From the ancient Mughal city of Lahore to the snow-capped peaks of the Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan is a diverse nation defined not just by its natural beauty and architectural splendours, but by its friendly inhabitants, varied wildlife and rich culinary traditions.
Shame then, that political instability and sectarian violence has made large parts of the country a no-go for tourists, and prevented Pakistan from realising its potential as a top travel destination.
However, those daring enough to take a punt on Pakistan will be richly rewarded for their endeavours – particularly those with a penchant for the great outdoors. The North-West Frontier Province and Gilgit-Baltistan region are home to some of the world’s most famous mountain ranges, including Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush.
That explorers will have these sights more or less to themselves is another boon; gone are the well-marked routes and tea houses of India and Nepal, here lies real adventure.
From jaw-dropping mountain scenery to bustling conurbations, Pakistan’s vibrant cities each have their own distinct flavour. The super-sleek capital, Islamabad, is a modern metropolis bristling with contemporary architecture, world-class cultural attractions and some of the country’s finest restaurants.
Lahore is the very antithesis to Islamabad. Pakistan’s cultural capital, this ancient city abounds with UNESCO listed attractions, stunning shrines and ornate Mughal architecture. Its old town is a maze of bustling bazaars, which harbour mosques, museums and manicured gardens.
Karachi, the former capital and the economic powerhouse of the country, is a mega-city in every sense of the word, cramming 15 million or so into its boundaries. Meanwhile, Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier Province, remains a frontier town, sometimes dangerous and always intriguing.
Those seeking sun and seclusion, should explore Pakistan’s glorious coastline, which is home to some of the most pristine, crowd-free beaches in South Asia. While those looking to evoke the spirit a Kipling-style adventure should follow the ancient trade routes of the Khyber Pass, Grand Trunk Road and Karakoram Highway.
All of this and more lies in Pakistan, and all remains accessible to the more adventurous tourist.