Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the northern region of Pakistan is generously gifted by Allah in terms of natural beauty and astonishing views. Some of the famous tourist destinations in KPK are so unique and surprising, such as the famous Ansoo lake and Saif-ul-Mulook, that leave people in awe.
One such place is the Katora Lake, an underrated place that is visited less by the tourists as compared to other tourist destinations like Naran and Hunza etc. The reason why you will now find crowds at Katora lake is because the trek to the lake is almost 2 days long. And not many people in Pakistan are used to hiking, specially in steep and rough routes like that. Also, only people full of energy and stamina can dare to cover this long yet heavenly trek.
Located in the outskirts of Jahaz Banda, in Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Katora lake is a clear, blue water lake formed by glacial waters of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The lake is hidden between mountains, forming a bowl like shape with an opening for water to flow down. This mesmerizing beauty gives competition to lakes like Saif-ul-Mulook. In many ways, it is actually better than most famous tourist destinations of Pakistan because you will hardly find any crowds or land pollution in this region because not many people visit the lake because of its difficult trek, hence, there’s no littering around the lake.
The reason why the lake is called “katora lake” is because it resembles a bowl. Katora literally means bowl in English.
So this experience of a lifetime starts from Thall, a launching point for Kumrat Valley and Jahaz Banda, located in the Upper Dir district. In order to reach Thall, leave Islamabad early in the morning, for Upper Dir district. The drive from Islamabad to Thall is approximately 8-9 hours. It sure is a long ride, which is why you can choose to stay in Dir for the night, rest and leave fresh the next morning to Thall. It is recommended to stay in Dir because you will be hell tired, and the next stop will be at Jandrai. So stay in Dir and leave for Thall the next day.
From Thall, leave early in the morning for Jandrai, which will be another step closer to Jahaz Banda. Remember, this will be your last journey on wheels, because from Jandrai onwards, you will have to trek to Katora lake. Also, you can only go by jeeps or 4×4 vehicles to Jandrai, as the road is bumpy.
Jahaz Banda museum is a small cottage owned by Raja Taj, a local guide for tourists and trekkers. The museum is also often called Raja Taj museum. The drive to the museum is just 12-15 minutes long in a jeep, from where you will have to trek to Jahaz Banda.
You would want to take porters or tourist guides, as they are familiar with all the directions and will help you navigate to the Katora Lake.
The Jahaz Banda meadow in itself is a tourist destination with heaven-like views. Forget Fairy meadows! Jahaz Banda is the real thing. Also, you won’t find it as crowded as the other famous tourist spots. So it is a perfect spot to have alone time and relax.
The trek to Jahaz Banda is very steep and rocky. So it is not for the faint of hearts. A good 6-7 hours long trek will finally lead to Jahaz Banda meadows. On your way, you will first pass through a rocky, steep trek which then narrows into an ascending dense pine forest, which then finally opens into a pleasant meadow, Jahaz Banda. This long trek will definitely test your stamina, so make sure you have refueled before the trek. Also, you will definitely need a porter to guide you to the meadow and then into the Katora lake, because it is very easy to get lost on your way. So accompany a porter with yourself from the Jandrai village.
At Jahaz Banda, you finally get to rest your legs. Peg down a camp in the meadow and make the most of that magical view in front of view. You can also choose to stay in a rest house at Jahaz Banda. For the night, set yourself a grill and barbecue some meat in front of the meadows. You can find the supplies in the rest house.
The next day, your last trek to the Katora lake starts from Jahaz Banda. It is comparatively a shorter yet difficult trek. Also, remember that you cannot stay anywhere near Katora lake as there are no rest houses or accommodations. Also, camping at a remote site like that would be a stupidity. So you will have to trek back to Jahaz Banda the same day, before it gets dark.
On your way to Katora lake, you will come across rocky hills full of small and large rocks. So that is where your strong and comfortable shoes will prove useful. Also, you will come across many ponds on your way. These freshwater ponds are crystal clear and blue in color, which often deceive people into thinking that they have reached the Katora lake. You can take a few minutes and sit down by these ponds to refill your water bottles and take a peaceful breath.
Resuming your trek, you will finally reach a steep mountain right before the lake. This mountain surrounds the lake so you will have to climb it, in order to reach Katora lake. Use a stick to climb this steep ridge and finally go down to where the lake is.
After a difficult trek of two days and countless moments of waiting, you will finally see this magical natural bowl with a spillway, making you realize that all this hard trek was worth it. You will hardly find any tourists at the lake because of its difficult trek. Not many people can conquer mountains this high. Sit alongside this crystal blue lake with your friends and inhale in the magical winds of Katora lake, for these moments are worth cherishing.
Looking forward to your trip to Katora Lake? Get in touch with a travel agent here and let them do all the planning and bookings for you.
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