Swat Valley, Pakistan
Northern Pakistan's Swat Valley, called the "Switzerland of the East" for its lush green hills and snow-capped mountains split by raging rivers and gurgling streams, is a tranquil destination away from the bustle of the capital, Islamabad, roughly 150 miles away. During the 1970s, the Swat Valley was a popular destination for young Westerners on the "Hippie Trail" looking for an escape from Western culture. The problem is that the Taliban has also gravitated to Swat as an escape -- from the control of the Pakistani government.
In 1977, a military coup ousted Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ushering in an era of turmoil in the country. Still, tourism was not completely dead. In 1986, the Austrian government helped fund Swat's first ski resort, which later served as a launching pad for the Pakistani Air Force's effort to promote skiing among Pakistanis. In the early 2000s, as embassy staffs grew after the invasion of Afghanistan, foreigners looking for a respite from the capital came to ski. But the Taliban soon came, too.
Above, a Pakistani family crosses the River Swat by bridge at the hill station of Madyan on July 20, 2011.
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