Excursions and popular sites to visit
An Introduction to Murree – Pakistan’s
most popular hill station, Murree, is located in the Himalayan foothills some
30 km northeast of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Tourists from all over the country
flock to this beautiful hill resort all year round, but especially so in the
summers to escape the sweltering heat of the southern plains.
The hill station, built by the British colonial government in 1850, lies
across a 7 km sprawl between Kashmir Point and Pindi Point. As the names
suggest, Kashmir point gives a panoramic view of the snow laden Himalaya and
Pir Panjal ranges in Kashmir while Pindi Point overlooks the national capital and
its sister city, Rawalpindi. Until 1876, Murree was the summer headquarters of
the Punjab local government; after 1876 the headquarters were moved to Simla.
During British Rule in the nineteenth century, its altitude was established at
7,000 feet (2,100 m), but its actual altitude has now been determined as 7,500
ft. (2,300 m) above sea level.
The name Murree is probably derived from ‘marhi’, which means ‘high
place’, although there is also a popular local belief that it is named after
the Virgin Mary. Murree is the largest resort town in the Galliat area of
Pakistan, and is the capital city of Murree Tehsil (which is an administrative territory
of the Rawalpindi District).
Mall Road – The lively Mall
Road, lined on both sides with tourist shops and restaurants, is probably the
most visited location in Murree. If hustle and bustle is what interests you,
the Mall will not disappoint as it is always crowded (or over-crowded) by
tourists, even in the off-peak seasons. The numerous traditional and modern
outlets offer plenty of shopping options whereas dining choices, mostly of the
Pakistani, Continental or Fast Food varieties, also abound. An hour or three
spent walking around the Mall is a highlight for most visitors to the area.
Restaurants and cafés on the Mall stay open well into the night, as late as 2
or 3 a.m. in the peak season.
If you’re looking for a peaceful outing, however, it is best to avoid
this part of Murree and to explore other sites instead.
Kashmir Point – This is
another popular tourist site that starts from where the Mall Road ends, about 1
km from the General Post Office (GPO). This hill top offers beautiful views of
the Kashmir mountains, and hence the name. Two roads lead up from the GPO
towards Kashmir Point, both offering different views of Murree. It is therefore
best to drive up one way and return the other.
The walk from the GPO to Kashmir Point takes 10 to 15 minutes. For
recreation once there, you can try out the small amusement park, shop, or
choose to dine in one of several restaurants. The local government also runs a
decent business centre up there, in which visitors can rent out cubicles or
offices to work out of on short term basis while visiting Murree.
Pindi Point – Pindi point is one of the prime
locations to visit in Murree. A chair lift carries visitors from Bansra Gali,
along the Old Murree Road, up to this point. This is usually a sensible option
in the Peak Summer season, as the roads are choked with traffic and entry to
Murree town is extremely difficult. Parking your car outside Murree Bazaar in
the chair lift’s parking lot and then entering Murree via the lift could save
you several hours stuck in traffic jams. The ride of 1.5 km passes over
beautiful thick pine forests with the road winding bellow. The lift actually
passes close to where Arcadian Blue Pines is Located, and we have our own
semi-private road leading from the hotel up to Pindi Point as well. Once at
Pindi Point, there are plenty of dining and shopping alternatives available.
You can also walk up to the Mall Road, which is only 15 minutes on foot from
the Chair Lift drop point.
New Murree and Patriata – Situated about 15km from the main
Murree Bazaar, New Murree and Patriata both constitute another hill station
that is all the more popular because of the chair lift and cable car connecting
the two. Provided that you’re not averse to heights, the 7 km ride chair lift
and cable car ride from New Murree to the top of Patriata hill is truly a
breathtaking experience in any season, offering stunning view of lush green
hills in the summer and snow clad peaks in the winter.
There are plenty of walking and hiking trails in the area and you can
also rent horses for a pleasant hill ride. When opting for the latter, however,
do make sure to negotiate rates in advance as overcharging unsuspecting
tourists is a popular pass-time of the local handlers. Tea, coffee and other
refreshments are also readily available.
Galliat – Running North and
West of Murree on the Murree-Abbottabad Road, is a chain of scenic mountain
towns and villages referred to as the ‘Galliat’ owing to the fact that the
names of most of the major towns along this stretch end with ‘Gali’. For
tourists, the main attractions in the Galliat are Changla Gali (Alt. 8,400
ft.), Ayubia (Alt. 8,000 ft.), Dunga Gali (Alt. 8,200 ft.) and Nathia Gali
(Alt. 8,400 ft.).
The Galliat are popular due to their alpine weather and spectacular
scenery and also because they are relatively close to, and easily accessible
from, major urban centres such as Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Murree and Abbottabad.
The mountains are covered by thick pine forests that make this is one of the
greenest areas of Pakistan with higher average annual rainfall than the most of
the country. The original resorts were developed by the British and you will
see a lot of colonial influence as you travel through the area.
Wildlife abound in the area and wild monkeys, in particular, congregate
at several spots along the road, waiting to be fed by tourists, many of whom
pull over for the opportunity. The monkeys are used to interacting with humans
and they are often very willing to pose for photos Having said that, care
should always be taken not to startle or annoy them, especially so when
children are present. Other wild species native to the Galliat are leopards, red
fox, porcupines, wild cats, black bears, pheasants and a large diversity of
small birds including tits, woodpeckers, tree-creepers, warblers, parakeets..
and lots and lots of crows.
There are numerous hiking trails in the Galliat with the most popular leading
to the highest peaks of Miranjani (Alt. 9779 ft. – walk starts from Nathiagali)
and Mukshpuri (Alt. 9258 ft. – walk starts from Dunga Gali or Nathia Gali),
both which can be done in a day. The 4 km flat and easy ‘Pipeline Walk’ from
Dunga Gali to Ayubia is an especially pleasant experience as this takes you
through the spectacular Ayubia National Park, a protected sanctuary for
indigenous plants and animals. The comfortably wide path runs over an old
pipeline that supplies water from Dunga Gali to Ayubia and then onwards to
Murree. The walk culminates at the tourist town of Ayubia, which, though
haphazardly developed, is widely popular because of its chair lift. If you’re
not inclined to walk back the same way to your car, you can hire a local taxi
to drive you back along the main road to Dunga Gali.
If you’re staying more than a couple of days in Murree, you might want to
head out one morning to any of the Galliat (though, again, we recommend Dunga
Gali and the Pipeline Walk in particular) for an enjoyable day out before
returning to Arcadian Blue Pines in the evening.
Drive Times (from Arcadian Blue
Mall Road – 10 min.
Pindi Point – 5 min.
Kashmir Point – 10 min.
New Murree – 30 min. (Approx. 20 km.)
Changla Gali – 30 min. (Approx. 20 km.)
Ayubia – 45 min. (Approx. 31 km.)
Dunga Gali – 45 min. (30 km.)
Nathia Gali – 50 min. (35 km.)