Destination Pakistan Guide

Destination Pakistan Guide


Discovering Muzaffarabad: A Guide to the Capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir

Muzaffarabad, the heart of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, stands as a testament to the rich history and breathtaking natural beauty that this region has to offer. In this article, we will delve into the charm of Muzaffarabad, its historical significance, tourist attractions, and more. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the hidden gems of this captivating city.

Muzaffarabad: The Administrative Capital

Muzaffarabad, the largest town and one of the ten districts in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, is a city of immense historical and geographical significance. Situated approximately 138 kilometers from Islamabad and 79 kilometers from Abbottabad, this city is strategically located at an altitude of 2400 feet above sea level. It’s where the sky-blue Neelum River gracefully merges with the earthy-brown Jehlum River, creating a picturesque setting surrounded by lush green valleys and snow-capped mountains.

A Glimpse into History

Originally known as Udabhanda, Muzaffarabad has a history that dates back centuries. According to legend, the famous Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang entered India through Udabhanda in 631 A.D. During its heyday, Udabhanda served as the capital of the Shahi dynasty, which ruled over Gandhara, comprising modern-day northern Pakistan and Kashmir, from the third century to the early ninth century.

Muzaffarabad as we know it today was founded in 1646 during the Mughal era by Sultan Muzaffar Khan. The city’s name pays homage to this visionary ruler. To protect the city from Mughal incursions, he constructed the iconic Red Fort, which still stands proudly today. After the 1948-49 war, Muzaffarabad was designated as the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Explore the Treasures

Muzaffarabad offers a treasure trove of attractions for tourists:

1. Red Fort

Begin your exploration with a visit to the historic Red Fort, located at the confluence of the Neelum and Jehlum Rivers. This ancient marvel offers a glimpse into the city’s past and provides a stunning view of the rivers.

2. Pir Chinasi

To the east of the city lies the road leading to Pir Chinasi, a majestic spot situated at 2900 meters above sea level. The road to Pir Chinasi offers breathtaking views of the Jhelum Valley and the Neelum’s towering mountains. This site also features the Shrine of Saint Shah Hassan Bukhari, attracting numerous devotees year-round.

3. Lohar Gali

For a panoramic view of the city, head west to Lohar Gali. This location offers a stunning vantage point overlooking the Jhelum and Kunhar rivers. On a clear day, you can even spot the 3,890-meter-high Makra Mountain in the Kaghan Valley.

4. Shaheed Gali

Located 16 kilometers west of Muzaffarabad, Shaheed Gali is a lush green valley shrouded in mist. Accessible via a narrow metal road, it offers tranquility and natural beauty.

5. Sri Kot

A short but adventurous 4-kilometer drive from Shaheed Gali takes you to “Sri Kot,” a paradise for tourists, known for its serene ambiance.

6. Patika

Just 19 kilometers away lies Patika, the gateway to the Neelum Valley, offering an excellent excursion opportunity.

7. Architectural Heritage

Within the city, you can explore architectural marvels such as the AJK Assembly, AJK Supreme Court, Mosque, Assembly Secretariat, and Khurshid Tomb.

8. Kohala Bridge

If you’re traveling from Islamabad via Murree, don’t miss a stop at Kohala Bridge. Here, you can visit Dolai waterfall and the Dak Bangalow, now known as Quaid-e-Azam Memorial Rest House, where Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah once stayed.

Shopping Delights

Muzaffarabad’s thriving cottage industry specializes in woodwork, including furniture making and wood carving. The city is renowned for its exclusive furniture crafted from Dayyar (Deodar) and Akhrot (Walnut). Additionally, hand-woven carpets, Kashmiri shawls, traditional dresses like Phairan, kangri (pots with iconic patterns), and various handicrafts are readily available in local markets. You can also find fresh and dry fruits, mushrooms, honey, and medicinal herbs & plants.

Culinary Delights

No visit to Muzaffarabad is complete without savoring its traditional delicacies. Must-try dishes include Goshtawa, Kashmiri Pulao, Hareesa, Rice Rajma, Sawaiyan, Firni, Kheer, Panjeeri, and other delightful desserts. For breakfast, indulge in Kashmiri pink chai, Qulcha, and Bakar Khani, all of which enjoy popularity both nationally and internationally.

Embracing the Climate

Muzaffarabad boasts a moderate and predictable climate, with mild summers (June and July) and chilly winters (December to February) that often bring snowfall. Autumn, with its clear skies and stunning landscapes, is the ideal time to visit. The crystal-clear Neelum River enhances the city’s microclimate. Due to the weather, the locals predominantly wear woolen attire.

Easy Access

Reaching Muzaffarabad is convenient via two routes. From Islamabad, you can take the picturesque drive via Murree Hills and Kohala, covering approximately 138 kilometers in around 4 hours. Alternatively, the route from Islamabad to Abbottabad, Mansehra, Garhi Habibullah, and Lohar Gali takes approximately 5 hours and offers another scenic route for travelers.

In conclusion, Muzaffarabad beckons with its historical treasures, natural beauty, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a relaxing getaway, Muzaffarabad has something special to offer every traveler. Plan your visit today to experience the magic of this charming city in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

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