Swat, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated throughout the world as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. Swat acquired fame as a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. Buddhist tradition holds that the Buddha himself came to Swat during his last reincarnation as the Guatama Buddha and preached to the people here. It is said that the Swat was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. There are now more than 400 Buddhist sites covering and area of 160 Km in Swat valley only. Among the important Buddhist excavation in swat an important one is Butkarha-I, containing the original relics of the Buddha.
The lush-green valley of Swat, with its rushing torrents, icy-cold lakes, fruit-laden orchards and flower-decked slopes is ideal for holidaymakers. It has a rich historical past, too. This is "Udayana" (The Garden) of the ancient epics; the land of enthralling beauty, where Alexander of Macedonia fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over to the delta of Indus River. This is the "valley of hanging chairs", as described by the famous Chinese pilgrim-chroniclers, Huaen Tsang and Fa-Hian in the fifth and sixth centuries. Swat was once the cradle of Buddhism of all of its schools – Mahayana, Hinayana and Tantrayana, where once 1,400 monasteries flourished. It was the home of the famous Gandhara School of Sculpture that was an expression of Greco-Roman form in the local Buddhist tradition. Swat was also the historical land where the Muslim conquerors, Mahmud of Ghazni, Babur of Ferghana and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to the conquest of South Asia. The valley of Swat sprawls over 10,360 sq. km at an average elevation of 875 metres. The maximum temperature in July is 38 C and minimum (during January) is 1 C. The normal temperature is maximum 21 C and minimum 7 C. The tourist season is year-round.
WHAT TO SEE IN SWAT?
Saidu Sharif, Mingora & Murghzar: Headquarters of Swat Valley, Saidu Sharif houses the Swat Museum that contains one of the finest collections of Gandhara art in the world. Mingora, the twin city of Saidu Sharif, has yielded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas. Marghazar, 16 km from Saidu Sharif, is famous for its “Sufed Mahal” the white marble palace of the former Wali (Ruler) of Swat. Kabal is 6 km from Saidu Sharif with its excellent golf course.
At 2,636 m above sea level, Malam Jabba Ski Resort stands on top of a mountain of the Hindukush range, north east of Saidu Sharif. It is 314 km from Islamabad and 51 km from Saidu Sharif. After driving for 10 kms on Saidu Sharif-Kalam road, turn right from Manglor for Malam Jabba. Amidst its natural beauty and imprints of Gandhara civilization, lie the modern tourist facilities of a 52 rooms motel, 2 skiing platforms, chairlifts, roller/ice skating rinks, restaurant, telephone and snow clearing equipment etc. The food, lodging and skiing facilities are all managed by foreign trained staff and offered at competitive prices. The summer temperatures of 10oC to 25oC give way to lush green meadows and thick green forests of Pine & Deodar trees. In the winter when the temperature falls to –5oC to –10oC, the angel white snow makes it an ideal place for skiing.
Miandam: At 1,830 m above sea level, Miandam Valley is 50 km from Saidu Sharif and recommended for those looking for a peaceful place full of fragrance and scenic beauty.
Madyan & Bahrain: Both the towns are a good stop-over while travelling from Saidu Sharif to Kalam. Madyan is famous for its trout hatcheries and Bahrain for its meeting of two rivers and its handicrafts.
Kalam: The most popular tourist spot in Swat Valley (2,073 m) is 100 km away from Saidu Sharif. In addition to PTDC’s seasonal coach service, there is a regular private bus and van service between Mingora and Kalam.
Ushu, Matiltan and Mahodand Lake: This is the most spectacular area of upper Swat Valley. While staying overnight at Kalam, you can enjoy a day trip by jeep to these beautiful tourist spots. Distance is just 13-16 km from Kalam.
Utrot-Gabral: Another scenic valley of upper Swat, located 21-29 km from Kalam. The road is jeepable and jeeps can be hired from Kalam. A day trip with picnic lunch is recommended.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Swat is linked by road and by air with Islamabad/Rawalpindi and Peshawar. There is regular bus and van service between Rawalpindi and Mingora. A seasonal tourist coach service for Saidu Sharif and Kalam is run by PTDC from 1st June to 30th August every year. For bookings and further information, please contact PTDC offices at Rawalpindi or Saidu Sharif.
WHERE TO STAY?
There are moderately priced hotels, motels and rest houses in Swat at Saidu Sharif, Mingora, Marghzar, Madyan, Bahrain, Kalam and Ushu. PTDC also has its Motels at Saidu Sharif, Miandam, Malam Jabba and Kalam. For local assistance, please contact: Tourist Information Centre, PTDC Motel, Saidu Sharif. Tel: (0946) 9240159 Fax: (0936) 9249156
WHAT TO BUY?
Local handicrafts include embroidered linen, hand-woven rugs and shawals, silverware, tribal jewellery and carved wood work.