Explore Machhal’s untamed wilderness, where time seems to stand still amidst the snow-capped peaks and dense conifer forests. Delight in the rich culture and warm hospitality of the locals while indulging in the region’s delectable cuisine.
By Mool Raj
Nestled in the far-flung reaches of North Kashmir, concealed behind the majestic Shamasabari mountains and embraced by the dense emerald green conifer forest of Lolab, lies Machhal (also known as Matchil or Macchil) – a quaint and charming village where warm-hearted locals welcome visitors with open arms and share captivating anecdotes about the region’s history and myths. Machhal: A Beauty Beyond Boundaries
Located in the Kupwara district of Jammu & Kashmir, Machhal is a small village situated close to the Line of Control (LOC). It captivates travelers with its scenic beauty and serene surroundings. Perched at an altitude of 8,225 ft, the village is surrounded by thick Deodar forests, snow-clad peaks, and enchanting mountain slopes. The Nao Nar watershed flows into the Machhal Nar, a tributary of the Kishanganga River, adding to the natural allure of the area. Machhal’s remoteness becomes evident as it remains cut off from the outside world for over six months each year due to heavy snowfall, experiencing temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Celsius in winter and soaring to 25 degrees Celsius during the summer. The village receives an annual precipitation of 740.5 mm.
To reach the breathtaking beauty of Machhal, adventurers must first venture into the captivating Lolab valley, proceeding north towards Kalaroos through dense green Deodar forests. Kalaroos is renowned for its caves and the ancient Satbaran monument (Seven Doors), which dates back to Kashmir’s Buddhist era. The road from Kalaroos takes travelers to Sarkuli village and further through the dense Sarkuli Thiayan forest, eventually unveiling the awe-inspiring Zamindar Gali (Z-Gali) at an altitude of 10,334 feet. At this vantage point, a breathtaking panorama unfolds, with the majestic Nanga Parbat towering at an impressive 26,660 feet. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) plays a vital role in keeping the road open during most winters, making the journey to Machhal possible.
The allure of Machhal extends beyond its picturesque landscapes; it also boasts numerous small lakes, pristine meadows, and cascading waterfalls nestled within the mountains. The name “Machil” itself has roots in the Dardic language, signifying “fish.” According to local lore, the name was bestowed due to the abundance of fish in the streams. Another tale recounts the travels of a resident named Mohammad Sultan Harray, who bestowed names upon the places he visited based on his unique experiences.
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood in the Machhal bowl, with corn, potato, and kidney beans being major produce. The villagers exhibit proficiency in carpentry and artisan work, while women tend to farming and household chores.
Despite its extraordinary potential as a tourist destination and for adventure activities, Machhal remains relatively unknown, with much of Kashmir’s tourism being focused on urban centers and traditional tourist spots. The region offers ample opportunities for activities like rowing, kayaking, white-water rafting in the Machhal Nar, trekking through the forests, angling, and camping. Bed-and-breakfast schemes could thrive in villages like Pushwari and Machhal, further encouraging tourism growth.
Machhal’s gastronomy is a delightful experience, with unique and mouth-watering dishes, including the traditional salted tea (Noon chai) cooked in a Samavar, and the aromatic green tea (Kahwa) served on special occasions and festivals. The rich Wazwan, a multi-course meal featuring flavorsome and spicy meat-based dishes, is an integral part of local weddings.
With immense potential for tourism and adventure activities, Machhal is poised to captivate the world with its untouched beauty and warm hospitality. It is high time to shed light on this hidden gem, putting it on the global tourism map in the near future.
The author is Environmental Science Lecturer hail from the Village Bhagota Distt and Teh Doda.Views are his personal