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With winter vacations just around the corner, you’ve probably already started making plans about how you’ll spend the holidays. While relaxing at home or hanging out with friends sounds like a great idea, you should also know December and January are the prime months to explore some of the most enchanting tourist destinations in the country. From the popular Murree Hills to the breathtaking Kalam Valley, there is no shortage of beautiful places to visit in Pakistan during winter.
Best Places to Visit in Pakistan During Winter
These tourist destinations in Pakistan are popular among travellers all throughout the year. However, they turn into a scene right out of a fairy tale during the winter months. Let’s take a further look at each of them and discuss their top attractions.
This quaint hill station near Islamabad is probably the first name that pops into your head when it comes to winter vacations in Pakistan. Situated at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, Murree is one of the most popular weekend getaways for those living in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and other nearby areas.
Surrounded by lush green pine forests and mighty mountain peaks, this picturesque hill station remains a tourist hotspot all through the year. The pleasant weather, vibrant lifestyle and scenic views make Murree an ideal place to spend some time with family during summer vacations. However, as soon as the year begins to near its end, Murree turns into a winter wonderland, with a thick layer of snow covering the tall colonial-era buildings and tall oak trees in the area.
If you are looking for places to visit in Pakistan during winter that aren’t too far from the city and offer all the latest amenities, this breathtaking hill station is perhaps your best option. Not to mention, the weather in Murree doesn’t get as harsh as in many other northern areas, making it easily accessible even in winter.
Some of the major tourist attractions in and around Murree include Mall Road, Pindi Point, Kashmir Point, Chattar Park, Bhurban, Ayubia and Patriata. Moreover, Murree boasts a number of budget-friendly and upscale hotels, guest houses and resorts. As for dining options, you can find something for every palate here. Some of the most popular restaurants and cafes in one of the top winter vacation destinations in Pakistan include Des Pardes Murree, Usmania Restaurant, Thaali Restaurant, Murree Tabaq Restaurant and Red Onion to name a few. Branches of international food chains such as Pizza Hut, Gloria Jean’s Coffee and KFC are also located in Murree.
How to get there
It usually takes about an hour and a half to get to Murree from Islamabad via the four-lane Islamabad-Murree Expressway. However, if you take the old Islamabad-Murree Road, which is slightly more scenic, you’ll reach your destination in about two hours depending on the traffic.
For more information on the queen of hill stations, take a look at our comprehensive guide on visiting Murree in Pakistan.
Considered a veritable piece of heaven on earth, Nathia Gali is yet another top winter holiday destinations in Pakistan known for its enchanting landscape, hiking tracks and tourist attractions. Located in the centre of Galyat range, which comprises several hill stations within a close distance of each other, Nathia Gali is about 7,900 feet above the sea level.
The weather in Nathia Gali remains rather cool during the summer, attracting travellers from all across the country to spend a few days here. During winters, the area receives heavy snowfall, with the temperature dropping down to -8 degrees Celsius during severe cold spells.
Most people opt for exploring the charming mountain resort of Nathia Gali during their trip to Murree, given their proximity. Although hiking may not be an option for some during the cold winter months, which leaves the entire mountain range covered in snow, you can still spend your time exploring the mesmerizing natural beauty of the area, visiting the bustling Nathia Gali Bazaar and checking out St. Matthews Church, one of the most beautiful and historic churches in Pakistan.
Although Nathia Gali does not see as many tourists as Murree, it still attracts a lot of holiday-makers during the peak months. If you want to spend some time at this mountain resort, there are quite a few good hotels and restaurants situated in the area.
Recently, in a bid to promote tourism in the region, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa introduced camping pods in Nathiagali along with a few other popular tourist destinations in Pakistan.
How to get there
For those travelling to Nathia Gali from Islamabad, you can either travel through Abbottabad or drive through Murree to get there. The road connecting the city of Abbottabad to Nathia Gali is considered one of the most beautiful routes in Pakistan, captivating tourists with its picturesque natural beauty. In order to take this route, you’ll have to drive for a little over two hours to reach Abbottabad from Islamabad via Hazara Expressway. But, you can easily get stuck in the traffic once you enter the city limits.
On the other hand, reaching Nathia Gali through Murree will take you approximately two and a half hours. However, this route has quite a lot of sharp turns, so if you are not accustomed to driving in mountainous regions, it is recommended to hire a local driver and reach your destination during the day hours.
Malam Jabba, a stunning hill station in the Hindu Kush Mountain region, is also among the best places to visit in Pakistan during winter. It is located some 50 kilometres away from the capital city of Saidu Sharif in Swat Valley. Malam Jabba also boasts one of the most popular ski resorts in Pakistan. The captivating holiday spot draws a large number of domestic and foreign tourists, with the number of visitors increasing every year.
Owned by the Pakistani Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), the Malam Jabba Ski Resort has a ski slope of about 800 metres. However, it is widely known for its highest peak slope, which is about 9,000 feet above sea level. Its chairlifts, which offer a captivating view of the snow-covered valley during the winter months, are also a renowned tourist attraction in Pakistan. Apart from chairlifts and skiing platforms, the charming resort also features ice-skating rinks among other modern facilities. Those who enjoy trekking can also check the two famous trails located in the area, one of which starts about 18 kilometres from the ski resort and passes through Shangla Top whereas the other is located some 17 kilometres from the resort and goes through Sabonev Valley.
Malam Jabba is accessible all year and you won’t have trouble finding good hotels and restaurants in the area. Owing to the influx of tourists over the past couple of years, one can easily find civic amenities and facilities in the region.
How to get there
Malam Jabba is located approximately 55 kilometres away from Mingora, a city in the Swat District in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It takes a little over two hours to reach Malam Jabba top from Mingora, which is about a 3-hour drive away from Peshawar.
A number of buses also travel between Islamabad, Peshawar and Swat Valley on a daily basis.
Kalam Valley is one of the best places to visit in Pakistan in December. Located in the upper reaches of the picturesque Swat Valley, Kalam is a popular winter tourist destination, known for its mesmerizing landscape, glacial lakes, mesmerizing Swat River, dense forests and majestic snow-clad mountain peaks. To put it simply, the incredible beauty of this valley is enough to leave one utterly speechless.
This exceptionally beautiful tourist destination is situated at an altitude of about 6,600 feet and is home to a number of hotels and restaurants. For those planning to travel to Kalam during winter vacations, the temperature can drop as low as 1 degree Celsius, which is still tolerable compared to the weather in most areas of Gilgit Baltistan.
Moreover, since Kalam does not get as many tourists as other places on this list, you can easily explore this vast and spacious valley on your own. The locals are also extremely hospitable, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost either. If you plan a trip to Kalam, make sure to visit the nearby valleys of Usho, Matiltan and Utror as well. The famous Mahodand Lake and Kundol Lake are also a must-visit.
You can find out more about Kalam Valley in our detailed guide on travelling to Swat – one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan to visit during vacations.
How to get there
You can reach Mardan Interchange in one and a half hours from Islamabad if you travel along M-1. Once you reach Mardan, it’ll take you about three hours to reach Saidu Sharif. You can stop here for light refreshment and then travel for about four more hours before finally arriving in Kalam.
If you don’t want to drive such a long distance, you can just book seats in private coaches and buses that travel to the area from Islamabad, Peshawar and other nearby cities.
The exotic town of Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also a great place to visit in Pakistan during winter. Owing to the completion of the Lowari Tunnel, one of the most famous tunnels in Pakistan, this scenic region is now accessible all around the year. Located about 4,900 feet above sea level, Chitral is surrounded by the magnificent Hindu Kush range and is home to the striking Chitral River. Until 1947, this town served as the capital of the princely state of Chitral. It is now the capital of Chitral District, which also comprises the famous Kalasha Valleys – including Bumburet, Rumbur and Biriu.
While trekking in Chitral is usually not possible in winter due to heavy snowfall, it is a rather popular spot for those who love skiing. Some of the main tourist attractions in and around Chitral include the historic Chitral Fort, Chitral Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Old Royal Fort in Mastuj, Chitral Gol National Park and most importantly, the famous Chitral Polo Ground.
There are several hotels and rest houses located in Chitral for every budget, along with eateries serving delicious local food. Furthermore, if you travel to Chitral during mid-December, you may also be able to check out the colourful and vibrant Kailash Winter Festival.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach Chitral from Islamabad and Peshawar is through an aeroplane. The Pakistan International Airline (PIA) operates daily flights from these two cities. Another option is to drive to Dir, which is about a 7-hour drive away from Islamabad. From Dir, you can use the Lowari Tunnel to reach Chitral in about 3 hours, give or take.
Situated near Dadu in interior Sindh, Gorakh Hill has gained extreme popularity among those living in Karachi, Hyderabad and other nearby areas. In fact, it is considered one of the most perfect weekend getaways near Karachi.
Gorakh Hill Station is located in the Kirthar Mountain Range at an altitude of 5,688 feet, making it one of the highest, and subsequently coldest, plateaus in Sindh. It is also the only place in the entire province which receives light snowfall during winter months with temperatures dipping below zero. So, if you live in Karachi and are looking for budget-friendly ideas for winter tourism in Pakistan, Gorakh Hill is your answer.
The hill station, which is spread over 2,500 acres, attracts a large number of tourists, most of whom spend the night at one of the local resorts. Several tour groups offer affordable weekend trips to Gorakh Hill all throughout the year.
Unlike the winter vacation destinations in the northern areas of Pakistan, Gorakh Hill is not filled with dense forests or surrounded by snow-clad mountains. However, it offers a panoramic view of the region, reminding one of those scenic images on postcards.
How to get there
The distance between Karachi and Gorakh Hill is approximately 394 kilometres. It takes about 7 to 8 hours to reach the hill station from the city.
Whether you are travelling with a tour group or on your own, you’ll drive through M-9 Motorway towards Hyderabad and take a left turn just before you leave the neighbouring city. Most people like to take a short break once they reach the historic city of Sehwan in the Jamshoro District. You can travel on a bus or take your car only until the base camp for Gorakh Hill, known as Wahi Pandi. From there, you’ll have to use 4×4 jeeps to climb the steep hill. The jeep ride takes about three hours, with a short photography break in the middle.
If you love stargazing and are fond of exploring old forts and monuments of historic importance, you should consider visiting Cholistan during the upcoming winter vacations.
The majestic Cholistan Desert is one of the most overlooked places to visit in Pakistan during winter. This magnificent natural wonder is also known as Rohi in the local language and boasts a number of cultural and heritage sites, some dating back centuries. It is located a short distance from Bahawalpur, a small yet popular city in Punjab. The desert itself is quite large and adjoins Thar in Sindh before extending over to India.
Some of the most famous tourist attractions in Cholistan include the historic Derawar Fort built in the 9th Century AD, Dodhla Forest and the shrines of Channan Pir. Travellers can also book Desert Safari for a memorable experience and visit the bustling bazaar to buy some handicrafts and mementoes.
As for accommodation, you can simply book a hotel in Bahawalpur and spend a night or two camping in the desert.
Moreover, during your trip to the incredible Cholistan Desert, make sure to take a day out to visit the magnificent Noor Mahal in Bahawalpur, one of the most impressive palatial mansions in the entire country that dates back to 1872.
How to get there
It takes about two hours to reach Derawar Fort from Bahawalpur. You can either book a tour with a local company or guide or simply take a bus to get there.
So, which of these winter tourist destinations in Pakistan are you planning to add to your travel itinerary this year? Let us know your thoughts and comments on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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