Often dubbed as the ‘Little Norway of Pakistan’, Kharian is an incredibly charming city in Punjab. Currently, it serves as an administrative division of District Gujrat and is also known as Kharian Tehsil.
2019 has been a successful year for the tourism industry, especially with Pakistan topping the list of best holiday destinations for 2020, beating nineteen other countries for the coveted spot. Not to forget that it was also listed among the top underrated destinations for 2020 by Forbes. Considering all this, we have compiled a comprehensive guide for you to traverse yet another lesser-explored and underrated tourist destination in the country.
Let’s get packing!
Why is Kharian Dubbed as the Little Norway of Pakistan?
Following the wide boulevard of Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad, Kharian emerges as a welcoming landscape dotted with bustling bazaars, lush green wilderness, and swaying trees.
The history of Kharian has always remained a subject of interest and this city enjoys the status of being one of the most intriguing places in the province. The city has given birth to some of the country’s most distinguished artists, celebrities, and highly esteemed martyrs, including Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed.
If you want to experience a genuine fusion of urban and rural life in Punjab, then Kharian is the place to be. You will come across tractors with noisy engines and blaring sounds of Saraiki and Punjabi folk music around every corner of this small town. Not to mention, the mighty sight of smoke curling up from brick-kilns and earthen hearths will help you get closer to rural life.
However, upon further exploration of this small town with bricked houses and grazing buffaloes, you will get surprises in little doses, including realising the fact that this is no village. The realisation will become apparent when you come across robust infrastructure, villas with luxurious vehicles parked outside, and vertically developing industries in the same space as the hearty sights of a village.
So, when you find yourself in such a place, you will know that you have entered the Little Norway of Pakistan. To be specific, mini Norway is a village in Kharian, also known as Aalam Pur Gondlan village. According to recent findings, the village has a total population of 2,000 people, out of which 400 are settled in Norway with their families.
This migration to a small European country has not only transformed the dynamics of life in the village, but it has also left a lasting impact on Norway — a country of just 5 million people. Today, around 50,000 Norwegians claim origins from Pakistan – out of which 70 percent hail from Kharian. The fact also intrigues the Norwegian government, and the village is quite frequently visited by several ambassadors and diplomats of the country.
The primary reason behind this massive migration from Aalam Pur Gondlan is that people discovered that Norway had more opportunities as compared to other European countries.
According to an elderly villager in Kharian, the economic stability of this small village is unmatched. The majority of people are earning in Krones and are arranging special care for their families by either inviting them to Norway or sending sufficient funds home to ensure a better quality of life for them.
Things to do in Kharian
People from all over Pakistan and international travellers, especially Norwegians, visit Kharian to delve deep into inspiration and marvel at the fusion of urban and rural life. If you are also intrigued by Kharian and plan on visiting the village anytime soon, you should know that it takes a drive of around 2.5 hours from Islamabad to get here via Grand Trunk (GT) Road.
On the other hand, if you are visiting Kharian from Lahore, you can easily get there in a drive of around 3 hours.
While you are there, make sure you do not miss visiting Pabbi Forest – one of the most visited tourist spots in Kharian – which is situated along GT Road.
The main attraction in the forest is a mesmerising lake, the natural beauty of which is enhanced by a wooden bridge that facilitates pedestrians in exploring the other side of the woods. You will find barbecue grills that are made available to tourists, backpackers, and regular visitors for throwing grill parties upon arriving at the other side of the lake. Additionally, the park is dotted with beautifully designed canopies and comfortable benches around the lake, where you can relax and enjoy a warm cup of tea while watching the sun dive slowly into the lake.
The forest is also home to some huts constructed on a hilltop, facilitating visitors who are looking to stay for a night. Besides, some tourists take the experience to the next level by setting up camps and sleeping under the sky.
Kharian is not only home to wilderness and woodland, but it also provides ample opportunities for watersports. People who love swimming and boating can head straight to Jhelum River – one of the most important rivers in Pakistan – to either take a dip in the cool water during summers or to enjoy the sight of the streams. The river is around 30 minutes away from Kharian and is easily accessible from Sarai Alamgir – a small village near Kharian.
Popular Industries and Souvenirs from Kharian
Kharian has the honour of catering two of Pakistan’s biggest industries, including the production of handcrafted Punjabi fans, cane furniture, and crockeries, especially knives. The city is also one of the major suppliers of rice, wheat, sugarcane, tobacco, and seasonal vegetables and fruits. So, if you catch yourself enjoying the juiciest melon this season, you should know that it is probably from Kharian.
If you are planning to visit Kharian, then make sure to get a souvenir that would remind you about the beautiful moments you spent in the mini Norway of Pakistan. There are several bazaars, cottages, and small industries where you can find all kinds of tokens and gifts that you can take with you as mementos. We recommend hand printed fabrics, glass bangles, hand-fans, handicrafts, and embroidery work for keepsake.
So, this was our comprehensive guide on visiting Kharian, the mini Norway of Pakistan. If you are a solo female traveller in Pakistan, make sure you have read our guide before packing your stuff.
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Image Credits: A few images in this blog, including the cover image, have been taken from the official Facebook page of Kharian Cantt.