We all know about the amazing opportunities for tourism we have available in the northern areas of Pakistan – but have you ever thought about going south?
Because you definitely need to see the beautiful sites located there, especially in Cholistan (called Rohi in the local culture). This gorgeous desert area spans three major districts and extends across large swaths of the Punjab and Sindh provinces.
The Cholistan Desert is rich in history and culture (and not to mention some beautiful artwork), and offers many memorable sites worth seeing. The perfect time to visit the area is in spring when the weather is ideal – and there are some exciting events planned.
1. Check out the Cholistan Jeep Rally (14-17 Feb)
The Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) has been organising the annual Cholistan Jeep Rally for some years now. This year, the rally will take place from February 14 to 17, and registrations for participation are now open.
You don’t have to be a jeep enthusiast to enjoy this rally.
You can join in as a spectator, and see the impressive driving skills of the participants in the desert. The atmosphere is quite festive, and basking in the sheer adrenaline rush of the spectators is a fun experience to have. Any day.
2. See the majestic Derawar Fort
This enormous fort is visible for miles around in the Cholistan Desert. It has forty bastions, along with a perimeter of 1,500 metres. The fort lies 130 kilometres south of Bahawalpur and is truly a sight to behold.
Derawar Fort was built in the 9th Century AD by Rai Jajja Bhatti, a Hindu ruler.
It was originally called the Dera Rawal, but the name changed simply to Derawar over the years. Its present structure was erected in 1732, and it has been standing like this ever since.
On your Cholistan trip, you really need to visit this imposing fort and marvel at how impressive it is. We promise that it will be an experience fully worth your while!
3. Have a ‘bonfire & camp’ desert experience
In Pakistan, hundreds of tourism companies have popped up over the last few years – and their number keeps on increasing. You need to pick a company that offers the best package for your needs, and which guarantees a great camping experience in Cholistan.
Oftentimes, a simple Google or Facebook search easily does the trick!
On these online platforms, you’ll find numerous tours offered which let you camp in the desert, and have a barbecue dinner along with. Now a bonfire and barbecue under the starry desert sky is truly an experience worth having!
Before going, make sure you pack a jacket for yourself. Because it tends to get quite chilly in the desert at night.
4. Go to the shrines of Channan Pir
Channan Pir is located in the starting tracts of Cholistan Desert, a few miles away from Yazman Town. It contains the tomb of the Sufi saint that it is named after.
The larger mausoleum, as such, occupies an important place in Sufi history, and many devotees visit the shrines located in it. It is especially active when the annual Urs (commemoration) ceremonies of saint Channan Pir are held.
These are organised on seven consecutive Thursdays starting in March every year. Collectively called the Mela Channan Pir, the event always culminates into an impressive spiritual gathering.
5. Book a Desert Safari
Many local companies offer Desert Safari tours in Cholistan. These travel excursions allow you to move around the vast desert in jeeps, and take in some of its most important places. Most of these trips start from either Bahawalpur or Multan, but anyone can join in.
Generally, the safaris can range from single or a few days trips to full-fledged getaways lasting over two weeks. So you need to do your research thoroughly, and see what arrangement suits you best.
Your tour package will feature many cultural experiences, including visits to nomadic settlements in the area and attendances at traditional jhumar dance events.
Pro tip: Keep your camera, and possibly your daily journal, within reach at all times!
6. Explore Dodhla Forest
Cholistan does not only boast an arid desert landscape. One of the less well-known wonders (or should we say, secrets?) of this beautiful region is the Dodhla Forest compound. This is one of the few protected rainforests in Pakistan. It is rich in wildlife – of both flora and fauna varieties.
Although the forest is a source of livelihood for many loggers in the area, it is also kept sustainable. For visitors, it suddenly appears as a wonderful surprise – right at the edge of the dry desert. Its presences fully showcases just how diverse Cholistan really is.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your trip and start packing your bags today!
You don’t want to miss this experience!