Are you a lakes’ lover and want to explore as much as 20 lakes of Pakistan in one week?
In 2014 a friend, Talha Umair along with Adnan Gulfam prepared an itinerary for Nature Explorers tourism company based on Google maps to explore 19+ lakes in one week. Some of the lakes were famous and routes were known while others were just guess work as the maps had been prepared from Google maps website. The lakes were located in Kaghan and Neelum valleys.
As a lakes’ lover and explorer I didn’t want to miss exploring so many lakes of Pakistan in one week so I signed up for the trip. The trip was lead by Usama Shah, a young energetic and ambitious trekker who already had lots of experience working with Nature Explorers.
Day-1: Islamabad to Besal
The journey started on 2nd August 2014 from Islamabad towards Besal in a booked vehicle. It was a strong group of 27 people gathered from all over Pakistan. Some were seasoned trekkers and some were very new to trekking. The new comers most probably had signed up for the trip without reading the details.
We stopped at Balakot for some shopping and filling gas cylinders. We did our lunch at Naran bazar and reached Besal in night. We camped at Besal beside road where the work on road was still in progress.
Day-2: Besal to Sat Sar Mala lakes and back to Besal
Our guide Shafiq joined us early in the morning for our first day’s trek to Sat Sar Mala lakes series, a series of 6 cascading lakes. We decided to depart in the same vehicle which we had booked from Islamabad. Everyone was excited and didn’t realize what lied ahead.
First up was Lulusar lake which is hardly 4km away from Besal. Unfortunately the road condition was not good so as soon as we went past Lulusar lake our vehicle was stuck and the driver refused to go beyond. We should have taken 4×4 jeeps but we made a mistake and paid for it. Now we had to cover the rest of the distance up to Gittidas from where we had to start our trekking. It was relatively easy walk on the muddy road up to Gittidas.
Gittidas is a small village at the mouth of Sat Sar Mala lakes series and the inhabitants of that village are known to be hostile towards tourists. To our luck one of village elder was present at the road construction site so our guide talked to him that we only want to explore the lakes and their boys should not create trouble for us. He was kind enough to go to his village and tell the boys to let us go to the lakes without creating trouble for us. One of the younger boys came to us and told us that we should take that particular track and keep our cameras in the bag (the reason that these villagers are not tourists friendly is because most of the tourists don’t respect their local traditions and take pictures towards the village without the villagers’ consent). We did so and started our hike towards Sat Sar Mala lakes.
The hike was very steep right from the start till the 6th lake (aka Surkhail lake). We decided to skip 1st lake (aka Fairy lake) and explore it on our return when we would go towards 2 unknown lakes. It was getting dark when we reached 6th and final lake of the Sat Sar Mala lakes series. We mutually decided to alter our plan to skip the 2 unknown lakes and go down to Gittidas following the stream. We did so but we were already in trouble as there was no vehicle to take us back to Besal. If we had followed our original plan to explore the 2 unknown lakes as well then we would have descended somewhere near Lulusar lake and from there going to Besal wouldn’t have been a big deal. Luckily there was a tractor at the road construction site so we tried our best to make a deal with the driver. First he refused because he was not authorized to use the tractor for non-construction purpose but then he realized that he was our only savior. He agreed to drop us at the end of Lulusar lake and we would walk ourselves towards Besal from there. It was an adventurous ride as we 27 people were jammed in the cart of the tractor. A lot of jokes were thrown at each other and the unknown faces were joking like they were childhood friends.
We spent our 2nd night at Besal after first adventurous trekking day to Sat Sar Mala lakes.
Day-3: Twin lakes of Dharmsar and Sambaksar to Mullah Ki Basti via Kalabashi top
At the end of the first trekking day some of the members, who had never done trekking before, were not happy as they found it to be a tedious job. Two of them decided overnight to quit and go back home. Unfortunately another one had got sick overnight so he and his friend also decided to quit the plan.
Rest of the 23 members embarked on another adventurous day towards Dharamsar and Sambaksar lakes via 4×4 jeeps. We were at the twin lakes in an hour. The first one is Dharamsar lake where 4×4 jeeps can go easily. Sambaksar is relatively big than Dharamsar lake and requires a quick steep hike of around 30 minutes. Sambaksar lake wasn’t fully melted even in first week of August. After exploring the twin lakes of Dharamsar and Sambaksar we continued our journey towards some unknown lakes behind the mountains. The ultimate goal was to reach Dudipatsar lake via Kalabashi top. After going on the other side of the mountains, which were surrounding the twin lakes of Dharamsar and Sambaksar, we explored two relatively unknown lakes i.e. Ishigah-1 and Ishgah-2. We found many shepherds with their herds around those 2 lakes. We came across 2 more unknown small lakes before reaching Kalabashi top.
After reaching Kalabashi top we were almost lost because our guide didn’t know which way would lead to Dudipatsar lake. We decided to split the porters into multiple groups and spread them in different directions to find the route to Dudipatsar lake. Luckily one of the teams found the way which would lead us to Mullah Ki Basti. On our way to Mulla Ki Basti we found 2 unknown small lakes. As it was getting dark so we decided to spend night in the middle of the mountains where there was a small flat area and had access to water from a small stream. From the camp site we could also see a small portion of the Dudipatsar lake.
It was another tough trekking day which would lead many members to quit next day early in the morning and head back home.
Day-4: Mullah Ki Basti to Dudipatsar lake to Saral lake via Saral pass (4,131m)
Like I said 2nd trekking day was even tougher than the first trekking day. A member wasn’t feeling good so he decided to quite right from the camping site. Three more members decided to quit after they would explore Dudipatsar lake. The team was getting smaller and smaller with each passing day.
We started our day with a straight walk through trails in the mountains to Dudipatsar lake. We took a short break at the lake. Some of us even took bath in the chilling cold water of the lake. After an hour we decided to move ahead and go to Saral lake via Saral pass. After some easy trekking finally we reached the start of the Saral pass. We were at the top of Saral pass in around 2 hours. The views from Saral pass were stunning. We could even see Saral lake deep inside the mountains in a bowl shape. We were at Saral lake by sunset. Most of the members had tea from a shepherd’s hut on the way to Saral lake and myself had couple of glasses of Lassi from the same shepherd.
Today trekking was relatively easy than the previous two days. We spent the chilly night on the bank of Saral lake in full wilderness. There was no easy route to quit the plan so nobody thought about any such plan even if anyone wanted to.
Day-5: Saral lake to camp site below Noori top via Jabbah Gali pass (4,146m)
Yesterday was relatively easy but today was going to be the toughest day of our whole plan. Our goal was to reach Gattian lake and camp there but what did we know that what was waiting for us.
We started our journey from Saral lake to cross one of the two possible passes i.e. Jabbah Gali pass (4,146m) and Jummah Gali pass. Our guide decided to take us through Jabbah Gali pass as he had done that pass already. The hiking was getting harder and harder towards the pass. After some struggle through snowy patches we reached the Jabbah Gali pass. After taking some photos from the top we started our murderous descend towards Gattian lake. The descend would lead us to the road which connects Jalkhad in Kaghan valley with Sherdah in Neelum valley. The descend was too straight and tiring. All the members were scattered and followed different paths. Once we were all on the jeepable road, we were stuck as there was a glacier blocking our way and we didn’t know where to go. The reason was that our guide had already gone beyond our sight with three of our members who were riding on horses, which they had decided to take after first day’s trek of Sat Sar Mala lakes. After 10-15 minutes of wait one of the three members riding on the horses came back and guided us towards the right path. After some steep hike we were at a camp site below Noori top (towards Dowarian pass).
The plan was changed during a short break while descending from Jabbah Gali pass that instead of going Gattian lake we will go to camping site below Noori top. Going to Gattian lake wouldn’t have been possible on that day.
It was the toughest and tiring trekking day of our whole plan which lead to some more members to quit the plan. I myself sent one of the porter to bring us some Lassi from a nearby shepherd’s hut. The porter brought us a large bucket half filled with Lassi. I love Lassi during the treks. 🙂
Day-6: From camp site below Noori top to Ratti Gali lake via Dowarian pass (4,181m)
Like I said the previous day was the toughest trekking day which lead to some more decisions. A large group of 6 members decided to quit the plan via Noori top to Jhalkad. Now were only 13 members left for the last 2 days to complete the whole trek.
We started the hike towards Dowarian pass which was once again getting tougher and tougher towards the top. We took a short break at the top and then started the descend towards Hansraj lake. The descend on this side was relatively less steep than the ascend towards the top. Within an hour we were at Hansraj lake. Today we came across first shepherd’t hut while going towards Ratti Gali lake and requested Lassi from the shepherd. He didn’t had enough Lassi to offer us so he promised to serve us Lassi when we would come back next day to cross Ratti Gali pass towards Burwai in Kaghan valley.
In couple of hours we were at Ratti Gali lake. Today was the easiest trekking day as we were already at lake by afternoon. Finally we were at our ultimate destination of Ratti Gali lake and next day we simply had to start our return journey. In celebrations we ordered a sheep for dinner from nearby shepherds.
Day-7: Ratti Gali lake to Burwai via Ratti Gali pass (4,154m)
After spending a chilling night at Ratti Gali lake and couple of hours in the morning we embarked on our return journey towards Burwai via Ratti Gali pass. On the way to Ratti Gali pass we went to the shepherd’s hut for our promised Lassi. 🙂
After having some heavy Lassi we started the hike towards the pass. Once we reached near the top, fog blanketed the whole area and we could hardly see couple of meters away. We waited for a short while and then decided to continue our journey. There was lots of snow towards Burwai side which wouldn’t have been possible to cross had our porters not created path through the snow. Once we descended the Ratti Gali pass then we were on the plains but the distance from Das Chalis village to the village (Rewri) from where we could hire jeeps proved too much for our already exhausted bodies. Couple of team members were ahead to hire jeeps but they could only found jeeps at Burwai. Rest rested and waited at Rewri village. Finally jeeps arrived to takes us to Burwai.
We had a tea break at Burwai while Usama, our team leader, was making a deal with a truck driver to take us to Naran bazar. Our booked vehicle was supposed to be waiting for us at Burwai but that didn’t happen as the driver had taken the vehicle to Naran and he was waiting for us there. We reached Naran at around 9pm where we did our dinner and continued our journey back to Islamabad overnight. We reached Islamabad early in the morning. Some of the members were from Lahore so they reached their destination in afternoon.
Following is the list of lakes of Pakistan which we were able to explore in Kaghan and Neelum valleys during one week’s tough trekking:
- Lulusar lake
- 6 lakes of Sat Sar Mala lakes series
- Twin lakes of Dharamsar and Sambaksar
- Ishigah-1 and Ishigah-2 lakes
- 2 unknown lakes before Kalabashi top
- 2 unknown lakes at Kalabashi top
- Dudipatsar lake
- An unknown lake near Saral pass
- Saral lake
- Hansraj lake
- Ratti Gali lake
I have done lots of trekking throughout the northern areas of Pakistan but I will always rate this one week of trekking in Kaghan and Neelum valleys as the most toughest trekking I have ever done (except technical passes like Gondorogo La which require basic mountaineering skills hence I would never compare simple trekking with something like that).
So now you know how to explore 20 lakes of Pakistan in one week. I hope this article along with the detailed route maps will help you explore all these lakes. The credit for the maps goes to Haseeb Aslam Butt who was part of our team on this trek.
Which lakes of Pakistan you would like to explore in one week (please write in the comments section below)?
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Traveling is living!