Northern Areas Cultures Reflections Overview
Absorb the complex identity of Pakistan on a grand leisure journey that brings you face-to-face with the country’s glorious treasures and modern identity. Feel the energy of diversity of cultures and nature, experience life along the country side and parks and discover the fascinating land of these little known “Roof of the World” land locked people region in this Northern Areas Cultures Reflections trip.
Northern Areas Cultures Reflections Highlights
- Travel to plateau grasslands where nomadic families raise yak, sheep and goat.
- Step closer to Kalasha Pagan Tribes and their culture; try to understand the faith, and the unique related activities there.
- enjoy the amazing and mysterious places, mountains, temples & stupas in scared places!
- Encounter the paths trodden by Buddha in all their splendour and majesty
Northern Areas Cultures Reflections Itinerary
ARRIVAL in ISLAMABAD
One of our staff will meet you at the airport and escort you to the hotel. Today either you can relax or (depending upon your arrival time) you can enjoy an exploratory walk in he old part of Rawalpindi; wander past the vegetable and spice markets, beautifully carved old houses and trucks, cows pestering the vegetable vendors, catch traditional craftsmen at work in silver and gold bazaars .You will then continue on the main street linking the Twin cities – Murree Road – before arriving at the gleaming new capital, Islamabad. You pass shining new buildings and thousands of park areas – a full 50 percent of the 350 square mile site is set aside for parks. You will then stop at the Shakar Parian to catch a bird’s eye view of Islamabad. Our next stop will be Shah Faisal Mosque which is the landmark of Islamabad.
TAKHT BHAI – malakand pass - Swat
We leave today after breakfast for Swat, a picturesque northern Pakistan valley towards north east. It has a rich historical past, too. The “Udayana” (Golden) of the ancient Hindu epics; the land of enthralling beauty, where Alexander of Macedonia fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over the plans of Pakistan. This is the “valley of hanging chains” described by the famous Chinese pilgrim chronices, Huain Tsang and Fa-Hian in the fifth and sixth centuries. Swat was also the historical land where the Muslim conquerors, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Babar and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to conquest of South Asia. En route we visit the Bala Hisar mound at a distance of 28 kilometers dating back to 2500 years old and the capital of Gandhara from sixth century B.C to second century A.D. According to Herodotus , the Greek historian writing in about 460 B.C Darius sent the explorer Scylax of Caryanda to sail down from here and find the sea. Gandhara remained with Achaemenid Empire for next 200 years until its overthrow by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.
Our next stop will be at Takht e Bahi Buddhist monastery of first century A.D. It has 38 votive stupas and the largest statues must have been 33 feet high donated by rich pilgrims, supposed to enshrine the ashes of Lord Buddha and surrounded by the chapels. Then we will see the cells of Monks in the Monastery Court. These cells are believed to be originally plastered and painted in different colours.
The next part of our journey is to Chakdara passing through the Malakand Pass. Photo stop at the top of this pass will allow admire superb panoramic views over the valley. There is also a Fort built by the British. There are also a few Churchill Piquets all along the Pass. These security check posts were used by the British army to watch the movements of local Pathan tribes who fought against them. Despite the heavy fights that lasted years, the British army never succeeded in defeating local tribes who posed them fierce resistance. In fact, British controlled the whole subcontinent except this zone which is now known as Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw. Next is Chakdara Fort, which was built by Emperor Akbar in 16th century and now in use of Army.
Next is Chakdara Fort, which was built by Emperor Akbar in 16th century and now in use of Army. We will be in Fiza Ghat by evening for overnight stay.
Morning departure for Malam Jabba. This is an exciting tourist resort of great natural beauty as well as the one of the best skiing resort. Afternoon drive to Miandam and enjoy the alpine and rustic scenery of Miandam.
Drive: 5-6 hrs
Lowari pass/Lowari Tunnel - Chitral
After break fast we drive towards Dir along the Dir river to Dir valley. From Dir it takes six to seven hours drive via Loweri Pass and four to five hours by Lowari Tunnel to reach Chitral Valley. This drive to Chitral via the pass is spectacular and you will enjoy each moments of our drive long drive. The Lowari Pass at a height of 3,100 meters with zigzag descend with breathtaking views of Chitral Valley are as fascinating g as any other alpine valley.
Today after arrival in Chitral we visit Chitral Fort, standing on the bank of Kunar River beside a 1000 years old Shahi mosque rounded by many chinaar trees. From here we proceed towards polo ground and after that to Chitral Bazaar.
Drive: 4-5 hrs
Leave for garam chasham(hot spring. On the way visit beautiful villages, with beautiful terraced fields, wild flowers, studded slopes and fruit laden trees.The last destination of latoh valley in Chitral, which is ideal for hiking, trekking and trout fishing as well as for swiming and bathing.
Drive: 6-7 hrs
Garam Chashma free day
free day at Garam Chasma
Today we leave to the most exciting part of our tour is visit to Kalash Valley, the home of the Kafir-Kalash or “Wearers of the Black Robes”, a primitive pagan tribe. Their ancestry is enveloped in mystery and is the subject of controversy. A legend says that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedonia settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kafir-Kalash.
The Kalash women wear black gowns of coarse cloth in summer and hand-spun wool dyed in black in winter. Their picturesque headgear is made of woolen black material decked out with cowry shells, buttons and crowned with a large colored feather.You can also visit a typical Kalash house to observe their life style and Kalasha Museum in Bumboret.
Drive: 6-7 hrs
KALASH - FREE DAY
Today is reserved for a day hike over to the other village of Kalash Valley, for our lunch we will be having packed light lunch with us with some juices and biscuits. It’s a magnificent short trek into the beautiful Birrer.
Today morning from Kalash valley we will drive to Chitral and continue drive on Chitral Mustuj valley road passing through the scenic Booni villages, stopping enroute for rest and visiting local village house to upper Chitral Mastuj.
The main villages include Buni, Mastuj, Chuinj, Parkusap, Reshun, Parwak, Kuragh and Aveer. Mastuj is one of the most beautiful towns in Chitral. It is with an altitude of 2359 metres (7742 feet), starts right after the end of Baranis, Reshun, Kuragh, Buni, Aveer, Parwak, Mastuj, Chinar, Chuinj, Chapali, Kargin are the main areas of Mastuj valley.
Shandur pass(3700m) - PHaNDeR Ghzer valley
After a morning sightseeing around Mastuj, we will start to drive towards Shandur pass and Lakes.
Shandur Top (3,700 m)) located in Ghizer District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Shandur is often called the ‘Roof of the World’. The top is flat, a plateau. The grade is very gradual, and the area is crossed by plentiful small streams during summer. The boundary line between Ghizer District and Chitral District is also situated in Shandur Top.
After a brief stop here we will continue our drive through to phander lake.Visit Phander lake and optional trout fishing activity there. Visit Phander village and a home there for cultural insight of Wakhi culture.
Drive: 5-6 hrs
Ishkoman- gilgit - Naltar
Drive to Khalti lake, Ishkoman valley, and back to Gahkoh Ghizer valley. Ghizer joins with Wakhan strip on its north-west, and China on its northern borders. On its west, there is Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and on its east is situated Gilgit.
This district is also connected to Tajikistan through Yasin valley and Karumber Pass. The population mostly comprises of Gujjars. The word Ghizer is derived from local language’s “Gharz”, which translates to “immigrant”.
The rulers of Chitral were known as Mehtar. The people they didn’t ‘approve of’ were exiled to Gupis in Ghizer. These people soon occupied most of the Gupis. Gupis has been serving as a junction between yasin and phander valley. The beautiful landscape of Gupis valley is breathtaking. The turquoise water of river flowing along the road and surrounding fields and forests present a very charming scene to the visitors.
It is the central place from all valleys like phandar, yasin. poniyal etc. We will visit Khalti Lake and Phander lake.
Phander valley which is commonly called “Little Kashmir”. Phander Lake is one of the most famous tourist spots in the entire region. Phander valley was the bread basket for the whole Northern Areas. The name of Ghizer comes from the name of a village ‘Ghizer’ that is situated in the vicinity of Phander The deep blue lake in Phander offers a magnificent view and is basically the home of trout fish.
Located at a 20-30 minutes drive from Gupis, the Khalti lake is one of the very beautiful lakes found in Ghizer district of Gilgit Baltistan.
Khalti lake is famous for being habitat of trout fish. The lake is formed due to stretch of river near the village of Khalti. The dark blue water of lake on a clear day looks very charming. The lake usually freezes during winter and villagers of Khalti use to walk on this.
Visit Kargah Nala, Old Gilgit town home visit for cultural insight. Evening drive to scenic Naltar valley, home to flowery meadows, lakes and spectacular greenery. The peaks surrounding Naltar Valley have dozens of 5000m summits. Naltar was a British hill station and has some Pakistan military facilities, including a Pakistan Air Force winter survival school with ski lift
Naltar receives more rainfall than other mountains/valleys in the range , and its alpine forests are refreshing compared to the mainly arid Karakoram.
We will visit Naltar view point and upper Naltar Lakes.
Drive: 6-7 hrs
Drive to scenic Naltar lakes and after lunch drive onward to Hunza valley, enroute stop at Rakaposhi base camp view point and visit Diran view point for glimpse of Diran peak. Main attraction of this road journey is Rakaposhi Base Camp and Altit and Baltit Forts.
Morning visit to Baltit Fort. Baltit Fort is an ancient fort in the Hunza valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Founded in the 1st CE, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list since 2004.In the past, the survival of the feudal regime of Hunza was ensured by the impressive fort, which overlooks Karimabad. The foundations of the fort date back to 700 years ago, with rebuilds and alterations over the centuries. In the 16th century the local prince married a princess from Baltistan who brought master Balti craftsmen to renovate the building as part of her dowry. Visit around the area, you would feel as if you’d stepped back in time in past period.
After Baltit Fort you go to Ganish village. Ganish is the oldest and first settlement on the ancient Silk Road in Hunza, and is the site of various ancient watch towers, traditional mosques, religious centers, and a reservoir.The Ali Gohar House in Ganish, is located next to one of the iconic shikaris (watchtowers) of the town. The 400-year-old house was awarded the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2009
Then we proceed to Altit Fort. Altit Fort is an ancient fort at Altit town in the Hunza valley,It was originally home to the hereditary rulers of the Hunza state who carried the title Mir.Altit Fort and in particular the Shikari tower is around 1100 years old, which makes it the oldest monument in the Gilgit–Baltistan.
Then go up to the highest observation place at Duikar to enjoy 360-degree panoramic view and sunset reflections on peaks of lady finger, Haramosh peak, Rakaposhi and many others. This is one of the best elevated way to fully enjoy a sunset. Spiritually and physically, we would like you to feel the air as well. It will be unforgettable experience.
Attabad lake- Husaini - Passu - Sust
After breakfast we proceed to Attabad lake, Husaini suspension bridge and Passu. Glacier. The glaciers are really eerie, almost alive, as they creak and melt in the sun. Rocks continually fall down as the ice melts.Experience the passu glacier cracking and spikes from the view point.
The valleys of Hunza and Nagar are some of the most beautiful valleys in the northern parts of Pakistan. The people of this area are known for their legendary good health, longevity and hospitality.
Drive: 02- hrs
Khunjerab Park and back to Gilgit
Today’s drive will take us to Khunjerab Pass, Khunjerab Pass, the gateway to China via the Karakoram Highway, is at 4,934m.which half of the park is above 4,000m. Khunjerab National Park is Pakistan’s third largest national park. It is adjacent to Taxkorgan Natural Reserve (1,400,000ha) in China. You will enjoy a short trip up to Khunjerab Pass on Karakoram Highway; it gives some of spectacular sceneries for photographers of wild life. where you may have a sighting of endangered Marco Polo sheep, which is only found in this area in Pakistan. The park is also famous for its snow leopards. Some reports say that it might contain the highest density of these beautiful cats in the total Himalayan ecosystem, which is the natural habitat of these cats. Over 2,000 Siberian ibex, widely distributed and abundant in the park but absent from neighbouring China, are also present here.
Other animals of this park are in the park include:
Snow leopard (T), Himalayan ibex (C), Brown bear (T), Tibetan red fox (C), Tibetan wolf (T), Blue sheep, Marco Polo sheep, Tibetan wild ass or kiang , Ermine (C), Alpine weasel, Stone martin (C), Golden marmot (C), Lynx (unconfirmed reports), Large-eared pika (C), Dhole (unconfirmed reports), Cape hare (C), Common field mouse (C), Royle’s mountain vole (C), Lesser shrew (C), ,Migratory hamster (C)
Common birds in the park are:
Lammegier vulture, Golden eagle, Himalayan griffon vulture, Eurasian black vulture, Marsh harrier, Eurasian sparrow hawk, Eurasian kestrel, Lesser kestrel, Saker falcon, Peregrine falcon, Himalayan snow cock, Snow partridge, Chukar, Grey heron, Common sandpiper, Hill pigeon, Snow pigeon, Northern eagle owl, Eurasian cuckoo, Common swallow, Magpie, Alpine chough, Raven
Drive: 6-7 hrs
Drive to Skardu
After Breakfast, we will start our journey towards Skardu via scenic Rondu valley.
SKARDU is the administrative capital of Baltistan and gateway to the high peaks of Northern Pakistan. We have some time to explore the town and enjoy the hustle and bustle in peak season of tourists here. Sightseeing in Skardu and surrounding areas during the day. For those seeking a good overview of Skardu, or a place from which to photograph the sunset, Kharfocho Fort is an ideal spot. If the flight is unable to operate because of bad weather, we will resort to travel by road on Karakoram Highway (KKH) to Chilas. We pass through the historical town of Taxila, beautiful hill station of Abbottabad, quake affected lush green towns of Mansehra, Shinkiari and finally meet the great Indus on Thakot Bridge. From there onward the road snails along the bank of the Indus with contrasting landscape after every two kilometers. Standing at around 1,000 m. you see a mountain which rises to above 8,000 m! This is the largest land escarpment in the world. This is also where the three greatest mountain ranges meet; Himalaya, Hindukush and Karakoram.
Drive 9 -10 hrs
Activities Cultural exploration , Sightseeing, Hiking,Jeep Safari
Today we rise early and view the beautiful sunrise against the backdrop of the Karakorm. After breakfast drive to Shigar, a history-soaked medieval town. Enroute we will visit Shigar sand dunes. These are on other side of the Indus, impressive sand dunes are visible. It is on the way to Shigar valley, but around 2 km away from the road.
After sand dunes visit, we will continue our drive toward Shigar passing through historic Buddhist Stupa ruins, which is no more in preservation. At Shigar view point, we will stop to take photos of Shigar valley and Blind lakes and sand duens on other side of Shigar River.
Shigar Valley is the gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakorams, Gasherbrum & K-2, Broad Peak, Biafo and Baltoro Glaciers, Snow lake, Mashabrum, Trango Tower and other hunderds of 7000m peaks. Shigar valley, formerly known as “Rome of Baltistan” has gentle, irrigated slopes are filled with terraces of wheat, maize and barley. Its orchards of apricots, mulberries, peaches, plums, pears, apples and nuts are unique to Baltistan. The wooden mosque in the middle of the town was built by Kashmiri carpenters several hundred years ago.
There is also a heritage Palace cum Fort (Fong khar ). Completely renovated by the AKCSP a few years back, the Palace and its suburbs reflects a medieval look. Here we will pay a brief visit to the Garden House, Royal room, museum handicraft shop and The Khanqah Moalla, famous for its uniquely carved wooden windows and meditation cells. Shigar retains a mystical, medieval aura that may leave you feeling like you have stepped through the looking glass.
Evening drive back to Skardu.
Today after breakfast we will drive to Khaplu valley. This beautiful valley of the Shyok River is 103 km east of Skardu. Khaplu is the starting point for most trekking and climbing expeditions. Many famous mountains such as Masherbrum, Saltoro, Sia Kangri, K-6, K-7 are located here. There is a Palace of Raja of Khaplu and remains of Thors.
Khaplu is the administrative capital of the Ghanche District of Gilgit-Baltistan. visit Khaplu Palace and Khaplu view point. We will make a trip to Chaqchan Mosque.
The Masjid Chqchan means the Miraculous mosque in Khaplu, Baltistan built by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani or by Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani Sufi in 1370(A.D) is one of the oldest mosque in Baltistan and Pakistan. It is one of Baltistan’s most famous landmarks and a major tourist attraction. The Government of Pakistan also listed the inclusion of the Chqchan Mosque as a Pakistan Heritage Site. After this we will visit Saling Fish Point. Here we can enjoy angling.
Today we will visit Lower kachure(shangrila) and upper kachura lakes. Lower Kachura lakes is known as Shangrila Lake, teeming with brown trout. During spring many exotic and colourful flowers adorn its banks, while peach, apricot and apple trees are laden with blossoms in April. Later in the summer one can taste the apples, which are a particularly delicious variety. Enjoy Boating and angling here. Enroute visit Skardu Cold desert to watch the highest altitude dune deserts in the world.
Activities Boating, Angling
Deosai - Rupal valley
Today early morning departure for Deosai, Located in the Great Himalayan Range, conveniently placed between the western massif of the Himalayas and the central Karakoram. It’s stunning scenic views of the snow-clad mountains and streams, natural beauty and impressive grandeur have made it world famous. Spread over an area of 3,000 square kilometres, at an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level, the plains are home to unique species of plant and animal life, of which the Himalayan Brown Bears are the most famous. In the words of Aleister Crowley, “In front of us lay the Deosai, an absolutely treeless wilderness of comparatively level country framed by minor peaks. It gives a unique impression of desolation. I have never seen its equal in this respect elsewhere.” To the south of and visible from both the Burji and Satpara approaching areas is a 700-foot hill, on top of which is a 500 foot-high-rock cairn. This unnamed hilltop in the northern deosai region produces a clear panorama of the Himalayan Kangri Range and sections of the Karakoram. As you ascend its gentle, grass covered slopes, Nanga Parbat will come into view far to the west of you. In ‘Gypsy Davy’s’ words, “It was such an expanse of immensity as I have hardly imagined…It seems you cannot talk in a matter-of-fact way in a place like that…I thought the Sierras were large, but here, where we could see three or four score miles north, south, east and west, and see only mountains, and most of them above twenty thousand feet, the Sierras seem like sand dunes”. Shaucer lake (3-4 hours from Skardu), Shatong nala (2 hours) , Bara Pani (two and half hours) and Kala Pani (3 to 3-30 hours) are the most visited spots in Deosai. Deosai is one of the best trout fishing spot in the North.
In the afternoon we will drive via Chilim to Rupal valley and stay overnight at Traishing, south face of Nanga Parbat. The Rupal Valley is located in the Astore District. It lies just south of 8,126 meter Nanga Parbat and is popular for treks to the mountain’s Rupal Face, one of highest mountain faces in the world. The Rupal is home to Shina speaking herdsmen, who have grazed and harvested wood in the valley for hundreds of years. Overgrazing has caused some loss of vegetation, leading to wind-blown dust. Towering peaks on either side of the valley make it a breathtaking, albeit remote destination for adventurers.
Activities Sightseeing, Wild life watching, Angling
Rupal Glacier - Rama Astore
After breakfast, we traverse to Rupal glacier and then drive to Astore valley and Rama lake .
Astore valley, adjoining the eastern side of mountain Nanga Parbat, is about 120 km (75 mi) long, having area of 5,092 km2 (1,966 sq mi).
Rama lake and pastures are the most famous tourist attraction in the region. Due to its diverse landscape and climatic conditions the valley provides excellent habitat for a variety of commercially important medicinal plants. Rama Lake is a lake near Astore in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. It is on the top of the beautiful Astore Valley, with a light cover of oak trees and other greenery. The region has low average rainfall and low vegetation cover hence the loss of forest cover is of a very serious concern.
Activities Sightseeing, Wild life watching, Angling
babusar pass (4145m) - Naran
Today after breakfast drive from Astore to Karakoram Highway at Thalechi and then leave for Naran on the Karakoram Highway and Naran Chilas Road through captivating and enthralling landscape of zigzag road winding through terraced filed, fruit laden orchard and above Babusar pass at a height of 4145 m. The Valley extends for 155 km rising from an elevation of 2,134 meters to its highest point, the Babusar Pass, at 4,145 meters. Before Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978, the only road access to Gilgit was through Kaghan Valley.Kaghan valley is a very beautiful & attractive valley. That’s why it is called virtual paradise, unbelievably in pristine state and still unspoiled by the human. You’ll find the Himalayan peaks hidden with clouds or snow, somewhere you’ll find the beautiful fairy tale lakes, which will attract you toward them, and you might decide not to leave this at any cost.Take a rest at the pass enjoying the scenic beauty around before descending down to Lulusar lake.
Lulu Sar Lake which is wreathed in blue and gold wild flowers, and is the main source of river Kunhar. Near Gittidas is the 11,000 feet high Lulusar Lake out of which river Kunhar issues anew with redoubled strength to flow down the valley first as placid blue stream and then a roaring torrent until it joins the Jhelum. Lulusar has very enchanting beauty and its view remains in the mind of tourist for a long time. The is surrounded by snowcapped hills whose purple and white forms are reflected in the green-blue waters of the silent lake, making it one of the most beautiful spots in the valley. Take a rest at Lulusar lakes and drive down to Naran stopping at Gittidas, Batakundi for scenic photo ops. These are numerous scenic places, sheer, snow capped mountains ascending from deep valleys, lush alpine meadows are carpeted by colorful wildflowers and dazzling fruits. Terraced villages dot this monumental terrain, supported by traditional farming methods and lifestyles that have changed little over the centuries.
Drive: 10-12 hrs
sailful maluk lake- Shogran
Naran to Lake Saiful Muluk dusty jeep track is approximately 9 km in length with hiking tracks difficulty level ranging from easy to medium. It can be traveled by jeep in one Hour. Net elevation gain is around 700m (2300 feet).
It is almost impossible to describe the beauty of this lake, which is like mirror at the altitude of 3200 meters. The Queen of the Mountains is standing in the east and looking her image in the mirror of Lake Saiful Maluk. You can spend few days here to monitor the guards of lake, which are towering peaks and spread all around the lake.
In the evening drive down to naran and drive to Shogran
Drive: 4-5 hrs
Sari Paya - Galyat - Islamabad
Drive in the morning to the top of shogran valley, amidst clouds and natural beauty and drive down to Balakot. Aftter a brief stop at Balakot, drive onward to mansehra stopping at scenic points for photo ops and also in Manserha to visit Ashoka Rock Eddicts.
Mansehra Rock Edicts are fourteen edicts of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, inscribed on rocks in Mansehra. The edicts are cut into three boulders and date back to 3rd century BC and they are written in the ancient Indic script of Gandhara culture, Kharosthi. The edicts mention aspects of Ashoka’s dharma. This site is World Heritage Sites tentative list.
After Manserha rock edicts visit, we will pass through the alpine scenery of Galyat and Murree towards Islamabad.
Evening back to Islamabad, proceed to airport for onward flight.
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From early childhood a place somewhere beyond the horizon was where I wanted to be and in the passing years since, I have made it my goal to satisfy that yearning! growing up in Baltistan gave me a great love for that part of the world, from K2 to Nanga Parbat to makin the first venture on Gondogoro la and much in between.
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