Backpacking in Pakistan… When I first told my Mum that I planned to travel to Pakistan as part of my hitchhiking adventure across The Middle East, she was somewhat sceptical. Pakistan is a country which is often portrayed in the media as a war-torn hellhole and tourism in Pakistan is almost none-existent. Every year, only a very small number of adventure backpackers and die-hard climbers travel to Pakistan, I was determined to be one of them…
Travelling in Pakistan is a truly unique experience, it can be frustrating, enlightening, life changing and, more often than not, surprising. Pakistan is the ultimate adventure backpacking destination and if you are a fan of real adventure, it’s time for you to travel to Pakistan, here’s why….
Here are my Ten Reasons why you should pack your bags and travel to Pakistan…
1: The People are simply amazing
And they want you to enjoy their country.
The Pakistani people are, without a doubt, the most hospitable, kind and welcoming people that I have ever encountered. From the bustling streets of Lahore to the quaint mountain towns of Hunza, every time a local person spotted me I would, without fail, be rewarded with a huge grin and often an invitation to dinner. I lost count of just how many cups of free chai I drank but it was a lot… On one occasion, a kindly man named Rehman invited me to visit his family in a small village in the mountains, I stayed for almost a week – hiking on the nearby glaciers and playing cricket with Rehman’s kids. I’ve been lucky enough to make many friends on my travels but the friendships I forged in Pakistan were some of the most genuine I have ever made, the people simply cannot do enough for you. I couchsurfed my way around the country, being welcomed into the homes of numerous strangers who always insisted on feeding me like a king and showing me around their local town. I cannot wait to return to see my many friends again.
2: Unbelievable Landscapes
The world’s most beautiful country – it might just be Pakistan.
OK, even the most illiterate of map readers should know that Pakistan is famous for it’s mountains, valleys, rivers, glaciers and forests… This is a country with more than it’s fair share of truly wondrous sites and tourism in Pakistan is bound to take off eventually! Five of the world’s fourteen highest peaks, including the famed and deadly K2, are found in Pakistan. If you are into your climbing, rafting or trekking, Pakistan is the country for you. I have explored over seventy countries and I can safely say that Pakistan is the most diverse and beautiful country I have ever visited. There are plenty of unclimbed peaks just waiting to be conquered by a worthy adventurer…
3: Everything is possible in Pakistan… even raves.
Pakistan is not what you might expect. Whilst in Lahore, word got out that a backpacker was visiting and, before I knew it, I had been invited to a very exclusive party set up in the middle of nowhere… I passed a small army of private security, proved I was on the guest list and finally, I was in to one of the craziest parties I have ever been to. An international DJ, plenty of young, rich and beautiful Pakistanis, trippie lights and plenty of energizers to keep me going… It was a mad night.
4: Pakistan is safe
And you can play with guns!
Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Pakistan, the main one is simply – is Pakistan safe? – the answer is relatively simple. Yes, as long as you steer clear of the Afghanistan border regions. It’s true that Pakistan does sometimes get hit by terrorist attacks (there was two whilst I was there) but, right now, every country in the world seems to be fair game and you are no safer sitting at home. The media feeds on fear and prejudice, do not let yourself be influenced. Pakistanis are extremely anti-Taliban (and the Pakistani armed forces are currently kicking Taliban asses in the border regions) and will do everything they can to keep you safe at all costs. On occasion, you might be assigned a police escort. This does not necessarily mean you are in a dangerous area, it just means the local police branch wants to keep an eye on you. I had a couple of bodyguards, one of whom was a sixty year old with the strength of a dozen twenty year olds, and I quickly made friends with them even though they spoke no English – simply smile, be respectful and, just like in any other country, you will be fine. As Pakistan was once part of The British Empire, most local people speak some English.
5: The Historical Silk Road
Follow in the footsteps of the explorers of old.
To travel in Pakistan is to step back into the pages of history. Marco Polo was one of the first European explorers to tackle the silk road, an ancient trade route that spanned the Orient, linking the treasuries of the Roman Empire to the Imperial Dynasties of China. At the trade route’s heart lies the Karakoram, a pivotal crossroad between The Indian Subcontinent, The Middle East and Central Asia and the corridor through which advanced three great faiths – Islam to the east, Buddhism to the north, and curry to the West. Today, the unendingly impressive Karakoram Highway runs the length of the country and offers stunning views, epic motorbike adventures and the chance to follow in the footsteps of history.
6: Travelling in Pakistan is cheap
Chai for just three cents…
Pakistan is the second cheapest country I have been to. It’s possible to visit Pakistan on a budget of around $100 a week – this will cover food, accommodation, transport and plenty of awesome activities. If you have Pakistani friends, they will almost certainly insist on treating you to everything – Pakistanis are unbelievably generous and although I tried on many occasions to pay for dinner, my couchsurfing hosts would never allow it. Accommodation in Pakistan can be quiet expensive but there are multiple places you can camp and it’s easy to find a couchsurfing host. I’ll be writing a detailed destination guide to Pakistan soon so be sure to check back for that.
7: Fantastic Treks
Get lost in the mountains of Pakistan, just not literally – as you shall die.
Pakistan has some of the world’s best trekking, even better than Nepal. There are hundreds of truly stunning treks that you can do in Pakistan – from simple day treks to multi-week expeditions – and even the most lazy of backpackers will have the chance to see some truly stunning terrain. Whilst backpacking in Pakistan, I went on a few stunning treks, the best of which was a hike to the legendary Fairy Meadows where I spent three days soaking in the incredible views of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. I had the spot entirely to myself, it was low-season and I had to trek through waist-deep snow to get there, and it was a truly peaceful, special place.
8: Multi-cultural awesomeness
Festivals, weddings, ceremonies and parties…
Pakistan is a country which is often depicted in the media as being a place of religious intolerence. This is far from true, you can find Muslims, Christians and Hindus living side by side in many of the countries cities and there are many tribal groups still living, largely undisturbed, within the more remote parts of the country. Within the province of Chitral, budding explorers can visit the Kalash tribe, a very distinct tribe of Dardic indigenous people, once thought to be descended from soldier’s of Alexander The Great’s army – deserters who had disappeared into the hills and now live in legend. The Kalash people practise their own religious beliefs and are very fond of colourful festivals. To travel in Pakistan is to be assaulted from all sides by new colours, tastes, sights and smells; I truly felt like I was getting back to the raw spirit of adventuring and I was fascinated by the many colourful characters I met upon my travels in Pakistan.
9: The hash is some of the best in the world…
It’s always 4:20 somewhere…
It is illegal for Muslims to drink in Pakistan but it is legal for foreigners, and local Christians, to enjoy a beer or two and there is even a Pakistani brewery set up for this purpose. I didn’t drink whilst in Pakistan, preferring instead to enjoy the extremely good quality hashish which can be easily found throughout most of the country. Hashish is an important part of Pakistani culture and, whilst illegal, many Pakistanis enjoy a cheeky smoke whilst watching the sunset paint the mountains in gorgeous shades of orange, red and gold.
10: Pakistan is an Adventure Playground!
For real adventure, get your ass to Pakistan
In a nutshell, Pakistan is an adventure playground. This is a country which truly has everything; friendly locals, stunning landscapes, incredible treks, untapped white water rafting, undiscovered adventures, colourful festivals, tasty food and just enough thrills to keep you on your toes. A trip to Pakistan is not your standard adventure, this is a chance to really connect with the local people and to see a country which, really, nobody knows much about.
I cannot recommend Pakistan highly enough, this is a country with so much adventure potential and, to be honest, it was hard to pick just ten reasons you should travel to Pakistan, this really is a country that has everything.
Next year, I am hoping to open Pakistan’s first backpacking hostel in the Hunza mountain region. I then intend on organizing adventure backpacking trips to help more people travel to Pakistan… stay tuned and watch this space!