Neelum Valley is a land of forests, rivers, fountains, springs, waterfalls, high-lands, snow-capped mountain peaks and wild life treasure, hidden assets of precious gem-stones and minerals and plants. Neelum Valley is a 90 miles long bow-shaped valley, loaded with pine, fir and deodar trees. It lies in the North-South of Muzaffarabad (the capital of Azad Kashmir). It is elevated at the height of 8,000 feet approximately. The valley is connected from the Kaghan Valley; linked via the Nuri-Nar Pass, the Ratti Gali Pass and many other minor Passes. From Dowarian it takes two days for hiking/riding with a night stay at Dharian (elevation: 12,000 feet) above sea level. The alternative route is from Muzaffarabad, at the distance of 65 miles (105 kilometres), accessible only in the tourist season. The valley starts from Nouseri, next to Patika 24 miles ahead of Muzaffarabad. The Chilhana Crossing Point (height: 3,200 feet), Barian, Salkhala, Kundal Shahi and Athmuqam, Sharda and Kel can be reached through the same route. There are a few places of the Neelum Valley, which are accessible through rough and difficult routes only. Let’s try to explore these places.

  1. Salkhala

It is another difficult place to access and situated at 3 kilometres away from Kundal Shahi, across the river Neelum. A Trout fish-hatchery has been established by the Fisheries Department of Government of Azad Kashmir. Accommodation facility is available here.

  1. Neelum

Neelum Village lies on a difficult track though situated merely 9 kilometres ahead of Athmuqam, on the right hand side, on the bank of River Neelum, opposite to the Keran village in IHK (Indian Held Kashmir). Neelum Village is located at the altitude of 1,524 metres (5,000 feet) above sea level.

  1. Sharda:

Sharda is located at a distance of 136 kilometres from Muzaffarabad and 30 kilometres from Dowarian. It is a serene and picturesque tourist spot. The place attractive and marvellous yet the road condition often remains deteriorating, due to weather, rain and land-sliding. The remains of Sharda University and other monuments of Buddha/Hindu eras are also found there. The historical background of the relics, provide a unique learning experience to the people, who are interested in Archaeology and History.

  1. Kel:

Kel is 19 kilometers away from Sharda and this small valley is located at the height of 2,097 meters. Kel is located on the confluence of the Shounter Nullah and River Neelum. A track from Kel leads to Gilgit Region via Shounter Pass (4,420 metres) and it is also a base camp of mountaineering activities to the Sarwali Peak (6,326 metres) above sea level and Sarwali Glacier, which are said to be the highest peak and biggest glacier of Azad Kashmir. It is suggested to the tourists to hire a jeep from Athmuqam for their convenience. Horses and mules can also be hired, for travelling to the narrower tracks of the Neelum Valley. There is a small and beautiful tourist resort, Arrang Kel, which is difficult to access and reachable through trekking or a lift.

  1. Halmet:

It is a bordering village and located at a distance of 38 kilometres from Kel. Janawai and Sardari are the most beautiful places but they can be reached through rough tracks. Accommodation facilities are available for the tourists and visitors
(to be continued)

Author:Fehmeeda Farid Khan

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