The valley is situated in the north-east of Muzaffarabad, running parallel to Kaghan Valley. The two valleys are only separated by snow-covered peaks, some over 4,000 m above sea level.
Before Partition, this region was known as Drawah. The Azaad Kashmir government, in 1956, the ninth year of its rule, held a cabinet meeting to rechristen the River Kishanganga as the River Neelum, and the Drawah region as Neelum Valley.
The new names were proposed to the cabinet by war hero, Syed Mohammad Amin. The cabinet approved them, and thus, Drawah of the yore is now Neelum Valley of Azaad Kashmir.
Neelum Valley is a 240 km long bow-shaped thick forested region in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, situated at the North and North-East of Muzaffarabad Azad Kashmir, running parallel to Kaghan Valley.
Neelum is one of the most beautiful valleys of Azaad Kashmir, and it hosts several brooks, freshwater streams, forests, lush green mountains, and a river.
Here, you see cataracts falling down the mountains; their milky-white waters flowing over the roads and splashing against the rocks, before commingling with the muddy waters of River Neelum.
Neelum valley is a long bow-shaped thick forested region, extending approximately 200 kilometers along the Neelum River and is situated at an elevation of 1,615 m (5,299 ft).
Neelum District has total Area 3,621 km2 (1,398 sq mi) and has two Tehsils (Athmuqam, Sharda).
It is bound by the Gilgit (Northern Areas) to the North, with Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipore Districts of Indian-administered Kashmir in India to the South and Southeast, Muzaffarabad District to the Southwest and Mansehra District to the West.
The main towns and villages are:
Kundal Shahi : The village is located 74 kilometers (46 mi) from Muzaffarabad on the bank of Neelam River.
Jura : The most popular and most populated area in district neelum is jura, which is famous for its Bazar and its beautiful places and highest mountains. There are many colleges, private and government schools, hospitals and other facilities. In the village the Awan Family is mostly available.
Athmuqam : The capital of Neelum valley located about 84 kilometres from Muzaffarabad. It is the headquarters of Neelum District. All the basic necessities of life are available there. Hotels, rest houses, market, post office, banks, hospitals, and telephone exchanges are also present.
Kutton : Also known as Jagran Valley, is a village and tourist resort located 82 kilometers (51 mi) from Muzaffarabad and 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) from Kundal Shahi on the bank of Jagran steam. Rest houses of AJK Tourism Department and WAPDA are located here. Some private rest houses and hotels are also available here for tourists stay.
Keran : 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) ahead from Athmuqam Keran resort is located on the bank of Neelam river at the altitude of 1,524 meters (5,000 ft)
Dowarian : It located 106 kilometers (66 mi) from Muzaffarabad and 22 kilometers (14 mi) from Athmuqam on the bank of Neelam River at the altitude of 1,615 meters (5,299 ft). A rest house of AJK Tourism Department located here for tourists stay. It is the base camp to Ratti Gali Lake.
Dudhnial : It is a very famous and beautiful town of Neelum Valley. There is a government college, Girls high school and Hospital and other government offices. There are many shops and restaurants. Private rest houses facility is also available there.
Sharda : One of the beautiful spots of the Neelum valley located on the banks of the Neelum river at an altitude of 1,981 meters (6,499 ft), about 136 kilometers (85 mi) from Muzaffarabad.
Tehjian : Tehjian is most beautiful Village of Neelum Valley. Total Population of Tehjian is nearly 5000, There is 40 years old Middle School, but for highly populated village there is no Post Office or Basic Health Unit. Few private hotels and a tourist hostel of AJK Tourism Department located there for tourists stay.
Kel : The most beautiful village of the valley located 19 kilometers (12 mi) ahead from Sharda at the altitude of 6,879 feet (2,097 m). Few private hotels and a rest house of AJK Tourism Department located there for tourists stay. It also has bank, college, hospital and market.
Arang Kel : A village and tourist spot located on the hill top near Kel at the altitude of 8,379 feet (2,554 m) feet. It is accessible by a 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) trek from Kel.
Taobat : The last station of the valley. It is 200 kilometers (120 mi) from Muzaffarabad and 39 kilometers (24 mi) away from Kel. A tourist hotel of AJK Tourism Department and many private hotel with basic facilities located here for tourists.
Chitta Katha Lake : is located in Shonter valley, a sub valley of Neelam valley at the altitude of 13,500 feet (4,100 m). The lake is accessible from Kel by a 20 kilometers (12 mi) jeep track and then 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) hiking trek. Kel is the base camp to this lake.
Shounter Lake : is a small lake located in Shounter valley at the altitude of 10,200 feet (3,100 m). It is accessible from Kel by a jeep track.
Ratti Gali Lake : is located in Neelam valley at the altitude of 12,130 feet (3,700 m). The lake is accessible from Dowarian by a 17 kilometers (11 mi) jeepable track and then 2 km hiking trek. Dowarian is the base camp to this lake.
Saral Lake : is located in Neelam Valley, Pakistan Administered Kashmir at an altitude of 13,600 feet (4,100 m). Sharda is the base camp to this lake.
A variety of languages are spoken in the Neelum district. Shina and Kashmiri are the predominant languages spoken in the northeastern part of the district towards the border with Baramulla, Gurez, Bandipore, Astore District and Baltistan and also in the far north on the border with Diamer District. Pashto is also spoken in a few villages on the Line of Control with Kupwara. Other languages include Gojri and the Kundal Shahi Language which is an archaic form of Shina however, it is heavily influenced by Kashmiri and Hindko. The Kundal Shahi Language is spoken in a village called Kundal Shahi near Athmuqam.
The Life style of People of Neelam is very simple and they are considered to be very warm and welcoming.
The ethnic groups living in Neelam District include Gujjars, Rajputs, Pirzada, Mughal and Kashmiris.
Traveling during May to October from the scorching heat of plains to the high land basin of Neelum Valley is indeed an escape from hell to the cold breezes of paradise. The temperature remains in between 18°C to 32°C during the summer. The upper portion of the area normally receives first snow fall in the month of October and at some times even during September.
The valley is connected from Muzaffarabad by Neelum road, which leads up to Kel. The road condition from Muzaffarabad to Athmuqam is very good and suitable for any kind of transport. From Keran to Kel road condition is not well and not suitable for low floor vehicles.So, you need to travel on a rocky and curvy jeep track, which can take you to the farthest town of the region, TaobBat.
Gagai is the last human habitation in Neelum Valley. Gagai is a small village and you can get to this place only by travelling on foot. It will take nearly 3.5 hours of trekking to reach Gagai. You will pass through a series of fields, rivulets and jungles, meeting birds and animals, also you will be able to see some small wooden houses and simple life style of the people of neelam valley.
Neelum Valley is not served by any rail connections.