In the presence of Neelum Valley, it’s very difficult to take eyes away from the majestic splendors of this top ranked belt. This valley remained and will remain the first priority for the travelers of Azad Kashmir. But for those who consider the less known but unique destinations, Jhelum Valley and its remote parts are also worth visiting. The scenery of Hattian Bala, Chanari and Chakotthi is eye catching along with a couple of waterfalls beside the main road. This variety of natural attractions on the edges of Jhelum River from the Muzaffarabd to the LOC at Chakotthi itself is fascinating in addition to the grandeur behind mountains.
Leepa – the best offer of the whole Jhelum valley is behind the front mountain layers which needs several hours steady drive. Part of the district Hattian Bala, the tehsil Leepa is a far end of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The Hattian Bala is a prominent district of AJK and linked with Muzaffarbad through a well carpeted road. This distance of 40KM along the Jhelum River is a smooth drive with exciting river side views. A bazar with restaurants, fuel station and grocery stores is good for rest, food and information.
For those who are driving their own conveyance, it can be a good experience to have another hour’s return drive to Chakotthi. A medium sized waterfall before Chanari and a full flowing waterfall before Chakotthi shall not be missed. Chakotthi is the last town before the Line of Control with a bazar and some valuable views of beautifully cultivated villages across the river. It may also be a unique experience to visit the LOC after an easy process of necessary permissions.
The journey from Hattian Bala to Leepa is thrilling. It is recommended to get latest information regarding the access permissions (NOC etc) from Hattian Bala or from a reliable source before reaching Reshian. Due to the difficult mountain passes and security reasons, direct transport to Leepa is not available. The Leepa Valley visitors can find transport for Reshian from Muzaffarabad or even from Rawalpindi. Frequent vans and busses leave the Muzaffarabad old bus stand and takes 5-6 hours due to the continuous inclined drive from Hattian Bala to Reshian. From Rawalpindi, a midnight service is available from Pirwadhai Bus Stand which takes 7-9 hours. From Reshian, a public or private jeep can be hired for Leepa.
Reshian is a beautiful village with many unique charms. After crossing the iron bridge on the Jhelum River, the zig zag climb is steep but the views are inspiring. It’s a series of hamlets, cultivated fields and scattered houses on the green slopes till the Reshian. As the altitude increases, the weather gets cooler with the density of forest trees. Frequent water streams offer good spots under the trees for en-route stays.
Although, there are villages shops on the road but it is recommended to carry own food and camping. There are two basic restaurants at Reshian for basic food needs. In case of many tourists, accommodation may be an issue as there are only two rest houses at Daokhan, further up the valley.
The Leepa Valley is an isolated and remote land encircled in heavily forested mountains. It is possible to complete a round trip of Leepa Valley in 6 to 10 hours by a privately hired jeep. For a detailed exploration of higher and remote parts of the valley, an extended stay needs camping. There are two possible routes i.e. Daokhan Pass (2500M) and Reshian Pass (2790M). Both passes, especially the Daokhan pass offers superb views down to the valley and surrounding mountains. From any pass, a steep slope fully covered with the pine trees leads down to the valley.
Leepa is a broad valley with a central bazar and a population of 70000+ people. The people are educated and mannered with welcoming attitude for tourists. Villages are scattered throughout the slopes and plains of the valley. A narrow jeep road passes through the wooden houses, shops and rice and barley fields. The houses are beautifully built with wood, metal sheets and mud. The dense pine and other trees, waterfalls, fresh water streams and uniquely built village houses give this serene valley a grandeur which no other valley can offer. The most inspiring looks of this heavenly land are crafted by the local farmers in the form of terraced rice fields. These fields are spread over a broad area at several parts of the valley. The plenty of fresh and melting water from the surrounding mountains makes this land ideal for rice cultivation. Any view of the landscape where the lush rice fields are in front makes the worth of the photograph.