Kalam in Swat Valley
Kalam in Swat Valley becomes winter wonderland. Image Credit: Nasar Ali

Islamabad: The current spell of snowfall has transformed Pakistan’s northern region into a winter wonderland. The panoramic views of snow-laden trees, frozen lakes and cosy cottages have compelled tourists to rush to the north to enjoy the fresh snow while getting their perfect Instagram pictures.

The powdery white layer in Skardu, Kalam, Malam Jabba, Murree, Chitral and nearby areas, enhanced the landscape, drawing thousands of visitors despite extreme weather conditions. Many people stopped their vehicles on the way to Nathia Gali (a resort town in Abbottabad) to take pictures. Among them was Maria Ahmad, a tourist from Islamabad.

Khunjerab National Park in Gilgit Baltista
Ice walk in Khunjerab National Park in Gilgit Baltistan. Image Credit: Yousaf Akhtar

“I’ve never seen so much snow and frost before. It’s like watching those stunning winter photos come alive,” Ahmad told Gulf News. “I had a snowball fight with my siblings after which we built an entire family of snowmen.”

The weather sparked excitement through social media where people shared hundreds of photos and videos of snow-blanketed towns.

Snow laden pine trees in Kalam in northern Pakistan
Snow laden pine trees in Kalam in northern Pakistan. Image Credit: Nasar Ali

The first snowfall of 2019 was more than just a photo opportunity for travellers as it stranded several motorists, led to traffic jams and delayed some flights.

To facilitate tourists, police devised a comprehensive traffic plan, issued traffic advisories, and announced a 24/7 helpline while constantly rescuing vehicles stuck in snow, said Chief Traffic Officer Rawalpindi, Mohammad Bin Ashraf.

Snow hiker looking out at the landscape in Kalam.
Snow hiker looking out at the landscape in Kalam. Image Credit: Nasar Ali

Since last weekend, over 100,000 vehicles entered Murree, a popular tourist destination located nearly 50km away from Islamabad. In the travel advisory, police asked tourists to come fully prepared for the snowy hills by storing extra fuel, charged batteries, tow and snow chains. Police also advised drivers to be extra careful while snapping selfies. The Motorway police requested people to avoid unnecessary travelling due to heavy fog and low visibility.

During the last 24 hours, Malam Jabba in Swat district received 12 inches of snow followed by 7 inches in Murree, 4 in Kalam, 2 in Chitral and Rawalakot while Skardu, Gilgit and Hunza also received snowfall. The capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Muzaffarabad recorded the highest rainfall of 77mm. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, Balakot received 41mm rainfall and Malam Jabba 27mm. Murree received about 16mm of rain and Islamabad 7mm while in Gilgit Baltistan region, Hunza witnessed nearly 10mm of rain.

The lowest minimum temperature was minus 11 Celsius recorded at Kalam in KP, according to Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). Malam Jabba, Skardu and Quetta recorded -8 Celsius, Bagrote and Gupis -7 Celsius, Astore -6 Celsius, Chitral and Hunza -5 Celsius, Murree, Dir, Parachinar -3 Celsius and Gilgit -2 Celsius. The cold spell of rain and snowfall is attributed to westerly wave affecting most parts of the country, PMD spokesperson said.

Despite minor inconveniences, the snow offered plenty of splendid moments for fun-lovers.