Drive on the world's highest highway
The Karakoram Highway is the world's highest paved road, reaching an elevation of 4,693m (15,397ft) as it meanders through the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges. Following the ancient Silk Road through breathtaking scenery, the highway offers views over the Indus River and of the beautiful Gilgit and Hunza valleys.
Explore Pakistan’s modern capital
With its cutting-edge architecture, leafy parks and world-class cultural sites, Islamabad is a modern metropolis that likes to surprise. Viewed best from Daman-e-Koh – a terraced garden with excellent panoramas over the city – the city is home to some extraordinary sights, not least the magnificent Faisal Masjid, which is one of the most unusual looking mosques in Asia. The majestic white building comprises four 88m (288ft) minarets and a desert tent-like structure, which is the main prayer chamber. The Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Lok Virsa Museum and National Gallery of Pakistan also warrant a visit. The latter is home to an impressive four-storey art gallery and a 400-seat auditorium.
Feast your eyes on Lahore
The capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Lahore is home to some of the country’s finest architecture. Must see sights include the UNESCO listed Shalimar Gardens and the magnificent Badshahi Mosque, which is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture rivalled only by the Taj Mahal. Other must see sights include the Gate of Chauburji, Mughal Jahangir’s tomb and Gawalmandi Food Street, which serves some of the finest fare in the land.
Follow the iconic Khyber Pass
Travellers are currently not advised to visit the Khyber Pass. Readers have reported lately that they were refused a permit to travel along this iconic route, due to ongoing security fears along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Those who are successful will experience the madness of this dusty trade route, where thousands of brightly coloured trucks jostle for space on what used to be part of the Silk Road.
Go on a pilgrimage to Ziarat
The beautiful city of Ziarat is located amongst juniper forests in the province of Baluchistan. Aside from the scenery, the most famous attraction here is Ziarat Residency, the wooded house where Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, spent his final days. Another popular pilgrimage site is the shrine of Baba Kharwari – a disciple of Indian revolutionary, Nana Saheb – who has been attributed with causing a number of miracles.
Hit the slopes at Malam Jabba
Blown up by the Taliban in 2006, Pakistan’s Malam Jabba ski resort reopened in 2011 – and now it’s better than ever. Perched some 2,804m (9,200ft) up in the Karakoram mountain range, Malam Jabba is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and plans are afoot for a new hotel, cable car and piste.
Kick back in cosmopolitan Karachi
Situated on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Karachi is Pakistan's former capital and its largest city. The bustling port is home to the magnificent Quaid-e-Azam's Mazar, the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, which is made exclusively out of white marble. Other places of interest include the National Museum of Pakistan, Port Grand, Sadaar Bazaar and Clifton Beach, which is Karachi’s answer to California’s Venice Beach. A good spot for people watching, visitors can also ride camels and eat the local speciality – roasted corn on the cob. Alas, the water is not fit to swim in.
Learn about Buddhism at the Taxila Museum
This museum has an extraordinary collection of art from the ancient kingdom of Gandharan, which incorporated modern day northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Kingdom of Gandharan (1500-500 BC) was a centre of Buddhist and Hindu culture and the museum showcases many fine exhibits from this period including temple friezes, Buddhist sculptures and ancient coins.
Marvel at Mohatta Palace Museum
In 1927, Shiv Rattan Mohatta, a successful Marwari entrepreneur, commissioned a palatial house in the affluent seaside neighbourhood of Clifton, Karachi. Mohatta made his fortune as a ship handler and enlisted the services of Ahmed Hussein Agha, one of the first Muslim architects of India. Today his palace has been converted into the Mohatta Palace Museum.
Peek at Pakistan’s peaks
Pakistan contains five of the world's highest peaks and several of the world's largest glaciers. The northern areas are the most popular for trekking, with Gilgit and Skardu being good starting points for trips. Those visiting Kashmir can see some of the highest mountains in the world, including the famous Nanga Parbat and the second-highest mountain in the world, K2. The Baltoro Glacier and the Batura Glacier are the largest outside the polar regions.
Roam the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro
Dating back to 2600 BC, Mohenjo-Daro is a fascinating, albeit somewhat dusty, archaeology site in Sindh province. Home to one of the world’s first major settlements before it was abandoned in the 19th century, today only ruins remain and they are in a poor state – this UNESCO World Heritage Site is suffering the effects of erosion and poor maintenance. Despite that, it’s still worth a visit.
Roam yet more ruins at Takht-i-Bahi
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Buddhists monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi is located approximately 80km (49 miles) from Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Constructed in the 1st century BC, Takht-i-Bahi is the most complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan.
Stimulate your senses at Anarkali Bazaar
One of the oldest bazaars in Asia, Anarkali is a place that will awaken your senses. Listen to the tinkle of glass bangles, feel the fine silk wares and smell the spices wafting from the traditional food stalls. And don’t forget to tuck into the famous chaat of Anarkali Bazaar – the reason why many school children make a detour here on their way home.
Take in the Chitral Valley
In the shadow of the Hindu Kush, lies the wild and beautiful area of Chitral Valley. North of Peshawar, Chitral is a laidback and welcoming town, and feels quite different to the rest of the country, not least because of its remote location. Travellers tend to visit here en route to the Kalash valleys, where the Kalash people, the last of the non-Islamic tribes of Kafiristan, live. This valley is noted for its hot springs and trout-filled rivers. It is also a good base for a few days before setting off to the Shandur Pass or Peshawar.
Visit Qila Bala Hisar fort in Peshawar
The ancient city of Peshawar is often overlooked due to ongoing problems in the region. However, those travelling to this dusty metropolis will be rewarded for perseverance by the magnificent sight of Qila Bala Hisar fort, which was used by King Timur Shah Durrani (1773-1793) as the winter capital of the Afghan Durrani Empire. Opened to the public in 2014, the fort can be found in the old town which is characterised by ubiquitous donkey carts, ancient bazaars and traditional Mughal architecture, which take visitors back a bygone era.
Watch a traditional polo match
Polo is particularly popular in the northern towns of Gilgit and Chitral and is a wild form of this traditional game. Popular in towns in the northern areas of Pakistan, which can still afford to gather a team together and to put the spectacle on, the game is accompanied by music and a lot of bravado from the crowd. The first game of the season tends to be after the Spring Festival, towards the end of March.