Pakistan’s unmatched beauty of formidable mountainous ranges, defining lush forests, wild rivers and large glaciers is finally getting the spotlight it rightly deserves.
And interestingly, much of this is generating from the efforts of foreign explorers, whose enthusiasm and a major thumbs-up to this highly misjudged South-Asian country is paving the way for many locals to also embrace the diamond mine at their very disposal.
Where many still prefer utilizing their vacation in the exploration of global sights and sounds, this year it was a little different. Pakistani exploration was triggered this year by the limitations on international travel as uncertainty encapsulated, much thanks to an enraging pandemic. Perhaps that is the only silver lining that can be taken from these confusing times.
Pakistan is a haven of excitement; a country that gives you wondrous peaks with the clearest of streams. It is a gem of nature that inhibits deep-rooted history with cultural colours scattered wide and far.
And within the plethora of absolute adventure it gives, Kalam is resurging as one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country.
A place which for a certain time period had closed its doors due to Taliban-led inhabitations and restrictions, making it synonymous to the words ‘fear’ and ‘dangerous’. However it is sweet realization that it’s finally getting to claim its rightful place in the world of aesthetics.
Nestled into the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Kalam stands at an elevation of 6600 feet. The region is situated on the far heights of Swat Valley and is also considered as the birth place of the valley.
A distinctive sound one would hear as you get nearer to your designated location offering you all three in one place-mountains, crystal clear lakes and luscious forests, is the whooshing sound of the Swat River hitting against the rocks. A convergence of the two rivers- Gabral and Ushu, it lets you know you are far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
Around 100 kilometers from Mingora, the valley welcomes you to settings of lush greenery, so lush that in whatever season you come into this valley, you will be greeted by a Coniferous spread across the wide regions. For those who are feeling extra adventurous, there are plenty of fragile-looking bridges which get you adrenaline-charged to cross from one side to another.
Stimulating tourism with new guest houses and resorts in recent years, visitors now have an amazing selection at their disposal to make their visit comfortable and engaging.
From mediocre to high-end staycation, one of the most scenic places in the world is providing visitors Instagram-worthy clicks. Most of these resorts come on a single strip which accumulates to a walk towards the vibrant, loud and slightly underrated Kalaam Bazaar.
The main marketplace of the rounding areas is considered as a high-end street for tourists, offering a multitude of shopping possibilities- from local merchandise, souvenir allure to mouth-watering options to dine at. It stretches for a mile as you keep on walking, feeling pure bliss as you eye the stream which is flowing down into the lower part of the town.
It has vastly developed over the years, giving the locals a chance to make some good dough from modest businesses, which are being run by family members in hopes it will keep them well-fed throughout the year. And their sheer acceptance of your visit can be felt in their warmth and hospitality.
People of Kalam welcome you with wide open arms- their voices soft and amiable; manners helpful and accepting- the demeanour will make you appreciative and at ease. In hopes that you will leave utter satisfied, with glistening eyes, someone local will most definitely ask you: “Have you visited Mahodand yet or no?” For it is a prized possession they hold dearly. It has put their valley onto the map.
Lake Mahodand is located around 30 kilometers from Kalaam, in the upper end of the Usho Valley. Reaching this majestic area is a whole another adventure. Your modest, city automobiles can’t survive the ride. Tourist guides can be found at the bazaar, offering competitive deals against counterparts to ensure you are on board for a bumpy but memorable journey on a four-wheel drive to the lake.
For it isn’t the final destination that matters. Along the way, awe-inspiring visuals of streams and waterfalls would call for various pit stops. Which is why it is generally advised you leave for the lake trip in wee hours of the morning, so to cover and marvel roadside spectacular too on this 40 km journey.
It takes about 4hours to reach your destination but the extremely rigid ride is worth it. For breath-taking views of large glaciers and lofty mountain peaks, along the way keeps the excitement intact. It is also during this route you will come across an astounding view of Falak Sar- an absolute marvel, the highest mountain peak in Ushu Valley of Swat expresses beauty with brilliance with a white snow top at 19,416 feet.
In one word- it’s tranquil. With various shaded trees, rocky pathways to the smoothest of sand to soak your feet into, the mesmerizing landscape is home to secret waterfalls that have sprung through melted glaciers.
The first sight of Mahodand will take your breath away. Nestled in a lush green field which is embraced by a marvellous line-up of mountains, you will also get excited over a hidden, quaint forest which is accessible through a boat ride in the river.
While Mahodand already holds celebrity status in Kalam, there are discreet and underrated scenic points that are silent and mystifying. It is only when you decide to hike with a persistent vision to explore will you be able to unravel the haven of wonders in its pure majesty.
Indeed Swat Valley’s favourite child is brimming with great things. Kalam is bewitching. It has foreigners in awe as they seek the excitement.
Don’t you feel it’s high time you added this spectacle to your bucket list too and see what the fuss is all about?