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Introducing Balakot

Tragic Balakot (982m) was virtually destroyed in the 2005 earthquake and many lives were lost. At the time of research one hotel remained standing amid the tangle of tents and temporary shelters. The bazaar was bustling beneath its makeshift shelter of corrugated-iron sheets and blue plastic tarps. There is a great deal of energetic rebuilding and obvious resistance to government plans to resite the town 30km towards Mansehra at Bakrial.

The PTDC operates a restaurant, at the southern end of town, but at the time of research there was no tourist information, no vehicle hire and little accommodation here. The police, post office, telephone exchange and hospital were operating in temporary buildings in their old locations, all a short walk south of the PTDC office. Banks here don’t do foreign exchange, and you can’t change money elsewhere in the Kaghan Valley.

The Hotel Serenity (501182; d/tr Rs 600/2500;) can be found at the back of a shopping arcade – apparently the only large building to remain standing, and displaying some impressive cracks. The spacious, clean and quiet rooms have morning and evening hot water. Air-con is only available in the expensive triple. The hotel has a multicuisine restaurant (mains Rs 50 to Rs 200) which specialises in Chinese meals.