Poonch

Poonch, also spelled as ‘Punch’ is a district of Poonch in Jammu & Kashmir that remains divided between India and Pakistan with the ‘Azad Kashmir territory’ situated on the Pakistani side and the main part of Poonch retained as a part of J&K. The capital of Pooch, controlled by Pakistan, is referred to as Rawalakot whereas the capital of Poonch on the Indian side retains its name as Poonch.

Poonch is situated amidst one of the most picturesque sites in Jammu & Kashmir. It is enveloped with majestic snow-capped mountains and dotted with crystal clear blue lakes and meandering streams, abounding with the best quality of fruits orchards, blossoming flowers, forest lands, and ancient historical monuments, making this place apt for a perfect excursion trip from Jammu [246 kms northwest] and vacation getaway from the scorching summer heat of the plains.

Noori Chammb can be associated with the legendary Mughal Empress Noor Jahan owing to its scenic beauty personifying the beauty of Noor Jahan. This place is situated near Behram Galla in the Tehsil of Surankote, which is placed at a distance of about 45 kms from the main town of Poonch. The waterfall and streams exhibits a dense cloud of vapours that engulfs the entire area giving it an almost surreal effect and worth the experience. Queen Noor Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir, was often known to have stayed here for relaxation and to bathe in the pristine waters of Noori Chammb, while on her way to Kashmir. The remnant of a large mirror is seen near this waterfall,l which Noor Jahan had often used for dressing up and putting on her make-up, after a relaxing bath.

Girgan Dhok, also referred to as the Valley of Seven Lakes is situated about 70 kms from Poonch. Tourists would often never miss the opportunity to visit this lovely town blessed with seven stunning and pristine high-altitude lakes called as Bhagsar, Kaldachnisar, Katorasar, Nandansar, Neelsar, Sukhsar; all cocooned at the height of 12,000 feet, within the Buffliaz belt. Of these 7 Lakes, Nandansar is considered as one of the biggest lakes situated near Girgan Dhok that measures about a mile in length and half a mile in width. These mesmerizing Lakes exhibit their unique and distinct charm encapsulating the heart of all visitors, to be remembered for a lifetime.
 
Poonch Fort is another formidable tourist site in Poonch that depicts the ancient heritage of Jammu & Kashmir. The well structured foundation of this historic fort situated in the capital of the erstwhile Poonch Riyasat is currently the headquarters of the abridged District of Poonch. This Fort was erected by Sultan Adbul Razaq Khan during the year 1713 AD, but, its original construction work can be accredited to his son, Sultan Rustam Khan, who was known as a great admirer of architecture and after whom, the town of Poonch was named as Rustam Nagar, in his honour. The Poonch Fort was originally planned as a composite structure to reinforce and strengthen the security of the town and house the Royal Palace as well.

Poonch Fort depicts the architectural style that is typical of the Mughal influence despite the fact that the quality of construction did not manage to achieve its state of perfection when compared to the better known exquisite style of the famed Mughal architecture.

The present shape and style of Pooch Fort can be accredited to Raja Moti Singh, who ruled Kashmir between 1850 and 1892 AD. He engaged a famous European Architect to design the façade block of this Fort and the quality of work is evident with the appearance of the fort imitating a Palatial Structure depicting exquisite designs that dominates the entire region of Poonch.

During the reign of Raja Baldev Singh, Poonch Fort was converted into a Secretariat building of Jammu & Kashmir and the Palace of the Royal family was moved to Moti Mahal. After J&K State ascended as the Indian Union, Poonch Fort was used as an accommodation site for employees of the district offices.

Mandi is another small but scenic village set amidst a narrow valley, entrapped by steep and lush hills. This village is situated near the confluence of Gagri and Pulsta Streams and features the famed Temple of Swami Buddha Amar Nath Ji. Placed about 20 kms from the town of Poonch, Mandi depicts a cool and pleasant climate making it a favourable tourist place to visit, during summer.

Loran is a small village situated about 35 kms from the town of Poonch and nestles at the foothills of Pir Panjal Mountain range. Loran is a tourist spot that features the pristine Loran Nallah cascading through this quintessential village making it absolutely enchanting to view. Loran was the Capital of Poonch whilst under the Hindu Rulers up to the year 1542 AD, known then as Loran-Kote. Today, you will notice the remains of the Lohar-Kote Fort, known once as the Gateway of Kashmir.

Nandi Shool is a spectacular waterfall situated about 12 kms from Loran and about 6 Kms from Sultan Pathri. The Waterfall is fed by a stream that gushes from ranges of Pir Panchal and cascades down a glacier, plunging from a height of about 150 feet. A tourist hut was established neat Nandishool by the Rural Development Department of J&K.

Surankote, a small scenic village nestling on the banks of the mighty Suran River is indeed a charming valley. This tourist site is popularly referred to as the ‘Pahalgam of Poonch’ as it is surrounded by lofty mountain peaks that are often snow-surmounted during the winters imitating the scenic look of Pahalgam. During 1036 AD, Surankote features a large Kote Fort which is presently referred to as the Surankote Fort.

Behramgala is perched at the foothills of Rattan Peak perched at a height of 8,600 feet and situated on the ancient Mughal Road of Poonch about 40 kms from the main town of Poonch. Behramgala is, in fact, a small highland surrounded by high mountain ranges and dense forest lands in close proximity to the confluence of Parnai and Thata Pani Streams thus, further accentuating its scenic and natural charm.

Dehra-Gali is situated about 45 kms from the town of Poonch and is known as an attractive tourist attraction owing to its salubrious weather, dense forest areas, and a cooling fresh breeze that emanates from the enchanting surrounding hills perched at a height of about 6300 feet above MSL.

Poonch is not only a town blessed with scenic tourist attractions, but also features a site of religious significance. Behramgala is one such religious site in Poonch that often lures a large influx of pilgrims and devotees to its abode. People visit to pay their obeisance at the various religious places in Poonch that includes the famous Buddha Amarnath Mandi, Battalkote, Gurudwara Deri Sahib, Gurudwara Nangali Sahib, Ziarat Sain Illahi Bakhsh Sahib, and much more to be explored.

Excursions from Jammu