Spirit of the Tour
EXPLORE PAKISTAN Cultural Tour and Trek 21 days with five days of trekking (Apr to Oct)
This tour is suitable for clients of all ages who are interested in history and culture (including tribal cultures) and outdoor activities. The tour includes a brief easy trek to Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi base camps. Anyone not wanting to trek can enjoy sightseeing in nearby destinations and resume the tour.
- Areas: Sind, Punjab, North Western Frontier, Chitral Valley, Swat Valley, Karakoram Highway, Gilgit, Hunza Valley
- Duration: 21 Days
- Period: April to October
- Climate: Minimum 5C – Maximum 45C
- Tour Category: Cultural and adventure with trekking
- Accommodation: Hotels and Tents
- Transport: A/C Coaches, Soft Top (4×4) Jeeps
- Cultures: Sindhi, Punjabi, Pathan, Kafir Kalash
- Monuments: Indus Valley, Mystic Shrines, Moghul, British Raj, Buddhist.
- Passes: Lowari Pass (3200 m), Shangla Pass (2300 m)
- Peaks: Trichmir (7708 m), Nanga Parbat (8125 m) Rakaposhi (7708 m)
- Shopping: Embroidery, hand-knotted carpets, onyx and semi precious stones, antiques, handicrafts.
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 Mohenjo-Daro, 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 clomp down the brick-work alleys.
Lahore is the present cultural center of Pakistan and the former capital of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Here, we see the enormous 16th and 17th century Lahore Fort, a stunning interplay of sandstone and marble created by four Moghul 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 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 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’
We head north to the small mountain town of Chitral, a long narrow valley that lies in the shadow of the snow-covered Trichmir Peak (7,708 m), the highest mountain in the Hindukush. Here, every stall on the main street provides insight into the Chitral life-style. Merchants sell chunks of black rock salt. Vendors pour colorful fruit syrup on cones hacked from transported glacier ice. Primitive machines pound and grind up ‘neswar,’ a powerful chewing tobacco that is reputedly potent enough to kill a snake. Donkeys plod by with their riders urging them on with a polo mallet. Chitral does mean polo, with rugged matches played in the spring and autumn, and aggressive games of football (soccer) played whenever weather permits. Afghan refugees have cornered Chitral’s instant photo-market. You pose before a bulky handmade camera, fashioned from a suitcase and pants leg. The photographer doesn’t produce a photo in a minute. Plan instead for a half-hour – time enough for tea.
Chitral is also the gateway to Kafirstan – a series of remote mountain villages that are nome to the attractive Kafir Kalash (‘Wearers of the Black Robe’), who claim Greek ancestry. Handsome women wear long black dresses, with red and green embroidered trim, and an elaborate headpiece that qualifies as art – much of it ‘found art’ created from cowrie shells, bits of metal, watchbands, plastic flowers, tiny buttons. This once isolated tribe still retains many of its old customs and its animist befliefs in gods once preside over spirits and animals. And it’s a tribe that loves to dance. Births, marriages, deaths set them in motion. The Kalash are a joyful people keeping time to their ancient culture.
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.
We drive north over the Shangla Pass (2000 m) and join the Karakoram Highway, the eighth wonder of the world. At Shatial Sites, where the highway links up with the original Silk Route, carvings chiseled into rocks by 5th century Buddhist pilgrims remain under the watchful eyes of Nanga Parbat, the killer mountain. At Raikot Bridge, we follow the crystal waters that descend from the Raikot Glacier on a massive flank of Nanga Parbat to the village of Tato.
From Tato we begin a three-day circular trek to explore the Fairy Meadows. We walk through thick conifer forests, past crystal streams, and enter the flower-strewn fairy meadows. Mt. Nanga Parbat dominates the vista. We traverse a glacier and camp at a second site, then return to the Fairy Meadows and back to Tato. After a stopover at Gilgit, we head to the Hunza Valley, where the people revere their spiritual leader, the Agha Khan. Throughout this entire stretch of the Karakorams, glittering peaks surround us and we pass moody glaciers in a state of flux that dislodges boulders and sends ice into the thrashing Hunza River. We visit Karimabad, the small Hunza capital, take a short trek to the Passue Glacier, then exdplore the sleepy hamlet of Gulmit.
We drive to nearby nilt and make an easy two-day trek to the base camp of Rakaposhi (7788 m). the people of Hunza call this mountain Domani – the Mother of Mountains. It’s a spectacular sight with glistening hummocks of ice and snow towering above the valleys. We return to the Rakaposhi View point and the Karakoram Highway where we drive to Gilgit, an historic trading center. Then we head to Besham, stopping enroute for a picnic and our last good view of Mt. Nanga Parbat.
After leaving Besham, we continue south to Taxila, the ancient capital of Gandhara, with Buddhist ruins from 600 BC to 600 AD scattered throughout an open valley. We end our tour in Rawalpindi, adjacent to the modern capital of Islamabad.
Day 01: Karachi
Transfer to hotel, City tour of the Shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi (patron saint of Karachi); Clifton Beach, the Defence Mosque, Dhobi Ghat (the open air traditional “laundramat”), the National Museum. Overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Karachi – MohenjoDaro
Fight to Mohenjo-Daro. Visit the ruins. Road trip to city of Larkana, the ancestral home of the Bhutto family. Flight to Karachi. Overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Karachi – Multan
Flight to Multan. Afternoon city tour. Overnight at hotel.
Day 04: Multan – Lahore
Flight to Lahore. Afternoon city tour: kim’s Gun, a memorial to Rudyard Kipling who lived here in the 19th century; Lahore Fort; Badshahi Masjid; Wazir Khan Mosque; the old walled city and its Bazaars.(OPTIONAL NIGHT TOUR: traditional Punjabi dinner followed by a one – hour performance of the dancing girls in old Lahore). Overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Lahore
Morning city tour: Visit Jehangir’s tomb, the Shalimar Gardens, and the Lahore Museum. Free time for shopping or relaxation. Overnight at hotel.
Day 06: Lahore-Peshawar
Flight to Peshawar. City tour of the old bazaars.Overnight at hotel.
Day 07: Peshawar–Chitral
Flight to Chitral by flight (weather permitting); otherwise journey by road. Walking tour of Chitral. Overnight at hotel.
Day 08: Bumburit Excursion (85 km, 6/8 hrs)
Full day excursion to Bumburit. Overnight at hotel.
Day 09: Chitral – Mingora, Swat (285 km, 10/11 hrs)
Drive to Swat. Overnight at hotel.
Day 10: Swat Valley
Morning excursion to Bahrain. Afternoon city tour of Mingora bazaar, and Swat Museum. Overnight at hotel.
Day 11: Swat–Chilas (300 km, 7/8 hrs)
Drive to Chilas. Overnight at hotel.
Day 12: Chilas–Raikot Bridge – Fairy Meadows
Drive to Tato village. Trek to Fairy Meadows. Overnight at camp.
Day 13: Fairy Meadows
Trek to Bial camp and return to Fairy Meadows. Overnight at camp.
Day 14: Fairy Meadows–Gilgit (110 KM, 4/5 HRS)
Trek to Tato. Drive to Gilgit. Overnight at hotel.
Day 15: Gilgit–Hunza-Gulmit (150 KM, 7/8 HRS)
Drive to Hunza Valley. Visit Karimabad. Continue to Gulmit. Overnight at hotel.
Day 16: Gulmit
Morning trek to Passu Glacier. Afternoon walking tour of Gulmit. Overnight at hotel.
Day 17: Gulmit – Rakaposhi Base Camp (100 km, 3 hrs)
Drive to Nilt. Trek to Rakaposhi base camp. Overnight at camp.
Day 18: Base Camp – Gilgit (60 km, 2 hrs)
Trek to Karakoram Highway. Drive to Gilgit and city tour. Overnight at hotel.
Day 19: Gilgit–Besham (340 km, 8/9 hrs)
Drive to Thalichi village, with views of Mt. Nanga Parbat, and proceed to Besham. Overnight at hotel.
Day 20: Besham–Taxila–Rawalpindi (330 km, 8/9 hrs)
Drive to Taxila. Visit Buddhist ruins. Proceed to Rawalpindi. Transfer to airport for flight to Karachi.
Day 21: Karachi – Departure
Arrive Karachi and departure flight.
-End of the Tour-