Azad Jammu & Kashmir is popular for its rich natural beauty. Its snow-packed summits, deep forests, zigzag rivers, noisy streams, fragrant valleys, lush green plateaus make it an exceptional tourist destination. Valleys like Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Rawalakot, Banjosa, Samahni and Baghser spread out pleasant picturesque loveliness and provide a feast of happiness to visitors's eyes.
The state of Jammu & Kashmir is spread over an area of 84,471 square miles in the north side of Pakistan. It shares its borders in the northeast with India and towards the north with China, Afghanistan and Russia. Jammu and Kashmir was the biggest princely state in the sub-continent of Indo-Pak at the time of its division and still claims the same status.
The Muslims of Azad Jammu and Kashmir started liberation moment against India in 1947. As a result of this war, the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was established on 24th October 1947, in the unoccupied area. An area of 28,000 square miles was also freed by Gilgit Scouts and now it is known as Gilgit-Baltistan which is now controlled by the Federal Government of Pakistan.
By Air: You can reach Azad Kashmir by taking air route. If you are coming from another country rather than Pakistan you first need to stop at Islamabad Airport. From Islamabad, you can go to Azad Kashmir by road.
By Road: Form Rawalpindi & Islamabad you can take different routes for Muzaffarabad, Neelum Valley, Kotli, Rawalakot, Bagh and Dadyal.
The average temperature in Neelum Valley ranges from 5-24 centigrades hence this valley remains open all the year round. If you are planning a trip to Neelum Valley than the best time to explore Neelum Valley is between April and October because of moderate temperature. And the best time for hiking starts from July-September.
Muzaffarabad is not only the capital of the Azad Kashmir but also a hub of political, cultural activities and serves as a great place for base camp for the national and international visitors. This city is full of various leisure spots that include; Sathra (a public place, reveals the beauty of the entire city before a beholder). Next, the junction point of the river Neelum and Jhelum presents a mesmerizing view from here. Lohar Gali is located at a distance of 9 kilometers from Muzaffarabad on Abbottabad road and the Red Fort is a testimony of the very old history of this beautiful city.
Neelum Valley is spread over an area of about 240 kilometres with scenic natural views. It is located to the North & North East of Muzaffarabad (Capital of Azad Kashmir). Excellent picturesque beauty, enchanting views, gigantic hills on both sides of the loud Neelum river, lush green forests, cold water streams & lakes and gorgeous environment make the valley heaven on Earth. Worth visiting places in Neelum Valley are; Kundal Shahi, Kutton, Salkhala, Athmaqam, Karen, Dowarian, Shardha, Kel and Arangkel.
Rawalakot is a capital metropolis of Poonch district (Azad Kashmir) Pakistan. It is positioned in the Pir Panjal Range. It is also known as Pearl Valley because of the plenty of almond blossoms in the summer season. It gives the illusion of dispersed pearls when observed from a mountain.
Location: Rawalakot is around 76 kilometres from Kahuta and approximately 120 km from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It is connected with Rawalpindi and Islamabad via Goyain Nala and Tain roads.
Elevation: It is located at the height of of1, 638 meters or 5,374 feet.
Tour to Azad Kashmir is incomplete without visiting the mesmerizing Kutton Upper Neelum. It is located almost 82 kilometres away from the capital of Azad Kashmir. Kutton or Jagran Valley is a must-visit spot for adventurers and nature lovers because of its panoramic views and the swirling streams alongside the village. Azad Kashmir Tourism Department has constructed a rest house to accommodate tourists visiting the Neelum Valley and its adjacent places.
Altitude: This scenic valley is located at an elevation of 1530 feet.
Arang kel is a velvety green small village situated in Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir. It is elevated about 8,379 feet above the sea level. It looks like a portion of heaven on Earth that is why it is known as the “Pearl of Neelum Valley”. In summers due to rich vegetation, it’s meadows are filled with horses and goats frisking around and birds singing the enchanting songs in the background. In winter season it’s meadows, huts and rest houses are covered with heavy snow which turn the entire village into a snow white palace.
Banjosa Lake is a manmade lake and a resort. It is located at a distance of 18 kilometres from the main city of Rawalakot in Poonch (District of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan). While getting around in Rawalakot you will surely find your way to Banjosa Lake. Clear-water lake, tall trees and a large amount of greenery and favourable temperature (temperature hardly exceeds 25°C in summers) make it a must visit tourist destination.
Surface elevation: 1,981 meters
Location: Rawalakot, Azad Kashmir
If you plan to visit Neelum Valley then Sharda is one of the must-visit places of Azad Kashmir. Sharda is most enchanting small city found on the base of the Neelum Valley. It is renowned for the remains of the decaying synagogue of a Hindu goddess Sharada Perth. In the morning the sun shimmers over the river-water, turning the whole panorama into a magical place. In winter season heavy snowfall converts this small town into a snow-covered white princess.
Ratti Gali Lake is a beautiful elevated icy lake which is found in Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. The lake is located at a height of 12,130 feet. The lake is supplied by the encompassing glacier waters of the peaks. In the summer the entire region around this lake turns into rich green pastures loaded with fragrant majestic flowers. While in winter season this valley is blanketed with snow and huge pieces of Glacier floats in the deep azure occult water of Ratti Gali Lake. This lake remains frozen from November to April.
Surface elevation: 3,700 m
Location: Neelam Valley, Azad Kashmir