Type of Attraction: Sightseeing, Landmarks, Adventure, Nature
Activities: Bonfire, Camping, Jeep ride, Hiking, Trekking, Boating, Fishing, Skiing, Ice Skating, Ice Hockey, Snowboarding, Chairlift
Check-ins: Mingora, Takht-I-Bahi, Saidu Sharif, Malam Jabba, Madyan, Bahrain, Ushu Forest, Kumrat Valley, Mighty 22 Falls, Mahodand Lake, Fizagat, Kundol Lake, White Palace, Jahaz Banda Waterfall, Kumrat Valley
Location: Swat Valley is a mountainous tourist destination located in the northwest of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. The stunning swat valley is situated on the swat river (35°12′N 72°29′E). It is located between the foothills of the Hindukush Mountain range. The location of Swat Valley has major strategic importance as it lies in the region where South Asia, Central Asia, and China meet.
Importance: Swat Valley is famous for its natural wonders which include its breathtaking diverse landscape and natural wildlife. Swat has numerous scenic countryside, lush forests, and impressive high-peak mountains. This all provides a suitable natural habitat for wildlife as well as attracts tourists. Tourist activities in summer and winter are also well-known features of swat. Swat in summer is popular for hiking, trekking, camping, ziplining, chairlift/ cable car riding, general holiday making, and honeymoon trips. In winter sports activities in Swat make it the most famous and enjoyable tour destination in Pakistan. National and international tourists visit swat valley in winter to enjoy skiing, ice skating, sledding, ice hockey, bandy, snowboarding, speed skating, curling, etc.
In the past, Swat was geographically isolated by mountains from the Peshawar plains. Despite the isolation from the mainland in the past, the valley has been the main interacting place for the important civilizations of the world. Throughout swat history, the valley linked China with Central Asia and Europe. Alexander the Great, Mahmood of Ghazni, and Mughal king Babar entered India via the lower part of the Swat valley. They described swat valley as fertile land, having an abundance, and a variety of produce. Also, they talk about its temperate climate, the beauty of its scenery, and the sacred Buddhist sites when they visited Swat through the difficult passes of the Hindukush mountains on their way down to the Indian subcontinent.
The Swat Valley’s archaeology is consisting of spectacular ancient remains of the valleys such as stupas, monasteries, viharas, forts, castles, petroglyphs, carvings, rock inscriptions, painted shelters, and, stele scattered across the swat valley. The archaeological materials excavated from several hundred archaeological sites bear testimony of Swat’s cultural relations with the East and West spanning over the 5000 years of its history.
The British Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Swat in 1961 called Swat “Switzerland of the East (Pakistan/Asia)” due to its landscape similarities and likeness in scenic beauty with Switzerland. Additionally, Swat Valley has pleasant weather and for that reason, locals and tourists call it “a paradise on earth”.
Climate: The swat climate has four seasons: a cool winter from November through February; a mild spring from March through May; the summer season, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November in autumn.
Distance: It takes 3 hr. 16 min (225 km) via Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway/AH1/M-1 and M-16 to reach Swat.
Location: Kalam, which is also known as Kalam Valley, is a sub-valley of Swat located at an elevation of about 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above sea level. Kalam is at a distance of 96km (59 miles) from Mingora city which is accessible through route N95 upwards north.
Importance: Kalam is one of the major tourist locations in Swat which has plenty of attractions and activities for tourists to get engaged and enjoy their time. Kalam Valley is situated on the bank of the Swat River, which serves as a marketplace where goods and services are exchanged or sold.
A quick point to remember here is that in the high season in Swat when tourism is at its peak in Swat, especially in the summer months of June, July, and August Kalam gets crowded and all hotels are completely occupied. Therefore, the best thing to do before you come and intend to stay in Kalam in the busy season is to book your hotel in advance otherwise you will end up in a tent or a camp unless you are willing to travel back to the mainland of Swat.
Many tourists go to Kalam to experience a memorable time in a camp or a private tent with friends and family. In summer the bank of the swat river in Kalam becomes a tent and camping ground for tourists. It might sound crowded but you get the opportunity to meet locals and other tourists and enjoy local food with others, also the camping ground in Kalam becomes a place of bonfire, BBQ, music, and dance as the night falls.
One special activity that happens in Kalam every year is the Kalam festival. This activity is also known as Kalam Mela or Swat Summer Festival which is a cultural and recreational event, held every year in the month of July or August. This event, in particular, attracts a large number of tourists to Kalam to enjoy both the Mela and the pleasant weather of Kalam when the weather in other parts of Pakistan is hot.
Location: Mahodand Lake is located in the upper Usho Valley at a distance of about 35 kilometers from Kalam in the Swat District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The lake is accessible by a four-wheel-drive vehicle and is often utilized for fishing and boating.
Importance: Mahodand Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The lake is 9,400 ft above sea level and spread over 2kms in length. To get to this magical lake, you have to leave early in the morning because it takes around 3-4 hours to get to the lake. On your way there, you will get patches of metal road, but most of the path is just rocks and gravel. It is suggested to hire a Jeep from the local market or ask the receptionist of your rest house in Kalam to arrange one for you considering the road situation. Next to the lake, you’ll have horses running around in all their glory. There is a campsite set for you, you can even hire a boat to experience the lake up close, or you can just sit down and relax. If you are lucky enough, and the clouds don’t block your view, from the lake you can spot the highest mountain of the valley with a height of 19,416ft, called Falak Ser.
Location: Malam Jabba is located 45 km (28 miles) to the northeast of Mingora in the Swat Valley at an elevation of 2,804 meters (9,199 ft).
Importance: Malam Jabba is a beautiful hill station, an attractive tourist destination, and home to the very popular Malam Jabba ski resort in Swat. In summer hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Malam Jabba to enjoy and take an elevated fun ride on the chairlift/cable.
Also, tourists in summer come to Malam Jabba to get an escape from the city heat waves and enjoy time with family and friends. Many visitors are simply interested in enjoying the natural beauty of this place which includes gigantic mountains, large thick glaciers, dense forests, wonderful landscapes, and pleasant weather. Swat’s passion for snow sports makes it a superb winter holiday destination. The Malam Jabba Ski Resort in the Hindu Kush Mountain range has all that a sports person would like to climb or travel at the elevation of 2,804 meters (9,199 ft) for perfect winter sports. The beautiful Malam Jabba Ski Resort is nearly 48 Km (29 miles) to the east of Saidu Sharif Swat and about 275 km (170 miles) to the northwest of Islamabad. The Ski Resort has two 800-meter ski runs, an Ice skating rink, and adequate accommodation facilities for visitors.
Saidu Sharif / Mingora
Location: Saidu Sharif is the capital city of Swat. It is situated near the swat river between the villages of Kanju and Dherai of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Importance: A tourist visiting Swat Valley first reaches Saidu Sharif, the capital city, and its twin city Mingora. Saidu Sharif served as the political headquarters and administrative capital of the Swat district since the inception of the State and maintained that status till the merger of the State. Being the capital city, Saidu Sharif hosts the swat central government offices, professional educational institutes, healthcare facilities, etc.
The Saidu Sharif Stupa (excavations in 1963 – 1982) is a reminder of the Buddhist presence in swat. This is evidence of Buddhists in the swat valley between 25 BCE and the end of the 1st century. Another important tourist attraction in Saidu Sharif is the Swat Museum which displays thousands of objects from the Buddha era as well as historic artifacts of the pre-Buddhist era.
People around the valley come to the downtown Mingora Bazaar (Market) for shopping and other business activities. Mingora Bazar is a convenient place for tourists to stay or get prepared and do last-minute shopping while they are on the move to the more adventurous areas of Swat. The hustle and bustle of the Mingora market continue until late at night. In the city center, the locals alongside the tourists enjoy shopping and dining until late at night.
Location: Bahrain is a beautiful town and a famous tourist attraction located on the bank of the swat river. The charming town of Bahrain, which is also called Bahrain Valley, is 59 km (36 miles) north of N95 from the main city center of Mingora.
Importance: Bahrain itself is a great destination to visit, yet many of the tourists tend to stop for short and long stays in this town when they are traveling towards upper swat like Kalam, Gabral, and beyond.
Bahrain town is the exact confluence of the Daral and Swat rivers which makes it an attractive place to enjoy your meal, cup of coffee, or tea. The surrounding villages in Bahrain provide a perfect opportunity for tourists to see and experience human life in an ideal natural world. Bahrain is within commutable distance from other tourist destinations in Swat such as Madyan, Daral & Saidgai lakes, therefore, it also serves as a base camp for the trail that leads to these locations.
Climate: The temperature and climate of Bahrain are generally considered mild, where July is the hottest month of the year with an average temperature of 27.0 °C (80.6 °F). The coldest month is January with an average temperature of 4.8 °C (40.64 °F). Snowfall in Bahrain usually occurs a couple of times in the year; the most expected months are December, January, and February.
Location: Madyan is another beautiful hill station and tourist destination in the upper region of Swat. Madyan is around 51 km (31 miles) away from Mingora city and about 45 km (27 miles) from Kalam Valley.
Importance: The Madyan Valley stands high at the elevation of 1,320 m (4,330 ft) on the bank of the swat river with attractive surroundings and humble people. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Madyan every year to enjoy its inviting natural beauty and to spend some joyful time in its modest weather. Being a middle spot between Mingora and Kalam, Madyan makes it a perfect place for a break when you are traveling upwards in swat. The breathtaking views of this place are surrounded by the lush green mountains which in winter fill up with snow completely bringing a completely different experience
Location: Gabin Jabba is another fantastic place and a great tourist destination in Swat which is located approximately 58 km (36 miles) of travel to the north of Mingora.
Importance: Gabin Jabba is a Pashto word and its literal meaning in the English language is “Honey Marshes”. Although the beauty and sweetness of this tourist spot attract tourists like a beehive attracts honey bees in the wild, don’t confuse this place with a swat. Another trick about Gabin Jabba that you need to understand if you are thinking of visiting it, is that Gabin Jabba and Malam Jabba are two different tourist places in Swat. Both tourist havens are 74 km (45 Miles) of travel from each other.
The Marghazar White Palace
Location: Marghazar is home to the iconic Marghazar White Palace, the heritage site of the State of Swat. Marghazar and its famous Marghazar White Palace are approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) of travel from Saidu Sharif.
Importance: The Marghazar White Palace was built by Wali of Swat (The King of the Swat State) in 1941. The King brought marble from Agra, bronze from Belgium, and artisans from Turkey who designed and constructed the palace. This palace made of white marble was used as the summer residence by the King and the royal family. Also, during the Swat State era, this attractive place served as a royal guesthouse hosting great leaders and rulers from around the world. In 1961 the Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited the State of Swat and was honored to stay in the White Palace at Marghazar. During her state visit, Queen Elizabeth II fell in love with the beauty of Swat Valley and called it the Switzerland of the East.
The White Palace is now known as the Marghazar White Palace Hotel as it serves as fantastic accommodation for the general public. It is, of course, a luxurious treat to stay and spend a memorable time whether summer or winter holidays or honeymoon in this historic royal palace surrounded by the utmost natural beauty of Swat.