The Land of Enchanting Beauty.
At the elevation of 990 meters (3,250 feet) above sea level, Mingora and Saidu Sharif are twin-towns merged into each other. Mingora is the biggest market town in Swat with all the main markets, buses and coaches stands, hotels, restaurants and shopping places; while Saidu Sharif, to the South is the administrative capital of Swat. Over the passage of time Mingora in particular has become heavily congested and comparatively hot in summer as compared to Saidu Sharif. The bazaars of Mingora are fascinating and worth exploring for hand woven woolen shawls, jackets and caps, wooden handicrafts, old silver jewellery, old carpets, semi-precious stones, Swati embroidered cloths, dry fruits, honey and imported electronic items. Several government offices, schools colleges and hospital are located in Saidu Sharif. The shrine of the Akhund of Swat, residence of former Wali of Swat, Swat Museum, Swat Serena Hotel and archeological remains of the Butkara are also located at Saidu Sharif.
At distance of 13 km from Saidu Sharif, at the head of the Saidu Valley, Maraghzar is a small village at the elevation of 1,287 meters (4,222 feet) from sea level. The White Place (presently a hotel) was once the summer palace of the first Wali of Swat. Near the palace Saidu Stream cascades down off the Mount Ilam. Beside the stream behind the palace runs the old Hindu Pilgrim path up Mount Ilam 2,811 meters (9,222 feet) which is a sacred place in Hinduism and most commonly known as Ram Takht. Accordingly to Hindu mythology Ram Chandra Jee Maharajah spent three years of his Ban Bass (jungle life) here. It is a full day hike to the top and back through the remote villages. Local guides can be arranged through the White Palace Hotel.
The shrine of Akhand of Swat is housed in the marble courtyard of a mosque in Saidu Sharif. It is tucked away amongst the narrow alleys between Maraghzar road and Aqba road. Saidu is Sharif (holy) because of the shrine of the Akhand of Swat. Visitors are welcome provided they are suitably dressed and remove their shoes outside the compound while entry in the shrine.
Swat Museum is located on main Mingora-Saidu Sharif road. This museum has a huge collection of Gandhara sculptures from the
Buddhist sites in Swat. The original museum was constructed by Department of Archeology and Museums with the contribution
of the Wali Swat and the Italian Mission in 1958, when a twin Museum was inaugurated in Rome (Museo Naziolae d’Arte Orientale).
The building of the museum was severely damaged both by the 2005 earthquake and by a huge tragic bomb blast that occurred in February 2009.
The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan under the supervision of Dr Luca Maria Olivieri has beautifully restored this museum and now
it is open for public.
To have Virtual Tour of Swat Museum click on this link: http://www.kparchaeology.com/virtual_tours/swat/
Near the museum of, is one of the most important Buddhist shrines in Swat. This site is located about one kilometer from the museum. The stupa, which dates from the second century BC, was possibly built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to house some the ashes of the Buddha. Excavations were carried out between 1982 and 1985 by Dr. Abdur Rahman of Peshawar University.
Barikot is an important historical town on the main road to Mingora. The area around Barikot is full of rich and amazing archaeological sites in an environment which is still intact. It is one of the four places in this area were Alexander the Great fought crucial battles. Barikot is dominated by the serene majesty of Mt. Ilam which is considered a holy mountain in Hinde religionl. There are number of archaeological sites around Barikot town.
The main archaeological site at Barikot was identified as the ancient city of Bazira, conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 B.C.
Excavations carried out by Italian Archaeological Mission in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan
have brought to light evidence spanning from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the early Muslim period.
A beautifully restored portion of the Indo-Greek defensive wall and bastions are visible from the road on left side while traveling towards Mingora. There is also a very nice view point on the hill top behind this archaeological site from where one can have a panoramic view of site of ancient city of Bazira and valley of Swat River on the other side.
Amluk Dara is another great archaeological site of this area. This Gandhara civilization archaeological site was uncovered jointly by Italian
Archaeological Mission in Pakistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Sheltered by the great Mount Ilam, the Amluk
Dara stupa is an ancient relic situated about 2 km on the north of Nawagai village in the beautiful small valley of Amlok Dara, on the main road
which travels from Barikot to Buner.
The stupa stands with ancient majesty and can be seen from the surrounding mountains. Excavators working on the site that dates back to the third century recently discovered an entire complex surrounding the main stupa which was first discovered by the Hungarian-British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein in 1926. It was later studied by Domenico Faccena in the 60s and 70s.
Dr Luca Maria Olivieri who is the director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan is working on the restoration of this site. He informed that Sir Aurel Stein in 1926 reported the ruins and wrote that the main stupa was possibly one of the best preserved pieces of Buddhist architecture he had ever seen in Gandhara. The main stupa with its sacred area was founded around the third century and lasted until 10th or 11th century.
Amluk dara is also very significant as it lies on the route followed by the Hindus of lower Swat on their annual visit to the sacred height of Mount Ilam. The top of the mountain was an object of pious pilgrimage already in Buddhist times.
An other important and unique archaeological site located in this area is Gumbat. The great sanctuary of Gumbat, the only monument in the architecture of Gandhara exhibiting a double cupola is a great site for visitors. This site was in danger of collapsing. A Pak-Italian team, besides offering guidelines for preliminary restoration to the Pakistan Army in 2011 has secured the area and conducted a partial digging. The research work has revealed that the sanctuary was erected no later than the 2nd century A.D. and that the holiest part, dominated by three surrounding large shrines, remained in use until relatively late times.
In the mountains area south of Barikot, the archaeologists have documented 52 painted shelters in the mountains area of Kahai Kandao, Sarhah Sar and Talang. Among these painted shelters, two sites, Sarghah Sar and Kakai kandao are dated to Bronze Age (1400 BC). Particularly the rock shelter of Sargha-sar is very impressive, which resembles a human face. The paintings are located at the base of a huge rock slab in a natural opening (that appears as the "mouth"), while two natural cavities create the illusion of two enormous eyes. The paintings represent an agricultural cycle: dotted grids sympolize ploughed and sowed fields. The anthropomorphic inserted in the central grid might represent Ksetrapati, the Ragvedic “Lord of the Field”. A hero with solar shield faces a leopard and an ibex depicts ritual slaughtering.
About 8 km from Mingora on the road to Malakand, is the town of Udegram which Alexander the Great captured in 327 BC. This is the site of the
ancient town of Ora. Udegram was a fairly large town of the ruins which, encircled by huge walls, climb along the slopes of the mountains towering
above the valley.
On the super of the mountain there existed a castle of Raja Gira which, as tradition goes was destroyed by Mahmood of Ghazni in the 11th century. The remains of an 11th century mosque built by Sultan Mahmood Ghazni are located in the same hill, just below the ruined castle. The mosque is the third oldest mosque in Pakistan after those of Banbhore and Mansurah. Both the sites were excavated by Italian Archaeological Mission between 1956 and 1999.
Recent research carried out by a Pak-Italian team also discovered a collection of 32 sealed protohistoric graves (11th century BC) . Archaeologists say that the site reveals the community 's burial and post-burial rituals. Most of the graves contained two skeletons; male and female, facing each other.
10 km from Udegram on the main Mingora-Malakand road, the Stupa of Shingerdar is situated on the left side of the main road. This is the famous stupa which was built by King Uttarasena to house his share of the relics of the Load Buddha.
Just outside Mingora, Fizagat is the first spot where there is a nice picnic spot along the river and a number of tourist class and deluxe hotels are located. Most of the tourists prefer to stay in these hotels at Fizagat to avoid the crowd and heavily congested streets of Mingora.
The next settlement further up north is Minglor at a distance of about 10 km from Mingora,
a single metalled road turn off to the right to Malam Jabba from here. Three km from the turning is Jahanabad village.
Jahanabad Buddha is a huge seated figure four metres high, carved in the seventh century on the face of a large rock on the other side of the river. The carved Buddha directly opposite the village of Malakpur is visible from the Malam Jabba road. The serene-faced Buddha sits cross-legged, his hands folded in his lap. To have a closer look, one can cross the river by the next bridge one kilometer further on and walk up a clear path to reach the rock. Mountain Inn Guest House is the best place to stay in this area. This small family resort is located on the hill side on the road to Malam Jabba with beautiful view of paddy rice fields and fruit orchards in the valley. The Swat Valley become more scenic the high you go towards north. From Mingora, the main Swat Valley road runs toward north along the Swat River. There are number of tourist spots on this route all the way up to Kalam.
On the same road from Manglor, at a distance of about 35 km, Malam Jabba is one of the most popular hill resort located at an elevation of 2,750 meters (9,000 feet) from sea level. This place was developed as a ski resort with the facility of a chairlift and 22 rooms hotel but unfortunately it has been badly damaged by the militants in the recent past. Presently, there are limited accommodation facilities but visitors can come up here on an excursion trip from Mingora to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the mountain peaks, lush green pastures and thick pine forest. This place is good for a picnic and hiking trip to the top station of chairlift.
From Manglor, the main road continues up the Swat Valley. Chargabh is the next village with a small bazaar. The countryside is rich and fertile, with paddy fields and small scattered settlements along the road. At a distance on about 29 km from Mingora, Khawazakhela is the second largest commercial center after Mingora. The main bazaar is worth exploring for old silver jewellery, embroidered fabrics, semi-precious stones and ancient coins and antique chairs, beds chests of carved wood. It is also the place from where a road turns off right to Besham on Karakoram Highway via Shangla Pass (7,000 feet).
The main road continues north up the valley and reaches the village of Fatehpur. A nine km road branches off towards east and runs through charming hillside villages and reaches the popular hill resort of Miandam. Miandam is a very picturesque tourist spot at an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) from sea level. Surrounded by the terraced fields, fruit orchards and lush green mountain slopes this place is pleasantly cooler in summer. There are number of comfortable hotels and guest houses which provide accommodation facility to the tourists. Miandam is good place for walkers and hikers. Two walking trails run along the streams up north east. Total distance of Miandam from Mingora is 56 kilometers.
Back on main road at a distance of about 8 km from Fatehpur, Madyan is a tourist resort on the Swat River. Distance of Madyan from Mingora is 56kms. At the elevation of 1,321 meters (4,335 feet) steep wooded hills provide a scenic backdrop for the fast flowing Swat River which gushes through the narrow gorges. Bashigram valley from the east is drained in the Swat River at Madyan. The source of Bashigram torrent is pristine Bashigram Lake at 11,600 feet above sea level. The lake can be reach after a daylong strenuous trek. Its riverside location and pleasant climate make it an attractive tourist spot with rows of shops, hotels and restaurants lined along the main road. Antique and modern shawls, traditional embroidery, tribal jewellery, carved wood furniture are sold in the shops of the main street. The shawls are woven in the side valley east of Madyan, where this cottage industry has been thriving for nearly 2,000 years. There are number of comfortable hotels and guest houses which provide accommodation facility to the tourists.
The main road crosses to the west bank of the Swat River at Madyan and continues towards north. From here the valley
steadily closes in and begins to climb more steeply. The road from Madyan onward was badly damaged due to flood in July 2011.
Presently, accessibility to Bahrain and Kalam is only through a jeepable road. Jeep shuttle service is available from Madyan
to Bahrain and Kalam. For more information about this jeep service please contact at Tel: (0946) 9240159
Ten kilometers north of Madyan and about 1,400 meters (4,500 feet) above sea level, Baharin is another very popular tourist spot in the upper Swat. Here the two rivers Daral and Swat join under a bridge, the former like a water-fall, and then both in a torrent wind their way through goggle below high cliffs. Away from the road, along the banks of the Daral River, there are some interesting old houses with intricately carved woodwork. The town is spread out along the road where there are most of the hotels and restaurants are located. The bazaar of Bahrain is worth exploring handicrafts.
At Kalam, 35 km from Bahrain and about 2,072 meters (6,800 feet) from sea level, the valley opens out into a fertile plateau.
It is the place in Swat Valley which actually gives the name of Switzerland of Asia. This place features thick pine forests,
alpine meadows, crystal clear lakes and cool mountain streams and snow covered mountains all at one place. At Kalam the Ushu
and Utrot rivers join to form the Swat River. Both of these rivers are also famous as excelling fishing reaches. From Kalam one
gets a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peak of Flaksair 6,257 meters (20,528 feet). On the way to Kalam one can also have
good view of the peak of Mankial from the village of Kulalai. Mankial (5,726 meters/18,787 feet) is the second highest peak of Swat Valley.
Because of its cool weather in summer and stunning scenery, Kalam is the most popular tourist resort among the Pakistani tourists who come here in thousands during summer holidays to enjoy the cool climate of this place. The main bazaar is very crowded in peak tourist season where all the necessities of life are available. There are number of handicraft shops and restaurants along the main road. Across the wooden suspension bridge is the old village of Kalam. During the summer, a favorite activity is to sit on charpoys placed in the shallow waters of river with cool mountain water flowing underneath, sipping hot tea and enjoying tasty Pakoras or Chappli Kababs with Tandori Nans. Kalam has the largest number of hotels of different categories to provide boarding and lodging facilities to the visitors.
To the north of Kalam there are several beautiful valleys, many of them thickly forested, waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and meadows which are accessible by jeep. A bridge crosses the Swat River at the north end of Kalam. Shortly afterwards the road forks; the left road goes to Utrot and Gabral and the right road toes to Ushu Valley and Matiltan.
Utrot is about 16 km from Kalam. At 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) from sea level Utrot is a charming village. It is a totally un-spoilt place with excellent walking and fishing opportunities. There are number of picnic spots along the river. This part of valley is also called the Lake District of Swat because of its number of beautiful alpine lakes. A jeep road, 4 km towards southwest takes you to Liddu, from where it is 3 hours walk up to the beautiful Kundol Lake. From Kundol one can also make an attempt to climb the mountain ridge on the west to reach a picturesque glacier fed lake which is known as Khapero Dund. This lake is located at 13,300 feet from sea level and the steep trek to this lake is very strenuous. From Liddu, another trail going towards southeast leads to Spinkhor Lake. This beautiful lake is situated at the elevation of 10,530 feet from sea level. From Liddu one can climb up directly to the high pastures of Dessan. This area is the most beautiful part of upper Swat with lush green pastures dotted with colorful wild flowers. From Upper Dessan one can reach Godur Lake which is located at the elevation of 12,600 feet from sea level. From Utrot, a jeep road runs 8 km northwest to Gabral village which is a lush green picnic spot along the river. From Gabral, the jeep road continues another 20km towards north to Kharkhari Lake located at the elevation of 9,500 feet from sea level. From Utrot a 13 km walking trail go towards Izmis Lake which is located at the elevation of 11,230 feet from sea level. The name Izmis means caves in Kohistani and as the lake is surrounded by several natural caves, the people have named the lake after these caves.
Ushu Valley constitutes some of the most beautiful parts of Swat. This valley offer magnificent views of snow covered Mount Flaksair which is has a height of 6,257 meters (20,528 feet).there are number of small hotels and restaurants along the fast flowing Ushu River. The distance of Ushu from Kalam is 8 km and it is about 2,300 metres (7,550 feet) from sea level. Matiltan is next main village in this area. With its old wooden mosque and potato fields all around and Mount Flaksair in the backdrop it gives a magical view. Beyond the village of Matiltan the jeep road goes to the most famous lake of this area Mahodand. This heavenly lake is situated at a distance of 35 km form Kalam and 27km from Ushu. Mahodand means lake full of fish and it is literally a good spot for trout fishing. It is a popular picnic spot and many tourists from Kalam come here every day during summer holidays. From Mahodand one can go on a challenging trekking expedition to Laspur in upper Chitral Valley via Kachikani Pass (4,817 meters/15,800 feet) or to Handrap in Ghizar Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan via Dadarilli Pass (5,030 meters/16,498 feet).
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dedicated to promote and facilitate the growth of sustainable and equitable tourism in Pakistan in close
partnership with concerned stakeholders from public, private and NGO sectors.
For more information visit website http://www.stfp.org/
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