When I told my friends and family I would be travelling to Pakistan there were mixed reactions. There are many reasons why you should travel to Pakistan – the epic landscapes, the friendly locals, the incredible food and so much more to be named here.
Pakistan has amassed a negative perception in the media for being unsafe or unready for travellers to visit. Sure, there is a difficult past that warrants such a cautious perception from outsiders but I would argue this perception is outdated and unfair on the Pakistan that exists today. Much of the country is safe to travel to and Pakistani people are eager to show their country and culture to travellers. For every reason *not* to travel to Pakistan, there are a many more reasons to visit Pakistan.
The Epic Landscapes
When I started publishing photos of my trip to Pakistan on Instagram, many of the comments were of disbelief: “This is in Pakistan???” was a common sentiment. Indeed, this is Pakistan. Epic landscapes with high mountains, plateau plains, deserts and diversity make up the landscapes of Pakistan. The Karakoram mountain ranges bordering Pakistan, India and China in the north are some of the most spectacular scenes I have seen the world over.
Pakistani Tea Culture
If there’s one thing I know I will never tire of it is chai tea and if you’re on the same side of the fence, Pakistan is the place for you. Chai tea is an institution in itself in Pakistan and I hardly ever finished a meal where I wasn’t offered chai, especially when dining with locals. Pakistan is ranked #7 in the world’s highest tea consuming countries so you can be sure to find chai in every eatery.
If you ever fancied climbing the Himalayas but would prefer to visit a less populated area of the mountain range, then Pakistan is the perfect choice for climbers who prefer solitude. Of course Mount Everest is the highest point of the Himalayas, however in Pakistan the glorious Nanga Parbat sits in the west of the mountain range and is one of the most popular climbs in the country. The trek to Nanga Parbat’s base camp can be completed in a day or two, after first making your way to Fairy Meadows and then completing the 4 hour trek to base camp.
The Adventure of a Lifetime
If there’s one thing I will remember about Pakistan it is how adventurous it forces you to become. There wasn’t a single day where everything went according to plan – but the more time you spend in Pakistan the more you realise that is half the fun of it. On the day we drove in jeeps on the side of a sheer cliff drop off en route to Fairy Meadows, I remember looking up to the sky and quite literally saying a prayer to arrive safe. It was one of those “how did I agree to this?” moments. But every single thrill, every rush of adrenaline, paid off in dividends as each day you are willingly but perhaps unknowingly taking part in the adventure of a lifetime. I truly believe it will be difficult if not impossible to top my experience in Pakistan for that reason alone.
The Friendly Locals
You’ve heard it before about many countries before Pakistan, but I mean it whole heartedly when I say Pakistan is home to some of the most welcoming, humble and happy humans I have encountered. Of all the faces I asked to photograph I was never once asked for money in return. Of all the times we were stuck in traffic without food or water, there was always someone willing to offer a free meal or chai tea and welcome us in to their homes like family.
Gain an Understanding for Islam
Because Pakistan was created as the “global centre for political Islam” it is one of the best places to learn about Islam and the history of the religion in this region and in the world. Despite your own beliefs (mine being Christian), understanding and educating yourself on a religion so misunderstood by the West can never be a bad thing and I was constantly asking my guide Atta for clarification as we made our way through the country. He was more than happy to answer my (endless) questions and I learned a lot about both Islam and the troubled history of Pakistan by being inside the country and speaking to locals myself.X
Adventure Travel the way it used to be
Adventure travel has changed a lot over the last decade and what would be considered unlawful in Western countries is often the norm in Pakistan. Where you would expect to see a barrier (usually before a steep cliff drop off), you won’t find one. Where you would anticipate a road that will comfortably fit two cars (again often on the side of a steep cliff drop off) you will often find a road barely wide enough for one vehicle. Somehow, it all works out.
Disconnecting from the world
I mean it quite literally when I say I disconnected from the world throughout my time in Northern Pakistan because not only is there next-to-no-wi-fi, but there is also such limited cell service that even if you do manage to get your hands on a sim card (quite the arduous task, forewarning) you will barely be connected on the road. I would encourage you to embrace the opportunity to really disconnect from the rest of the world and heighten your senses to enjoy the present – after all, this really is an adventure of a lifetime.
I wasn’t expecting much by way of accommodation when arriving in Pakistan but I was pleasantly surprised by how many beautiful heritage hotels we stayed at along the way. This is a country where you can guarantee your money will stretch further so if you’re looking for affordable luxury, Pakistan is a great country to splurge. Serena Hotels are as luxurious as it gets and you will find them all over the country (my favourite was Khaplu Palace in Gilgit-Baltistan).
Influence from other eras
Pakistan feels like a passage through time and despite the country only being founded in 1947, the geographic positioning of Pakistan means it was influenced by Iran, Turkey, Tibet, and you can even find evidence of Buddhism in what is now an almost exclusively Islamic state.
Central Asia without the Crowds
Despite the recent rise in popularity of neighbouring India, Pakistan with its’ negative image in the media has remained a less desirable travel destination for tourists and is thus still very undiscovered by Westerners. With the political situation now under control, Pakistan is gaining traction as an adventure travel destination but for now, remains a way to see and experience central Asia without the crowds.