The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower part of the range of mountains, together with Jamgarh Peak. However, Sarwali peak in the Neelum valley is the highest peak within the state. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir’s geography, making it one of the foremost lovely regions on the subcontinent.
The southern parts of Azad Kashmir together with Bhimber, Mirpur and Kotli districts has extraordinarily weather condition in summers and moderate cold weather in winters. It receives rains largely in monsoon weather.
- Jhelum Valley
- Leepa Valley
- Samahni Valley
- Bandala Valley
- Kas Chanatar Valley
- Neelam Valley
- Pathika Valley
- Bagh Valley
- Bhana Valley
- Banjosa Valley
- Shounter Valley
The region was earlier known as Drawah and the river as Kishanganga. However, in 1956, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government renamed the Kishanganga as the River Neelum and Drawah as the Neelum Valley.
Athmuqam is the district headquarter and the capital city of the valley, administratively divided into Athmuqam and Sharda, two sub-divisions each with two entrances — one being the Neelum Road via Muzaffarabad and the other through the Kaghan Jalkhad Road.
About nine kilometres from Athmuqam is Keran, situated on the right bank of the Neelum River. This is a fascinating spot with a small bazaar and a tourist rest house from where one can view India-held Kashmir.
Neelum Valley is accessible by an all-weather road metalled up to Kundal Shahi and well-maintained all the way up to Kel. Tourists visiting the valley are often compelled to extend their trip so as to further explore the landscape. Compared to travelling in local buses that ply daily on this route, a 4×4 jeep hired from Athmuqam to visit areas such as Kel, Arang Kel and Taobat in the upper valley can take one to deeper excursions. Horses and ponies are hired locally for travelling to the interior part of the valley.
Sharda is the most picturesque spot in Neelum Valley with a captivating landscape with numerous springs and tree-covered hillsides. The houses built on steep mountain slopes have their roofs partly stuck into the mountain. In ancient times, Sharda was allegedly a seat of knowledge and wisdom. Ruins of an old Buddhist University can also be found here because of which it has special attraction for archaeology and history enthusiasts.
Known as pearls of the Neelum Valley, Kel and Arang Kel are the most inaccessible villages, yet these serve as base camps for mountaineering activities up to the Sarawaal peak 6,326 metres above sea level and the Sarawaali Glacier — the highest peak and largest glacier of Kashmir.
Situated at a distance of 38 km from Kel is Tau Butt, the last station in Neelum valley. It is also the nearest location from where the Kishanganga River (after starting in the Indian city of Gurais) merges with the Jhelum River in Muzaffarabad, and becomes River Neelum. Tau Butt offers more to explore. It has a long, severe winter from October to the end of April with heavy snowfalls.