Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City

I had been travelling to Kaghan Valley in Pakistan since 1982, and I travelled to this awesome and one of the most beautiful valleys on Earth more than 150 times in the last 38 years.

One should remember that I had been travelling to Europe (including Switzerland) several times but still feel that Kaghan Valley is the “Most Beautiful” lush green land on earth with lofty mountains, thick forests, deep ravines, gushing streams, and the gorgeous Kunhar River, as author Agha Iqrar Haroon of DND News Agency regaled.

Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City
Ahhh… the beauty of meadows – worth falling in love for

I had been boosting myself as an expert of Kaghan Valley but
I was sadly mistaken. How did I miss the small but beautiful village of Ghanool
which is a gateway to several treks? Alas I missed it, because I did not find
much information about this village that is directly linked with numerous thick
forest treks including to Danna Peak, Sari, Paye (ruthlessly spelled as Siri
Paya) Makra Peak, Manna 1-2 and 3 Meadows, and of course with Paprang and then
to Shogran.

Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City
The land of red stones – Ghanool Valley Balakot

I had been at Danna, Sari, Paye, Makra Peak, and Paprang in
the past but reached these spots from different routes. I had Shogran as base camp
for Sari, Paye, Makra Peak, and Paprang, but all these places are much closer
to Ghanool Valley than from Shogran. There is no need to travel to Shogran for
Sari, Paye, Makra Peak, and Paprang if you access them the shorter route of
Ghanool Valley.

Actually, there was no jeep able trek to Danna Meadows and
Peak from Ghanool before 2005 earthquake and Danna Peak was mostly reached
through Sanghar village trek.

Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City

Ghanool is a village and union council of Mansehra District
in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It is located in Balakot tehsil
and lies in an area that was affected by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Ghanool village is just 19 kilometers away from Balakot city
and can be accessed 3 kilometers off-road from main Balakot-Kaghan Road and
falls at the right side while travelling to Kaghan from Balakot city.

Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City

UC Ghanool has 4 village councils, i.e., Ghanool, Sangar-1,
Sangar-2, and Bhangian. Sangar is the most populous area of Ghanool. Paye,
which is also known as Sari and Paya, is a meadow (at the height of more than
9,000 feet above sea level) is also a part of Ghanool Valley and Makra Mountain
which is 12,743 feet above sea level is the highest point of Ghanool. Tribes
living in Ghanool includes Mughals, Rajputs, Awans, Swati, and Madakhels, which
makes Ghanool a land with diversified people and culture.

Ghanool Valley: Hidden Travel Treasure Near Balakot City
Ekrar and Chairman of Ghanool Welfare Society Mr. Ghulam Rasul who is a retired officer from the Foreign Office of Pakistan

Last month, I was invited by the Chairman of Ghanool Welfare
Society Mr. Ghulam Rasul who is a retired officer from the Foreign Office of
Pakistan. After retirement, he has dedicated his life for the welfare of his
natal place – Ghanool Valley.

Being an excellent host, he managed my great exposure to
this wonder of beauty (Ghanool) I had missed all of my life.

I can tell you that Ghanool is a mix of thick pine forest,
red rocks and gushing milky water streams.

One can consider Ghanool a gateway of several unbeaten
treks. It offers everybody something to explore and somewhere to go. You can
enjoy trekking. You can hire a jeep to reach lofty peaks and meadows. You can
ride your motorbike and you can just take a break from humdrum of life sitting
at a peaceful village home somewhere in Ghanool valley.

People say “Seeing is Believing”, therefore I would suggest
my readers to plan their visit to this hidden treasure of Kaghan Valley.

Suggestions for Travel

Ghanool Welfare Society offers Jeep Service to and from
Balakot to all important treks of Ghanool including Paprang so it is better to
make Balakot as base-camp for two-days or three-days excursion of this valley.

Danna Shinkiari Peak and Meadows are just 48 km (Balakot to
Ghanool intersection is 16 km and the direct road from intersection to Manna
Peak is 29 km).

I suggest a one-day trip to Manna Peak and Meadows and back
to Balakot because there is no proper accommodation available in Ghanool
Village for families.

One should carry food/water etc because you will not find
any place for lunch, tea to and from Balakot to Danna Peak. I believe Ghanool
Welfare Society can arrange if contact for this purpose.

Next day one can visit Paprang via old trek (around 40 km
from Balakot) via Manna -1-2- and 3 Meadows. Every Manna Meadow is extremely
beautiful and you would forget Lalazar Meadow in Naran and Fairy Meadows in
Gilgit Baltistan once you visit Manna Meadows. This journey of 40 km will
minimize to only 32 km from Balakot when the new road would be opened.
Construction on new Road is in process.

Politics in Tourism

People of Ghanool Valley claim that Ghanool was not included
in Tourism Map of Pakistan due to certain political reasons because powerful
politicians having huge lands in Shogran, Kaghan and Naran kept this virgin
natural beauty of Ghanool away from the eyes of tourists.

They also claim that ERRA diverted money of Ghanool-Danna
Peak road (29 km) to Naran-Lake Saiful Maluk Road and they demand the government
to reinitiate this project. Once Ghanool is linked with the all-weather road to
Danna, then a new arena of domestic tourism can be opened because Danna is
linked with several treks with Azad Kashmir forest and Muzafarabad city.

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