After several years away, Dragoman is returning to Pakistan with a brand new itinerary, the Pakistan Discovery. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, thousands of intrepid overlanders travelled through Pakistan as they followed the Hippie Trail between Istanbul and New Delhi. Unfortunately, the late 1970s saw the beginning of several decades of political and sectarian instability and negative coverage of Pakistan and its neighbours in the media, which saw the country scratched off all but the most weathered adventurers’ bucket lists. But look past the myths and the media coverage and you’ll discover an extraordinary and enchanting country, defined not just by its intriguing cities and friendly people but by its sprawling and mountainous landscape.
Read on to find out why Dragoman is returning to Pakistan.
Pakistan is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful natural scenery, from the precipitous Karakoram Range and the lost paradise of Hunza Valley to the vast and fertile Indus River Plain and the breathtaking plateau in Deosai. It has several major national parks, each home to some remarkable wildlife including golden jackals, Pallas’s cats, long-tailed Marmots and the rare snow leopard.
Towns & Cities
Known as the ‘City of Gardens’ - because of its huge number of parks and gardens - Lahore is the second-largest city in Pakistan and considered its cultural capital. Its peppered with UNESCO-listed sites, stunning architecture from the Mughal era, and many colourful and charming bazaars at which you can haggle over all sorts of unique items, from handicrafts and jewellery to ancient books and home décor. A trip to Lahore isn’t complete without a visit to one of these markets.
The capital city, Islamabad, is considered one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Its staggeringly-clean, green, and tree-lined streets differ from most other cities in the region; founded in the 1960s, instead of the narrow, labyrinthine streets that are otherwise so common, Islamabad was intentionally designed to be more open, modern, and cosmopolitan. While in Islamabad we’ll visit such sights as the petal-shaped Pakistan Monument, constructed as a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for Pakistan’s independence, and the Faisal Mosque, located in the foothills of Margalla Hills and one of the most recognisable landmarks in Pakistan.
In stark contrast to how it’s portrayed in the media, Pakistan generally has a warm and hospitable culture. The people are approachable, helpful and kind, and they welcome visitors with open arms.
That said, Pakistan still has varying levels of gender inequality, more severe in non-urban regions, but in the cities too there are conservative expectations for interactions between men and women. Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim country, and social etiquette conforms strictly to Islamic principles. Both men and women should dress modestly, covering arms and legs when in public. As always, we aim to respect the culture of the countries we travel through.
Pakistanis love music. Their music infuses diverse elements from traditional music from parts of South & Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as from more modern Western music, together forming a distinctly Pakistani sound. On our trip we’ll visit the Pamiri Music School, which aims to preserve the rich Pakistani heritage of folk music by offering training in traditional instruments such as Surnaye, Tutek, and Sitor.
Foodies will find a lot to enjoy in Pakistan, too. The country has rich culinary traditions, with some of the most diverse and flavourful dishes in the world, packed full of spices and ghee. Each dish is deeply connected to the geography and history of the province in which it originated. There are a variety of dishes to try, often based around legumes, vegetables, chicken or beef: look out for Aloo Keema, Sajji, Haleem, Nihari, Karahi, and Kheer.
And don’t say you weren’t warned: Pakistan is a dry country. Except for at a few Western hotels in the cities, you won’t be able to get alcohol. Instead, Pakistanis drink a lot of sweet, milky chai tea.
The world’s greatest road trip
Among the very best tourist destinations in Pakistan is the Karakoram Highway, the highest paved international road in the world, and one of its greatest road trips. Around 1,300km long, the Karakoram Highway connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, and reaches its highest point at the border between the two countries in the Khunjerab Pass – a height of more than 4,800m. Historically it was an old caravan trail and formed part of the ancient Silk Road; we’ll drive along long stretches of it on the new trip, enjoying gorgeous views of the Indus River.