In Focus

Pakistan in Pictures: A Journey through Pakistan

Forbes Magazine has placed Pakistan on the list of 10 coolest places to visit in 2019. Ann Abel, who has been a travel writer and editor for 15 years, has compiled a list of 10 countries, wherein she mentioned the suggestions of Sara Barbieri, a specialist with a super travel agency GeoEx. “Explore the valleys of Hunza, Shigar and Khaplu via the renowned Karakoram Highway. This little-visited region in the far northeast of the country offers the kind of startlingly striking scenery that compels you to gaze from the window of your 4WD without blinking, for fear of missing a moment of the majesty of the landscape — or one of the astounding suspension bridges that cross the surging rivers filled with snow melt. Add to this the warm welcome of the people, the glacial blue of Attabad lake, the centuries of history, the juxtaposition of granite to greenery, the chance to walk through an age old-apricot orchard along water channels cut by hand, and the blazing snow-covered glory of Rakaposhi, and you must acknowledge there is a grand adventure to be had.”

Although Pakistan was a tourism hotspot in the 1970s, the recent decades experienced slowdown owing to the fears about traveling to Pakistan, a situation which has been reversed by the ceaseless efforts of our law enforcement agencies and resolve of the entire nation. The country possesses some of the astounding attractions from the mountains, beautiful lakes, scenic valleys, rich cultural heritage, and centuries old civilizations. This pictorial feature showcases the breathtaking beauty of Pakistan’s landscapes and its people through the lens of talented photographers from Pakistan and abroad, giving credence to Pakistan as truly being the land of the pure. 

Khaplu Palace, locally known as Yabgo Khar which translates into “the fort on the roof”, this 19th century palace is an old fort is located in Khaplu in the Baltistan region. Built by Raja Yabgo in the 1840s it served as the royal residence for the Raja of Khaplu. The architecture embodies the Tibetan, Balti and Kashmiri styles, enveloping the visitors in the surviving historical and cultural heritage of Baltistan. It underwent renovation and restoration from 2005 to 2011 and is managed by the Serena Hotels.  The palace has received Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in poverty reduction in 2012 and the Award for Distinction by UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards in 2013. 

At an elevation of 2,286 meters, Taobat is a must-see village in the Neelum Valley, a spot exuding the natural beauty of Azad Kashmir to the best. 

Like many foreigners, when you hear the word ‘Pakistan’ the first thing that comes to mind is: Is it safe?
The media always portrays this country in a negative way. Like anyone travelling to Pakistan for the first time, one of the biggest issues was telling my family where I was going. News of my upcoming trip was often received with a moment of silence on the phone before I would hear a reaction.
Within a couple of days of landing in Pakistan I was confused. What I was experiencing was not supposed to be like this. Everyone outside of this country will tell you what a dangerous place Pakistan is, yet I had never been so warmly greeted by total strangers in a foreign country. I was treated with overwhelming generosity, kindness and hospitality. The other stuff the media focuses on is there but you have to go looking for it. What I experienced was completely at odds with my expectations.
The traffic is the craziest you will ever see but the locals have awesome driving skills. Many things defy logic, but this country defies expectations at every turn. That’s what makes it such an amazing travel destination.
It is also worth remembering that Pakistan was also a tourist destination before 9/11, something the media never talk about. Research reveals that the country was the second most popular place in the world for mountain climbing prior to 9/11. Five of the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters in height are located in Pakistan.
I have now been to Pakistan 9 times and this alone tells you how safe and wonderful this country is. In 2018 two guests from Australia came with me and had the same wonderful experience I had over the years.
Will I go back? I am already planning the next trip – Insha Allah.

Andrea Francolini
Award winning photographer based in Australia.

Pakistan is nothing short of spectacular. One of the most memorable trips I had in 2018. On one hand there is Lahore, a stunning city with beautiful architecture all around, while the natural beauty of Northern Pakistan is beyond this world. The mountains, the people, the Karakoram Highway, Gilgit-Baltistan has it all for adventurers and nature lovers alike. I won't be forgetting the moment I saw Nanga Parbat and Minapin glacier up close anytime soon.
One of the best things about Pakistan is how friendly the people are. My trip was mostly improvised with the help of the hospitalities I received by the Pakistanis while on the road. For example, my flight was cancelled and I had to take a car ride for 33 hours straight from Skardu to Islamabad with two Pakistanis to catch my flight out. 33 hours of adventure created lasting friendships for all of us in the car. It's this randomness of people, experience and adventures that made me fall in love with Pakistan.

Pete Rojwongsuriya 
Travel blogger at BucketListly.  

When I told my folks I was going to Pakistan, they thought I was putting my life at risk and I should reconsider going. I still went, and I’m glad I did. I was able to meet a country of people welcoming me in their homes, inviting me over for tea and food, had their families meet me and provided me with a place to stay, all because they felt honored to have me as a guest, and they wanted me to have the best time. Hospitality and warm smiles is what I experienced everywhere. What really blew me away was the beautiful mountainous landscape in Gilgit-Baltistan and KP. I didn’t have to hike or anything – I was surrounded by mountains from the moment I entered Gilgit-Baltistan. It is so breathtaking that it is hard to take it in all at once! I felt safe and am still mind blown by how many beautiful places there are in Pakistan and how kind everyone is. When I hear about Pakistan on the news from now on, this is what I am going to remember.

Dana Wang
Vlogger from Sydney, Australia.

Hanging over the Hunza River in Gojal, Upper Hunza, Hussaini bridge was constructed in 1967-68, connecting Zarabad hamlet to Hussaini village. It is located at about 45 kms from Aliabad Hunza and 132 kms from Gilgit.

Pakistan has been of the most interesting places I have ever visited. Blessed with a cornucopia of sites of outstanding natural beauty such as the Karakoram Mountains and inhabited by unique and culturally diverse communities, the region enticed both my spirit and analytical mind. Being a geoscientist and avid alpinist, the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan provided me with many opportunities to explore both important scientific issues related to glacial dynamics and climate change as well as skyrocketing mountains such as Yukshin Gardan Sar.  Despite the extreme climate and harsh environment, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been living a self-reliant and frugal existence, practising subsistence agriculture and transhumance, and incorporating social harmony, environmental sustainability, and spiritual sophistication in their day-to-day life adaptive and philanthropic practices which I value and try to promote in my professional life. In Pakistan, I have found many hospitable, intelligent, and kind people, delicious food and a genuine human connection and interpersonal experience – the kind that you rarely find in the West. I salute the government of Pakistan’s continuous efforts towards promoting and safeguarding tourism in the region and I look forward to returning to the Northern Areas in the near future for more exploration.

Sergiu Jiduc
Founder, The Karakoram Anomaly Project Fellow, Royal Geographical Society with IBG Explorer, National Geographic Society.   

A five-week journey through Pakistan in spring 2018 in search of the most beautiful face to ski on the planet
The expedition began with a photograph seen by Thomas Delfino in a library book. A mountain so steep, so full of icy spines and flutes, a face so beautiful and eye catching that he became obsessed with it and threw himself into research to find what it was exactly : The Biacherahi North Tower in Pakistan's Karakoram range. Altitude : 5880m. Has it ever been climbed ? No one even knows. When he talked about it with his friend and fellow snowboard freerider Zak Mills, he discovered that Mills himself was also fascinated by this very same mighty tower. And so, Thomas gathered the best group of people to set up an expedition to get at least to the bottom of that mountain, hoping to maybe ascend and ski on it, as well as ride other mountains along the way. To access this incredibly remote face, one must start hiking from Askole, a tiny Pakistani village, onto the vastly unknown Nobande Sobande glacier. The crew received help from the Balti porters before being left in complete isolation for almost three weeks, pulling sleds full of dehydrated food, tents and propane to melt the snow, solar panels for the camera equipments, sleeping bags, and mountain gear. The many challenges included moving camp almost every day, acclimatation to high altitude, battery, gas and food management, freezing nights, dealing with extreme mental and physical tiredness, avoiding crevasses and avalanche hazards, and of course ski beautiful, steep and committed lines without any room for mistakes. On top of that, the expedition set off to pass the mythic Skam La, a difficult to hike 5630m high pass in order to join the Sim Gang glacier and the further Snow Lake area, one of the most beautiful places in the world. To come back to Askole the crew then came down the Biafo glacier, closing a loop of 150km by foot and by skis. A true adventure encapsulated in the movie Zabardast, produced by Picture Organic Clothing in association with Almo Film.
Then, a smaller fraction of the group went on to visit Islamabad and traveled by trains and buses to discover the real Pakistan. They found a way to rent 125cc motorbikes and escaped towards the hills and the lakes, camping in villages and meeting with the locals.

Jérôme Tanon
Photographer and filmmaker.

Adjacent to the Jail Road in Hyderabad, a hundred steps or so lead towards the tombs. Commonly known as Kubbay – Sindhi for tombs – this place pays homage to the Talpur Mirs who started their rule in the area after blowing a defeat to the Kalhora dynasty in the Battle of Halani. The conflict ended with the Mughal Emperor Akbar issuing a decree in 1783 declaring Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur the new Nawab of Sindh. Their reign ended after suffering defeat in the Battle of Miani in 1843 against the British forces. The architecture of the tombs reflects the culture of Sindh, with Quranic verses carved on the walls and marbled graves. 

Shahi Hamam or the Royal Baths located inside the Delhi Gate was built by Hakim Ilmuddin Ansari, the Governor of Lahore during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in 1634 in the tradition of Turkish and Persian style. Ansar was granted the title of Wazir Khan, by which both he and the Hamam are often remembered by. It is the only public bath house of the Mughal period in Lahore. The Hamam stands out with beautiful fresco works on its walls and an intricate system for heating, water sprays, steam, and other such amenities. 

Tunnel No. 16-A is named "Summit". Built in 1894, it's the last (and highest in altitude) of 20 tunnels while you travel from Sibi to Quetta. 

Katas Raj is a complex of seven ancient temples called Satghara connected to one another by walkways, dedicated to Hindu god Shiva, attributed to the era of the Hindu kings dating back to 615-950 CE. It surrounds a pond named Katas which a myth says to have been formed from the teardrops of Shiva after he lost his wife Sati.  The site also houses remains of a Buddhist stupa, havelis and various medieval and newly built sanctuaries scattered across the lake. The architecture style of the complex echoes the style of Kashmiri temples of Karkota and Varma dynasties with its trefoil arches, fluted pillars, dentils and pointed roofs. With a collection of buildings and ruins stretching from the Buddhist era to the British rule, Katas Raj temples preserves approximately 1500 years of history in its space. 

Peshawar Museum is housed in a building with an original main hall formerly known as Victoria Hall, built in 1906-07 in her memory. The museum was set up in 1907 to house the Gandharan sculptures excavated from the major Gandharan sites. The building is a composition of the British and Mughal architectures, with extra stories and halls added later in the years after partition. The main collection of Peshawar Museum includes Gandharan sculptures, coins, copies of the Holy Quran, weapons, Kalash Effigies, Mughal era and later period miniature paintings and local and Persian handicrafts to name a few.

Had some traditional food from Gulmit in Hunza for breakfast. This is Ghilmindi and it is so good (my favorite actually). It is a wheat tortilla layered with yogurt, cheese, green onion, coriander and mint. The outside was fried and crispy and the inside was soft and creamy from the yogurt. Highly Recommended.

Bonzlanj Cafe, Gulmit, Hunza.

Datu Laal Bheel from Cholistan performing at Katas Raj Temples.

Celebrated every summer by the tribes of Gilgit and Chitral in northern Pakistan at Shandur – the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters – the festival provides an opportunity to engage and witness an amazing cultural experience in the Hindukush mountain ranges. It attracts enthused visitors every year to enjoy folk music, folk dance, traditional sports and a camping village. It is most famously known for its beautiful polo ground where a unique wild free-style polo is played between different teams of the region.

Camel skin craft has seen better days,
Shakeel Ahmed
He says camel skin product can be used for 50 to 100 years as it requires varnish or lacquer. For centuries kuppa (container) made of camel skin has been used for containing oil and ghee.

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