Pakistan’s rich terrain gives rise to a host of natural environments, each uniquely spectacular and vividly beautiful in its own way. Sadly these places are frequently overlooked by merrymakers, who would rather choose more ‘kosher’ international destinations instead… Let us share with you six local locations that you must lock in during your lifetime.
A mountainous valley in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of northern Pakistan. It is situated north-west of the Hunza River, at an elevation of around 2,500 metres. Aliabad is the main town while Baltit is a popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains like Ultar Sar, Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Ghenta Peak, Hunza Peak, Passu Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimotin (Ladyfinger Peak), all of which are at least 6,000 meters or higher.
Founded in 1783 by Mir Sohrab Khan, Khairpur is a former princely state situated in Sindh and the twelfth largest city in the province. Home to the great mystic Sufi Sachal Sarmast, the city is famous for its dates, known in the Sindhi language as ‘Khark’ and in Urdu as ‘Khajoor’. Its famous cities are Thri Mir Wah, Faiz Ganj, Pacca Chang, Bhangu Behan, Ranipur, Gambat, Kot Diji and Sobhodero. It hosts some historically significant buildings, most notably the Faiz Mahal.
Locally known as Joot, Fairy Meadows was coined by German climbers as ‘Märchenwiese’ which loosely translates to ‘fairy tale meadows’. A scenic flowery grassland surrounded by thick alpine forests that lie near one of the base camp sites of Nanga Parbat Mountain. Located in the Diamer District of Gilgit-Baltistan at an altitude of about 3,300 meters above the sea level, it serves as the launching point for trekkers summiting on the Rakhiot face of Nanga Parbat. In 1995, the site was declared as a National Park by the Government of Pakistan.
Used as a summer headquarters during British rule by the Chief Commissioner of the Peshawar division of Punjab, Nathiagali is a hill station cum mountain resort town in the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The mountain is a part of the Galyat range, which contains several closely connected hill stations, most of which end in ‘Gali’ (street). Nathiagali is known for its scenic beauty, hiking trails and pleasant weather, which is much cooler than the rest of the Galyat due to it being at a greater altitude. Lying midway between Murree and Abbottabad, it is about an hour’s drive from either of these two places, and about two hour’s drive from the capital.
Skardu is a town and capital of the Skardu District in Gilgit–Baltistan. Lying at an altitude of roughly 2,500m, Skardu city is situated in the 10 kilometer-wide 40 kilometers-long Skardu Valley, where the Indus and the Shigar Rivers meet. The town is surrounded by greyish brown shaded mountains, which hide the 8,000+ meter peaks of the nearby Karakoram Range. There are three lakes in the scenic valley: Upper Kachura Lake, Lower Kachura Lake, and the iconic Satpara Lake.
Kalam is a village along the upper reaches of the Swat River in the Swat Valley, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Kalam is known for its waterfalls, lakes and lush green hills, and is a 270 km drive from Islamabad. It is a popular destination for tourists. About 2,000 meters above sea level, the valley opens out, providing rooms for a small but richly fertile plateau above the river. In Kalam the Ushu and Utrot rivers join to form the Swat River. Here, the metaled road ends and a shingle road leads to the Ushu and Utrot valleys. From Matiltan some snow-capped mountains are visible including Mount Falaksir 5,918 meters as well as an unnamed 6,096m high peak.
These are just a few of Pakistan’s hidden, but not-so-hidden gems… There are always more local destinations to discover. All you need is the right information and a local guide to show you around. Remember, there’s a reason why the hippie trail went through Pakistan!