A journey through Pakistan – over 1800 km from Karachi to Peshawar through the desert Cholistan and Islamabad (guided tour)

We will travel slowly over 1,800 km from Karachi on the Arabian Sea to Peshawar, near the Afghan-Pakistani border, passing through three provinces – Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

We will start with some exciting places in Karachi – Saddar, the old part of Karachi, the Empress market and the largest beach of the city – Clifton. We can also visit Dhobi Ghat – an outdoor public laundry. Our first stop on the way north will be Ranikot Fort, the longest fortress in the world (32 km). We will also do some hiking in Kirthar National Park, the second largest and most important national park in Pakistan.

Then comes the land of Sufis. The first Sufi temple we will visit is Lal in the town of Sehwan. Continue to Mohenjo Daro, an ancient city built around 2500 BC, one of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization settlements. Then, continue to the old town of Sukkur and up to the high Minaret (26 m) of Masum Shah Temple, from where we will enjoy the magnificent view of the Indus River and the city at sunset. Finally, we will continue our journey through Punjab province to Bahawalpur – the city of palaces. Here we will visit the Noor Mahal Palace, the Darbar Mahal Palace and the picturesque market.

We will continue to the Cholistan Desert, where we will explore the remains of the Derawar Fort, the Abbasi Mosque and the Royal Tomb. After that, we will go deeper into the desert and visit a few villages in the Cholistan desert where people still live in huts. In the evening, we will have tea in the desert, one of the most beautiful experiences we will have during our journey through Pakistan.

The next stop will be Multan – the capital of Pakistani Sufism, where we will visit the temple of Bahauddin Zakariya from the 13th century and the tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam. In the city of Lahore, we will first stop at the Anarkali Bazaar. Then we will spend a few hours on Lahore Fortress, where we will find most of the historical and cultural sights of the city. We will also visit one of the most beautiful and oldest mosques of the town – Masjid Wazir Khan and the royal bath Shahi Hammam. In the evening, we will observe the famous flag hoisting ceremony on the border between Pakistan and India – Wagah. Later we will witness the Sufi ritual Dhamaal which includes the spinning sema dance.

We will then continue north to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. On the way, we will stop at the Sikh temple Gurdwara Janam Asthan, the most important temple and shrine for the Sikhs, located in the city Nankana Sahib. In Islamabad, we will see the striking Faisal Mosque – a symbol of the city. On the last day of the trip, we will drive to Peshawar. There we will visit the old mosque Mohabbat Khan Mosque, drink green tea, walk around the market, and have a barbecue in the city’s most famous restaurant.

The last place of the tour will be the ruins of the ancient Takht-i- Bahi Buddhist Monastic Complex, one of the most significant places for Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent.

BASIC INFORMATION

Category: Thousand Voyages Guided Small Group Tours

Dates: November 24 – December 6, 2021; If you are a group of at least 4 or 5, we can arrange this trip for dates that suit you or get on a list of future trips.

Duration: 11 nights / 12 days;

Group: 7 people;

Organization/ Tour leader: I (Pavel) lead and organize this tour through my  Travel Agency, “Thousand Voyages”, with the help of my local partners. I have led tours in more than 20 countries, including Pakistan. My team and I take care of everything related to the trip, such as arranging air tickets from your home, necessary insurances, and other details. Please read the FAQ.

Photography: although this tour is not a photography workshop, we will spend time taking photos. I am happy to share my knowledge and photography techniques with the group and take extra time for photo sessions, especially in spectacular locations with great photo opportunities. After each tour, I share the images from the tour with all participants. Please check out my Pakistan Portfolio here.

Price: 1,295 eur/person (group: 7 people);

 

The price includes a tour guide (me), a local guide, transportation in Pakistan in an air-conditioned van for our group; ten nights accommodation with breakfast in regular hotels in double/twin rooms with en suite facilities in the rooms (if you would like a single room, please note this when booking); one night’s accommodation in a guest house with breakfast; entrance tickets to places of interest (2).

The price does not include airfare from your home to Karachi (Pakistan) and from Islamabad (Pakistan) back home (1); visa (3); lunches and dinners (4); personal travel insurance (5); personal expenses.

(1) We will arrange all air tickets individually and will add the total to your final price.

(2) Local guides expect a small tip in some places. This will be arranged by the tour guide.

(3) The visa for Pakistan depends on your nationality. We will definitely assist you with the necessary invitation letters and other required documents. We will arrange the travel documents.

(4) Food in Pakistan is very cheap.

(5) We do offer personal travel and health insurance service depending on the chosen destination. We recommend that you take out also an insurance “Trip Cancelation” or “Cancelation for any reason”. The options vary, so please contact us to learn more.

Departure/Arrival Locations: The group will depart and arrive at Istanbul International Airport. The current flight schedule and fares will be provided when the trip is confirmed. We can arrange your travel from your home directly to Karachi and then back home from Islamabad.

PROGRAM

Day 1 Karachi

After arriving at the airport in Karachi, we will have a transfer to the hotel and some rest. Then we will start our sightseeing walk in the downtown area.

We will walk around the Saddar district, the old part of Karachi. Among the dilapidated concrete buildings, we will see still preserved old buildings from the British colonial presence.

We will stop at Empress Market, built in 1889 during the British Raj. This old and famous market sells spices, fruits, vegetables and meat, stationery, textiles and pets.

If you wish, we can also visit Dhobi Ghat, literally translated as “The Great Laundry”. The place is a public laundry and dryer outdoors, an impoverished but genuinely unique area with great photo opportunities.

Another popular place to go right at sunset is the largest beach in the city – Clifton, packed with locals who come here for a romantic sunset walk, riding camels or driving peddlers. Gorgeous place!

Overnight at a hotel in Karachi.

Day 2 Kirthar National Park; Ranikot Fort

After breakfast, we head north. The first stop will be the Kirthar National Park, located in the Kirthar Mountains, north of Karachi. It was founded in 1974 and covering 3,087 square kilometres, making it the second-largest national park in Pakistan after Hingol Park. The fauna consists of Indian leopards, hyenas, Indian wolves, cinquefoil gazelles and rare chamois.

Today we will also visit the Ranikot Fort, a historic fortress located in the park, which is considered the largest in the world (32 km). The walls of the fortress are often compared to the Great Wall of China. This site is not yet part of the UNESCO list, but hopefully, it will soon be. Archaeologists point to the 17th century as the time of its first construction. It cost 1.2 million rupees, which is an unbelievably colossal amount of money for that time. The fortress was, of course, used by the British during their rule. We will spend the night in a hotel nearby.

Day 3 Hiking in Kirthar National Park

Today we will have some hiking inside the park. We don’t have a goal or a place which we would need to reach, so that it will be a slow walk having in mind the level of endurance and training of the people in the group. The idea is to feel the true magic of this extraordinary place and get closer to the local people’s way of life. We will overnight in a guest house in the park.

Day 4 Sehwan City and the Lal Temple

Today, our first stop will be at the Shrine of Lal Shabaz Qalandar, a Shia shrine dedicated to the 13th century Shia mystic Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. He was known as Lal (“ruby-coloured”) because of the ruby-like glow on his face/forehead, Shahbaz (“noble and divine spirit”), and Qalandar (“wandering spiritual man”).

After the temple, we continue to Mohenjo Daro, staying at a hotel near this archaeological site.

Day 5 Mohenjo Daro, the city of Sukkur and the high Minaret of the Masum Shah Temple

Before noon, we will visit Mohenjo Daro or “Mound of the Dead” – one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and one of the world’s earliest major cities, contemporary with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoan Crete, and Norte Chico.

In the afternoon, we continue to the city of Sukkur. On the way, we will pass nearby a complex hydro-engineering facility called Sukkur Barrage, which primary function is to regulate the waters of the mighty Indus River.

The most exciting place in the city is the high Minaret of the Masum Shah temple in the centre of the old town of Sukur. From the top of the Minaret, we will enjoy the magnificent views of the entire city and the Indus River at sunset. The temple and Minaret were built in 1607 during the Mughal Empire when the governor of the province of Sindh was Masum Shah. We will spend the night in a hotel in the town of Sukur.

Day 6 Punjab Province, Bahawalpur – the city of palaces; Noor Mahal Palace and Darbar Mahal Palace

We continue our journey north to Bahawalpur – “The city of Palaces”, as they also call it.

The first one we will visit is the Noor Mahal (1872), built in the Renaissance style, quite similar to the Italian castles of the time. The next one will be Darbar Mahal, a royal palace completed in 1905. Today it is under the control of the military, but we will try to obtain permission to visit it. However, there is a slight chance we may not be able to see it.

The city of Bahawalpur is also famous for its picturesque market, which we will also visit in the evening. Overnight in a hotel in Bahawalpur.

Day 7 The Cholistan Desert; Derawar Fort, Abbasi Mosque and the Royal Tomb; The villages in the Cholistan desert

Today we head to the Cholistan Desert, a continuation of the subtropical Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India ( we have travelled through this desert but from the Indian side). Our first stop in the desert will be the Derawar Fort, a large square fortress built in the 9th century AD by the Hindu ruler Rai Jajja Bhatti. Its main towers can be seen hundreds of kilometres away due to the flat terrain of the desert. The walls are over 30 meters high.

Then we continue to the beautiful Abbasi Mosque, very close to the fortress and the Royal Tomb, which will surprise you with its elegance. The tomb is reminiscent of the mausoleums of Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan but on a smaller scale – blue terracotta tiles, beautiful decoration, and magnificent architecture. Inside – clean, quiet and peaceful. Members of Abasi, the region’s dominant family since the late 19th century, are buried here. The tomb is not a museum but a functioning cemetery.

We will spend the whole afternoon in the desert, visiting small villages where people still live in huts. Overnight in a hotel in Bahawalpur.

Day 8 Multan – the Capital of Pakistani Sufism; the city of Lahore

Today we will set off for Lahore, the capital of Punjab. On the way, we will stop at two temples in the city of Multan.

The city of Multan is considered the Capital of Pakistani Sufism. We will visit the 13th-century temple of Bahauddin Zakariya dedicated to the Sufi saint of the same name, founder of one of the branches of Sufism.

We will also stop at the shrine of Shah Rukn-e-Alam considered to be the earliest example of Tughluq architecture and one of the most impressive shrines in the Indian subcontinent. The shrine attracts over 100,000 pilgrims to the annual festival that commemorates his death.

By the evening, we will reach Lahore, where we will have dinner at the Anarkali Bazaar. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved in South Asia, more than 200 years old. The market has two parts – old and new, as the old one is mainly for food, with many restaurants and places to eat. Overnight in a hotel in Lahore.

Day 9 Cultural and historical tour of Lahore with its most famous cultural monuments; The Wagah border ceremony on the border between Pakistan and India; Sufi ritual Dhamaal

After breakfast at the hotel, our tour of Lahore begins. First, we will visit the Lahore Fortress, where a large part of the historical and cultural sights of the city are located – the Badshahi Mosque, the Naulaha Pavilion, the Sikh Pavilion with three doors, Diwan-i-Khas, the Kala Burj Pavilion. Exciting is the “Wall with paintings”, exquisitely decorated with glazed tiles, faience mosaics and murals. We will also stop at the Sheesh Mahal or the “Palace of Mirrors” and many more, a total of over 21 individual sites. Although we will spend several hours in this colossal Museum complex, we still would not see everything. It is huge.

Then we will have a short walk through the old part of Lahore to one of the most beautiful mosques in the city – Masjid Wazir Khan (Masjid Wazir Khan). Close to it is also the royal bath Shahi Hammam, where people bathed before visiting the king. In the evening, we will watch the world-famous lowering the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border, a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959.

At 9.00 pm, we will attend the Sufi ritual Dhamaal, which includes the revolving dance – sema. It is a bizarre Sufi dance ritual to the beat of dhol drums, a truly fascinating experience.

Day 10 Sikh Temple Gurdwara Janam Asthan; Islamabad and the enormous Faisal Mosque

After breakfast, we head to the Sikh temple Gurdwara Janam Asthan, a highly revered gurdwara built at the site where Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was born. The sanctuary is located in the city of Nancana Sahib, near Lahore in Punjab. The place is awe-inspiring, and the temple is one of the most beautiful in Pakistan and the entire Indian sub-continent.

By evening we will reach the Capital of Pakistan – Islamabad, the modern and fascinating Capital of Pakistan. Built as a planned city in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the Capital of Pakistan, Islamabad is known for its high standard of living, safety and abundant greenery.

The most imposing building in the city is the Faisal Mosque – a symbol of the Pakistani capital. Without a typical dome, the mosque is shaped like a Bedouin tent surrounded by four tall minarets. On busy days, the mosque can accommodate about 70,000 people. Overnight in a hotel in Islamabad.

Day 11 Peshawar; the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi Monastic Complex

Today we set off for Peshawar, the largest city and administrative capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The town is located about an hour drive from the famous Khyber Pass, which connects Pakistan with Afghanistan. The neighbouring Afganistan heavily influences Peshawar and the whole region.

We will visit and see the Mohabbat Khan Mosque in the city, drink green tea at the old jewellery dealer from Afghanistan, walk around the market, and have a barbecue in the most famous restaurant.

In the afternoon, we will travel to the ruins of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi (UNESCO), one of the most important Buddhist sanctuaries in the area, located near the town of Mardan. The place is considered one of the most important for Buddhism.

Day 12 Flights back home

We will have a transfer to the airport and flights back home..

GET IN TOUCH OR BOOK THIS JOURNEY

Booking: Please use the form below or other contact method to ask questions and/or book this tour. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Once we agree on all the details, we will put you on the list.

Payment: We do not collect a deposit at the time of booking. Once the tour is confirmed (the group is full), we require a 50% deposit + the amount for airfare if included. The balance is due at least three weeks before the departure date.

Payment methods: 1) PayPal – You will receive a PayPal invoice with the total amount. You can pay with your credit card or PayPal account; 2) A Revolut Business Account (in Euro) for a bank transfer.

 

Cancellation: If you cancel the tour less than seven days before the departure date, the loss for you is 85% of the tour price. We recommend that you take out insurance “Trip Cancelation” or “Cancelation for any reason”. These depend on your specific case, so please contact us for more information.

Travel Documents, which you will receive: the program with all the necessary details in PDF; an invoice; a contract; airline tickets (if included); an insurance document (if included) and any other required documents such as a visa (if we arrange it), etc.

Please read the FAQ for more details.

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