Why do we visit Pakistan? Pakistan is a country of visit true natural beauty, home to some amazing mountain peaks, lush green landscapes, and archaeological sites for the truly curious. There isn’t much else one could ask for from the ultimate adventure destination but sadly (or thankfully for those lucky few) due to the amount of negative coverage Pakistan receives, it is still untouched by western tourism.
Wild Frontiers have a profound link with Pakistan. It was here, in the Northwestern Frontier, that our Founder Jonny Bealby devised the notion for the company in the late 1990s. Since then we have been to the uttermost parts of Pakistan in search of new adventures and experiences.
From those multiple excursions, we have collected together what we think are the top sites to visit in Pakistan. So, without further ado…
1. Bahawalpur: Visit Pakistan
Lying amongst the harsh expanses of the Cholistan Desert, close to the border with nearby India, Bahawalpur previously lay at the center of a princely state that constituted part of the Rajputana States that sprawled throughout Rajasthan in adjoining India. Ruled over by the Nawabs, the city is rich with an astonishing variety of monuments that date back to those golden days, including the Noor Mahal, the Farid Gate, and the royal tombs, situated amongst the imposing magnificence of the Derawar Fort, 100 km to the south. The stronghold itself dates back to the 9th century AD, it is spectacular 30 meter high walls including around 40 towering bastions that can be seen for miles across its desert landscape.
2. Chitral: Visit Pakistan
Nestled within a fertile valley beneath the massive Tirich Mir – at 7,700m the highest mountain in the Hindu Kush – Chitral Town is a lovely village, inhabited by friendly and hospitable people. A busy bazaar, many of the stalls and restaurants maintained by Afghan refugees, flows through its heart to the small airfield at one end and the polo field at the other. The old mud fort, a scene of the legendary British siege, still rest on the banks of the Chitral River near the Shahi Mosque. From here the hot springs of Garam Chashma, the Kalash Valleys, Mastuj, and the Shandor Pass are all accessible. Cut off as it is from the rest of the country by steep mountains, Chitral has acquired its very own particular feel and charm that you absolutely must experience for yourself.
3. Deosai National Park: Visit Pakistan
Renowned for its diverse flora and wildlife, the Deosai Plains lay along the alpine steppes of the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau. During the spring, these lush plains are coated in millions of beautiful wildflowers that draw a massive army of butterflies to their dazzling blooms. The highest plateau on the earth, stretching across almost 3,000 square kilometers, is at the boundary of the Karakoram and western Himalayan mountains and its exceptional biodiversity has won it the accolade of a national wilderness area. Established initially to protect the survival of the Himalayan brown bear, the park is also home to golden marmots, snow leopards, and giant flying lammergeiers.
4. Fairy Meadows: Visit Pakistan
Pakistan is blessed with areas of unmatched beauty and Fairy Meadows can easily be considered one of the most stunning destinations in the region and is an absolute must on the list of places to see in Pakistan. It involves a climb of around three hours but the views of Nanga Parbat, the 8,000m + Killer Mountain, are quite rewarding. You will have the best views of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows reclining peacefully in a warm log cabin.
5. Gilgit: Visit Pakistan
Gilgit, nestled within the Gilgit Baltistan area, is surely no postcard town. Encircled by towering black mountains it carries the unpleasant sensation of a place cut off from the rest of the world. However, since the completion of the Karakoram Highway and the Kunjarab Pass, the historic trade route between China and the subcontinent has flourished giving rise to a buzzing bazaar crammed with exotic items, animals and people. It is also a fantastic site to watch frontier polo, a wild version of the beautiful sport where few, if any, rules apply.
6. Hunza: Visit Pakistan
The area is known as Hunza is located on the ancient Silk Road to Kashgar and today the Karakoram Highway follows the same path, with Karimabad being the region’s principal town. This small, mountainous territory was, until recently, a semi-autonomous entity but is now entirely merged with Pakistan. It is named after Prince Karim Agha Khan, the spiritual head of the Shia Ismaili Nizari sect, and is one of the most beautiful locations of Pakistan. Cricket, Pakistan’s national sport, is regularly played in the streets and as the locals are known for their friendliness and hospitality you might be asked to take part in a few overs. The main language here is Brushuski however most people understand basic English and Urdu. The bulk of the region’s people is Ismaili Muslims.
7. Islamabad: Visit in Pakistan
Islamabad has been the capital of Pakistan since 1967 when it moved from Karachi. As a relatively young city compared with others in the country, Islamabad does suffer from being somewhat sterile and characterless, and in all honesty, is usually only used as a gateway to the rest of the country, but it is a good place from which to visit the bustling bazaars of Rawalpindi and the Buddhist ruins at Taxila and does boast some interesting sites such as the Faisal Mosque. As the capital and diplomatic headquarters of Pakistan, it is also home to some of the country’s greatest hotels and restaurants.
Pakistan’s most populated and most cosmopolitan metropolis, Karachi situated on the banks of the Arabian Sea. Home to two of the country’s busiest seaports, it began life as a fortified colony in the early years of the 18th century, before moving on to play a prominent part in British India before Partition. Today it enjoys a reputation as one of Pakistan’s most liberal and ethnically diverse towns and is host to an important collection of museums and shrines, including the National Museum of Pakistan, the Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the mausoleum of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. A little distance from the city you’ll discover the World Heritage treasures of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta and one of the largest necropolis sites in the world, Makli Hill.
Khaplu is a charming village just a few kilometers east of Skardu with picturesque terraced fields growing all sorts of crops. Khaplu was once a great and affluent country and the Khaplu Palace was once the residential fort of the local ruler. Recently the Aga Khan showed interest in the palace, which has since been restored into an amazing hotel where our guests will stay.
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10. Khunjerab Pass
The highest point on the famous Karakoram Highway and the highest paved border crossing in the world, the Khunjerab Pass is at a towering 4,693 meters, spanning the borders between Pakistan and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. Located amongst some of the most spectacular mountain landscapes on the planet, the pass, which was completed in 1982, links the barren wastes of Pakistan’s desert gorges with the fertile high altitude plateau of the Chinese side, where grazing herds of yaks and sheep live amongst the local populations of Tajik herders.
Other than the many important historical sites, this city, the second-largest in Pakistan, is also recognized for its exquisite gardens set out during the Moghal Empire and the British Raj. Its faded elegance, busy streets and bazaars, and a great variety of Islamic and British architecture make it a city full of character, contrast, and surprise. The residents of Lahore, when they want to emphasize the uniqueness of their town, quite simply state – “Lahore is Lahore”. The medieval capital of Punjab for a thousand years, it has been the cultural core of Northern India ranging from Peshawar to New Delhi.
With a history that spans back millennia, Larkana is home to the historic site of Mohenjo-Daro, once one of the greatest settlements of the Bronze Age civilization that occupied the Indus Valley circa 2500 BC. Occupying a rich plain that once saw it called the “Garden of Sindh”, the city has in recent years been better renowned for its link with the prominent Bhutto family (Zulfikar Ali and Benazir Bhutto are both buried here) (Zulfikar Ali and Benazir Bhutto are both buried here). It is its historic antecedents that interest the visitors nevertheless, in especially the neighboring location of Mohenjo-Daro (Mound of the Dead) (Mound of the Dead). Once the most advanced metropolis of its day, and occupying approximately 300 hectares, now the site is recognized as one of the best-preserved urban settlements anywhere in South Asia.
Amongst the fertile plains that are irrigated by the waters of the Chenab River, Multan’s history reaches back through antiquity. Besieged by Alexander the Great and conquered by the Arabs under Muhammad bin Qasim in the 8th century, it was once one of the most significant commerce towns in medieval Islamic India. During the 11th and 12th centuries, it attracted Sufi mystics from across the region, to such a degree that the city went on to earn the moniker of “City of Saints”. Today it is home to a staggeringly rich array of Sufi shrines, including those of Bahauddin Zikria, Shah Rukn-i-Alam, and Shams Tabriz, the latter of whom is said to have been the spiritual teacher of Rumi himself.
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