Pakistan may be in the news for all of the wrong reasons, but you just have to scratch the surface of things to realise that the country is a heaven for tourists. The adventurous tourist as well as the more relaxed, luxury-favoring traveller will find that there is plenty to do in this country of over 170 million. Boasting deserts, one of the world’s major rivers, over one hundred mountains 7000 m or higher (including the second highest mountain in the world) and humming cities, Pakistan is definitely a country worth seeing.
How to Get to Pakistan
You will find that the easiest way to get to Pakistan is to fly into one of its three major cities: Karachi, Islamabad or Lahore. Most travel websites now provide services to Pakistan and can calculate the cheapest deals for you online. You may also want to visit the national airline’s website, since their flights do not show up on online travel sites. You may have to stop over once before reaching Pakistan, if you’re flying from North America. Be prepared for a long journey, and jet lag, but remember that within a few days you should be in good shape to truly exploit what the country has to offer. Most flights that originate in Europe fly directly to Pakistan. A quick internet search along the lines of “Pakistan embassy” followed by your country name will let you know visa details and whether or not you need a visa. Most nationals do require a tourist visa to enter Pakistan.
Karachi – From Food to Forests
Karachi is one of the world’s major cities, in terms of economic importance and population. It consistently ranks in the top 20 of the world’s metropolitan areas by population. It is Pakistan’s largest city, and rests by the Arabian Sea. If you fly in to Karachi, and want to take a connecting flight deeper north into the country – say to Lahore, or Islamabad – stay a few days in Karachi before doing so. Enjoy Karachi’s numerous beaches. Try getting a hotel that is close to the beach so that you can saunter down and enjoy a camel ride anytime of the day! Restaurants dot all of the major beaches, and you can enjoy both local and international fare. The city boasts many international food chains, both of the fast food and more upscale variety. If you are a nature lover, do visit Karachi’s mangrove tree forests. You can take a half hour long boat ride into regions of the mangrove tree forest that are absolutely spell binding. The World Wildlife Foundation has dolphin watching trips that are delightful. If you’re a shopper, be sure to hit the Clifton area of Karachi, which boasts at least two major malls each with upwards of five hundred shops.
World Wildlife Foundation Pakistan For dolphin watching information
Getting Around Pakistan
Once you are in a city, getting around by taxi is the cheapest option. You can also rent chauffeured cars for very reasonable prices if you prefer something more upscale to a basic taxi. Be sure to negotiate prices well beforehand, as taxis in Pakistan aren’t metered and you do not want to be fleeced like many other unsuspecting tourists! If you land in Karachi, you will have to take a flight to Lahore or Islamabad if you wish to explore the northern regions of the country. To really get the flavor of Pakistan, chalk out your trip such that you wind your way up from Karachi, to Lahore, to Islamabad, and finally to the mountainous area of Pakistan which is absolutely breathtaking.
Lahore – A well-preserved Cultural Hub
Lahore is a city that will blow you away with its rich cultural history. The “old city” area of Lahore boasts a mosque and a fort built during the time that the Mughal Dynasty ruled the subcontinent. Yes, these buildings are built by the same family that built the famous Taj Mahal! The Lahore Fort features the famous Hall of Mirrors, and it is, along with the Shalamar Gardens a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to visit the Lahore Museum, and see the very canon that was featured in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim. The Quaid e Azam Library is another place to visit. It is not for the book lover alone: its architecture and grounds take you back to the time of the British Raj, when it was made. Lahore cannot be done justice to in so few words. Before you visit the city, look it up online, and purchase one of the many tourist books that have been published about this sumptuous cultural hub.
Islamabad – The Greenest City in Pakistan
Islamabad is only a four hour bus ride away from Lahore, and a popular destination in itself. It also serves as a halfway point for tourists making their way to the northern areas. As the capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad is hub for foreigners. Nestled in the foothills of the Margalla Hills, Islamabad is one of Pakistan’s greenest and most beautiful cities. It does not have the same reputation as Lahore and Karachi for being a bustling hub. It is a slower paced, leisurely city. You have your choice of five star hotels to stay at. There are also cheaper alternatives. Be sure to take a trip into the Margalla Hills, and watch the sun set and the city come to light. Islamabad is home to many small coffee shops and bakeries, and is an excellent city to visit after experiencing the fast paced life of a Lahori or Karachiite. Rawal Lake is a beautiful spot to visit before heading north.
The Winding Mountains of Murree
Five of the fourteen highest mountains in the world can be found in Pakistan. Pakistan’s true Northern Areas are the destination of choice for many serious adventurers, who often start in Pakistan and wind their way through India and Nepal, viewing some of the highest mountains in the world. If you are not in for the long haul so to speak, you can join others such as yourself and visit hill stations such as Murree. Murree features plenty of walking options through mountain pine dotted pathways, but it also features the amenities of settled life. It gives you the perfect blend of city and mountain life. If you go in the winter, you’ll have plenty of snowfall to witness. Summer is beautiful in Murree, but even summer nights tend to get chilly.
Weather Info for Pakistan
If you do not particularly wish to travel deep into the Himalayan region of Pakistan, do not pick the summer to travel to Pakistan. Summer in Pakistan is hot, and unless you’re native to the region, you are bound to be uncomfortable in heat that is often humid. There is a pretty heavy monsoon season, and unless you’re looking forward to deluges, spring is the prettiest time to visit the country. You can visit most of the foothills of Pakistan’s north in the winter and spring time, including hill stations that still look much as they did during the time of British rule when they set up quaint rest houses and messes among the mountains. If you want to ski, or do some serious mountain climbing though, summer is the best time to visit Pakistan, because that is when roads to the deep north will be open. Pakistan’s seasons vary greatly, and there is no one median temperature, so plan your clothing according to what time of year you will be visiting.
Remember, be sure to
- Visit the beaches of Karachi
- Visit the walled city of Old Lahore
- Have a meal in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills
- Visit the hill station of Murree
- And, if you can make it further north, take in first hand views of some of the highest mountains in the world!
Plan ahead, book your flights, and have a great trip!