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. There are shared taxis from Kalam’s main bazaar to Utrar, which 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. Our driver was in a good mood, so we left with three people in the car, and paid 1000 Rs each.
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 onwards travel and supplies, though 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 driver. The road into the valley is poor, and can be washed out by rains. Depending on how far into the valley you want to be brought, a Jeep should cost 2000 – 4000 Rs, 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, and 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, though not all of them were manned. We were quoted 200 Rs per night for a tent, but 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 if I recall correctly, 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. When we arrived, 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, despite her modest dress and head covering. 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.
Although we were thoroughly frustrated and tried to persuade the army and our driver that we would be fine and wanted to sleep in the valley, we weren’t allowed. It didn’t help that English was hardly spoken.
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, as English is hardly spoken in Thall or 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, and we had a grand time with him. 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, and 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!