It was a long time ago, but I cannot forget one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. I was at Pir Chinasi, known for its breathtaking natural beauty and spiritual ambience — because it is home to the shrine of Pir Syed Shah Hussain Bukhari, a famous Sufi saint who selflessly endeavoured to spread the message of peace and harmony to promote a pluralistic culture in Kashmir. By visiting his shrine, devotees of Shah Hussain Bukhari refresh their deep-felt sentiments.
At an elevation of 2,900 metres (9,500 feet) above sea level, Pir Chinasi is a mountain pass located 30 kilometres east of Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It is the perfect getaway from the daily hustle and bustle of life in noisy and overpopulated metropolitan cities. One can walk on the lush green, grassy land in summer, which covers itself in a white blanket of snow as the mercury dips down for winter in Kashmir, while a pure, refreshing but chilly air welcomes you upon your arrival.
The hill station of Pir Chinasi in AJK offers beautiful green mountains, clear rivers, silent valleys and plenty of thrills
Around the mountain peak, you can view small, traditional villages around thick forest despite relentless deforestation. Due to its lush greenery, magnificent weather and charming landscape, Pir Chinasi has become the ultimate destination of tourists from all over Pakistan. Carrying your own food supplies is a must, as there are no two-, three-, four- or five-star hotels available. If you plan to stay overnight in summer, you must have a cold-weather tent with you. This tent will, however, be useless in winter because of heavy snowfall.
I still regret not having taken my camera with me for I missed the opportunity of capturing some amazing views of the sunset from the hill station. There is a huge potential for photography around Pir Chinasi and Muzaffarabad. There are several trekking trails and paths amidst the scenic landscape as well as paragliding and hiking for the adventure-seeking tourist.
When visiting Pir Chinasi, one can also visit the neighbouring areas i.e. Pir Assimar, Phanwa Da Dana, and areas at the foot of Pir Chinasi such as Jarran Phirran, Sikki, Sud Bun, Saran and Mushki. A tourist lodge at Saran provides accommodation for tourists who wish to stay overnight.
The zigzag road to the scenic spot has recently been upgraded and is usually open all year round, but it may be closed due to snowfall. The road is a collection of hairpin turns (more than 30) and is very steep. Four-by-four jeeps and land cruisers are the best choices to reach the destination smoothly. However, one can also travel by motorcycles, rickshaws and cars. It usually takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half to reach Pir Chinasi peak from Muzaffarabad.
“I have never ever experienced such a thrilling journey,” Farrukh Haider, a banker from Karachi told me, while sharing his experiences of travelling to Pir Chinasi with his family. “At one point I thought of skipping the idea of reaching the top of the peak but my smiling driver Lal Deen kept encouraging me to carry on as the destination was not too far. Finally, after one-and-a-half-hour drive we reached one of the most beautiful spots I have ever visited. The site is simply incredible and, yes, after visiting this spot I believe Kashmir is paradise on earth.”
Haider hopes the government will improve the tourist spot in terms of safety measures for visitors such as the construction of protective walls along the sharp turns on the road.
According to statements by the Prime Minister Secretariat and and AJK Tourism Department, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government has recently approved a mega project to make Pir Chinasi an international tourist resort. Apparently, a company of international repute will construct chairlifts from Pir Chinasi to Jhattiyan at a cost of 1.5 billion rupees.
In the next phase, a five-star hotel, a public park and tourist resorts at the hill station are a part of the development plan. The government has provided 250 kanal land to the company to initiate the project.
A tourist facilitation centre is also being set up a under public-private partnership.
The writer is a freelance writer and an MPhil scholar in mass communication. He tweets @SMubasharNaqvi
Published in Dawn, EOS, June 3rd, 2018