Galiyat areas cover 80 km long mountainous regions between Abbottabad and Murree. Because of its easy access, great road network, and beautiful locations, Galiyat is the center of attraction for many tourists from all around the country. This region is relatively very easy to access a couple of hours’ drive from the main freeway network approaching either Peshawar or Islamabad.
Drive from Abbottabad to Nathiagali
The drive from Abbottabad to Nathiagali is around 30 km and takes approximately one hour to get there. During peak travel season and weekends, there can be plenty of traffic on the road, and travel time can increase substantially.
Harnoi is a low-lying area with plenty of water. In recent years, this area has become a picnic spot with a big water reservoir and joyrides. The road from Harnoi onwards to Nathiagali is very steep and you will experience a continuous climb all the way to Nathiagali.
There are two alternative ways to reach Nathiagali. A road near Kala Pani (after Harnoi Climb) takes along a scenic route with waterfalls and unique views. The road joins Nathiagali near the Governor’s House. This alternative route has far less commercial traffic and is used by people living in remote villages in the Galiyat area.
How far is Nathiagali from major cities in the region?
From Islamabad, the driving distance is: 2.5 -3 hours
From Peshawar, the driving time is: 5 hours approximately
From Abbottabad, the driving time is: 1 Hour approximately
Some of the most interesting places to visit in Galiyat include:
1. Ayubia & Dunga Gali in Galiyat Region
Ayubia is a popular tourist attraction because of the chairlift and pipeline walking track extending from Dunga Gali to Ayubia. Ayubia is an approximately 45-minute easy drive from Murree. This area is also ideal for a day trip from Islamabad as off-peak travel time is around 2 hours with a distance of 73 km.
It is recommended to start early to reach this location on time. During peak tourist season from May to July, these areas attract plenty of tourists and roads can get packed.
Other outdoor activity in the area includes a 4-km-long Pipeline Walking Track established during the colonial era. This is an easy 40-minute walk offering a walk through a thick pine forest overlooking the valley.
With crisp clean air and the occasional sighting of monkeys and rare birds make this walk very enjoyable. You can enjoy a nice meal or expresso at Amore Hotel, situated at the exit of the pipeline trail in Dunga Gali.
The pipeline track is monitored with remote cameras and is suitable for families and kids. You can spot monkeys and local varieties of birds and butterflies along the way. Information about flora and fauna in the Galiyat area is posted by Forestry departments along the track which provides useful information on various species of birds and animals in the Galiyat region.
2. Mukshpuri Tops & Miranjani Trek
Mukshpuri trail starts from Donga Gali and takes you on a steep ascent to the top of the mountains at an altitude of 9600 feet. The vegetation on the mountain exudes a beautiful fragrance into the air. The top of the mountain commands an amazing view of Kashmir and the river Jhelum. The climb upward is steep and is not recommended for light-hearted.
The mountain trail is also accessible by horse which can be hired for a day. Mukshpuri is located on top of Dunga Gali and Nathiagali. This area has gained significance as a bird sanctuary.
Miranjani is another 4.9 km long trek that can be covered in 1.5 hours. The trek starts near the governor’s house in Nathiagali and takes you across beautiful vegetation and tall pine trees. The view from the top of Mirajani is worth watching.
Trekking in a mountainous area can be challenging especially if you do not exercise regularly. If you plan to camp in remote locations, it is recommended to take a local guide from Nathiagali with local knowledge. There are occasional sightings of wildlife in the region.
Climb to Miranjani and Mukshpuri are not for the light-hearted ones. Exercise caution if you have health issues. Be properly dressed up for the trek as the weather can get cooler towards the evening. Carry sufficient water on all the trails.
Miranjani hiking track is for seasoned hikers and should be completed in around 1.5 hours. A beginner can take around 3 hours to cover this track. Make sure to hire a local guide to accompany you, as it is not marked track and local area knowledge is essential for safety. The return hiking trip can be made in a day. It is advised to start early in the day and carry enough water to last for 8 hours.
A basic first aid kit is suggested along with adequate clothing, comfortable hiking boots, and a walking stick. The track is not very steep and can be easily traversed by average hikers as well. On a clear day, you can see the snow-clad tops of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest peak in the world. The track starts near the governor’s house in Nathiagali. A local guide can be hired in the main bazaar area in Nathiagali.
Other walking tracks are suggested for more seasoned trekkers and hikers. Here are some more options:
- Ayubia to Khanaspure
- Ayubia to Changla Gali
- Nathiagali to Lalazar
- Abbottabad to Thandiani
- Takia to Havelian
3. NathiaGali in Galiyat Region
Nathiagali is one of the most visited destinations because of its easy access from Abbottabad. There is plenty of development in the last couple of years and a number of 3 to 4-star hotels and resorts have popped up along the main road leading to Murree.
With beautiful views of the valley and clean crisp air, NathiaGali offers a great escape from the sweltering heat of the plains. Nathiagali is easily accessible from Islamabad using public transport. The driving time is approximately 2.5 o 3 hours.
Nathiagali is an ideal retreat for a quiet and relaxing break. You can enjoy plenty of walks in the mountains and a good variety of local food including chicken karahi, chapli kebabs, and bbq dishes. Pipeline Track, Mukshpuri Tops, and Mirajani Hills are located very close to Nathiagali.
Some popular places to stay in Nathigali include Hotel Elite Nathigali, Alpine Hotel, and Resort, Amore Hotel (Dunga Gali)
Nathiagali and the surrounding area has a number of quality hotels, government guesthouse, and holiday homes including furnished rental properties.
4. Thandani Hill Top near Abbottabad
Distance from Abbottabad:11 km
Height: 2750 m
Thandiani is a great destination for a one-day trip from Abbottabad. Located approximately one hour’s drive from Abbottabad city, a steep uphill climb takes you to a beautiful mountaintop overlooking Abbottabad Valley and Kashmir from a distance. Because of its steep climb, Thandiani is a bit of a challenge for novice drivers.
There is no accommodation available in Thandiani, however, a couple of cafes and restaurants offer refreshments and food. You can explore the walking tracks along with the forest guest house or relax on the lush green grounds of the guest house. The air is very fresh and you can see plenty of daisies across the rolling hills. A set of staircases takes you to the top of the hill and enjoy scenic views in all directions.
Horse riding is available for kids and is a great way to explore some trails as well. Thandiani is inaccessible in winter because of heavy snow.
How do I travel to Thandiani from Abbottabad?
From Abbottabad easiest way to get to Thandiani is to rent a Suzuki Van from either Sarben Chowk in Abbottabad City or Missle Chowk in Mandian. The rental rates can vary from Rs.2500-3000 per day. Ideally, you will rent the Suzuki Van for a day. It is better to start early around 9 am and be back before it gets dark.
A trip to Thandiani would be ideal if you are staying in Abbottabad. There are no buses or public transport to Thandiani from Abbottabad. Thandiani is ideal for a day trip as there is not much accommodation available in the area. Camping grounds are available for adventurous ones.
The road to Thadiani is extremely steep and can cause motion sickness if you are not used to traveling in the mountainous area.
5. Harnoi River Picnic Area
Quick Facts: Watersports, Splash Area near the River, Kids activities, Restaurant, Paddle Boats
Distance from Abbottabad: 10 km
Harnoi is located between Abbottabad and Nathiagali. Harnoi river flows from the gulleys towards Havelian where it becomes Daur River. The water is cold and pristine and offers a great outlet for visitors to take a dip in the river or enjoy a number of water sports including boating ( in an artificial lake). There is a theme park for the kids that get very crowded over the weekend. You can sit by the riverside restaurants and enjoy local delights while watching the crowd.
The traffic backs on busy weekends and midday because of the popularity of this area. It is best to leave early and spend an hour or two at Harnoi before heading out to Nathiagali.
An Important Message for driving in Northern Pakistan and the Galiyat Area:
Some old cars heat up very quickly, therefore, if you are driving by yourself make sure to check the water in the radiator. For manual cars, it is recommended to engage low gears to keep the vehicles under control. Some drivers try to put cold water on the overheated breaks of the cars which is not a good idea. Keep an extra container of water in the car if the car heats up. Normally it is advisable to pour water over the over-heated radiators while the engine is running. Broken-down cars are a common observation while driving in northern Pakistan. Chains are recommended in winter as sleet and snow on the roads are very common after the first snowfall of the season in the Galiyat area.
There are plenty of accidents and casualties every year on Abbottabad to Nathiagali Road, therefore, it is advised to drive carefully.