If you’re looking for an underrated travel destination with a rich cultural history, you might want to consider visiting Jhelum.
There is certainly no shortage of tourist attractions in Pakistan. While the northern areas of the country receive its fair share of visitors every year, there are a number of places that remain ignored and overlooked despite their historical importance and natural beauty.
The city of Jhelum in Punjab is one such example — located on the right bank of Jhelum River in the district with the same name. If you like travelling in Pakistan, you’ll definitely enjoy a trip to Jhelum.
Jhelum is locally referred to as the ‘City of Soldiers’ or ‘City of Martyrs.’ It is known for providing a large number of soldiers to the British Army before the independence and then later to the Pakistan Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, the city’s name is believed to have been derived from the words ‘Jal,’ which means pure water, and ‘Ham,’ which translates to snow. ‘Jhelum’ basically refers to the river that originates in the Himalayas and flows right next to the city.
The history of Jhelum dates back to 5000 years ago. Apart from being considered a sacred site in ancient India, the city was also the site of the Battle of the Hydaspes. The historic battle took place in 326 BC between Macedonian Ruler Alexander the Great and Indian King Raja Porus.
How to Get There
There is no commercial airport in Jhelum. So, if you live in a nearby area, you can easily take a bus or a cab to the city. A number of trains from major cities including Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar also arrive at Jhelum Railway Station. If you like travelling in Pakistan, taking a train or a bus are the best options as they will give you an opportunity to witness the local culture at its best.
However, if you’re travelling from a faraway city and don’t want to take a train, the easiest solution would be to take a flight to the New Islamabad International Airport in the federal capital. From there, you can either book a taxi or rent a car to reach Jhelum. The city is just two hours away from Islamabad if you travel through Grand Trunk (GT) Road.
It’s better to use this highway in the early hours of the day to avoid traffic jams.
Moreover, if going to Islamabad is not an option, the alternate solution would be to book a flight to Gujrat Airport. It is approximately 60 kilometres away from Jhelum in the city of Gujrat. You can then travel via GT Road for a little over an hour.
Major Attractions to Visit in Jhelum
Here are some of the most popular places to visit in and around Jhelum.
One of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pakistan, Rohtas Fort dates back to the 16th century. It was constructed by General Sher Shah Suri, the founder of short-lived Sur Dynasty in the sub-continent. The fort is considered one of the largest and perhaps the most impenetrable fortresses in South Asia. It is also a must-visit place during a trip to Jhelum.
UNESCO described it as an ‘exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of Central and South Asia.’ This Fort in Jhelum was built following the Battle of Chausa, which saw the defeat of Mughal Emperor Humayun at the hands of Suri.
If you’re visiting Jhelum for the first time, it is better to use the services of a local guide for a trip to Rohtas Fort. There are many tales associated with the fortress that will definitely make your visit even more memorable.
Khewra Salt Mine
It is one of the most popular day trip destinations near Islamabad. The troops of Alexander the Great discovered the salt range in Jhelum District in 320 BC. Khewra Salt Mine, which is the oldest and second largest salt mine in the world, attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year. It is famous for the production of pink Himalayan salt.
This mine is among the most popular places to visit in Pakistan. It is also ideal for children who love educational trips. The salt mine houses several stunning salt carvings of important landmarks.
The carvings include a replica of the Great Wall of China, Minar-e-Pakistan, Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, a statue of national poet Dr Allama Iqbal and the famous Mall Road in Murree. There are also several shimmering pools of salty water inside the mine.
It will take you about two hours to reach Khewra from the Jhelum city area.
Moreover, don’t forget to buy a salt lamp as a souvenir.
Another popular tourist attraction in Jhelum, the CMH (Combined Military Hospitals) Mosque is a majestic white marbled structure located in the Cantt area. It was designed in the 1950s and has the capacity to hold up to 25,000 people at a time.
With a tall minaret flanking the main prayer hall on each side and a line of green palm trees in the front garden, CMH Mosque is definitely one of the most scenic mosques in the region. If you’re visiting Jhelum even for a short while, make sure to visit this place at least once.
Your trip to Jhelum can’t be complete without a visit to Mangla Dam. Located on the Jhelum River in the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir, this multi-purpose dam is an architectural marvel surrounded by mesmerizing natural beauty.
It’ll take you about 50 minutes to reach the dam from the main city. You’ll have to drive through a number of small settlements near the river. Needless to say, it’s a memorable cultural experience on its own. Once you reach Mangla Dam, you can take a boat ride or go jet skiing.
If none of this interests you, you can simply have some tea from one of the many stalls near the waterfront and enjoy the serenity of the area.
If you are taking a trip to Jhelum, don’t forget to visit Rasul Barrage on Jhelum River. Constructed in 1968, this 3,000 feet long barrage is located between Jhelum and Mandi Bahauddin.
The British government had also built a barrage on the river. However, it is not functional anymore.
Up until the creation of Pakistan, the abandoned monastic complex at Tilla Jogian used to be an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Sikhs alike. Located approximately 25 kilometres from the city of Jhelum, this historical site dates back to the 1st century BC.
For centuries, Hindu jogis and ascetics meditated on this mountain summit in the Salt Range. In the 16th century, founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak is believed to have spent time meditating here. According to historians, Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir had also visited Tilla Jogian during their respective reigns.
After the fall of the Mughal Empire, the invading Pashtun forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali plundered the site. Although the temple complex was later re-built, it was abandoned in 1947 when almost the entire Hindu population of the area migrated to India.
However, visitors can still see the old Hindu temples, bathhouses and two minor dams that were constructed in the area.
Lehri Nature Park, Major Akram Shaheed Memorial Park and Altaf Park are also some of the places tourists can check out during their stay in Jhelum.
Where to Eat, Sleep and Shop in Jhelum
You can easily find everything from traditional Pakistani dishes to western cuisine while visiting Jhelum. That includes franchises of several international restaurants and food chains.
According to the online reviews, Tulip Hotel appears to be the most popular accommodation option among tourists visiting the city. The 3-star hotel has its own restaurant as well, which also appears highly recommended. Grand Regency Hotel in Mirpur and Lotus Inn Guest House in Pothi are also popular among tourists visiting the area. Since these hotels are located at a short distance from the city, you can easily book a cab to travel back and forth.
As far as shopping is concerned, almost all famous clothing and accessories brands have outlets in Jhelum. Despite being a relatively small city, Jhelum boasts a number of shopping centres, supermarts and market areas – including Main Bazaar, Naya Bazaar, Raja Bazaar, Kinari Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar and Melange Super Market, to name a few. From expensive souvenirs to items of daily use, you can pretty much everything here.
If you have a passion for exploring Pakistan and taking roads less travelled, make sure to take a trip Jhelum or add the city to your travel bucket list. As for those who live in Islamabad or nearby area, you can plan a day trip to Margallla Hills.