The roof of the world
Before you embark on the tedious task of purchasing tickets and booking hotels, know that two weeks is not enough to see all of Pakistan or even half of it. With this itinerary, one would be able to experience a small portion of the country’s top travel destinations which are mostly in the Northern and Northeastern regions.
But worry not, for the reason that these places are surely going to mesmerize you with their beauty, mystery, intrigue, and culture. In the past years, because of little tourism and development, most of Pakistan is quite non-commercial and unspoiled, giving travel lovers the opportunity to just meander and discover areas on their own ter
Lahore is Pakistan’s cultural hub. It’s one of the region’s oldest megacities, whose imperial history involves the rule of the Hindus, Ghaznavis, Ghauris, and Mughals. Eventually, the Persians captured it from the Mughals only to lose it to the Sikhs who were eventually defeated by the British. It’s a must to dedicate a day and a half to Lahore and check out its famous Badshahi and Wazir Khan mosques, Lahore Fort, Shalimar Gardens, and Sufi & Sikh shrines. At the end of day one, catch authentic Pakistani Punjabi cuisine at the old city food street.
We both book a late evening or night flight or even a late-night drive to Islamabad and use the morning to stroll around the Walled City area to see the heart of Lahore right in front of you. The old city of Lahore had 12 gates. Here you will see the congested market along with carts, stalls and shops located in narrow alleys within old 12 gates selling all kinds of products and services. Also worth visiting is the beautiful tomb of Jahangir built just outside. One can also visit the Pakistan-India border at Wagah where you see displays of marching armies and nationalistic crowds on both sides cheering them on. Next, get ready to arrive in a quiet and peaceful Islamabad. The time to commute overland to Islamabad is around 4 hours via motorway.
Depending on when you arrive you may want to catch dinner at the incredible Monal restaurant, with the view of the entire city or head on to catch a good night’s sleep. One can visit Shah Faisal mosque and the Pakistan Monument for some Instagram-worthy pictures and then head towards Daman-e-Koh, Pir Suhawa to explore the greenery of the city. Since flights to Gilgit are sometimes disrupted and even canceled due to weather, you may have to extend your stay or take a 15-20-hour road ride to Gilgit.
Gilgit is your gateway to the picturesque and wonderful north of Pakistan where the world’s mightiest three mountain ranges, namely the Himalayas, the Hindukush, and the Karakoram converge. Gilgit Valley and its surrounding areas are absolutely breathtaking. You could visit the sublime Fairy Meadows which is a lush green grassland at a two-hour distance, beside the stellar Nanga Parbat of the Himalayan range which reaches the height of 8,125 meters. We will spend half a day here relaxing in the pristine atmosphere. We also stop at the Gilgit Bridge which is suspended over the voracious Gilgit river. Do not neglect the Buddha statue called Kargah Buddha carved into the cliff. One can also visit Naltar valley with rest houses, ski slopes, small lakes and glaciers, and a lush green Alpine forest. Other attractions include Danyore, Bagrot, Nomal, and Oshikhandas valleys, which you can explore while using Gilgit as your base.
Approximately 75 km away from Gilgit there is a detour to Minapin, a simple but lovely village with spectacular mountain views of Rakaposhi. You will still enjoy the walk on the trek path and the views that surround you.
From Minapin, we go to the Hunza region, where Karimabad village is located. Here you will find yourself surrounded by skyscraping mountains, all being over 7,000 meters high. The atmosphere and culture are very laidback and liberal as most inhabitants of Karimabad are Ismailis. In Karimabad, we will visit the two historical forts of Altit and Baltit, which are popular cultural and tourist landmarks dating back centuries. After a few hours of wandering there, you can head to the Eagle’s Nest from where you can get an all-around panoramic view of the valley and the majestic Rakaposhi, Diran Peak, and Lady Finger Peak. Karimabad is perfect for day hikes and drives around the area to scenic spots like Passu Village and the mesmerizing, mysterious and beautiful Attabad Lake.
On day 10, we take an eight-hour drive on the fascinating route of Karakorum Highway from Karimabad to reach Skardu. Skardu is again an exceptionally beautiful town located at the union of River Shigar and Indus, which splits the Karakoram mountain range from the Himalayas. Skardu is very popular with tourists as it features four of the world’s 14 highest 8000+ peaks including K2. These mountains attract trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world. Skardu Fort is one of the main attractions here as it dates back to the 8th-century. Another spot worth visiting is the Shigar Fort, located in the valley of the mighty K2. Shigar Fort is around 400-years-old also known as Fong Khar, which translates in the local language to the Palace on the Rock.
We drive in a 4×4 to head outside Skardu towards the Deosai plains. The journey to the Deosai plains takes around three hours one way through paved and dirt roads. Satpara Lake is on the way here, at about 45 mins distance. Once in Deosai, you can take some rest by Schesoar Lake and just enjoy the view alongside food. When back in Skardu we visit the famous Shangri La or Lower Kachura Lake. There is an option to reach Islamabad via Deosai plains.
There is a one-hour flight that goes daily from Skardu to Islamabad. Islamabad will be your final destination and you could find your flight back to your next adventure from the Islamabad International airport. Time permitting one can visit the Lok Virsa or the Cultural Museum too.