Photo: The Hunza Valley, located in the mountainous area of Karimabad, Pakistan, is a tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery. Joseph Bautista/Flickr
I would have never known that my home country is even more beautiful than I thought had I not been on a tour of Pakistan in July. The tour showed me the astonishing natural beauty and huge resources of my country, which Pakistan must deploy to promote tourism to absolutely an amazing level.
My tour started from my home city Karachi and progressed all the way to Azad Kashmir, via an almost-22-hour road trip that passed through enthralling mountains and the arid areas of Sind and Punjab. The place I visited first—which Azad Kashmir is famous for—was Neelam Valley. For the readers who want to know about the region, Azad Kashmir is located in north and northeastern portion of Muzaffarabad. Neelam Valley, running through the lesser Himalayas, has heart-throbbing scenic beauty, towering hills, panoramic views of the Neelam River, enchanting streams, lush green woods and beautiful surroundings, which made my trip quite worth the long travel time. I was so enthralled by its beauty that I couldn’t resist capturing nature with my camera. After all, how can one’s trip be complete without some amazing snapshots?
Photo: The green and fertile Kishenganga Valley in Azad Kashmir is a stunning place to visit. Koshur Samchar/Flickr
The next region I headed towards was Gilgit-Baltistan, where the beautiful Hunza Valley is situated northwest of the Hunza River. To my surprise, this lies at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet. Some of the great places to visit here include Rakaposhi base camp, Passure and Gulmit, Hoper Glacier and Nagar Valley. Each location gives a new definition of natural beauty and inspires creativity when you view them one after another.
Photo: An aerial view from a U.S. Army CH-47D helicopter as it passes over towns nestled in the stunning mountains of the scenic Swat Valley. Staff Sgt. Wayne Gray/Flickr
After leaving Hunza Valley, my next destination was Swat, a valley in the Pakistan province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is basically an upper valley of the Swat River, arising from the Hindukush mountain range. Swat had a frightening history in the past when it was under the tribal area rule, which also prevented a lot of tourists to visit this place, however; I am pleased to state that there is nothing like this anymore. Swat is filled with patriotic people and law enforcement organized by the Army. Tourists have named it “Mini Switzerland” because of its scenic beauty. The beautiful sites, attractive places and refreshing fog made me imagine I was not in my home country of Pakistan, but someplace much more exotic.
Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Gilman, crew chief with B Co., Task Force Knighthawk, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, looks out of the back of his Chinook while flying over the Swat valley in Pakistan, 2010. Sgt. Monica K. Smith/Flickr
Editor’s Note: Over the past several years, the Swat Valley has changed dramatically. While the Taliban influence in the region has been phased out and scores of new businesses, industries and cultural practices are gaining a foothold, it was as recently as 2012 that educational advocate Malala Yousafzai was shot by a member of the organization. This article is written from the point of the view of a native Pakistani, but international travelers should be aware that their experience of the region may differ. For more information on the changing face of the Swat Valley, read this 2015 article from The Washington Post.
Sana Naz for Vox Orbis, 2015