Pakistan is the holy grail for true adventurers looking to experience something truly extraordinary.
However, I always encountered warm smiles and wonderfully helpful individuals wherever I went! If you break down on the side of the road or become stuck, Pakistanis will always come to your aid! The fact that many Pakistanis can speak some English also helps.
The Pakistani people are exceedingly kind, making it one of the nicest destinations in the world to go. You will be showered with absurd amounts of free food and chai.
Incorporate it with reasonably low travel expenses, breathtaking treks, a booming Couchsurfing community, artisanal hashish, and incredible off-road motorcycling routes, and BOOM! You live in the best travel destination ever.
Pakistanis have a terrific sense of humor, and many of them are true adventure travel aficionados, so the friends I made there are still some of the best I have made while traveling.
Table of Contents
- Best Itineraries For Backpacking Pakistan
- Pakistan’s Top Destinations
- Backpacking Lahore
- Backpacking Islamabad
- Backpacking Gilgit
- Backpacking Fairy Meadows
- Backpacking Hunza
- Backpacking Gojal (Upper Hunza)
- Backpacking Skardu
- Backpacking Deosai National Park and Astore
- Backpacking Chitral and The Kalash Valleys
- Backpacking Upper Chitral
- Backpacking Ghizer Valley
- Backpacking Swat Valley
- Backpacking Karachi
- Leaving the Expedition in Pakistan
Best Itineraries For Backpacking Pakistan
Best Itineraries For Backpacking Pakistan
Pakistan is Large, and discovering and experiencing everything this wonderful country has to offer would take years. As a result, organizing a vacation to Pakistan can be difficult, especially if you don’t know anything about it.
But do not worry, traveling in Pakistan is much simpler than you may imagine. I’ve put up two incredible itineraries that will undoubtedly kickstart your backpacking trip through Pakistan.
Remember that these are merely broad directions, don’t be afraid to venture off the natural course, and accept as many invitations from the locals as you can. In Pakistan, the best adventures are frequently those that just happened!
Similar to the initial Pakistan itinerary, you should arrive in Islamabad so that you can visit the Margalla Hills and the Faisal Mosque. which is South Asia’s oldest metropolis. Visit Peshawar next, which is the oldest metropolis in South Asia.
Some of Pakistan’s friendliest people can be found in Peshawar, which also offers some of the greatest beef ever. Wander through the historic district and stop by the Mohabbat Khan Masjid and the renowned Sethi House to experience some living history. You must experience the tastiest karahi of your life at Charsi Tikka before leaving the city.
Make your way to Kalam in the Swat Valley after Peshawar. What initially appears to be tourist chaos rapidly transforms into one of the most stunning locations you’ll ever see in Pakistan. Then, travel to Thal by shared public jeep from Utror across the breathtaking Badogai Pass.
The Kalash Valleys and the rest of Chitral are still full of picturesque emotions. That is best demonstrated at Booni, a lovely village known for its Qaqlasht Meadows.
Switching regions: Travel via the Shandur Pass, a stunning grassland that rises to a height of more than 12,000 feet, to enter Gilgit Baltistan.
Phander, a village in the Ghizer District known for its otherworldly blue rivers and lakes that put Atta abad to shame, deserves to be your first stop in GB. Now travel to Gilgit City, which is basically only for resting, before traveling to Skardu and the wonderful Baltistan region.
If you have good hiking boots, you might consider taking one of the numerous treks from Skardu’s capital city, where you can explore the Katpana Desert.
After thoroughly exploring Skardu, you should proceed to the Karakoram Highway, an engineering marvel. Before returning to Islamabad, use route #1 from Hunza to Fairy Meadows to really soak up the magic of the mountains.
The Hunza Valley, possibly the most stunning location in all of Pakistan, will be revealed to you as you reach the mountains.
The first stop is the mountain hamlet of Karimabad, where you can pause for air, take in the cherry blossoms and/or fall colors, explore the over 700-year-old Baltit Fort, and make sure to see an exceptional sunset from Eagle’s Nest.
The village of Ghulkin, which has served as a second home for me, is the next stop. From there, you can embark on a hike to Patundas, a truly remarkable meadow whose trail requires crossing a snow-white glacier.
Head to Khunjerab Pass from Ghulkin. The highest land border in the world, between Pakistan and China, can get frosty.
After that, spend the night in Gilgit before traveling to the Fairy Meadows for the most terrifying jeep ride ever experienced! However, the views of Nanga Parbat, sometimes known as the “Killer Mountain,” make the effort worthwhile.
Spend a few hours relaxing in the capital city of Islamabad, which is green and clean, before departing on the most breathtaking bus journey you can imagine along the legendary Karakoram Highway.
Next, travel the extremely lengthy distance to Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural center. This was the capital of the Mughals, and seeing their incredible works of art is a must. You must include the Lahore Fort, the Wazir Khan Mosque, and the Badshahi Mosque on your list.
Pakistan’s Top Destinations
Traveling through Pakistan is like travelling simultaneously through several distinct cultures. Languages and traditions change every few hundred kilometers. It is a land that is overflowing with diversity and a delightful blend of the ancient and the new.
Every area has something special to offer as well as something fresh to discover. These places in Pakistan, from towns to meadows and everything in between, are obligatory for travelers.
Lahore is the hub of many Pakistan backpacking trips and is kind of like Pakistan’s Paris. One of my favorite cities in the entire world is this one. There is no other city in the world like this one in terms of the colors, sounds, smells, and sheer vibrancy of everything.
The Badshahi Mosque, the seventh-largest mosque in the world, is one of Lahore’s most magnificent attractions.
100,000 worshipers can fit in the courtyard, and the nearby museum houses numerous sacred ancient artifacts that belonged to the Prophet Mohammed.
The Wazir Khan Mosque, which is situated in Lahore’s Old Walled City, is yet another attraction.
The magnificent Haveli Restaurant, where you may experience traditional Mughal cuisine while watching the sunset behind Badshahi Mosque, offers the best dining view in town. Don’t miss out on any of the many outstanding eateries in Lahore because this city is a true foodie’s heaven.
Find a Sufi dhamal; they take place every Thursday at the shrines of Madho Lal Hussain and Baba Shah Jamal, respectively, for a truly unique night out. Lahore has everything, even its own Eiffel Tower and underground raves.
The easiest way to enjoy the city is by staying with a Couchsurfing host, which is simple to find in Lahore. However, you might also take a look at a cool hostel or Airbnb.
There are a few attractions worth seeing in Pakistan’s capital, which is a fantastically organized and lovely city!
Centaurus Shopping Mall provides your last chance to stock up on anything you may need in the highlands. If you arrive in Islamabad by plane, a taxi will cost you 2200 PKR ($12.50 USD), though you can try to negotiate for 1800 PKR ($10).
Other must-do activities in Pakistan’s cleanest city include hiking in the verdant Margalla Hills, touring the magnificent Faisal Mosque, one of Pakistan’s largest mosques, and touring the legendary Saidpur Village, home to an ancient Hindu temple.
Since it’s only a short drive from Islamabad, I highly recommend going there for the day. Start in the Raja Bazaar or at the stunning Jamia Masjid in blue and white.
The city’s position makes it simple to travel for a long day (or two days) to the enormous Rohtas Fortress. It is accessible by hitchhiking in a matter of hours and is about halfway between Islamabad and Lahore.
I had no trouble finding a Couchsurfing host while I was in Pakistan. I wholeheartedly recommend staying at Islamabad Backpackers, often known as Backpacker Hostel, for affordable backpacker lodging.
Your first stop while traveling Pakistan’s magnificent Karakoram Highway will probably be Gilgit. Even though the small city is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, there isn’t much to do but buy supplies and a SIM card.
Your best option for lodging in Gilgit City is the Madina Hotel 2, which is situated in a peaceful area of the city and has a pleasant garden and helpful proprietors. Another inexpensive lodging choice in Gilgit’s main bazaar is the Madina Hotel 1.
The Karakoram Bikers also operate a nice and comfortable hostel in Gilgit’s picturesque Danyore neighborhood called Five Giants if you have a bigger budget (or high-quality trekking gear).
Before going farther into the mountains from Gilgit, there are a number of surrounding locations to explore. A breath of heaven located less than 30 kilometers from the city is called Naltar Valley.
At this point, leave the KKH and go for a few hours on a motorcycle or in a shared 44 jeep along the difficult gravel mountain road to Naltar.
Beautiful lakes and atmospheric weather, which include snow in the winter, are gifts to Naltar. Visitation is most amazing right after a storm.
Backpacking Fairy Meadows
What is Gilgit, perhaps? The most well-known tourist destination in Baltistan is also close to Gilgit, and despite its fame, it is unquestionably worthwhile.
To start the famous journey to Fairy Meadows, take a 200–300 rupee minibus from Gilgit to Raikot Bridge (heading towards Chilas City).
The next step is to reserve a vehicle, which will cost you an outrageous 8000 rupees, to drive you to the trailhead.
The Fairy Meadows can be reached after a two to three-hour hike from the trailhead. If you have a good backpacking tent, you can camp in one of Pakistan’s most beautiful locations, the Fairy Meadows, for relatively little money.
There are rooms here, but they are expensive, starting at around 4000 rupees per night and going up to 10,000 rupees or more. Definitely not conducive to backpackers.
Despite the costs involved, seeing Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest peak in the world is well worthwhile. You can walk to Nanga Parbat’s base camp and do dozens of other fantastic treks in the vicinity.
There are fewer people and better views if you make the effort to travel to (and possibly even stay at) Beyal camp. Bring supplies, a tent, and a small camping stove if at all possible. You could easily stay there for a few days.
I was able to spend one-night camping at Nanga Parbat Base Camp in September. It was chilly, it snowed a little, and it was incredibly fantastic.
Karimabad, the crown jewel of Hunza, is about two and a half hours by bus from Gilgit and serves as the starting point for further excellent hikes.
The 800-year-old Baltit Fort in Karimabad and the nearby Altit Fort are the two most well-known tourist destinations in Hunza. The cobblestone streets and day walks there might easily keep you occupied for a few days.
I wholeheartedly advise an EPIC day trip to the Hopar Glacier in Nagar Valley if you have a motorcycle. The roads are gravel and uneven, but the reward is enormous—spectacular scenery and thrilling off-road riding! Although a 44 jeep is another option, doing this on foot is far more enjoyable.
Central Hunza’s primary bazaar town is Aliabad. Although there isn’t much to do in this area, there are some delicious, inexpensive restaurants that you most certainly won’t find in Karimabad.
The locally owned and run Hunza Food Pavillion, Highland Cuisine, and the Gouda Soup, a longtime favorite of the community, are all must-try establishments. Nothing compares to the outrageously pricey meals in Karimabad.
You can also proceed to Garnish Village, which is not far from the detour leading to Karimabad. The Silk Road’s earliest and oldest settlement is here.
Get a taxi to take you to the Eagles Nest in the Duikar village for sunrise or sunset for some of the most breathtaking views in all of Hunza.
Backpacking Gojal (Upper Hunza)
Prepare yourself for even more stunning mountains and pastoral settings after a few days in Central Hunza.
First stop: Attabad Lake, a marvel of turquoise blue created as a result of the 2010 Hunza River landslide disaster.
It’s time to spend some time in Gulmit as we continue down the amazing KKH. The Gulmit Carpet Center is a terrific place to meet local women, and the Bozlanj Cafe serves up delicious local cuisine at backpacker-friendly pricing.
Definitely make Ghulkin, my favorite Pakistani village, your next stop. While sitting close by Gulmit, Ghulkin is elevated and away from the road.
Make your journey to the Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing in the world, and an amazing achievement of human ingenuity, after enjoying the magnificent Passu Cones.
Another reason to buy a motorbike is that renting a car for the return journey costs 8000 PKR ($45 USD) and there is no public transportation that I could identify.
Due to the border’s location inside a national park, visitors must also pay a 3000 PKR ($17 USD) admission fee.
Get off the beaten route by exploring one (or more) of Upper Hunza’s side valleys if you’re feeling very daring.
Both Chapursan Valley and Shimshal Valley are excellent options, and they can be reached in less than five hours after leaving the KKH. Both have public transportation options that your guesthouse should be able to arrange for you.
In Pakistan, Skardu is a well-known backpacking destination where many tourists stop.
By the end of December, a brand-new motorway that will cut the distance between Gilgit and Skardu in half will be complete. It might take longer than 12 before! For about 500 PKR ($3), you can take a shared public transportation vehicle from Gilgit to Skardu.
In all honesty, Skardu itself is a dusty place devoid of many attractions, therefore I advise spending less time there. There are a few attractions in Skardu, such as the Skardu Fort, the Mathal Buddha Rock, the Katpana Desert, and the Masur Rock, although even these only take a short amount of time to see.
Other noteworthy locations in the Skardu region include the Khaplu Fort, Blind Lake in Shigar, and Upper Kachura Lake, where visitors can go swimming and eat fresh-caught trout at a nearby restaurant. You can also take advantage of the practically limitless hiking possibilities. The 2-3 day hike to Barah Broq is remote and beautiful.
Hushe is a must-see if you want to explore Pakistan off the usual route. On the tourist route, this little village is the last stop with any attractions. However, the Hushe Valley offers some of the most spectacular adventure opportunities in the nation.
For many of Pakistan’s most famous treks, such as the Charakusa Valley, Concordia, and Gondogoro La, Hushe serves as a substitute starting point. Participating in any of these will undoubtedly rank among the best experiences of your life.
You’ll need to arrange permission, a liaison officer, and the appropriate guide before beginning any of these treks because a large portion of the regions north of Hushe, including the ones previously mentioned, fall in the restricted zone of the Karakoram.
It should be noted that you cannot obtain a permit or license to enter the forbidden areas within Hushe itself; you must arrange for such things beforehand.
You can take a pricey private car or the inexpensive municipal bus, which departs from Khaplu every other day, to get to Hushe.
Be sure to inquire with the locals or with your hotel manager about bus departures.
Backpacking Deosai National Park and Astore
Between July and Mid-August, when the entire plain is draped in a blanket of gorgeous wildflowers, is the greatest time to visit Deosai. I strongly suggest camping here for the night because it’s one of the best places in the entire globe to see the stars.
Be cautious where you set up your tent; four bears woke me up just three meters from my camp.
Deosai entry now costs 3100Rs (300Rs for Pakistani nationals), and you must hire a jeep if you don’t have your own transportation.
Jeeps are incredibly pricey, but if you barter, you might be able to obtain a decent deal.
However, don’t be shocked if the original price is for 20,000–22,000 PKR ($113–$124 USD).
For 18,000 PKR ($102 USD), I was able to arrange for a vehicle, driver, and extras like camping and fishing gear for two nights and three days.
We traveled three hours from Skardu to Deosai, slept there for a night, and then traveled four hours to Rama Lake, where we camped once more.
The Astore Valley, which bills itself as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” comes after Deosai. Astore is undoubtedly a lovely location, even by Pakistani standards, putting this cliche to one side. Once Deosai closes for the season, which is typically from November to May, you will only have the option to link from Astore to Gilgit.
There are lots of wonderful climbs to be taken here, and I strongly suggest going to Rama Lake to see Nanga Parbat, one of the most stunning mountains in the world. The “alternative” Nanga Parbat Basecamp trip is also an option; it starts in the hamlet of Tarashing.
Backpacking Chitral and The Kalash Valleys
Chitral is one of Pakistan’s most fascinating and picturesque places, yet only the Kalash Valleys get a large amount of tourism. This indicates that, in terms of Pakistani backpacking, the remainder of the sizable district is very obscure.
After arriving in Chitral, spend a day or two exploring the area’s traditional cuisine, the Chitral Gol National Park, and possibly a polo match at the town’s centrally placed polo facility. Go to the Kalash Valley of your choice next via minivan.
The largest and most developed valley is Bumburet, whereas Rumbur has historically attracted backpackers. The third valley, Birir, receives the fewest visitors and seems to be less welcoming to outsiders.
Foreign visitors to the valleys were subject to a tax of 600 PKR ($3.50 USD) in 2019. Before moving on, you must pay this to a police outpost that you will encounter.
The smallest religious group in Pakistan is called the Kalash, and each year they celebrate a number of brightly colored festivals. There is a lot of dancing and handmade wine at these three festivals, which take place annually in May, August, and December.
Backpacking Upper Chitral
Even though most people just leave Chitral at this point, going on to Upper Chitral won’t let you down.
Prepare to experience the alien vibes of the Qaqlasht Meadows, a vast meadow that overlooks the town and has a well-paved road going to the summit. Make your way to the delightful village of Booni to experience these sensations.
A young man and his family run the highly backpacker-friendly Mountain View Guest House in Booni, which offers lots of room for tents.
Although Booni has an HBL ATM (HBL is often dependable), it twice failed to accept my international card. As there are no ATMs in Chitral that take foreign cards, be sure to stock up on cash north of Booni.
Take a 2-3 local minibus to the peaceful settlement of Mastuj after Booni. The starting point for further exploration is Mastuj, which is the biggest town before the Shandur Pass.
The Tourist Garden Inn is a long-running, fantastic family-run bed and breakfast. This is one of the nicest spots for backpackers to stay in Pakistan, complete with a gorgeous garden.
The Broghil Valley, one of the unique locations on earth and the most inaccessible in Pakistan, is another option for Pakistanis.
Unfortunately, top-level officials have stated that as recently as September 2021, visitors are not permitted to visit this magnificent location (even with a NOC) owing to the current situation in Afghanistan. It is possible to get to the rural Yarkhun Valley, though.
Up till Yarkhun Lasht, all of Chitral was safe and accessible to foreigners. It does border Afghanistan. However, the Afghan provinces it borders (Nuristan, Badakhshan, and the Wakhan Corridor) are quite peaceful and thinly populated, and the border itself is highly mountainous.
Cross the Shandur Pass (12,200 ft), which connects Chitral with GB, after discovering the most unusual areas of Chitral, and be sure to pause to view the Shandur Lake and the numerous yaks that reside there.
The journey by vehicle from Mastuj to Gilgit will take 12 to 13 hours. Furthermore, you must check out of the area at the Chitral Scouts checkpoint.
Backpacking Ghizer Valley
Ghizer is among Gilgit Baltistan’s biggest and most stunning districts. While traveling throughout Pakistan on a budget, you shouldn’t miss this area because it actually appears like something from a fantasy!
Ghizer’s breathtaking natural splendor is filled with turquoise rivers, lakes, and poplar trees that turn golden in the fall.
The Phander Valley, which is very serene and is home to the renowned Phander Lake and a profusion of trout fish, is one of the must-see areas in this breathtaking area of Pakistan. For 1500 rupees a night, you can rent a room at the Lake Inn or pitch a tent by the water.
Khalti Lake, another impressive source of water, is located not far from Phander.
If you wish to stay overnight, there are many campgrounds nearby.
A huge yellow bridge leading to Yasin Valley, a gigantic side valley that quickly became popular, is only a few minutes’ walks from Khalti Lake.
Yasin is actually quite large, and traveling from the first village to the last, Darkot, can take up to two hours. The main town is Taus, but Darkot, which is also the starting point for the Darkot Pass Trek, which calls for a trekking permit, is undoubtedly the most stunning.
Before getting to Gilgit, you have to visit another sizable side valley after Yasin. Gahkuch, the major market town in Ghizer, is not far from the Ishkoman Valley.
Being ready to tent is probably a good idea because Ishkoman is fairly eccentric and doesn’t have as many guesthouse options as other locations.
You may trek to a number of lovely lakes in Ishkoman, including Attar Lake (2 days) and Monghy and Shukarga Lakes, which can both be reached in under 3 days.
Since Upper Ishkoman borders the Wakhan Corridor, just like the Broghil and Chapursan Valleys, Immit is the last settlement before the army checkpoint.
Backpacking Swat Valley
Swat is undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s most conservative regions and a must-see for intrepid hikers. Many of the guys are unused to seeing a woman’s face because most of the ladies are covered completely by burqas.
Travelers to Swat are strongly advised to dress conservatively to show respect for the local way of life and to avoid drawing unwelcome attention.
Mingora and Saidu Sharif are the two main towns, however, the genuine beauty of Swat may be discovered in the surrounding villages and forests.
The Swat Valley, which historically served as the birthplace of Buddhism, is still covered in significant Buddhist structures and artifacts. The towering Jahanabad Buddha is the most spectacular of the Buddhist structures; attempt to visit it just before sunset.
Visit the historic mosque Udegram while you’re in Mingora, as well as Malam Jabba, which is the best site in all of Pakistan to catch some powder and strap up your skis.
Next, proceed to the stunning Kalam Valley. Even though it may appear touristy at first, it’s extremely simple to venture off the main path. Visit Desan Meadows for a day hike to see the stunning Ushu Forest, which is full of deodar trees.
Serious hikers might choose the multi-day trip that takes around 3–4 days from the Anakar Valley near Kalam town to the distant Kooh/Anakar Lake.
You have a tonne of possibilities for aquatic treks closer to the lush settlement of Utror, including the Spinkhor Lake and the Kandol Lake, which has tragically been somewhat degraded by a recently constructed jeep road.
I walked around Bashigram Lake for two amazing but exhausting days, staying for free with local shepherds in the settlement of Madyan.
More than 20 million people live in the seaside metropolis of Pakistan, which is a mash-up of cuisines and cultures. You must visit Karachi in order to claim to have seen all of Pakistan, despite the fact that it is undoubtedly chaotic and wild.
For a beach experience, you won’t soon forget, head to Clifton Beach around sunset. Let’s just say swimming is not advised in Clifton.
If swimming is your thing, try one of the more isolated beaches outside the city, like Turtle Beach or Hawke’s Bay.
Check out the Quaid Mazar and the old Mohatta Palace when looking for things to do in Karachi. The food scene in Karachi is what really sets it apart.
Burns Road is a great place to find some delicious street cuisine, although any street in Karachi will do.
The proximity of Balochistan, Pakistan’s magnificent coastline, to Karachi (approximately 4 hours away), which completely outshines any spot in Oman, is what makes Karachi’s location so intriguing.
Despite the fact that visitors from outside the country must get a NOC in order to enter Balochistan, many have made use of local connections to set up camp in locations like Hingol National Park and Ormara Beach.
Leaving the Expedition in Pakistan
It’s quite simple to venture off the beaten path in Pakistan because the country is only now experiencing a rise in tourism. As long as you divert from the normal route taken by both domestic and foreign tourists, you’ll be fine!
I advise you to avoid Murree, Naran, and Mahodand Lake to escape the chaotic scenes of mass tourism. These three are all close to regions that are significantly colder. Go on a real journey to Kooh Lake, which is also in Swat Valley, as an alternative to the degraded Mahondand Lake, for instance
I also adore Upper Chitral, specifically the Yarkhun region. There isn’t much to do here besides relax and take in the natural surroundings and untouched settlements. Or, if you ask me, the nicest kinds of places.
Another option to explore Pakistan from a different angle is via motorcycle. If you have a good motorcycle camping tent, you can stop and sleep anywhere.
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Tired of waking up stiff and sleep-deprived after a night of camping?
A good night’s sleep is crucial for a successful and enjoyable camping trip, and the key to a comfortable sleep is having the right gear and sleeping bag and following some basic tips.
In conclusion, Pakistan is a prime location for those seeking a nature travel adventure in 2023. From its towering mountain ranges in the north to its tranquil lakes and verdant valleys, the country boasts an array of natural wonders that cater to all types of nature lovers. Some of the must-visit destinations in Pakistan include the awe-inspiring Baltoro Glacier, the picturesque Neelum Valley, the captivating Hingol National Park, the towering Trango Towers, and the vast Deosai Plains. Each of these locations showcases a unique beauty and set of attractions, making Pakistan a diverse and thrilling destination for nature travel.
Moreover, Pakistan is not just a destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in nature, it is also a country steeped in rich cultural heritage. Throughout its history, the country has preserved its spiritual heritage, evident in its mosques, shrines, temples, churches, gurudwaras, and mandirs. This rich cultural heritage, combined with its natural beauty, makes Pakistan a truly enriching and awe-inspiring travel destination.
So, if you’re seeking a change of pace and wish to experience the beauty of nature in 2023, Pakistan should be at the top of your list. With its diverse range of natural wonders and rich cultural heritage, this country promises a truly unforgettable travel experience. Start planning your trip today and discover the beauty of Pakistan for yourself!