neelum valley

Heavenly Neelum Valley Arrang Kel and Taobut

Neelum Valley starts from Muzaffarabad City going Northwards; it curves Eastwards at Sharda and Ends at Taobut which is the easternmost tip of the valley. It is here that Neelum River is re-designated Kishan Ganga River after the Line of Control (LOC) in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK)

neelum valley

. It is through Taobut that the famous Tribal Lashkar went across into Srinagar in 1948. Neelum Valley road is broadly aligned with Neelum River which is more or less parallel with the Line of Control (LOC). LOC is exactly on the Neelum River at two stretches along this valley (Keran and Teetwal). At these places, Indian Bunkers are right across the river. It is very exciting to see Indian bunkers so close.

 Wagah Border posts are not as exciting as these. At the End of Neelum Valley, at Taobut, one track leads to Deosai Plains and the other to LOC.

neelum valley

 Neelum Valley is a coniferous covered land mass with reasonably high mountains on either side of the river. This green valley along with its clear blue river is very pleasing to the eyes, especially when it drizzles. Kaghan Valley runs parallel to Neelum Valley (towards East) separated by 4000m mountains and connected through Noori Pass. At Sharda, the valleys spits into one heading Eastwards to Taobut and the other towards Astore.Starting early from Rawalpindi, preferable Night stop is at Kel (7 hrs). Next day make a round trip to Taobut and back to Kel again (7 hrs) for the second night. Stay the third night at Jaagran (kutton), which is 5 to 6 hours from Kel.

Trip upto Muzaffarabad is uneventful, except the traffic.

neelum valley

To beat that, I recommend leaving early (6am). Real beauty starts at Keran onwards. The river spreads wide and slows down, with thick forest cover across. The first beautiful stop is Dhani Noseri Waterfall.

neelum valley

It flows in summers only.The next milestone is Titwaal where people from IHK can be seen at very close range. Next comes the left turn towards Kutton / Jaagran.Keran is the place where Neelum river slows down, spreads out and thickly forested mountains greet us.

neelum valley
indian held kashmir right across the river

Schools and people from Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) can be seen at close range. Temperature improves here mostly because of the forestation. There is a school across the river where we can see beautiful kids playing in the school yard. Housing after keran is mostly wooden.Even the graves have wooden frames on top.

Further ahead is Sharda.

neelum valley

Mostly people turn back from here. Infact, the real beauty starts after sharda. Road also breaks up after this place. Sharda is also nice to see. There is ancient ruins of an Old university.

Kel is the next stop to enjoy the valley. Here Neelum valley bifurcates into Shounter valley and Guraiz.

Road to Shounter Valley
neelum valley
Road to Guraiz valley

Kel has very high chairlift that takes you to Arungkel.

       

Arunkel is another gorgeous plateau close to the LOC.

The chairlift is not for the faint hearted. This metal contraption is quite exciting, considering the metal mesh doors don’t shut completely. It was intriguing to see Indian styled trucks at Arungkel. The locals told us they brought these trucks up in disassembled form and assembled them at this plateau.

The ladies in Arungkel dressed brightly in floral pattern frocks, with lovely embroidery.There are sufficient hotels to cater for tourists. Its very exciting to see the Pakistani bunkers on the ridges along LOC.A jeep ride to Taobut and back is Rs 5500; which is the last stop Eastwards before LOC.   Apart from the serious deforestation and environmental damage, the moment we walked beyond the congestion, the true beauty of nature greeted us.

At Taobut, a narrow strip of land between the fish farm and LOC is breathtaking.

It is completely covered with trees, golden farmland crops, clear water, beautiful flowers and clear sky greets us. So, move away from the main track to see nature’s beauty!

The fish farm at Taobut breeds farm trout.The irony is that farm trouts donot breed the wild and wild trouts donot breed in captivity. That’s why the trout numbers are depleting in the rivers. The local story is that Maharaja of Kashmir introduced wild trout in the rivers, imported form UK. Trout is know to have medicinal properties. On the way bakarwaal (sheep herders) were moving their flock back from the mountains towards plains of Punjab  I have never seen such beautiful sheep. They called it the American variety because of its elongated tail and wooly coat. The sheep dogs were some special breed too; wooly , long tailed and small head.

Coming back, Jaagran (Kutton) is the third must see place. As it is off track from the main Neelum valley road, it is still covered in vegetation. Jaagran WAPDA resort is very neat and tidy. Overnight stay costs Rs 4500.

Jagran Nala

We attempted to reach the hydropower plant in our 4×4 but aborted high up in the mountains because of the treacherous road. Hiring a local jeep would be a better idea. Talking to the locals in Neelum valley gives you the true perspective on how they live under the shadow of danger across the LOC. Neelum river is blue but turns muddy greens when it rains heavily. The mountains have black, brown bears. Some bears cross over from the Indian side to eat corn during harvest season. Brown bears are smaller, but mostly eat fish and poultry. Mountain cats also cross over from the Indian side. I aim to explore the various tracks between Neelum valley, Kaghan valley and Deosai, Astore, I am sure they would be the most prettiest of sights.

The round trip is about 450 kms. It costs nearly Rs 30,000 for a family of four for a three nights trip. A better route would be Islamabad-Muzaffarabad- Kuttan-Kel-Taobut-Noori Pass- Mansehra-Islamabad, provided the track to Noori top is completed soon. 

neelum valley

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent write up and equally good pictures to support the travel trip. I liked the way you narrated the places with the surroundings as well as the historical backdrop.

  2. Breath taking… And so. Cheap….
    What are the conditions of the hotels…?
    And food..?
    Lovely , lovely.

    Now definitely added to my bucket list..

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