Ancient and dramatic, mystical and mysterious, modern and dynamic, ideological but progressive- such is the country called Pakistan. Developing and yet developed, agricultural and yet industrialized, dogmatic and yet tolerant is this country of high peaks, mighty glaciers, gushing rivers, flourishing valleys, lush green plains and scorching deserts. Underdeveloped resources and diverse development problems notwithstanding, the country has registered a steady growth both in agriculture and in industry. The economy is vibrant, the people are friendly and visitors are welcome.
There is a visible atmosphere of contentment almost boarding on the serene in a predominantly rural setting. This, however, is in sharp contrast to the hectic pace of major urban centers with all the trappings of modernization. For the first timer to Pakistan, there is so much to be fascinated with. The diverse landscapes ranging from the dizzying snow-capped mountains to the hot and inhospitable deserts to the river washed plains, stretching to over 803943 sq.km of nature,s spectacle, are a wanderer,s delight. Nearly 220 million Pakistanis inhabiting the rugged mountains, the barren deserts and the prosperous plains speak a variety of languages, have varying life styles and differ in life and living. However, this old country but new nations has distinct national identity. The binding force no doubt is Islam.
Day 01: Arrival in Islamabad. Meet and assist, transfer to hotel.
Day 02: Drive through Islamabad. Visit Saidpur village, famous for pottery. Drive upto Daman-e-koh up the Margalla Hills to get the best view of Islamabad Rawalpindi and the Potwar Plateau with the Salt Range on the Horizon. On return, visit the shrine of Bari Imam, the holy man of the woods. Many legends are attributed to the saint. Locks of hair are suspended on the branches of the Banyan trees, in the court-yard of the Saint’s shrine by invalids hopping for recovery by the powers of this healer. Driving through rose and jasmine gardens, reach Shakarparian Hill for panoramic view of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Later visit National Institute of Folk Heritage where you can glimpse various cultures of Pakistan. Return via Rawal Lake.Visit colourful bazaars of Rawalpindi for bargain shopping of handicrafts, carpets, shawls and jackets.Evening free for shopping.
Day 03: Early morning excursion to Taxila, Taxila is one of the most important archaeological treasures of the Sub-continent. The fertile valley contains the remains of great cities like Bhir mound and Sirkap which were centers of Gandhara civilization. Visit museum to see the unique collection of Gandhara Art. Also visit Bactrian, Greek city of Sirkap, Buddhist monastery of Jaulian and Dharmarajika. . Later, proceed to Peshawar on the legendary Grand Trunk Road build by Sher Shah Suri and used by many invaders. Cross the mighty Indus River at Attock, Passing by the massive walls of Attock Fort built by Akbar the Great. Transfer to hotel in Peshawar. Overnight.
Day 04: Morning visit Peshawar Museum, which is renowned for its collection of Gandhara art. Then we Explore old city of Peshawar and visit Mahabat Khan mosque, We stroll down Qissa Khawani Bazaar (Street of Storytellers), where raconteurs once fascinated crowds with lurid tales.overnight Islamabad.. Dine in a typical Pathan restaurant and savour the Frontier’s traditional “Chappli Kebab”, “Karahi Gosht” and “Roghni Nan”. The Pathans are famous for their Bar – B—Q dishes.
Day 05: Drive to Charsadda (28 KM), the ancient capital of Kingdom of Gandhara, once known as “Pushkalavati” the lotus city. There are three sites of ancient cities, Bala Hisar, Shai Khan Dheri and Prang to be visited. Later visit Takht-i-Bai, the most impressive and complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan. The panoramic view from the hill top at Takht-i-Bai is fantastic. From Takhti-i-Bai depart for Saidu Sharif, the capital of Swat. Drive through Malak-and, land of the handsome Pathans. The route to Swat is dotted with Buddhist monasteries and ancient forts. Overnight in Saidu Sharif.
Day 06: Morning half day sightseeing of Saidu Sharif with a visit to Swat Museum and the colourful bazaars of Mingora. Afternoon excursion to Udi-gram. The history of this town dates back to 2nd century BC when bloody battles were fought between the invading armies of the Greeks and the local tribes.
Day 07: Depart for upper Swat Valley along the meandering Swat River. The route to Kalam is full of fruit Iaden orchards, flower filled slopes, lush green vallesy and snow covered peaks. Enroute visit Madyan and Bahrin. Overnight in Kalam.
Day 08: Depart for Besham on the Karakoram Highway. Passing over the Shangla Pass stop for lunch in Besham, on the bank of River Indus and drive on to Abbottabad. This green little town at a height of about 1371 meters is ideal for a relaxing overnight stay.
Day 09: Depart for Rawalpindi to take flight for Lahore. Meet and assist on arrival at Lahore. transfer to hotel. Evening at leisure.
Day 10: Passing by the legendary Kim’s Gun (Toup Bhangian) reach Badshahi (Royal) Mosque on the north west corner of the walled city. The Badshahi Mosque built during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb in the early 1670’s, one of the largest mosques in the world. Its red sandstone and white marble present a delightful harmonious contrast. Just outside the Mosque, see the Mausoleum of the philosopher poet of Pakistan Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and the Bara Dari (the marble pavilion) built by the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Opposite the Badshahi Mosque is the historic Lahore Fort with its massive walls, several towering gates, marble pavilions and its hall of mirrors, dating to the time of Moghul Emperor Akbar. In the time of the great Moghuls, the city was surrounded by a 9 metre high brick wall and had a rampart running around it with a moat connected with the river Ravi which served as a protection for the city. There were thirteen massive gates, some of which are still in original from and shape. The narrow lanes, the hanging balconies, the tiny shops, the aroma of spices, and the fragrance of flower garlands lingers on in the city, retaining the medieaval char. Within the walled city, the Wazir Khan Mosque in the walled city. The colorful fresco and mosaic in the interior and the exterior of the Mosque is a superb example of Moghul period craftsmanship. Evening dinner in a typical Punjabi restaurant.
Day 11: Explore the Shalamar Gardens laid out during the reign of emperor Shah Jehan, a tribute to the aesthetic and artistic sense of the Moghul period. The gardens cover an area of about 42 acres, comprising 3 beautiful terraces which reveal themselves as you stroll along the gardens. The ancient Festival of Lamps is held annually on the last Sunday of March just outside the garden walls. later Visit Lahore Museum which has a rich and varied collection of objects from the Indus civilization, the Ghandara, Hindu, and the Muslim period. Later, Drive across the ageless River Ravi and visit the Majestic Mausoleum of Emperor Jehangir, surrounded by Dilkush Gardens, which belonged to his wife noor Jehan. Nearby is the small but impressive mausoleum of Noor Jehan (The Light of the world). The Moghuls brought carpet weavers from Smarkand and Bokhara. Like the architecture, the arts and crafts of Moghul period has survived and even flourished. Pakistani hand knotted carpets are famous the world over. Spinning, dyeing, designing, knotting, washing and finishing are all done by hand and this visit will reveal this ancient craft. Visit to a carpet showroom and a handicraft centre will be followed by shopping tour of famous Anarkali Bazaar. This Bazaar is a favorite of the ladies of Lahore and those who visit its meandering by-lanes and profusion of hundreds of shops containing clothes, Jewelery, linen and bangles. Evening leisure.
Day 12: Depart for Multan via Harappa. The 200 Km drive to Harappa is through the lush green plains of the Punjab. Passing by the towns of Okara and Sahiwal reach this 4000 year old city in 4 hours. Harappa is a contemporary of Babylon, the Gyptian Pyramids and Moenjodaro. At excavation site, visit the citadel, the defensive wall, the granaries and the museum. (Picnic lunch). Reach Multan in the afternoon. Transfer to Sindbad hotel. dinner.
Day 13: Multan the land of the mystics is probably the oldest surviving city in south west Asia. The history of Multan is the history of the sub-continent. Every invader from Alexander, through the Moughals , right up to the British have fought for control of the city. Visit the Multan fort which was besieged by Alexander’s armies for months. Alexander, in an amazing feat of personal bravery, scaled the battlements of the fort and dropped alone behind the walls where he was struck by an arrow. Visit the shrine of Tomb of Shah Rukn e Alam, Tomb of Baha ud Din Zakaria Multani, shrine Shah Shams inside the fort. Later visit the colorful bazaar and see artisans making the famous camel skin lamp shades. Afternoon departure for Chotti, via Muzaffargarh in the Thal desert. This excursion will give some glimpses of Baluch culture.
Day 14: Departure for Bahawalpur via Multan. Bahawalpur, also known as Baghdad-ul-Jadid (New Bagh dad) was the capital of former Bahawalpur State. The city built on the same lines as Baghdad still retains the charm and magic of the Arabian Nights. The only place in Pakistan, where like Hongking, cycle rickshaws are used for transportation. Night stay in Bahawalpur.
Day 15: Departure for UCH (70 Km), one of the many Alexandria’s built by Alexander in 325 B.C. Tombs and shrines, often octagonal in shape, decorated with fasience blue and white tiles are all that is left of this crumbling civilization.
Visiting typical villages enroute, reach Derawar, set in the heart of Cholistan. There was a chain of forts along the banks of (dried up) river Ghaghra, which were built to prevent Mongols from reaching Delhi. In Cholistan the camel is the focus of life. It is a means of travel, nourishment and entertainment for the nomadic people of Cholistan. Life in the desert flourishes around the water holes. Nurtured by monsoon rains, these attract beasts to flock together and survive the relentless pressure of desert life. Night with nomads of Rohi. Camp fire at night. Taste the nomad food and folk music.
Day 16: Morning free to relax. Afternoon departure by air for Moenjodaro. Transfer to hotel. Overnight.
Day 17: Sightseeing of Moenjodaro also known as the ‘Mound of the Dead’. Excavations have revealed that even 3,000 years ago, they had administrative and religious buildings, public baths and a state granary, palace and assembly halls, well laid out streets and residential areas – all this bears witness to the fact that there must have been a very strong and organized government and civil service, trade and agriculture. Spend a day in a city that fascinates the whole world.
Day 18: Departure by air for Karachi. Transfer to hotel. Overnight.
Day 19: Tour commences with a visit to the National Museum which has fabulous arte facts on display from Indus Valley (4,500 years old), Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara (1,500 years old), Hindu Sculptures from 10th century and a large collection of manuscripts, coins and art objects from the Muslim period. Like the covered Bazaar in Istanbul and Khan-el-Khalili in Cairo, Karachi has the Bohri Bazaar. In and around Bohri Bazaar. In and around Bohri Bazaar you will find everything that the colorful East can boast of. Gold jewellery, carpets, wood crafts, traditional wedding dresses, hand embroidered garments, exquisite linen, in a bazaar, from the pages of a book.Evening at leisure.
Day 20: Banbhore (64 km) was once a port on the Arabian Sea. Excavations have revealed three distinct eras of civilization.The walls of the old fort, the excavation site and the museum with its fabulous display, makes Banbhore a very rewarding excursion. On return, visit the yellow sand stone graveyard of Chaukundi. These 16th and 17th century graves have beautiful stone carvings, showing flowers and jewellery for the women and weapons, horses and riders for the men. This is a unique city of the dead, with living art in stone. Thatta (98 km) dates back to the invading armies of the Greeks. The moody Indus changed its course and Thatta was no more a port. But it retained its imoportance as the capital of lower Sind. The Moghul emperor Shah Jehan’s mosque, with 93 domes and blue glazed tile work, is a superb example of Thatta’s glory. Half a million tombs and mausoleums spread over 6 sq km make Makli Hill (Little Mecca), the biggest necropolis in the Muslim world. In this city of silence, the carved stones and the glazed tiles speak loudly of the master craftsmanship of this area, which even today lives on. On return visit Haleji Lake, a sanctuary for thousands of migratory birds of various species. Picnic lunch with the birds for companions! (lunch and soft drinks provided).
Day 21: Onward destination.