Known for gushing waterfall, Aharbal, a tourist resort tucked amidst lush green forests of Pir Panchal, has sprung to life again. The scenic spot located 30 kilometres from Kulgam town is abuzz with both tourists and local visitors. “Around 17, 200 domestic and six foreign tourists have visited Aharbal this year so far,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Aharbal Development Authority, Ghalib Shah told.
He said further one lakh locals from different parts of Kashmir thronged the destination. “We have been to Kashmir many times, but it is for the first time we visited Aharbal. We must say it is something which the people coming to Kashmir must not miss,” said a family from Maharashtra.
They said the place is so serene that they wish to spend the entire holiday here. The tourists are equally mesmerised with the echoes of river Veshaw, a major tributary of Jhelum full of trout fish flowing through the tough rocky surfaces of a deep gorge.
Also Read | Bungus Valley: The Hidden Gem of The Himalayas
The roaring sound of Aharbal waterfall is captivating to the ears. The water of the fall tumbles down from a height of about 25 meters through a rocky narrow gorge about seven meter wide providing a sparkling view owing to volume of water that falls down. “We had only heard about Niagara falls, but after seeing this waterfall it seems we are there,” said Amit Kumar, a tourist from New Delhi.
He said, though he visited this place for a day only and next time would be planning at least a two-day trip here. The places beyond Aharbal- Kousarnag, Mahinag, Indrasar, Cheranbal and other alpine lakes are a delight to trekkers. The Department of Tourism and district administration Kulgam has been lately promoting the spot to woo the tourists.
A winter tourism festival was held this year here. The rural tourism plan was also launched at Tangmarg village of Aharbal this year. The programme aimed at focusing on the village home stay concept was launched in collaboration with the Rural Development Department and Panchayat Raj Kulgam.
An official attributed the huge footfall to two years of massive campaigning by district administration Kulgam, Tourism Department Kashmir, Aharbal Development Authority, Forest division Kulgam through summer, autumn and winter carnivals, sports activities and social media. “To tap the tourist potential of Aharbal, the Deputy Commissioner Kulgam, Dr Bilal Mohi-Ud-Din Bhat has made special efforts for its promotion by organizing festivals doubling the tourist footfall last year. Now this year it is expected to triple, he said.
An official further said that the hallmark of all these initiatives was the involvement of local youth to provide them employment opportunities.
Rehmat Maqbool, Assistant Director, Tourism Kulgam also counted several initiatives that have been taken up by the tourism department to promote Aharbal as an offbeat tourist destination. “Adventure sports, summer, autumn and winter carnivals were held in Aharbal and promotions campaigns through other quarters like social media, calendars and booklets issued by district Administration Kulgam are yielding the results,” she said.
” A sufi festival was also held here this year” There are four JKTDC huts, a Tourist Bungalow and a few huts of the Tourism department and T-20 budgetary accommodation of ADA where the tourists can stay.
Locals, however, are for setting up more eco- friendly structures. “The government should allow the setting up of a few quality guest houses , so this place is not restricted as a day picnic destination,” said one Zahoor Ahmed.
He said the condition of government huts was not up to the mark and needs further improvement. CEO ADA said that they were upgrading the present infrastructure at the spot. “We are for now focused on promoting the village home stay concept here,” he said.
Also Read | Best Places for Destination Wedding in Kashmir