Traveling in Pakistan… When I first told my Mum that I planned to travel to Pakistan as part of my hitchhiking adventure across The Middle East, she was somewhat skeptical. She was probably wondering “for what reason would you travel to Pakistan?”
Pakistan is a country which is often portrayed in the media as a war-torn hellhole and tourism in Pakistan is almost non-existent. Every year, only a very small number of adventure backpackers and die-hard climbers travel to Pakistan, I was determined to be one of them…
Traveling in Pakistan is a truly unique experience, it can be frustrating, enlightening, life-changing and, more often than not, surprising. Pakistan is the ultimate backpacking destination and if you are a fan of real adventure, it’s time for you to travel to Pakistan!
Here are the 18 Reasons why you should pack your bags and travel to Pakistan…
1: People are simply amazing
And they want you to enjoy their country.
The Pakistani people are, without a doubt, the most hospitable, kind and welcoming folk that I have ever encountered. From the bustling streets of Lahore to the quaint mountain towns of Hunza, every time a local person spotted me I would, without fail, be rewarded with a huge grin and often an invitation to dinner. I lost count of just how many cups of free chai I drank but it was a lot…
On one occasion, a kindly man named Rehman invited me to visit his family in a small village in the mountains, I stayed for almost a week – hiking on the nearby glaciers and playing cricket with Rehman’s kids. I’ve been lucky enough to make many friends on my travels but the friendships I forged in Pakistan were some of the most genuine I have ever made; the people simply cannot do enough for you.
I couchsurfed my way around the country, being welcomed into the homes of numerous strangers who always insisted on feeding me like a king and showing me around their local town. I cannot wait to return to see my many friends again.
2: Unbelievable Landscapes
The world’s most beautiful country – it might just be Pakistan.
OK, even the most illiterate of map readers should know that Pakistan is famous for its mountains, valleys, rivers, glaciers, and forests… This is a country with more than its fair share of truly wondrous sites and tourism in Pakistan is bound to take off eventually!
Five of the world’s fourteen highest peaks, including the famed and deadly K2, are found in Pakistan. If you are into your climbing, rafting or trekking, Pakistan is the country for you.
I have explored over seventy countries and I can safely say that Pakistan is the most diverse and beautiful country I have ever visited. There are plenty of unclimbed peaks just waiting to be conquered by a worthy adventurer…
3: Everything is possible in Pakistan… even raves.
Pakistan is not what you might expect.
Whilst in Lahore, word got out that a backpacker was visiting and, before I knew it, I had been invited to a very exclusive party set up in the middle of nowhere…
I passed a small army of private security, proved I was on the guest list and finally, I was into one of the craziest parties I have ever been to. An international DJ, plenty of young, rich and beautiful Pakistani people, trippy lights and plenty of energizers to keep me going… It was a mad night.
4: Pakistan is safe
And you can play with guns!
Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Pakistan, the main one is simply – is it safe to travel to Pakistan?– the answer is relatively simple. Yes, as long as you steer clear of the Afghanistan border regions.
It’s true that Pakistan does sometimes get hit by terrorist attacks (there was two whilst I was there) but, right now, every country in the world seems to be fair game and you are no safer sitting at home. The media feeds on fear and prejudice, do not let yourself be influenced.
Pakistani people are extremely anti-Taliban (and the Pakistani armed forces are currently kicking Taliban asses in the border regions) and will do everything they can to keep you safe at all costs.
On occasion, you might be assigned a police escort. This does not necessarily mean you are in a dangerous area, it just means the local police branch wants to keep an eye on you.
I had a couple of bodyguards, one of whom was a sixty year old with the strength of a dozen twenty-year-olds. I quickly made friends with them even though they spoke no English – simply smile, be respectful and, just like in any other country, you will be fine.
5: It was a part of the British Raj
Almost everyone speaks English!
It wasn’t too long ago that Pakistan was a part of The British Empire. As such English is widely taught in school’s and is often the de facto language for all business and political dealings. For those on a tour of Pakistan, this means that you will be able to communicate very well with the locals.
It still pays to learn a little Urdu because Pakistani people will be very impressed to hear you speak it. Often they will shower you with compliments and huge smiles. The mountainous regions will be less able to speak English as well so Urdu actually pays when you’re visiting Gilgit-Baltistan.
6: The Historical Silk Road
Follow in the footsteps of the explorers of old.
To travel in Pakistan is to step back into the pages of history. Marco Polo was one of the first European explorers to tackle The Silk Road, an ancient trade route that spanned the Orient, linking the treasuries of the Roman Empire to the Imperial Dynasties of China.
At the trade route’s heart lies the Karakoram, a pivotal crossroad between The Indian Subcontinent, The Middle East, and Central Asia. It is the corridor through which advanced three great faiths – Islam to the east, Buddhism to the north, and curry to the West.
Today, the unendingly impressive Karakoram Highway runs the length of the country and offers stunning views, epic motorbike adventures and the chance to follow in the footsteps of history. My good friend Shah is now running motorcycling tours in Pakistan.
7: You get to drive on the highest road in the world
The ultimate road trip!
The Karakoram Highway is a high-altitude road that connects Pakistan to China. It is the highest paved road in the world and is a vital artery of Pakistan’s economy. Trucks constantly ply this route and transport goods between the two Asia countries.
The Karakoram Highway is also breathtaking! The road itself goes straight through the heart of the mountains and offers unrivaled views of them. You’ll see Rakaposhi, the Passu Cones, and the Khunjerab border, all without even leaving the car!
A tour on Pakistan’s KKH should be on any motorist’s bucket-list. It’s one of the most impressive roads ever and an absolute marvel to drive on.
8: Traveling in Pakistan can be cheap
Chai for just three cents…
Pakistan is the second cheapest country I have been to. It’s possible to visit Pakistan on a budget of around $100 a week – this will cover food, accommodation, transport and plenty of awesome activities.
If you have Pakistani friends, they will almost certainly insist on treating you to everything. Pakistanis are unbelievably generous and although I tried on many occasions to pay for dinner, my couchsurfing hosts would never allow it.
Accommodation in Pakistan can be quite expensive but there are multiple places you can camp and it’s easy to find a couchsurfing host. Make sure you pack your tent if you want to save money on accommodation – well worth it when staying at places like The Fairy Meadows.
Trying to organize solo adventure tours in Pakistan can be a bit of a hassle. For example – while it may be relatively easy to visit Everest via a trek in Nepal, K2 requires a whole lot more logistics. Because of the bureaucracy and costs, most visitors will probably end up being a part of an organized tour in Pakistan – for, at the very least, a bit of time.
These are actually a lot of fun! For a look into what a Pakistani tour package is like, read this review here.
9: Fantastic Treks
Get lost in the mountains of Pakistan, just not literally – as you shall die.
Pakistan has some of the world’s best trekking, even better than Nepal. There are hundreds of truly stunning treks that you can do in Pakistan – from simple day treks to multi-week expeditions – and even the laziest of backpackers will have the chance to see some truly stunning terrain.
Whilst backpacking in Pakistan, I went on a few stunning treks, the best of which was a hike to the legendary Fairy Meadows where I spent three days soaking in the incredible views of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. I had the spot entirely to myself, it was low-season, and I had to trek through waist-deep snow to get there. It was a truly peaceful, special place.
10: The food is incredible
We cry for some karhai!
Pakistani food is just spectacular – rich, spicy, sweet; all that and then some. There are savory curries, grilled skewered meats, fresh fruits, biryanis, and much, much more in Pakistan.
There were several times while I was traveling in Pakistan that I went out of my way to find the best possible morsels. Lahore had amazing (and spicy!) food, particularly on Food Street, and recommend that everyone visit Haveli Restaurant. But the best Pakistani food that I ever had was at a roadside stop outside of Narran – the karhais were just so damn good!
11: Multi-cultural awesomeness
Festivals, weddings, ceremonies, and parties…
Pakistan is a country which is often depicted in the media as being a place of religious intolerance. This is far from true, you can find Muslims, Christians, and Hindus living side by side in many of the countries cities.
Pakistan ethnicity is diverse as well. People from the East are more Punjabi, the West is more Aryan (like Iran), and the North is more Turkic – our friend Rehman is actually an offshoot of a Tajik. There are even many tribal groups still living, largely undisturbed, within the more remote parts of the country…
To travel in Pakistan is to be assaulted from all sides by new colors, tastes, sights, and smells. I truly felt like I was getting back to the raw spirit of adventuring and I was fascinated by the many colorful characters I met upon my travels in Pakistan.
12: There are still untouched communities
Just go watch The Man Who Would Be King…
Rudyard Kipling’s epic The Man Who Would Be King was partly inspired by the hidden hill tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the movie, two British ex-soldiers travel to a remote part of the Hindu Kush in search of glory and treasure. Granted, they perished due to their own hubris, but you can still visit some of these areas!
One of the most famous communities is the Kalash. Within the province of Chitral, the Kalash tribe is a very distinct tribe of Dardic indigenous people, once thought to be descended from soldier’s of Alexander The Great’s army – deserters who had disappeared into the hills and now live in legend.
The Kalash people practice their own religious beliefs and are very fond of colorful festivals. Women are treated as equals to men and people enjoy libations more than most Pakistanis usually do.
You can visit the Kalash people at the moment if you like. Just reach out to a local tour operator in Pakistan and they will organize everything for you.
13: The hash is some of the best in the world…
It’s always 4:20 somewhere…
It is illegal for Muslims to drink in Pakistan but it is legal for foreigners, and local Christians, to enjoy a beer or two. There is even a Pakistani brewery set up for this purpose.
I didn’t drink whilst in Pakistan, preferring instead to enjoy the extremely good quality hashish, which can be easily found throughout most of the country. Hashish is an important part of Pakistani culture and, whilst illegal, many Pakistanis enjoy a cheeky smoke whilst watching the sunset paint the mountains in gorgeous shades of orange, red, and gold.
14: The Mughal Architecture
From the guys who brought you the Taj Mahal
The Mughals were one of the greatest dynasties of the Indian Subcontinent and built many famous monuments like the Taj Mahal and Red Fort in India. Lahore was the capital of the Mughal Empire for many years, which means it hosts some of the empire’s most brilliant architecture!
The Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort are two of the most impressive buildings in Asia and are great to visit. Both of these structures are beautiful and look almost like a fairytale. While I was visiting them, I actually imagined I was in Aladdin.
There are lots more Mughal structures in Pakistan, including Rohtas Fort, Shalimar Gardens, and the Tomb of Jahangir. Visit them all if you have the chance.
15: There’s plenty of beaches
The Arabian Sea is right there…
People often imagine Pakistan to be pure desert or super mountainous – they forget that it shares a border with the Arabian Sea too!
There is over 1000 km of coastline in Pakistan and most of it is empty. Imagine desert beaches with hardly any development and only the waves to contend with. There are sea stacks, arches, white cliffs, and fine sand, all of which sounds like the perfect beach to me.
Granted, a lot of Pakistan’s coastline is off-limits because it is a part of Balochistan. Balochistan is a semi-autonomous tribal area and is often quite hectic. We’d recommend visiting the area with a Pakistani tour operator.
The beaches outside of Karachi are very good though – beautiful and popular with the locals. You’ll get to see a more fun side of Pakistani culture and catch some serious rays in the process.
16: Pakistani clothing is comfortable
While leading one of my tour packages in Pakistan, a few of us decided to shop for Shalwar Kameez; traditional Pakistani clothes. The baggy trouser and long shirt combo is not only suave as hell, it is also possibly the most comfortable thing you can ever wear – like been massaged by your bed covers all day long!
Whilst we didn’t exactly “blend in”, the locals were certainly surprised, bemused and pleased to see us rocking the local dress and it earned us multiple offers of hot chai.
17: It’s a Mecca for extreme sports
For real adventure, get your ass to Pakistan
If you’re a mountaineer, a rock climber, a paraglider, or any other sort of extreme sports athlete, then you’ve probably dreamed of visiting Pakistan already. Due to relative anonymity and a plethora of unexplored wildernesses, Pakistan provides the ultimate challenge for many…
K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and receives a fraction of the number of climbers that Everest does. There have been far less successful summits of K2.
Many of the peaks in the Karakoram haven’t even been attempted yet, which means they are still unnamed. For peak-baggers, there is an endless amount of first-summits in Pakistan.
Rock climbing, white water rafting, and other sports are just starting to develop in Pakistan. It is only a matter of time before the Karakoram become as famous as the Alps or Himalaya. Organize a tour to Pakistan while it’s still raw!
18: It’s exotic and eccentric
There is nowhere else like Pakistan
Pakistani culture is so different than any other that I’ve ever encountered – they’re welcoming, unique, proud, and a little wacky, all at the same time. There were so many instances where I just left stupified by how utterly special this place is.
I loved the over-the-top buses driving on the Karakoram. I thoroughly enjoyed walking amongst some of the craziest and ridiculous mountains in the world. Most of all, I was humbled while getting to know the locals and learning more about their life in Pakistan.
There is no way to tour Pakistan without being impressed at some point. This country hits you with everything it’s got and leaves you just speechless. I left Pakistan a profoundly different person and I think that everyone who visits will feel the same way.
Final Thoughts for a trip to Pakistan
In a nutshell, Pakistan is an adventure playground. This is a country which truly has everything; friendly locals, stunning landscapes, incredible treks, untapped white water rafting, undiscovered expeditions, colorful festivals, tasty food, and just enough thrills to keep you on your toes.
A trip to Pakistan is not your standard adventure, this is a chance to really connect with the local people and to see a country which, really, nobody knows much about.
Keen to visit Pakistan with a group of like-minded people?
Tours to Pakistan
In 2017 we ran our first adventure tours to Pakistan. This was an awesome success and in 2019 we will be running at least four more adventures to this amazing country.
Exciting news! We have launched our new tour company and website which you can check out at epicbackpackertours.com. Please visit the new website or email [email protected] to find out more, or simply sign up to the Broke Backpacker mailing list to be kept in the loop.
I cannot recommend Pakistan highly enough, this is a country with so much adventure potential and, to be honest, it was hard to pick just ten reasons you should travel to Pakistan, this really is a country that has everything.
If you’re traveling to Pakistan on a solo trip and want to meet up with other backpackers heading that way, or are keen to pick the brains of myself and other Pakistan backpacking veterans – join this Facebook Group: Backpacking Pakistan and feel free to fire away with questions!
For more information on how to travel to Pakistan, check out my Backpacking Pakistan Travel Guide.
In 2018, we are working with Rehman to open up Pakistan’s first backpacking hostel in the Hunza mountain region.
If you want to go on an adventure tour of Pakistan and TBB tours are either full or our dates do not work for you, I highly recommend checking out Find My Adventure Pakistan – run by my good friend, and one of Pakistan’s youngest entrepreneurs, Komail.
Komail works alongside TBB tours on the ground and if you can’t come on a TBB tour of Pakistan, Komail is the guy you want to arrange your adventure. TBB readers get 10% off FMA services with the coupon code: TBBT10