Top things to do in Kumrat
February 20, 2019
by Bukhtiar Haider
When I hear ‘travel’, I don’t think luxury hotels and skyscrapers. That is as far from the picture my mind draws up as it possibly can be. Quite the opposite actually, for me the notion of travel is more of a getaway to nature, a technological disconnect; no tall buildings, bustling roads or beaches infested with people, but clean air, clear skies and, stargazing instead.
There’s something inherently attractive about Mother Nature that always tugs at me, extending an invitation to bask in its inexplicable healing power. Fortunately for me, Pakistan is completely full of these untouched places of beauty just waiting to be explored. Being an avid explorer, and an enthusiast for the beautiful, breathtaking scenery the country has to offer, you can only imagine my delight as I eagerly wait for my next weekend retreat every single time I return from one of these heavenly places. One such haven is the Kumrat Valley that I recently had the fortunate experience of visiting.
The Kumrat Valley
The Kumrat Valley is a fairly undiscovered gem for the outside world, however, there are signs of life in the area with a relatively small population of locals going about their humble, everyday business. Located in the ‘head’ of Pakistan towards the North in the Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kumrat Valley is undoubtedly one of the most scenic places the country has to offer.
The place is usually open for tourists in the summers as the winters bring layers upon layers of snow which makes it very challenging to navigate through the approach roads and make your way to the valley. Situated at the base of the Hindu Kush mountain range, a river runs at the foot of the valley through its entire length with water at freezing temperatures owing it to the melting glaciers that form the river. Locals that run the small restaurants along the sides of the river bed are the most courteous and helpful human beings you will ever have the pleasure of crossing paths with.
This one goes without saying, even though Kumrat Valley has lodges maintained and handled by the Pakistan Army, if you have come to experience Kumrat in all its glory, the only way to go about it is setting camp in the valley next to the river. Not only does this give you the authentic Kumrat experience, but also the opportunity to go fishing for the juiciest, most scrumptious trout your taste buds will come in contact with.
The location we chose for our camp was deep inside the valley next to a local restaurant. This was very helpful since the restaurant workers routinely got us wood for our campfire and maintained the fire even when we were out exploring or sleeping at night. They would also personally come and ask us what we would like for our meals every day and get them cooked, ready to eat, and served right at our campsite. The courtesy extended by the locals to the tourists is unreal; I would recommend leaving a small tip. Something as little as 20$ is sufficient for the locals and would make them very happy, but try and be generous.
At a height of 3100 meters above sea level, the meadow known as Jahaz Banda is hands down the single most beautiful reward you can wish for after a challenging, yet scenic 3-4 hour long trek. Jahaz Banda is the most sought after attraction for tourists in Kumrat; you can get to the start of the trek by employing the services of a local tour guide to help you get a 4×4 jeep that will take you there. When I reached the top, I was so mesmerized by the untouched beauty of the place that I absolutely refused to go back to camp. I was, however, rewarded by the most glorious sunset I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen my fair share.
Just when I started to get used to the unreal beauty of the place after 3 days of exploration, I found out that wasn’t all. There are a total of three breath-taking waterfalls in the area; two of these are located around the famous ‘Jahaz Banda’ while the last is hidden in the valley. These are a deal-breaker, if you have come to Kumrat, you just can’t leave without bathing in the clearest ponds you will ever come across. Finding these waterfalls can become a bit of a challenge if you do not know where to look, make sure to seek the help of the locals before you start your trek.
How to get to Kumrat
If you are a foreigner coming to explore the breathtaking North of Pakistan, it makes sense to land in Islamabad because of the perfect location that serves as a hub for travel towards all destinations in the North, and also because it is the capital city. For the purposes of this guide, the directions will be provided with Islamabad as the starting point.
Since the journey is fairly long, it’s certainly not recommended to complete it in one day. The first part of the journey involves getting from Islamabad to Upper Dir which is fairly straightforward. You begin the 10 hours journey by taking the exit on M-1 towards Peshawar and continue driving until you reach the ‘Rashakai’ Interchange where you should turn right on to N45 and continue driving till you reach Upper Dir. There are lodges here, nothing fancy, but they will get you through the night for as low as 30$.
The second day marks the final part of your journey to Kumrat; you have to drive back a little till you can take a left on to Dir road and follow it to ‘Tall’. Tall is a small town with an abundance of local guides; talk to a local guide and use their help to hire a 4×4 jeep for the remaining journey to Kumrat, the jeep will cost no more than 30$ including the driver and drop you at the base of the magnificence that is ‘Kumrat Valley’.
The amount of scenic places to explore in Pakistan is innumerable, seldom have I wanted to go back to a place I have visited compared to trying out a new destination. Kumrat happens to be one of those few places. My recommendation from Kumrat stems from the unreal beauty packed in everything, from the unpolluted sky, sparkling stars, the courteous locals, magnificent waterfalls and the relaxing sound of water running downstream as you fall asleep.
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June 7, 2019
How many hours of hiking to jahazbanda