Living in Islamabad you have a number of choices for weekend plans with friends. Some of the obvious ones being Murree and Galliat, Taxila and surroundings or Salt Range. These can be easily done in a day or at most with a Saturday night stopover. But when my friends suggested that we could do Katas Raj, Khewra and Neela Wahan in one day, I was really doubtful. Furthermore it was suggested that we take the GT road to enter the Salt Range via Chakwal and then return by Motorway. A quick search on Google maps showed that the round trip would be 414 km long and would involve routes which had been unexplored so far (by the three of us).
Undaunted by the length of the journey we left from Behria Town Islamabad at 10 am, making steady progress on GT road towards Lahore. At Mandra we took a right turn towards Chakwal which was about 65 km from there. The road to Chakwal is being expanded but the progress seems to be very slow. The project was inaugurated by Raja Pervez Ashraf in 2012 at a cost of Rs. 2.5 billion. Anyway, after reaching Chakwal we took the road leading to Katas Raj Temples. The distance from Chakwal to Katas is about 30 km and the road is in very good condition. You also cross Choa Saidan Shah on the way to Katas.
After spending some time at Katas, taking pictures and enjoying some fresh oranges we left for our next destination, Khewra. Khwera is about 20 km from Katas via Choa Saidan Shah. Again the road is in pretty good condition and offered some spectacular views of the Salt Range. After rapidly descending for about half an hour we reached Khewra Salt mines. The ticket for the regular visitor was Rs. 150 with an additional Rs. 80 charged for the train ride. But since we were running short of time we skipped the train journey and marched straight into the mines. After a walk of one km we reached the famous mosque built out of salt bricks. There were also plenty of food stalls there offering tea, coffee and sandwiches.
At around 3 pm we left Khewra for Neela Wahan via Pind Dadan Khan and Kallar Kahar. The road from Khewra to Pind Dadan Khan is also in pretty decent shape and from there you can take the Motorway towards Kallar Kahar. After about one hour of travel we reached Nurpur village from where the trail for Neela Wahan, also known as Ab-e-Shifa, starts. The trail to Neela Wahan is a gradual decline requiring about 30 mins of steady walk. But the problem you encounter here is that there are so many tracks that can be taken that a newcomer can easily get confused. Furthermore right before you reach the ponds the trail disappears and you have to make your way through thick bushes.
We reached Neela Wahan at around 5:15 pm. After taking a breather and consuming some dry fruit we decided to head back as daylight was quickly receding. Although we met plenty of people on our way down but we were the only ones at the ponds at that time of the day. The upward journey took us around 45 mins. After paying a Rs. 100 parking ticket we said our good byes to the local people and headed back to Islamabad. A few stops for tea, snacks and cigarettes were taken to gather our energies and to reflect on the proceedings of the day. We reached Behria Town Islamabad at around 10 pm, very tired but satisfied with the achievements of the day.
1. Navigation was working on my phone for most of the journey so we did not have to stop and ask directions.
2. Although Google maps estimated the round trip journey to be 414 km we traveled only 380 km, costing us Rs. 2000 worth of fuel.