Kaghan - With snow and clouds-covered mountain peaks, erratic rainfall, gushing rivers, water and zig-zagging tracks, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is once again all set to welcome a volley of local and international tourists.
With Malka Parbat Mountain on the northeastern side of Kaghan Valley, Mohudand Lake in Kalam, Kumrat Valley in Dir and much more across the province would be presenting enchanting views to live in memories of visitors for long.
Adventure sports enthusiasts and eco-tourists will definitely be baffling over the moon when witnessing the breathtaking natural beauty of Saiful Malook, Lulusir, Ansoo lakes and Babusar Top as flocks of people from across the country have started arriving in the areas.
Saiful Malook - a famous 1.06 diameter, 113 feet deep and 3,224 meters above sea level lake, named after Persian Prince Saiful Malook and fairy princess Badri Jamala – is famous for popping up visitors’ thoughts with peace and serenity.
“Its natural beauty is beyond one’s imagination. I have visited many lakes abroad but no one can match the mesmerizing effect of this oval-shaped lake,” remarked Manzoorul Haq, a former ambassador. “It is really blessed with bounties of nature as manifested by its crystal greenish-blue water emanating from Malka Parbat glaciers.”
Recalling the past when people had to travel on rough roads to reach this beautiful place, Manzoor said, the enhanced road connectivity through Hazara Motorway, establishment of camping pods, construction of jeep tracks and improved road links had made it easier to visit Kaghan Valley and suburbs. With enhanced connectivity and awareness through social media, more and more tourists throng these areas every year, the KP government also had to go the extra mile for ensuring better mobility and security facilities for the tourists.
“As tourists influx increases every year becoming a source of earning for the province, we are ensuring numerous measures to facilitate them,” said Saad Khan, KP Tourism and Culture Authority spokesman.
For this purpose, he said, under the Ecotourism Project, camping pods were established at Sharan near Saiful Malook Lake to save tourists from high-charging hotels. “Besides Sharan, 10 more camping pods are being installed at different tourist spots including Gabeen Jaba, Bishigram and Malka in Swat, Yakhtangi Shangla, Shaheed e Sir and Mahaband Buner-Swabi, Allai Batagram, Bamburait Chitral, Thandyani Abbottabad and Sheikh Badin DI Khan. Bishigram, Sharan, Yakhtangi, Shaheed e Sir and Malka camping pods had been opened for tourists with the remaining to be available after renovation work, Saad informed.
“These two to four beds pods with a washroom and a small kitchen are available at Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,000 per day against the hefty private hotel charges of Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 per room,” he added.
Saad said after successful experience with camping pods, it had been proposed to install pods at 10 more places, including Jargo and Sulatanr Swat, Lashkargha Broghal Valley and Surlaspur Shandor Valley Upper Chitral, Kumrat Valley Upper Dir, Laram Top and Shahi Bin Shahi Lower Dir, Lilowani Alpuri Shangla, Samanah Top Orakzai/Hangu and Kalam Swat.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali Syed, General Manager, KP Tourism and Culture Authority also informed about establishing five tourist facilitation centers at Chitral, Donga Gali, Abbottabad City and Peshawar. “To reduce tourists’ load at Galiyat, Kaghan, Naran, Kalam, Malam Jabba and Dir roads, jeep tracks were being built in 15 areas with an estimated cost of around Rs500 million.”
He said the KP government had also announced the construction of Integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) at Ghanool Mansehra, Mankiyal Swat, Madaklasht Chitral and Thandiyani Abbottabad with the assistance of the World Bank.
“ITZs of Ghanool Mansehra would be established at 59.6 acres of land, Mankiyal Swat at 29.5 acres, Madaklasht 540 Kanal and Thandyani at 640 Kanal respectively,” Muhammad told. “As a pilot project, Ghanool would be developed first at a proposed cost of Rs 5.5 billion and then Mankiyal at Rs2.9 billion.”
He said pre-qualification bids of Mankiyal and Ghanool ITZs would soon be awarded for their completion within two years on the pattern of ITZs of Malaysia and Indonesia. “These ITZs are expected to attract millions of dollars in investment and create 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.”
“We have also completed feasibility of the Cable Car project from Dir Upper to Madaklast Chitral. This project would be financed by the World Bank through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Project (KITE),” Ali informed.
As the tourism department is also establishing ecotourism spots at small dams, including Tanda Dam Kohat, Chatri Dam Haripur, Naryab Hangu, Kundal Swabi and Chalgoza Abbottabad, besides constructing a road from Maidan to Bishigram, the provincial government has also on way to provide better security for tourists.
“Besides, deployment of tourism police at different destinations of Malakand and Hazara divisions, we have also launched a ‘tourists assistance app’ to facilitate visitors,” informed Hayat Ali Shah, Senior General Manager Planning and Development KP Tourism and Culture Authority. “Due to these measures, around 86,000 tourists visited different spots across the province during the Eidul Fitr holidays.”
As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa offers vast tourism opportunities, fully tapping this potential can help local people generate sizable income from local and international tourists.