Period (15 May – 25 October)
An extraordinary tour that traverses the Hindukush, Karakoram and Himalayas: the three highest mountain ranges in the world. Explore wild Peshawar, the capital of the legendary Pathans. Trek through the intriguing Hindukush villages of the Kafir Kailash in Hindukush. Follow the rugged Punial jeep track to Shandur Pass, the site of the world’s highest polo arena. Explore the former kingdoms of Gilgit and Hunza tucked in the Karakoram Mountains. Trek to the base camp of Diran (23,832 ft/7,266 m) and walk over a glacier with exciting mountain vistas. Travel the legendary Karakoram Highway along the bank of the river Indus.
Our safari starts with a short walk in the Margalla Hills, nborth of Islamabad. Pakistan’s capital, with its most striking edifice the Shah Faisal Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world. At Taxila, stroll through the Buddhist monasteries and stupas from the second century. We take the Grand Trunk Road to Peshawar – steeped in its won legends and the culture of the Pathan tribes who live by an unbreakable code of conduct – badla (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. We stroll down Qissa Khawani Bazaar (Street of Storytellers) where raconteurs once fascinated crowds with lurid tales. We wander down side-streets and see dazzling copper-and brass-ware, old carpets and kilims, spectacular tribal jewellery, antiques—all available at unbeatable prices. Subject to permission. We visit Dara Adam Khel, a bizarre bazaar where Pathan craftsmen, working with primitive tools, create every conceivable weapon from a ball point pen pistol to stinger missiles. We head to the bustling small twon of Chitral in the Hindukush.
Chitral is also the gateway to Kafiriswtan—a series of remote mountain villages that are home to the attractive Kafir Kailash (‘Wearers of the Black Robe’) who claim Greek ancestry. The 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 cowry shells, bits of metal, watchbands, plastic flowers, tiny buttons. This once isolated tribe still retains many of its old customs and its animist belief in gods who preside over spirits and animals. This is also a tribe that love s to dance. Birth, marriages, death set them in motion. The Kailash are a joyful people keeping time to their ancient culture. We walk through the valley, visiting small but important Kafir Kailash villages.
From here, we pass through the semi-arid landscape of Chitral Valley as we head to the small town of Mastuj. From here we walk and drive through the Hindukush Mountains, which receive little rain, resembling a high-altitude desert,. Small villages, irrigated by glacier streams, are green as emeralds and provide a stark contrast to the dry mountains.
Our next drive is the high point in our safari. From Chitral, we follow the Mastuj River and weave through quiet clay villages set behind walls. As the road slowly winds into the Hindukush, peaks turn strange hues of red and pale greens; black boulders hand over the road; the river roars by in a gorge. Suddenly the vista breaks open, showing off towering mountains.
Once the high-latitude terrain turns arid, we enter a parched canyon and the Karakoram Range, chiseled and re-designed by years of erosion. The road continues its sinuous climb. We reach Shandur Pass (12.247 ft/3734 m), the scene of Pakistan’s most famous polo match that pitches Chitral against Gilgit once a year. We camp at Phander Lake. Then we continue along the rugged highway to Punial, once a small princely state with its capital at here the raja (king) lived in his small palace across the river.
Trek to the base camp of Diran Peak (23,832 ft/7,266 m). Enjoy a panoramic view dominated by Diran Peak and the gleaming serrated ridge of Rakaposhi (25.545 ft/7,788 m). the entire bowl between the campsite and the mountain is filled with swirling lines of the crevassed Minapin Glacier.
Our next destination is Hunza Valley, the land of the Ismailis, a sect of Shiite Muslims who follow their leader. Prince Karim Agha Khan. Karimabad, just off the Karakoram Highway, heading north to China, is Hunza’s former capital and still the home of the former Mir (king). Form this mountain village, vistas of snow-clad peaks dazzle at sunrise and sunset, bathing terraced fields in soft light and shadows.
Now we head to Gilgit, the temporary goal of ancient traders who struggled along the treacherous Silk Route. Gilgit was the trader’s rooftop oasis—the place to do some quick trading for essential goods before resuming a journey. Here you 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.
We follow the Karakoram Highway along the mighty Indus River and pass through mall Hamlets stopping overnight at the alpine village of Sharkool. Then we conclude our tour in Islamabad.
Day 01: Arrive Islamabad
Welcome reception on arrival and transfer to hotel. Afternoon walking tour of Margalla Hills, north of Islamabad. Overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Drive Islamabad – Peshawar (170 km, 4 hrs).
Drive by jeep to Peshawar. En route visit Taxila. Visit Buddhist Julian monastery from the second century AD, explore the Taxila hils and the site museum. Continue drive to Peshawar.
Day 03: Peshawar
Morning city tour of Peshawar. Afternoon excursion to Dara Adam Khel, the strangest arms market in the world. Overnight hotel.
Day 04: Drive Peshawar – Dir – Chitral (275 km, 11/12 hrs)
From Peshawar drive over the Lowari Pass to Chitral. Overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Drive Chitral – Birir Valley (47 km, 3/4 hrs)
AM visit to Chigtral Bazaar, then drive to Birir village in Kafir Kailash valley. Camp overnight.
Day 06: Trek Birir – Bomburit (7/8 hrs)
This trek takes us over steep 9,840 foot or 3,000 meter ridge that separates the Bomburit and Birir valleys. We start with the first light of the day to cross the ridge before it’s too hot. (Kitchen jeep will come by the jeep track, so we do not engage porters). Camp overnight.
Day 07: Trek Bomburit – Rambur (7/8 hrs)
Walk through the Kafir Kailash Valley with panoramic views of forested ridges. Camp overnight.
Day 08: Drive Rambur – Mastuj (156 km, 8/9 hrs)
Drive to Mastuj and stop at Sargos village. Camp overnight.
Day 09: Drive Mastuj – Phander (80 km, 10/11 hrs)
Drive up the Punial jeep-track. After we reach Laspur village, we leave the jeeps and walk over the Shandur Pass to the highest polo ground in the world. Then we continue the jeep drive to Phander Lake for overnight camp.
Day 10: Phander Lake
Free day at Phander for fishing and trekking. Overnight camp.
Day 11: Drive Phander – Punial (163 km, 7/8 hrs).
Jeep drive to Punial, with opportunities to walk along a trekking route. As we drive/walk. We bid farewell to Hindukush Range and enter the Karakoram Range. Dinner and overnight at camp.
Day 12: Drive Punial – Minapin (95 km, 3/4 hrs)
Drive from Punial to Karakoram Highway, passing through Gilgit town. Sixty kilometers from Gilgit, we leave the highway and head to the small village of Minapin in the shadow of Rakaposhi and Diran mountains. Camp overnight.
Day 13: Trek Minapin – Tagafuri (5/6 hrs)
This easy trek passes through juniper, willow and rose-covered hills, with occasional fields of barely and potatoes. We enjoy lunch at a summer settlement. Then we follow a path through steep pastures to arrive at a campsite between the lateral moraine and the foot of Rakaposhi. Overnight at camp.
Day 14: Tagafuri, Excursion To Diran Base Camp (8 hrs)
During a full day excursion to Kacheli (Diran Peak base camp), we cross Minapin Glacier from the top end of the meadow at Tagafuri. We walk over soft snow and medial moraine to Kacheli a grassy, meadow with Karakoram flowers and superb views of Rakaposhi. Camp overnight.
Day 15: Trek Tagafuri – Minapin, Drive To Karimabad
Walk down form Tagafuri to Minapin village, where our jeeps wait to take us to Karimabad, the capital of the legendary Hunza Valley. Dinner and overnight at hotel. Enjoy a shower!
Day 16: Karimabad, Excursion To Ultar Glacier
Visit the eighth century old Altit fort that overlooks the old Silk Route and the new Karakoram Highway. Trek to Ultar Glacier, north of Karimabad and enjoy stellar views of Ultar peaks that soar to 24,272 feet or 7400 meters. Overnight at hotel.
Day 17: Drive Karimabad – Passu (5/6 hrs)
Drive to Passu village and trek via Passue Glacier, Borith Lake, Ghulkin Glacier to charming Gulmith village in the shadow of the virgin Gulmith Tower (20,0089 ft/6, 100 m). Dinner and overnight at inn.
Day 18: Drive Gulmith – Nagar Valley
Drive on the Karakoram Highway to Nagar Valley in the shadow of Rakaposhi Mountain, which faces Hunza Valley. We walk to nearby Hopper Glacier, which drops 16,400 feet or 5000 meters from its source to 7,446ft/2.270 m. The glacier surges along at a reckless speed of 20 meters per day, creaking and groaning as it moves forward and churning itself into huge ice pinnacles and yawning crevasses. Camp overnight.
Day 19: Drive Nagar – Gilgit (120 km, ¾ hrs)
Drive on the Karakoram Highway to Gilgit, the administrative capital of Northern Pakistan. Afternoon walk through the bazaars. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 20: Drive Gilgit – Sharkool Village (430 km, 11/12 hrs)
Drive on the Karakoram Highway along the river Indus to Sharkool. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 21: Drive Sharkool Village – Islamabad (200 km, 4/5 hrs)
Drive to Islamabad and transfer to hotel. Afternoon free for shopping. Farewell dinner at hotel.
Day 22: Fly Islamabad
Airport transfer for departure flight.
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