Balo Kalay Buddhist stupa is a few kilometers from the ancient town of Bazira, Barikot Swat. It is now marked as the Balo Kalay Stupa, near Gumbat.
Alexander of Macedon is said to have fought a battle here in Bazira in 327 BC and handed over control to his representative Seleucus I Nicator.
Several Buddhist archeological sites are dotted near Bazira, probably this town was the only access across different valleys of Swat, back then.
Balo Kalay village now has a swanky new road from Barikot town to Kandak-Balokalay.
Kalay means village in Pushto.
The stupa is a double dome structure that was first identified back in 1927 by British Archeologist Aurel Stein and then restored by Pakistan with the help of the Archeological Society of Italy.
Even now the Italian NGO is working on the ancient site of Bazira which has been identified to have three layers of settlement beneath tons of earth.
To get to the plateau where Balokally stupa is, you’d require a 4×4 vehicle, as the climb is steep and muddy in some places.
After seeing several archeological sites related to Buddhism, I have developed a knack for recognizing which would be the perfect site for spiritual inspiration.
This site like many others has
- Stone outcrops that are starkly different from the formations around it, for miles.
- Panoramic view of a river basin several miles down below.
- Protected by a high-rise mountain behind
- Fresh Water stream flowing close by
- Difficult to climb too even in today’s time because of the natural boulders arrangement.
- Remote and isolated.
- People around it that don’t exactly look like Pashtun
Time to get to Balo Kalay stupa swat from Islamabad
It takes 3.15 hours to cover 220 km to get to Balo Kalay stupa from Islamabad.
Route to the stupa is Islamabad – Peshawar Motorway and turn right towards Swat motorway at Kernel Sher Khan Interchange. Leave the motorway at Allah Dhand Dheri Toll plaza and follow the Bahrain –Thana road right up to Brikot town. Turn right from Brikot and drive 8 km to Kandak Balo Kalay village.
I do not recommend going to the site after sunset as the place has just recently been made accessible, after driving the fascist Taliban out.
Weather at Barikot Swat
The weather at Balo Kalay stays bearably chilly all year round, except maybe in December.
Where to eat at Barikot Swat?
There are several desi restaurants to have lunch at in Brikot and Bazira, so food is not a problem
Do dress moderately for the place as the people are conservative.
Why visit Balo Kalay Buddhist Stupa at Barikot Swat?
Visit Balo Kalay is recommended because there are several Buddhist and historical sites at a half an hour’s drive from the place like:-
- Mahmud Ghaznavi Mosque
- Shingardar Stupa
- Amulok Stupa
- Nemogram Stupa and monastery
- Bazira Archeological City
- Jahanabad Buddha
See for yourself
- The temple is quite well restored and has breathtaking views of the valley below and the Swat river
- A hiking trail ends up here that takes you over hilltops that have ancient rock carvings on rock walls.
- The people there are quite friendly.
- The temple has steps that take you inside the vihara’s inner chamber and a courtyard with mantels for statues
- There are well-manicured lawns where you can have picnics.
- You can plan a hike to the beautiful Balasoor Top Matta.
How many Buddhist stupas are there in Swat?
While the better-preserved stupas in Swat number a dozen only, there are up to 400 identifiable Buddhist archeological sites in Swat.
Balo Kalay stupa is a must-stop on the Gandhara Buddhist era archeological trail of Pakistan, because it is so well preserved for a monument 2000 years old.