Islamabad: The scenic north of Pakistan has long been a favorite destination for mountaineers around the world in all seasons, but the country is now looking to establish itself as a destination for winter tourism.
Winter sports and cultural festivals are held every year in the snowy valleys of Pakistan to promote adventure and winter tourism and attract domestic and international tourists. Pakistan is ready to welcome tourists to popular winter destinations with some coronavirus restrictions this year. Visitors should carry physical or digital proof of vaccination as there are always concerns about new variants of the virus.
Pakistan is famous for its hospitality, exquisite cuisines, historical sites and most importantly, its majestic mountains. Pakistan is home to five peaks over 8,000 meters high, including K2, the second highest mountain in the world.
The government is gradually investing in facilities and infrastructure to provide more attractions for tourists, skiers, hikers and mountaineers by organizing adventure sports as well as cultural festivities. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has also resumed its air safari flight and the flight to Skardu is known as “the most scenic and thrilling flight” with breathtaking views of the highest mountains in the world.
1. Hunza and Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan
Spread over 72,400 km2, Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region is where the three mightiest mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush meet. The picturesque valleys of Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu, shadowed by towering snow-capped peaks, have drawn travelers for decades. Hunza Valley offers outstanding views of high peaks, historic buildings, unique culture and heritage including 1000-year-old Altit Fort and 700-year-old Baltit Fort.
The famous crystal clear lake of Attabad is also found near Hunza. British mountaineer Eric Shipton has called the Hunza Valley “the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur” with the iconic Rakaposhi Mountain as the valley’s star attraction. The area offers splendid views of Pakistan’s highest peaks and unforgettable sunrises, according to visitors. Some of the winter sports attractions in Gilgit Baltistan include Snow Marathon in Khunjerab, Ski Crossing in Deosai, Skiing in Naltar and Astore, and Ice Hockey in Hunza.
2. Swat, Galiyat and Kumrat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known for its diverse natural beauty and magnificent valleys including Swat, Kaghan and Kumrat valleys. The Swat Valley, with its green pines, snow-capped peaks and sparkling lakes, is also known as the Switzerland of the East.
The remote Kumrat Valley is called the “hidden gem of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” due to the valley’s fairytale ambience, deodar forested mountains and waterfalls. Another region to visit in the KP is the Galiyat region which includes Nathiagali, Donga Gali, Changla Gali and Ayubia. Snow festivals with exciting adventure activities are the main attractions for tourists in Galiyat region.
3. Neelum Valley
The 144 km long arc-shaped Neelum Valley is located in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The valley is home to lush green terrain and mountains, glistening freshwater streams and dense forests. Neelum Valley is known as the ‘Blue Jewel’ is popular as a summer tourist spot but is now emerging as a new winter destination as the local government encourages tourists to visit the valley with vibrant festivals and sporting activities.
4. Quetta and Ziarat in Balochistan
Balochistan is a land of remarkable geological and topographical wonders with golden deserts, dramatic mountain ranges and the splendid coastal region that includes Gwadar Beach and Astola Island. The Nushki and Kharan deserts are among the most beautiful in the region. Ziarat Valley is the most popular tourist destination and home to the second most extensive juniper forest in the world. The valley remains cool in summer and snowy in winter. Hanna Lake is another beautiful place to visit near the city of Quetta which is covered in snow in winter. Hingol National Park in Balochistan is popular for its unique rock formations and numerous animal species.
5. Sindh forts, deserts and beaches
For those who don’t like snowy valleys, there are sandy deserts and stretches of incredible landscapes and green fields in central Pakistan and sparkling beaches and the Arabian Sea in the south. Sindh Province is home to the ancient city Moenjo Daro, a well-preserved relic of the Indus Valley Civilization, and several heritage sites and forts, as well as stunning beaches and the commercial city of Karachi. Winter is the best time to explore Sindh’s interior culture where summer temperatures range between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius. The forts of RaniKot, Umerkot and Kot Diji reveal the grandeur of Sind and remind of ancient times when Pakistan was the cradle of civilizations.
6. Mughal Era Monuments, Culture and Heritage Sites in Punjab
The province of Punjab is home to many heritage and cultural sites and includes rich agricultural land, an extensive network of rivers and canals, shrines and Mughal-era forts and gardens. It is a melting pot of religions and cultures with Sufi shrines, Buddhist monasteries, Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples spread across the province. The rich culture of the walled city of Lahore, the sacred shrines of Multan, the glorious palaces of Bahawalpur and the Derawar fort in the Cholistan desert are some of the most attractive tourist destinations.
After the Murree tragedy, the police strictly asked tourists to come fully prepared by storing extra fuel, charged batteries, trailers and snow chains, and to be very careful when taking selfies and checking weather conditions before travelling. Meanwhile, visitors have urged authorities to improve food and accommodation standards, control the local tourism industry and ensure sustainable tourism by introducing littering penalties and proper management and recycling facilities. garbage.