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After 13 years in the US, a Pakistani rediscovers her home country.

A pristine tourist hub at the edge of the Himalayas (PHOTOS)

Miles away from industrial output, far from any large metropolis, the Kaghan Valley is still the most popular tourist destination in Pakistan.
Kaghan Valley Makkar mountainEnlarge
A view of Makkar ("spider'") mountain at the Paya plateau near Shogran. Home to one of the most popular hikes in the valley, the mountain resembles a spider, locals say. (Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

KAGHAN VALLEY, Pakistan — Pakistan's lush, green Kaghan Valley is one of the most beautiful parts of the world I've seen.

The valley is nestled along the western edge of the Himalayan mountain range.

Kaghan Valley Himalayas

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Miles away from industrial output, far from any large metropolis, the valley is still the most popular tourist destination in the country, according to Pakistan's Tourism Development Corporation.

Kaghan Valley Khanian stream

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost via Instagram)

I found it gut-wrenchingly stunning when I visited this past October. Fresh snow covered many of the mountain peaks, and the weather would turn on a dime: sunny and bright in the morning, blisteringly cold in the afternoon. After dark, wind whistled through the mountains and the temperature dipped below freezing.

Kaghan Valley Himalayan mountain

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost via Instagram)

Makkar or "spider'" mountain, at the Paya plateau near Shogran, is home to one of the most popular hikes in the valley. Locals think the mountain resembles an arachnid.

Kaghan Valley Makkar mountain

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Fresh snow covers the peaks surrounding Lake Saiful Muluk, which lies in the north of Kaghan Valley near the town of Naran.

Kaghan Valley Lake Saiful Muluk snow

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost via Instagram)

At Lake Saiful Muluk, two storytellers sat together drinking chai.

Kaghan Valley Lake Saiful Muluk

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

This is the river Kunhar, which runs through the Kaghan Valley.

Kaghan Valley Kunhar river

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Members of the Gujjar tribe camped alongside this river in the fall. Considered Pakistan's gypsies, the Gujjar people are entirely nomadic, moving through the valley all year long.

Kaghan Valley Gujjar nomadic

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Most valleys in Pakistan are named for their rivers. The Kaghan Valley is an exception, named instead after nearby Kaghan town.

Kaghan Valley main street

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Most families in the valley work as farmers and herders who make weekly trips to sell their crops and animals in the cities. Here, a tractor sits on the Kaghan-Naran road, the area's major "highway."

Kaghan Valley highway

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

Locals say the valley's stunning glaciers are shrinking. They're seen here from the Lalazar plateau, which sits 10,499 feet above sea level. On summer mornings the sun's reflection makes the glaciers almost blindingly bright.

Kaghan Valley Lalazar plateau glaciers

(Mariya Karimjee/GlobalPost)

More from Mariya: Pakistan's trucks are rolling works of art (PHOTOS)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/pakistan-inside-out/kaghan-valley-photos