the N.W.F.P province of Pakistan
May to October
Ask for Trips to
Swat is the most historically
interesting valley in Pakistan. It is also one of the most beautiful -
certainly much greener and more fertile than the valleys further north
because it lies within the monsoon belt. In Lower Swat, the valley is wide,
the fields on either side of the river are full of wheat and Lucerne, and
the villages are prosperous and surrounded by fruit trees. In Upper Swat,
the river tumbles through pine forests hemmed in by snow-capped mountains.
For the historical and amateur archaeologist, Swat offers several hundred
archaeological sites spanning 5,000 years of history. In 327 BC, Alexander
the Great fought his way to Udegram and Barikot and stormed their battlemens.
In Greek accounts these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira. Around
the 2nd century BC, the area was occupied by Buddhists, who were attracted
by the peace and serenity of the land. There are many remains that testify
to their skills as sculptors and architects. In the beginning of the 11th
century AD Mahmud of Ghazni advanced through Dir and invaded Swat, defeating
Gira, the local ruler, near Udegram. The "Udayana" (Golden) of the ancient Hindu
epics; the land of enthralling beauty, where Alexander of Macedonia fought
and won some of his major battles before crossing over the plans of
Pakistan. This is the "valley of hanging chains" described by the famous
Chinese pilgrim chronices, Huain Tsang and Fa-Hian in the fifth and sixth
centuries. Swat was also the historical land where the Muslim conquerors,
Mahmud Ghaznavi, Babar and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to
conquest of South Asia. Headquaters of Swat valley, Saidu sharif houses the
Swat Museum, which contains one of the finest collection of Ghadhara Art in
the world. Mingorta, 3 Km, from Saiu Sharif, has yeilded magnificent pieces
of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas.
The people of Swat are Muslim Pathans, Kohistanis and Gujars. Some have very
distinct features and claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great.
The Swat women wear colorful embroidered shirts and shalwars (baggy
trousers). The men wear shalwar-gamiz and embroidered caps or silk turban.
The valley of Swat sprawls over 10,360 sq. kms at an average elevation of
975 metres. The maximum temperature in July is 38 C and minimum (during
January) is 1 C. The normal temperature is maximum 21 C and minimum 7 C.
Beauty scenic spots worth
visiting are Maraghzar, 13 Kms from Saidu Sharif, famous for its White
Marble Palace of the former rule of the Swat; kabal, 16 Kms from Saidu
Sharif with its excellent golf course, Madyan, 55 Kms, From Saidu Sharif,
Bahrain, Miandam and Kalam. For the sportsman and trekker, it offers good
fishing and hiking.
Mingora is the district headquarter and commercial centre of Swat. the Swat
Museum, located between Mingora and Saidu, has a rich collection of Gandhara
art which is worth viewing.
Swat Museum is on the east side of the street, halfway between Mingora and
Saidu. Japanese aid has given a facelift to its seven galleries which now
contain an excellent collection of Gandhara sculptures taken from some of
the Buddhist sites in Swat, rearranged and labeled to illustrate the
Buddha's life story. Terracotta figurines and utensils, beads, precious
stones, coins, weapons and various metal objects illustrate daily life in
Gandhara. The ethnographic section displays the finest examples of local
embroidery, carved wood and tribal jewellery.
Butkara (Butkada) Stupa
One of the most important Buddhist shrines in Swat, is near the museum. Take
the dirt track on the left (north) side of the museum for one kilometer
(about half a mile). The stupa is 400 meters (above a quarter of mile)
across the fields to the left (north).
The stupa, which dates from the second century BC, was possibly built by the
Mauryan emperor Ashoka to house some of the ashes of the Buddha. In
subsequent centuries, it was enlarged five times by encasing the existing
structure in a new shell. Italian excavators working in 1955 exposed the
successive layers of the stupa, each layer illustrating a stage in the
evolution of building techniques.
Kabal is a golfer's paradise: an eighteen-hotel course is open all year
round and anyone can play there by paying the green fees.
Upper Swat Valley
The Swat Valley becomes more beautiful the higher you go. In mid-winter it
is sometimes blocked by snow above Bahrain, but in summer you can drive up
beyond Kalam and from there trek north to either the Chitral Valley or the
Gilgit Valley. From Khwazakhela, the road across the Shangla Pass to the
Karakoram Highway is usually open only from April to December.
Miandam is a small summer resort ten kilometres (six miles) up a steep side
valley and 56 kilometres (35 miles) from Saidu Sharif, making it an hour's
drive. The metalled road passes small villages stacked up the hillside, the
roofs of one row of houses forming the street for the row of houses above.
Tiny terraced fields march up the hillside right to the top.
Miandam is a good place for walkers. Paths follow the stream, past houses
with beehives set into the walls and good-luck charms whitewashed around the
doors. In the graveyards are carved wooden grave posts with floral designs,
like those used by Buddhists 1,000 years ago.
Madyan is a tourist resort on the Swat River. At 1,321 meters (4,335 feet)
above sea level, it is neither as cool nor as beautiful as Miandam, but it
is a larger town and has many hotels in all price ranges and some good
tourist shopping. Antique and modern shawls, traditional embroidery, tribal
jewellery, carved wood and antique or reproduced coins are sold along the
main street. This is the last Swati village, offering interesting two-and
three-day walks up to the mountain villages... ask in the bazaar in Muambar
Khan's shop for a guide. North of Madyan is Swat Kohistan where walking is
not recommended without an armed guard.
The central mosque at Madyan has carved wooden pillars with elegant scroll
capitals, and its mud-plastered west wall is covered with relief designs in
floral motifs. Both bespeak the Swati's love of decoration.
Bahrain is ten kilometres north of Madyan and only slightly higher, at about
1,400 meters (4,500 feet). It is another popular riverside tourist resort,
with bazaars worth exploring for their handicrafts. Some of the houses have
carved wooden doors, pillars and balconies. These show a remarkable variety
of decorative motifs, including floral scrolls and bands of ornamental
diaper patterns almost identical to those seen on Buddhist shrines and quite
different from the usual Muslim designs.
Kalam, 29 kilometres (18 miles) from Bahrain and about 2,000 meters (6,800
feet) above sea level, the valley opens out, providing rooms for a small but
fertile plateau above the river. In Kalam the Ushu and Utrot rivers join to
form the Swat river. Here, the metalled road ends and shingle road leads to
the Ushu and Utrot valleys. From Matiltan one gets a breath-taking view of
the snow-capped Mount Falaksir 5918 meters (19,415 ft.), and another
un-named peak 6096 meters (20,000 ft.) high. PTDC offers motel accommodation
in Miandam, Kalam and Besham. for booking please contact: PTDC Motels,
Ground Floor, Block 4-B, Markaz F-7, Bhitai Road, Islamabad. Tel: (92) (51)
111 555 999.
Ushu, Utrot and Gabral Valleys
The valleys of Ushu, Utrot and Gabral beyond Kalam, constitute some of the
most beautiful parts of Swat. There is good trout fishing around Utrot.
Foreign tourists are advised to contact the local police authorities at
Kalam before preceding to the valleys of Ushu, Utrot and Gabral.
Swat is ideal for camping, trekking and mountaineering. Permits are
necessary, and can be obtained from the Tourism Division, Government of
Pakistan, Markaz F-7, Islamabad.
The waters of the Swat River around Kalam and in the valleys of Ushu and
Gabral abound in brown trout. Fishing licenses must be obtained from the
office of the Assistant Commissioner, Fisheries at Madyan and Kalam.