Poonch - The Unexplored Heaven

Poonch is one of the smallest and remotest districts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is popularly known as mini Kashmir courtesy the beautiful Pir Panjal Mountain ranges passing through the district.

Poonch has a very rich cultural heritage with people from different faiths living together peacefully since time immemorial. Its culture, tradition, history and dialect (Poonchi) makes it very distinct from the rest of Districts of Jammu and Kashmir.


Speaking about the Pir Panjal ranges, the pictures above contributed by Mr. Wajahat Ahmed really speaks of its virgin beauty. The famous Mughal Road goes through this region; However since this is an unexplored beauty, one has to trek on foot to enjoy this wonderful creation.

Poonch City itself has various places of attraction of which Poonch Fort is most important. This is not well maintained but that does that take away the history of the place. The Poonch Fort is said to be around 350 years old and one can see different cultural influences through the architecture used in this place. The central part of the building has a Sikh type of architecture, whereas other parts have a Mughal Style of architecture.

Poonch Fort - Photo by Sushant Sudan

Keeping Poonch City as the center, one can visit places like Peer Ki Gali, Loran, Noori Chamb, Lohar Devta, Girgan Dhok, Behramgala, Dehra Gali etc. Surankote is another place in the Poonch district. Fouji Mela happens every year at Surankote. Surankote valley is located in between the mountainous range of Pir Panchal (15600 feet) and Rattan Panchal (8600 feet). Due to its natural atmosphere, attractive scenic spots, snow clad mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes, streams, water falls, glaciers, lush green dhoks, meadows, margs and charming climatic conditions, the valley of Surankote is known as Mini Kashmir of Jammu province.

Poonch is also the hub of religious tourism in J&K. Budha Amarnath Yatra is probably the most famous among all others. The largest gurdwara of Jammu - Nangali Sahib Gurudwara is also present in this area.

Noori Chamb:
One of the main attractions of the place is the Noori Chamb, which is a waterfall of immense beauty. Noori Chamb is probably the largest waterfall in the area along side the Mughal Road. It is located around 45 km from the town and it is a popular tourist attraction. Remnants of a mirror are located near the waterfall and this was supposedly used by Empress Nur Jahan.


Peer Ki Gali:
Peer Ki Gali is almost 80 kms from the Poonch City. This is place for tourist and adventure freaks.

Loran:
32 kms from Poonch, Loran is a place which is famous for its picteresque beauty. A lesser known waterfall with the name Nandi Shool is also situated near the Loran village which is around 33Kms from Poonch City. From Loran it is around 45 mins walk.

Mandi

Nandi Shool

Lohar Devta: The place is known more for a Kul Devta Asthaan called 'Lohar Devta" and is around 30 Kms from Poonch City located close to the Line Of Control (LOC). The area around the temple is however dotted by many ancient structures as shown in the pics which are believed to be dated back to Pandava era. The main temple where the idols are placed does not have any regular priest. The temple is on one side of a hill and the ruins are atop that hill. There is no direct road link to this place. At one time there used to be no electricity, no water, except a natural spring in the temple complex which also serves as the source of water for the nearby "hills".

Dhoks and Sar:
What is Dhok and what is a Sar? Lakes in local language is called Sar while meadows are called Margs and Dhoks. The important Dhoks and Margs of this valley are: Girgan, Gali Girgan, Panj-tari, Khuian, Chai, Hussan Thumb, Kuthwali, Bagnuwali, Godrian Wali, Kafarkatha, Raviwali Bayarwali and Kaagallana.

Banota Dhok

Apart from these Dhoks, there are seven important natural lakes located in this valley at the elevation of 11,000' to l3200' ft. Hence it was called 'The Valley of Seven Lakes'. Nandan Sar is about two and a half mile in length and about a mile in breadth. Kotarasar is the smallest lake but have the most attractive scenic look. Katoreya Sar is also the source of Poonch River. The water of Nandansar flows towards Alibad Sarai which is situated in Kashmir valley while the water of all other lakes flows towards Poonch-District in the shape of Parnai Nallah and Chitta Pani Nallah. Though it is called the Valley of 7 lakes, however it is said that there are all total 27 lakes.

Katoreya SarNandan Sar
Neel Sar

Places to Stay:Since Poonch is not a proper tourist destination, one will have to either stay in the hotels located in Poonch city or stay in Homestays in and around Poonch City or probably Jammu in case you want a cosier accommodation. It is best to check with J&K Tourism regarding the homestays. However, needless to say there is a need for more accommodation in the area.

Climate:Best time to visit Poonch is during the months of Mar-Oct. During winters, one might receive extreme low temperatures.

How to Reach: Poonch though not well connected to the other places of India, can be reached via Jammu which is about 240 kms. Poonch is well connected by road from Jammu. There are numerous buses and taxi/cab services. Upon arrival the best option is to hire a taxi from here to the town of Poonch. It can also be reached from Srinagar which is 130 kms via Mughal Road.

Though I have not yet visited the place myself, but seeing the pictures I seem to know more and more about the place and it urges me to visit this place in the near future.

A word of advice to the visitors, do visit this place but do not destory the beauty of this unexplored Heaven.

For more information and updates, please check the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PoonchCalling

Special thanks to Sumeet Sharma, Sushant Sudan, Wajahat Ahmed, Sheikh Naseem, Ms Tazeem Akhter, Amit Sudan, Saqib Mumtaz for the information and wonderful pictures posted in the blog.