In the northwestern region of Pakistan lies the remote and peaceful valley of Chitral. Lying in the midst of Hindukush Range, it is one of the world's most beautiful regions. Chitral offers enchanting scenery in the shadow of majestic Trich Mir, which, at 7,708m is the highest peak of Hindukush Ranges. The people of Chitral, the 'Kho', show traces of Persian and Turkish ancestry. They are known for their peaceful, uncomplicated character and unique culture.
Chitral is more famous, however, for the Kalash people who inhabit the southwestern part of the region. The 'Kalash Country' is spread over three Valleys; Bomboret, Birir and Rumbur. The Kalash have always fascinated anthropologists and historians by their obscure origins, colourful festivals, and curious customs and rituals.
Another interesting place near Chitral is Birmoglasht, the summer residence of the former Mehters (rulers). About 45 Kms north of Chitral Town are the famous hot springs Garam Chashma, known for their curing properties. A day trip to Buni gives further interesting insights into Chitrali rural life, plus views of beautiful Bunizom Mountain.
Polo, the 'Game of the Kings' is best seen here in its land of origin. Played by skillful, daring participants in traditional style, Polo tournament is held every year in July near Chitral at Shandur Pass between Arch rivals Gilgit & Chitral.
Wildlife such as Marco Polo Sheep (ovis amon polis), Markhor or Ibex (caprafalconeri), Snow Leopard and Brown Bear are found in the heights of the Hindukush Mountains and are protected species.
Chitral is easily accessible by a 50-minute flight daily from Peshawar, or by road from Peshawar to Dir and then over the Lowari Pass (3,088m), a spectacular journey of approximately 15 hours.
The breath taking 60-minute flight from Islamabad to Gilgit through the majestic snowcapped Himalayas and mighty Karakorams is an exciting experience. The Himalayan & Karakoram region consists of several hundred peaks, sixty of which rise higher than 6,700m. Among these giants are the famous Nanga Parbat (8,125m), the ninth highest in the world, and K-2 Peak (8,611m), the second highest.
This is the land where lofty peaks tower above rich valleys and lakes of great scenic beauty; a paradise for the hikers, trekkers, anglers, mountaineers, adventurers, polo enthusiasts, nature lovers and those interested in observing exotic areas and life styles. The trip from Islamabad to Gilgit can also be done by road along the Karakorum Highway, which follows the route of the Indus River. This journey takes 14 hours and can be conveniently broken either at Besham and Chilas, where there is plenty of accommodation available.
Situated in the heart of the Karakorams, the legendary mountain kingdom of Hunza lies on the ancient trade route to Sinkiang; today the Karakoram Highway runs along this route. Very few places in the world compare with this small mountainous region, which was a semi autonomous state but is now fully unified with Pakistan. Hunza is an earthly paradise whose inhabitants are renowned for their longevity, their simplicity and natural diet. The scenic beauty of this area, with its greenery and snowbound mountains, makes it a true paradise. During the summer there is an abundance of apricots, peaches, pears and grapes. There are several glaciers and high peaks around Hunza, the most magnificent being Rakaposhi (7,788m). Hunza is also known for its unpolluted mountain air, which caused this area to be known as 'Shangri-La'. Karimabad is the main town of Hunza. The blossoming and autumn at Hunza are really worth seeing and attract thousands of tourists, especially from Japan.
One of the pleasures of visiting the Kaghan Valley is the picturesque drive from Rawalpindi to Abbottabad and onwards to Balakot, transferring to a four-wheel drive vehicle for the continuation of the journey to Naran, where the rest houses, hotels and motels are located. The Kaghan Valley is 154 Km long, rising to a height of 4,148m at Babusar Pass in the north. This is an ideal area for trekking and trout fishing and is a paradise for the botanist.
Lake Saif-ul-Muluk is one of the most popular scenic spots in the valley. This deep blue lake offers an awe-inspiring view of Mt. Malika Parbat - Queen of Mountains (5,291m). Shogran, Lake Lalusar and Babusar Pass are three places that make this Himalayan hideaway an unforgettable experience. The local people have retained their traditional hospitality and way of life. Time seems to stand still here when compared to the tumultuous roar of the nearby Kunhar River.
With one of the largest airports and well-equipped seaports of Southeast Asia, Karachi offers a variety of pleasant attractions. This cosmopolitan city is the most popular in Pakistan and presents an interesting combination of old & new, east and west. Within 02 centuries, Karachi has grown from a coastal fishing village to a large metropolis. Narrow twisting lanes and alleys of the old city throb with life alongside the wide roads and elegant modern buildings of the growing new township. With a population of over 120 millions, Karachi is the most important commercial and industrial center of Pakistan. Karachi offers wide sunny beaches, deep-sea fishing and yachting year round. The beautiful golden beaches of Sandspit and Hawkes Bay in their peaceful surroundings offer rest and relaxation with plenty of opportunities for water-skiing, yachting, cruising and picnicking. For the bird-watcher and the fisherman the mouth of the Indus River and Haleji and Kalri Lakes offer lots of interest.
Among the recently constructed landmarks of architectural interest are the Defense Mosque with its massive dome 63.6m in diameter; Hill Park; the Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Father of the Nation; and the Victorian Frere Hall, constructed of limestone and surrounded by Jinnah Gardens. Karachi offers easy connections to other places of archaeological interest such as Moenjodaro, Thatta, Chaukandi Tombs, Bhambore and Hyderabad. All these help make Karachi a pleasant attraction and a welcome stop during your visit to Pakistan.
The heart of Pakistan's culture lies in the 2,000-year-old city of Lahore. Lahore is many things - the City of Gardens and Flowers, the City of Dynasties, the City of Music and Art, the City of Famous Dead, the City of Moguls and of course the City of Festivals.
Lahore has experienced an eventful history. The first Muslim to conquer the city was Mahmud Ghaznavi in 1021 A.D. A long chain of conquerors followed this until the city passed to the Moguls in 1524 A.D. This was a time of resplendent glory for the city, and the historical monuments from this era include a masterpiece of leisure architecture - the Shalimar Gardens. Other famous landmarks are Lahore Fort, the huge Badshahi Mosque, the Mausoleums of Emperor Jehangir and Empress Nur Jehan, and the Kims Gun. Lahore also has, place of historical interest from others eras, which include Wazir Khan's Mosque, the Golden Mosque, Chauburji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Samadhi, the Pakistan Day Memorial, Bagh-e-Jinnah, and the Lahore Zoo - a zoological and botanical garden. The city and its surroundings are deeply associated with incident legendary lore and have witnessed momentous events from pre-historic times. The archaeological site of Harappa, 205 Km from Lahore, dates from 2,500 B.C. and was an important settlement of the Indus Valley civilization.
Today, Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan and the principal cultural and academic center, with the oldest university in the country. Its three bazaars are all equally renowned; the Mall, a tree-lined boulevard with modern shops; the Anarkali Bazaar, named after the court dancer who was the beloved courtesan of the Mogul King Jehangir; and the Kashmiri Bazaar, situated deep in the walled city area. There is always a lot to see and do in Lahore.
Multan is probably the oldest living city in South Asia. Popularly known as the 'City of Saints', it lies on the main route taken by almost all invaders of the sub-continent. It has born the impact of many armies since the Greek invasions of Alexander the Great in 327 B.C. It is an ancient city noted for its antiquity as well as its spiritual and cultural traditions, elaborately decorated shrines and attractive handicrafts. The old fort near the city is worth a visit and has a number of shrines, the most prominent being those of Hazrat Bahuddin Zakriya, Shah Shams Tabriz and Shah Rukn-e-Alam. It also has the distinction of being the birthplace of Mohammad Tughlaq, Emperor Bahlol Lodhi and Ahmed Shah Abdali, three noted men of Pakistan's history.
Multan is also famous for its cottage industries such as tile work, enamellings, silk, camel skin lamps, and carpet weaving.
An ancient city of Central Asia, Peshawar is situated at the mouth of the historic Khyber Pass. Set in a valley of colours and flowers, this legendary city has many secrets. Her story is one of many cultures, people, traditions and customs, and even today the aura of oriental romance and mystery has been preserved. Wherever you go the Pathans of Peshawar greet you with their traditional hospitality. It is here that the famous Khattak Sword Dance is performed. The movement back and forth in a circle, the bright colourful dresses and sparkling flashes of the swords is an unforgettable experience, treasured by all who witness it.
There is a lot to see in Peshawar. The historic Khyber Pass begins just 18 Kms west of the city. The archaeological sites at Takht-e-Bhai, Charsadda and Shah-ji-ki-Dheri recall the ancient glories of this region from the Gandhara period to Greco-Buddhist civilization (3rd to 5th century B.C.). Bala Hisar Fort and Jamrud Fort symbolize the historic and strategic importance of this area while the Kohat Pass (65 Km from Peshawar) is renowned for the gun factories at Darra where handmade weapons, ranging from swords and daggers to gun and automatic rifles, are made.
While in Peshawar, one must visit the 300-year-old Mahabat Khan's Mosque, the Peshawar Museum with its wealth of archaeological relics and antiques and of course Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the famous story tellers' street.
The civilization of Baluchistan predates the Greco-Roman and Nile civilization, going back to 3500 B.C. Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan with an area of 347,190 sq km. The people here still wear their traditional costumes, which date back to centuries.
Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, has been witness to countless invasions of the sub-continent and retains the charm of pastoral peace that distinguishes it from other cities of comparable size. It is a picturesque hill station surrounded by high mountains intersected by long, narrow valleys linked by passes, among which the Bolan Pass is famous in history as many of the invaders from Central Asia penetrated the sub-continent through this route.
After the 13th century, the Moguls ruled Quetta until 1559 A.D. It later became a bone of contention between the Moguls and Safavid Kings of Iran until 1709, when Gilzais, Brahuis and Quarranis ruled it until the British finally occupied it in 1839.
Quetta is an ideal summer resort. Situated nearby is Ziarat, a beautiful valley with one of the largest juniper forests in the world, the average age of the trees being about 300 years. In addition to being a well-known summer resort, it is famous for its bracing climate and abundant supply of fruits.
Rawalpindi, or 'Pindi' as it is known, has grown in recent years from a small garrison town to a vital commercial and industrial center. The name Rawalpindi was derived from the Rawals, a tribe who had settled in this area. Situated on the Potohar Plateau, the area forms a natural strategic location and so, as early as the 19th century, Rawalpindi was converted into a garrison town, a tradition still upheld today.
Just 16 km northeast of Rawalpindi lies the new capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, which belongs to a small group of capital cities that have been entirely to plan. Other cities of this type include Washington, Brazilia and Canberra. World famous names in the field of town planning were behind the construction of Islamabad in the 1960's and 70's.
Among the places of interest in and around Rawalpindi-Islamabad, first and foremost is the excavated archaeological site of Taxila (32 km from Rawalpindi) that dates from the 06th century B.C. to the 05th century A.D. Situated at the foot of Murree Hills, Rawalpindi and Islamabad are linked by modern roads to Muree, Nathiagali, and Abottabad; hills stations which are popular tourist resorts. On the outskirts of Rawalpindi-Islamabad are Mangla and Tarbela Dams, both among the world's largest and well worth a visit.
In Rawalpindi the Army Museum located near the Mall is place of considerable interest. In Islamabad, the Shakarparian Hills offer a birds-eye view of the new capital city, whole nearby Rawal Lake, created by the construction of Rawal Dam, is favourite recreation spot. The Folk Heritage Museum in Islamabad has collected a wealth of traditional costumes, musical instruments and artifacts and is the largest of its kind in Pakistan.
Perched at an elevation of 2,286 m, Skardu is set in a landscape of towering mountains, deep gorges, resounding waterfalls, and calm, deep lakes. Skardu is the district headquarters of Baltistan with Xinjiang Province of China to the north, Kashmir to the south, Gilgit to the west and to the east the district of Ladakh in India.
Each summer Skardu offers a cool, bracing climate and is a mountaineer's paradise, attracting climbers and trekkers from all over the world. Nowhere else can one find such a large collection of lofty peaks including K-2, which at 8,611 m is rated as the second highest mountain in the world. Huge glaciers such as Baltoro, Biafo and Siachen, some of the largest in the world outside the Polar region, rest in this 16,283 sq. km area of the world.
In this district, there are five main valleys and two beautiful lakes, Satpara and Kachura, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Skardu is accessible by air or road from Rawalpindi & Gilgit.
The Swat Valley is the ancient Buddhist land of 'Udeyana' which served as a threshold to western Asia and China. Here was the sacred cradle of Buddhism, where fourteen hundred monasteries flourished at one time. This is the land where Alexander the Great fought and won some of his major battles and where Mahmood of Ghaznavi, Babar and Akbar the Great fought their fierce battles.
Most of all however, the Swat Valley is an enchanting land of magnificent scenic beauty; a lush green fertile valley, snow capped mountains, fruit laden orchards, and flower covered slopes washed by the smooth flowing Swat River. Excursions through the Swat Valley should include visits to places such as Saidu Sharif, Madyan, Bahrain, Kalam and of course the shopping town of Mingora.
Saidu Sharif is the administrative center of the Swat Valley. 13 km from Saidu Sharif, at Maraghzar, is Safed Mahal, a white marble palace built entirely of glittering marble and embellished with beautiful carvings. Winding past a road of extensive orange and olive groves and apple orchards, one comes to Madyan, 55 km from Saidu Sharif and 1,320 meters above sea level. Further north are the villages of Bahrain and Kalam. The myriad of streams and torrents, which tumble down into the embrace of the river, make trout fishing a common sport at Kalam and all along the Swat Valley.
Other beautiful spots in the Swat Valley are Miandam (2,072 m), Karakar Pass (1,335 m) Shangla Pass (2,132 m), and Yakh Tangi (2,090 m)