The best places to visit in Pakistan in three weeks (Northern side)
Overlooked and many times a destination which is misunderstood, Pakistan is pretty much off the beaten track for many foreigners, but if you’re looking for places to visit in Pakistan, this post is for you!
Many of the best places to visit in Pakistan are located in the northern part of the country, with the massive mountain ranges being the biggest draw, not only for tourists but even for locals who head there at all times of the year to marvel at the gorgeous vistas and landscape.
With so many places to visit in Pakistan, you may be confused about where you should head to, so we’ve collected what we think are some of the most beautiful places in Pakistan’s northern side, which we think should not be missed! The below Pakistan tourist spots can be visited in three weeks if you plan your itinerary out well. Itinerary details will follow in a separate blog post!
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Kalasha Valleys – one of the most intriguing places to visit in Pakistan
The Kalasha people, one of the smallest tribal groups in Pakistan, live in the Kalasha valleys, an area close to the border with Afghanistan in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They follow a religion which is similar to an ancient form of Hinduism, which makes the Kalasha people incredibly unique in the Muslim-majority country.
The friendly Kalasha people wear colourful clothes and headdresses and celebrate their own festivals, whilst the landscape of the Bumburet, Rumbur and Biriu valleys is simply breath-taking. The Kalasha valleys is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pakistan, if you’re interested in nature and unique tribal life!
The Karakoram Highway (or KKH) has perhaps become synonymous with travelling in Pakistan and is one of the main Pakistan tourist spots despite not actually being a ‘spot’, and spanning most of the north part of Pakistan.
The Karakoram highway, which connects Pakistan to China, is the highest paved international road in the world. Originally, it was a caravan trail across the Karakoram mountain range, before the highway was constructed in the 60’s and 70’s.
Many of the best places to visit in Pakistan are located along the KKH, and are mentioned separately below, but the highway itself (sometimes referred to as the ‘eight wonder of the world’, as are so many other destinations around the world), should definitely be considered as a worthy attraction in itself, especially due to all the beautiful viewpoints, mountain landscape and glaciers that can be seen from the highway!
It should be noted that 5 of the 14 mountains that are taller than 8,000m are accessible via the highway.
Attabad Lake – one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pakistan
The stunning Attabad lake is located on the KKH, in the Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan province. It was only formed in 2010 after a massive landslide hit the area, but is now easily one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan and one of the major Pakistan tourist spots.
Depending on the time of the day, the waters of the 21-km Attabad lake are a stunningly shimmering turquoise, which contrast greatly with the surrounding mountains, giving way to some fantastic photo opportunities!
You can also descend to the lake and take a boat trip across it, on some lovely colourful boats. We didn’t actually get a ride since it was almost sunset time and getting rather chilly, but the kind boatmen let us take a bunch of photos on their boats!
Fairy Meadows National Park
The Fairy Meadows, at the base of Nanga Parbat mountain, may be famous for being one of the top Pakistan tourist spots, but it is also known because of the road leading to it, infamous for being the second-most dangerous road in the world!
Looking at pictures of the Fairy Meadows in summertime, late spring and early autumn, you would certainly understand why it is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan, which is why we headed there with much excitement; however, I would not recommend it in winter unless you’re a lover of intense cold and winter scenery.
No doubt that the area is still very beautiful and the jeep ride to the start of the trekking route exhilarating, but the biting cold and the poorly heated cottages (when we were there in the beginning of November) made for a pretty chilly experience. This is one destination which I would suggest skipping in the wintertime, in favour of so many other beautiful places in Pakistan which are more comfortable!
The Cold Desert
The high-altitude, Cold Desert, or Katpana Desert in Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, is one of the highest deserts in the world, a vast expanse of cool sand dunes surrounded by mountains.
You can climb up the dunes to enjoy the sand and mountain view. Sunset is a pretty good time to go, but do note that the sand dunes here are occasionally covered in snow in wintertime!
Peshawar – one of the most dynamic places to visit in Pakistan
The city of Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, lying close to the border with Afghanistan, has to be one of the most interesting and dynamic cities in all of Pakistan with its mix of cultures and tribes, mouth-watering food and a history that dates back to a few centuries BC, making it one of the oldest cities in South Asia and the oldest in Pakistan itself.
To me, Peshawar was a fascinating yet confusing mix of sights, smells and sounds. While Peshawar is the land of the Pashtun, a predominately tribal people, life in Peshawar is somewhat urbanised. Exploring the old part of the city with its maze of roads and alleys, the little shops in the bazaar areas and traditional architecture is a delightful experience, which without doubt contributes to making Peshawar one of the best places to visit in Pakistan.
The Khunjerab Pass
Connecting Pakistan with China, the Khunjerab Pass is the highest part of the Karakoram highway and the world’s highest international border.
When we visited, the pass was closed due the pandemic and therefore we couldn’t go right up to the Chinese entry point, however we did get to visit the world’s highest ATM which was covered in ice, so much so that we skidded and slipped to the floor!
The drive up to the pass among the snowy mountains is gorgeous, with yaks, and lots of snow and ice becoming more prevalent as we approached the pass. The temperature was around -13˚C when I was there in late October so be sure to dress appropriately!
Pakistan’s capital surely merits its spot on the list of best places to visit in Pakistan, even if just to experience the contrast it offers when comapred other Pakistani cities. Islamabad, is clean and organised and nothing like many other chaotic (but nevertheless captivating) south Asian cities.
Islamabad is home to some tourist spots which are worth a visit, most notably the Shah Faisal Mosque. The city is packed with museums, gardens and parks, and is pretty systematic when it comes to traffic, and a great base from where to explore the archaeological site of Taxila.
Passu is yet another of the Pakistan tourist spots on the Karakoram Highway which deserves attention. It is a home to a series of pointed mountain peaks called the Passu Cones, as well as the very accessible Passu glacier, which is surprisingly easy to hike to.
There are some great viewpoints on the highway from where to get a great perspective of the Passu cones, whilst an approximately 1-hour trek allows you to get very close to the glacier. The 193m Hussaini suspension bridge, constructed of ropes and planks, is also pretty fun to walk across! It was once considered to be the most dangerous bridge in the world, however that was an older version of the current bridge which was thankfully, eventually ‘modernised’!.
Shandur Pass – one of the loveliest places to visit in Pakistan
Driving over and around the 3,700m Shandur Pass area connecting Chitral to Gilgit, was a lovely experience – an area which, to me in late October when I visited, was one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan. We first drove over the pass and got out to roll about in the snow, and then snaked our way around the mountain side where the sun shone brightly, whilst large and heavy yaks walked around the fantastic landscape.
The pass is also home to the world’s highest polo ground, where the annual Shandur Polo festival is celebrated, although the pitch was covered in snow when we were there, and not really distinguishable from the rest of the area.
Lahore has to be one of the most engaging and fascinating places to visit in Pakistan. The capital of Punjab, Lahore is steeped in history and culture, and is packed with sights and activities. Walking Old Lahore or more specifically the Walled City is highly recommended. The citadel’s narrow roads are packed with mosques and other notable attractions, whilst they also provide a very fascinating insight into the ancient skills and crafts which are still practised by artisans from tiny shops in this part of the world.
Khewra Salt Mine – the world’s second largest salt mine is one of the fascinating places to visit in Pakistan
Do add the Khewra salt mine to your list of places to visit in Pakistan if you find time for it! The world’s second largest salt mine is a pretty cool spot, famous for the production of pink salt, globally marketed as Himalayan salt.
The mine has over 40km of tunnels, a small portion of which was developed specifically for visiting tourists. This section has been adorned with salt sculptures and includes a mosque and other small salt versions of Pakistan attractions such as the Minar-e-Pakistan, all of which glow in different artificial lights which change colour.
Different shades of shimmering pink line the walls inside the mine. There’s even a real post office within the mine itself (for use by miners), said to be the only post office built from salt bricks. The temperature inside the mine remains constant all year around.
Phander Lake & Valley
The lovely lake and valley, located a few minutes’ drive apart, in the Ghizer district, is a worthwhile addition to your Pakistan tourist spots. It’s all about the fantastic views of lakes and mountains around here!
The valley itself is best enjoyed from the viewpoint just above the valley called Phander Zero Point which provides amazing views over the Gilgit River, although here one comes across some other fantastic viewpoints on Shandur-Gilgit road on the way to Phander valley too.
We only spent a few hours exploring the Phander area, a disservice, as it probably deserves a lot more time! Most places were closed because we visited at the end of tourist season, and although I feel that it was a great period of the year to visit, do check that at least some of the guesthouses are open beforehand!
Forts of Baltit and Altit – historical places to visit in Pakistan
The forts of Altit and Baltit, in the Hunza Valley, are 1100 and 800 years old respectively, and were the summer and winter residences of the royal family. Whilst the medieval history of the forts is compelling, and Baltit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the views of the valleys and mountains are what make these forts really spectacular, especially if you’re a nature lover.
Each fort is visible from the other and if you’re in Hunza, do put them on your list of places to visit in Pakistan!
Deosai National Park
Definitely one to include on your list of the best places to visit in Pakistan in 3 weeks! Located at an altitude of 4,114m, the Deosai Plateau is the second highest in the world and is surrounded by giant mountains. It seems to be especially beautiful in the spring, when flowers are in full bloom.
The park is also home to the Sheosar Lake, a breath-taking body of crystal-clear water. Many families picnic there in summer, with the area being very popular with local tourists.
Blind Lake / Zharba Tso (near Shigar Valley)
I included this lake, in Baltistan, close to Shigar Valley, as one of my favourite Pakistan tourist spots because of its mirror-like beauty and the wonderful peace and calm in the area. The lake is accessed via a short trek through lots of sand which give way to boulders, and the first glimpse of the lake at the foot of the snow-capped mountains surrounding it was just magical!
Duiker (Eagle’s Nest) Viewpoint
The view of Hunza valley from Duiker is spectacular! The area is often called Eagle’s Nest and is also home to some great views of the surrounding mountains most notable the Ladyfinger peak.
Not only did the weather co-operate so that we got incredible vistas when we were there, but Ladyfinger Peak was visible at all times when, apparently, it is often covered by clouds.
Hiran Minar Park
The Hiran Minar (Deer Tower) Park is located in the city of Sheikhupura, about 40 kilometers from Lahore. It consists of a tower, a large water tank and gardens. Legend has it that the tower was built to house the remain of the then-king’s best friend – a deer.
The park is usually peaceful, although water activities are sometimes held in the tank the disrupting the lovely reflections, so it’s best to go as early as possible, if you’re looking for some photo opportunities!
Multan is often called the City of Saints due to the large concentration of shrines and tombs found within its perimeter, and this why it should be on your list of places to visit in Pakistan. It is also one of the oldest cities in all of Asia!
Be aware that it’s a rather conservative city and thus one of the places where we needed a police escort the whole time we were sightseeing. The city is also famous for having some of the best mangos around, though they were not in season when we were there!
Wagah Border with India
The city of Lahore is very close to the Wagah border with India, where every day a flag lowering ceremony is held. Even if you’ve watched the ceremony on the India side from Amritsar, be sure not the miss the spectacle on the Pakistani side too!
The ceremony is all about patriotism and watching the very tall Pakistani Rangers march in an exaggerated style to appear fierce as they face their ‘enemy’ on the other side of the border. During the ceremony, which takes place every day, you are sure to be swept along by the chants of the spectators as they sing patriotic hymns! Unlike the Indian side, after the ceremony, you will get the opportunity to take pictures with the Rangers.