With summer vacations officially here, a number of families across the country must be planning to travel to the northern areas of Pakistan during the holidays.
Be it the enchanting green meadows in Kaghan Valley or the sky-high snow-covered mountain peaks in Gilgit-Baltistan, there is no shortage of picturesque tourist destinations in Pakistan just waiting to be explored.
In fact, according to the statistics from the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), nearly 1.1 million tourists visited the northern areas in 2017, of which only 30% were domestic travellers. By 2025, the government believes tourism in Pakistan will contribute about PKR 1 billion to our economy, according to a report published in the Express Tribune.
While the northern areas of Pakistan are perfectly safe for families and even women-only trips, you simply can’t just pack a bag and leave to explore these beautiful places. There are some do’s and don’ts you need to keep in mind to make sure you don’t run into any problems during your trip.
Tips for Travelling to Northern Areas of Pakistan
Here are some major do’s and don’ts of travelling to areas such as Hunza, Skardu, Kashmir and Naran, to name a few.
DO: Pack light
When planning a trip, make a list of things to carry while travelling to northern areas. This list should include a raincoat, a warm jacket, a pair of boots, a woollen cap, a pair of gloves, extra socks, a few shirts and trousers, a first aid kit, prescribed medicine (if any) and a few other items of personal use. However, make sure to pack light and only keep essentials in your backpack. In addition, pack a power bank and an extra battery for your camera.
Once you are done packing everything, pick your bag up and see whether it’s light enough for you to carry around without feeling tired. Of course, you can leave your luggage at the hotel, but if you want to make the most out of your trip and explore more places, you may have to carry your bag a lot as you won’t be staying in one place for long.
DON’T: Travel in the monsoon
For those planning to travel to the northern areas during summer holidays, try and plan and trip before July, as that’s when the Monsoon period starts in Pakistan. Since heavy rainfall can lead to landslides, getting caught in the rain in the middle of the road can be quite dangerous.
Usually, this weather lasts until October, as that’s when the winter begins to set in. Therefore, the best time to go on a tour is before the end of June.
However, don’t forget that it might start drizzling at any time. So, always keep an umbrella or a raincoat in reach.
DO: Wear layers
While you shouldn’t pack too much stuff, you should always pack enough clothes so that you’re able to dress in layers. Those who have travelled to the northern areas before would agree that the weather can change at any given time. While it may not be very drastic, but you will experience a rise in temperature whenever the sky gets a little clear. Similarly, the wind might get a little chilly at the drop of a hat.
Therefore, instead of wearing a lot of warm clothes, dress sensibly and in layers, so you can take off and put them on as needed.
This is the first rule of travelling, no matter where you’re going. Although the crime rate in the northern areas of Pakistan, particularly Gilgit Baltistan, is extremely low, you should still avoid wearing flashy jewellery or displaying your expensive smartphones while travelling.
Moreover, it’s always better to carry a small amount of cash on hand. If needed, you can easily withdraw money from an ATM machine, which can be easily found in almost all of the tourist places in Pakistan.
DO: Explore hidden destinations
The northern areas of Pakistan are full of beautiful places waiting to be explored. While the valleys of Hunza and Chitral see a large influx of tourists all around the year, there are still several villages in these regions that are yet to make it to the travel brochures.
For instance, the villages of Arang Kel in Azad Kashmir and Minapin in Nagar Valley, two of the most beautiful places in Pakistan, remain underrated travel attractions despite having a stunning landscape. Make sure to include these places to your travel itinerary.
If you want to travel off the beaten path and explore someplace new, take a look at some of the hidden tourist destinations in Pakistan.
DON’T: Trek or climb unless experienced
The majestic mountain ranges and lofty peaks make Pakistan a paradise for trekkers and climbers.
While adventurers from across the world travel to northern Pakistan during holidays, you need to think twice if you are planning to go hiking or trekking on your own – especially if you don’t have prior experience.
Since most of the popular trekking routines lay in the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges, climbing these peaks without proper gear and training can be quite dangerous.
DO: Try local food and delicacies
Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir are famous for their traditional food, which is extremely popular among tourists. Although you can easily find restaurants serving desi, Chinese and even Continental dishes in this area, it’s always better to give the local cuisine and delicacies a try.
However, before consuming anything, make sure to ask about its ingredients to ensure it doesn’t have something that you might be allergic to.
DON’T: Spend a lot of money on shopping
Buying a few souvenirs during your trip to the northern areas of Pakistan is completely okay. But you should refrain from spending too much money on buying things that you can find in your own city or can order online.
Instead of buying things such as clothes and bags, opt for items such as traditional jewellery, handmade caps and other handicrafts so that your purchases help the local industry.
If you are a fan of road trips and are thinking about taking one this summer, check out this detailed guide on how to plan a road trip from Islamabad to Khunjerab Pass. The entire trip will take about five days and you’ll be able to explore a number of major tourist destinations in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for more beautiful places to visit in Pakistan, head over to Zameen Blog – one of the top lifestyle blogs in Pakistan.