of fresh fish and more at the famous local restaurants.
For full-fledge discovery, even months are not enough. The valley has so much to offer that you can never cover the whole valley in a single trip. However, we are highlighting the best places that you just can’t afford to miss.
The adventure starts right away from Islamabad and after 72km comes the first hallmark “Balakot”. Town of Balakot is situated at the bank of River Kunhar and is considered as a gateway to Kaghan valley. The journey between Balakot and Mansehra is mesmerizing due to thick forest and scenic beauty of the area. Balakot is also a famous historic battle point because of Syed Ahmed Shaheed who got martyred fighting Sikh army in 1831.
It’s a hill station approximately 30Km North of Balakot. It is famous for sky touching pine forests, lush green fields and stunning panoramic views. Shogran is a peaceful place to relax and meditate. You can easily find hotels in Shogran for tourists.
3. Sari Paya
Sari Paya which is also known as Sari and Paya is beautiful green meadow carpeted land, covered under clouds and mesmerizing scenery of snowy mountains, at the height of more than 9000 feet. Its spectacular view of Malika Parbat is not too good but this place is worth seeing. The region is full of dense pine forests and wild species of alpine flowers.
4. Dudipatsar Lake
This striking lake which is most commonly known as Dudiptsar Lake or Dudipat Lake is located in the Lalusar Dedupatsar National Park, one hour drive from the town of Naran. The lake is crystal and reflects like a mirror during summers. The lake is surrounded by snow clad peaks and is only accessible from June to September every year.
Lalazar is a phenomenal mountainous Plateau at 11000ft, about 30 km from Naran. The Views are breathtaking with cool mountain breeze, smell of pine & wild flowers, snow on the side & beautiful streams and waterfalls.
Water from springs/streams is pure & drinkable. Best time to visit is from May to mid September because it is normally closed during other months due to heavy snowfall.
Jalkhad is a very peaceful and beautiful village located at far deep ends of the kaghan valley. River Kunhar along with the valley gets wide at Jalkhad makes it more cold and the best picnic spot to get out of Naran’s hustle and spend a peaceful day in the valley.
7. Saif ul Malook Lake
There is no question about Saif ul Malook as various travel magazines have regarded is the most beautiful lake on the planet. It is situated 7 Kilometers from Naran Bazaar and is 10,000 ft from sea level. Lake Saiful Muluk has a captivating spiritual side and has been mentioned a lot in love poetry and fantasy fairy tales. The lake is so sensational that people actually believe that fairies come down to lake in full moon.
8. Babusar Top
It is the highest point in Kaghan Valley and babusar pass connects Gilgit Baltistan with KPK. Babusar Top can be reached by Babusar Pass; the winding road is known to be one of the world’s scenic hair pinned roads. You can get guidance about the route from the PTDC or Northern Areas Public Works Department (NAPWD) executive engineer office in Chilas. Natco drivers are also a good source of information.
9. Lulusar Lake
The lake is at a height of 11,200 ft above sea level. The locality is famous for the scenic and large Lulusar Lake, which is a popular tourism and is regarded as a “Mysterious Place in High Mountains”. The Lake is much larger than other lakes in the Kaghan Valley, and has mirror-like water reflecting the surrounding snowcapped Lulusar Mountains, creating a natural tourist attraction. In summer many domestic and as well as a large number of international visitors arrive at the Lake to see this enchanting wonder.
10. Ansoo Lake
Thanks to Pakistan Air force once again for bringing us this masterpiece. The lake was discovered in 1993 when PAF pilots were flying low in the area and today it is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the Pakistan. It takes more than 7 hours for a round trip to Ansoo Lake starting from Lake Saiful Mulook. The trek is covered with snow in most parts of the year. The best time to trek is from July 10 to August 15. The optimal time to set off for the lake from Saiful Mulook is around 06:00 in the morning, in order to return before sunset. Horses and guides can also be hired from the Lake Saiful Mulook.
Top Things To Do
Apart from discovering and getting lost in mountains, there is a long list of amazing activities that you must try to give your trip a Classic Finish.
- Bonfire and BBQ by the river Kunhaar
- Horse Riding in Siri Paye
- Trying you Luck in fishing by the river
- Meditation and the sunrise at Balakot
- Getting lost in the sea of green fairy meadows
- Testing Your Limits at Naga Parbat
- Rowing in the challenging Lakes
- Crossing the terrifying bridges across the river
- Capturing the amazing sunset at Ansoo Jheel
- Attend a Flying Lanter Event at Lalazar
- Camping at the Babusar Top
- And Last but not the least making new friends, celebrating nature and some chaye shaye at Roadside Dhabbas