Roughly half way between Lahore and Islamabad, these two sites make for a wonderful detour from a journey between the two cities.. The town of Sheikhpura, near Lahore, is also on the way, and is home to Hiran Minar, a beautiful complex built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Khewra is home to the world’s second largest salt mines (and the world’s oldest!), but what really blew me away was the nearby Katas Raj temples, a little visited holy Hindu complex which happened to end up on the Pakistani side of the border following partition.
Following our trip to Lahore, we left the city in a car with faulty AC, which was such a struggle in 40+°C heat, but we managed it until reaching Islamabad! Our first stop was Hiran Minar, built to commemorate Jahangir’s pet antelope!
We then drove to the Khewra Salt Mine, which was roughly a 3 hour drive. The mine is supposedly more than 2000 years old, and was apparently discovered by Alexander The Great’s horse. This place was certainly fascinating – not only its history but also the various salt formations inside. Getting into Khewra Salt Mine also proved fun: on a train into the mining tunnels!
We spent a few hours visiting this place before heading to the Katas Raj temples, which unexpectedly turned out to be the highlight of the day. The drive from Khewra took roughly 45 minutes, but the scenery between the two locations was stunning! We drove through picturesque mountains, with views over the plains below – definitely a journey worth doing if you’re in the area.
We arrived at the temples about an hour before sunset – a time which made the place seem magical. Being the only foreign guests in a while, the temples’ employees unlocked certain additional rooms for us to visit. While the temples were stunning, their condition could be better, and there appears to be a lack of funding for maintenance. In 2017, the famous pools in front of the temples (in the photo below) were drained by a nearby factory, which tapped into the aquifer (I think). However, following government action, in 2018 this is no longer the case. Among the temples, there were also sites dedicated to Buddhism and Sikhism.