Although flanked by some of Asia's most astonishing landscapes and an unwavering generosity, few people know of Pakistan's internal beauty. Yet travellers booking flights to Pakistan will be pleasantly surprised to find a country rich in culture, history and hospitality awaiting their arrival.
With Hinduism and Buddhism firmly planted in Pakistan, the pleasures of Pakistan are evident and ancient. Immediately upon leaving the Pakistan flight, tourists come across Buddhist shrines, Hindu temples, Islamic palaces and Muslim mansions. While Pakistan is a hospitable destination, it’s wise for tourists to know the basic Pakistani laws. For example, dress codes are strictly enforced in the country. Long and loose clothing is common and any tourist visiting mosques or temples must be completely covered before entering.
While it’s possible to find cheap flights to Pakistan and plan budget-conscious tours though the country, tourists are advised to pay special attention to travel warnings. Pakistani people are involved in various political demonstrations currently sweeping through the region. Recent violence in Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar has resulted in chaos, and travellers are advised to stay with group tours and not travel off by themselves.
The climate varies with the elevation. If you visit in the summer, you can enjoy pleasant weather in the mountains or bake at 38 degrees in the Indus Valley. Monsoons arrive in the south towards the end of summer. The mountainous areas become icy-cold in the winter, while the low-lying areas stay at a mild 10 degrees.
When to fly to Pakistan
Cheap flights to Pakistan are possible to come by depending on the time of year you're going. In general, Pakistan has a hot climate, but conditions vary according to where you travel. The south of the country is mild, moderated by the Arabian Sea; the northwest is temperate (neither too hot nor too cold, and with rainfall year-round); and in the north, Pakistanis enjoy hot summers with temperatures up to 45 degrees and cold winters (temperatures well below zero).
Getting around Pakistan
Pakistan International Airlines has an extensive domestic network. It links Islamabad with several cities including Faisalabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta and Sukkur. Other airlines offering domestic Pakistan flights include Aero Asia International, Shaheen Air International and Airblue.
Rail: the rail network is extensive and ticket prices are reasonable by Western standards.
There are several ways of getting around the cities including bus, A Qing-Qi (or "ching-chee"), cross between a motorcycle and auto-rickshaw, or yellow taxi cab.
Outside the cities, getting to remote areas can be a bit of a trek, but bus is often the cheapest and most convenient option.
Pakistan insider information
- Lahore is Pakistan’s second-largest city and cultural capital with lots for the traveller including the Lahore Fort, a Unesco-listed building, which has a small museum dedicated to the Sikh period (18th century); the Walled City, which has 13 gates, palaces and shrines; Lahore Museum on The Mall, one of South Asia’s most important museums and where Rudyard Kipling’s father was curator. It also features in Kim.
- Islamabad, the capital, is situated against the Margalla Hills. It was built during the 1960s so it has a modern layout, but thousands of years of history. Some of the tourist must-sees include Shakar Parian Hills, the Islamabad Museum, and the Shah Faisal Mosque.
- Takht-i-Bahi is an ancient Buddhist monastic complex dating from the early 1st century. It is situated at the top of a 500ft high hill, which helped it to escape invasion. It is the most impressive and complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan. The ruins of Sahr-i-Bahlol, a small fortified city dating from the same era, are nearby.
- Near the Afghanistan border in the Swat Valley is Malam Jabba, Pakistan’s most important ski and holiday resort, which stands 8,700ft above sea level. The Swat Valley is known as the cradle of Buddhism.
- Trekking in Pakistan's northern mountains: the Karakoram Range has many of the world's highest peaks - 60 of them are above 22,000ft - including K2. The Deosai plains, accessible from Skardu in the north and the Astore Valley in the west, are a rolling plain about 13,500ft above sea level, only accessible between June and September. It is one of the last natural habitats of the Himalayan brown bear.
- The Indus Valley Civilisation is an ancient riverine civilisation dating from the Bronze Age (about 3300–1700 BC), revealed in excavations at Harappa and Moenjodaro. Excavations in the 1920s exposed the sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture that existed in the cities.