Katora lake (3,505 m) is a bowl shaped lake in the Upper Dir Kohistan region of Khyberpakhtunkhwa province. Due to popularity of Kumrat valley in Upper Dir Kohistan nearby hiking destinations are also being exposed rapidly. Katora lake is also one of the favorite trekking destinations of mine. Katora lake hike starts from Jandrai village which is accessible via local cars/jeeps from Thal bazaar. From Jandrai guides, porters and mules can be hired for the trek. One can further go to Takai top in 4×4 jeeps and then start the trek from there. From Jandrai it is 4-5 hours trek to Jahaz banda meadows and then further 3-4 hours trek to Katora lake. Hence it is advisable to divide the hike to Katora lake in 2 days with 1 night stay at Jahaz banda meadows. There are further hiking options around Katora lake. For example from Jahaz banda one can trek to Shad(r) banda or cross Jahaz banda pass to reach Utror in Swat valley.
Katora Lake Trek
Katora Lake – A Natural Bowl of Glacial Water
Why is It Called Katora Lake?
The reason why the lake is called “katora lake” is because it resembles a bowl. Katora literally means bowl in English.
How to reach Jahaz Banda Meadows?
From Dir Side:
So this experience of a lifetime starts from Thall, a launching point for Kumrat Valley and Jahaz Banda, located in the Upper Dir district. In order to reach Thall, leave Islamabad early in the morning, for Upper Dir district. The drive from Islamabad to Thall is approximately 8-9 hours. It sure is a long ride, which is why you can choose to stay in Dir for the night, rest and leave fresh the next morning to Thall. It is recommended to stay in Dir because you will be hell tired, and the next stop will be at Jandrai. So stay in Dir and leave for Thall the next day.
Thall to Jandrai
From Thall, leave early in the morning for Jandrai, which will be another step closer to Jahaz Banda. Remember, this will be your last journey on wheels, because from Jandrai onwards, you will have to trek to Katora lake. Also, you can only go by jeeps or 4×4 vehicles to Jandrai, as the road is bumpy.
Jandrai to Jahaz Banda
Jahaz Banda museum is a small cottage owned by Raja Taj, a local guide for tourists and trekkers. The museum is also often called Raja Taj museum. The drive to the museum is just 12-15 minutes long in a jeep, from where you will have to trek to Jahaz Banda.
The trek to Jahaz Banda is very steep and rocky. So it is not for the faint of hearts. A good 6-7 hours long trek will finally lead to Jahaz Banda meadows. On your way, you will first pass through a rocky, steep trek which then narrows into an ascending dense pine forest, which then finally opens into a pleasant meadow, Jahaz Banda. This long trek will definitely test your stamina, so make sure you have refueled before the trek. Also, you will definitely need a porter to guide you to the meadow and then into the Katora lake, because it is very easy to get lost on your way. So accompany a porter with yourself from the Jandrai village.
At Jahaz Banda, you finally get to rest your legs. Peg down a camp in the meadow and make the most of that magical view in front of view. You can also choose to stay in a rest house at Jahaz Banda. For the night, set yourself a grill and barbecue some meat in front of the meadows. You can find the supplies in the rest house.
Jahaz Banda to Katora Lake
The next day, your last trek to the Katora lake starts from Jahaz Banda. It is comparatively a shorter yet difficult trek. Also, remember that you cannot stay anywhere near Katora lake as there are no rest houses or accommodations. Also, camping at a remote site like that would be a stupidity. So you will have to trek back to Jahaz Banda the same day, before it gets dark.
On your way to Katora lake, you will come across rocky hills full of small and large rocks. So that is where your strong and comfortable shoes will prove useful. Also, you will come across many ponds on your way. These freshwater ponds are crystal clear and blue in color, which often deceive people into thinking that they have reached the Katora lake. You can take a few minutes and sit down by these ponds to refill your water bottles and take a peaceful breath.
Resuming your trek, you will finally reach a steep mountain right before the lake. This mountain surrounds the lake so you will have to climb it, in order to reach Katora lake. Use a stick to climb this steep ridge and finally go down to where the lake is.
After a difficult trek of two days and countless moments of waiting, you will finally see this magical natural bowl with a spillway, making you realize that all this hard trek was worth it. You will hardly find any tourists at the lake because of its difficult trek. Not many people can conquer mountains this high. Sit alongside this crystal blue lake with your friends and inhale in the magical winds of Katora lake, for these moments are worth cherishing.
From Kalam Side:
You can also visit the this Lake from Kalam Side via Badgoi Pass. It takes 3 to 4 hours from kalam to Takki Top then the same trek.
Tourist Attractions Near Katora Lake
- Jahaz Banda meadows
- Jandrai museum
- Jahaz Dand lake (on your trek towards Katora lake).
Road Conditions: Smooth road till Dir. You will face only few patches of worn out road only near to Thal. Park your vehicles in Thal, take jeeps for Kumrat Valley and Jandrai for Jahaaz Banda Trek
Attractions: Takki Banda, Katora Lake, Jahaz Banda Meadows, Jahaaz Banda Aabshaar
Things to Do: Jeep Safari, Horse Ridding, Fishing, Camping, Trekking
Restaurants with Good Taste: There are no proper restaurants on Jahaaz Banda Top. Locals have small kitchens in hotel in order to serve the food for tourists.
Best Hotels in Jahaz Banda: Mostly camping sites and huts.
Average Temperature: 10 degree celsius (Min.) and 15 degree celsius (Max.)
Network: Telenor is the only Network for communication.
Raja Taj Muhammad Muesum & Guest House
At Jandrai, Raja Taj Muhammad who is the primary contact for all tourists and trekkers visiting the area provides guidance & help to the tourists. If you are planning to visit Kumrat valley, he is the first person you should talk to. Raja Taj is an interesting person who does not let you get bored or unoccupied through his continuous chat and hospitality. He has got this local museum built at Jandrai showcasing stuff belonging to his forefathers ranging from guns to stuffed hunted species and clothing. This is quite a site to visit in one of the remote areas of Kumrat valley. Raja has set up a few guest rooms at both museum and his home, to provide basic accommodation to the trekkers. which is indeed a treat to find for trekkers. He has also got a hut built at Jahaz Banda meadows where there are a couple of rooms set up. These guest rooms are not luxurious, but given the circumstances and remoteness of the area, they become a luxury for trekkers. Raja can arrange porters and other trekking requirements as requested.