Never Give Up,
You won’t want to lose
the energy of a lifetime in a second.
Keep walking as you are almost there.
As the summer season in Punjab begins, adventure-seekers from across the country swarm the spectacular valleys in Swat and Upper Dir. My plan of escape was to Katora lake located in Upper Dir in mid of August. I had never visited Pashtun north areas in my life the selection added excitement as well as raised plenty of questions. Afterall I was excited that I was going to explore the unique culture, people and espacially their food which I have heared about alot.
The Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Route & Directions
From Lahore, you have two options to reach the starting point of the trek (Jandari), take Daewoo Pakistan to reach Batkhela and then take a jeep to Jandrai. The other option is to take Sanan Daewoo to reach Dir and take a jeep to Jandrai. The second option is highly NOT recommended because of certain reason which can not be explained here.
Mode of Travel / Stay / Dinner
9th & 10th August
Lahore to Kumrat Valley
Departure from Lahore at 7: 00 pm via Sanan Daewoo
Dinner at Dargai
Arrival at Dir at 6:00 am
Departure from Dir at 10:00 am via Jeep for Kumrat Valley
Camp in Kumrat Valley
Jeep / Camp / Tinned meals
Dir to Darwaza: 79KM (4.5 hours)
Darwaza to Jandrai: 06 KM (45mints)
Day: 3 - 11th August
Jandari to Jahaz Banda
Departure for Jandari via Jeep at 8:00 am
Arrival at Jandrai at 11:00 am and Start Trek for Jahaz Banda
Arrival at Jahaz Banda
B.B.Q. at Jahaz Banda
Trekking / Resthouse / B.B.Q
Jandrai to Jahaz Banda: 7.6KM (5-6 hours)
Day: 4 - 12 August
Trekking to Katora Lake from Jahaz Banda
Refreshment meals at Katora Lake
Trek back to Jandrai and reach Thall Village via Jeep
Trekking / Resthouse | Hotel / Hotel meals
Jahaz Banda to Katora Lake: 4.7KM (3 - 3.5 hours)
Day 5: 13th August
Departure from Thall village for Lahore at 11:00 am
Arrival in Lahore at 4:00 am next day (14th August)
Daewoo Bus + Jeep + Private Transport / Dinner in Mardan
The trek requires hiking for two days to reach the Lake. The first day, 6-7 hours of long hike leads you to the meadow called Jahaz Banda. The lush green meadow offers you huts and a rest house for an overnight stay, alternatively, you can pitch a tent as well. The second day, 3-4 hours hike is required to reach Katora Lake. What we did well actually, we added an extra day into our plan for compensating any unplanned (uncertain) events.
View of Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Here is the elevation profile of the trek starting from Jandrai to Katora Lake (Thanks to Google Earth).
Elevation profile from Jandrai to Katora Lake, Upper Dir, Kohistan
Trek Statistics - Katora Lake
Total Hike (Round Trip)
20 - 22 hours
No (#) of Days
At Jandrai, Raja Taj Muhammad who is the primary contact for all tourists and trekkers visiting the area provides guidance & help to the tourists. If you are planning to visit Kumrat valley, he is the first person you should talk to. Raja Taj is an interesting person who does not let you get bored or unoccupied through his continuous chat and hospitality. He has got this local museum built at Jandrai showcasing stuff belonging to his forefathers ranging from guns to stuffed hunted species and clothing. This is quite a site to visit in one of the remote areas of Kumrat valley. Raja has set up a few guest rooms at both museum and his home, to provide basic accommodation to the trekkers. which is indeed a treat to find for trekkers. He has also got a hut built at Jahaz Banda meadows where there are a couple of rooms set up. These guest rooms are not luxurious, but given the circumstances and remoteness of the area, they become a luxury for trekkers. Raja can arrange porters and other trekking requirements as requested. He can be reached at numbers 0346-3133466 & 0321-9176378.
Raja Taj museum in Jandrai, Upper Dir
Markhor (preserved) seen in Raja Taj's museum, Upper Dir
The trek started from Jandrai village after spending a night in the beautiful Kumrat valley where we camped on the bank of the *Panjkora* River. I along with my friends (Adnan, Afzaal, Hussnain, Noraiz, Uzair) was excited to meet local people and camping in the remote valley of Kumrat. We took three porters along our side and left from Jandrai around 11:30 am. The start of the trek was rocky and steep; inexperience of such trek added more difficulty for us. During initial 40-50 minutes, we understood this will not going to be easy; it will require our lot of courage (With the certain events happened during the trek, our patience was tested). The trek passes through the village and moves along the stream gradually before crossing a bridge and entering into the dense pine forest and ascends steeply. This ascent continues until it opens up into the lush green meadows of Jahaz Banda.
At the start of the trek from Jandrai village.
The trek passes through the beautiful dense pine jungle
After the dense jungle, continue the hike through this stony path
After all the hardship and hours of hike, the trek opens up in the wide meadow.
Overlooking the rest house from Jahaz Banda meadow, Upper Dir.
We reached Jahaz Banda meadows before it was too dark covering the distance in roughly 6.5 hours. The sight of the meadows was a spectacular one, a lush green meadow surrounded by high peaks and sky covered with dark clouds with sprinkling rain; welcome to the Jahaz Banda Meadows. All the hardship of the trek, passing through the steep & dense forest, crossing stony patches and the continuous search for cold sweet water spring ends when you reach there. The rest house is still 20 min far from the meadow; Imagine the trekking on the flat green meadow, overlooking a rest house and a stream of fresh water flowing just a side of the meadow Alhamdulliah, It is hard for me to sum up my experience into words. It was just “beautiful”.
Jahaz Banda rest house, Upper Dir
We reached at the resthouse at 730PM and rain started to pour, everyone rushed to find a shelter. For the dinner, we arranged & prepared BBQ ourselves. It was beyond expectations to cook such a meal at a place so remote.
Day 2: Jahaz Banda to Katora lake
Let's fill our water bottles before starting the hike to Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Everyone wanted to sit there peacefully and enjoy the moments of solitude (View in Full Screen)
A bright and clear day welcomed us when we were going to attempt Katora Lake trek. Being relatively shorter than the Jahaz Banda trek, it was no less difficult. We suppose to trek to the lake and return to the Jandri village today. We were climbing huge stones walking on stony meadows. The majority of the path was along the side of the mountain; badly affected by floods and stones broke down over it. During the trek, you can see a couple of green & blue ponds of water which were not less attractive than Naltar Lakes in Gilgit Baltistan. Sitting on a stone and enjoying the wind touching the water and making a peaceful sound was an experience not to forget about.
Jahaz Dand Lake deceives trekkers as if they have reached Katora Lake, Upper Dir.
Before Katora Lake, Jahaz Dand Lake deceives the trekkers as if they have reached the Katora Lake. This neither small nor a less beautiful lake is surrounded by mountains from the both sides. We sat and saw the lake from the mountain which gave a bird's eye view of the lake. We cannot sit here for long, one of the porters said, we still have a distance to cover. Far away, the spillover from Katora Lake was forming a waterfall, giving us a heading towards it.
Jahaz Dand Lake, Upper Dir
Jahaz Dand Lake, Upper Dir
Just before the lake, you need to climb a steep hill, we helped each other in climbing the hill and we saw the lake uncovered itself from its vail. This is it!! One of the porters said, “This is the destination you were trekking for, welcome to Katora Lake”. The lake was big and snow covered mountains were covering it from all sides. At the lake there is no way to camp, so whoever comes to visit, must trek back to Jahaz Banda or Jandrai. The spillover of the lake is mysterious, it is not something, which is naturally formed, and by my observation, the water made its way out of the lake by finding the most suitable direction. Excited and amazed, we sat there for a couple of hours saving memories; some were saved in mind and some were photographed for sharing with everyone who is interested.
Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Time spend on the Katora Lake, observing the beauty and calmness at the place, Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Spillover of Katora Lake, Upper Dir
Porters played a huge role in the success of our trek; they were friendly, communicative and always motivating. “We are almost there”, they used to say when we start getting tired. They didn’t rush nor they put all of us in hurry. Steady as we go, we reached our destination. It was never possible without their support to accomplish the goal.
The porters who played a key role in the success of trek.
Phander is a beautiful and magical place, views of Phander lake from the isolated PTDC motel capture one's attention. Feeling the cool breeze sitting up at the motel can get anyone in trance and one can sit for hours watching it. The view becomes even more attractive at sunrise when the rays spread upon the natural water of the lake.
The day of 14th August was a couple of days away, so dedicated rest of cycling days to our country Pakistan. We equipped our bicycles with the early breakfast & decorated our bicycles with Pakistani flag. The ride got a purpose, we were spreading unity & love among the people of Ghizer. If 10% of them sees us and think these are the men from our country who are spreading love, we could feel our visit was worth doing.
I had a wish to witness autumn colors for a long time and on Dec 1st, I decided to visit Abbottabad and Galiyat. It was a 12th Rabi' al-awwal evening and the country was celebrating the birthday of the Islamic prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). The plan was to leave late night and experience the sunrise on Karakorum Highway.
Fresh air, bluish water, greeny Margalla hills and a place surrounded by ruins which dates back to 4th century CE; Yes, you are at Khanpur. Stepping out of the hectic city routine and traveling for seven long hours; you could have not ask for a better place which was so peaceful. Soon, all the peace, remoteness and silence of this place was going to overrun when the team Arbisoft conquered the place for their annual summer trip 2016.
"Why not I take the Nathiagali road to reach Islamabad?" I thought, having a cup of tea in "Bhai Sweet & Hotel". The road would be more scenic filled with many interesting places like Donga Gali, Pipeline trek, Nathiagali and Muree. Unknowing the condition of the road I started off hesitantly.