From the majestic mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Karakoram to the lush valleys of Hunza and Swat, Pakistan’s natural beauty is nothing short of a visual feast for the eyes. Whether you’re an avid trekker or someone who enjoys serene landscapes, Pakistan has something to offer. Walk through the gates of Lahore Fort, or stand in awe before the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-Daro. The country’s rich historical background is reflected in its architecture, traditional dances, and local customs. The diversity in culture across different regions is a testament to its varied historical influences.
Why Visit Pakistan?
Untouched Natural Beauty
Immerse yourself in awe-inspiring landscapes ranging from towering mountain peaks in the Himalayas and Karakoram to the picturesque valleys of Hunza and Swat. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates stunning natural vistas, Pakistan has a wealth of options to explore.
Rich History and Culture
Step back in time as you wander through Lahore Fort or marvel at the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-Daro. Pakistan is a treasure trove of historical and cultural landmarks, reflecting a rich tapestry of past civilizations and diverse cultural influences. Each region offers its own unique traditions and history, making it a captivating destination for cultural exploration.
Experience the genuine warmth and friendliness that the Pakistani people are renowned for. Regardless of where you go—be it a bustling city center or a secluded mountain village—you will find locals eager to welcome you into their community with open arms and heartfelt smiles.
Top Destinations in Pakistan
Northern Areas: Hunza and Skardu
Known as the “Heaven on Earth,” the Northern Areas of Pakistan are a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Between Hunza’s enchanting lakes and Skardu’s rugged mountains, you’ll find a range of outdoor activities, from trekking and rock climbing to peaceful orchard walks. These regions also boast ancient forts and Buddhist monasteries, adding a touch of history to your natural exploration.
Historical Cities: Lahore and Multan
Lahore, often referred to as the “Heart of Pakistan,” is a pulsating city filled with iconic historical landmarks like the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque. The city’s vibrant street markets and culinary scene add layers to its rich cultural fabric. Multan, another gem, offers a spiritual respite with its ancient shrines, tombs, and handicraft shops. Known as the “City of Saints,” Multan provides a serene counterpoint to Lahore’s bustling atmosphere.
Coastal Beauty: Karachi
Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub, offers more than just a busy urban lifestyle. The city is home to some of the country’s most popular beaches, including Clifton Beach and Hawksbay. These coastal spots are frequented by both locals and tourists seeking a break from city life, offering a unique blend of relaxation and excitement.
Frontier Territories: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
For those who crave adventure and wish to venture off the beaten path, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the frontier to explore. Renowned for its rugged terrains and breathtaking scenic spots like Kumrat Valley, this area provides an immersive experience into the wild and untamed parts of Pakistan.
Desert Landscapes: Thar and Cholistan
If sandy dunes and desert landscapes capture your imagination, don’t miss out on the Thar and Cholistan deserts. With their unique ecosystems and cultural significance, these arid regions offer a very different but equally enchanting side of Pakistan. Experience camel safaris, gaze at the stars, and learn about the indigenous communities that call these deserts home.
Spiritual Retreats: Sufi Shrines
Pakistan is also home to numerous Sufi shrines scattered throughout the country, from the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh to Data Darbar in Lahore. These spiritual places offer a glimpse into the mystical and soulful aspects of Pakistani culture.
Adventure Sports: Swat and Neelum Valley
For adrenaline junkies, Swat and Neelum Valley are the go-to spots for adventure sports such as paragliding, whitewater rafting, and zip-lining. Amidst the backdrop of stunning valleys and rushing rivers, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to satisfy your thirst for adventure.
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore
This iconic mosque is one of the largest and most magnificent in the world. Its stunning Mughal architecture and expansive courtyard are must-see attractions when visiting Lahore.
Fairy Meadows, Near Nanga Parbat
Often cited as one of the most beautiful places on earth, Fairy Meadows offers a spectacular view of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest mountain. It’s a popular destination for trekking, camping, and photography.
One of the world’s earliest major cities, Mohenjo-Daro is an archaeological wonder. The ancient ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into the Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 2600 BCE.
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore
Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the Shalimar Gardens are a testament to Mughal horticulture and design. The three-level terraced garden is a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling city of Lahore.
Murree Hills, Punjab
Popular among both local and international tourists, Murree Hills offers a cool respite from the summer heat. The area is known for its scenic beauty, high pine trees, and high-altitude meadows.
Hingol National Park, Balochistan
The largest national park in Pakistan, Hingol National Park is known for its diverse range of wildlife and unique geological features, including the stunning Princess of Hope rock formation.
Saiful Mulook Lake, Kaghan Valley
Located at an altitude of 3,224 meters above sea level, Saiful Mulook Lake is one of the highest and most beautiful lakes in Pakistan. The lake is accessible only during the summer months and offers stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Ranikot Fort, Sindh
Often referred to as the “Great Wall of Pakistan,” Ranikot Fort has a circumference of over 32 kilometers, making it one of the largest forts in the world. The fort’s remote location and mysterious origins add to its allure.
Khunjerab Pass, Hunza Valley
Situated on the northern border between Pakistan and China, Khunjerab Pass is the world’s highest paved international border crossing. It’s a popular spot for tourists driving along the scenic Karakoram Highway.
Clifton Beach, Karachi
A popular destination for families and tourists alike, Clifton Beach offers a range of activities, from camel and horse riding to local food stalls. The beach is especially lively during the evenings and weekends.
Each of these attractions presents a unique facet of Pakistan’s diverse landscape and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, history enthusiast, or someone in search of spiritual fulfillment, these must-visit attractions offer a little something for everyone.
Travel Tips and Safety
Currency and Banking
The official currency of Pakistan is the Pakistani Rupee, often abbreviated as PKR. It’s advisable to carry some local currency with you for small purchases, although credit and debit cards are widely accepted in major cities. ATMs are readily available, but it’s good practice to carry cash when traveling to remote areas. The central bank code for the Pakistani Rupee is 586 as designated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Pakistani Rupee current exchange rates
- 10.000 PKR = $35.19 or $1 = 284.16 Pakistani Rupee
- 10.000 PKR = €32.63 or €1 = 306.44 Pakistani Rupee
- 10.000 PKR = 27.97 British Pounds
- 10.000 PKR = 53.26 Australian Dollar
- 10.000 PKR = 47.77 Canadian Dollar
- 10.000 PKR = 366.60 Swedish Krona
- 10.000 PKR = 141.49 Polish Zloty
- 10.000 PKR = 794.64 Czech Koruna
- 10.000 PKR = 46,115.70 South Korean Won
- 10.000 PKR = 251.34 Chinese Yuan
- 10.000 PKR = 5,082.97 Japanese Yen
Before traveling to Pakistan, it’s recommended to consult your healthcare provider for any necessary vaccinations and to carry any prescribed medications. Also, consider carrying a basic first-aid kit with essentials like antiseptics, band-aids, and pain relievers.
Local Customs and Etiquette
Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, and it’s essential to be aware of local customs and religious practices, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Dressing modestly is advisable, particularly for women, and always ask for permission before taking photographs of people.
Public transportation options are available but can be crowded. For a more comfortable experience, consider hiring a private car or using ride-sharing services, which are quite prevalent in big cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.
While English is widely understood in urban areas and by people in the tourism industry, Urdu is the national language. Learning a few basic phrases in Urdu can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable and interactive.
Pakistan has made significant strides in improving its security situation, particularly in tourist areas. However, it’s always prudent to check the latest travel advisories and stay updated on local news. Always keep emergency numbers and the contact information of your country’s embassy handy.
Food and Water
Street food is a must-try experience in Pakistan, but if you have a sensitive stomach, it may be best to stick to well-known restaurants. Always drink bottled or boiled water to avoid waterborne diseases.
Local Cuisine to Try
This aromatic and colorful rice dish is a staple in Pakistani cuisine. Made with Basmati rice, meat, and a medley of spices, Biryani is often served at celebrations and gatherings. Variants include chicken, mutton, and even fish Biryani.
A slow-cooked stew of meat, Nihari is a popular dish, especially in the colder months. It’s traditionally eaten as a breakfast item but can be enjoyed at any time of the day. The rich, flavorful broth is typically served with naan or steamed rice.
This is a hearty, wholesome dish made by slow-cooking wheat, barley, lentils, and meat (usually chicken or beef). Spiced with a blend of traditional herbs, it’s a comfort food enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Originating from the Pashtun regions, Chapli Kebab is a minced meat kebab that’s shallow-fried. The meat is usually mixed with various spices and herbs, making it a flavorful option for meat lovers.
A traditional dish made of mustard greens, spinach, or other leafy vegetables, Saag is a nutritious and flavorful choice. It’s usually served with makki di roti, a type of cornbread.
This is a classic curry dish that includes meat (usually mutton or chicken) and potatoes. The curry is moderately spiced and is a staple in most Pakistani households.
These are deep-fried fritters made from gram flour and can include various ingredients like potatoes, onions, or even spinach. They are a popular snack, especially during the monsoon season.
This traditional yogurt-based drink is a staple in Pakistani cuisine. It can be sweet or salty and is often flavored with fruits or spices. Lassi is particularly refreshing during the hot summer months.
This is a traditional South Asian ice cream that comes in various flavors like mango, pistachio, and saffron. It’s denser than typical ice creams and offers a unique, creamy texture.
The cuisine of Pakistan is as diverse as its landscape and culture, offering a variety of flavors and textures that are sure to delight any palate. From rich curries and meaty kebabs to refreshing drinks and sweet treats, the local cuisine offers a myriad of culinary experiences to enjoy.
How to Get Around
For long distances, especially between major cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, domestic flights are the fastest and most convenient option. Several airlines operate within Pakistan, offering frequent and relatively affordable flights.
The train network in Pakistan is extensive and offers a scenic way to travel, especially for routes that traverse the countryside. However, the trains might not be as fast or punctual as flights. Advance booking is recommended.
Buses and Coaches
For inter-city travel, buses and coaches are widely available. Luxury coaches offer amenities like air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and refreshments, providing a more comfortable travel experience. Local buses are more basic but are a cost-effective way to get around.
Metro and Local Trains
In cities like Lahore and Islamabad, metro bus services are available, offering a quick and cheap way to traverse the city. Karachi has a local train network, although it’s not commonly used by tourists.
Taxis and Ride-Sharing Services
Taxi services are available throughout the country, and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem are operational in larger cities. They offer a convenient, safe, and affordable means of transport, especially for short distances.
If you prefer the freedom to explore at your own pace, car rentals are available in most major cities and airports. Keep in mind that driving in Pakistan might be different from what you’re accustomed to, so take local driving habits and road conditions into consideration.
Rickshaws and Tuk-Tuks
In many cities and towns, auto-rickshaws and tuk-tuks are a common means of transport for short distances. They are an inexpensive way to get around but might not be the most comfortable option for everyone.
In some tourist-friendly areas like Hunza Valley, bicycles are available for rent. They offer a pleasant way to explore the local scenery, although they’re best suited for relatively flat terrains.
Walking is a viable option in some areas, especially in smaller towns and tourist spots. It’s a great way to take in the local atmosphere, but be cautious of traffic and always follow pedestrian rules.
- Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) – Official website for tourism in Pakistan, offering information on destinations, attractions, and travel tips.
- TripAdvisor’s Pakistan Page – A popular travel forum where you can read reviews and get recommendations on hotels, restaurants, and attractions in Pakistan.
- Skyscanner – A travel search engine for booking flights to and within Pakistan. Compare prices from various airlines to find the best deals.
- Booking.com’s Pakistan Hotels – A reliable resource for booking hotels, guesthouses, and hostels throughout Pakistan.
- Lonely Planet’s Pakistan Guide – Offers comprehensive guides, tips, and itineraries for traveling in Pakistan.
- PakWheels – Useful for those looking to rent a car, offering information on car rentals and road conditions in Pakistan.
- Travel Insurance Direct – A site where you can compare and purchase travel insurance plans, especially useful given the varying safety conditions in Pakistan.
- Pakistani Weather Updates – Official website for the Pakistan Meteorological Department, providing accurate weather forecasts.
- Rozee.pk – While primarily a job portal, it also has a section for short-term gigs and opportunities, useful for those looking to work or volunteer during their stay.
- Couchsurfing in Pakistan – A community of locals and travelers offering free accommodation and cultural exchange.
- Local Transport Information – Information on the ride-sharing service Careem, widely used for short distances in big cities.
- Pakistan Railways – Official website for Pakistan Railways, providing schedules, fare information, and online booking options.
From its awe-inspiring landscapes and rich cultural heritage to its mouthwatering cuisine and diverse transportation options, Pakistan offers a unique travel experience for adventurers, history buffs, and foodies alike. Whether you’re scaling the heights of the Karakoram Range, delving into the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-Daro, or savoring a plate of spicy Biryani, your trip to Pakistan promises to be unforgettable.