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What to See and Do in Pakistan

What to See and Do in Pakistan

About Pakistan

 

Pakistan is the difficult child of the region South Asia – blessed with rich natural and historical riches, but plagued by political instability, which has kept the country off the radar for all but the most hardened explorers.

 

Pakistan is considered to be a populous and multiethnic country in South Asia. Having a predominately Indo-Iranian speaking population, Pakistan has historically and culturally been associated with its neighbours India, Iran, and Afghanistan. Since Pakistan and India achieved independence in the year 1947, Pakistan has been distinguished from its larger southeastern neighbour by its overwhelmingly Muslim population. Pakistan has strived throughout its existence to attain political stability and maintained social development. Its capital is Islamabad, in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern part of the country, and its largest city is Karachi, in the south on the coast of the Arabian Sea.

 

Pakistan contains a rich diversity of landscapes, starting in the northwest, from the soaring Pamirs and the Karakoram Range through a network of mountain ranges, a complex of beautiful valleys, and inhospitable plateaus, down to the remarkably even surface of the fertile Indus River plain, which drains southward into the Arabian Sea. It comprises a section of the ancient Khyber Pass and Silk Road, the famous passageway that has brought outside influences into the otherwise isolated subcontinent. High peaks such as K2 and Nanga Parbat, in the Pakistani-administered region of Azad Kashmir, present a challenging lure to mountain climbers. Along the Indus River, the course of the country, the ancient site of Mohenjo-Daro, signifies one of the cradles of civilization.

 

Panoramic Karakoram Range

Panaromic Karakoram Range. Image by Mahima Bhargava

 

Pakistan Tourism Industry

 

Tourism is a cultural, societal, and monetary factor that involves the movement of persons to sites or countries outside their houses for individual or business aims. It is a multidimensional commercial activity that has fabulous job generation capacity through its labour-intensive nature, revenue creation via tax collection usually from the hotel sectors, earnings of massive foreign exchange, and prelation of cross-cultural cooperation and apprehension, business opportunities for entrepreneurs, and economic development of the country.

 

The function of global tourism is important in promoting global peace by inducing intermediation and forming a channel among different cultures. Global tourism also supports destination countries at the micro level to improve the degree of family earnings by the following two means. Firstly, it promotes efficiency through improved competition among companies associated with tourism and, secondly, it assists the utilization of thriftiness of scale in native companies. The development of tourism raises family income and jobs in the formal and informal fields of the destination country. It might be a sector that assists in mitigating extreme family poverty and also boosts economic development.

 

Tourism and Travel have a great association with other industries in the national economy, making major indirect earns and also improves public infrastructure, investments in private, opportunities of trade, local development, and foreign investment. Pakistan has rich potential for tourisms due to its biological diversity, rich culture, and geographical and history. Though, tourism has developed as an instrument for creating significant economic gains. The country has various tourist destinations at Neelam valleys, Swat, Malam Jabba, Bahrain, Kalam, Shangla, Balakot, Kaghan, Naran, Ayoubia, Murree, Chitral, Gilgit Baltistan, and Hunza, other mountainous ranges, and historical and archaeological sites. Pakistan has magnificent potential and offers diverse opportunities for tourists, such as trout fishing in the glacial water of Swat rivers and Gilgit Baltistan, Shandur Polo traditional tournament, paragliding, trekking, and trekking in northern areas, Jeep and camel safari in the Cholistan desert, Wild Boar hunting, and crabbing in the Arabian Sea.

 

Things to see in Pakistan

 

Home to a multitude of terrains and landscapes, Pakistan has rivers and mountains for the adventurous, archaeological sites for the curious, and untouched beaches for those looking to escape the busy life. In a country with such various options to choose from, here are some of the best places to visit. The following are given some of the best places to see in Pakistan.

 

  • Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)

 

Pack your bags and travel to the north for some of the most satisfying scenic views and adventure activities the country has to offer. Start your trip in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), a common choice for those seeking diverse experiences while sticking to just one region. Gilgit Baltistan, the northernmost administrative territory of Pakistan, is home to a number of mountain peaks above 20,000 feet, including the famous K-2 and Nanga Parbat. Shandur polo festival, the world’s highest polo ground, is also located here, as is the turquoise-hued Attabad Lake in Hunza Valley that was created after a landslide in the year 2010. The treeless Deosai National Park, situated largely in the Skardu District, is a 4,124-metre high wonderland rich in fauna and flora that can only be obtained in the summer. Skiing enthusiasts can visit and enjoy the Naltar Ski Resort, and enthusiastic campers can trek up to the charming Fairy Meadows.

 

Kachura lakes Gilgit-Baltistan.

Kachura lakes Gilgit-Baltistan. Image by Somair84

  • Multan

 

The city of Multan is an exciting mix of memories of ancient Sufism, warfare, trade, and dynastic rule. The 7th most populous city of Pakistan has changed many hands since 3300 BCE, reportedly beginning with Hindu occupation, then witnessing Greek invasion and finally hosting a long era of Muslim rule heavily influenced by Sufism in the 12th century. Multan is now an influential part of south Punjab, and devotees from all over the country and abroad visit the innumerable mosques, shrines, and tombs all year round. Such is the respect for the late Sufi mystics remembered or buried here that it is known as the ‘City of Saints’. Where to stay in Multan

 

Tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam

Tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam. Multan. Image by Junaidahmadj

  • Tharparkar

 

Interest in the Tharparkar District in the province Sindh as a tourist spot is a comparatively recent development. The moderate rise in the number of tourists each year is a promising sign for the region, which consists of a jumble of villages and towns ranging from slightly developed to completely rural settlements. Most visitors go to the district during or after the monsoon rains to endure the short period in which the desert is transformed into an oasis. This short season is also a source of enjoyment for the residents because the soil of this particular dessert is greatly fertile and supports rainfall agriculture.

 

Tharparkar desert

Tharparkar desert. Image by Chashma

  • Kalash Valleys

 

Pakistan is known to be an ethnically diverse country, and Kalasha forms what is perhaps its most distinct natural group. The Kalash Valleys – Birir, Bumburet, and Rumbur– are a part of Chitral, the largest district in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan, and are surrounded by the famed Hindu Kush mountain ranges. The remoteness of the valleys has assisted them in preserving their uniqueness over the centuries. The predominantly blue-eyed, light-skinned Kalasha people are known for their polytheistic religion and colourful garb. Their religion, which reportedly subscribes to either a form of ancient Hinduism, is a world apart from that of their Muslim neighbours. They love playing traditional musical instruments, dancing, and brewing their own wine. The perfect time to visit these valleys is during any of their three annual festivals – Chawmos, Chilam Joshi in May, and Uchau in September around the time of the winter solstice.

 

Kalash of Birir Valley

Kalash of Birir Valley. Image by Tahsin A Shah

  • Makran Coast

 

Pakistan has yet to turn its natural beaches into dream holiday resorts, but if exploring a perfect coastline with natural beaches is your thing, then the Makran Coast is unquestionably worth visiting. The mesmerizing landscape in the province of Balochistan is a refreshing surprise in what is otherwise rugged terrain consisting mostly of dry mountains. The coast itself is a 1000-kilometre stretch along the Gulf of Oman and is interspersed with natural beaches that are accessible via the 650-kilometre long Makran Coastal Highway, which begins from Karachi in Sindh, passes the towns of Pasni and Ormara, and ends in Gwadar. It is desirable to start your journey from Karachi at the crack of dawn so you can make the most of the long drive. Notable beaches on the coastal strip include Pasni Beach, Kund Malir Beach, Astola Island, Ormara Beach, Sonmiani Beach, and Gwadar Beach.

 

Kund Malir Beach

Kund Malir Beach. Image by Furqanlw

  • Katas Raj Temple, Chakwal

 

This is a well-known fact that before partition, Muslims and Hindus used to live together in the sub-continent. Their sites of worship did not change even after partition. Though, after partition, they took only their clothes and themselves. All of their religious buildings and properties were in the place as they were for years. Katas Raj temple in Chakwal is also one of those infrastructures that Hindus left behind. It is a complex of many temples. All of these temples are combined with one another. There is a way for the pilgrims, a walkway through which the pilgrims walk. A sacred pond is surrounded by the complex. This pond is deemed sacred by Hindus. Due to its historical background, a number of people other than just Hindus also visit this place.

Katas Raj Temple

Katas Raj Temple. Image by Fassifarooq [CC BY-SA]

 

  • PAF Museum Karachi

 

Museums foreshadow the national heritage, culture, and history of the country. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has been the ultimate backbone whenever the country is facing threats from the outside world. In the war of the year 1965, against India, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) did not have capable air crafts. Though, the zeal and zest of the pilots have made it possible for the air crafts to make their names in history. The country that remembers and never forgets its martyrs could only make success in the world. Pakistan has lost a number of brave men in the wars of the years 1965 and 1971. The museum in Karachi, “Pakistan Air Force Museum (PAF),” is particularly dedicated to the martyrs of the 1965 and 1971 war heroes.

 

PAF Museum Karachi

PAF Museum Karachi. Image by Miansari66 (CC0 1.0)

Things to Do in Pakistan

 

  • Hit the Karakoram Highway

 

The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the world’s ultimate road trip, an 805-mile journey from the city Abbottabad to the Chinese border, through some of the world’s most beautiful and breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping passes.

 

Karakoram Highway

Karakoram Highway. Image by Teseum

It is known affectionately as the KKH, and the Karakoram delivers classic Himalayan Mountains, gorgeously lush green valleys, raging rivers fed by amazing glaciers, and a lost world of solitude and hospitality.

 

Each bend in the road exhibits a new adventure. Experience the mayhem of a polo match – old school style – in Gilgit, test your nerve crossing the rope bridge near Passu and travel the trails of Baltistan – the Karakorum Highway (KKH) offers it all in epic proportions. Where to stay: Karakoram Inn, Chilas or in Gilgit

 

Whether you rent a private jeep or Travel in one of the technicolour local buses, you are in for an adventure of a lifetime.

 

  • Have a capital time in Islamabad

 

As a purpose-built capital, Islamabad possesses the benefits of being a planned and modern city. It is quite neat and clean and surrounded by beautiful hills, a moderately calm oasis amongst the chaos that is Pakistan’s other major cities. And there are loads of cultural activities to keep you busy, too.

 

Faisal Mosque is the city’s most impressive sight. It sits at the foot of the Margalla Hills. The westernmost foothills of the Himalayas ranges are here, offering loads of great hiking opportunities with the Mughal village of Saidpur, a common destination. The hike up to Daman-e-Koh offers continuous views of the city.

 

Faisal Mosque Islamabad

Faisal Mosque. Islamabad. Image by
leenient

Be sure you to visit the Pakistan Monument, a striking structure based on a blooming flower, with each petal representing the country’s provinces. Illuminated in the night, also houses a museum where the history of the country is told in a series of waxworks. Where to stay in Islamabad

 

  • Visit Wagah-Attari border

 

The relations between Pakistan and its neighbour, India, are quite tense. Border skirmishes are normally common, and with both countries in possession of nuclear weapons, the potential for a more serious conflict is quite real.

 

This is what makes the daily closing ceremony at the Wagah-Attari border, only 24 kilometres from Lahore, even more surreal. At five pm every evening, the border forces of both countries engage in what can only be described as an elaborate dance-off.

 

  • Trek the Fairy Meadows of Nanga Parbat

 

Hiking through the majestic Fairy Meadows to the Nanga Parbat Base Camp in Himalayan Pakistan is one of the most popular treks in the country for a good reason.

 

Fairy Meadows Nanga Parbat Base-Camp

Fairy Meadows Nanga Parbat Base-Camp. Image by Imnadim

You get unobstructed views of Nanga Parbat, known to be one of the highest mountains in the country at 8,125 meters, as well as a variety of trails to suit every level of fitness and endeavour, each one offering remarkable scenery.

 

You will need to catch a bus to Raikot Bridge, 80 kilometres south of Gilgit, and then a jeep to the trailhead at Fairy Meadows. Here the fancifully-named Greenland Resorts makes an affordable pass to explore the different trails, from the easy two-hour trek to Beyal Camp, to the much harder and longer trek to Nanga Parbat Base Camp itself. Expect glaciers, forests, and up-close views of some of the highest mountains in the world.

 

  • Badshahi Mosque

 

Pakistan is not short of incredibly the most beautiful mosques. From the confronting modern Faisal Mosque in Islamabad to the mosaic phenomenon that is Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, the country is dotted with mosques well worth checking out. 

Badshahi Mosque

Badshahi Mosque. Image by Umair Khan

 

The beautiful and breathtaking Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, however, must top your list. British royals simply love it – Diana, Princess of Wales, visited in the year 1991. Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William Arthur, and Kate Middleton visited more recently in the year 2019. It is observed as one of the most impressive in the Islamic world.

 

Badshahi Interior

Badshahi Interior. Image by Shabi Abdullah

Built-in the year 1673, it was the largest mosque in the world for more than 300 years until the Faisal Mosque was completed in the year 1986. It is a 26,000 square meter courtyard that can host up to almost 95,000 worshippers. Its domes and minarets are clad in dazzling white marble, a striking contrast to the red of the main building, but its real beauty lies in the details. The level of artistry in the stucco tracery, arches, and intricate frescoes are extraordinary.

 

  • Must-Visit a medieval fort deep in the desert.

 

Deep in the Punjab, 130 kilometres south of the city of Bahawalpur, the 40 squat bastions of Derawar Fort stand guard over the empty plains of the Cholistan Desert as they have done since medieval times.

 

Derawar Fort. Bahawalpur

Derawar Fort. Bahawalpur. Image by Fassifarooq

The fort was built by a Hindu Rajput Rai Jajja Bhatti, conquered by the Nawab of Bahawalpur in the year 1733 and now owned the Abbasi family.

 

It takes an almost day to reach the fort, and you will need special permission to go inside, but you will be rewarded with one of the most extraordinary sights in Pakistan. The 30 meter high walls are square and powerful, and there is an intricate network of tunnels that local guides are happy to show you around. Where to stay in Bahawalpur

  • Chill out in the serene Hunza Valley

 

Hunza valley, known as Pakistan’s Shangri-La, the Hunza Valley, is as peaceful and calm as it is beautiful. A pocket of verdant green amongst the dry towering mountains, abundant orchards, it is a land of burbling streams and hospitable locals.

 

The valley is a famous stopping-off point along the Karakoram Highway, with loads of colourful guesthouses offering comfortable and peaceful accommodation. Delicious food is abundant and good here, too, with the orchard and pastures providing produce that is tasty and fresh.

Batura Lake. Hunza Valley

Batura Lake. Hunza Valley. Image by Shahbazaslam1

The mountains are surrounded by the valley are dotted with majestic medieval forts, offering breathtaking hikes should you be feeling energetic. Most visitors, though, are happy to pick a comfortable spot on the veranda of their hotel and soak up the jaw-dropping scenery from there, a plate of freshly picked fruit and a hot cup of sweet chai to hand.

 

  • Carry on up the Khyber 

 

The Khyber Pass is the chief route between Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of the most notorious stretches of road around the globe. Many have tried to control it, from British Raj to Alexander the Great, and all have failed. It is places of wild mountain passes and equally wild, lawless lands.

 

Khyber Pass

Khyber Pass. Image by Mhtoori

Travelling to the Khyber Pass is surely an adventure and not always advised. You will need a special permit to make the trip, and authorities might insist that you travel with an armed guard. If that sounds a little much hardcore, a visit to Smuggler’s Bazaar on the fringes of Peshawar will give you taste of the Khyber without the danger.

The border crossing is now open 24 hours with a transit of about 10,000 people every day. 

Where to stay in Peshawar and at PTDC Motel Torkham near the border Pakistan-Afganistan

Video above: Journey to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Below: smuggling market in Peshawar.

 

  • Wander through Pakistani history in Lahore Fort

 

Lahore’s historic amazing fort has been built and rebuilt too many times over the centuries, first by the Mughal emperors and then later by the British. Surely, it is said that walking through Lahore Fort is like walking through Pakistan’s past. 

 

Lahore Fort

Lahore Fort. Image by
Guilhem Vellut

You will find the fort at the northern end of the walled city, spread over twenty hectares and home to over twentyone notable monuments. The oldest dates to the era of Mughal Emperor Akbar, and the most recent, were constructed under British rule. Where to stay in Lahore

 

  • Lick a stamp in Khewra Salt Mine

 

A day trip to the world’s second-largest salt mine might not be a regular bucket list feature in conventional vacation plans, but it is surely a great educational experience. The Khewra Salt Mine is located in the foothills of the Salt Range in the province of Punjab and is almost 184 kilometres away from the capital. Not only is it the country’s essential source of salt, but the site is also a major tourist attraction, with up to 240,000 visitors driving up to the mine each year. Once transported inside via carts, tourists can observe caves made completely of salt, a number of saltwater pools, and some miniature salt structures of important landmarks of the country. 

 

Khewra Salt Mine

Khewra Salt Mine. Image by Guilhem Vellut

  • Take a colourful boat ride on Saiful Muluk Lake.

 

The highest alpine lake in Pakistan, the mesmerizing green Saiful Muluk lake, sits at 3,200 meters tall in a valley above Narran, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and glaciers.

boat ride on Saiful Muluk Lake

Boat ride on Saiful Muluk Lake. Image by Mohsin Ali

 

Legend has it that a prince, Saif-ul-Malook, fell in love with a fairy princess here, and on a clear night, when the lake is like a mirror, the reflections of the stars twinkle on the surface like a magical parade.

Getting to the lake is not easy. It is a hot and sweaty two-hour hike up the mountain from Narran, or a hair-raising jeep drives up one of the world’s most dangerous roads.

 

Once you are there, however, you will be treated to pleasant temperatures, breathtaking views, and the chance to boat on the lake, ride a horse along its shore, or fish for trout. Should you catch one, the locals that live here will gladly cook for you. Where to stay in Narran

 

  • Mohenjo-Daro

 

History buffs will have a tough time passing up a chance to visit Mohenjo-Daro in the province Sindh, an archaeological site dating back to 2500 BCE. A comprehensive study and excavation of the area led to the conclusion that the mounds and ruins were once a part of the Indus Valley Civilisation, a contemporary of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Among other things, Mohenjo-Daro was constructed according to a grid plan, boasted an efficient water management system, and featured public baths – all of this is considered advanced urban planning and civil engineering well ahead of its time. The city was ultimately abandoned around 1900 BCE for unknown reasons and was not rediscovered until the year 1920s. Detailed excavation continued until the year1966, after which all in-depth archaeological work was halted due to damage inflicted by the extreme weather. Ancient Mohenjo-Daro was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1980 and can be visited via private transport, public bus, or weekly flights from Karachi.

Mohenjo Daro

Mohenjo Daro. Image by Saqib Qayyum

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