Travel to Ratti Galli (Gully) Lake, Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir, right at the border or Line of Control between India and Pakistan needs some careful planning. My intention is to give you all the essential information here today.
I’ll quickly move on to the details of how to get to Ratti Galli Lake and what all can be done there:
How long does it take to get to Ratti Galli?
It is a 250 km drive from Islamabad to Keran in Neelum Valley. This takes 5.5 hours at night time. The return journey will take 7.5 hours. Dowarian village is just behind Keran. You’d have to hire a Land cruiser from the locals at Keran to reach Dowarian and then drive on to Ratti Galli. It takes one hour to reach the Ratti Galli Base camp on the Jeep. Otherwise, if the road is not clear, it would take 7 hours trekking to reach Ratti Galli Base Camp from Dowarian stop and then 2 hours further to climb up to Ratti Galli natural dam site.
What route to take to Ratti Galli Lake?
You’d have to take the Murree Expressway, climb up to Lower Topa and then climb down from Bhurban to reach Kohala Bridge into Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The next stop will be Muzaffarabad and then you’d enter Neelum Valley. Neelum Valley’s total length is about 200 Kms, but you’d be stopping short of that at Keran or Kundal Shahi. You can also drive straight to Kohala Bridge, in case the road is not under repair. This is the Google Maps route to Athmuqam that is close to the Ratti Gali entrance point.
What are the charges to reach Ratti Galli Lake?
- Petrol to drive there to Keran – Rs 2500
- Room rent – Rs 3000 per night (you’d have to stay the night if you want to hike the next day)
- Jeep Charges- Rs 4500 one way to the Ratti Galli Base Camp
- Porter Charges – Rs 2000 in season and Rs 1500 offseason to carry your load up to 10 Kgs
- Guide Charges – Rs 2000 in season (guides are very important as the glaciers are very tricky to navigate and so are the rock cliffs in case you decide to plow ahead)
- Food Charges- Rs 1500 for the ration of daal chawal, milk and tea for two nights (you have to pay for the food of your guide and porter)
- Equipment Charges – If you forget your gators, crampons, hiking stick, rucksack, sleeping bag the guide might charge you for using his stuff. It is usually Rs 1000 extra.
Total Charges per person off season – Rs 14000
Total Charges per person on the season – Rs 16000
What equipment to take with you to Ratti Galli
- Hiking boots
- Two hiking sticks
- Crampons (rubber padding and chain type, not the toothed ones)
- Very light rucksack with water bladder of 3 liters minimum
- UV cream
- UV glasses, Headgear, or scarf to protect from severe sunburn
- Waterproof jacket and hiking trousers
- One extra set of full sleeve T-shirts and lower
- Wet wipes
- Hunting Gloves (with finger sawed-off) if you want to rock climb around Ratti Galli
- Sleeping bag, if the guide does not arrange for you
- Dates, energy bars, ORS, and Tang for energy
Are there washrooms in Ratti Galli?
No, there are no washrooms there. The makeshift tent is erected in tourist season, but that is too dirty to use. All the mountains are your washroom, but you’d have to maintain a proper bowel cycle if you want to enjoy the trip. Keep wet wipes handy.
What all can be done at Ratti Galli
Ratti Galli Base camp leads you to four different directions, besides coming back after seeing the lake itself:-
- You can climb the mountain trail behind Ratti Galli Lake, over the saddle pass and down into Sharda. Beware, one wrong turn and you’d have to spend the night in the open.
- Turning left instead of right, you can hike to Mullah Ke Basti or Batakundi in Kaghan Valley that is parallel to Neelum Valley on a four days trip. Do keep in mind this would be an adventure trip with no arrangements on the campground. There are several gorgeous lakes en route to mullah ke basti like the Dudipatsar and Saral Lake. There are beautiful meadows on the way as well. Some tour companies do arrange the Mullah Ke Basti trip at quite an extra cost.
- Climbing the 13000 ft. mountains to further left, you’d have to go up and over this top to the valley that is adjacent to Ratti Galli, called Rahi Gali or Raitlee Gali. Glacial ice melts the last in this Galli in August and it rains a lot here. The Gali has a beautiful water stream gushing through. This place can also be reached by Jeep but it is mostly blocked by thick chunks of ice and mud pits. Hiking to Rahi Gali is mostly done on goat trails that are pencil thin and sometimes none at all, to reach the base of the next mountain pass that leads you to a Lake.
- Just behind the Ratti Galli Base camp is the route to the Lal Butti peak (14000 ft.). This red-colored mountain was once scaled by British surveyors’ pre-partition and they erected at milestone (Butti) there. While you are at it don’t miss the graves of British surveyors that lived in a guest house near Ratti Gali base camp that is long gone now.
What is the temperature and weather at Ratti Galli?
The temperature at Ratti Galli Lake drops to 2 0 C during July and quickly slips below 0 0 C in August, at night. A lightweight jacket, like a down jacket, is very helpful here. It rains a lot at Ratti Galli and rain suddenly switches to a hailstorm.
Best Time to Visit Ratti Galli Lake
The best time to Visit Ratti Galli Lake in Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir Pakistan would be Mid-July, every year so that the Glaciers have sufficiently melted and you can enjoy the clear water streams and lake.
It mostly rains on the 14th,15th, and 16th of every month in Summers. This is according to the local Hindu legend that says that it rains every time on the starting days of Indian months Savan, Phagun, Chetar, Besakh, etc
Are there any Waterfalls in Ratti Galli?
Yes, there are several waterfalls, but one prominent one appears on your left while hiking to Ratti Gali Lake from Ratti Gali Base Camp.
Can we take Horses to Ratti Gali?
Yes, you can get a horse for Rs 4500 one way to take you there, and it is advisable to do that too. Conserve as much energy, as you can, so that you can do other activities too.
How many days are needed to visit Ratti Galli Lake?
I would say two nights and three days minimum to enjoy Ratti Galli and Keran too. If you want to do other things in Neelum Valley, as Hindu heritage spots visit mentioned here, then add extra nights to the trip?
Is it safe to go to Ratti Galli Neelum Valley?
Yes, it is safe for women and even foreigners to go to Ratti Galli, as the Indian troops do not deliberately fire artillery towards civilian vehicles. The locals consider tourists’ as guests and if someone tries to be over smart, you can report them to the local tourist police who have arrested rash local drivers on complaints before.
Contact Number of some good Guides and tour planners Neelum Valley
Raees Inqilabi Mobile No 03558150711 is a very experienced guide and a good guy. He has done 56 lakes around the place. Just make sure you discuss every detail along with costing before you reach there, especially regarding your physical limitations. Also, Shakeel of Tourist Nest 03333348844 will give you sound advice on what all can be done and will go along with you if necessary because he is very fit. If you need great company on various India Pakistan issues in Neelum Valley, Mr. Amiruddin Mughal is your man 03009885892
My Travelogue of Ratti Galli
I drove to Keran in my Suzuki Alto on a 5.5 hours’ drive nonstop at night. I had company with me in case I fell asleep. On reaching Keran early in the morning, passing besides Indian Army Check posts right across the Neelum River, I called for a Land Cruiser jeep on hire for the journey to Ratti Galli
There were Corona check posts at Murree Expressway, Kohala Bridge, and entrance to Neelum Valley. I had a Kashmiri identity card, so I was spared the embarrassment of going back. Otherwise, sifarish of local military and Commissioner’s officers can also get you through.
We drove to a small kiosk on the dirt track towards the Ratti Galli base camp. The old man there had prepared Daal mash and white rice with tarri of desi ghee. It was marvelous, even better than my mother’s cooking. I was starving by then and everything seemed tasty. We then had to get off after 0.5 hours’ drive as the road had large ice glaciers on them, that hadn’t been cleared.
We had to slog the rest of the 8 hours on foot right to the Ratti Galli Lake.
Ratti Galli Lake is a naturally dammed water reservoir that is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains on three sides. If you get there in June, you can sometimes hear the ice cracking and groaning beneath its own weight. I heard a large booming sound coming from the fast-flowing glacial water beneath the snow surface, of two large boulders colliding. I don’t want to be the person standing on top of such a snow pile.
At night we gazed at the clear sky and counted all the galaxies, milky ways, and stars that were clear as daylight, while warming ourselves on the campfire. The locals told us stories of Ban Budha (the old man of the forest) that eats people’s goats and Palri Roohi (the witch with reverse feet) that seduces men. I thought I saw a Palri Roohi at night, or maybe it was my manhood speaking.
The next day we walked to the top of the mountain behind us and got hold of the local Bakarwal goat herder and requested 3 liters of goat milk to make Lassi with. Our Breakfast was Desi Lassi and makai ke roti (cornbread)
The next day we set out to see Hansraj Lake and Kala Sar Lake 1 and 2 and came back to Base camp at night. This is a 5 hours hike.
The third day we crossed over to the adjacent valley called the Rahi Galli over a 13000 ft. mountain peak. This part was very tough. I had to learn rock climbing on the go. At some places, there was no foothold at all and I was hanging on to sharp rocks with the grip of my hands. I tore my hiking trouser there too and injured my hands quite a bit. The valley floor down below as a sheer fall of at least 2 thousand feet. The funny part is that the goats grazing close by didn’t mind the height at all. This is a 4 hours hike, but very tough.
As soon as I reached the valley floor and base camp for the next climb to ??? Lake, the team decided we should do this part next time. So stay tuned.
Ratti Galli is a great start to see all the beautiful lakes, passes, waterfalls, river streams, and meadows around Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir and it is safe.