Summer retreat: The jewel in Swat’s crown

Kharkhari Lake’s hypnotic quietude welcomes tourists with open arms

(Above) Kharkari Lake. (below) The road along Utror River. PHOTOS: SHERINZADA/EXPRESS


Come summer, people from across the country head to the north to pay their respect to the beautiful landscape of the region. Swat Valley supersedes all competitors in terms of topographical diversity and after a brief period of political turmoil, has regained the favour of its visitors.

Kharkhari Lake beyond doubt is the jewel in Swat’s crown. It is located approximately 45 kilometres from Kalam Valley and 23 kilometres from Utror Gabral area. Cradled by mountains, the body of water separates Swat from Chitral.

A fork from Gabral leads to two areas – Kharkhari and Kamrat Valley.

The journey to Kharkhari is an experience in itself. Thanks to the rugged terrain, a three-hour drive is followed by a four kilometre trek before the glistening surface of the lake emerges. Four waterfalls, several glaciers and dense vegetation wave past as you traverse the unpaved route.

(Above) Kharkari Lake. (below) The road along Utror River. PHOTOS: SHERINZADA/EXPRESS

Every now and then Utror River sprays water on the road that runs parallel. The river’s rush and bubble is in perfect harmony with the eerie silence of the hills. The area is sparsely populated yet the locals are as hospitable as ever.

A final one-kilometre walk takes one to the brink of the lake. Unlike Utror River, Kharkhari is calm. The hypnotic quietude is only interrupted every now and then by tourists who camp along its banks. The lake is predominantly blue with a hint of green which is highlighted by the sunlight filtering through the water surface.

Visitors frequent the lake during summer when the sun is bright and the flowers are in bloom. “I am glad we came here for our holiday. This place is without doubt heaven on earth,” said Suman, a resident of Lahore.

In the absence of well-constructed tracks, the incoming visitors throng to the more known spots that remain overcrowded and polluted throughout the season. “I bring tourists to Kharkhari three to four times every week. If the government constructs roads and motels, it will benefit us a lot,” said jeep driver Rehmat Gul, talking to The Express Tribune.

Kharkhari is neighboured by Pilaya Lake which is trapped between two mountains some two kilometres away.

Pilaya leads to Mastooj which connects Chitral to the area. In the absence of a paved road, locals walk to Chitral.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.