Lolab valley, also known as “Wadi-e-Lolab” or “Lolov”, is a beautiful oval-shaped valley in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Located about 120 kms north of Srinagar, this picturesque valley has breathtaking scenery that is also soothing to the eyes and the mind. This beautiful valley is nearly circular in shape with Pine and Deodar forests, mountain ranges and pastures and meadows (Margs) bounding its sides. The only way into this valley is via Kupwara-Lolab road passing through the beautiful mini gorge of Zangli. Lolab itself comprise three mini valleys: Kalaroos, Warnow (Putnai) and Brohnai. All three are unique in their beauty, scenery and landscape.
As this region is mostly hilly, most of the beautiful places are situated among the dense forests. However, every destination is connected with well macadamized roads with good transport facility. Besides, this region provides beautiful (unexplored) trekking sites which are eagerly waiting for trekkers and adventurists. Though Lolab is famous, the fact is that the beauty of this region hasn’t been explored fully yet. Even not much information is available about the potential tourist places of this region. As a resident of Lolab, I provide here a brief overview of these potential tourist places of Lolab—as well as about the love (and hospitality) and beauty of Lolab—the literal meaning of the word LOLAB.
Lolab is rich in eco-tourism and adventure tourism. There are many places in Lolab that attract nature lovers and a few of them have historical significance as well; among them are Warnow, Affan, Doban, Khurhuma and Kuligam (on Putnai side); Chandigam, Sogam, Lalpora, Putushai, Dorusa, Tekipora (in Brohnai area); and Kalaroos (which is famous for its caves).
There are many meadows that provide breathtaking scenery and soothing views: Amari, Trumukh and Bumsi, Nagmarg, Keemsar, Nichan and Lushkoot. Nagmarg, Keemsar, Nichan and Lushkoot are very close to Lolab valley and people can reach here by foot or by horse. Nearly two hours of trekking—either via Warnow-Affan route or Diver route—leads to these heavenly designed places. They are rich in natural beauty, flora and fauna, lush green forests with different kinds of trees and plants, fresh and clean water streams and ponds. Moreover, different kinds of wild animals and birds can be seen here: musk deer, black and brown bear, hangul, leopard and birds of different species and colours.
Recently, the Forest Department took steps to put these sites on the tourism map of India with the objective to improve eco-tourism if this region. They inaugurated two trek routes: (i) Afan-Kitson from Warnow and (ii) Kairwan trek route from Diver. Through Afan-Kitson route one can also travel to Bandipora district easily by foot or by horse via the beautiful meadows of Nagmarg-Nichani-Keemsar-Lushkoot top. Through Kaayirwan (literally ‘forest of pine trees’) in Diver area, one can travel to Bandipora as well as to Sopore via Trumukh-Bumsi meadows leading to Rampora-Rajpura-Sopore. Many other meadows are still unexplored or less visited. They are good for trekking and camping.
The Forest Department has also developed an eco-and adventure-park in Kaayirwan (Diver) which is unique in its (natural) landscape. From Nagmarg and Trumukh top one can see best panoramic view of Wular Lake and can travel to holy shrine at Nichani meadows. These places are mostly visited by public from March to November but trekkers can go during winter season also. Winter games can also be played there because from early December till March, these places are covered with snow.
Lolab Valley is rich not only in natural landscape but also in traditional culture. It is famous for its hospitality. The food and beverage (tea) of Lolab is the best. People here eat rice, pulses, homegrown vegetables, honey, and also enjoy tea (noon chai), saffron kahwa, milk, butter with corns, and bread made of corn flour (maki ki roti). Due to good irrigation, people grow vegetables in their kitchen gardens. Lolab is called the “Land of Love and Beauty” not only for its mountains, lush green forests, paddy fields, orchards, water streams and natural waterfalls but for the love and hospitality of its inhabitants as well. It is rich in producing dry fruits like walnuts. In forests, pine, fir, deodar and many more amazing trees are found in abundance.
Lolab is also rich in minerals; one can find here different kinds of stone. Some places, like Kainnard (literally Stone Reserve) in Warnow area have been named so because of the stone found there. Visitors also can see traditional flour mills running on water (Chekki) which are in vogue since many centuries.
If we discuss Lolab in historical prospective, then it is the birthplace of the famous Islamic scholar Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (RA). He was born in Shah-Abad (Anwar-Abad), Warnow village of Lolab valley. His traditional wooden house (of 18th century) is still there, and is visited by a number of people in reverence and admiration of Maulana Kashmiri. Moreover, the famous Kalaroos caves and Sat-baran (literally ‘Seven Doors’) are also located in Kalaroos area, which are visited by local and foreign tourists in large numbers every year. The Sat-baran (in Kalaroos or Qilla-e-Rouss) are the seven carved openings in a rock that is near the Kalaroos caves. Though historically unverified and unconfirmed, legends say that through these caves one can reach to Russia and that’s why it is called Kalaroos. There is no historical information about these caves; and no one knows the history behind this structure; who built them; or even about their date(s). Thus, people (over time) have fashioned strange stories about these caves.
Many tourist guest houses and huts have been constructed by the Tourism Department at various places, like at Chandigam, Krusan, Diver, Dorusa and Lalpora, and many hotels have been made functional by locals as well. Water dams/ bodies (Sarr) in Lolab valley, constructed for irrigation purpose, add to its picturesque landscape. The main source of water for these dams is the water coming from forests or the rain water. Old wooden structures are also located here and roof tops are covered with wood in old-type architecture. Lolab valley’s beauty has attracted many poets also and they have praised its beauty and glory. Allama Iqbal has rightly praised Lolab’s magnificent mountains and sweet water in a poem “Ae Wadi-e-Lolab/ O Valley of Lolab” as:
Panni Tere Cheshmu Ka Tadapta Huya Seem-Aab
Murghan-e-Sahar Teri Fazoain Mein Hain Betaab
Aae Waad-e-Lolab Aae Waad -E-Lolab
(Your springs and lakes with water pulsating and quivering like quicksilver,
The morning birds fluttering about the sky, agitated and in turmoil,
O Valley of Lolab!)
In Lolab valley, one not only witnesses the green gold (lush green and dense forests), fresh water streams, meadows, but also hospitality and rich historical tradition which add to its beauty. The need of the hour is to explore Lolab more and to develop it as a tourist destination. As a resident of Lolab (the place which has produced the renowned Islamic scholar Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri), I welcome you all to one of the most beautiful places of Kashmir valley: do come, enjoy and feel refreshed and relaxed with fresh breezes, cool air, breathtaking scenery and local food and hospitality.
(To know more about Lolab, kindly visit district Kupwara’s official website www.kupwara.nic.in/toursit-place/lolab).
The writer is a BA student at GDC Sogam (Lolab) and a member of the college trekking group.