Katoora Lake: An awe-inspiring spectacle of beauty

Published: August 11, 2013

The serenity in the atmosphere puts pains and troubles out of your mind and puts you in a state of peace from where there is no return. PHOTO: MURTAZA MAHMUD

Katoora Lake (also called Jaz Dand) is situated in the Lamoti Valley of Upper Dir, KPK at an altitude of 11,500 ft approximately. Most of the time, this lake is surrounded by high mountains covered with snow. The best season to visit it is August/September. However, June and July are also good months for a tour, if you are prepared for random monsoon showers. The level of difficulty for trekking in the area may be considered ‘moderate’ for regular trekkers/hikers.

Moderate weather, fresh air and stunning views – a winning combination. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

Travel towards Jaz Dand actually starts when you reach Upper Dir – a location that can be reached from Islamabad within seven hours or the Swat Valley through Badgoi Pass. From Upper Dir, it takes almost five hours to reach the base camp in Jandrai (also pronounced as Zhandrai). At this point, one has to leave the road (as there is none!) and start trekking towards Jaz Banda.

While trekking to Jaz Banda, one has to pass through dense forests. Deforestation rate is not so high in this part of valley, so trekking becomes a real experience. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

It takes another five hours of trekking in dense forests to reach the destination. I would advise tourists to stay a night in Jaz Banda and then trek towards the lake – this will take you close to three hours.

After trekking for almost 3 hours, you reach this place. We continued our journey towards the right side. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

As far as accommodation is concerned, the best option is to set up camp, as my companions and I did. However, for those who are not comfortable with camping, there is one private rest house in Jandrai and one in Jaz Banda. These rest houses are owned and managed by Mr Raja Taj Muhammad. He is a renowned personality of the area and has been promoting tourism and serving visitors for more than 10 years now.

These mountains are the main source of chilled and fresh spring water. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

If I have to describe this place in one sentence, I would say ‘It is just amazing!’

Katoora Lake waterfall. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

The serenity in the atmosphere puts pains and troubles out of your mind and puts you in a state of peace from where there is no return. One simply cannot forget the time spent there. We spent a night in Jaz Banda, trekking back the next day to continue our adventure through Kumrat Valley.

Personally, I wish to just live here; streams of fresh, chilled water emanating from the lake, high snowy mountains, meadows spread over large expanses, the fresh and pure air – there are so many reasons why this place is absolutely beautiful. Here, you will find yourself closer to nature.

For those who travel alone, this spot offers pleasant company – here, the clouds won’t leave you at any point. As for the lake itself, it takes your breath away for a moment, and then it recharges your mind with its freshness and glory. Just writing about it has me wishing I could go back!

Situated at an altitude of 11,500 ft approximately, it seems like the colour of this lake changes with the weather conditions. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

Of course, we cannot possibly overlook the terrific hospitality shown by the local community of the area. People here are simple, kind and hospitable. Mr Raja Taj Muhammad, the owner of the rest houses mentioned above, is a prime example. We were so impressed by his hospitality that we recorded an interview with him, requesting him to brief us about this place and shed light on the area’s security situation.

Our group and some locals, with Chimrain Cottage in the background. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

During our trek, we met many people who offered us a cup of tea, extending a hand of friendship in their own hospitable way. These people are pursuing a very simple life and eat plain yet healthy food. In pure economical terms, their cost of living is very low. One can guess their general political views via flags and banners of various political parties. These people are self sufficient and this is evident from small irrigation channels and small-scale electricity generation facilities.

I personally feel that a better infrastructure would bring more prosperity to the area and make life easier for these people. They have great respect for their customs and traditions. As a general rule, it becomes the responsibility of travellers to get familiar with and show respect for these local community manners.

This man requested us to take his picture with his buffalo. I cannot forget his gestures of joy when he saw his photos. Photo: Murtaza Mahmud

A special plea to my photographer community – pack your bags and visit this place as soon as you can. It is a brilliant opportunity for your work and can indeed bring you fame through the eye of your gear. As for general adventure-fans, trekkers and travellers, Katoora Lake is an ideal spot for you to explore for your next vacation.

Follow Murtaza on Twitter @murtazamahmud

Murtaza Mahmud

Murtaza Mahmud

An accountant by profession and a traveler/photographer by heart. Currently, he is working with a multinational company in the telecom industry and pursuing photography as his passion. He tweets @murtazamahmud

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    Mashaa Allah…Recommend

  • Fahad Zia

    When i see a waterfall, the only thing that comes to my mind is “thats a current that wont make it to my light bulb”Recommend

  • Parvez

    Amazing pictures……………building a decent road would be a double edged sword……..good for small economic activity but bad for the environment, just look at the mess Murree has become.

  • Nadir

    Amazing, though lets hope that visitors will take care of the enviornment and dont trash the place.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Just fabulous !Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Excellent article and great pictures. Thanks.Recommend

  • Babloo

    Beautiful. When can I visit ?Recommend

  • Babloo

    People don’t fight over territory if they have unfettered access to travel to the territory. I would suggest India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir dispute by giving Indians and Pakistanis unfettered travel rights to Indian and Pakistani occupied Kashmir ( northern areas ). Recommend

  • Mir

    Very impressed. Please give details how to travel,possibly with the maps thanksRecommend

  • Tausif Khan Shinwari

    I cannot believe that my hometown Dir is so beautiful. I want to visit this place at the earliest.
    Thanks Writer..Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    I’m really awestruck… this place is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing Murtaza Mahmud.
    Just one question, lower dir happens to be a troubled area, where militants are found in large numbers. what about law and order situation in Upper Dir???Recommend

  • Khawar Mehdi

    Breathtaking views.

    May the serenity & beauty remain preserved and may no telecom towers or loud speakers scar the at peace landscape.

    May our footprints be washed away every time we visit this gift from nature.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Breadth taking beauty. Also really well written author.Recommend

  • Gp65

    As an Indian, I have no hope of being ale to go to this place but perhaps in addition to the interview, if you provide the contact details of this Taj Mohammed e.g. Mo bile number or address, more Pakistanis maybe ale to enjoy such a wonderful gift from nature.

    Agains great write up author.Recommend

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @Fahad Zia: Interestingly, residents of these areas are making full use of high speed running water to generate electricity as well as for irrigation purposes.Recommend

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @Parvez: I tend to agree with your observation-cum-concern. It is only a matter of proper management otherwise Switzerland which is a small country but big economy in terms of ‘Tourism’ could not have been sustained.Recommend

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @Babloo: This place is accessible during June/July and then during August/September. For further details, i would request you to Google it with the following key words ‘Kumrat valley track and Jahaz Banda’. There are extensive details in respect of this itinerary on Pakwheels pages. Recommend

  • H.M Rashid

    Bohat Khoob! A hidden and unexplored beauty and very well described By the writer. Well done Murtaza Mahmood and wondefull efforts of Raja Taj Muhammad to promote tourism in the area.Recommend

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @H.M Rashid: Many thanks. I know you can be seen in the group photo (First on the left side with Blue jacket) :)Recommend

  • Amina

    Refreshing article and breathtaking place!
    The pictures are amazing Murtaza. Good work!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Murtaza Mahmud: Appreciate your response but your comparison to Switzerland made me laugh………..but then I suppose there’s no harm in trying to copy one of the best.

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @Parvez: You got it right in the end. Don’t call it ‘Suppose’. It’s getting ‘Wisdom through Experience’. :)Recommend

  • Mughal

    Our Northern Areas…. Simply the Best. Last year I visited Mansehra – Bala kot – Kaghan – Naran (From Karachi till Naran on my Car Coure with family, and onward by Jeep) then Jheel Lalusar – Babusar Top and Jheel Saiful Maluk, the Siri – Pai (on return route). It was an amazing experience of our life. On each stop, me and my wife simply thanked Allah for giving us opportunity to see these places.
    I would request PTI Chief Imrtan Khan (I.K) (and KPK Govt specially) to prepare infrastructure of better Roads, Hotels/ guest houses and other basic needs for promoting tourism in this area so that hundred of thousnads of peolpe living in this are may get much benefits of this tourism. Kaash I.K pay some attention on it.Recommend

  • Khaki

    location for The Hobbit Sequel :) Recommend

  • http://www.pltacademy.com professional

    @ GP65

    Why you have no hopes of going there?
    Every year there are thousands of Indians who visit Pakistan. Despite all the media hype, we have come a long way since 1965 andwith time it has to become better Recommend

  • http://www.pltacademy.com professional

    I can easily say that Pakistan is best kept secret when it comes to tourism..Recommend

  • http://www.marvelmagazine.com Rubab Tareen

    Masha’Allah Pakistan is very beautiful. Last year i visited Neelum Valley and mentally I am still there :) Recommend

  • Murtaza Mahmud

    @professional: I tend to strongly agree with this observation. A lot should be done to promote tourism in Pakistan. It has the capability to run our economy without support from any other sector.Recommend

  • Fahad

    Thats alot of fantastic scenery ! I wish to travel here someday myself IA.Whenever you expand your travel group let me know :)Recommend

  • H Barrraq

    As always, awesome clicks by Murtaza Mehmood. I must say that when a Chartered Accountant starts taking interest and time out for some thing other than those murky old debit credits, it has to be something formidable and to vie for. A great travel synopsis for prospective travelers/hikers.Recommend

  • faizan Gul

    Bhuuuuuuuuuuut aaaalaaaa…..Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali Akram

    Simply awesome and lake is really beautiful ….great photography done.
    Next time inform me I will accompany for trekking…Recommend

  • Riaz Karim Khan

    Brilliant efforts Murtaza and your team for exploring this God Gifted Paradise!

    Much much much appreciated for making it showing to the tourists and world!Recommend

  • Munir

    to enjoy the valley pic

  • Stranger

    Being a non Pakistani , I wonder if and when I can get to visit these pretty places on the other side of the subcontinent .Recommend