Pir Sohawa – BaraKahu hike Margalla Pakistan

pir Sohawa BaraKahu hike

So, I discovered another super hybrid trek, Nilan Bhotu Pir Sohawa to BaraKahu Hike  in Islamabad Pakistan for my buddies with a travel bug like me.

Right off the bat, do check out the pictures and images, route map for Nilan Bhotu to Bara Kahu Hike that runs through Pharilla forest rest house hike Islamabad Pakistan.

Let me dive straight into the details for all the impatient ones:-

Starting Point.

It starts at Nilan Bhotu behind Margalla hills, Islamabad. You can drive or walk to Nilan Bhotu Chilla Gah Islamabad from Sangada Turn at Pir Sohawa. Details of that are available here.

Midway point

Pharilla Forest Guest house on Margalla hills is the midpoint of the hike. You can climb the stony water channel, drive off road, take your motorbikes there or even hike on the dirt road to this abandoned rest house that overlooks both Rawal and Simly dam in the distance.

End Point.

The hike or trek ends at Rakala village on top of the extended ridge of Margalla hills that goes into Abbottabad.

How to get to Bara Kahu and Chattar.

I got a lift from a motorcyclist who was going to Chattar. There were quite a few vehicles on the road from Rakhala to Chattar, 17 mile and Bara Kahu. The road is perfectly metaled, so you can ask for your driver to come through too.

Level of difficulty.

Moderate, if you somehow manage to get to Pharilla forest guest house on some vehicle, like a small car or motorcycle. Climbing up to Pharilla forest rest house from Nilan Bhotu and then hiking to Rakhala is tough.

Total time of hike

  • From Sangada to Nilan Bhotu is 1.5 hours walk
  • From Nilan Bhotu to Pharila Forest Rest house is 2 hours climb and half hour drive
  • From Pharilla Forest Rest house to Rakhala Village is 1.5 hours of straight walk

From Rakhala to Chattar, Bara Kahu is 20 minutes of drive, one hour of walk.


Who all can go there?

  • Fit men – definitely
  • Fit women – between Pharilla to Rakhala, yes, provided they drive to Pharilla and also drive back from Rakhala.
  • Children – don’t thinks so

What kind to transport can go there?

  • Small cars like Suzuki jeeps and motorcycles can ride all the way up to Pharilla and also Rakhala, but it is tricky at some spots
  • Thrill seekers will love the place as they will get there adrenaline rush with their 4×4 and motorcycles.
  • Mountain bikers definitely will enjoy going all the way from Sangada to Rakhala down to Chattar.

What’s so special about this Nilan Bhotu to Bara Kahu Hike?

It’s beautiful to see that there is a forest still left standing near Islamabad and the views towards low lying hills close to Bara Kahu are amazing. Also, if you climb the water channel from Nilan Bhotu to Pharilla forest rest house, it gives your ego a huge kick in the behind, on your fitness level. It feels like cutting through a rain forest, with not a single soul in site for miles.

Is it safe to hike to Pharilla Forest rest house and back from Bara Kahu?

Yes, it’s absolutely safe for families and kids. The last robber in the hills was extra judicially killed by the local police, so no problems there. I kept my dagger with me just in case.

Is there anything to eat on the hike or trek?

No, absolutely no water to drink and food to eat. There are a few rain filled ponds near Pharilla forest rest house, but that’s it. You’d need water purifying tablets to drink that. The last stop to get bottled water is Nilan Bhotu and after that at some local villagers home on the way. So take at least 3 liters of drinking water with you and dates or Chick peas with you.

Are there any toilets on the way?

No, none, Nada! The forest is your lavatory and the ideal surrounding to relieve yourself, the old fashioned way. So, take wet wipes with you, you’d definitely need them scaling the giant rocks.

Where to turn for Pharilla forest rest house?

When you 5 minutes away from Nilan Bhotu Chilla Gah, there’s a Nullah or a stream, over which the road passes. Trace back a 200 yards from this spot and you’d see a dirt track with faint tire marks going up into the mountain. This is the track to Pharilla. I have pasted a picture of Pharilla turning for your reference.

My travelogue

I started off at dawn. Someone drove me to Sangada and then to Nilan Bhotu, behind Margalla hills. I climbed the rocky stream towards Pharilla forest rest house, because the dirt road was boring.

Boy was I in for an adventure. I had to cut through years of shrubbery, thorns and hop over giant boulders thrice my size. Then my hiking stick was rendered useless in such an acute ascent. I almost ran out of water before reaching the top. Did I mention I got lost thrice and if it wasn’t for Google maps, I could’ve ended up in Mansehra?

Pharilla forest rest house is abandoned, but the views from the top of Islamabad are unique. You can walk down to Shahdara from Pharilla too.

I started to hike on the dirt road from Pharilla to Rakhala when the Sun was bright as a MOFO. The track would just not end. I learnt the hard way that my endurance on a tough track is 4 hours tops. After that it’s rubbery legs, pain and aches.

Rakhala is a windy town perched on top of this extended mountain range originating in Margalla hills. These people live in properties overlooking vast territories with multi-million-dollar views.

The peace and quiet in these mountain villages is amazing. No horns, noisy vehicles and pesky people. The weather at Pir Sohawa, Nilan Bhotu and Pharilla is excellent because of the height of Margalla extension hills and because Sun rises behind the mountains.

Pharhilla forest rest house falls under Capital Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad, not the Galiyat Development Authority (GDA). To go to Pharilla, you don’t need anyone’s permission, but to stay inside the haunted and abandoned rest house, you’d need to ask someone in CDA.

So the next time you want to do a hike that is as tough as a mountain climb, or you are looking for places and things to do in Islamabad, do the Nilan Bhotu to Bara Kahu hike through the Pharila forest rest house.

Enjoy the video too.

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