If you have a small budget and want to visit a country with diverse culture, unspoiled natural beauty, ancient history, centuries old traditions and the delicious food, then there is no place in the world better than Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are so friendly, helpful and hospitable with foreign tourists that you will not only enjoy your stay in this country but also take back home the sweet memories of your visit.
Most foreign tourists are afraid of the security situation in Pakistan and thus avoid visiting this country. In fact, the situation is not really as bad as being projected by the media reports. Pakistan is overall a safe country for foreign tourists though some parts of the country are not safe and must be avoided. I am giving below some safe and worth visiting places. This will be helpful in planning your visit to Pakistan so that you have the safest, most beneficial and enjoyable vacations.
Start your visit from Islamabad, the green and beautiful capital city of Pakistan. Some of the most interesting and must visit places of Islamabad are: Lok Versa Heritage and Museum, Pakistan Monument and Museum, Lake View Park, Saidpur Village (an old beautiful village of the Mughal era), Faisal Mosque (the largest mosque of South Asia). If interested in hiking then there are many hiking routes in the scenic Margalla Hills. Pir Sohawa, on top of Margalla Hills, is another place worth visiting. You can have lunch or dinner at the restaurant there and enjoy the delicious food as well as the fascinating view of the city.
If you are interested in the archeological sites, dates back to Buddhist era (600 BC to 500 AD) then go to Taxila, a historical city 35 km away from Islamabad. There are 50 archeological sites scattered in an area of 30 km around Taxila. Some important sites are: Bhir Mound, Sirkap, Jandial Temple, Jaulian Monastery and Dhamarajika Stupa and Monastery. The great Gandhara civilization ruled this part of the world for over 1000 years. If you are in Taxila then you must visit the Taxila Museum which has a great collection of about 4000 Gandhara Art items including the stone Buddha sculptures.
Murree, Patriata, Ayubia
Only 35 kilometers away from Islamabad is the beautiful hill station Murree, called the Queen of the Hills. You can enjoy whole day there walking, hiking, riding the chairlifts or do the shopping. There are many shops on the Mall Road and in the adjacent streets that offer a lot of merchandize of tourist attraction. Many hotels and restaurants are also situated there.
Another beautiful place Patriata (also known as New Murree), is 15 km away from the main Mall Road, Murree. Patriata attracts lot of tourists due to its height and the cable car/chairlift that gives great view of the green hills and the forests. Ayubia National Park is 25 km from Murree and is well known for its picnic spots, hiking places, trails and a chairlift that takes the tourists to a nearby summit for a scenic view of the surrounding hills.
Khewra Salt Mines
Khewra Salt Mines, the world’s second largest salt mines, are 190 km away from Islamabad and the travel distance is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes by road. These mines were discovered by the soldiers of Alexander the Great, who noticed their horses licking the salt rocks while staying at Khewra. In the 13th century, the commercial salt mining started in Khewra. During the British colonial rule, the mines were modernized with the building of tunnels, rail link, electricity and a soda ash plant.
In 2002, the old portions of the mines were converted into a popular tourist destination that attracts around 200,000 visitors each year. Tourists can walk into the tunnel or take a train ride upto the main recreation area where everything is artistically created with white, pink and red salt. There is a mosque, a model of Minar-e-Pakistan (Pakistan Tower), Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) a post office, a restaurant and stalls selling decoration pieces created out of salt rocks. The reflection of light, through the crystal clear salt, make this area look like a fairy tale place where fantasy becomes a reality. There is also Assembly Hall, Brine Chambers, Pulsarat (25 feet long bridge without pillars), salt ponds illuminated with fancy lights and a tree root that does not catch fire. Guides are available there to answer your questions and to give you detailed information about the mines.
A 4 hour drive by a car or a luxury bus on the motorway can take you to the heart of Pakistan, the historical city of Lahore. If you are in Pakistan and did not see Lahore then you have seen nothing. Lahore is the centre of educational institutions and universities, historical sites, tombs and shrines, mosques, gardens, arts and literature, folk music and culture, festivals and foods. Some must see places are: Shahi Qila (Lahore Fort), Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Lahore Museum, Tomb of Emperor Jahangir, Data Darbar (Shrine of a Sufi Saint Data Gang Bakhsh who lived there more than 900 years ago), the old walled city and the food streets. People of Lahore welcome foreign tourists wholeheartedly and are very friendly with them.
Kaghan, 270 km from Islamabad is a popular summer resort. It’s a 160 kilometer long valley, starting from an elevation of 2,134 feet upto 13,690 feet. The pine forests, alpine meadows, flowers, crystal clear lakes, and cool mountain streams of the valley all welcome you to enjoy your vacations in this natural wonderland.
The town of Naran in the Kaghan Valley, is a place where most tourists like to stay to enjoy short one day trips to Lake Saiful Muluk, Lalazar, Lake Lulusar and Babusar Pass. Most visited place is the legendary Lake Saiful Muluk which is surrounded by impressive snow clad mountains and crowned by the summit of Malika Parbat (Queen of the Mountains).
Shogran is, no doubt, the most beautiful plateau in the valley due to beautiful natural landscape with wild flowers and lush green meadows. A wonderful excursion trip by jeep from Shogran through an eight kilometer rough road takes you to the height of 2300 feet to the siri and paye, a lush green meadow, from where you can have a spectacular view of Malika Parbat.
Malam Jabba is 300 km from Islamabad and it takes 6 hour and 30 minutes to reach there by road. It is an excellent ski resort situated 8,700 feet above sea level, giving great view of the Karakoram range and black mountains. The resort has a ski slope of about 800m which is facilitated with a chairlift. The highest point of the slope is 9,200 feet. There is a smaller slope with ski-lift for amateur skiers as well. It has two trekking trails that pass through Ghorband valley (18 km) and the Sabonev Valley (17 km). Around Malam Jabba area there are two Buddhist Stupas and six monasteries dating back more than 2000 years.
Gilgit can be reached from Islamabad in one hour by air and 20 hours by road. Located in the north of Pakistan, the region of Gilgit Baltistan is a paradise for mountaineers and trekkers. The area is surrounded by some of the world’s highest mountain peaks with a height of over 8000 meters. Apart from majestic mountains, the second highest mountain of the world, K2, is located in the Shigar Valley. Some of the largest glaciers outside polar regions are also situated in Gilgit region along with 2200 sq. kilometer of snow covered area; 119 lakes; diverse flora and fauna and 6500 sq. km of forests. The region is well known for its splendor and fascinating scenic beauty. Here the world’s three mightiest mountain ranges: the Karakoram, the Hindukuch and the Himalayas meet.
There are several tourist attractions relatively close to Gilgit city which are worth visiting. These are: Naltar Valley, Hunza Valley, Nagar Valley, Fairy Meadows, Shigar town, Skardu city, Haramosh Peak in Karakoram Range, Bagrot-Haramosh Valley, Deosai National Park, Astore Valley, Rama Lake, Juglot town, Phunder village, Yasin Valley and Kargah Valley.