21-days Jeep Safari (July – Sep)
Travel through Kaghan Valley the Himalayan home of Gujjar nomads. Cross the Babusar Pass and follow the Karakoram Highway to a jeep trade that cuts through the stunning Deosai Plains, the habitat of the elusive snow leopard. See Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, nestled in the jagged peak of the Karakorams. Enjoy a remarkable ride to the village of Hushe – the gateway to Mt. Masherbrun. Visit the old trading center of Gilgit and the former Hunza Kingdom surrounded by peaks and glaciers.
Our jeep safari starts after a quick tour of Islamabad, Pakistan’s modern capital. Designed by foreign architects, its most striking edifice is the Shah Faisal Mosque, a gift from the people of Saudi Arabia. We head north into the Himalayan foothills and visit murree, peaceful Nathiagali (elevation 2,392 m,), and spend the night at Thandiani, which offers excellent mountain views. We head to Abbotabad, a garrison town, and enter the Kaghan Valley, one the loveliest Himalayan areas in Pakistan.
As we travel through Kaghan, we pass hamlets with stone and wood homes surrounded by rice fields. We follow the Kunhar River and accompany the handsome Gujjar nomads with their buffalos until we reach the village of Naran (2,427 m), backed by the river. We visit Saiful Mailuk Lake, where the peak of Malka Parb at (5,390 m) is mirrored in the deep blue waters. This lake was named after Prince Saiful Maluk who fell in love with a nymph whom he saw bathing in the lake.
We follow the Kunhar River and head north, along with the Gujjars, and see their temporary summer settlements as we proceed to Basel (3,266 m), a lightland pasture with a cluster of stone houses that blend into the rocky hillside. At Lake Lulusar, just beyond Basel, jeep tracks lead to the Balusar Pass (4150 M)., which is the soruce of the Kunhar River and also offers extensive valley views.
We descend to the town of Chilas and proceed by jeep to Tato village. We walk to the Fairy Meadows (3,200 M) at the base of the north face of Mt. Nanga Parbat (the ‘killer mountain’) and camp on a plateau surrounded by pine trees and alpine flowers. After exploring this area, we return to Tato and drive to Rama Lake situated near pine forests and our night halt. Next we head to Tarshing, a charming mountain village in the shadow of Mt. Nanga Parbat.
From here, we enter the Deosai Plains, a high plateau in the Himalayas that is also the habitat of the snow leopard. Never once do we lose sight of Nanga Parbat as we ride through extensive meadows that are buried in snow for nine months and only reveal their velvet green cover and hundreds of flowers in the summer. Along the journey, our jeep drivers must navigatge streams that rush with water. We cross the Ali Malik Pass and have excellent views of the Karakoram Mountains. Then we stop at Satpara Lake, a deep blue shimmer before we continue to Skardu, the capital of Baltistan.
Formerly Buddhist, Skardu, was called ‘Tibet Khurd’ (Little Tibet) and was an important stop on the old route to Tibet and the district of Ladakh. Here the Indus River Joins the Shigar River to become an enormous oval basin at 2,300 meters enclosed in purple, red, grey, and ochre mountains.
We spend a night at the nearby village of Khaplu, then take a memorable jeep journey. We snake around hair-pin curves, bump across rickety bridges, pass through occasional villages where yaks pull wooden plows in fields of wheat, and slosh through snow-swollen river as we head to Hushe. A typical Balti village, its flat-roof cluster of clay and stono dwellings are nearly camouflaged by the mountains. Hushe is also the gagteway to Mt. Masherbrum (7,821 m.) and its base camp.
We drive to Kachura Lake and Gilgit, then proceed to Hunza. We travel through narrow gorges where the Indus River is squeezed by the Karakorams, which rise above 5,000 meters, Except for a few terraced villages, we see almost no vegetation. Throughout this entire stretch of the Karakorams, glittering peaks surround us and we pass moody glaciers in a state of perennial flux that dislodges boulders and sends ice into the thrashing river. We emerge from the gorge, where the Gilgit River meets the Indus, and enter Hunza Valley: ‘Heaven on Earth, where the people rever their spiritual leader, the Agha Khan.
After exploring Hunza, we return to Gilgit, the temporary goal of ancient traders who struggled along the treacherous Silk Route. Surrounded by rugged mountains that include some of the world’s highest peaks, Gilgit was the traders’ rooftop oasis – their place to purchase essential goods before resuming their journey. Here was see faces and costumes that represent all of Central Asia, and Gilgit’s small bazaar does a brisk business selling Chinese products and essential goods for today’s adventurer: the trekker and mountaineer.
Next we head south on the Karakoram Highway to Chilas, situated on an ancient caravan route. We see rock inscriptions, chiseled by Buddhists from China and Central Asia, which verify that this route was popular with the devout when they made their pilgrimages. From Besham, we continue south to Taxila, the ancient capital of Gandhara, with Buddhist ruins from 600 BC to 600 AD scattered in an open valley. We end our tour in Rawalpindi, adjacent to the modern capital of Islamabad.
Spirit of the Tour
This jeep safari guarantees lots of adventure. We begln in Islamabad and head into the Himalayas and the Murree l Iills. We travel through the green Kaghan Valley overf the BAbusar Pass to the land of the mountain gods – Little Tibet – Baltistan. As we journey across the Deosai Plains, we experience true wilderness and see the ethereal beauty of the north.
- Area: Murree Hills – Kaghan Valley – Baltistan – Hunza – Karakoram Highway
- Duration: 21 Days
- Period: July-September
- Climate: Minimum 3-C – maximum 34-C
- Tour Category: Cultural jeep adventure with hikes
- Accommodation: Standard hotels and tents
- Transport: Soft Top (4×4) jeeps
- Cultures: Punjabi, Gujjar, Kohistani, Balti
- Special Events: Migration of the Gujjar in Kaghan Valley; Hunza Festival in August
- Passes: Babusar – Ali Malik
- Shopping: Nomad costumes, gems, and carpets.