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Murree & the Galis/Pakistan

Introducing Murree & the Galis

Around 1½ hours northeast of Islamabad, on a maze of forested ridges, the British developed their summer retreats known as hill stations. In summer the entire Punjab administration moved up to Murree, and anyone who was anyone had a villa at Nathiagali or one of the other hamlets whose names mostly end in gali (Hindko Punjabi for ‘pass’).

All still show the colonial imprint: neat bungalows and sprawling guesthouses, with prim churches on the heights and raucous bazaars down on the road. Nowadays, all summer and on winter weekends the villages bulge with tourists, and the trees and gabled architecture are gradually being engulfed by drab concrete boxes. The towns are now too developed for some tastes but the air is bracing and clear, and a welcome relief from the scorching plains in summer.

While Murree and a few other villages are in Punjab, many of the further Galis are actually just over the line in NWFP. Nevertheless, we include them because the Galis are geographically united and because nearly all their visitors come from Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Punjab.

April is pleasant, May and June are hot, July and August are rainy but warm, and September is pleasant again. Summer season is May to September, peaking in July and August when accommodation prices spiral upwards due to the influx of tourists. Snow falls from around December through to February but weekends can still be busy. In winter, the Murree to Abbottabad road may be temporarily blocked by snow.