Explore Pakistan’s distinct cultures. Discover her architectural treasures – celebrations of former kingdoms and lost civilization. Walk through natural splendor. Experience a glorious heritage that survive and thrives.
This 21-day tour, an ideal first trip for any visitor, offers a panorama of Pakistan. After arriving in Karachi, we visit Moenjodaro, the most important excavation site of the Indus Valley Civilization. Under the shadow of an old Buddhist stupa, acres of desert ruins that date back to 3000 B.C. reveal a mud-brick and burnt-brick city that identifies a sophisticated early society. From the time of Alexander the Great, who once conquered Multan, a succession of invaders waged their own battles over this forlorn city, which is our next destination. Today Multan is serene – a sacred city where pilgrims flock to exquisite shrines, embellished in blue glazed tile—work, that are dedicated to famous Sufi Saints who spread the Word of Allah. For anyone searching for a deeper meaning to Pakistan’s Islamic profundity, Multan provides powerful clues.
Puppeteers and their fanciful wooden puppets, which were a traditional art form of the Moghuls, also settled here. To this day, puppeteers breathe life into tales enacted by their ornately costumed characters. Multan also has the delightful open-air Hussain Aghai Bazaar where traditional artisans sit under bamboo and jute shades and sell glazed pottery, camel products, textiles, and embroidered shawls. Donkey carts, the sole means of transport (and our way to visit the bazaar) are laden with crates and goods as the clamp down the brick-work alleys.
Lahore is the present cultural center of Pakistan and the former capital of the Moghul Emperor Akbar. Here, we see the enormous 16th and 17th century Lahore Fort, a stunning interplay of sandstone and marble created by four Mughal Emperors; the 17th century Badshahi Masjid –the world’s largest; and the Wazir Khan Mosque with its Persian-styled fresco and glazed tile-work exterior, and the three-tiered Shalimar Gardens spread across 42 acres with its network of water channels and over 400 fountains. During the British Raj, it added its own Victorian vision to the Lahore cityscape. The result is a sublime mix of the East and the West that continues to watch over exotic bazaars and courtesans who dance into the night.
On to the North West Frontier Province and Peshawar – steeped in its own legends and the culture of the Pathan tribes who live by an unbreakable code of conduct – ‘badala’ (revenge) and ‘melmastia’ hospitality) – and the law of the gun. Many call Peshawar and its network of markets the shopper’s paradise of the subcontinent, Dazzling copper-and brass-ware, old carpets and kilims, spectacular tribal jewelry, antiques – it’s all available at unbeatable prices.
We stroll down Qissa Khawani Bazaar (Street of Storytellers), where raconteurs once fascinated crowds with lurid tales. Today, dentists have replaced the storytellers and rows of teeth vie for our attention. We wander down side-streets and see donkeys, goats, sheep, camels, men smoking ‘hookahs’ or sipping tea; but we see few women. And the few that pass by us will be accompanied by a male. Even then, they will reveal only their mysterious eyes peeking through the spidery veil of their ankle-length ‘burka’
Buddhists called Swat Udeyana (garden) and its our next destination. Yet this idyllic fertile valley in the North West Frontier Province became a bloody battle ground in wars waged by the Greeks, Afghans, Mughals, and the British. Landmarks that span centuries now stand mute in deserted towns, ancient graveyards, desolate forts, empty monasteries and abandoned stupas. The Swat culture, however, remains rooted in its traditions, and are especially apparent in its handicrafts, such as fine hand embroidery work and tribal costumes, wood carvings, and intricate silver jewelry.
We follow the Swat River up-stream and pass water-powered flour mills and mud-plastered stone houses perched on green slopes as the road snakes through velvet green fields. Our destination in upper Swat Valley is Bahrain, locally known as the land of many waters. Here the roaring waters of the Swat and Darel rivers meet and merge. Stone-cut steps lead to twisting lanes and alleys of the Bahrain bazaar, which offers the best Swat bargains.
Spirit of the Tour
A unique adventure covering a variety of cultures, varying with the diverse landscape. Meet the Pathan gun men, the friendly Punjabis, mystical Siraikis or even the migratory birds. Each day is a new experience and a new adventure
- Through: Balochistan, Historic Bolan Pass, Forgotten cities of the Indus, Mystic Punjab, Cholistan Desert, Salt Range, Gandhara, Peshawar, Khyber Pass and Swat Valley
- Area: Balochistan, Bolan Pass, Indus Valley Civilisation. Mystic Punjab, Cholistan Desert, Salt Range, Gandhara, Peshawar. Khyber Pass and Swat Valley
- Period: Mid October – Mid March
- Climate: Minimum 1-3 C – Maximum 25-35 C
- Tour Category: Cultural.
- Accommodation: Hotels and Lodges
- Transport: Air-conditioned Van / Coaster / Bus
- Cultures: Balochi, Nomad, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pothhari, Pathan and Siraiki
- Monuments: Indus Valley, Mystic Shrines, Mogul, British Raj, Buddhist
- Passes: Bolan Pass. Margala Pass, Malakand Pass and Khyber Pass
- Shopping: Embroidery, hand-knotted carpets, onyx and semi-precious stones, antiques, handicrafts.
Day 01: Arrival Karachi
Welcome reception upon arrival and transfer to hotel.Afternoon, short city tour of Karachi include; National Museum and Quid’s (Founder of the nation) Mausoleum.
Day 02: Karachi – Quetta
Next we fly to Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. Set in a bowl-shaped valley. Quetta is a welcome oasis with grasslands fed by natural springs and rain. Here, traders from Persia and Central Asia once lingered to barter for provisions and beasts of burden (donkeys, camels, horses) before they moved on. Today, the people in Quetta – Afghans, Iranians, Balochs, Uzbeks, and Pathans – reflect various cultural and tribal backgrounds. PM, Sightseeing tour: including a visit to the exotic bazaars of Quetta, offering a large variety of: tribal rugs, killims, traditional dresses, embroidered “chappals” (Baloch footwear), cushions, bed sheets, dried fruits and nomad jewellery. Traditional Baloch dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Quetta – Bolan Pass – Sukkur (350 km, 8-9 hrs)
After leaving Quetta, our way leads, between the barren and rugged hills of Central Brahui Range, through the historic Bolan Pass, most of the time parallel to Railway – the train track and its numerous tunnels were a marvelous engineering achievement of the British in the late 19th cent. We pass the primitive coal mines scattered around the Pass Colourfully painted trucks – unanimous for Pakistan and nomad camel caravans will be sharing the narrow road with us. We will also witness the objects found at Mehergarh, displayed in Sibbi Museum. We continue our drive through the Kachi desert and late in the afternoon we will reach Sukkur.
Day 04: Excursion Mohenjodaro (200 kms, 5/6 hrs)
Our next destination is Mohenjodar, the most important excavation site of the Indus Valley Civilization. Under the shadow of an old Buddhist stupa, acres of desert ruins that date back to 3000 BC reveal a mud-brick and burnt-brick city that identifies a sophisticated early society. Visit Hazaar and the leaning tower of Sukkur – the shrine of Sufi saint Masoom Shab Later boat ride in the river Indus with “Mohanas” – the boat people who seldom step on land. Visit the Hindu Temple on the small Sadhu Bela Island. Also visit the shrines of seven sisters, who were imprisoned by their evil stepmother – the tears of the sisters created seven canals, which later formed Sukkur Barrage. Unable to help them, the weeping Dolphins of river Indus turned blind.
Day 05: Sukkur – Bahawalpur (350 kms 9-10 hrs)
Drive through the fertile plains of Sind and Punjab, past Sugar-cane. Cotton. Wheat and Mustard fields. Mango, Guava, Orange and Date-palm Plantations. Witness the daily life of the simple village people while you pass their Farms, settlements and villages. In the afternoon reach Bahawalpur, Dinner and overnight at PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) Motel.
Day 06: Excursion To The Cholistan Desert
Times has dealt a heavy blow to Ueh – our next destination. Its tombs and minarets with glazed blue and white tiles are crumbling. These majestic edifices once stood proudly, over the debris of an earlier city built by Alexander the Great. Only the covered mile long bazaar pulses with life: a maze of lanes, lined with tiny shops of; cobblers, sweet-meat sellers, iron-smiths, hakeems (Herb Doctors), footpath dentists and fortune-tellers. Gypsy women from the desert, barter their colourful embroidered work, for fanciaful lipsticks and perfumes, silver jewellery and battery cells. Visit the tombs and bazaar and continue drive to Derawar, in the heart of Cholistan desert. We leave the fertile plains and enter into the Cholistan desert, all of a sudden. Derawar – the largest stronghold in the desert emerges from the sand and fills the horizon. We will spend the day visiting: the small nomad encampment, which usually surrounds the “toba” – a rain-filled water pond, the fort itself, the royal mosque and riding camels. We will also visit one of the un-excavated mounds form hakra Valley Civilisation – the predecessor of Indus Valley civilization. In the evening BBQ dinner and “Jhoomer” – the dance of the nomade by the nomads.
Day 07: Bahawalpur – Multan (110 kms, 2-3 hrs)
Drive through a landscape of mustard, wheat and cotton fields and orange, guava, mango and date-palm orchards to Multan. Ever since the dawn of civilization. Multan has been a holy city. Before it was the seat of the sun god and was called Kasyapanger, pilgrims used to bring gold powder and nuggets as offering for the deity. Today the tombs of the great Sufi masters buried in plenty in the city, attract swarms of believers from around the country and beyond. We will tour the mystic city in a traditional “Tonga” (a very simple horse driven coach). We will visit the delightful Hussain Agahi bazaar and the shrines of Rukn-ud-din-Allam. Shah Shams Tabres and Shah Yousaf Gardezi, these monuments are considered masterpieces, of Islamic architecture, a very special atmosphere prevails around them, listen to the mystic songs “Qawalli”, watch “Dhamal” – the dance of ascetics. Before dinner a short performance, by traditional wandering puppeteers.
Day 08: Multan – Harappa – Lahore (380 km, 8-9 hrs)
We drive through the fertile plains of Punjab, past cotton and wheat fields, mango, orange and guava plantations and typical Punjabi villages. On our way, we visit Harappa – an important city of Indus Valley Civilization, it was first found and excavated in 1921, presently, Prof, Mark kenoy from USA is carrying out fresh excavations. We continue drive to Lahore. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 09: LAHORE City Tour
In Lahore, the present cultural centre of Pakistan and the former capital of the Mogul Emperor Akbar, we visit the enormous 16th and 17th century Lahore Fort, a stunning interplay of sandstone and marble created by four Mogul Emperors; the 17th century Badshahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) – the world’s largest; and the Wazir Khan Mosque with its Persian-styled fresco and glazed tile-work exterior; and the three-tiered Shalimar Gardens spread across 42 acres with its network of water channels and over 400 fountains. We also see the Lahore Museum that houses artefacts from Indus Valley, miniature paintings from Mogul period and sculptures from Gandhara period including the world famous Fasting Buddha. We drive past the monuments that show how the British Raj added its own Victorian vision to the Lahore cityscape. The result is a sublime mix of the East and the West that continues to watch over exotic bazaars and courtesans who dance into the night.
Day 10: Salt Range: Lahore – Bhera – Ketas – Kalar Kahar
Early morning two hours drive on the newly constructed motorway to Bhbera. From here onwards we drive through small villages on country roads. We visit; the time trodden Bhera, a medieval town with a defence wall and seven gates –it was a city of great significance, when Alexander the great visited it. Next we visit Malakwal – the town of Steam locomotives Drive to Kalar Kahar, after lunch visit the Hindu Shahi Temples of Ketas and Malot. According to Hindu Mythology, when Lord Shiva cried upon the death of his beloved wife Parvati, the tears from one of his eyes filled the Holy lake at Ketas Overnight at TDCP (Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab) Motel Kalar Kahar.
Day 11: Kalar Kahar – Taxila – Peshawar (350 km, 6-7 hrs)
Early morning visit the Shrine of Hazrat Hubahu, in the valley of Peacocks, to join the Peafowl – who come to pay their daily homage to their patron Sufi Saint. After breakfast a two hours drive on the newly constructed Motorway to Taxila, the centre of Gandhara (the ancient name of the North West Frontier Province) from 600 BC to 600 AD. Here we visit Taxila, the ancient capital of Gandhara with Buddhist ruins from 600 BC to 600 AD scattered throughout an open valley. We visit the ancient site, and also see the remains of the Jaulian monastery and the old town of Sirkap, and visit the museum. Lunch at Taxila. Proceed to Peshawar in the land of Pathans. Many call Peshawar and its network of markets the shopper’s paradise of the subcontinent. Dazzling copper and brass-ware, old carpets and kilims, spectacular tribal jewellery, antiques – it’s all available at unbeatable prices. We stroll down Qissa Khawani Bazaar (Street of Storytellers), where raconteurs once fascinated crowds with lurid tales. Today, dentists have replaced the storytellers and rows of teeth vie for our attention. We wander down side-streets and see donkeys, goats, sheep, camels, men smoking hookahs’ or sipping team: but we see few women. And the few that pass by us will be accompanied by a male. Even then, they will reveal only their mysterious eyes that peek through the spidery veil of their ankle-length burka.; Finally, we also visit the Peshawar Museum with its excellent collection of Gandhara sculptures. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 12: Excursion Khyber Pass
In the morning make an exciting excursion to the historic Khyber Pass, — steeped in its own legends and the culture of the Pathan tribes who live by an unbreakable code of conduct – ‘badala’ (revenge) and ‘melmastia’ (hospitality) – and the law of the gun. The drama begins at the Jamrud Fort built by the Sikhs in 1823 when they attempted to control the uncontrollable Pathans. The road snakes through rocky mountains. Nearly every peak is crowned with a British for that looks down at the impenetrable Pathan clay fortresses where guns would poke through turrets, this is tribal territory, and guns settle disputes. Our journey ends at Landi Kotal, a popular smuggler’s town.Afternoon drive to swat, on the way we visit Takhat – I – Bhai, on the most imposing monasteries from the Kushan Period (Circa 45 A.D) that dres pilgrims from China and the subcontinent. Here, stone and stucco sculptures are displayed in small shrines that surround the main stupa. Arrive Swat and transfer to hotle for dinner and overnight.
Day 13: Excursion Upper Swat Valley
Buddhists called Swat Udyana (garden), yet this idyllic fertile valley in the North West Frontier Province became a bloody battleground in wars waged by the Greeks. Afghans, Moguls, and the British, Landmarks span centuries: deserted towns, ancient graveyeards, desolate forts, empty monasteries and abandoned stupas. The Swat culture, however, remains vibrant – rooted in its traditions that are especially apparent in the handicrafts, such as fine hand embroidery work and gtribal costumes, wood carvings, and intricate silver jewellery. We follow the Swat River upstream and pass water-powered flour mills and mud-plastered stone houses perched on green slopes as the road snakes through velvet green fields. Our destination in upper Swat Valley is Bahrain, locally known as the land of many waters. Here the roaring waters of the swat and Darel rivers meet and merge. Stone-cut steps lead to twisting lances and alleys of the Bahrain bazaar, which offers great Swat bargains. In the afternoon we visit Swat museum that has a superb collection of Gandhara art-also visit graeco-buddhist archaeological remains “Butkara”, this site associated with one of expansion/construction from 2nd cent. BC, to 10th, cent, AD.
Day 14: Saidu Sharif – Islamabad (340 kms, 8-9 hrs)
Drive to Islamabad via Malakand Pass. Pakistan’s modern capital, designed by foreign architects, including a famous Japanese Landscapes artist. Streamlined white buildings stand in designated sectors surrounded by parks, with the city’s most striking edifice the Shah Faisal Mosque, a gift from the people of Saudi Arabia. Farewell dinner at hotel.
Day 15: Departure
Transfer to airport for departure flight.
-End of the Tour-