If you are travelling to the Ziarat Valley in Balochistan and love to witness nature at its best, don’t forget to take a detour from your trip to Quetta and explore the juniper forests of Ziarat. The forest, spread over more than 250,000 acres, is home to some of the oldest trees in the world, with many of them said to be nearly 5,000 to 7,000 years old. Here’s all you need to know about the Ziarat Juniper Forest.
About the Ziarat Juniper Forest
The juniper forests of Ziarat are fairly popular, primarily because they are the world’s second-largest biosphere reserve as well as the second-largest juniper forest in the world, second only to the juniper forests of California in the United States. The forest was declared a biosphere in 2013.
While there are several different types of forests in Pakistan, what sets the Ziarat Juniper Forest apart from the rest is that it contains trees that are several thousand years old, earning them the title of ‘living fossils’. Since this forest in Balochistan is spread out over the local mountains, it ranges between the heights of 3,000 feet to 11,500 feet above sea level. The trees that are indigenous to the area have been a great help in studying climate changes and ecological patterns over the years.
Plants Native to the Ziarat Juniper Forest
As the name suggests, the forest is primarily home to juniper trees that grow up to provide a large shady canopy. The plants bear a blackish blue round fruit called the juniper berry, which is mainly used for its oil and to enhance the flavour of various cuisines.
However, the forest actually has more than 50 different species of plants because it is located at the meeting point of 5 different habitats. Most of these plants and shrubs are used as herbal medicine to treat different ailments. Some of the plant species at Ziarat Juniper Forest include Wild Pistachio, Wild Ash, Danda Thor Cactus, Zig Zag Plant, and Wild Almond.
Animals Native to the Ziarat Juniper Forest
The juniper forests at Ziarat are home to several endangered animals, including Asian black bears, Urials, and the Suleiman Markhor. Other species commonly found in the forest include foxes, wolves, Afghan Pika, and jackals. Many migratory birds also flock to these trees during the breeding season, including Chukar Partridges, Mistle Thrush, Bar-tailed Tree Creeper, Rufous-Naped Tit, Streaked Laughing Thrush, and the Black-Throated Thrush.
How to Get to Ziarat to Visit the Forest?
Ziarat is a popular tourist destination for those looking for some peace and quiet. It gained fame when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah sought refuge and peace here at his home, called the Ziarat Residency, during his illness, shortly before his demise.
Located amidst high hills, the route to Ziarat zigzags across the mountains, climbing steadily uphill. You will see plenty of juniper trees in bloom along the road even before you reach Quetta, which is the largest town in the region. Taking an uphill road from Quetta helps you reach the hill station at Ziarat in about 3 hours.
The Changa Manga Forest in Punjab is another famous woodland in Pakistan, which owes its popularity to being one of the largest man-made forests in the world. Don’t forget to check out our posts on the different forests in Sindh and the list of forests in Punjab for more information on the forestry resources in Pakistan.