Hi Guys! Hope you are doing well. Today, I wanted to do a diary post on my trip to Pakistan’s northern areas.
As you guys may know, I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, but had never visited its northern areas. After moving to the United States in 1995, I thought I would never get a chance because these areas are so out-of-the-way and I only visit Karachi when I travel to Pakistan. Then in 2005 after my college graduation, my brother and I made a plan to visit my aunt and uncle in Karachi, Pakistan and they surprised us with a trip to what is known as “a bit of heaven on earth”.
Unbeknownst to me, getting there was an adventure in itself. We decided to take the slow but, a culturally engaging method of transportation– Pakistan’s railway. We started with staying a few days in Lahore. Lahore is a two to three-day trip from Karachi. We reached Lahore and met up with our cousins and family who live there. They showed us all the sights-from Wagha Border ceremony to Old Lahore. We saw the Badshai Masjid, Sheesh Mahal, Shalimar gardens, and Minar-e-Pakistan. Lahore is scattered with beautiful historic sights like Lahore Fort, Lahori Gate, Shahi Hammam, and Hiran Minar. Lahore is also known for its garden. The best place to research is Google (or See HERE). Everything there is sort of well-preserved, yet still beautiful. I could picture Mughal princesses in their ornate attire walking and doing their everyday tasks in these beautiful locations.
After Lahore, we took a bus ride to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. We spent a few days there taking in all the sights from Faisal Mosque to the Parliament Building. We even visited an old zoo and park where I use to play when I lived there briefly. Islamabad is a very modern city even by western standards. The best part is renting a car and going to Daman-e-Koh for beautiful vistas of Islamabad. For some other sites to visit, see HERE. It is a beautiful city!
After Islamabad, the real adventure began. We chartered a bus and drove up to all the naturally beautiful places of Punjab. Muree, Bhurban, and Taxila. While Muree and Bhurban are a few miles apart and definitely worth the overnight trip, Taxila is one place where we spent only a few hours. Mostly an archeological site today, which includes a fun museum, there is little left of the once-thriving city. To stand over the ruins thousands of years old definitely felt like a bucket list moment.
Driving North from Taxila, we officially entered the northern areas. Unfortunately, I don’t remember many names of the little towns we passed by, but what stood out for me was seeing the little cafeterias along the rivers and roads. I swear, I drank the best chai (cardamom tea with milk and sugar) there next to the most beautiful vistas!
Once we reached the northern regions, we took many trips to beautiful glaciers, mountain-tops, and lakes. The rides in those jeeps were so memorable yet dangerous at the same time. I visited and stayed at many small towns such as Shogran, Manshera, Naran Kaghan, Balakot. Other natural sites were Lake Lulusar, Lake Saif-ul-Malook, and miles and miles of rolling green hills and mountains. One thing I took from the whole experience was how hospitable the locals were. There was a wonderful local family that gave us dinner in their home-built in the valley at the foot of the mountains. They had close to nothing, but they gave us a wonderful home-cooked meal. Shopping here is better than Muree and surrounding areas because there are inexpensive.
On the way back down, we stayed overnight in Islamabad. There I caught a bad case of food poisoning and pretty much spent the rest of the trip being sick.
Overall, this trip was a great learning experience. I highly recommend people visit the northern areas in Pakistan. I will advise going there as part of a group tour (one tour company can be found HERE) instead of attempting to do this on your own. Granted my experience was before the Taliban attacks and disastrous earthquakes, I never felt threatened in any way. Happy Travelling!