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Ultimate Guide to Pakistan - Where urban landscapes blend against the mesmerizing natural panoramas

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A land abundantly blessed with idyllic natural landscapes and historical sites that arrest the attention and grip the imagination-Pakistan is a country that never fails to surprise and stagger those who visit it. Renowned for its unique geographical place on the map, and staggeringly breathtaking mountain landscapes which offer an exquisite panorama against the background of desert forts and verdant rolling hills, Pakistan is home to the five of the highest peaks in the world. The medley of rivers and fields, thundering waterfalls, pristine glaciers, lush forests, unclimbed peaks, and enchanting landscapes beckon every intrepid traveler to explore Pakistan's untainted natural beauty and discover its treasure trove of nature's rare gifts.

Facts about Pakistan

Cultural diversity


The four provinces in Pakistan are as diverse and heterogeneous in their cultures, cuisines, traditions, physical traits, dialects as the four directions on the compass. This miscellany in culture sources from the variety in ethnicity in the four provinces and the culture and traditions are a potpourri of the Indian, Persians, Afghani, and Western Asian values and heritage.


Pakistan is home to over 15 chief ethnic groups which hail from Indus Valley and reach out as far as Africa and Tibet. Pakistan has a phenomenal assortment of diverse lifestyles and traditions under one umbrella of a consolidated culture that offers its visitors a grand cultural experience.

Geography


The geostrategic importance of the geographical location of Pakistan is determined by its neighboring countries. Pakistan shares its borders with Iran on the west side, Afghanistan on the northwest side, China on the northeast side, India on its east, and the Arabian Sea fringing on the south. Pakistan covers a total land area of about 803,940 square kilometers.

Languages


Although there are more than 300 dialects rampant in Pakistan, Urdu has been given the status of the national language and English has been labeled as the official language. Besides Urdu, Balochi, Pashto, Sindhi and Punjabi languages are predominantly spoken in their respective provinces.

Religion


The official religion of Pakistan is Islam. The minorities practice Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, and other religions too.

Visa info


You will need to apply for an electronic authorization or visa to travel to Pakistan. Pakistan's government has offered the facility of issuing visas online to a large number of people which depends on the reason for travel. Many people hailing from different nationalities are eligible to get visas on arrival.
Pakistan e-Visas are issued covering a duration of three months which can then be extended to six months accordingly. However, Pakistan Visas that are issued upon arrival have a time span of 30 days and this duration cannot be extended.


There are other different types of visas available which are dependent upon the objective of travel.

Is travel insurance necessary when visiting Pakistan?


Travel insurance is integrated of two principal factors which include medical/ health insurance and travel inconvenience insurance plan. Travel insurance plan ensures that in case of medical emergency like getting hurt, sick, or suffering from some injury during travel, the medical costs will be taken care of by the insurance company.


All the travel insurance plans are designed to take care of your unforeseen medical emergencies while you are on the trip. However, the insurance plan will not cover any pre-existing conditions and maternity expenses.


Although getting a travel insurance plan is not mandatory when traveling to Pakistan, it is recommended to get one before traveling to Pakistan. This will save you from unpredictable financial expenses related to health while on the trip.

Best cosmopolitan cities to visit:

Karachi


Deemed to house more Pashtu people than Peshawar, and a home to millions of Bengalis, Afghanis, Iranians, Palestinians, and Burmese, Karachi accommodates nearly all the ethnic groups hailing from varied backgrounds.


The vibrant city of Karachi is also a shopper's paradise where every commodity is available at an affordable range in the infinite markets which are crowded by day and night equally.
This dynamic and cosmopolitan city continues to enthrall the visitors because of the diverse cultural scene, the economic potency, and the contemporary lifestyle. In addition to this, the iconic attractions of the city like the historical sites, the warm and sandy beaches, and the rich and sumptuous food streets add a wow factor to Karachi.

We have your complete guide to Karachi prepared for you, just click on the link below.

The salty, spicy yet sumptuous cuisine of Karachi is coveted all over the world. Karachi is home to innumerable classy eateries and luxurious restaurants which not only serve desi nouvelle cuisines but international favorites too.


For those who are new to Karachi, the vibrant nightlife of this busy metropolis, the hustle and bustle of the bazaars and malls, and the rich flavors of the recipes will take them on a rollercoaster ride of euphoric sentiments and captivating encounters.

Islamabad


For those seeking a tranquil and peaceful stay in a booming metropolis, the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad offers a serene getaway. The green city located on the Potohar Plateau is laced with clean and wide roads and encompassed with lush foliage.


Islamabad is home to popular attractions which include cultural heritage sites like the Pakistan Monument Museum, Lok Virsa Museum, and the Shah Faisal Mosque. Hiking trails along the luxuriantly verdant Margalla hills snake their way upwards towards the Monal restaurant. This high-end restaurant offers the visitors not only a fine dining experience but unlocks the splendid vista by offering you a bird's eye view of the city.


Islamabad is dotted with high-end restaurants and budget-friendly eateries offering a rich cuisine that not only satiates the tastebuds but sparks the yearning to come back again. The medley of cuisines served across Islamabad includes continental, Chinese, Pakistani, Italian, and American dishes.
Interspersed with trees and forests, Islamabad is home to Lake View Park and Shakarparian which is a famous tourist spot. Islamabad is the getaway to the enchanting northern areas and the tourists who wish to travel to ascending heights and saunter across the ethereal landscapes of the north make a stop in this city.

Lahore


Lahore which is the second-largest city of Pakistan is one of the oldest cities in South Asia. Steeped in rich history and unfolding tales of its anarchy by various emperors, it is a city that manifests the archaic architectural wonders that depict the fascinating culture and heritage of Pakistan. Significant markers which shouldn't be missed at any cost when visiting Lahore are the Royal Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Shalimar Garden, Minar-e-Pakistan, and Masjid Wazir Khan.


Lahore, which is a fashion hub and shopaholics paradise is speckled with a wide array of shopping destinations that integrate high-end malls and exquisite designer stores to antiquated bazaars like Anarkali Bazaar and Liberty Markets. Visitors can acquire traditional products that range from crockery to clothing and shoes and everything in between in these bazaars.


The Food Street in Lahore is one of its kind granting the visitors a top-notch taste of assorted cuisines that will compel them to visit the city again. The plethora of restaurants, eateries, bakeries, and traditional sweet shops ensure that the visitors attain a premium dining experience.

Some Important Things to Know

How to travel inside Pakistan?


Flying is the fastest way to travel within Pakistan. Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are home to the three main international airports of the country and are the principal gateways to other destinations. In addition to these, few other cities are also home to an airbase so travelers can save hours traveling long routes. Smaller cities are only accessible through trains, buses or cars.


Traveling in the Korean air-conditioned Daewoo bus remains the second most reliable form of transportation within the cities. Other bus companies with more economical tickets are also a preferable option for most people. For shorter distances, minivans and coasters fare well.


Traveling by train for long distances is also a prevalent alternative as trains are cheaper than air travel and are more comfortable than buses.

Hotels


An average hotel rate for an individual would be around $51 for a night in the northern cities of Pakistan.

However the prices for different type of hotels are as under:


A one-star hotel would charge $13 for one night.
A two-star hotel would charge $26 for one night.
A three-star hotel would charge $30 for one night.
A four-star hotel would charge $49 for one night.
A five-star hotel would charge $60 for one night.


However, the prices of the hotels of cities with a lower tourist percentage will be lower in comparison to hotels in the northern areas as these are flocked annually by hundreds of tourists.

Top destinations to visit in the four provinces:


Pakistan is constituted of four provinces and each province is laden with natural landscapes that are resplendent and enchanting. From ice-capped mountains to hidden villages and ornate mosques to surreal lakes and national parks each province exhibits a natural beauty galore that cannot be defined in words.

Top Destinations in Southern & Central Region

Mohenjo-Daro


This ancient civilization was unearthed in the early 1900s, after which excavation of the place and intensive study in the historic site ensued. The conclusion of the research proved that the excavated grounds were part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Mohenjo-Daro has been scribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and its significance stems from its historical importance. This popular historical site is a must-see destination, especially for history buffs.

Ranikot Fort


Located in the Jamshoro District of Sindh and labeled as The Great Wall of Sindh, Ranikot Fort is deemed to be the largest fort in the world. Although the dimensions of the fort are truly awe-inspiring, little is known of its history and the purpose of its construction as the outer wall isn't a protective barrier and is built in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, it is an impressive site to visit.

Badshahi Masjid


This fifth largest mosque in the world, the Badshahi mosque is a living testament to the opulence and elegance of the Mughal era. This majestic architectural achievement narrates the anecdotes of the opulence of the bygone era. The red sandstone façade, the intricate paneling and carving inside the mosque, the three majestic marble domes, and the expansive courtyard grant unparalleled beauty to the mosque, making it one of the most visited places in Lahore in Punjab. This historic monument is a UNESCO World Heritage site and can house up to 10,000 worshippers.

Wagah-Attari border


One of the noteworthy destinations which is just 24 km far from Lahore is the Wagah-Attari Border where the border forces in their respective uniforms hailing from both countries exhibit a stand-off dance which is truly beguiling to look at. The flag-raising and lowering ceremony in the beating retreat ceremony on the border is a crowd-puller and a must-watch when you visit Lahore. It is a place that evokes patriotism and is an icon of national pride.

The highlights of Northern Areas

Babusar Pass


Reaching an elevation of about 4131 m, this hair-pinned road is one of the most dangerous in the world. The Pass connects Gilgit with KPK province. This road is only open from mid-June till September because in the winter months the road is blocked due to landslides and snow. The Babusar route is a lush green track that connects KPK with other cities:

Balakot


This city in KPK province is the gateway leading to Naran and Babusar Pass with River Kunhar as its major highlight.

Naran Kaghan


The breathtaking beauty and the unmatched panorama of the Naran valley nestled between the Himalayas make it one of the most popular tourist destination spots. The prolific natural vistas which include lush verdant meadows, rolling hills, ice-capped, rugged mountains, and turbulent rivers make this a heaven-on-earth place. The most famous lakes in this region that should be visited are:

Saiful Mulook Lake


Situated at the northernmost extreme side of the Kaghan valley lies the stunningly beautiful, turquoise lake known as Saif-ul- Mulook. The spell-binding enchantment of the lake is further enhanced by the reflection of the giant Malika Parbat and encompassing green meadows in the lake water. The sheer resplendence of the lake makes it one of the most popular tourist spots.

Lulusar Lake


This turquoise body of water is perched at a higher altitude and fenced by ice-capped mountains and wreathed by blue and gold flowers. The rugged beauty of the snowcapped hills is reflected in the deep waters of this exquisite lake giving it grandeur and beauty that cannot be surpassed.


Naran and Kaghan are also home to other renowned lakes like the Ansoo Lake and Dudipitsar Lake which are definitely a must-see if you are visiting Naran.

Exceptional Beauty of Gilgit-Baltistan & Kashmir


Home to bewitching landscapes, lush verdant forests, diverse natural vistas, innumerable hypnotizing turquoise glacial lakes, picturesque valleys, and the tallest mountain ranges, Gilgit is a paradise on Earth. It's a haven for the mountaineers and hikers as the snow-capped peaks present daunting challenges for all those wishing to raft across the lakes, camp, trek, and climb and hike through the mountain ranges.

Amongst the statuesque and imposing peaks, the Western Himalayas and the Karakoram are the most popular mountain ranges followed by K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum, Masherbrum, Rakaposhi, and Trango Towers which is the world's longest vertical cliff. These mountains and cliffs are the formidable natural foes that rise high contesting the will and strength of the mountaineers and trekkers and are a dream destination for all those wishing to rise to the steeling challenge of reaching their elevated summits. Gilgit is famous for other attractions which include:

Deosai National Park


Blanketed by millions of flowers and home to the highest plateau in the world, visiting this natural park sure gives the feeling of being on top of the world. Located near the Karakoram and Himalayan Mountain ranges, the Deosai National Park is popular for its rich biodiversity and opulent flora and fauna and is home to Himalayan brown bear, snow leopards, golden marmots, mammoth soaring lammergeiers, and many other wildlife and species.

The Karakoram Highway


One of the mesmerizing wonders of Pakistan is the highway that bridges the gap between Pakistan and China. This is known as the Karakoram Highway and is a road that creates awe in the heart and casts a spell on the soul. This ravishing road weaves and intertwines through three of the imposing mountain ranges –the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Pamir. It twists through the valleys of the Indus, Gilgit, and Hunza rivers and then makes it way to the Chinese border perched at the Khunjerab Pass.

Fairy meadows


A place that seems to materialize right out of a mythical fantasy, the meadows are a treat to sore eyes as they present the untainted and unfiltered panorama of the 9th highest mountain of the world-Nanga Parbat. Engulfed by lush vegetation and surrounded by pine trees and mini lakes, Fairy Meadows is the base came which is used by trekkers to plan their excursion along the lifeless, daunting slopes of the Nanga Parbat.

Hunza valley


Home to the highest peaks in Gilgit, showcasing a bevy of peculiar geological formations and converging with the Karakoram Highway, Hunza is a land of majestic panoramas and exquisite vistas and one of the most coveted destinations in Gilgit and a famous destination spot amongst the locals and foreigners.
The paradisiacal Gilgit is home to enchanting valleys like Skardu, Hunza Shigar, Khaplu, Sadpara and many more and is dotted with countless dazzling lakes amongst which Atta bad, Shangri-La, Sheoshar, Phanter, and Naltar Lake are the definite crowd-pullers. The abundance of glaciers, the rich culture, and the peaceful ambiance make Gilgit one of the prime destinations In Pakistan.

Neelum Valley


Located in the Kashmir region and a famous destination spot for honeymooners, this piece of land is like heaven on Earth. The mesmerizing Neelum valley is perched at a high elevation point and is famous for its thundering milky-white waterfalls cascading from high mountains and surreal landscapes that create an otherworldly aura and a paradisiacal scene.


Highlighted villages of Neelum Valley are Kundal, Kuttan, Keran, Dudhnial, Sharda, Arang Kel and Taobat. The hospitable people, the lush scenery, and the tranquil ambiance make it one of the most visited spots in Pakistan.

Mesmerizing Valleys of Swat

Kalam Valley in Swat


Earning its fame and glory from the paradisiacal mountainous landscapes, lush forests and breathtakingly pristine rivers, Kalam Valley in Swat is one of the must-see destinations in Pakistan. The warmer climate in comparison to other valleys in KPK and its easy accessibility even in winters make it a favorite holiday spot. The green pastures, the aesthetically extraordinary, beautiful villages, and turbulent rivers in shades of blue and white give a captivating magnificence to Swat.

Malam Jabba in Swat


Offering adrenaline-boosting winter activities and a scenic feast for the eyes, Malam Jabba is a Hill station that is snuggled deep in the foothills of the Hindu Kush range and is home to the finest ski resort in Pakistan. The verdant pine forests overlooking the snow-capped peaks and offering the majestic image of arresting Hindu Kush Mountain in the backdrop, Malam Jabba is a popular destination spot both in the summer and winter seasons.

Chitral-Kalash valley


A small, picturesque town nestled between the imposing Hindu Kush Mountains, Chitral has been distinguished by the UNESCO heritage site of Kalash. The valley of Kalash, ringed by the Hindu Kush range and embracing the culture of a thousand years is home to the unique Kalasha tribe who are one-of-their-kind. The awe-inspiring splendor of the valley, the encircling meadows, and the distinctive architecture make Kalash valley worth the visit in Chitral. Bamburet, Rumboor, and Birir are amongst the famed areas in Kalash valley


Annually, the culture and the traditions of the Kalasha people grip the tourists with wonderment and amazement. These people practice a religion that is unique to them and isn't followed anywhere else in Pakistan. The exclusive traditions, the inimitable dress, and the hospitality of the Kalasha tribe enchant the tourists and makes this valley one of the top destination spots in Pakistan.

Khewra salt mine


A fact not known to many; Pakistan accommodates the worlds' second largest salt reserves which are located in the Jhelum district of Punjab at the foothills of the Salt Range. These salt mines draw millions of tourists annually and are the largest source of providing salt in the country.


The salt wonders inside the mine include tunnels manufactured from salt bricks, a model of Minar-e-Pakistan and mosque, a Crystal Palace, an emergency dispensary all molded to perfection with salt slabs. These magnificent salt monuments glitter and scintillate illuminated from inside. The salt mined from the Khewra mine has a white, pink, and red hue and is of the highest quality.

Conclusion


With stories to impress, sights to surprise, landscapes that bring inspiration, and culture that enthralls the onlookers, Pakistan is a gifted land indeed. It is chock-full of vistas that enchant your imagination and offers adventurous opportunities that are of another and incredible level so you cannot stop being enthralled and mesmerized by the beauty it has to offer.

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