Top 5 scenic areas of northern Pakistan to visit this summer
Summer is the best season to explore those areas as temperatures are milder and most of the snow has melted, opening up access roads. In a country with so many amazing places to discover, we have listed five favorite tourist spots for you to go and explore.
Skardu, a city in Gilgit Baltistan, is known for its vivid colors and stunning scenery. The thousand-year old city was formed besides Indus River. It is the capital of Baltistan and is located at 2,230 meters of height.
Skardu is the entrance to the fabled Karakoram peaks. Unlike other northern cities, Skardu has an airport, making it easier to travel here. A daily flight from Islamabad is in operation right now, but it is always subject to weather, so it would be best to check before booking a seat.
An advantage to flying to Skardu is to be able to view the scenic snow-covered mountains from high above. If you choose to drive, the landscape is no less enthralling. A drive will take about 13 hours from Islamabad. You get to travel through Naran, Kaghan, Babusar Pass and Karakoram highway. Either way, you come across some of the most majestic mountains here. The best season to visit Skardu is from April-October, with autumn ringing in a riot of hues to witness.
Skardu is land of high mountains, the highest being K-2. It is home to beautiful lakes like Upper Kachura Lake and Lower Kachura Lake, also known as Shangrila Lake. You can also visit Satpara Lake which was meant to be a dam but never did quite get there. This fresh water lake offers trout fishing and row boating.
Do stop at Shigar, a small town a few miles away from Skardu. Here you’ll visit Shigar Fort, built in the 17th century when Shigar was a kingdom. It now has been converted into a resort. Mantokha Waterfall is also an alluring spot here with relatively less crowds.
That’s not all Skardu has got more for you. Sarfranga Cold Desert is a majestic sight, one that has to be seen to be believed. Pale sand dunes meeting at the foot of mountain peaks get imprinted in your mind and stay there forever. It’s elevated several thousand feet above the sea-level and is situated in the middle of Karakoram Range, a surreal stretch of barren land in the midst of a fantastical landscape.
Large green plains and snow-covered mountains embody Deosai which is located within Skardu district. Most people visit Deosai when they are visiting Skardu. Deosai is situated 4,114 meters above sea level and is the second highest plateau in the world. This covers an area of about 3,000 square kilometers. A national park was established here in 1993. This was especially done for protection of the endangered Himalayan brown bear. Now the bears have a sanctuary here.
Deosai is about a one hour drive from Skardu. There are two ways to reach its plains: either you can go through Astore or take the route passing by Skardu. Going to Deosai via Astore is preferred as the route is extremely scenic and beautiful.
Besides bear, you might be lucky if you spot a Golden Marmot, which resembles a furry squirrel, or even red foxes. All these animals are endangered, and there is a strict ban on hunting or harming the animals inside the vicinity of the national park.
There are no hotels in Deosai, but it is a camper’s dream. There are proper camping facilities for tourists. There are huts with washroom and toilet facilities. Stay there for 24 hours to enjoy the most beautiful sunrise and sunset.
But come prepared for what is needed here. Even in summers, the temperatures drop to minus 2 at night so keep your warmest jackets and clothes with you. Also, the height of the plateau, the thin air and the endless driving means that you will be in imminent danger of a sunburn. Keep a powerful sunblock with you, and re-apply every few hours.
Don’t forget to enjoy the Sheosar Lake situated in Deosai National Park. The water is pure blue and its combination with the surrounding greenery and blue sky is a treat to eyes. If the sky is clear and you are lucky, you can also view the giant Nanga Purbat Mountain from there.
One tip: Do not take your own car to Deosai. Stop either at Skardu or Astore and take local jeeps from there.
Hunza is a breathtaking mountainous valley situated in Gilgit Baltistan. People call it heaven on earth and it’s only when you go there that you realize they’re absolutely rught.
Hunza, a former princely state, is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pakistan. It’s quiet, mystical and exquisite-just perfect for your vacation.
May-August is ideal time to visit Hunza. The weather is just right in this period, so you don’t need to carry over-stuffed jackets. The roads, which are inaccessible or snow covered in winters are clear during this period too. To get to Hunza, you can take the Korakoran Highway after passing through Abbottabad. This route is best, most scenic and saves a lot of travelling time. You’ll be at Chillas, the gateway of Hunza, in no time.
Upper Hunza is mainly popular for Gojal valley which is the largest tehsil of Gilgit Baltistan. Here the glittering Attabad Lake was formed as a result of the landslide in 2010. It is one of the main spots in Hunza where you can enjoy boating while your boat slowly progresses into the preternaturally still waters of the lake.
Karimabad is a small town in Hunza where you can find reasonably priced hotels. If you’re a fan of handicrafts then Karimabad is the best place for you. There are shops here that are full of traditional handicrafts and souvenirs. Here you can also visit the Altit and Baltit forts, mighty relics from the past, standing firm on these grounds since the Mughal era.
The people here are friendly, courteous and welcoming. Also, the town is so clean that sometimes you forget you are in Pakistan.
Khunjerab Pass is the last outpost of Hunza, situated on the Pakistan-China border. The temperature there is extremely low which makes you unable to stay there for longer period of time. And yes! You can find an ATM machine here.
So embark on this thirteen-hour journey from Islamabad this summer and explore history and stunning locations all rolled into one.
If you want to go on a true adventure and a thrilling trip then Kalash Valley is the best destination for you. It is located in Chitral district. There are two routes that you can choose from: one from Swat and the other from Gilgit.
The valley is nestled amidst the spectacular Hindukush range. The road that leads to Kalash valley is extremely dangerous and that’s exactly why thrill seekers love it. Direct Jeeps from Chitral to the three different valleys leave around from the center of Chitral.
One of the most interesting facts about Kalash Valley is the language and culture of the residents. They follow an ancient branch of Hinduism. They have a unique culture, one that demands being witnessed and immersed in.
Kalash Valley is composed of three small valleys that each have guesthouses of their own. If you want to buy the indigenous dress that the Kalash women wear, you’ll find it near the guesthouses.
Every year, the residents here hold the Kalash festival. Sounds of drums, men and women dancing in colorful clothes and wonderful rituals are all the highlights of Kalash festivals.
Neelum Valley, part of the northern stretch of Kashmir, is like a dream brought to life. Named after the river Neelum, which flows from Gurez valley river Jhelum in Muzaffarabad, the valley is composed of gently sloping hills, secluded meadows, a unique indigenous landscape, wild flowers, bubbling brooks and bleating lambs.
Neelum is the largest district in Azad Kashmir. People here rely on agriculture and handicrafts for their income.
Chilyana is the main town of Neelum. This lush green land that covers nearby mountains is only an hour away from Muzaffarabad. From here you can look over the Indian occupied Kashmir.
Kundal Shahi is a must-see spot in Neelum. Here a sea green splashy waterfall meets the river Neelum. It is also known as the Niagra Falls of Neelum valley.
And if it is possible for you, then trek the two hour hike that leads to Arrang Kel, a tiny village in an awe-inspiring meadow. It is perhaps the most charming village in all of northern Pakistan. Tiny wooden huts dot the slopes, shepherds take their goats through well-trodden pathways in the grass, thick forests lay just a stone throw away and lilac flowers filling the central undulating meadow. Miss it at your own peril.
Neelum valley has plenty of hotels and rest houses, so do a bit of research before leaving to check which one best matches your requirements and budgets.