Swat (pronounced [ˈsʋaːt̪], Pashto: سوات) is a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, located close to the Afghan-Pakistan border. It is the upper valley of the Swat River, which rises in the Hindu Kush range. The capital of Swat is Saidu Sharif, but the main town in the Swat valley is Mingora. It was a princely state (see Swat (princely state)) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until it was dissolved in 1969. The valley is almost entirely populated by ethnic Afghans/Pashtuns . The language spoken in the valley is Pashto/Pakhto. With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, it is a place of great natural beauty and is popular with tourists as "the Switzerland of the region"
People travelling from down country on their own vehicles can take the Motorway (M-1) and reach Mardan interchange from Islamabad in about one and a half hours after covering a distance of 131 km. From Mardan onwards they can travel via Takh-e-Bai, Dargai, Malakand Pass, Batkhella, Chakdara and finally reach Mingora/Saidu Sharif after covering a distance of 112 km in an additional two and a half hours. The total distance from Islamabad to Mingora/Saidu Sharif is 247Km and it takes around 5 hours with one stop for lunch and refreshments. This route is open for all kinds of traffic throughout the year.
Using the above mentioned route from Mardan onwards, the distance from from Peshawar to Mingora/Saidu Sharif is 151 km. Total driving time from Peshawar is around 4 hours.
For those preferring public transport, travelling in an air conditioned bus service is an option. There are several bus companies with regular direct service to Mingora from Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Mardan. The Daewoo Bus Service operates the most comfortable and reliable air conditioned bus service to Mingora from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar and also provides connecting bus services to the passengers of other major cities such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Abbottabad, Mianwali etc. (For more information about Daewoo Bus Service schedule and fares, please visit their website http://www.sammi.com.pk or call their UAN at 111-007-008). If you are planning to visit Swat valley you may like to check out the “Logistics” section.
Swat Valley, especially lower Swat, is a year-round tourist destination. However the main tourist season for Swat begins in spring and lasts till autumn (April to October). April to May is the best time to visit Swat, when the fresh green grass carpet covers the slopes. June to August is the period when most domestic tourists from the hot plains of Punjab and Sindh escape the scorching summer heat and find refuge in the cool areas of Upper Swat. October-November is the fall season when yellow and golden are the most dominating colors on the backdrop of a clear blue sky. December-March are the winter months; the road beyond Bahrain is snowbound during this time.
Safety and Security Conditions in Swat - Swat, known as the Switzerland of Asia due to its natural beauty, has opened its arms for according a warm welcome to tourists as security and peace have been restored and militants have been pushed out of the region by the security forces. With the efforts of the provincial government and facilitation of Pakistan Army, tourists have already started arriving in the area.
The area has become more peaceful and secure than some other parts of the country, and included among the safest areas in view of the statistics of law and order. Minor incidents occur in some towns, which can not be used as negation of the real situation. Pakistan Army has established checkpoints at all entry points and generally the situation in the Valley is now peaceful for tourism
Visitors are advised to carry their Passports/National Identity Cards (NIC) with them to avoid inconvenience at the routine security checkpoints established by Pakistan Army and Police department en route. Likewise, foreign tourists should carry their passport and security clearance documents with them.
The water available at most places in Swat is not safe to drink, however bottled mineral water is widely available in the towns and even in villages. If mineral water is not available, it is wise to drink bottled drinks or tea. It is also advisable to bring some water purification tablets with you; these are available at chemist shops in all main cities of the country.
Mingora and Saidu Sharif: Important Landmarks are The shrine of the Akhund of Swat, Residence of former Wali of Swat, Swat Museum, Swat Serena Hotel, Archeological remains of the Butkara.
Malam Jabba: (also Maalam Jabba, Urdu: مالم جبہ) is a Hill Station in the Karakoram mountain range nearly 40 km from Saidu Sharif in Swat Valley, Peshawar, Pakistan. It is 314 km from Islamabad and 51 km from Saidu Sharif Airport.Malam Jabba is home to the largest ski resort in Pakistan.The Malam Jabba Ski Resort, owned by the Pakistani Tourism Development Corporation, had a ski slope of about 800m with the highest point of the slope 2804 m (9200 ft) above sea level. Malam Jabba Ski Resort was the joint effort of the Pakistan government with its Austrian counterpart. The resort was equipped with modern facilities including roller/ice-skating rinks, chair lifts, skiing platforms, telephones and snow clearing equipment.
Swat Museum is on the east side of the street, halfway between Mingora and Saidu. Japanese aid has given a facelift to its seven galleries which now contain an excellent collection of Gandhara sculptures taken from some of the Buddhist sites in Swat, rearranged and labelled to illustrate the Buddha's life story. Terracotta figurines and utensils, beads, precious stones, coins, weapons and various metal objects illustrate daily life in Gandhara. The ethnographic section displays the finest examples of local embroidery, carved wood and tribal jewellery. For the last three years the museum is occupied by Pakistan army and it is not known when they would be leaving it.
Miandam is a small summer resort ten kilometres (six miles) up a steep side valley and 56 kilometers (35 mi) from Saidu Sharif, making it an hour's drive. The metaled road passes small villages stacked up the hillside, the roofs of one row of houses forming the street for the row of houses above. Tiny terraced fields march up the hillside right to the top. Miandam is a good place for walkers. Paths follow the stream, past houses with behives set into the walls and good-luck charms whitewashed around the doors. In the graveyards are carved wooden grave posts with floral designs, like those used by Buddhists 1,000 years ago.
By the time you reach this small town at 1320 m and about 60 km from Mingora, the mountains have closed in and the valley is almost snug. Here one senses why Swat is so popular among the tourists. There are a lot of embroidered shawls in the Bazars of Madyan.At 1,321 metres (4,335 feet) above sea level,but it is a larger town and has many hotels in all price ranges and some good tourist shopping. Antique and modern shawls, traditional embroidery, tribal jewellery, carved wood and antique or reproduced coins are sold along the main street. This is the last Swati village, offering interesting two-and three-day walks up to the mountain villages... ask in the bazaar in Muambar Khan's shop for a guide. North of Madyan is Swat Kohistan where walking is not recommended without an armed guard. The central mosque at Madyan has carved wooden pillars with elegant scroll capitals, and its mud-plastered west wall is covered with relief designs in floral motifs. Both bespeak the Swati's love of decoration.For forieng tourest on can help from the link http://www.madyanguesthouse.com which is owned by Murad Ali Khan
Behrain, Swat valley
A quarter of an hour past Madyan, the road squeezes through Behrain. Tourists stop to shop or have a look around for beautiful carved wood chairs and tables and other handicrafts. Behrainis are a mix of Pashtuns and Kohistanis. Behrain is ten kilometres north of Madyan and only slightly higher, at about 1,400 metres (4,500 feet). It is another popular riverside tourist resort, with bazaars worth exploring for their handicrafts. Some of the houses have carved wooden doors, pillars and balconies. These show a remarkable variety of decorative motifs, including floral scrolls and bands of ornamental diaper patterns almost identical to those seen on Buddhist shrines and quite different from the usual Muslim designs.
Kalam, Swat valley
2070 m high and 100 km from Mingora, it was the centre of an independent state in the 19th century. It was later taken by Chitral then given to Swat after partition.Kalam, 29 kilometres (18 mi) from Bahrain and about 2,000 metres (6,800 feet) above sea level, the valley opens out, providing rooms for a small but fertile plateau above the river. In Kalam the Ushu and Utrot rivers join to form the Swat river. Here, the metalled road ends and shingle road leads to the Ushu and Utrot valleys. From Matiltan one gets a breath-taking view of the snow-capped Mount Falaksir 5918 metres (19,415 ft.), and another un-named peak 6096 metres (20,000 ft.) high.
Usho, Swat valley
Usho 3 km from Kalam Valley and 117 km from Saidu Sharif
Utror, Swat valley
Utror 16 km from Kalam Valley and 120 km from Saidu Sharif.Utror valley is situated between 35° 20′ to 35° 48′ N latitudes and 72° 12′ and 72° 32′ E longitudes. The population of Utror is 6888 and the area of the valley is about 47400 hectares. Utror valley is surrounded by Gabral and Bhan valleys on the east, upper Dir district on the west, Kalam valley on the south and Gabral valley on the north. It is 15 km from Kalam, the centre of Swat Kohistan. The altitude of the valley at Utror proper is 2300 meters and reaches to 2900 meters at Kandol Lake.
Ghabral, Swat Valley
Gabral valley lies between 35° 20′ to 35° 48′ N latitudes and 72° 12′ and 72° 32′ E longitudes over an area of about 38733 hectares. The population of Gabral is 3238. The valley is surrounded by Chitral District in the north, Utror valley in the south and south west, upper Dir district in the west and Bhan and Mahodand valleys in the east. It is 5 km distant from Utror proper and 20 km from Kalam. The altitude of the valley ranges from 2580 metres at Baila to 5160 metres at Karkaray Lake top.In Utror and Gabral, 44 medicinal plants are collected during the months of May, June, July and August. Only 14 of them are traded to National and International markets while the rest are used locally. A survey by Pakistan Forest Institute concludes that 75 crude herbal drugs are extensively exported and more than 200 are locally traded in Pakistan. Indigenous people, who have no training in sustainable harvesting, post-harvesting care and storing of medicinal plants, collect 85 percent of these crude herbs from the wild.
Spin Khwar Lake Swat valley
Pari (Khapiro) lake
Pari Lake is one of the lakes in Swat region which is located at a very high altitude in the foot of the tallest peak in the range with a considerable depth. The name Pari or Khapiro is given to the lake due to the widespread belief that the lake is the abode of fairies where they live and bathe in the cool, pure and clear water of the lake. It is located to North-east of Utror valley and can be accessed only by trekking. Trekking to the lake needs endurance and love for nature as the trail is exasperating as well as dangerous therefore, utmost care should be taken while trekking on the narrow bends and turns leading to the lake. The lake is accessible from both Izmis and Kundal lakes. Two ascending tracks lead to this lake from Kundal and Izmis lakes taking almost five hours to reach this roof top of Swat. The trail is very steep from both sides but the surrounding beauty and eye-cooling green pastures and exotic flowers not only boost the trekker’s stamina but compel him to explore further.
The pastoral valley of Swat has abundance of precious resorts of nature where one can find solace and respite from the never-ending struggle of life. Kundal or Kandolo Lake is one such place here upon which the Maestro of nature has spent extra time and effort to paint. Kundal Lake is situated in the north of Utror valley. One can easily access it from Kalam via Utror from where a link road ends in a green valley called Ladu in the foothills of the lake. You can either hike to Ladu from Utror or take a four-wheeler to ease and minimize your journey. It consumes almost two hours to reach the beautiful valley of Ladu. For the adventurous kind, a walk in the romantic valley will unravel several new mysteries. The people who take temporary residency over here during summer plow the open land and harvest potatoes and turnips, which are famous all over the country for its exotic taste. There is also a small hut in Ladu where you can take tea and get something for eating. From Ladu it takes almost four hours to reach the lake. Some locals can guide you and even take your luggage if properly paid. The mountains around this small valley are covered with tall cedar and pine trees and meandered by different streams and torrents. The people are friendly and provide you guidance if required.
Bashigram Lake is situated to the east of Bashigram valley near Madyan. The road to this valley is partly metaled and can be plied by a four by four or any ordinary vehicle. It takes almost forty to fifty minutes to reach this picturesque valley inhibited by simple and hospitable folk. From here, trekking of four to five hours, depending on professionalism and enthusiasm of the trekkers lands you in the realm of a serene and enchanting lake of Bashigram.
Spin Khwar (White Stream) Lake
Spin Khwar is a beautiful lake hidden in the lap of mountains towards the north of Kundal Lake and east of Utror valley. The name Spin Khwar has a clear significance as a small white stream in the east flows down to the lake from the surrounding mountains and is a major source of water for the lake. The lake is accessible through two tracks, one from Kundal and the other from Ladu valley. The track from Ladu is comparatively easy to walk and less tiring while the track from Kundal is not only difficult but alarmingly dangerous although it is short and links Kundal and Spin Khwar. Its steepness and dangerous bends needs an experienced trekker and unending physical strength. The grazers in the area have built small huts and a mosque where one can stay but a personal tent is more recommendable as these huts are in a poor condition due to lack of maintenance.
Daral lake is situated to the northeast of Sidgai Lake and can be accessed through Saidgai after two three hours rigorous trekking. The trail to Daral is full of fun and amusement because it runs over sky touching heights of the mountains provides spectacular sights and panoramas for the beauty hungry eyes of nature lovers. A close look towards the south will reveal the long and winding sellouts of river Swat in the horizon.After walking and trekking for about two and a half hours on bare and naked mountains, the trail start descending towards the East where Daral Lake is located.