Swat is the most beautiful and historical valley in Pakistan. It is also one of the most gorgeous valleys definitely much greener and lusher than the valleys further north because it is sited in the monsoon belt. In Lower Swat, the basin is broad, the fields on each side of the river are full of Wheat and Lucerne, and the towns are flourishing and enclosed by fruit trees. In Upper Swat, the river falls through pine forests edging in by snow-capped mountains. For the chronological and part-time archaeologist, Swat presents several hundred archaeological places spanning 5,000 years of history. For the trekker and sportsman, it offers good hiking and fishing.
The inhabitants of Swat are Muslim Pashtuns, Kohistanis and Gujars. Some have very diverse features and assert to be descendants of Alexander the Great.
The Swat women dress in multicolored embroidered Shirts and Shalwars (loose trousers). The men dress in ‘Shalwar Kamiz’ and embroidered caps or silk turban. Swat has been populated for over two thousand years. The first residents were settled in well-planned towns.
Mingora is the district headquarter and business centre of Swat. The Swat Museum, is situated among Mingora and Saidu, it has a prosperous compilation of Gandhara art which is worth viewing.
Swat Museum is on the east side of the street, halfway among Mingora and Saidu. Japanese aid has given a facelift to its seven galleries which now contain an exceptional compilation of Gandhara statues taken from some of the Buddhist spots in Swat, reorganized and labeled to show the Buddha’s life tale. Terracotta figurines and utensils, beads, precious stones, coins, weapons and various metal objects illustrate daily life in Gandhara. The ethnographic division presents the premium examples of local sewing, engraved wood and tribal jewelry.
Butkara (Butkada) Stupa
One of the most significant Buddhist temples in Swat, is near the Swat museum. Take the mud way on the left (north) side of the museum for 1 km (about half a mile). The Stupa is 400 meters across the fields to the left (north).
The Stupa, which dates from the second century BC, was perhaps assembled by the Mauryan ruler Ashoka to house some of the ashes of the Buddha. In following centuries, it was enlarged 5 times by covering the existing construction in a new case. Italian excavators working in 1955 uncovered the consecutive coats of the Stupa, each coat demonstrating a stage in the advancement of building practices.
Kabal is a golfer’s heaven: an eighteen-holes course is open all year around and everyone can have fun there by paying the green fees.
Upper Swat Valley
The Swat Valley turns into more gorgeous the higher you go. In mid winter it is occasionally blocked by snow over Bahrain, but in summer you can drive up ahead of Kalam and from there trek north to either the Chitral Valley or the Gilgit Valley. From Khwazakhela, the road across the Shangla Pass to the Karakoram Highway is frequently open only from April to December.
Miandam is a minute summer resort 10 kilometers up a steep side valley and 56 kilometers from Saidu Sharif, making it an hour’s drive. The metalled road goes by small villages stacked up the hillside, the roofs of one row of houses forming the street for the row of houses above. Small terraced fields march up the hillside right to the top.
Miandam is a fine place for walkers. Paths pursue the stream, past houses with beehives set into the walls and good-luck charms whitewashed around the doors. In the cemeteries are engraved wooden grave posts with floral designs, similar to those used by Buddhists a thousand years ago.