Monday, 24 August 2015

Muzaffarabad - Capital City of Azad Kashmir

  • Location:
Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) extends from the plains of Punjab near Jhelum up through Mangla Lake to the foot hills of the Himalayas, and north to the mountains 6000-20000 feet above sea level. It is drained by three major rivers the Jhelum, the Neelum and the Poonch. The valleys are green and wooded.
Muzaffarabad is the capital of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, situated at the confluence of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers. This city  is located in Muzaffarabad District on the banks of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers. It is 138 kilometres from Rawalpindi and Islamabad and about 76 kilometres from Abbottabad.

The Muzaffarabad  district is bounded by North-West Frontier Province in the west, by the Kupwara and Baramulla districts of on the Indian side of the Line of Control in the east, and the Neelum District of Azad Kashmir in the north.

  • Description:
Muzaffarabad city is one of the major cities in Pakistan. It is a hilly area and consists of wonderful cliffs. It is located in the Muzaffarabad district and ranks among the major tourist destinations in Pakistan. Thousands of tourists and travelers visit Muzaffarabad from all over the world. The scenic beauty and diverse culture of the place makes it a popular holiday spot.  Rice and maize are widely grown. Varoius plants like resin, Deodar, Kail, Chir, Fir, Maple and Ash Timbers etc are exist.

Muzaffarabad is also well known for its beautiful gardens, forests, valleys, rivers and mountains. It is a popular holiday spot in the country. The idyllic landscape of the city makes it popular to both local people and foreign tourists. Muzaffarabad is a scenic tourist destination. Administrative capital of Kashmir, Muzaffarabad offers tourists stunning views and exciting trekking trails.

The name "Muzaffarabad" (meaning Muzaffar's Town) comes from the name of Sultan Raja Muzaffar Khan (a Muslim ruler of Khandan-e-Bomba). After the 1948-49 war, Muzaffarabad was made the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Muzaffarabad is a wonderful destination for trekking enthusiasts. There are a number of trekking trails that pass thorough some spectacular scenic spots in Muzaffarabad. Muzaffarabad has a number of beautiful monuments, farms and parks.

The city is a combination of old monuments and new buildings and a blend of different cultures and languages. It has besides official buildings, farms, parks and the historic forts standing on the banks of the Neelum, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Rawlakot and Kotli are connected with Pakistan by the Micro-weave system of telephone.

The population of the district, according to the 1998 Census, was 725,000, and according to a 1999 projection, the population had risen to almost 741,000. The district comprises three tehsils, and the city of Muzaffarabad serves as the capital of Azad Kashmir. Cradled by lofty mountains, Muzaffarabad reflects a blend of various cultures and languages. The main language is a form of Hindko.

The Neelum river streams, proudly through the hub of the town, joins river Jhelum at Domel, Muzaffarabad also serves as a base camp for the tourist intending to visit tourist spots and other historical and cultural & traditional aspects of AJ&K.

The climate of Muzaffarabad is mostly pleasant. The summers are mild while the winters are chilly with snowfall. The ideal time to visit the city is during the autumn season when the skies are clear and the weather condition excellent. Muzaffarabad is full of idyllic areas which add to the charm of the place. The Neelum river plays a dominant role in the microclimate of Muzaffarabad which joins Jehlum River near Domail.

  • Tourism:

Being the capital city Muzaffarabad is not only the hub of political and cultural activities but it also serves as a base camp for the tourists. It has various spots of leisure. View point Sathra, a public place, unravels the panorama of the entire city before a beholder. The junction point of the river Neelum and Jhelum presents a majic beauty from here. Lohar Gali, situated 9 kilometers from Muzaffarabad on Abbottabad road. The Red fort is a witness to the ancient history of this great city. The local market in Muzaffarabad can be explored for walnut carvings, kashmiri shawls and other traditional handicrafts. It is always possible to get a good bargain. It has besides official buildings; farms, parks and historic fort standing on the bank of the Neelum. Shopping is an exciting activity in Muzaffarabad and you can shop for Kashmiri shawls and walnut carvings.

Touring in the city is also easy and convenient as there are wide modes of transportation available. Travelers who wish to tour Muzaffarabad should have proper information about the city and keep the travel tips in mind for a safe and enjoyable tour. 

Past the Red fort, crossing Neelum river at Ghori, a few km way is 'Makra mountain' 3,890 meters which is visible from Muzaffarabad and continues on to Shogran in the Kaghan Valley. This is a superb short trek, although you need to camp overnight halfway.

The upper Jhelum valley makes another interesting scenic excursion from Muzaffarabad. follow the Jhelum upstream, taking the road beneath the Domel bridge. This was the old route to Srinagar. The valley is broad with raised terraces above the river.

Places to See:
Muzaffarabad is not only the hub of political and cultural activities, but also has various spots for leisure. Domel, the junction point of Neelum & Jhelum Rivers, presents a magic beauty from here. At the right bank of River Jhelum near this site, an established “Food Point” offers the delicacy of the famous “Kashmiri Cuisine” and other varieties of local traditional dishes of Kashmiri origin. "Lohaar Gali" situated 9 kilometers from the city on Abbottabad road, offers a bird eye view of the capital city. At night, the lights of the city present an unforgettable scene from this point.

  • Muzaffarabad's Forts: 
There are two historical forts, the Red Fort and the Black fort situated at the opposite side of the Neelum river.

  • Black Fort: 
The Mughals built this fort above the river junction but it's used by the army and is off limits to visitors

  • Red Fort:
During the year 1549 the construction of the red fort was undertaken. The red fort was finally completed by Sultan Muzaffar Khan, the founder of Muzaffarabad city during 1646. When the Mughals overtook the Kahsmir rule, this fort lost its importance. The Mughals were more interested in Kabul, Bokhara and Badakshan. During the Durrani rule the fort again came into limelight and its importance was rediscovred.

Maharaja Gulab Signh and Ranbir Singh, the Dogra rulers, reconstructed and extended the fort for political and military operations. Towards the end of 1947 the Dogra forces filed away leaving the fort wide open to anybody.

The architectonics of the fort show that great experts in design and structure participated in its construction. It is surrounded on three sides by Neelum river formally known as Kishan Ganga. The northern part had terraces with steps leading to the bank of the river. The Eastern side of the fort was very well protected from the hazards of flood waters but some parts in the north were slightly damaged. There was an inn at the entry of the fort which has traces left now. It has been in the bad shape for quite some time and wears deserted look. The structure still stands with all its inherent glory, grandeur and its historical background.

  • Pir Chanasi:

Pir Chinasi is a large mountain with an altitude of 2924 meters above the sea level located on 32 km east of Muzaffarabad city overlooking vast expanses of Azad Kashmir. Due to its tremendous scenic beauty, velvet green plateaus and wonderful climate, it wins admiration of nature lovers. This place is also visited by tourists who can get a great view of Muzaffarabad and rural areas around the hidden city. Adjacent to Pirchinassi is Pirassimaar, so beautiful yet unexplored!

The views of the summit of the neighboring mountain peaks spell bounds a tourist.  The adjacent Pir Asimar, phawna da Danna and the areas in the bottom of pir chinassi, i.e. Saran, Sud Bun, Muskhi, Sakki and Jarran phirran are also worth seen and ideal for hiking, trekking and camping activities. AJK Tourism Department has also constructed a tourist lodge at Saran to provide accommodation facilities to the tourists.

  • Machiara National Park:

Machiara National Pak is Situated in Lower Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir and covering an area of 13532 ha. The park is reached via Patika. In 1996 the southern slopes were brought within a new protected area management plan, and a small game reserve there grew into the 135-sq-km Machiara National Park.

Machiara National Park consists of montane mixed broadleaf-coniferous forest and contains a significant number of bird species. The forested Ganga Mountains, a branch of the Himalayan foothills, separate the Neelam and Kaghan Valleys and provide a fragile home to brown bear, ibex, Himalayan griffon vulture, western tragopan, lammergeier and, allegedly, snow leopard. It is home to a variety of wildlife including leopards, monkeys, wolves as well as many other species. The most endangered specie of the area is the Western Tragopan Pheasant. The park provides a breeding ground to the birds whose number was fast dwindling in the past. The Himalayan griffon vulture and lammergeyer (large vulture) are also found here. The park also provides sanctuary to the Himalayan Brown Bear, Ibex and Snow Leopard.

Machiara National Park is one of three globally significant national parks selected for a Global Environment Facility sponsored project. The overall goal is to set up management models demonstrating effective natural resource conservation and make a significant contribution to the development of Pakistan's capacity. The local community is very protective towards the past and is trying its utmost to save the threatened animals as well as their natural habitat.

  • Shaheed Gali:
The comely beauty of the place attracts a restive mind to prolong his stay. This picturesque Shaheed Gali is situated at the height of about 1640 meters above sea level at a distance of about 16 kilometer westward from Muzaffarabad. From Shaheed Gali is a trek of 4 Kms leads towards a wholesome spot namely “Sri Kot”. A tourist is bound to be fascinated by the serenity for the backdrop of the area. A Tourist Rest House is available for accommodation at Shaheed Gali.

  • Patika:
Patika is located at a distance of 19 Km from Muzaffarabad, is a gateway to Neelum valley. There is also A mini zoo and a fish hatchery. Tourism Department has constructed a Tourist Rest House here, which is very popular among tourists. 

  • Subri Lake (Langarpura):

Some 10 kms out of Muzaffarabad the river widens to from a small lake. This was created by a landslip some years ago. There is a small Angler's Hut here, which makes a pleasant picnic spot. It is possible to take boats out on the river. Book through the Tourist Department in Muzaffarabad. There are rest houses, good hotels and guest houses in Muzaffarabad city where the tourists can stay.

  • Danna:

Amidst Muzaffarabad to Kohala, a road bifurcates the highway and leads to Danna, crossing the labyrinthine roads. Dann is known for its healthy climate and alluring scenic beauty. A tourist rest house is available for accommodation. From here one can go to Dheerkot, a known hill station in District Bagh.
What to Do:
You can indulge in different activities like hiking, trekking and camping at the foothill regions of the Pir Chinassi, Saran, Sun Bun, Muskhi, Sakki and Jarran.

  • Where to Stay:
Pleasant lodging facilities are also available in Muzaffarabad. The hotels in the city range from luxury hotels to budget hotels. There are various guest houses, rest houses and good motels at most of the tourist spots which can be booked in advance from their offices in Muzaffarabad.

  • Where to Eat:
The dining spots serve delicious local and international delicacies. Pakistani and Kashmiri foods are available everywhere. Many restaurents offer chinese and italian dishes as well. If you are tourist here, plz go to some reputed restaurent and ask what is freshly cooked. Chicken Karahi is dish recommended for Pakistanis and Kashmiris as it can be cooked easily and once can see this being cooked. Kashmiri Nan are wonderful in taste. Try kashmiri Pink Tea. You can take Kashmiri Kulcha as snack. Kashmiri Kulcha is different from Kulcha sold in Lahore or Gujranwala. If you have time and money, try typical Kashmri Dishes like Goshtawa etc but its hard to find real one.

  • Where to Buy:
The rather sleazy bazaar in Muzaffarabad can be explored for its walnut carvings and its Kashmiri shawls. It is sometimes possible to get a good bargain. The best time to shop is during the festive season when huge discounts are offered. Handicrafts: Carpets, silk woolen clothing, woolen shawls, wood carving, Papier Mashie, rugs. Other products and fruits like mushrooms, honey, walnuts, apples, cherry, medicinal herbs are also available.

How to Reach:
  • By Plan:
The small domestic airport is currently not receiving flights.

  • By Road:
This city can be reached easily by road from Rawalpindi and Islamabad. During this pleasant trip one can get to view and admire the natural surroundings of the region. Buses and minibuses make the scenic journey regularly from Islamabad (4-5 hours). If you're self-driving, the route via Murree is probably the quickest. Kohala is the entry point into Azad Kashmir, where you'll need to get through a checkpoint. On own transport you need 40-50 minutes to reach Murree. Then 2 hours to reach Koala Bridge and 30 minutes to reach Muzaffarabad. Approximately its 3 and half hours on you own car. You can adopt the route Islamabad - Abbottabad - Mansehra - Gari Habibullah - Muzaffabad as well. It is at a distance of about 76 kilometers from Abbottabad.