Kotli city in Azad Kashmir Pakistan has several super travel places to enjoy if you appreciate heritage like Forts and Hindu Temples, natural beauty, engineering marvels, and lakes. It is also a photographer’s paradise judging from the pictures I have.
Just as a reminder, Kotli Sattian, Kotli Loharan are in Punjab whereas, Kotli city is in Azad Kashmir of Pakistan.
Why we went to Kotli city Azad Kashmir Pakistan for Travel
I wanted to see for myself what our brave liberators of 1947 in Kashmir were up against in the mountains and valleys of the Kotli, Tatta Paani, Hajira, and Poonch.
Also, we visited Kotli Azad Kashmir, because there was nowhere else to go in the Corona lockdown and I had a Kashmiri identity card. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw; it was a good decision to go there for site seeing and tourism.
Let me go into the essential details of the tour to Kotli Azad Kashmir.
Kotli distance from Islamabad
Kotli is 137 km from Islamabad and is a 4 hours journey on a perfect road.
The route to Kotli Azad Kashmir?
There are two routes that you can take to Kotli Azad Kashmir. The first one is from Kahuta-sehnsa-Kotli and the second one is from Rawat-Kallar Syedan – Choa Khalsa- Dadyal-Gulpur-Kotli. Both will take 4 hours and the distance is about the same.
Which is the best route to Kotli?
I took the Kahuta-Sehnsa-Kotli route because Sehnsa (literal meaning beautiful view) is where my forefathers landed a few hundred years ago, from God knows where and is a gorgeous green mountainous valley. Also, there is history and heritage along the way too.
What is the temperature and weather at Kotli?
Kotli city is generally hot, but the forts and waterfalls are far away from the city and are pleasantly cool.
Can Pakistanis go to Kotli Azad Kashmir?
Yes, even in Corona lockdown if you know the DC. Just don’t be upset when Kashmiri people of Kotli ask you “have you come from Pakistan?”
Are they any good hotels and restaurants in Kotli?
Yes, there are plenty of great restaurants, hotels, and guest houses there.
What are the top places to visit in Kotli Azad Kashmir?
I will dive immediately in the first of the 5 top sites that I visited in Kotli Azad Kashmir and are highly recommended.
Karot Hydropower Station and bridge
Right over the Jhelum River is a massive hydropower station that is being built by the Chinese for the mentally retarded people of Pakistan, who cannot educate and train their own people to take up projects of vital interest to the nation.
Karot power project will generate 720 MW of cheap electricity soon.
The sheer size of the project, with its massive wall, is bigger than the manmade things I have seen in Pakistan to date — except the ego of our selfish ruling class.
Then the brand new high column road bridge right beside the power project is a marvel in itself. It is a perfect spot for base jumping, bungee jumping, and Para jumping when someone gets serious about tourism.
The Kashmir administration stops all non-Kashmiri people at this bridge, but it is likely to open for everyone very soon since the coronavirus is on the decline in Pakistan.
Khud River Water Fall and Poonch River View Point
While driving from Sehnsa to Gulpur, at a place called Khawas, there is a waterfall near the main road of about 100 feet. From the top of the waterfall you also get a clear view of the Poonch River turning 180 0 right in front of you.
You can walk to the waterfall, swim, and even camp there with a perfect view of Poonch River Crossing.
Tharochi Fort Kotli Azad Kashmir
Tharochi Fort is believed to have been first made by the Mughals in 1460 AD, and then subsequently taken over by Sikhs and then their successors in Kashmir, the Hindu Dogra. There is no official evidence for this history though.
Tharochi fort is perched on top of a ledge that uncharacteristically rises straight up 1000 meters above sea level. This Tharochi Fort was meant to keep an eye on troops moving into Kashmir territory from the South, on the Mirpur road that passes down below in the ravine.
Tharochi Fort is itself impenetrable as it is perched on top of a peak that is on top of another peak. The road barely takes you to the first base camp. The second climb of about one hour is on foot to reach the Fort site.
Currently, the fort is with Pakistan Army, but they let you seen around for a quick glance. It is very hot at Tharochi Fort in summers, so take lots of water with you.
To reach Tharochi Fort of Kotli, you’d have to turn right towards Mirpur, when you arrive at the Gulpur T-junction while driving in from Sehnsa.
Mahuli waterfall on the Mohli Naala
Driving back from the Tharochi Fort, turn left towards Mirpur city. Just as you drive over a ridge and the road starts sloping downwards into Mohli Nalla, you’d see a dirt road on the right side that takes you to Mahuli Water Fall. Now, this is one beautiful waterfall. I hear there is a defunct water grain crusher there as well, but I am not sure.
If you just want to see the waterfall from high above, drive a little further to the turn where they have a local zip line installed that can take you to the canyon floor. Or you can sit high above on the edge of the cliff and enjoy the cool breeze. There is plenty of camping ground down below but be careful of flash floods due to unpredictable rains high above in the mountains.
After you are done with Mahuli Waterfall, you’d have to turn back towards Kotli City and go straight into the city center and have tandoor waali roti, Shahi Daal, and Tandoor waali Chai.
The Kotli City center has a Lala waterfall and a Hindu temple, but I don’t have much information on that, yet.
The next stop is Gulpur Hydro project and Kotli Tunnel
Gulpur Hydro project and Kotli Tunnel
Gulpur Hydro Project of 102 MWatts arrives on the Left side of the Kotli-Tatta Paani road. The View of the massive hydro project is beautiful in itself. The huge lake behind the wall of the hydro project looks beautiful when it is full in summers.
I hope they introduce water sports there soon. I did see a few boats in the lake though. It would be even better if someone in WAPDA lets you see the works of the Gulpur Project and see the water reservoir up close.
Very close to the Gulpur Hydro project is the Kotli tunnel that is the landmark of this city. This tunnel is a heritage monument in itself, built during the time when Rulers in Srinagar needed a road to reach the plains of Mirpur.
Tatta Paani hot water springs
They say you can heal your skin rashes with this sulfur laden hot water springs of Tatta Paani, at half hours drive from Kotli city towards Hajira. I say if you bathe every day with a good soap, you wouldn’t have to jump into a pool of scalding, foul-smelling sulfur-water.
Anyways, the place is worth a visit too.
In the three Kashmir wars, the Indian Army’s thrust was towards capturing Tatta Paani Junction Bridge, so that they could cut off reinforcements from the South towards Azad Kashmir. The Indian Army is very close at Tatta Paani, just over a ridge. Some brave souls stopped them before they could make it. Now, we all get to drive to Rawalakot from Kotli, nonstop.
Devi Galli Hill Pass at 1670 meters near Hajira Azad Kashmir
Devi Galli Hill Pass was the only way from Poonch to Rawalakot in the olden day. It is still nearly is the only route between Hajira and Rawalakot, because, we are still in the olden days.
The best thing about driving to and hiking a few easy kilometers to the Devi Galli view spot is that you get to see deep into Indian Occupied Kashmir and even the prized Poonch city.
History of Kotli city Azad Kashmir
Kotli is a major town of the Pakistani part of Kashmir that the Indian Army could not capture from Pakistani troops in 1947. Indian troops drove back Pakistani tribal lascar, irregulars right to Poonch city and Uri, and were close to threatening Muzaffarabad, but were stopped dead in their track by the desperate fightback by Pakistan army and irregulars in the mountain ranges above.
Even now the road leading out of Kotli to the next large city of Hajira Azad Kashmir has Indian troops very close to at a spot called Tatta Paani (hot springs) on the Poonch River.
The Hindu Dogra Ruler of Kashmir Hari Singh had a solitary fort in the Muslim majority district of Kotli and Sehnsa because the British gifted Poonch, with Kotli and Sehnsa towns in it to Hari Singh to squeeze more tax from the Muslim Kashmiris there and he was quite happy keeping the Valley of Srinagar instead.
On the first sign of trouble in 1947, Dogra troops abandoned post ran to mama. It was only the reluctance of the British officer in charge of the Pakistan Army to send troops to Srinagar on the orders of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the fraudulent instrument of accession signed by Hari Singh that Indians pushed back Pakistanis all the way to Hajira and Kotli cities.
Unfortunately, Poonch city was also lost to regular Indian troops and is still in the hands of usurpers ever since 1947.