Ever found yourself wondering about going some place outside the city but not too far? Some place you could visit in a day? With friends and family? Here’s a suggestion: Go explore the Salt Range! Here’s a plan you could do in a day.
Salt Range is the southern boundary of the Potwar Plateau and holds many centuries old tales and even older secrets. This range was formed by the collision of the Indian Plate with Eurasian Plate, a couple of million years ago. It’s called the Salt Range, primarily because of the extensive salt deposits found in and around it, among other minerals such as coal, gypsum, oil and gas. The recent claim to fame of this region is the discovery of pre-historic (read: Dinosaurs!) fossils found here around the village of Choa Saidan Shah. It is, also, one of the oldest inhabited regions of the word, as well, with the Stone Age artifacts found here, to have been dated between 100,000 to 500,000 years.
Situated at the foothills of the Salt Range, These mines are the oldest in the salt mining history of the sub-continent. The Khewra salt is transparent, with hues of white, pink, reddish and deep red. There are 18 working levels. The total length of all the mineshafts is more than 40 km. It is said that rock salt was discovered in Khewra area as early as 326 BCE. Legend has it that the Alexander the Great’s was rested in Khewra area after a battle with Raja Porus. The horses of Alexander’s army were then seen licking rock salt in the area, leading to the discovery of salt in the area. Later on, when the exposed salt seams were exhausted, people began looking for it underground.
Pakistan Mineral Development Authority has developed a tourist resort at Khewra to facilitate people interested in seeing this marvelous wonder of human engineering. Inside the mine, there’s plenty to see. Here’s a list of what to do and look for. Walk or take the electric tram ride into the belly of the mine to see:
- The Badshahi Masjid
- Assembly Hall
- The Post Office
- The Asthma Hospital
- The Minar-e-Pakistan
- The Sheesh Mahal
- Shimla Pahaarri
- The Brine Pools
- The “Dewar-e-Muhabat” or Wall of Love (Everybody licks it! I suggest you don’t do that. Unless, well, you’re desperate for love!)
- Pul Siraat or the Salt Bridge
- The naturally shaped portrait of Alama Iqbal in the Assembly Hall
Everything inside the mine is made of SALT! A fascinating and surreal environment is created with soothes the senses with the pale red glow from the illuminated salt bricks. The Mine is open for tourist from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day including Sunday and gazetted holidays.
Out of the belly of the mountains and up on their backs. After exiting the Khewra Mines Complex, take a left and head up the winding road. This steep road, twisting and snaking up the hillside takes you through some of the most amazing scenery this area has to offer. From the top, you can see the mighty River Jehlum meandering through the vast Punjab plains fading into the horizon. Possibly, this could be one of the many spots where Al-Beruni sat making measurements, near Pind Dadan Khan. Driving through the changing scenery is a very relaxing experience, although it could be quite the opposite for a driver used to plain roads. There are several picture perfect spots along the road for a small picnic without worrying about security. Along this road you’ll, also, spot several small traditional coal and salt mines. Going down one of them is, however, strongly not recommended.
- Best season to visit: Fall to Spring (September – April)
- Ideal for: day trips/picnics. (Bring your own food & do not litter!)
- Fastest route: M2 Lillah and Kalar Kahar Interchanges
- Drive time (point to point):
- Lahore/Islamabad – Lillah Interchange: 2 1/2 hours
- Lillah – Khewra: 1/2 hour
- Cellular coverage: Complete