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Off the beaten track

July 28, 2018

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The multi-coloured Satrangi Lake
The multi-coloured Satrangi Lake

While a huge number of tourists throng to popular travel destinations in Pakistan, particularly those in the north such as Murree, Naran and Hunza, there are other picturesque areas of the country which remain to be fully explored and seen by tourists. With fewer people visiting these areas as of now, their settings are relatively more natural, unaltered and relaxing.

Nalter

Located 40 kilometres north-west of Gilgit, the road to Nalter Valley is in fact a tough one. The drive takes about two hours via a 4x4 jeep and direct transport is available. However, by the time you make it there, the bumpy, arduous drive certainly does feel worth it.

The dramatic mountain scenery, lush mountain sides and the towering dense woodlands are the reasons why one must visit Nalter. The valley is also often referred to as the magic carpet of Pakistan. Famed for having the sweetest potatoes, most of the locals are involved in agriculture.

The road to Phander from Gilgit
The road to Phander from Gilgit

The valley is also famous for its ski slopes and a ski resort built by the Pakistan Air Force, where multiple competitions are also held. A ski lift is also present which takes skiers to the top of the slope. The area also receives a higher amount of rain in comparison to areas like Hunza, which contributes to its greenery. Communication is a bit of a problem though as only SCO (Special Communications Organisation) provides their service in the valley. Other service providers are unable to provide access to communication as of now.

In addition, Nalter is home to three spectacular lakes. Two consist of deep blue, transparent water whereas the Satrangi Lake is unique in itself, consisting of various colours including green, blue and turquoise.

In terms of accommodation, there a couple of smaller hotels in addition to the Nalter Palace Hotel which most tourists stay at. The PAF also has accommodation facilities along with the ski resort. There are also a few government rest houses in Nalter.

The best time of the year to visit Nalter is either in the summer months when the three lakes are easily accessible and the valley is full of greenery, or during winter if you are more interested in skiing on the slopes.

Looking down at the coast from the Hammerhead
Looking down at the coast from the Hammerhead

Ormara

Located 350 kilometres from Karachi on the coast of Balochistan, Ormara is a port and fishing town. It is very easily accessible via the Makran Coastal Highway, a particularly scenic and pleasurable drive.

Historically, Alexander the Great had stopped at what is now Ormara with his army on the way back from his journey to the Indus region. One of his generals had died here after which Ormara was named.

Consisting of spectacular sandy beaches and an incredibly blue sea, the town has a special charm. The beaches here are one of the cleanest and amongst the most beautiful you will ever see. In addition, the view of the town, its two crescent shaped bays and the vast, endless sea from atop the Ormara hammerhead is absolutely jaw-dropping and breathtaking.

The popular tourist spots in Pakistan see a lot of tourists, but there are still many picturesque places that remain off the beaten track. Let us explore them here …

An airport is also located in Ormara with flights available to Karachi and other areas of Balochistan.

In terms of accommodation, there isn’t much to offer apart from the Jinnah Naval Base located along one end of the coast. However, new motels and resorts are in the process of being built, which would attract more tourists, especially from Karachi.

Ormara is also a large producer of fish products and exports a great share of its produce. For the more adventurous souls, a boat journey of a couple of hours into the sea can lead to the magnificent Astola Island.

The best time to visit Ormara is in the cooler winter months.

Dense forest cover
Dense forest cover

Phander

A fairly decent road leads from Gilgit towards Phander in the district of Ghizer. The journey from Gilgit takes around five hours, providing beautiful views of the green valley floor and the river flowing alongside. Phander is the heart of the Northern Areas in terms of agriculture with expansive cultivation across the region. Phander is also a gateway to the Shandur Pass, connecting Gilgit-Baltistan with Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Located a further two hours from Phander, Shandur is most famous for its annual, high-altitude polo festival.

Fishing boats out at sea
Fishing boats out at sea

The deep blue, alluring Phander Lake is also a truly special sight. Trout fish is a specialty of the region and is found in abundance in the lake. Watching the sunrays peep through the massive clouds in the cerulean sky and shine on the fields below is a marvellous sight. For my, Phander was a place I really wanted to visit and was lucky enough to do so once, it absolutely stunned me with its immense beauty.

Phander has a PTDC motel overlooking the lake in addition to other decent, small rest houses for accommodation. Certain camping sites have also been made along the road.

The best time to visit Phander is in the summer months when the weather is pleasant and the scenery is mesmerising.

A beautiful sunset
A beautiful sunset

Pishin

Located approximately 80 kilometres from Quetta, Pishin is just an hour’s drive away. It is best known for its vast fruit orchards and agricultural produce. The main crops are wheat and barley, in addition to fruits such as grapes, cherries and apples. Backed by mountain ranges and located in a wide valley, Pishin offers an interesting landscape.

Located near Pishin in Kuchlak are several roadside restaurants which specialise in a local specialty called ‘Rosh’, which is basically salted mutton roast often served with lentils and followed up by green tea.

In addition, airfields dating back to World War II are also located in Pishin, which were in use at that time. Experiencing, the calm, starry nights of Pishin is also a wonderful experience.

The Makran Coastal Highway leading to Ormara
The Makran Coastal Highway leading to Ormara

Pishin is most enjoyable during the cooler months, when one can enjoy all that it has to offer, particularly in the autumn and spring seasons when the trees change their colours, offering a vibrant landscape and fruit crops are being harvested.

For accommodation, the DC rest house is an ideal place and is famous particularly for its delicious food. Apart from that, there are only small motels to stay at.

Each of the above mentioned destinations are unique and have a lot to offer. A trip to either of them should be an enjoyable and memorable one. Safe travels!

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 28th, 2018