Ziarat valley is a picturesque valley located in the Himalayan mountainous region lying to the northeast of Quetta in Balochistan province of Pakistan. Ziarat valley is chiefly famous for having the world’s oldest and second largest juniper forest. The valley is also famous for vast swathes of land covered with a variety of top quality fruit orchards. Other natural features comprise many mountain peaks, springs and karezes( historical underground irrigation tunnels ). Ziarat is a small town in the valley, which is a very popular tourist resort in summer as well as a winter attraction for the adventurous ones during the snowfall.
The hill town of Ziarat( meaning holy place )is the headquarter of Ziarat District of Balochistan. The town and the valley are named after the holy saint Tahir Baba Kharwari, whose shrine, situated on a hill nearby, is a prominent landmark of the town. Ziarat town lies about 133km from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, and can be reached by car, taxi or public transport in about 3 hours from this city. Quetta city is linked by air with all the major cities in the country like Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore etc.
History and People
Owing to its healthy climate, the town of Ziarat was originally developed by the British in 1887 as a sanatorium for their troops stationed at Quetta in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is a historic building here called the Residency, which was the centre of the hospital. It was subsequently turned into the residence of the Chief Commissioner of Balochistan or the Agent to the British Governor. After the independence of the country in 1947, the Residency was converted into the summer residence of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the first Governor General of the country. The place is now a national monument and museum, and a major attraction for the visitors.
The people of the area belong to different tribes of Pashtuns and speak Pashto language. They are very sturdy and peaceful, and are quite friendly towards the tourists.
The Ziarat valley has a height of 2543m (8346 ft ) and the climate is healthy. Summers are cool and therefore attract thousands of tourists while winters are severe with temperatures often below freezing. In winter, snowfall is the main attraction as the landscape becomes absolutely breathtaking.
A major attraction of the valley is the huge juniper forest, which grows wildly, and is spread over an area exceeding 1,26, 000 acres. Some of the juniper trees are over 5000 years old. The hill slopes remain green due to these and other trees like walnut. Some medicinal plants are also found growing amongst the local flora.
Other tourist attractions around the area include natural springs, streams, gorges, mountain peaks and orchards. Some nearby sites of scenic beauty or tourist interest are the Residency, Shrine of Baba Kharwari, Chashma Walk, Zindra, Fern Tangi (gorge), Chutair Valley, Zizri Valley, Prospect Point, Mana Valley, Sandeman Tangi, Khilafat Peak etc.
Ziarat Valley has fruit orchards covering an area of about 4416 acres and is famous for producing delicious varieties of apples, black and red cherries, almonds, apricots and more.
The valley is also rich in wildlife as diverse species of reptiles, mammals and birds are found in the vast forest.
Most people visiting Ziarat are on a day trip from Quetta but those who want to spend a few days here can find comfortable accommodation. There is a large PTDC motel and a rest house for the tourists with basic amenities, and at reasonable prices.
Apart from the scenic beauty and the cool climate, visitors to the valley can indulge in a number of activities such as walking, trekking, hill climbing, hiking, cycling, camping or picnicking.
In short, Ziarat Valley is a tourist resort par excellence for the discerning nature lovers and is ideal for those looking for a truly unique experience.