A quick guide on how to get from Kalam to Kumrat Valley and Dir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The article focuses on using public and private transportation and gives tips on where to stay once there.
Friends described Kumrat Valley to us as a “heaven on earth.” The remote valley is relatively popular with local tourists from KPK, but is mostly a secret from other Pakistani tourists. Few foreigners ever visit… if any.
We recently ventured to Kumrat Valley from Kalam in Swat Valley, though for a far shorter time than planned (read on to learn why). In the name of helping out future travelers, here’s a guide on how to get from Kalam to Kumrat Valley, and what to do once there.
How to get from Kalam to Kumrat Valley
The village at the entrance to Kumrat Valley is named Thall. It’s a small village in Upper Dir district, with very basic amenities.
To reach Thall from Kalam in Swat Valley, you must first go to Utrar, a village about one hour from Kalam. You can take a shared taxi from Kalam’s main bazaar to Utrar. They leave when full. We aimed to leave early, and our taxi left around 7:30 in the morning. The shared taxi costs 150 -200 Rs per person, depending on how many people they manage to squeeze in the car.
From Utrar bazaar, shared Jeeps to Thall leave when full (10 passengers), and cost 500 Rs per person. If there is limited demand, the driver will ask if you want to go anyway, but you’ll have to pay a higher price. We paid a 1,000 Rs each with three people.
The driver from Utrar to Thall is bumpy but gorgeous. You’ll cross a 3,000m+ mountain pass dividing Swat Valley from Upper Dir district before descending into the forested mountains and hills of Upper Dir. The drive takes roughly four hours, and if you make the drive in season, there will be a few small shops and makeshift tea houses along the way.
Where to stay in Thall
When you arrive in Thall, it’s best to stay there for the day to organize onward travel and supplies. However, it’s possible to make it into Kumrat Valley on the same day. There’s one official hotel, Hotel Green Hills, off of the main road running through Thall Bazaar.
We stayed in the home of our shared Jeep driver, Bakht Rawan, and if you’re friendly or a visiting foreigner, you might receive an invitation as well. Bakht speaks Urdu, but very limited English.
How to get from Thall to Kumrat Valley
To get from Thall to Kumrat Valley, you need to hire a Jeep with a driver. Prepare for a bumpy ride. Depending on how far into the valley you want to be brought, a Jeep should cost 2000 – 4000 Rs. It will be more if you want the driver to pick you up a few days later. It will take an hour or two to drive through the narrow valley to the point where the mountains open wide again. You’ll pass an army checkpoint along the way. Make sure to bargain, and be clear as to where you want to be dropped off and picked up.
Where to stay in Kumrat Valley
There are plentiful tent camps in the valley during season, and generally, offer similar facilities at similar rates. When we visited in late September (the offseason), the tent camps were still standing. Not all of them were manned, though. We were quoted 200 Rs per night for a tent. However, a bunch of local boys were charged 800 Rs for their tent. Bargain hard.
Basic food amenities are available at the tent camps, and there are small convenience stores every once in a while. Options are limited (and costly, of course), so bring your own food and snacks if you can.
Getting from Kumrat Valley to Dir and Chitral
If you want to head out towards Dir—ideal if Chitral and the Kalash Valleys are next on your itinerary—shared taxis leave for Dir from the main Thall bazaar, close to where the turnoff for Kumrat is. The ride should take 6 to 8 hours depending on the driver, and seats are around 300 Rs per person.
Foreigners and women in Kumrat Valley
And so we arrive at the problematic part of our journey to Kumrat Valley.
Kumrat Valley sees very few foreigners (if any), let alone foreign girls. We were told we could only stay the night if we slept in the army guest house ($25/2,500 Rs per night), or had a local companion. The army and our driver said it was not safe for Alex to be in the valley. Apparently, local men can’t control themselves when they see a girl not completely covered in a black veil, and because it was off-season, it was “dangerous” for her to sleep in an otherwise unoccupied tent camp.
We weren’t allowed to stay in Kumrat Valley in the end.
If you’re a boy, a group of boys, or are traveling to Kumrat during high season, you should be allowed to sleep in the valley. Otherwise, prepare to argue with the army about what you are and aren’t allowed to do. If you are a couple or a group of girls, bringing a guide can save you a lot of hassle.
Guides for Kumrat Valley
If you’re looking for a guide, we recommend Aslam. We enlisted his services when we trekked to Kandol and Spinkhor lakes in Swat Valley. He lives near Kalam, speaks good English, and has a lot of love for Kumrat Valley. His number is 03139473399, and he can show you around Kalam as well. He charges 1500 – 2000 Rs a day, more for overnight stays.
Although we couldn’t see much of Kumrat Valley, what we did see was gorgeous. If you’re hoping to go off the beaten track, this is a great place to do it. If you’ve been to Kumrat Valley, do share your experience in the comments. The more information, the merrier!