PESHAWAR: A unique eco-friendly initiative by the Department of Tourism, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the form of camping pods has started solving the lodging problem for tourists at three hill-stations of the province.
“A pod is a unique insulated wooden hut that provides simple, comfortable, spacious and secure accommodation to tourists, enabling them to enjoy and appreciate the sights and sounds of nature,” read three colourful information-based booklets, printed by the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) to publicise the initiative and woo both local and foreign tourists.
“The camping pods enable you to have vacations in serene and close to nature settings as the hotel rooms do not offer the view you long for.
Your privacy is not encroached upon by messy waiters and noises from the rooms next door. These huts give you the kind of feeling you have always yearned for,” add the small but succinct TCKP booklets.
Secretary for Tourism, Culture, Archaeology, Museums, Youth Affairs and Sports, Muhammad Tariq, told the participants of a meetingthat the luxury cabins were opened to public on the occasion of Eidul Fitr and attracted an encouraging response at the very onset.
“This is a first step towards the lodging problem solution for tourists at the scenic spots of the hill-stations,” he said while talking of the initiative.
In-charge, TCKP Marketing, Ms Haseena Shaukat, told The News that 33 camping pods had been opened to tourists in three picturesque spots of Thandiani in Abbottabad, Sharan (Mansehra) and Bishigram in Swat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
She said the TCKP had printed three colourful booklets about the camping pods containing the basic information needed by tourists such as distance, travel time, facilities, essential items to be brought along, local areas of interests, activities and the camping site map. “A cursory look at the booklets can pull potential tourists to the camping pods,” said the official with surety.
The small publication on Thandiani hill-station summarizes maximum information in a few pages. “Thandiani means “very cold” in the native Hindko language. Located at an altitude of 2,750 metres above the sea level in Galiyat area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is said to be the coolest among all the hill-stations of the country. The scenic site is 32 kilometres away from Abbottabad (a 90-minute drive) and the distance from Murree is 72 kilometres,” says the booklet.
“The road to Thandiani is in good condition. The best time to visit the place is spring, summer and autumn. The mode of travel is public and private vehicles. Trekking can be an option as well for adventurists,” it adds.
The facilities available at camping pods are water, electricity, beds, blankets, kitchen meant for self-cooking, first-aid, toilets, fencing and family areas.
The tourists have been reminded that there are a number of local areas of interest such as rock climbing, bird watching and mountain biking. The eight kilometres-long area from Thandiani to Berin Gali and 16 kilometres-long Berin Gali to Dagri Bangla is ideal for trekking.
The second set of camping pods has been offered to tourists at Sharan in Kaghan Valley of Mansehra district in Hazara division.
Sharan is located at an elevation of 2,400 meters, at a distance of 92 kilometres from Abbottabad. It is 16 kilometres away from Paras, Mansehra-Kaghan Road and accessible only by jeep. The place is known for lush green meadows and thick pine forests. “Brimming with thick pine forests, green meadows and sparkling streams, Sharan is a wilderness still in its pristine state because very few tourists visit the place,” reads a passage from the TCKP booklet.
The third hill-station to have the camping pods facility is Bishigram in Swat district. Situated at an altitude of 4,335 meters above the sea level, Bishigram is at a distance of five kilometres from Madyan and 57 kilometres from Mingora, district headquarters of Swat.
The green forests are spread over the entire valley from the river side to the mountain top.
It takes an average of four to five hours of trekking from the camping pod site to the Bishigram Lake. The trail to the lake has wild flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees, all pleasing to the eye.