Good news for Pakistanis! Pakistan has topped the list of the best holiday destinations for 2020 by an international publication.
Conde Nast Traveller, which is a US-based luxury travel magazine, presents a list at the end of each year, judging different countries of the world based on a number of factors, including tourism policies, ease of travel, and, of course, the unparalleled beauty and culture a country has to offer. For quite some time, Pakistan has been scoring points in all of these areas and that’s why the South Asian country has been crowned the best holiday destination for 2020.
If you’re an avid traveller who hasn’t been to Pakistan and you’re wondering why it’s the world’s top tourist attraction, then you’ve landed on the right page. For your convenience, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to Pakistan’s tourism hotspots; find out all about the places you should explore and things you should do. So, let’s begin!
BEST HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS FOR 2020
Owing to the breathtaking beauty of the natural landscapes, high mountain peaks, cultural diversity, friendly people and architectural wonders steeped in rich history, many dating back to the Mughal era, Pakistan’s top spot on the annual list is well deserved.
Here are the other 19 countries, along with Pakistan, that made it to Conde Nast’s Traveller’s list of the best holiday destinations for 2020:
- Plymouth, UK
- Salvador, Brazil
- Kangaroo Island, Australia
- Galway, Ireland
- Siargao, Philippines
- Paris, France
- Egadi Islands, Sicily
- Dakar, Senegal
- Portland, Maine US
- Qingdao, China
- Frisian Islands, Denmark
- The British Virgin Islands
- Rabat, Morocco
- Rijeka, Croatia
- Kyoto, Japan
Beating the scenic, well-developed waterfront city of Plymouth UK, the trekker’s paradise that is Armenia, and the untainted beauty of Kyrgyzstan, for the top spot, is a true win for Pakistan.
There are many factors that have contributed to this win for the tourism industry of Pakistan. One cannot deny the role the government has played in this regard.
Over the past year, the incumbent government has introduced a slew of incentives to make travelling to Pakistan easier. This has encouraged many foreign tourists to visit the country. Moreover, the security situation in Pakistan has significantly improved over the past couple of years.
In its review, the US-based travel magazine mentioned how Pakistan’s tourism industry had been “thwarted by tales of terrorism and Taliban rule” for at least 20 years. However, relaxed visa restrictions and recent royal visits are strong indicators of progress.
There is so much to explore in Pakistan that whoever visits the country for the first time is sure to fall in love with it. In this blog, we have brought together all the aspects that make Pakistan truly an amazing country and why Pakistan has topped the list of the best holiday destinations for 2020.
But first, let’s touch upon some essential aspects of tourism in Pakistan.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO PAKISTAN?
A major reason that has led to this influx of history buffs, intrepid explorers, and daredevil hikers from abroad into Pakistan is the country’s decision to revamp certain visa policies. This includes the recent visa-on-arrival facility as well as the launch of an e-visa portal, both of which help make the process of getting a tourist visa for Pakistan quite easy and hassle-free.
Nationals of 175 countries are eligible for an e-visa, while tourists of 50 countries fit in the eligibility criteria of visa-on-arrival policy. Other countries that have not been included in the relaxed visa policy can get their tourist visas from the Pakistani embassy.
HOW TO GET A TOURIST VISA-ON-ARRIVAL
A ‘tourist visa-on-arrival’ is valid for a period of 3 months and is also open to extension. When you apply for a tourist visa-on-arrival, you will receive an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which will help you travel within Pakistan with ease. Remember to state your intent to visit Pakistan by submitting an online visa application through Pakistan Online Visa System. You need to submit this application at least 48-72 hours before your travel. Submit the necessary documents like your passport, a recent photograph, a sponsor’s letter and your hotel bookings. Once you receive a valid ETA, you can travel to Pakistan.
HOW TO GET A TOURIST E-VISA IN PAKISTAN
To apply for a tourist e-visa in Pakistan, you have to submit the same set of documents as mentioned above. Create your account on Pakistan online visa system. Log in and fill out your application form. Pay the required fees and then submit the application. It usually takes around seven to 10 working days to process your tourist visa.
WHAT MAKES PAKISTAN UNIQUE?
Pakistan offers an eclectic mix of unspoiled and, sometimes, untamed landscapes for nature-lovers, treacherous hikes for adrenaline junkies and Mughal-era sandstone buildings for history buffs.
Foreign tourists visiting Pakistan for the first time go all gaga over the immense natural beauty the country possesses, and the unforgettable friendliness and hospitality of the locals.
Wherever you travel in the country, you are greeted by nothing but warmth, love, friendship and peace. This is yet another major reason why tourists are visiting Pakistan and Conde Nast has ranked Pakistan number 1 in the list of best holiday destinations for 2020.
REASONS WHY MORE TOURISTS ARE VISITING PAKISTAN
Apart from the relaxed visa policies, there are many factors that have brought Pakistan into the limelight on the world stage. The British royal couple’s visit to Pakistan in October 2019 gave a major boost to Pakistan’s tourism industry.
In addition, the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor—an initiative to allow Indian Sikhs to visit what’s claimed to be the world’s largest gurdwara— in the following month received a lot of appreciation on the global front. The move reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment toward being a more tolerant, peace-loving country that respects religious and cultural diversity.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN PAKISTAN
For your convenience, we have compiled some of the best tourist spots in Pakistan that you must include in your travel itinerary. We will explore each province of Pakistan, but first, we shall begin with Islamabad—the capital of Pakistan.
The capital city of Pakistan offers fascinating views of the Margalla hills. Purple flowers of Jacaranda trees are in full bloom in late spring, often adorning the sides of the roads. Pine varieties, yellow flowers of amaltas add to the beauty of Islamabad. No wonder this city is considered the second most beautiful capital in the world after London, UK.
The following are some of the best tourist destinations in Islamabad.
Pakistan Monument is a national monument located near Shakarparian. It is a petal-shaped structure where the four petals rising from the ground converge at the top depicting the four provinces, while the three mini-petals inside represent the smaller territories within Pakistan i.e. Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A wax museum is also located nearby that displays the events which triggered the Pakistan Movement in 1940.
Lok Virsa Museum is a must-visit for those wanting to explore the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan. There are different halls within the museum which exhibit the culture of the four provinces of Pakistan. It is open from 10 AM to 8 PM from Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Monday.
Shah Faisal Mosque is named after the King of Saudi Arabia, Shah Faisal, who gave the largest monetary aid for its construction. Unlike other mosques, it does not have a dome shape but a Turkish design with four minarets on the sides and a V-shaped, tent-like structure in the middle – which adds to its uniqueness.
Margalla Hills offers amazing hiking trails and once you reach the top you can experience the panoramic views of Islamabad. Rare species of birds flock at the hill range and if you are lucky you might spot the bird you are looking for. Tourists visiting Pakistan love exploring Margalla Hills.
Daman-e-Koh is at the foothills of Margalla Hills and offers a bird’s eye view of the entire capital city. You can also spot Shah Faisal Mosque from up here.
Monal Restaurant is a must-visit for those who like to enjoy their favourite meal while enjoying the beautiful views of city life from atop.
FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN ISLAMABAD
- Pulao from Savors
- Samosa chaat
- Pizza from Rahat Bakers
- Kebabs from Monal Restaurant
- Anjeer mithai from Shikarpuri Sweets
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM ISLAMABAD
- Desi ghee mithai from Shikarpuri Sweets
- Embroidered shawls that you can find from any souvenir shop
- Jewellery from intricate designs to antique styles is a must-have
- Paintings are quite popular among foreign tourists who grab those paintings that reflect Pakistani culture
The ancient city of Sindh dates back to 7000 BC and attracts tourists in droves, thanks to its various historical sites. Major cities of Sindh include the names of Karachi, Hyderabad, Dadu, Sukkur, Larkana, Thatta, Tharparkar and Matiari.
A home for the Sufis and saints, famous for its soulful Sufi music, vibrant folk culture and hosting world heritage site of Moen-jo-Daro, Sindh has always attracted intrepid explorers who have a deep interest in history. Some of the must-visit tourist attractions in Sindh are:
Banbhore, which is an ancient city in Thatta, belongs to the first century BC era. The Banbhore Archaeological Museum offers monuments, pottery and various glass objects that date back to historic times. It is open 6 days a week from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is closed on Wednesdays. It has an entrance fee of PKR 300.
The Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai is a mystical place as Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, arguably the greatest Sufi poet of all time, rests here. Foreign tourists visiting Sindh don’t miss out on a chance to attend the ‘Urs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’ if they happen to be there at the time the ceremony takes place.
Moen Jo Daro is an archaeological site located in Larkana. It belongs to the Indus Valley Civilization, which dates back to 2500 BC. The entire city has been buried under the sand. It was made a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site in 1980 and is one the best places to visit in Sindh, especially if you’re someone who appreciates history.
Shahjahan Mosque is a mosque of historical significance in Thatta. Built by none other than the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to honour the hospitality of the local people at the time, this architectural wonder is a major tourist attraction in Sindh.
Makli tombs is an old graveyard belonging to the Summa dynasty, located 10 km away from Thatta. It features funerary monuments that reflect Sindh’s rich cultural diversity. If you are planning to visit Makli tombs in Sindh then do contact the Sindh Tourism and Development Corporation representative at the site Mr. Sarfraz Jatoi who can be reached at 0333-2750124.
In Sindh, Karachi, one of the largest megacities in the world, is a hot favourite among tourists. It’s often referred to as the “City of Lights,” owing to its round-the-clock liveliness. There are many exciting places to visit in Karachi. Let’s take a look.
Karachi is blessed with sprawling sun-kissed beaches, iconic landmarks, historical buildings that depict its rich cultural background, and bustling city life. The city never sleeps, in the literal sense. You would always find people huddled around a local tea stall (chai dhaba) sipping their favourite doodh patti, often debating over politics.
And let’s not forget Clifton Beach, where tourists can go for a dip in the cool waters of the Arabian Sea. This can be a refreshing experience, especially if you happen to visit Karachi during summers. You can have your breakfast at Boat Basin, which is barely a 10-minute drive from the beach. For more options, you can check out our pick of the best halwa puri breakfast spots in Karachi.
Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum is the final resting place of the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Made of white marble with Moorish arches, this mausoleum attracts hundreds of foreigners every year.
The white marble dome of Tooba Masjid is a sight to behold. It is purportedly the largest single-dome mosque in the world, which accommodates around 5000 worshippers at a time. Located in DHA Karachi, Tooba Masjid is a must-visit tourist attraction.
From Mohatta Palace Museum in Clifton and Frere Hall to Denso Hall and Jehangir Kothari Parade, the city boasts a plethora of historical sites. Once you are done exploring these spots, you are bound to feel peckish.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options to dine out in Karachi. Whether you want to enjoy desi dishes at a traditional dhaba-style food outlet, have seafood at a pan-Asian restaurant or enjoy continental cuisine next to the sea at Do Darya, you will find something to satisfy your tastebuds.
Oh, and if you are visiting Karachi, you shouldn’t miss out on any of the unique foods the city is known for across Pakistan. You can also tantalize your taste buds at some of the best biryani places in the city and maybe pack some for home, to relish later. If you love spicy stew-based dishes, then visit any of the metropolis’ well-reviewed nehari outlets. You’ll thank us later.
FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN KARACHI
- Halwa puri nashta
If you’re a resident of Lahore who came to visit Karachi and loved it so much that you decided to stay here, then we have something for you. The prospect of starting over in a new city can be daunting, but with the right kind of help and information, the process can be easier.
Please check out are comprehensive guides on some of the most popular neighbourhoods in Karachi such as DHA Defence Karachi, Clifton, North Nazimabad, Gulistan-e-Jauhar. And if you’re someone seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, then make sure to exploreGulshan-e-Maymar.
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM SINDH
If you are a foreign tourist visiting the historically rich province of Sindh, you must not forget to pocket some of these unique souvenirs that will always remind you of your time here.
- Hala’s pottery is famous for its intricate designs painted in blue and white. The small town of Hala in Sindh is home to Kashi artisans, who since ancient times, have made glazed ceramic pieces that are entirely hand-made.
- Ajrak is a unique design of block printed shawls, featuring mostly red, black and white colours. Apart from the shawls, handicrafts based on ajrak designs are also quite popular souvenirs that you can take home, such as floor cushions, handbags, and dresses.
- Mirror-work bags are a popular handicraft specific to the Sindh region. You will find thousands of mirrors embedded in the design.
- Rilli are hand-made quilts made from random cutouts, usually embroidered pieces. They form a patchwork design and are made into bedspreads and also spread on the floor to give a festive look.
- Truck art handicrafts are also quite popular when it comes to collecting different souvenirs from Sindh. You will find many small models of colourful trucks, rickshaws and you can take it back home as a souvenir.
- Ripe mangoes are a perfect gift for your loved ones if you are visiting Sindh in summers. You will also find dates in abundance here. If you have a sweet tooth then a box full of sohan halwa is a must-have.
Punjab is the land of five rivers. Various civilizations, over the course of centuries, made this region their home. This province was also an important part of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization—remnants of which can be seen at Harappa. Taxila, the main site of the Buddhist Gandhara civilization, is also found in Punjab. Important cities in Punjab comprise Lahore, Rawalpindi, Murree, Bahawalpur, Minawali, Dera Ghazi Khan, Chiniot, Mandi Bahauddin, Multan and Sialkot.
The province of Punjab has numerous tourist attractions, some of which are mentioned below:
Harappa is an archaeological site where the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization can be seen up close.
Katasraj Mandir is a Hindu temple located in the Chakwal district of Punjab, which according to the Hindu legend, Lord Krishna himself laid the foundation stone of this temple.
Birthplace of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak also speaks volumes of the province’s rich cultural diversity.
The Khewra salt mines are a major tourist attraction. Spread like a web of interconnected passages, you would need a professional guide to help you through the world’s largest salt reservoir. A mosque made of salt stone has also been established within the salt mine.
Murree is the queen of hill stations. A wonderful weekend getaway, people come here from all parts of the world to enjoy the chilly weather, hillside views, exciting chairlift rides and scenic tourist sites. Bhurban, Ghora Gali and Kashmir Point are some of the must-visit spots in Murree.
Taxila is another UNESCO World Heritage Site where the ruins of a large city buried under the sands of time have been a source of intrigue among historians and travellers.
The Walled City of Lahore, also known as the old Lahore. It hosts some of the major historical buildings dating the Mughal era architecture and speaks about the grandeur of the Muslim rule in India.
If you want to have firsthand experience about how Muslims ruled India, then visit Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, where the architectural wonders like the Lahore Fort, Shalimar Gardens, Badshahi Mosque, Sheesh Mahal reflect the grandeur of the Mughal Emperors and the skillful mastery of the masons at the time, who took great pains to build these towering buildings.
After visiting a bygone era and reminiscing about the past, you can enjoy Lahore’s electric city life. The lively food streets of the city are operational throughout the day. People enjoy the traditional halwa puri nashta with creamy lassi to start their day.
Paaya, stew made from cow bones, is a must-have if you truly want to savour what’s known as the authentic Lahori nashta (breakfast). At lunch, you can enjoy the different kinds of butter-fried karahi, while at night the food street of Gawalmandi springs into life.
Minar-e-Pakistan is an iconic landmark reflective of the Pakistan Resolution that was passed in March 1940.
FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN LAHORE
- Lahori chargha
- Butter-fried Karahi
- Nan khatai
If you are planning to live in Lahore, then you should choose our neighbourhood from some of these popular areas: Wapda Town Lahore, DHA Lahore, Walled City Lahore, GT Road and Mozung Chungi.
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM LAHORE
There are plenty of souvenirs that you can take back home from your stay in Lahore.
- Nan Khatai is not exactly a souvenir, but it is something you should always take when coming back from Punjab because you won’t find Nan Khatai so delicious anywhere else
- Paranda is a tassel-braid that’s traditionally been worn by Punjabi women. It is a colourful braid and is truly reflective of Punjab’s vibrant culture
- Phulkari dupatta is a traditionally embroidered dupatta using intricate thread work
- Kasuri Jutti is leather footwear with colourful embellishments and are made in Punjab’s Kasur and Patiala towns
- Jaggery or gurr is something that people take from Punjab because the province is famous for its vast sugarcane fields
This province remains one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Pakistan. The land of rugged mountains and pristine beaches, Balochistan is an ideal place for any traveller who wishes to unplug themselves from the world for some time.
Quetta, Gwadar, Sibi, Hub, Loralai, Chaman and Ziarat are some of the most important cities in Balochistan. Over the past couple of years, federal as well as provincial authorities have taken various steps to explore the province’s tourism potential. If you’re in Pakistan, you’d be remiss to skip the following tourist attractions in Balochistan.
Moola Chutok is a piece of heaven on earth. Situated at 80 km away from Khuzdar District, you can camp at this beautiful place where the trickling waterfall amidst the mountains is a relaxing sight. The fresh green plants against the backdrop of jagged mountains make this an ideal tourist spot for nature-lovers.
Urak Valley is famous for its freshwater springs gushing from the mountains. While on your trip to Urak Valley you can check out some fully laden fruit trees of apples and cherries that can be seen on your way to the valley. The most distinctive feature of Urak Valley is the freshwater spring that runs along both sides of the road, leaving you awe-struck, to say the least.
Hanna Lake is another beautiful tourist destination in Balochistan. It was formed as part of the construction project of a reservoir under the British rule. So, Hanna Lake is both beautiful and historically significant. There is a restaurant by the lake having seating arrangement under the shades of the pine trees that give incredible lakeside views to the visitor.
Hazarganji-Chiltan National Park was established in the 1980s. Located in the Mastung district, in the outskirts of Quetta, it is home to Sulaiman Markhor and the Chiltan goat, which are endangered animals.
Hingol National Park is often touted as the country’s largest national park. People from across the world come here to experience an appealing mix of nature and wildlife, which comprises over 200 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds.
Ziarat is famous for Quaid-e-Azam’s house. It’s also known as the Murree of Balochistan. For tourists looking for places to experience snowfall in Pakistan, Ziarat is the place to be during the winter season.
FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN BALOCHISTAN
- Sajji is basically a whole chicken marinated with mild spices, slowly cooked over fire until the skin gets crispy golden in colour
- Chilaanch is a special kind of dessert made with milk and jelly. It is more like kheer mixed with jelly. However, you’d be surprised to know that it is consumed with roti and lots of raw slices of onions!
- Kabuli Pulao follows the traditional recipe but it’s slightly different as it contains lots of dried nuts. It has a sweet and salty taste.
- Balochi Fish Barbecue is a special Balochi treat originating from the city of Gwadar
- Abgosht is a lamb stew cooked with liver, kidney and sometimes mashed beans
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM BALOCHISTAN
If you are visiting Balochistan for the first time, then you must not forget to take home with you the following mementos.
- Dry fruits and nuts are a specialty of Balochistan
- Cherries, fresh apples are a must
- Rugs and hand-woven carpets, especially the ones with geometrical designs
- People also love the beautifully embroidered Balochi dresses made by Baloch women
Experience pristine natural beauty, serene valleys, the breathtaking Karakoram mountain range and hospitable nature of the local Pakhtun population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The province is blessed with a large number of amazing tourist destinations.
Kaghan Valley is an alpine valley situated in the Mansehra District of KP. The beautiful Kunhar River changes its course and colour while passing through the valley. It looks fascinating the different shades of the same river. The road that leads to Kaghan passes through Abbottabad, Mansehra and Balakot.
Chitral is a tourism magnet that attracts hundreds of tourists, both local and foreign, to its majestic Hindu Kush mountain range. Broghil Valley in Chitral is a piece of heaven on earth. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers, the green meadows and blue lakes make the valley truly enchanting. Koghazi and Goleen are also major tourist attractions in Chitral. The Kalash Valley is also a part of Chitral, famous for its unique customs and traditions. The people of Kalash wear special embroidered dresses that are unique to their culture. Their dance is quite famous and tourists visiting the valley never miss a chance to witness it firsthand.
Swat Valley is a picturesque valley with the gushing waters of Swat River cutting through it. You will find plenty of resorts just next to Swat River that offer amazing breathtaking views both at sunrise and sunset. Mahodand Lake near Kalam in Swat District is a clear blue lake with green meadows and tall pine trees. It is a mesmerizing lake. People enjoy their time boating and fishing at this peaceful site.
Naran Valley is a popular tourist spot in the heart of KP province. It features pine trees, green meadows, mesmerizing lakes and the beautiful Kunhar River flows through it. Trout fish is a must-have if you are visiting Naran Valley. It is a freshwater fish that tastes divine.
Galiyat is a narrow strip between Abbottabad and Murree. It is a hill tract featuring green meadows, chilly weather and tall pine trees. Ghora gali, Nathiagali, Changla Gali, Dunga Gali are all part of the Galiyat region in KP. In a recent bid to promote tourism in Pakistan, many fast-food chains, 3-star resorts are also being constructed.
Shandur Pass is a flat plateau located in Chitral District that connects to Gilgit-Baltistan. Also called the ‘Roof of the World’ it holds a 3-day event of Shandur Polo Festival every year in July that attracts tourists from across the globe.
Saif-ul-Malook Lake is also known as the lake of fairies. As per a local folk tale, a prince named Saif-ul-Malook fell in love with a fairy princess at the lake. The reflection of the majestic mountains of Malika Parbat can be seen in the clear, blue waters of the famous lake. At night, the silvery glow of the moon makes the lake appear even more magical and mystical.
Malam Jabba is one of the most popular ski resorts in Pakistan; it’s also one of the oldest ones. Skiers and travellers from across the world come here at Malam Jabba to enjoy snow-skating, tubing and other winter sports.
FOODS YOU MUSTN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN KP
- Chapli kebabs
- Namkeen Boti
- Shinwari Tikka
- Shinwari Karahi
- Tanduri chicken
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM KP
- Peshawari chappal is a traditional footwear that you must take home as a memorable gift
- Peshawari embroidered koti (a sleeveless jacket) is a beautiful piece of garment that Pakhtuns wear over shalwar kameez. It’s traditional. Sometimes the koti is not embroidered, so you can easily choose if you want something fancy or buy a plain koti
- Jewellery, especially, handmade bracelets with real stones are a popular Peshawri souvenier
- Nuts are cheaper in this part of the country. You will find kaghazi badaam, chilghoza (pine nuts) in abundance here
- Kalash embroidered dress is one-of-a-kind souvenir
Gilgit is a picturesque valley located in the northern areas of Pakistan where the weather is usually cold throughout the year. During the winter season, the region experiences heavy snowfall. Mountaineers and trekkers visit Gilgit-Baltistan, which is home to some of the largest and highest mountain ranges in Pakistan, such as the Karakoram, Himalayas, and Hindukush mountain ranges.
Let’s explore some of the most fascinating tourist spots in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Hunza is widely hailed as heaven on earth, and rightfully so. It’s not just the majestic beauty that attracts admirers, but also the many things to see and do in this place. You can visit the 700-year-old Baltit Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mountaineers flock to Hunza in droves for trekking expeditions on K-2, which is the second-highest mountain peak in the world. Passu cones of Hunza will stop you in your tracks, sometimes literally, as you would be forced to slow down and roll down the windows of your car while driving on the Karakoram Highway – which is often touted as the eighth wonder of the world.
Skardu borders the Xinjiang province of China and presents a number of beautiful tourist spots. The tourist season here begins in April and ends in October. One of the world’s highest airports—Skardu Airport—welcomed around 50,000 tourists, who visited Gilgit-Baltistan, just in the first half of 2019. When in Skardu, you must visit the Kharpocho Fort. From there, you can easily view the mighty Indus River, flowing just a few metres away. Satpara Lake is the perfect fishing spot. Shangrila Resort is a beautiful resort hotel in Skardu. Spending a vacation at Shangrila is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Gulmit Valley is located on the bank of Hunza River. It is a small village in Gojal Valley. The apricot farms, the cherry blossom trees, and the lush green fields draw hundreds of visitors to Gulmit Valley every year.
Phander Valley hosts a mesmerizing blue lake known as the Phander Lake. Also dubbed ‘Little Kashmir,’ Phander Valley is indeed a piece of heaven on earth with colourful flowers, an enchanting blue lake, and green meadows.
Shigar Valley is a highly underrated tourist destination. It houses the blue Blind Lake, Shigar Fort, and numerous orchards. This valley is mainly popular among hikers. One can reach the K-2 base camp from Shigar if they keep trekking for 7 consecutive days.
FOODS YOU MUSTN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN GILGIT
- Harissa is a mix of lentils, meat, rice, and wheat slowly cooked and served with flatbread.
- Shopan is minced meat dish served with whole wheat bread or rice
- Mamtu is a steamed dish, cooked with cubes of mutton and beef, garlic and onions. It is cooked for many hours in a steamer.
- Gooli is a whole wheat bread layered with butter. It is cooked on special occasions
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM GILGIT
- Stone necklaces and earrings are some of the best mementos you can take from Gilgit
- Carved inlaid wooden boxes are sold at local souvenir shops
- Shawls can be bought and taken as gifts for your loved ones
AZAD JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Scenic valleys, sprawling lush green meadows and majestic mountains in the backdrop are some of the characteristic features of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
AJK also offers plenty of water sports activities. Rafting, boating, paragliding, wind surfacing, and kayaking are some of the popular water sports played in this region.
Now, let us take a look at some of the must-visit tourist destinations in AJK.
Neelum Valley is named after the Neelum River that has a distinct electric blue colour. Thick pine forests, freshwater springs, and scenic waterfalls make Neelum Valley a holiday hotspot. You can catch some trout fish at the Neelum River and enjoy a hearty meal. Shounter Valley, Kel, Sharda, and Chita Katha are some breathtaking places you must go to when you visit Neelum Valley.
Muzaffarabad is a beautiful tourist destination in Azad Kashmir, Reaching Muzaffarabad is quite easy thanks to the well-developed roads. It takes approximately a 5-hour drive from Murree to reach Muzaffarabad. Kundal Shahi, another hidden gem, is situated only 74 km away from Muzaffarabad.
Pir Chinasi is located towards the eastern side of Muzaffarabad. The green plateaus and the spectacular views of the mountain peaks in the backdrop leave tourists spell-bound.
Ratti Gali Lake is a magical lake located in the heart of Neelum Valley around 12,000 ft above sea level. It requires a couple of hours’ jeep-ride to reach the Ratti Gali base camp from the Dowrian Town in Neelum Valley. Once you reach the camp, you need to trek for one more hour to see the beautiful lake.
Arang Kel Valley is a beautiful hill station, complete with the picturesque Lund Sar Lake, scenic waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and green meadows. Many travellers prefer to camp under the starry night, but if you are accompanied by kids, then you can stay comfortably at some of the guesthouses and resorts located nearby.
Gulrez Valley is a land of striking beauty, lush green sprawling meadows, and cherry-laden trees. If you are an admirer of natural beauty then don’t forget to visit Gulrez Valley.
FOODS YOU MUSTN’T MISS TRYING OUT IN AZAD KASHMIR
- Rogan Josh is an aromatic lamb dish, made with caramelized onions and yogurt. Tourists who visit Azad Kashmir never miss a chance to try Rogan Josh.
- Modur Pulao is a traditional sweet rice dish, in which a generous amount of saffron, nuts, milk, and ghee and a sprinkle of cinnamon make the dish aromatic and delicious
- Matschgand is a meatball dish served in red curry sauce.
- Kashmiri Muji Gaad is fish cooked alongside radish! It gives unique taste full of aroma and spices
- Kashmiri Dum Aloo is a must-have if you are travelling to AJK for the first time. This dish is made of fried potatoes seasoned with spices and herbs
- Kashmiri chai which is a pink-coloured tea made with star anise and served with crushed pistachios, almonds and cashew nuts
SOUVENIRS TO TAKE FROM AZAD KASHMIR
- Kashmiri Pashmina shawls are quite famous all over the world
- Carved wooden boxes with intricate designs. Ideal for keeping jewellery
- Kashmiri hand-woven carpets and rugs are great souvenirs, especially if you are looking to buy articles made by locals
- In fruits and nuts, cherries, apples, figs, walnuts, and raisins are the ultimate “saughat” or souvenir that you can bring home from your trip to Azad Kashmir