Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, 1652 meter above sea level, lies at the mouth of Bolan Pass. It has three large craggy mountains. Chiltan, Zarghun and Koh-e-Murdar, that seems to brood upon this pleasant town. There are other mountains that from a ring around it. Their copper red and russet rocks and crests that are powdered with snow in winters add immense charm to the town.
Quetta is an excellent base for further exploration of Balochistan, Laralai, the almond bowl of the country, is 265 km away. Besides there are numerous other valleys that are fascinating places to be in for explores.
Quetta can rightly be called the fruit basket of Pakistan. Plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, some unique varieties of melon like “garama” and cherries, pistachios and almonds are all grown in abundance. Some pistachios also grown in Qila Sharif Ullah. Saffron grows very well on mountains around 5000 ft (1500 meter) high. It is being cultivated on a commercial scale here. The yellow and red varieties of tulip grow wild around Quetta.
The name Quetta is derived from the world “kuwetta” which means a fort and, no doubt, it is a natural fort surrounded as it is by imposing hills on all sides. The encircling hills have the resounding names of Chiltan, takatoo, Murdar and Zarghun.The main thoroughfare and the commercial centre of Quetta is Jinnah road, where the Tourist information Centre of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation as well as the banks, restaurants and handicraft shops are located. Shahrah-e-Zarghun runs parallel to Jinnah Road. It is a long boulevard lined with trees. Many important buildings like the governor’s House, Post and Telecommunication Offices are located along Zarghoon Road.
Prominent bazaars of Quetta are located on Shahrah-e-Iqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaqat (Liaqat bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar). Here you can find colorful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work embroidery which is admired all over the world, carpets, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, jackets, waist-coats , sandals and other creations of traditional Balochi skills.
In the old bazaars one comes across quaint old teashops. These are the local “clubs”. There are also many popular eating-houses offering different types of delicacies. Among the delicacies you must try “Saji” (leg of lamb), is the traditional meal of whole Balochistan it is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy. The tribesmen of the valley also enjoy “Landhi” (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for winters. “Khabab” shops are very popular. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has an appetizing smell, which can be sampled in the “Pulao”.
The Archaeological Museum at Fifa Road has a collection of rare antique guns, swords and manuscripts. It has a display of Stone Age tools, prehistoric pottery and articles found from Mehrgarh. There are also coins, manuscripts and photo of Quetta before 1935 earthquake. The Museum is open from 9 am to 3 am daily.
The Geological Museum on Sariab Road (near Balochistan University) has a collection or rocks and fossils found Balochistan. The Command and Staff College Museum is worth a visit for those interested in British military history. It is housed in the former bungalow of Field Marshal Montgomery.
Parks, Library and view point
The Askari Park at the Airport Road and Liaquat Park on Shahrah-e-Iqbal offer amusement and recreational facilities. Balochistan Arts Council Library is located on Jinnah Road. The Chiltan Hill view point on Breawery Road offers a panoramic view of Quetta.
Hazarghanji Chiltan National Park
In the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 km southwest of Quetta, Markhors have been given protection. The part is spread over 32, 5000 acres, altitude ranging from 2000 to 3200 meter. Hazarganji literally means “Of a thousand treasures”. In the folds of these mountains, legend has it; there are over a thousand treasured buried, reminders of the passage of great armies down the corridors of history. The Bactrains, Schthians, Mongols and then the great migrating hordes of Baloch, all passes this way.
Markhor, of which there are five distinct kinds, is the national animal of Pakistan. The kind that is photographed the most often is the Chiltan Markhor, which because of its long horns looks very conspicuous. Ever since the Markhor has been given protection its number has multiplied. Over animals in the park are straight horned markhors, “Gad” (wild sheep) and leopards which occasionally migrate to the park from other areas, wolves, striped hyena, hares, wild cats and porcupines.
Many birds like partridge, warblers, shikras, blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, red gilled choughs, golden eagle, sparrow, hawks, falcons and bearded vultures are either found here or visit the park in different seasons.
Reptiles like monitor and other wild lizards, geckos, Afghan tortoise, python, cobra, horned viper and Levantine may also be seen in the park.
Amongst the flora of the Park are the 225 species of plants. Prominent are the pistachios, juniper, wild olive, wild ash and wild almond. Many shrubs like wild fig, barberry, wild cherry, makhi, etc, provide food and shelter to the foraging animals, birds and other life forms. Medicinal herbs like Epherda intermedia, gerardiana and nabro (densis) and Artemista (Scoparia and martima) are also found in the park. There is a splash of color in spring when most of the plants are in bloom.
Nature lovers, students, scientists and researchers are welcome to visit the part at any time of the year. For overnight stay, accommodation is available at the Forest Department Rest House, located five kilometer inside the Park. For booking of Rest House and permit to visit the Park, please contact the office of the Divisional Forest Officer, located on Spinney Road, Quetta Transportation to the park can be arranged. There is no restaurant but cooking facility is arranged on request. Park Rangers help the visitors to see animals. Access trails have been developed in the park for visitors. A small museum of natural history is located near the Park entrance.
Excursion from Quetta
Karkhasa is a recreation Park situated at distance of 10 km to the west of Quetta. It is a 16 km long narrow valley having a variety of flora like Ephedra, Artimisia and Sophora. One can see birds like partridges and other wild birds in the park. Limited recreational facilities are provided to the visitors through the Forest Department, Spinney Road, Quetta.
The Urak valley is 21 km from Quetta City. The road is lined on either side with wild roses and fruit orchards, peaches, plums, apricots and apples of many varieties are grown in this valley.
A little short of the place where the Urak Valley beings and 10 km from Quetta, is the Hanna Lake, where benches and pavilions on terrace have been provided Golden fish in the lake comes swimming right up to the edge of the lake. A little distance away, the waters of the lake take on a greenish blue tint. Right where the water ends, pine trees have been planted on the grass filled slopes.
The greenish blue waters of the lake provide a rich contrast to the sandy brown of the hills in the background. One can promenade on the terraces. Wagon service to the lark operates from city bus station at Circular Road.
Pishin valley and bund khushdil khan
Some 50 km from Quetta is the valley of Pishin with its numerous fruit orchards, which are irrigated by “Karez”, a kind of artificial spring made by boring holes into rock to bring to the surface the subterranean water. Sixteen km from Pishin is the man-made lake Bund Khushdil Khan. Its cool gentle waters attract many visitors for duck shooting in early winter.
At a distance of 70 km from Quetta on Sibi Road is situated a popular picnic spot known as Pir Ghaib. Here a waterfall cascades down rocky mountainside making its way through many streams and ponds among the shady palm trees. You need a 4-wheeel drive vehicle to reach the spot from the main road.
How to get to Quetta
Quetta is connected to the rest of the country by road, rail and air. The highway connects it to Karachi and then on (via Koh-e-Taftan) to Tehran, Iran, 1435 km away. The road to Sibi connects it with Punjab and upper Sindh. The road via Loralai-Fort Mono D.G Khan and Multan is a shorter route for Punjab. The chaman Road is a link between the country and the Afghan border. Quetta is linked by PIA with Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
What to Buy
Local handicrafts, especially green marble products, mirror work and embroidered jackets, shirts and hand bags, pillow covers, bed sheets, dry fruits etc.