Naran is the ultimate name which brings energies, thrill and adventure to the youth of Pakistan. In the recent years, the Kaghan valley emerged as the biggest attraction for the family holidays, jeep safaris, trekking, camping and a number of exciting outdoor activities. The variety of natural attractions including pine forests, icy river and tributaries, lush green landscapes, sparkling lakes and snow capped mountains never disappoint the visitors of this versatile valley.
The Kaghan Valley is part of the Mansehra District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Naran – at an altitude of about 2500 meters is known as the base station for the 160 KM long Kaghan Valley attractions. This town is rich in most of the facilities tourist may require. The accommodation, general commodities, communication, transportation and medical facilities are available in Naran. The most of economic and business activities of locals rotate around the tourism. People are engaged with transportation, hoteling and food business in summer season. The natives of this valley are Gujjars who keep herds of domestic animals for their living.
An interesting spot very close to the bazaar at Naran is a riverside cave which is a part of mythical stories of Saif ul Malul Lake. This is a short walk from the Kunhar River Bridge in Naran and can be done in half an hour.
Saif ul Maluk Lake
Saif ul Maluk Lake is 12KM from Naran and can be visited by hiring a jeep. The jeep road is smooth only for initial few kilometres and rest of the journey is a difficult ride. The Lake itself, snowy mountains in the background and grassy slopes on the sides make it rank one spot in the valley.
A must to visit place in the Kaghan valley, the Lalazar plateau is an outstanding landscape. Situated at a distance of 21 KM from Naran, this heavenly land is famous for its grass carpeted floors and thick pine forests. The altitude of Lalazar is 3,200 meters, making it one of the most pleasant summer spots in Pakistan.
Shogran can also be the first stay in Kaghan Valley as it is close to Balakot and comes before Naran. At Kewai, a steep road leaves the main Kaghan Valley road to Shogran. Shogran is heavily forested and cooler staying point with good staying options. Shogran is also the basecamp for Siri and Paaye. Siri and Paaye are beautiful landscapes and forested heights above the Shogran. Siri-Paaye is accessible through jeeps and trekking and worth visiting locations.
The quickest possible and full of adventure way to explore most of Kaghan Valley areas is a jeep safari. Private jeeps are easily available in Naran which can be hired for a ride. The famous approachable jeep locations can be Babusar Pass, Nurinaar Pass, Jalkhad Valley and Neelum valley etc.
Kunhar River and Kaghan Valley lakes are famous for Trout fishing. Although, due to high demand for trout by tourists and commercial trout hunting, now only very lucky people can catch one. The best possible areas for fishing can be at remote and less populated riversides which may also require camping.
Floating in a crystal clear lake surrounded by snow covered peaks and green slopes is possible only in Kaghan valley. The boating is available in Saif ul Maluk and Lulusar lakes.
Photography in Kaghan valley is a must to do activity. The riversides, lakes, forests and uncountable fresh natural backgrounds are available for ideal snaps. From a dew drop on a grass blade to birds and picturesque scenes, there is lot of colors to capture through a lens. The DSLR enthusiasts can also find a variety of landscapes, panoramas, close-ups and artistic clicks throughout the Kaghan Valley.
The 5291 meters high Malika Parbat is the most prominent mountaineering attraction in the Kaghan Valley. Guarding over the Pakistan’s most famous Saif ul Maluk Lake, Malika Parbat base camp is locate at the other end the Saif ul Maluk glacier. This highest peak on the Valley is considered as a difficult climb. There are many myths and stories about the Malika Parbat which locals proudly tell to every tourist.
Trekking is one of the major interests for energetic youngsters and professional trekkers in Naran. There are plenty of options for hiking and trekking to approach the lakes, above 4000 meters passes, plateaus and fishing spots.
Lake Saif ul Maluk
Saif ul Maluk is the top rated trekking option for many trekkers. This 12 KM trek leads to the majestic lake. Due to the heavy jeep traffic on the regular jeep road, the better option is to adopt the alternate treks above and down the jeep road.
Ansu Lake became another popular trek in the past few years and many Saif ul Maluk visitors attempt this hike as well. Starting from the Saif ul Maluk Glacier, this trek is 11 KM from the Saif ul Maluk Lake. Due to uncertain weather conditions, necessary gear for both sunny and rainy conditions should be considered before heading up to this moderate to difficult trek.
Hans Gali Pass
A possible trekking adventure from Lalazar Plateau to Saif ul Maluk Lake may also be a motive for many trekkers. Crossing the Hans Gali pass (3,995 meters), this trek can be done in 5 to 7 hours. Superb bird eye views of Saif ul Malook and surrounding snow capped peaks are the return of this excursion.
The Doodhipat Lake is a less visited splendor due to its remote location and altitude. This high altitude lake is far the most scenic wetland in Pakistan. For detailed information please read Dudipat Sar – A Splendor out of Sight.
Saral Lake is a smaller but highly recommended spot to explore. This is possible to continue to Saral Lake from the Dudipat Sar. This trek may require 3 to 4 days with complete camping and whether protection gear.
Ratti Gali (Dowarian )Lake and Pass (Neelum Valley)
There are several possibilities to trek to Neelam Valley in Azad Kashmir from Kaghan. One of those options is the Ratti Gali Pass and Lake which can be started from the Nurinaar Pass or Jalkhad Valley. This trek requires the proper camping gear and can be done in 3 to 5 days.
Gittian Lake (Neelum Valley)
Gittian Lake is a less visited lake located in Neelam Valley. This lake is also one of those lakes which are accessible from Kaghan by trekking. This trek requires a guide, camping gear and can be done in 3 to 5 days.
Naran also offers nice shopping of gift items, garments, shawls and dry fruites. A number of shops heavily decorated with saleable items in the main bazaar are inviting for tourists.
Where to stay
This well established tourist hub is furnished with all budget accommodations. The availability of hotels, motels, rest houses and camping options are enough to meet single person to large family requirements. During the peak season which is usually starts from the mid June and ends in September, it can be expensive and in some cases difficult to acquire a reasonable night stay.