Swat Valley lies at the epicenter of the region where China, Central Asia and South Asia convene. It covers an area of 10,350 km2 and is surrounded by the mesmerizing valleys of Dir, Chitral, Shangla, Gilgit Baltistan and Buner.
The capital of Swat Valley is known as Saidu Sharif, while, Mingora is the commercial center of the district. According to the 2017 census, the population of Swat Valley consists of only 2,309,570 people. Majority of these people are ethnic Pashtuns, Afghanis, Gujjars, Aryans and Kohistanis.
Weather of Swat Valley
The weather of Swat Valley remains pleasant for most of the year. The winters are really cold, hence, the temperature ranges from 2°C or -2°C during this season. However, the summers are mildly hot with an average temperature fluctuating between 22°C and 7°C
The climate of the region is relatively rainy and cooler due to high elevation.
People Of Swat Valley
Known for their unparalleled hospitality, the people of Swat are beautiful inside out. They have distinct features, light-colored skin, brown or black hair and colored eyes. Swat Valley is majorly inhabited by the Yusufzai tribe but a large number of Hindus and Sikhs also live there.
The official language of the Swat Valley is Urdu. However, local people mainly speak Pashto. Besides, other languages like Kohistani, Gujro (mix of Punjabi and Pashto), Hindi as well as English are widely understood and spoken by the people of the valley.
In Swat, the men generally dominate women. Therefore, the birth of a boy is celebrated with great pleasure and enthusiasm in the valley.
The Swatis are quite religious, so, they consider love marriage as a despicable act. The divorce is also viewed as the most detested action, consequently, the rate of divorce is considerably low in the Swat Valley. A man who divorces wife is regarded as contemptible and is called Talaqi. There is no worst abuse for a Swati than to be called Talaqi.
Although, dance is a cultural trait in other societies but people of the Swat Valley hate to dance. The musicians and dancers are regarded as the malicious individuals of society. However, people enjoy art, literature and poetry.
Islam is the leading religion of the region. Residents of Swat district are devoted Muslims who pray regularly. They are also very punctual to fast during Ramadan. However, Swatis lack religious knowledge due to which they are highly superstitious. Also, they regard some local customs to be a part of religion so they follow them devotedly.
Although, the scenario is changing gradually as the new generations are highly inclined towards the education that might exalt their religious beliefs and reform their lifestyle.
Besides Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism are also massively followed in the Swat Valley.
Lip-smacking Foods Of Swat Valley
The cuisines of Swat Valley are inspired by Pashtun culture. The local people prefer foods consisting of meat or rice. All types of halal meat specifically mutton is favored by the Swatis. The dishes of Swat are relatively less spicy and greasy as compared to other regions of Pakistan. Famous dishes of the valley include;
1. Chapli Kebabs:
Chapli kebabs of Swat Valley are popular among the locals as well as the tourists. It is a Mughal-influenced minced meat dish prepared by using chicken, mutton or beef and several spices that are barbecued over coal.
2. Charsi Tikka:
Charsi Tikka is an Afghan cuisine that is famous for its unique taste and tempting flavors. The recipe of the dish is also partly inspired by the Persian cuisines. Charsi tikka made from fish, chicken, lamb and beef is widely available throughout the Swat.
3. Qabili Pulao
Afghan Qabili Pulao or Kabuli Pulao is a savory dish prepared by an ethereal mixture of rice with either lamb or beef, along with the cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, nuts and spices. It is the national cuisine of Afghanistan and is fairly popular among the locals of KPK. Kabuli Pulao is named after Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
4. Sajji of Swat Valley
Sajji is the local dish of Balochistan but is quite famous in Swat. It is made by utilizing a whole chicken or lamb that is marinated with salt and lemon juice, stuffed with rice and roasted over coal. Sajji is served with Kaak which is a special type of bread prepared in Tandoor.
5. Shinwari Karahi:
Shinwari Karahi is another famous dish of the Swat Valley. Its recipe was developed by the Shinwari tribe that was native of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan and Landi Kotal of FATA in Pakistan. The karahi can be prepared by using any type of meat including lamb, mutton, beef or chicken.
6. Local Bread
Different types of delicious bread are available in the Swat Valley namely Kaak, Tandoori Bread, Puri, Taftan, Paratha and Sheermaal.
Routes To Reach Swat Valley
Swat Valley is accessible from Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. From Peshawar, the valley is located at a distance of 151km that can be covered in almost 4 hours.
The approximate distance of the route of Swat Valley from Rawalpindi is 270km which can be attained via Nowshera, Mardan and Malakand division.
From Islamabad, the Swat Valley is accessible through the M-1 Motorway that is used to reach Mardan Interchange in 1.5 hours. Mardan is situated at a distance of 131km from the capital. Further from Mardan, the distance of 112km is traveled in 2.5 hours through Takht-e-Bai, Dargai, Malakand Pass, Batkhella, Chakdara to reach Mingora or Saidu Sharif. The total distance between Islamabad and Swat Valley is 247km that can be traversed in 5 hours.
All the major routes leading to Swat are open throughout the year. The tourists who want to travel by their personal conveyance can reach the valley through the above-mentioned routes. However for those travelers who aim to use the public transport, various local transport companies offer regular bus services to Mingora from Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Karachi, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Abbottabad, Mianwali.and Mardan.
Best Time To Visit
Swat Valley up to Keran is accessible for travelers in the entire year. However, the remaining area is not reachable during winter. The best time to visit and explore the valley is from March till October.
Top Places To Visit In The Swat Valley
Swat is the most loved place in Northern Areas of Pakistan, there are small valleys in Swat which makes it more beautiful to visit, although there are some breathtaking destinations in Pakistan like Hunza Valley, Fairy Meadows, Chitral, Skardu, Kalash Valley, Murree and much more, but you’d love to visit these areas too.
1. Kalam Valley
Kalam is a stunning sub-valley of Swat that is located at a distance of 29 km from Bahrain, 99km from Mingora and 270km from Islamabad. It is encircled by the fluvial Swat River and lush hills. The Kalam Valley is famous for Gabral, Utror, Usho, Matiltan, Mount Falaksir, beautiful waterfalls, transparent streams and striking lakes. The pleasant weather with wildly spectacular scenery makes the valley “A Must Visit” place for tourist. Best time to explore Kalam is between April and September.
2. Kumrat Valley
Kumrat Valley is accessible through a 52km jeep trek from Kalam. It is a widely unexplored region of Swat Valley situated in the Upper Dir district. Kumrat is blessed with beautiful waterfalls, mesmerizing streams, Do Kala Chashma Lake, Jandrai, Katora Lake, Kalkot Banda, Badagoi Pass and Jahaz Banda. There are no hotels or restaurants in Kumrat.
3. Malam Jabba
Malam Jabba is a hill station of the Swat Valley present 45km away from Mingora. It is well-known for its ski-resort, black Karakoram Mountains, panoramic scenery, Buddhist monasteries, stupas and mesmerizing treks. Malam Jabba is the hub of winter sports like skiing in Pakistan.
4. Saidu Sharif
Saidu Sharif is the administrative center of Swat Valley. The best places to visit in the area include archaeological sites, Tomb of Saidu Sharif, Buddhist Stupas, Royal Palace and the Swat Museum.
5. Mahodand Lake
The lake is located at a distance of 35km from Kalam that is usually covered in 3 hours via the jeep trek. Tourists from all over the world tempt to visit the Mahodand Lake in Swat Valley for kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and boating.
6. Marghzar, Swat Valley
Marghzar is a small village of Swat situated 13km away from Saidu Sharif. It is immensely popular due to the White Marble Palace where the Royal Family of the valley used to reside. This palace was built by Miangul Jehanzeb in 1940. But it has been turned in a hotel now. Marghzar is renowned for its carpets, shawls, traditional caps and spectacular gardens.
Other famous places to visit in the Swat Valley are Takht i Bahi, Mingora, Bahrain, Madyan, Ushu forest, Mighty 22 falls, Fizaghat Park, Kundol Lake, Saidgai Lake, Spin Khwar Lake, Saifullah Lake, Khapero Lake, Jarogo Waterfall, Shingrai Waterfall, Shingardar Stupa, Shahi Bagh and Falak Sar peak.
History Of Swat Valley
The Swat Valley has immense historical importance for Greeks, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. The history of the valley dates back to 327 BC when Alexander the Great won the battles of Bazira (Barikot) and Ora (Odegram) and ruled the region for several years.
Buddhist King Chandra Gupta
After Alexander’s death, the Greeks lost control over Swat Valley. They were conquered by the Buddhist King named Chandra Gupta in the 2nd century. The Buddhists reign started from the 2nd century and lasted until the 9th century. They regarded the Swat Valley as the religious hub of the Gandhara Kingdom where 1400 monasteries survived and flourished successively. During this period, a large number of sculptures of Buddha, religious carvings, abbeys as well as the stupas were built in this area. The Buddhist named the Swat Valley as “Uddiyana” meaning “the garden” due to its serene and peaceful vibe. But later, the name was changed to Suvastu. It is famously quoted that the Buddha himself came to the Swat Valley and spread his teaching of harmony and peace to the residents. Therefore, the valley is called the cradle of Buddha.
Hindu Shahi dynasty
The Swat Valley was also ruled by the Hindu Shahi dynasty who built their temples, fortresses, and buildings in the region. The official language of the area at that time was Sanskrit.
In 1023 AD, Mahmood of Ghazni invaded the Swat Valley and won the battle against Raja Gira, the last Buddhist king, in Odegram. As a result of this invasion, Islam was spread in the region. Later on, some Pashtun Dilazak from Afghanistan occupied the Swat Valley along with the Sultans from Kunar. These tribes were then overthrown by Swati Pashtuns from Kandahar. The Swati Pashtuns, in return, were conquered by the Yusufzais who had migrated from the Kabul Valley.
During the 19th century, Akhund Abdul Ghafoor or Saidu Baba ruled the Swat Valley. He was a charismatic reformer and a reputable leader, therefore, the locals named him as Akhund Sahib. During the Akhund rule, the economy as well as the trade of the valley flourished exponentially.
With the help of Akhund Sahib, Syed Akbar Shah established Sharia Law in the Swat Valley from 1849 till 1856. After his death, Miangul Abdul Wadood (grandson of Akhund Sahib) was declared the king who laid the basis of the “Princely State of Swat”. The Swat State was recognized by the British Government in 1926. In 1949, Miangul Abdul Wadood handed over the rule to his son Miangul Jehanzeb who continued to build the infrastructure of the region. In 1990, Sufi Muhammad tried to impose Sharia Law in the valley as a result of which a decade long conflict started between the Taliban and Pakistan army. During 2008, the conflict came to end when the armed forces of Pakistan took control over the region.