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Why is Pakistan a Top Destination for Backpacking and Adventure Travel?

Updated on August 20, 2018
Although these cyclists are pedaling through the picturesque Naran Valley, I would rather like to hike through here with my dog - K2, the great white Kuvasz.
Although these cyclists are pedaling through the picturesque Naran Valley, I would rather like to hike through here with my dog - K2, the great white Kuvasz. | Source

Immediately after reading a news suggesting that the country has recently been rated as a top destination by the British Backpacker Society, I pulled out a video by Globe Trotter on Pakistan, which has been in my possession for sometimes now.

As I watched the video, I remembered that it had Neil Gibson travel through Pakistan as an educating and an entertaining experience. He makes you part of his own entourage as he lands in Karachi, flies to Lahore, where he participates in a practicing session of a local version of wrestling.

Then he travels to Khyber Pass in Northwestern Pakistan, a historical landmark of the country, and finally reaches Northern Pakistan. Here, first he lets you have a very personal experience of a Shia' Muslim mourning on the 10th of the Muslim month of Moharram and then participates in a local version of the game of Polo.

Finally, he treks to the top of one of the peaks and culminates his trip to Pakistan with a glimpse of rugged beauty of the Karakorum mountain range. The DVD is more informative than just the documentary. It has great information about Pakistani cuisine, religious and cultural events, languages, holidays, etc.

Satpara Lake near Skardu at the foot of he Karakorums.
Satpara Lake near Skardu at the foot of he Karakorums. | Source

Note:

According to the ranking, there are the twenty best countries in the world for backpacking, and Pakistan has taken the top spot on the basis of its breathtaking scenic beauty, fabulous food, and probably the world’s greatest “road trip”.

Only country where 3 greatest mountain ranges meet

The country boasts of 3 greatest mountain ranges of the world - Himalaya, Karakorums and the Hindu Kush. Three of the tallest ten and ten of the tallest twenty-five peaks of the world are located in this country, including the 2nd tallest K2.

If you want to see these mountains then travel to the Central Karakoram National Park in the Gilgit-Balitstan region of Pakistan.

Flowers blossoming at the feet of the tallest mountains of the world.
Flowers blossoming at the feet of the tallest mountains of the world. | Source

There are two good books written by western writers on their adventures in these mountain ranges that I have read and liked a lot.

‘K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain’ by world renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs is one of them. Although the main focus is on scaling the second highest, but more dangerous mountain, it gives an overall feel for the Himalayas and Karakorums.

Manthoka Falls, Kharmang valley, Skardu. In 2010, Lonely Planet summarized Pakistan as, "tourism's 'next big thing'.
Manthoka Falls, Kharmang valley, Skardu. In 2010, Lonely Planet summarized Pakistan as, "tourism's 'next big thing'. | Source

In ‘Following Marco Polo's Silk Road’, Brian Lawrenson and his wife passed through the Karakorum Highway during 2002. Bobby Underwood, a book reviewer, wrote, “It was fascinating to discover great beauty in places like Pakistan, which is not the first image which comes to the mind of a westerner.”

Upper Kachura Lake.
Upper Kachura Lake. | Source

Only country having 3 zoogeographical realms

Pakistan is the only country in the world with a transitional zone of three zoogeographic realms - the Palaearctic, the Oriental (or Indomalayan) and the Afrotropical (formerly Ethiopian). Out of all the other countries, Mexico has two realms.

These three realms and rapid changes in altitude affect vegetation and wildlife. Because of these zoogeographies, Pakistan has some of the world ’s rarest animals and plants.

Life in all shapes and forms.
Life in all shapes and forms. | Source

In addition to the more recognized wildlife species like snow leopard, common leopard, markhor (national mammal), chukar partridge (national bird), chinkara gazelle, black buck, Houbara bustard, Sindh Ibex, Punjab Urial, etc., there are several species of fauna and flora that are endemic to Pakistan.

Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo. It  is a poster wild cat of Pakistan.
Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo. It is a poster wild cat of Pakistan. | Source

Mammals found only in Pakistan include the Indus River Dolphin, and the Pale Gray Shrew. The Baluchistan Pygmy Jerboa represents an endemic genus. The Woolly Flying Squirrel survives only in Pakistan. The Punjab Urial is sometimes considered a full species, while the Chiltan Wild Goat is an endemic subspecies.

Wild yaks.
Wild yaks. | Source

Besides several reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, scorpions, spiders, a freshwater crab, and clams are unique to Pakistan.

Indian paradise flycatcher
Indian paradise flycatcher | Source

There are about 200 vascular plant species exclusive to Pakistan. Among them, Saussurea lappa, locally known as kut, is endemic to the alpine regions and is considered an endangered species.

Grey wolf cantering away in snowy northern Pakistan.
Grey wolf cantering away in snowy northern Pakistan. | Source

Where the 3 cultures meet

Pakistan is a multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual country. It is located at the confluence of 3 great cultures - South Asian, Central Asian, and the Middle Eastern. The last one reflects both Arab and Persian cultures.

The confluence of 3 cultures is best reflected in its national language or the ligua franca – Urdu - an Indo-Iranian language formed gradually as trading caravans from all these regions mingled somewhere on the lands of Asian sub-continent some 300-500 years ago. However, the official number of regional languages actively spoken in Pakistan is 73 - 76.

Pakistani truck art, shown below, is now being internationally recognized. However, its handicraft includes a diversified range of styles, materials and aesthetics.

Truck art of Pakistan gets international recognition.
Truck art of Pakistan gets international recognition. | Source

There are over 15 major ethnic groups in Pakistan. The cuisine itself is a mix of delicious foods from Indian heartland, Persia, and central Asia, but having a distinct flavour of its own.

Not to be forgotten is Chai (now known as Chai-Tea in the west). Pakistanis love Chai and prepare it in many different styles.

Delicious Chapli Kababs, shown below, are from the northwestern province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Many varieties of Kababs show connection with Central Asia with flavour that is endemic to Pakistan.

Chapli Kababs
Chapli Kababs

And last but not the least – weddings. A single wedding will introduce one to hospitality, multitude of colours, beautifully embroidered flowing fabrics in silks and chiffon, delicious food and beverages, plethora of music and dance, etc.

Where archaeological remains send you to a distant past of 3 ancient civilizations

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of World Economic Forum in 2009 tagged Pakistan as one of the top 25 tourist destinations for its World Heritage sites, which ranges from mangroves to the 5,000-year-old cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

Pakistan was home of 3 great ancient prehistoric civilizations - Mehrgarh, one of the most important Neolithic civilization (7000 BC to c. 2500 BC), the Indus Valley Civilization that flourished between 5000 BC to 1500 BC, and Greco-Buddhist or Gandhara Civilization (500 BC to 600AD).

Buddha engraving in Swat district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province is an example of Gandhara Civilization.
Buddha engraving in Swat district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province is an example of Gandhara Civilization.

The most well known of the three, the Indus Valley Civilization that flourished along the Indus River and its several tributaries in areas now comprising northwestern India, northeastern Afghanistan, and almost all of Pakistan.

In the words of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, famed British Archaeologist, "No part of the world is richer in vestiges of a varied past than Pakistan."

A figurine of a priest and the remains
A figurine of a priest and the remains

Where 3 faiths contribute to international religious tourism

There has been a significant increase in number of tourists from Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and even from Myanmar in recent years. Reason is followers of the Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikkism visit Pakistan for religious reasons.

Once known as the heart of the Gandhara civilization, Takhtbai or Takht-i-Bhai (throne of origins) is the most visited site by the Buddhists, who flock to see the ancient monastery dated back to the 1st century.

Buddhist travelers to Pakistan.
Buddhist travelers to Pakistan.

Pilgrimage sites for Sikhs include the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion who was born in 1469 in Nankana Saheb district, and Gurdwara (monastery) Punja sahib in Hasan Abdal town, where the handprint of Guru Nanak is believed to be imprinted on a boulder at the monastery.

Sikh pilgrims at Panja Saheb.
Sikh pilgrims at Panja Saheb.

Hindus, Pakistan’s second largest minority after Christians, equally revere the water of a lake in the Katas Raj temple as they believe the lake was filled with the tears of Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism.

Source

Where 3 historical buildings designed in 3 architectural styles are on display

One will find historical buildings built by the three distinct regimes that have ruled over Pakistan.

Mughal Empire gave the country forts, mosques, gardens, and other historical structures.

Hiran Minar, located near Lahore in Punjab province, was built by the 4th Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the memory of his pet deer.
Hiran Minar, located near Lahore in Punjab province, was built by the 4th Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the memory of his pet deer. | Source

British Raj gave the country public buildings, infrastructure still in use today, churches, university buildings, and gardens built in Greco-Roman style.

Completed in 1865, Frere Hall, below, was originally intended to serve as Karachi's town hall, and now serves as an exhibition space and library. It is considered one of Karachi's most iconic buildings.

Local population added tombs of local saints, temples, mosques, and gurdwaras to its historical and architectural heritage.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartapur below is about 100-km from Lahore.

Source

3 Local Sports That Are Reaching out Globally

Pakistanis love sports and have been world champions in squash (still existing record winning streak), cricket, snooker, and field hockey (most cups).

However, for tourists, it is the 3 local sports that draw huge crowds – Kabaddi, tent pegging, and polo.

Kabaddi has become an international sport and is now a fixture at Asian Games.

Two competitors in Kabaddi, which is a team sport, face off at a match being played in Burewala, district Vehari of Punjab.
Two competitors in Kabaddi, which is a team sport, face off at a match being played in Burewala, district Vehari of Punjab. | Source

Tent pegging is a cavalry sport of ancient origin, and is one of only ten equestrian disciplines officially recognised by the International Equestrian Federation. Today, tent pegging is practised around the world, but is especially popular in Australia, India, Israel, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Tent pegging competitor.
Tent pegging competitor.

The local version of polo is already attracting foreign tourists. Shandur Polo Festival invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament which is held among teams from Chitral and Gilgit every year since 1936. The tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters).

Local version of polo is popular in the northern areas of Pakistan, where each valley has a team.
Local version of polo is popular in the northern areas of Pakistan, where each valley has a team.

Where 3 genres of local music attract listeners

Pakistanis have a strong connection with music. The local music can be divided into 3 genres. Qawwali, mystic music has its roots in religious ceremonies performed by local Hindus and Muslims at the respective religious festivals, mostly at temples and mosques. The world renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan belonged to this genre.

Ghazal and poems are higher lyrical form sung by more refined singers accompanied by classical string, keyboards, and rhythm instrument players. This form is more popular in the urban centres of the country and has contributed the most to the music of Indian and Pakistani films.

Folk music, or country music as it is called elsewhere, is the genre of the real heartland. It is played at local festivals and gatherings and is immensely popular with general population.

In the video below, the Candian Qawwali Group, Fana FiAllah, sings a poem by the National Poet of Pakistan, Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal, in Qawwali form.

Conclusion

I am not sure if through this article I have been able to prove that Pakistan is indeed one of the best destinations to travel through. I have convinced myself though. So I am going and for a good company, I am taking my long time hiking partner, my furry friend - K2, the Great White - along. I am sure that the two of us are going to have a great time there.

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    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi FlourishAnyway,

      Thank you very much for checking the article out.

      It is interesting to note that in the 80s and 90s, Pakistan was the poster boy of the USA due to the war against former Soviet Union. Actors like Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas visited Pakistan to laud it on its efforts against Soviets during the war.

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 months ago from USA

      What an excellent, comprehensive article on a country many Westerners know little about. What a beautiful place full of culture, history and natural beauty!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Liz,

      So at least we have material available in our mind and as soon as we get few hours, we can quickly turn it into a hub. Easier said then done, I guess :-)

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      I have the same problem. I have so many hubs I can write and not enouvh time to do it in.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Mary,

      You lived there almost before the 9/11 and the violent times that country went through as an aftermath. I hope you are able to travel to that country once again. I am visiting it after almost 18 years for wildlife photography.

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you for reading and leaving a nice comment, Liz!

      But first, I want to write hubs on my travels through Pembrokeshire, Lake District, and Snowdonia. It is a matter of finding time to write those hubs :-)

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Linda,

      You are most welcome.

      I wrote the article within a short span of less than 5 hours, as I wanted to coincide it with the Independence Day of that country. Specially since terrorism has been mostly eliminated, western travelers are visiting it for its natural beauty and culture. But my fascination remains its unusual wildlife, which will remain my focus of attention when I visit it later this year.

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      We worked in Pakistan about 20 years ago and we enjoyed our stay there for over two years in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. The Khyber Pass, the Karoakorum and the Hindu Kush were very pristine environments and the food truly amazing. We still look back to the food we enjoyed there like lamb, eggplant dishes and the most variety of mangoes.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is an interesting article. I look forward to reading about your travels.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Pakistan sounds like a great country to visit. I love the scenes of nature that you've shown. The culture sounds interesting, but I think I would enjoy exploring the natural scenery most of all. Thank you for sharing all of the information, Suhail.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Fuzail!

      I really appreciate your reading the article and leaving encouraging comments.

    • profile image

      Khanamaira96 

      3 months ago

      Amazing article i have ever read. Very interesting and helpful.

      Thanks a lot.

      https://www.waysmm.com/real-youtube-subscribers

    • Fuzail profile image

      Fuzail 

      3 months ago

      It is arguably the best piece I have ever read on Pakistan, and has added tremendously to my knowledge about my own country.

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