Archaeological Tourism in Swat Valley
Swat is without doubt one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the northern Pakistan. Swat has a rich historical past. It was described as “Udyana” (the garden) in ancient Hindu epics and where in 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over to the plains of the five rivers. The famous Gandhara Buddhist civilization later flourished in this valley.
There are many remains of Buddhist stupas, monasteries and settlements in the lower Swat. This area is full of rich and amazing archaeological sites in an environment still intact and dominated by the calm majesty of Mount Ilam. In the area south of Barikot, in about 200 sq. km, archeologists have documented more than 400 sites from protohistory to Islam. A little is North of Barikot area, in the valleys of Jambil and Saidu, close to Mingora, visitors might enjoy the serenity of a pleasant environment rich with vestiges of Buddhist times.
Under the joint venture with ACT- Field School and Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan (STFP) we have developed various tour packages to promote community based ecotourism in lower Swat Valley. You can select one of our following especially designed tour packages depending on your interest and availability of time.
Brief Introduction of archaeological sites covered by our Package Tours
Barikot is the ancient Bazira mentioned in the History of Alexander the Great. If the evidence of the actual passage of Alexander is still eluding us, what has been uncovered is a large fortified city of Indo-Greek period (2nd century BC). The city’s walls are still well visible, with bastions distanced every 100 feet, a large built-up area and the acropolis.
Near Swat Museum, is one of the most important Buddhist shrines in Swat. This site is located about one kilometer from the museum. The stupa, which dates from the 3rd century BC, was possibly built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to house some the ashes of the Buddha. This site was excavated by the great maestro of the Gandhara archeology DOMENICO FACCENNA of the Italian Archeological Mission between 1958 and 1962.
This is the site of the ancient town of Ora which Alexander the Great captured in 327 BC. Udegram was a fairly large town of the ruins which, encircled by huge walls, climb along the slopes of the mountains towering above the valley. On the super of the mountain there existed a castle which, as tradition goes was destroyed by Mahmood of Ghazni in the 11th century. The remains of an 11th century mosque built by Sultan Mahmood Ghazni are located near Udegram along the hillside. The mosque is the third oldest mosque in Pakistan after those of Banbhore and Mansurah. Up the hillside is the site of Raja Gira’s castle.
The Stupa of Shingerdar is situated on the left side of the main road. This is the famous stupa which was built by King Uttarasena to house his share of the relics of the Load Buddha.
Gogdara and Galagai
The settlements of Gogdara and Galagai are also located on the main Mingora-Malakand road. Both the places are historically very significant. There are relief carvings in a cave at Galagi. At Gogdara there are several Buddhist carvings from 6th to 7th century AD can be seen on the rocks.
A Buddhist monastery is situated on the top of a hillock, giving an overall view of the area. There are three main stupas, surrounded by a number of small votive stupas. Dressed stones have been used in construction and bear similarity to Andan Dheri monastery in District Dir.
The great sanctuary of Gumbat, the only double-domed Gandharan monument was erected no later than the 2nd century AD, and that the sacred area, dominated by three surrounding large sanctuaries, remained in use until relatively late times. A visit to the prehistoric altar of Kandak is also be arranged.
During 5th-8th centuries AD, the great stupa of Amluk-dara, the major monument of the Swat Valley, underwent a series of reconstructions contemporary with the great stupas of the Kabul valley, marked, like the one at Amluk-dara, by huge frontal niches. Other Buddhist sites sites like Abbasaheb-china and Tokar-dara in Najigram valley can be easily visited from Barikot.
The Buddhist site of Amluk with its monastic rock-cut cells dominates the heights of Kandak and Kotah valley. A visit to the mountain sanctuary of Topialai can also be arranged. Kakai-kandao represents agricultural cycles without any exterior signs of Buddhism (stupas) or the horse icons, that appears in Swat only during the first millennium. It is dated to Bronze Age (1400 BC).
Particularly impressive is the shelter of Sargha-sar which resembles a human face.
tourism swat valley