Located on the eastern side of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Kaghan valley is a treasure trove of natural resources, fabulous landscape and enthralling water bodies attracting thousands of tourists from different walks of life. The high land pastures serve as summer grazing grounds for the local cattle owners who move uphill in summer and downhill in winter due to severe climatic conditions.
Most families have small summer houses in the traditional Alpine ranges. Their large number of livestock, literally thousands of animals wintering in the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab use the alpine meadows of Kaghan during summer.
Fed by streams originating from the nearby surrounding watersheds, Lake Lulusar, Lake Dudipat, Lake Saiful Maluk and Lake Ansoo are large fresh-water lakes in Naran, District Mansehra. These wetland-based parks are indeed the prime slots on the tourists’ itinerary.
Lake Lulusar is located about 350km from Mansehra. Situated at an altitude of 3,353m along the Naran-Chilas road, Lulusar Lake is about one-hour drive from Naran town; on the edge of Kaghan valley and Kohistan boundary, the lake is visited by a large number of migratory waterfowls and tourists every year. Dudipat is the most beautiful lake situated at the boundary of Kashmir and Kaghan valley and serves as a breeding place for trout.
Emerald-green lakes surrounded by snow-clad peaks and alpine pastures provide a taste of Switzerland in the heart of KP
Lulusar and Dudipat lakes have been declared as Lulusar-Dudipat National Park in 2003, covering an area of 30,375 hectares in district Mansehra, with a view to protect the wetlands and their associated biodiversity.
|The emerald-green Dudipat Lake|
Dudipat Lake is situated in the extreme north of Kaghan valley at an altitude of 4,175m and is accessible from Jalkhad through a four-hour hike. The climate of Lulusar wetland is temperate and alpine in character with maximum temperatures varying between 28°C to 30°C, while Dudipat Lake has a cold climate with temperatures varying from -5°C to 20°C. High peaks remain snow bound for most of the year and the meadows provide grazing grounds for the livestock of the nomads.
Situated in the western Himalayan mountain ranges, Dudipat is best for a two-day trip for individuals as well as groups. The area has majestic scenery that compels tourists to pitch up tents and savour the natural beauty and wilderness. Local guides can be hired.
Situated in the western Himalayan mountain ranges, Dudipat is best for a two-day trip for individuals as well as groups.
Balakot is a town near Mansehra which is known as Gate of the Kaghan Valley. The Lulusar Lake has the significance of being the originator of the 180km long River Kunhar which flows southward to join the Neelum and Jehlum rivers. Water from the legendary Lake Saiful Muluk and the nearby watersheds also feed River Kunhar. Interestingly, River Kunhar is also called Nain Sukh locally, which means that is has the quality for treating sore eyes.
Basal is situated about 40km from Naran Bazaar from where Lulusar Lake and Dudipat Lakes are approached. From Basal, a hiking track takes tourists to the Dudipat Lake in five hours. Waterfalls and green pastures delight tourists along the uphill tracks. The main nullah from the lake joins River Kunhar at Basal. Along the hiking track, nomads can be seen moving uphill with their livestock.
|Waterfall on the way to Lulusar|
The best time to visit these places is mid-June to mid-August when a variety of flowers and medicinal plants form a natural carpet in the area. Horses and ponies can be hired from Basal and rates for the trip are negotiable.
Those who are less hardy can choose an easier alternative route which is a 15 km vehicle track from Jalkad to Noori at the top. This is the last point where travellers embark on a hike for two hours, going upward to the Dudipat Lake through extensive meadows. There is undulating landscape until suddenly the breathtaking first view of the lake appears after the moderate climb uphill. The emerald-green freshwater of Dudipat is abound with trout. From Naran to Noori, vehicles are available at about Rs5,500 per round trip as the tough terrain to the destination requires vehicles in perfect shape and skilled driving.
Lulusar Lake is situated along the main Naran-Chilas road where Babosar is the end point of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa territory. From Naran, a vehicle costs about Rs6,500 per trip. The lake is accessible by private transport as well. There is an eating place at Jalkad between Basal and Lulusar which is famous for its daal. Local handicrafts, shawls, lachka for kids and old ladies, souvenirs, bed sheets and wood carvings can be bought en-route to Naran.
PTDC Motel and Lenox, Pine Track, Kunhar view, de Manchi and Gateway are some of the hotels which offer standard lodging and boarding. However, economy based hotels and restaurants are also available with reasonable charges for accommodation.
Magnificent landscape of pastures, medicinal plants, wildlife, glaciers and moderate climate make up the natural canvas of the park. The climate is primarily dry with severe snowfall in winter. The natural beauty and significance of the lakes attract tourists every year between June and August. They are valued as ideal spots for recreational and educational activities such as hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife observation and research.
While many visitors are only concerned with the natural beauty of the area, other functions such as a continuous supply of goods including fish, peat, non-timber forest products, biodiversity and water quality maintenance — which is a bounty for both tourists and local communities — mostly go unnoticed by the visitors. Indeed such places call for eco-tourism which would not only contribute to tapping recreational resources on a sustainable basis but would also reflect environmentally friendly behaviour on part of the tourists for preserving the natural set up.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 29th, 2014