This far-northern district offers the chance to see an ancient kingdom that is relatively unspoiled by tourism. Once a seat of Tantric Buddhism, Swat is believed to be the garden mentioned in ancient Hindu fables. Alexander the Great passed through, and the region has been the site of numerous battles. Most visitors stay in Saidu Shariff, the capital of the region. Take time to visit the Gandhara Buddhist carvings, various archaeological digs, the old ruler's palace and the Stone Lion. In the rural areas, you can observe nomadic shepherds, ruins of Buddhist statues, monasteries and stupas. A day trip can be made to Udegram to see its fortress (side trips can also be made to villages such as Bahrain and Madyan). The mountain scenery is beautiful but dry. In Swat, shop for emeralds, sapphires, wool blankets, handwoven rugs and other locally produced goods. We suggest a three-night stay in the Swat Valley, a year-round destination. Travel with a reliable guide, and keep in mind that travel permits are difficult to obtain. 100 mi/160 km northwest of Islamabad.

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