Abbottabad, a popular summer resort in the midst of spacious valleys,
is surrounded by green hills and located at a distance of 116 km from
Rawalpindi and 217 km from Peshawar.
From a tourist point of view abbottabad is noted for its verdant parks,
gardens, golf course and pine covered hills, apart from this it is full of
educational institutions and Academies. Its
importance lies in the fact that it serves as an important gateway to
almost all-beautiful places in Pakistan. The formidable Karakorams & the
enchanting Himalayas can be approached from Abbottabad. The importance of
this city has diminished with the completion of Karakoram Highway because
in the past the only track available to reach the majestic Karakoram, was
through Babusar Pass, which in its turn, could only be approached through
Abbottabad. In spite of this development, the city continues to be a
transit city for tourists. Abbottabad is the junction from where one can
go to places like Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Indus Kohistan, of the
Karakoram Range. One can easily reach Swat, Swati Kohistan, Dir and
Chitral of the Hindukush Range along with Naran, Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran
and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum, Lipa and Jhelum Valley of
beautiful Azad Kashmir are also connected through Abbottabad.
While other hill stations are deserted during winter this place is
blessed with visitors due to the bracing winter season. The place has
beautiful gardens like; Jinnah Garden, Ladies Garden etc maintained by the
local Cantonment Board. The splendid stretch of turf promises plenty of
room for polo, football, hockey and golf. At the back of the station
towards the west is the Brigade Center, which is an ideal place ideal for
walks and picnic.
The Cantonment area of Abbottabad is still very British. The European
bungalows, the club, the church and cemetery are still there.
Located north of Islamabad, Abbottabad is a town surrounded by lofty
peaks and pine scented air. Among Pakistan's towns and cities, Abbottabad
–- small, neat and clean in spacious valley -- is a rarity. Apart from
being famous for its educational institutions and Pakistan Military
Academy, Abbottabad also serves as the gateway to some most stunning sites
in Pakistan. While other hill stations are deserted during winter this
place has visitors due to its bracing weather all year around. The town
has beautiful gardens and tall tree lined roads: splendid stretches of
turf with plenty of room for polo, football, hockey and golf.
At 1,250 meters above sea level, Abbottabad lies below the lush pines of
the Murree Hills. The importance of the town has been diminished a little
after the completion of Karakorum Highways because, in the past, the only
track available to reach Karakorum was through Babusar Pass, which in it
turn could only be approached through Abbottabad. In spite of this
development, it continues to be a transit town for those who want to
venture to Northern Areas of Pakistan. Abbottabad is the junction point
from where one can go to places like Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Indus
Kohistan of the Karakorum Range. One can also reach from here to Swat, Dir
and Chitral of the Hindukush Range or can approach to Naran, Lake
Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum,
Lipa and Jhelum Valleys are also connected through Abbottabad. It is where
the hills start.
Coins of the Greco-Bectrians kings discovered from the Hazara tract
suggest that the area was inhabited in first century B.C. But the
Abbottabad town was founded in 1853 by James Abbott (hence the name), who
was the first Deputy Commissioner of Hazara – the district right up to its
conversion into a division in 1976. In October 1976, Tehsil Mansehra was
given the status of a full fledged district, which consisted of Mansehra
and Batagram Tehsils. Subsequently in July 1991, Haripur Tehsil was
separated from Abbottabad and made district. Thus only the Tehsil
Abbottabad remained, which was declared as district.
Abbott James was one of those upper crust Englishmen who helped manage
Britain's vast domain. He studied the local conditions, customs,
traditions, history and habits. After a lifetime spent travelling around
the hills and valleys of Hazara, there seems nothing about the district
that he did not get acquainted with. Which is why he knew the district and
its people deeply and thoroughly? Aside from being efficient
administrator, he was a keen observer and researcher, linguist,
archaeologist, historian, botanist and town planner. Abbott‘s tour
reports, still preserved in India Office Library London are a valuable
reservoir of knowledge for those interested to know about the area.
After independence in 1947, the town became a place for seeking knowledge.
Now it is a home to prestigious institutions of learning: the Ayub Medical
College, Burn Hall School, and Abbottabad Public School. Ten miles up from
Abbottabad is a teaching hospital. Nearby Kakul has the Pakistan Military
Academy (one of the best rated military training institutions in the world
giving training to cadet officers from many countries in addition to
Pakistan) and the School of Music. Before independence, Albert Victor
Unaided High School and a Municipal Anglo-Vernacular High School were good
educational institution in the town.
The Cantonment area of Abbottabad gives old look. European type huge
bungalows, the club, the church and the British cemetery are still there.
The town presents every graduation of scenery, altitude and climate. I
caught my first glimpse of Abbottabad in early march when I travelled up
to Havalian by train and further ahead to the town by a Ford Wagon. Now
comfortable flying coaches commute between Rawalpindi-Islamabad and
Spring in Abbottabad is for the most part lovely time. Clouds fly about
low in the sky, playing hide and seek with the hills. There is a nip in
the air, with frosty mornings and chilly evenings. The lush green
countryside is at its best after weeks of winter rains. New leaves are
budding into the light, and the blossoms are out in all their glory --
apricot, pear, peach, plum and apple. I ate the world's most delicious
plums from the orchards around Abbottabad.
During my two years stay in town and permanent association thereafter,
I have come to know Abbottabad and its environs. It still is a clean
little town, as pretty as a picture postcard. On weekends, young and smart
Gentlemen Cadets from the Military Academy, dressed in similar attire,
throng the shady streets lined with humble shops. Clusters of houses are
widely scattered along hill contours that give a sense of openness. On a
clear day one can see right across the valley from the town to Thandiani
and beyond and if listening carefully, one could hear the pipe or brass
bands playing melodious tunes in the School of Music or some instructor
shouting drill orders at the top of his voice. More people are seen
walking. There are fewer vehicles on the roads. The town has no high-rise
buildings and dazzling plazas, and of course there seems to be no hurry.
The panorama starts changing after crossing Haripur. Environment is
tranquil, pollution free and quiet. One finds countless attractions spread
around the town. There are meadows here and there, grassy stretches, wild
flowers and walking tracks. Go for climbing, trekking, rock repelling or
explore Thandiani or Shinkiari valleys. Further north; go to the black
mountain near Oghi or to see the Asokan inscriptions on boulders near base
of Bareri Hill close to Mansehra. Or just sit on top of a hillock
overlooking Ilyasi Mosque and count yourself lucky for being there.
While the entire valley is breathtaking in its splendour and beauty, one
of my most enduring memories is watching the sunrise over snow clad
Thandiani -– meaning cold in the local language -— in winters. It is a
small plateau surrounded by pine forests. The drive to Thandiani from
Abbottabad is one with lovely views on both sides of the road. There are
some most beautiful glades on the way to Thandiani. The road rises
gradually above Abbottabad. In the past, on the way to Thandiani, along
with tall majestic pine trees you came across groups of monkeys. Their
population is dwindling now.
Thandiani offers lush green lovely sight. Small colourful flowers bloom
here and there. It looks like someone has covered the mountains with green
velvet layers and the flowing water channels increase many fold its
splendour and majesty. Every scene is lovely on its own. At night the
lights of Abbottabad and Azad Kashmir are clearly visible. To the east
beyond the Kunhar River may be seen the snow covered mountain ranges of
Kashmir, to the North and North East, the mountains of Kohistan and Kaghan
are sighted, and to the North West are the snowy ranges of Swat and
Chitral. A welldefined and common walking trail leads from Thandiani to
Murree through well wooded and attractive country (with an overnight stay
in the way). In this very touristy area, apart from spectacular sights
what one comes across are kindnesses from any thing but ordinary people of
the area. It was while walking on this route that a local who courteously
walked some distance with me once told, “Keep a lemon and suck on it while
walking hard and long in hills. It gives strength and quenches thrust.
And, Tire the mountain not yourself.” I realize the folk wisdom in the
advices every time I walk.
More adventurous can back pack their provisions and take a long but
beautiful walk on off the road track to Hasan Abdal. In the way, have tea
at lonely railway station Sarae Saleh. By the time you reach there, it
will taste the best. On the way, you will sure come across Cadets from
Pakistan Military Academy walking in files with heavy rucksacks engaged in
out door training exercises. On this route, also look for a peculiar board
hanging on the parameter fence of Golden Apple orchard near Haripur that
reads, "Greedily looking on the fruit is prohibited." What is the harm in
looking at fresh fruit from across the fence? I keep wondering since I
first saw it.
Abbottabad has been a favoured summer destination for rest and relaxation;
for locals on the run from the sweltering heat in summer all over the
country; for foreigners in the capital city Islamabad who want to chill
out on weekends, and hard core travellers on way to picturesque Northern
Pakistan and beyond to China. But one does not have to wait for any season
to go to Abbottabad. You can enjoy there any time
round the years!