Renowned for its unmatched natural beauty, Azad Kashmir is often referred to as ‘Heaven on Earth’. The region boasts numerous picturesque locations that attract tourists year-round, showcasing the stunning landscapes and panoramic views of Pakistan. Despite being at the center of the partition dispute in 1947, Azad Kashmir shares borders with Northern Gilgit Baltistan, as well as the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
While the winters in Azad Kashmir are freezing and covered in a thick blanket of snow, the best time to visit is from April to October, during the pleasant summer months. The border is typically shut down during the winter due to heavy snowfall and blizzards. Nevertheless, Azad Kashmir remains one of the few places where you can visit and enjoy the country’s vast natural beauty, despite the challenging weather conditions.
Azad Kashmir is divided into two parts: one occupies Jammu and Kashmir, while the other is an independent entity administered by the Pakistani government, which is commonly known as Azad Kashmir.
Here are the Top 10 Places to Visit in Azad Kashmir
Neelum Valley stands out as a must-visit destination in Kashmir, offering an unparalleled experience that transports visitors to a land of enchantment. Nestled in the heart of Azad Kashmir, this idyllic valley boasts breathtaking scenery that captivates the senses, making it impossible to look away from its stunning beauty. Its lush green landscape has an almost otherworldly quality, evoking the sensation of being transported to a fairyland.
Located to the north and northeast of Muzaffarabad, Neelum Valley spans a bow-shaped area that covers 144 kilometers, following the meandering path of the Neelum River. The name “Neelum Valley” means blue gems, a nod to the vivid blue waters that contrast beautifully with the verdant green mountains.
Prior to the partition, the valley was known as Kishanganga but was later renamed Neelam Valley. Today, visitors can explore the valley’s many suburbs, small villages, lakes, hiking trails, mountain passes, and other attractions. What sets Neelum Valley apart is that it is highly accessible, with easy access to various trekking routes and opportunities to capture stunning photographs of the valley’s landscape.
To reach Neelum Valley, visitors must travel approximately 100 kilometers to Muzaffarabad, but the journey is undoubtedly worth it. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the enchanting beauty of this fairytale-like destination.
Arang Kel is a picturesque village nestled in the heart of Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir, perched atop a hill overlooking Kel. The village is located at an altitude of 8,379 feet (2554m) above sea level, and it boasts a lush green landscape that looks like a slice of paradise on earth. It is often referred to as the “Pearl of Neelum Valley” due to its stunning beauty.
In the summer months, the meadows of Arang Kel are teeming with life, with horses, goats, and birds filling the air with their enchanting melodies. The lush vegetation in the area adds to the verdant beauty of the village, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers. During the winter season, a heavy blanket of snow covers the village, turning it into a magical white wonderland.
Arang Kel is a great place to visit in any season, and getting there is an adventure in itself. There is a long track from Kel that leads to Nanga Parbat, and along the way, visitors can enjoy the spectacular view of the Nanga Parbat Mountain. The trek takes around three hours, and visitors can enjoy some nearby music while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
If you’re looking for a peaceful and picturesque place to visit in Azad Kashmir, then Arang Kel should definitely be on your list. Whether you’re planning to trek, enjoy the fantastic view, or simply bask in the beauty of nature, Arang Kel has it all. So, be sure not to miss out on this heavenly destination.
Patheka is a picturesque destination situated in Kashmir, and serves as the gateway to the stunning Neelum Valley. It is renowned for being the commercial hub of the Neelum Valley, where visitors can easily find everything they need for their daily routines. Numerous hotels in the area are available to cater to the needs of a large influx of tourists.
Patheka boasts breathtaking landscapes, featuring towering mountains, lush green hills, and pleasant weather, all of which are major draws for visitors. As you make your way towards Patheka, the scenic route offers stunning views of tall trees and panoramic vistas of the city. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Azad Kashmir. If you’re exploring the entrance to the Neelum Valley, you simply can’t afford to miss Patheka’s bustling business district! Here, you’ll be able to take in the lush greenery and enjoy the pleasant weather to the fullest.
Shounter Lake is a stunning natural area that is worth visiting between May to August when the weather is pleasant. Nestled in the Shounter Valley, a sub-valley of Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir, the lake sits at an elevation of 3100 meters (10,200 feet). Despite its small size, the lake is surprisingly deep and surrounded by breathtaking nature.
Surrounded by glacial waters, lush green vegetation, towering mountains, and an assortment of various plants dispersed around the lake, Shounter Lake is a picturesque destination. During winters, the lake freezes over, and the surrounding hills are covered in a thick layer of snow, creating a stunning white landscape.
However, it’s important to note that visiting Shounter Lake during heavy snowfall and blizzards can be dangerous due to potential landslides. Jeeps are a popular mode of transportation to reach the lake from Kel and Neelum Valley.
If you’re a camping enthusiast, photography buff or hiking lover, Shounter Lake is the perfect place for you. While camping, enjoy the serene and stunning views of Shounter Lake and capture the best shots of the nearby scenery. This picturesque destination is one of the most scenic places to visit in Azad Kashmir.
Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, is a vibrant hub of political and cultural activities. Situated in the northern region of Pakistan, it is the largest city in Azad Kashmir and shares its borders with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Neelum District to the west and north, respectively. The city boasts of serene natural beauty and tranquil surroundings, making it an ideal basecamp for both locals and international visitors. Muzaffarabad is a city that is brimming with leisure spots waiting to be explored, such as Sathra, Lohar Gali, and the confluence of Neelum and Jhelum River, which offer breathtaking views.
Sultan Muzaffar Khan, the chief of Bomba Tribe, who ruled over Kashmir, constructed the Red Fort to protect the Mughal Empire from harm, and the city was named after him. The Red Fort is a historical site in the city that tells a story about Muzaffarabad’s past and its significance. A visit to this cultural and beautiful hub of the capital city is a must to witness the glory and splendor of Muzaffarabad.
Ratti Gali Lake
Ratti Gali Lake is undoubtedly one of the most captivating destinations in the Neelum Valley. This frigid lake is situated at an altitude of 12,130 feet (3700 meters) and is fed by glacier water, rendering it a source of fresh and crisp water. The surrounding mountains, cloaked with verdant meadows and resplendent flowers during spring and summer, form a natural spectacle that is a feast for the eyes.
During the winter season, the Ratti Gali Lake transforms into a frozen wonderland, with the mountains shrouded in a pristine blanket of snow. The sight of glaciers floating in the lake amid the icy temperatures adds an ethereal touch to the surroundings. The lake can be accessed through Dowarian, and trekking and photography enthusiasts can revel in the serene landscape to reach this awe-inspiring location in Neelum Valley.
A visit to Ratti Gali Lake promises a sublime experience, whether you’re seeking an adventurous trek or an opportunity to capture stunning photographs of the picturesque surroundings. It’s truly one of the most beautiful locations in Kashmir and a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
Azad Kashmir is home to some of Pakistan’s most renowned tourist destinations. Among them is Leepa Valley, a stunning location where visitors can revel in the surrounding pine trees and verdant valley that imbues the countryside ambiance. Leepa Valley is situated 83 kilometers from Muzaffarabad, divided into five sectors: Nowkot, Kasirkot, Dao Khan, Leepa, and Chananian. The climate in Leepa Valley is delightful, and the best time to visit is from May to November when the climate is agreeable, making this valley an ideal destination for tourists.
Leepa Valley also has a rich history; it was formerly a part of the Kupwara District in Jammu and Kashmir, which is now part of Jhelum Valley in Azad Kashmir. Visitors can reach Leepa Valley by crossing Reshian, where local jeeps are available to transport them. While the region is accessible from Muzaffarabad, it is highly recommended to visit the Dao Khan, Leepa, and Chananian sectors, which are all worth seeing. Be sure to visit Leepa Valley to experience its breathtaking views, which are among the most captivating in Kashmir.
Located 18km from Rawalakot in the Poonch District of Azad Kashmir, Banjosa Lake is a picturesque destination that boasts a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Surrounded by dense pine trees and houses, the lake is brimming with lush greenery that offers a breathtaking view. The artificially created lake shimmers with a stunning blend of green, red, and blue hues, which reflect the vibrant colors of the surroundings. One simply cannot resist the allure of this stunning lake!
Banjosa Lake sits at a surface elevation of 1981 meters, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kashmir. The ideal time to visit Banjosa Lake is during the summer season when the weather is pleasant, and the temperature hovers around 25°C. However, the winter season brings snowfall, which lowers the temperature considerably and adds a romantic touch to the already picturesque landscape. The lake becomes a popular destination for honeymoon couples during this time.
In autumn, the surrounding trees turn into shades of brown and red, and the lake becomes a sight to behold. The reflection of the golden and reddish-brown trees on the gleaming surface of the lake is truly breathtaking. A visit to Banjosa Lake is an experience that should not be missed when in Azad Kashmir. Boating and photography are popular activities that visitors can enjoy while basking in the peaceful ambiance of the lake.
Azad Kashmir is steeped in history, boasting a plethora of historical sites that provide insight into the region’s fascinating past. Among these sites is the magnificent Ramkot Fort, a must-visit attraction for history buffs. The fort, constructed during the Delhi Sultanate reign in 1342, is situated adjacent to the Mangla Dam and is accessible via a 13-kilometre boat ride from Dina or a 79-kilometre road journey from Mirpur.
Notably, Ramkot Fort showcases the ingenuity of modern Muslim military architecture, with its construction design dating back to the 5th to 9th centuries. However, during the 17th century, the fort was discovered and subsequently demolished by Muslim leaders, leaving only its remnants behind. Despite this, the fort remains an excellent destination for those keen on exploring Azad Kashmir’s historic sites.
Undoubtedly, a visit to Ramkot Fort promises to be a fascinating experience that provides a glimpse into the region’s rich history. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this wondrous structure, and discover the story behind this archaeological site.
Kutton Upper Neelum
Kutton and Upper Neelum are undoubtedly the most sought-after destinations in Azad Kashmir that are a must-visit for every tourist. A trip to the Neelum Valley would be incomplete without exploring its upper region. This picturesque location is a top priority for adventurers and nature enthusiasts, thanks to its stunning panoramic view and gushing streams that meander through the village. Kutton and Upper Neelum are located approximately 82km away from Muzaffarabad and just 2km from Keran.
Sitting at an elevation of 1530 feet above sea level, Kutton and Upper Neelum offer a serene and calming atmosphere with the gentle sound of water and the gurgling streams cascading down the village. Once you reach here, you will be captivated by the peaceful ambiance and the tranquil sound of the flowing water. The Azad Kashmir Tourism Department has constructed a rest house to cater to the tourists’ accommodation needs and offer them a chance to explore the nearby areas.
To witness the breathtaking view of the Neelum Valley and the calming waters, a visit to Kutton and Upper Neelum is an absolute must. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience the beauty of nature at its finest.
Frequently Asked Question
The best time to visit Azad Kashmir is from April to October when the weather is mild and pleasant.
It is recommended to check the current security situation before visiting Azad Kashmir, as the region has experienced occasional political instability in the past. It is also important to respect local customs and traditions when visiting the region.
Azad Kashmir is known for its delicious and flavorful cuisine, which includes dishes such as Roghan Josh, Gushtaba, and Harissa. The region is also famous for its sweet dishes, such as Shufta and Phirni.