Taking a road trip in Pakistan, or elsewhere for that matter, doesn’t have to be expensive or hectic. All you need is a car or a minivan, a budget for fuel and food, a GPS navigation device or Google Maps, and a fun group of people willing to escape the city life for a short while.
Fortunately, there is no lack of beautiful places to visit in Pakistan. From the breathtakingly stunning valleys in the north to a striking coastline surrounded by tall mountains in the south, the country is full of picturesque tourist attractions just waiting to be explored.
However, what we tend to forget is that the journey is often more important than the destination.
Of course, travelling by road could be a little tiring, especially for drivers. But they give you an opportunity to discover the geographical diversity and appreciate the simple beauty in the landscape that you would have missed otherwise.
To be honest, road trips can make your vacations quite memorable. So, if you are craving for a break from your daily routine and hope to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul, here are some ideal road trips in Pakistan that everyone needs to take at least once.
Karachi to Gwadar
Are you looking for places to visit outside Karachi? If so, there’s no better option than a Karachi to Gwadar road trip. If you leave the city early in the morning, you’ll reach Hub in a little over an hour. From there, you would pass Sonmiani ridges to move onto the Makran Coastal Highway. This scenic road is also known as National Highway 10 or N10.
One of the most picturesque roads in Pakistan, the Makran Coastal Highways winds and twists along the coastline of the Arabian Sea. You’ll also get to see the pristine Kund Malir beach, interesting rock formations and active mud volcanoes while driving on this road.
Moreover, N10 passes by the fishing towns of Omara and Pasni. You can stop here for a short lunch and some well-deserved break before continuing on your way.
As you make your way towards Gwadar, the majestic Agor Mountains would begin to overshadow the mesmerizing view of the ocean. The surrounding scenery is bound to make the beautiful coastal drive even more remarkable.
Gwadar is still in its developing stages. Therefore, you’ll witness a lot of heavy machinery and under-construction buildings once you get there. However, it is perhaps the best time to take this road trip in Pakistan if you want to appreciate the raw, natural beauty of this hammerhead-shaped peninsula.
Moreover, there are a number of hotels in Gwadar where you can stay the night. Major tourist attractions in the area include Omani Fort, Gwadar Port, Jiwani and Pishukan.
Lahore to Nathiagali
A road trip to Nathiagali via Islamabad is the perfect option for those who live in Lahore or surrounding areas. There is a 6-lane motorway connecting the two cities. A number of rest areas have been built on either side of the road. If you travel via M2 Motorway, it’ll take you approximately 5 to 6 hours to get to the federal capital from the ‘City of Gardens.’
Once in Islamabad, you have two options. You can either take the Murree Expressway and reach your destination via Murree or take a relatively long route through Hazara Expressway. If you take the second route, you will reach Nathiagali via Abbottabad.
Both routes are incredibly beautiful with lush green trees and mountains surrounding the road. However, the road connecting Nathiagali to Abbottabad looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. The enchanting landscape will make you forget your exhaustion and keep you captivated all throughout your journey.
Moreover, people living in Islamabad can make this into a day trip. But tourists from Lahore would have to book a guest house or a hotel to spend the night. There are a number of accommodation options in the main Nathiagali Bazaar that won’t be too heavy on your pocket.
From Nathiagali, you can travel further towards Ayubia and explore the hill stations beyond. Needless to say, this is one of the most scenic road trips in Pakistan that you can take with your family.
Islamabad to Muzaffarabad
Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, is a heaven on earth. From its breathtaking landscape to the mesmerizing rivers flowing through the city, visiting Muzaffarabad should be on everyone’s bucket list.
For an easier road trip from Islamabad, you can travel on Murree Expressway to reach Kohala Bridge. From there, you can continue to drive down the postcard-worthy Kohala-Muzaffarabad road alongside the enchanting blue Neelum River. It will take you a total of approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes to reach Muzaffarabad from Islamabad.
If you are a fan of long drives or would like to take a different route to reach your destination, you can also take the Abbottabad route. From Abbottabad, you can travel to Mansehra and cross the town of Gari Habibullah to arrive in Muzaffarabad. Although this route is significantly longer, it’ll also give you a chance to drive through several towns and witness their way of life.
Popular tourist attractions in Muzaffarabad include the historical Red Fort, Shaheed Gali, Pir Chinasi and the meeting point of rivers Jhelum and Neelum.
There are a number of great hotels and resorts in the city ranging from the lowest to the highest rates. You also have an option to visit Pearl Continental Muzaffarabad for a quality hi-tea. The best part is you can enjoy your evening tea and snacks while marvelling at the view of the city.
You can also travel towards the spectacular Neelum Valley to further explore the beauty of Kashmir.
Islamabad to Hunza Valley
A road trip to Hunza Valley may be longer than the rest on the list, but it is also going to be one of the most incredible and memorable journeys of your entire life. If you choose Islamabad as your starting point, you’ll have to drive through Hazara Expressway to reach Abbottabad. From there, you can cross Mansehra to reach Balakot and stop for some refreshment.
In addition to that, the earlier in the day you leave Islamabad, the quicker you’ll get to your destination. Don’t forget that the route tends to get jammed due to heavy traffic.
After Balakot, you will continue towards Kholian and make your way towards the stunning Kaghan Valley. This entire route is filled with a captivating landscape in the form of beautiful valleys, thick green meadows, gushing rivers and picturesque mountains. The road will then lead you to Naran. From there, you will reach Besar before travelling upwards towards Babusar Pass, the highest point in the valley.
Although it is one of the most popular road trips in Pakistan, it can also be a bit tricky. The road from Babusar Pass to Chillas is full of twists and turns, which makes it a little dangerous. However, it’s not going to pose much of a problem for seasoned drivers. You can either stay the night at Chillas, which tends to get a bit warm during the summer months, or continue towards Jaglot on the majestic Karakoram Highway and make a pit stop there.
The next morning, you can travel through Gilgit to reach Hunza Valley, the most popular tourist attraction in Pakistan. Since the entire region is filled with unmatched natural beauty, you can’t run out of places to explore.
The enchanting blue Attabad Lake, the historical Altit and Baltit forts, the hanging Hussaini Gojal Bridge, Passu Cones and Khunjerab Pass are some of the major tourist attractions in Gilgit-Baltistan.
If you really want to explore the natural beauty in Pakistan, this road trip is a must for you.
Islamabad to Swat
Yet another piece of heaven on earth, the route to Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is just as beautiful as the destination. If you are starting your road trip from Islamabad, you can easily take the M1 motorway to Mardan. From there, you can travel to Takht-i-Bahi, an ancient Buddhist monastery and one of the six UNICEF World Heritage Sites in Pakistan.
You’ll have to drive through Dargai, Malakand Pass and Chakdara to reach Saidu Sharif, the administrative capital of Swat. From Islamabad, it would take you around five hours to reach this tourist attraction. However, it will take around four hours if you choose Peshawar as your starting point.
You can stay the night in either Saidu Sharif or Mingora, as they are both popular among tourists. However, try and book a room in advance as both of these places remain crowded throughout the year.
While the entire Swat Valley is incredibly stunning, your trip won’t be complete without visiting the pristine Kalam Valley located approximately 99 kilometres from Mingora. A paradise for tourists, Kalam Valley is surrounded with striking glacial lakes, lush alpine forests and mesmerizing waterfalls. This road trip in Pakistan will definitely leave you speechless.