It is a valley of fountains, springs, waterfalls, flowering trees and plants. Geographically too, it is a hospitable valley. The Neelum Valley, 90 miles long bow-shaped with majestic pine, fir and deodar trees, lies north-south of Muzaffarabad (capital). This ninety-mile long kingdom of vegetation is ripped apart by the indigo blue Neelum River which flows serpentine down hills to merge itself into the river Jhelum at Domail.
Domail, the confluence of two mighty rivers, presents highly fascinating scene of youthful embrace. This heart-warning spectacle is most soothing to the eye. The valley, starting from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, is about 150 miles long. It lies on both sides of the river Neelum.
The geographical features enhance the natural beauty of the Valley. Its elevation, a mere 2,000 feet at the start, gradually rises till it attains a respectable height of 8,000 feet. On both sides there are high mountains and peaks. Nearly all the forest wealth of Azad Kashmir is to be found in this part of the State.
There are two approaches to the valley, one from the Kaghan Valley which is linked with it at two points, the Nuri Nari Hali (Pass) and the Ratti Gali and many minor Passes. From Dawarian it takes two days for hiking or riding and night stay at Dharian at 12,000 feet.
The second approach is from Muzaffarabad. It is a distance of 55 miles which is jeepable in fair weather. The Neelum meets the Jhelum River at Domali (meeting of the two) on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad city. From Paticka forest one reaches Nosari, 24 miles ahead of Muzaffarabad. Next, come Chaliana (height 3,200 feet), Qazi Nag, Barian, Salkhela, Kundal Shahi, Athmaqam on this road. On a number of places, the local population has built rope crossings on the river. It is a very dangerous device and the very thought of crossing these points is horrible but thrilling.
Tao Butt is an example of vegetation generosity of the liberal nature. The spot is donned with all delicacies and niceties. Nature flirts here in a fantastic environment. The forest wealth abounds in the Neelum Valley. Deodar, pine, fir, wild walnut, strawberry and hosts of other high stature trees and other types of wild growth and herbs are the treasure of the valley. Besides being invaluable in economic terms, the variety of natural growth offers captivating scenery.
The other midway station in Kundal Shahi, also a small commercial centre Kundal Shahi headquarter the operational centre of the Azad Kashmir Logging and Saw Mills which is responsible for timber extraction to commercial markets in Pakistan. Kundal Shahi station has a rest house manned by the logging and sawmills at the Western bank of river Neelum adjacent to metalled road.
A tourist range bifurcates from Kundal Shahi to Jagra Nullah which again a mini river is running all the year-round. Its water is glass-like limpid having well potential for trout fish development. The range is also accessible by a kutcha but well-maintained road. The forests are so thick in the range that a trip to the range would be like going through a tunnel. It is a tunnel of forest indeed.
The other important station in the Valley is Athmaqam connected by metalled road with Muzaffarabad. This town has a Town Committee of its own with an Intermediate College, a hospital and a telephone exchange. A few scheduled banks of Pakistan are also operating here. The rest house, built at the foot of the Western hilltop which tapers towards Balakot in the NWFP, is accommodative.
It has been built in such a way that its lawns face the river below it. A daily bus service piles between the town and Muzaffarabad. From here upwards emerges typical Kashmiri living pattern with houses built of wooden logs, most of them double-storeyed. Curd, cheese maize bread along the chutney is the other palatable diet. The other major diet is rice.
So far is the half of the Neelum Valley and after it are the more enchanting spots full of exuberance and life. Keran is another beauty spot on the river side with a neat and clean wooden flooring rest house. Its lawns slope down towards the western bank of the river.
The bazaar consists of over a dozen shops with a post office and telephone call office. Commodities are transported to the bazaar from Athmaqam by trucks. The physical feature of Keran resort resembles a broad forehead of a person with thick hair on the head. Stay is more comfortable here.