Top events in Pakistan

August
18

Also known as ‘small eid’, this is a joyous festival at the end of Ramadan that lasts for two or three days. It is a public holiday and most of...

September
15

On hold for over 25 years, this week-long festival is now back to highlight regional crafts and competitive sports such as archery and wrestling....

October
01

Takes place annually in Lahore, Pakistan's cultural and fashion capital, and is organised by the Pakistan Fashion Design Council. Usually receives...

Lake Saif-al-Maluk, Pakistan
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Lake Saif-al-Maluk, Pakistan

© www.123rf.com / Nadeem Zulfiqar

Pakistan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles).

Population

193.2 million (2013).

Population density

242.7 per sq km.

Capital

Islamabad.

Government

Federal Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1947.

Head of state

President Mamnoon Hussain since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since 2013.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two- or three-pin plugs are in use.

From ancient cities to jaw-dropping mountain scenery, fertile valleys to bustling bazaars, Pakistan encapsulates diversity. It is a land enhanced by friendly, welcoming people, rich culinary and musical traditions, different ethnic groups, varied wildlife, sport and a wealth of architectural glories. Opportunity for adventure is as high as its mighty mountain ranges, with watersports, mountaineering and trekking all popular and rewarding activities.

Coupled with this is a profound sense of cultural concoction, Pakistan having once been home to several ancient civilisations, and witness to the rise and fall of dynasties. The ancient trade route of the Khyber Pass, the romantically named Grand Trunk Road, the awesome Karakoram Highway and the Kalasha Valley all conjure up notions of a Kipling-style adventure in many people’s minds. All lie in Pakistan, and all remain accessible to the more adventurous tourist.

Each city in Pakistan has a distinct flavour, identity and history. The capital, Islamabad, is home to top universities, unexpected hiking trails of Margalla Hills National Park and is twinned with neighbouring city Rawalpindi, which is interesting too, but far less orderly. Pakistan is sprinkled with glorious shrines and mosques throughout, many of which lie in Lahore – Pakistan’s cultural capital.

The old city is a maze of bazaars, home to the UNESCO-listed Badshahi Mosque, Kim’s Gun, one of South Asia’s most important museums, the Central Museum, Shalimar Gardens and the Shrine of Shah Jamal. Karachi, 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. There are many less visited cities, from Multan, famous for its blue pottery to Faisalabad in the Punjab.

In the great outdoors there is plenty of scope for trekking well off the beaten track. With the awesome Nanga Parbat massif as a backdrop, meadows and mountain passes await trekkers. The fact that explorers are likely to have such sights more or less to themselves is another boon for many; gone are the well-marked routes and tea houses of India and Nepal, here lies real adventure.

The North-West Frontier Province (also now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Gilgit-Baltistan are home to some of the world’s major mountain ranges including the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush. Pakistan is home to 108 peaks that climb higher than 7,000m (23,000ft), with the highest point, K2, at 8,611m (28,251ft), the second highest peak in the world. From the fabled Karakoram Highway and it's valleys trekkers can continue to the Chinese border at the 4,700m (15,400 ft) Khunjerab Pass or branch off either to explore the magnificent valleys of Chitral or the wilderness of Balstistan. Located on the Arabian sea, Pakistan is also home to some attractive beaches located between Karachi and Gwadar.

Food lovers will enjoy exploring Pakistan’s cuisine which is varied but tends to be milder than Indian dishes and certainly more meaty. Contrary to what many think, it was Pakistan, not India, who introduced tandoori chicken to the gourmet scene. Tikka kebabs and shami kebabs (meat rissole) are both very popular.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 30 July 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
  • the districts of Charsadda, Kohat, Tank, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner and Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city, including travel on the Peshawar to Chitral road via the Lowari Pass
  • northern and western Balochistan
  • travel on the Karakoram Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • the Kalesh Valley, the Bamoboret Valley and Arandu District to the south and west of Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • the city of Quetta
  • the city of Nawabshah in Sindh Province, and areas of interior Sindh to the north of Nawabshah
  • Gilgit-Baltistan

There is a high threat from terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan.

On Pakistan Independence Day on 14 August opposition political parties have called on supporters to converge in central Islamabad and to remain there until their demands are met. This gathering is likely to disrupt travel in and around Islamabad. Whilst most protests remain peaceful, they can turn violent quickly. You should avoid these demonstrations and other larger gatherings. Staff at the British High Commission have been advised not to travel on 14 August.

The Pakistan military are intermittently taking action against militant groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Security forces across Pakistan remain on high alert for possible attacks. There may be increases in security force presence, and restrictions on movement may be put in place at short notice.

On 24 May there were explosions in the F6 market area and in the G9 sector of Islamabad. British High Commission staff are being advised to minimise time spent in all Islamabad market areas and to beware of suspicious objects.

In response to the World Health Organisation’s emergency recommendations about the spread of polio virus, the government of Pakistan now requires all departing travellers who have spent more than 4 weeks in Pakistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. This certificate should show that either Oral Polio Vaccine or Inactivated Polio Vaccine has been administered between 4 weeks and 12 months before departure from Pakistan. See this advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre about protection from the polio virus.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Around 270,000 British nationals visit Pakistan every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

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