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Neelum Valley is a valley situated between Muzaffarabad, AJK to the south, LOC to the east, Naran to the west & Minimarg, Gilgit Baltistan to the north. It is 144 km long, starting from Athmuqam and ending at Tao Butt. It has “Shounter Valley” as a sub-valley. There are beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountains, with an amazing combination. Major places in the valley are Kutton, Jagran, Athmuqam, Kundal Shahi, Keran, Sharda, Kel, Arrang Kel & Tao Butt. I’m stating the best places to visit in Neelum Valley. However, this is a complete tourist or travel guide for visiting this beautiful valley.
The road from Muzaffarabad till Keran is good but remaining road is rough with small patches of carpeted road. You can go till Sharda easily on your car. If you are a very good driver, you will reach till Kel, but that’s not recommended. You must have to hire services of a 4×4 jeep, which are very common in the valley. For Arrang Kel, you’ll either hike or use the lift. During the season i-e from April to September, usually queues are made for the lift. After exiting Lift, you’ve to hike for approximately 30 minutes. Complete hiking towards the Arrang Kel usually takes 2-3 hours. The road till Tao butt is very rough while beautiful.
There are government rest houses, lodges and hotels in every major town of the valley. Government Rest houses are either managed by Ministry of Tourism or Forest Department of AJK Government. While there are a number of private hotels and camping sites throughout the valley. Here is a list of Rest house with respective department of AJK Government.
- Kutton/Jagran Resthouse
- Keran Resort, Leased to Valley Trackers.
- Tourist Huts, Upper Neelum
- Tourist Huts, Salkhala
- Domail Resthouse
- Dawarian Resthouse
- Forest Rest House, Sharda, Leased to Valley Trackers.
- Tourist Motel, Kel
- Army Resthouse, Kel
All of these rest houses provides amazing services and views. Most of these are located besides rivers and streams. Some of the best private hotels in the valley are
- Paradise Lodges, Keran
- Neelum Star River View Resort, Sharda
- Sardar Sarhad Hotel, Kel
- Musk Deer Resort, Arrang Kel
- Heaven In Hills, Arrang Kel
Places to Visit
Although every inch of the valley is great for a tourist who’s visiting the valley for the first time. Here I’ve pointed out some of the best locations to visit in the valley.
- Dhani Waterfall
- Kutton Waterfall
- Kutton/Jagran Resort Kundal Shahi
- Arrang Kel
- Tao butt
- Shounter Valley
- Ratti Gali Lake
- Chitta Kata Lake
The reasons behind pointing out these locations are here for you. Dhani Waterfall is by far the highest waterfall in the neelum valley and a great place for youngster to dive in the cold water. Dhani waterfall is around 10 km before kundal shahi town. Kutton Waterfall is the widest waterfall in the neelum valley. There is a view point besides the Kutton Waterfall. Kutton waterfall is 3 km away from kundal shahi and the way can be covered using 4×4 vehicle. It is at a distance of around 74 km from muzaffarabad. You can find Kashmiri Shawls in Kundal Shahi and the river view point is amazing, just in the main market of the town. Kutton/Jagran resort is further half an hour drive from the waterfall. The view of the jagran valley from the resort is amazing.
Athmuqam is the District Headquarter of the Neelum Valley. It is around 85 km from muzaffarabad. Athmuqam has some picturesque locations around the town. Keran is location further 10 km on the main road from athmuqam. The Keran resort is a great place to visit. It is closest to Indian Occupied Kashmir. On some locations between Athmuqam to Keran and than Sharda to Kel where River Neelum is the LOC between Azad Jammu & Kashmir and the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Dhudnial is small serene village about 10 KM before Sharda. It is beautiful and you will witness many streams crossing the main road. Sharda is a village with largest number of hotels in the neelum valley. It lies on both sides of the Neelum Valley. Boating, Bonfire & BBQ facility is provided at many hotels. The hotels ranges between One star to 3 star. Sharda Forest Resort by Valley Trackers is the best lodging facility in the town. Neelum Star River View is another good place to stay here. Both offers boating and BBQ.
Kel is around 30 KM ahead of Sharda. The track is rough and usually covered after 1 H 30 Min ride on a 4×4 jeep. It provides passage to Arrang Kel, Tao Butt and Shounter Valley. All of these are pearls of neelum valley. You can reach Tao Butt via a 4×4 in 3 hours from Kel. Arrang Kel is 2-3 hours of trekking away from kel. A lift also operates between Kel and Arrang Kel. After departing lift, there’s a further 30 mins hiking. Sardari, Halmat, Hanti are villages located on the way to tao butt.
Shounter Valley is a sub-valley of Neelum Valley. There is a jeep track for shounter valley from Kel. Chitta Katha Lake is located in the shounter valley. Ratti Gali is after 3-4 hours jeep track from dowarian and a further 40 min trekking on ice glaciers. There are two lakes at Ratti Gali.
As compared to Lahore, fooding is average in neelum valley. The food is not as spicy as in lahore and not as tasty as in lahore. Also food is little bit costly than lahore.
In the valley the hotel ranges from PKR 500 room per night to PKR 5000 room per night. Local also offers their homes to the tourists on minimum pricing. Kutton/Jagran Resort can be booked from AJK Tourism Department Office Muzaffarabad. It offers rooms from PKR 2500 per night to suites of PKR 6000 per night. Keran Resort and Forest Rest House Sharda are maintained by Valley Trackers and room pricing starts from PKR 4500. You can book all the remaining rooms in the valley not more than PKR 2500. You must bargain to save your money through out the valley, from food to rooms. There is a Tent Village at Ratti Gali Lake and pricing starts from PKR 800 per night. Some Igloo’s are built at Sharda by private hotels which can be booked at PKR 2500. Lift operated between Kel and Arrang Kel costs PKR 100 for two sides.
Local transport is available throughout the valley. Buses regularly travels between Muzaffarabad and Kel daily. Local jeep service is available between Kel and Tao Butt, between Kundal Shahi and Jagran.
Precaution before visiting Neelum Valley
You must have your CNIC or NICOP before travelling to Neelum Valley. Foreigners are strictly not allowed in the valley, due to it’s vicinity from LOC. Army check posts are every where in the valley. Before Kel, one of the group members has to submit his CNIC to the army check post. Before Taobutt at Halmat, all the CNIC’s should be submitted at the Army checkpost. There is an Army post before Arrang Kel, one CNIC from the group be submitted here.
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