Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) is the liberated part of the former State of Jammu & Kashmir. It is situated to the north of Pakistan at a distance of around 110 kms and about 3 hours' drive from Islamabad. The total area of AJK is 13297 sq. kms and is inhabited by over four million people.
The state consists of ten districts namely, Muzaffarabad, Neelum, Hattian Bala, Poonch, Bagh, Sudhonti, Haveli, Mirpur, Bhimber and Kotli. Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a land of wonders blessed with unparalleled natural scenic beauty. Its breath taking scenery, high mountains blanketed with lush green grass covered with towering trees and the snow capped peaks the meandering rivers curling through mountains, the naturally formed waterfalls and lakes form a stunning background. Hence the beauty of the valleys of AJK mesmerize those who happen to witness it. AJK is a favorite tourist attraction for people from various parts of the world. It is a well-known destination to those who love nature and adventure. The more known and explored tourist sites are; the captivating valleys of Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Sudhan Gali, Rawalakot, Banjosa, Paniola, Tolipir, Las Danna, Sehnsa, Tatta Pani, Sarda and Mangla. However, the state of AJK offers many more sites worth visiting. Besides being rich in natural scenic beauty, AJK has been generously gifted by nature with the rich wild life including Snow Leopards, Hunting Leopards, Brown Gorals, (Mountain Goat), Musk Deer, pheasants, Read Led Partridges (Chakkar) Black Koklas, Pheasant, Peacocks, Eagles and Dusk Markhor.
The existing population of AJK is composed of clans and tribes believed to be the descendants of the Semitics Mongols, Aryans, Persians, Turks and Arabs. Where else could one find so many different races combined into a single organic whole? About a dozen languages are spoken in the state which includes Kashmiri, Pahari, Gojri, Hindko, Kohistani, Kundal Shahi, Pashto, Shina, Dogri and Punjabi. Matching with its natural beauty, Kashmir is also famous for its rich and diverse cultural heritage. The handicrafts of the region are well-known worldwide. The more prominent products include; Carpets & Rugs, Namda, Gubba, Patoo, Silk & Woolen Clothes, Woolen Kashmiri Shawls, Wood Carving and Papiermâché.
Among the cultural culinary are included; rice yakhni, math maz, aabgoshat, tabakh-maz, ristay, gushtabey, hareesa, rogan josh and saag (spinach). The taste of these Kashmiri delicacies and their decorum of serving is unique in nature. Though the average land holdings are limited in the hilly terrains of AJK, yet the climatic settings favor horticulture and floriculture to flourish.