Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. By booking through these links I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you), which allows me to keep the site up to date and expand on the resources. Thanks for reading!
Last Updated on by
Pakistan is a well-rounded country when it comes to tourist places to visit. Mountains and rivers for the adventurous, archaeological sites for history buffs, and delicious dining for the foodies. It’s got a little something for everyone. So where do you start when trying to plan your trip? Right here! I’ve rounded up the best places to visit in Pakistan in this post.
I was traveling through Pakistan with the University of Karachi as part of an Entrepreneurship Summer School program. We spent the first 10 days in Karachi learning in the classroom and exploring the city. You can read more about that here! The second half of the program was spent exploring the rest of the country where we discovered many amazing places to visit in Pakistan.
This post will take you through the best places to visit in Pakistan by province, as well as information on getting around, safety, and planning your trip.
My participation in the IESS program was kindly sponsored by IBA Karachi. As always, reviews and opinions are my own.
Map of Pakistan
Pakistan is made up of four provinces: Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. There are also two autonomous territories – Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan – and one federal territory, Islamabad, which is the capital of Pakistan.
Karachi is the capital of the province of Sindh and Pakistan’s largest city with a population of over 18 million. This makes it one of the biggest cities in the world! There’s no shortage of places to visit in Karachi, just watching the crazy traffic could entertain you all day.
Whether it’s exploring the historic markets, paying tribute to Pakistan’s founder, or shopping in the countries biggest mall, Karachi has you covered. For more inspiration on where to visit in Karachi, check out my complete guide to visiting Karachi.
Historical places to visit in Sindh, Pakistan
Pakistan is home to many important historical places, including six UNESCO World Heritage sites. Two of these are in the province of Sindh.
Just 28km outside of Karachi are the Chaukhandi Tombs. This historical site contains tombs of the ancestors of a local tribe, which are estimated to be from the 15th-18th century.
This historical place in Sindh was only discovered in the early 1900s, soon followed by an extensive study and excavation of the area. It was concluded that the mounds and ruins were once part of the Indus Valley Civilization, a contemporary of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Mohenjo-daro is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with immense historical significance.
Like many places we visited in Pakistan, I was shocked at the number of tourists, or lack thereof, visiting here. I cannot think of many places in the world these days where you can walk around an ancient civilization without hoards of tourists. Just one more reason to love Pakistan!
Tip: Avoid visiting Mohenjo-daro in the middle of the day, as the temperatures outside are extremely hot. There is virtually no protection from the sun walking through the site. The best time to visit is early in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is not directly overhead. At the site, they rent umbrellas and hats which I recommend using to protect yourself.
Another important UNESCO World Heritage site, Makli is the largest necropolis in the world. Spread over an area of 10 square kilometers, we were transported in open cars to explore this massive complex of tombs.
It might seem strange to visit a graveyard, but the tombs left by the Mughal empire are impressive. With intricate details found on each one, you could spend hours exploring them all.
Ranikot Fort is a historical Talpur fort in the Jamshoro District of Sindh. It’s known as The Great Wall of Sindh and is believed to be the world’s largest fort, with a circumference of approximately 32 kilometers!
I loved walking through this fort and exploring all the different rooms which you can get inside. There are a lot of great photo opportunities here and at the top you have great views of the surrounding area.
I visited many forts on my trip through India last year, and although impressive, they are generally crowded with tourists. At Ranikot Fort, I saw about two other groups of people aside from ours.
Tomb of the seven sisters
Another historical place to visit in Sindh is the Tombs of the Seven Sister, which have an interesting story behind them.
According to legend, seven sisters resided here in a cave and didn’t meet with any men. Raja Dahir, the Hindu ruler at the time, came to know of their beauty and ordered for them to be brought in front of him. When the sisters heard this they became very scared and started to pray. Suddenly, during their prayer, the earth opened up and they disappeared in it.
I have to say – the area did feel that it had a certain magic to it! Aside from the history, the tombs are also great a place view the beautiful Landsdown Bridge over the Indus River. Sunrise/Sunset is the best time to visit. If you’re lucky you may even see the rare Indus River dolphins in the water.
Shan Jahan Mosque
Being a predominantly Muslim country, Pakistan has a lot of beautiful mosques to visit, but Shan Jahan was my favorite. The mosque is designed elegantly with beautiful colors. The geometrical designs found throughout the mosque left me feeling mesmerized.
The mosque was built by the Mughal King as a gift to the people of Thatta for their hospitality. It took three years to complete after starting construction in 1644.
Lahore is the capital of Punjab province. With heavy influence from the Mughal Empire and British Raj, you can find many beautiful gardens, forts, and mosques here.
Things to do in Lahore, Pakistan
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Lahore is the Badshahi Mosque, or the “emperor’s mosque”. It was built in 1673 by the Mughal emperor using gorgeous red sandstone.
Tip: To get a different view, head to Haveli restaurant on food street after for a nice meal. There you get excellent views of Badshani Mosque from the restaurant top.
Lahore Fort & Shalamar Gardens
Right next to Badshahi Mosque is Lahore Fort. This is another gorgeous piece of Mughal architecture built in the 1580s. The Fort is located in the northwest corner of the walled city of Lahore. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout history.
The Shalamar Gardens are another royal complex located 7km away from the Fort. The gardens were influenced by Persian and Islamic traditions, and are a prominent example of Mughal Gardens.
Both Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, for their outstanding universal value.
Minar-e-Pakistan is a 70mtall structure that looks similar to the Eiffel tower. It marks the spot where in 1940 the Muslim league of British India passed the resolution for the creation of the independent Muslim country of Pakistan. At the top of Minar-e-Pakistan, you get excellent views of Lahore Fort and Badshahi mosque.
National History Museum
Nearby to Lahore Fort, you can find the National History Museum of Pakistan. It’s in Iqbal Park, which is a beautiful park that attracts thousands of visitors each year. At the national museum, you can learn about Pakistan’s fascinating history through interactive audio and visual exhibits.
Open: Tuesday -Sunday 10-4:30. Closed Mondays.
One of the best attractions to see in Lahore is Delhi Gate, which leads to one of the oldest Bazaars in Lahore. Once inside you can only get around by foot, which is a nice break from the heavy traffic in Pakistan.
There is also a restored Shahi Hamman (traditional bath) you can visit inside the Bazaar. The city has done a great job of restoring the Hamman and making it accessible for visitors. There are tour guides readily available to take you around the Hammam.
Waga Border Ceremony
Lahore is just a couple of kilometers away from India and at the border, there is a ceremony that happens twice a day. It’s a military ceremony where soldiers march up and down trying to impress, while locals on each side cheer, sing, shout, and show their patriotism.
Unfortunately, due to timing, we were unable to attend the border ceremony. This was a huge disappoint for me, as I have heard great things about the ceremony and it’s something I really wanted to experience. If you get the chance to visit Lahore please go to this so I can live vicariously through you!
Another city in the Punjab province you may want to visit is Multan. It is Pakistan’s 7th largest city and a major cultural and economic center of southern Punjab. It is home to a number of shrines, tombs, and mosques which attracts devotees all year-round.
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and it’s own federal territory. With just over one million residents, the city has a completely different atmosphere then Karachi. I found Islamabad to be much more calm, clean, and green. If you’re heading into the Northern area, Islamabad is a good place to start.
Things to do in Islamabad
While in Islamabad, be sure to check out Faisal Mosque. This is a contemporary, new mosque which looks quite different than others in the country. Instead of the traditional domes found on most mosques, Faisal Mosque is topped by sloping roofs. The main prayer room can hold up to 100,000 people!
Non-Muslims are requested to avoid visiting during prayer times and Fridays. Visitors should take off shoes before entering the courtyard and dress conservatively.
Monal Restaurant for views of the city
After a visit to the mosque, head up Monal restaurant which is located on top of a hill outside of the city center. From there, you can get incredible panoramic views of Islamabad, and the food is delicious!
Just 32km away from Islamabad is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Taxila.
The ancient site sits on a branch of the silk road that linked China to the West. The ruin sites at Taxila reveal the pattern of urban evolution on the Indian subcontinent through more than five centuries. It’s considered to be one of the most important archeological sites in Asia.
Northern Areas of Pakistan
Once you leave Islamabad and head North, you will start to see an entirely new side of Pakistan. The Northern areas were my favorite part of Pakistan to explore. With epic roadtrips, lakes, and mountains – it leaves you feeling although you have escaped into the wild.
View this post on Instagram
One of my favourite parts about driving through Northern Pakistan was how much fun everyone was having on the roads. It’s probably not the safest, but being able to sit on top of the van and out the window added so much to the experience. I loved seeing other cars passing by doing the same, groups of friends and families screaming cheers as they drove by, and all the random people dancing on the side of the road! This place embodies the spirit of a road trip and I love it.
The main highway that goes through the North is the Karakoram highway. It’s the highest paved international highway in the world. This drive is an adventure in itself, taking you through many of the most beautiful places in Pakistan.
After leaving Islamabad, we made out way to Naran. It takes about eight hours to reach Naran from Islamabad via bus, with some beautiful places to stop along the way.
One of the highlights of the road is Babusar Pass, a section of the road which reaches a total elevation of 4,131m. There are beautiful views of the road below which makes you appreciate the work that went into building the roads through Northern Pakistan.
It’s quite a shock to go from the valleys below to such a high altitude. Be sure to bring a jacket to keep you warm and take your time exploring the area, as the altitude can leave you feeling winded easily.
Another great place to visit near Naran is Lulusar Lake, which is 48km away. This is the biggest lake in the Kaghan Valley at 3,410m. The turquoise color of this lake is just stunning!
Once you arrive in Naran, a fun thing to do is to go white-water rafting done the Kunhar River. The rapids are good for beginners, as they are only class I and II. Just be warned – you will get wet!
The main street in Naran is busy with lots of hotels, restaurants, and shops where you can book Naran tour packages. It’s also a good place to pick up souvenirs or supplies before you head further up North. Many of the areas in the North are cold (yes even in summer), so if you need to buy a jacket or scarf you can get them in Naran for relatively cheap.
Naran is also a good place to connect online as you may not have an internet connection afterward. There is no data coverage on the phone networks past Naran, and the wi-fi at our hotels in the Northern areas did not work for me.
Gilgit Baltistan is the northernmost administrative territory of Pakistan. It’s home to a number of mountain peaks over 20,000 feet, including K-2 and Nanga Parbat. It is where you will find many of Pakistan’s best attractions!
Although difficult to reach, Fairy Meadows is undoubtedly one of the most magical places you can visit in Pakistan. This is due to the incredible views you can get of Nanga Parbat, the 9th largest mountain in the world.
To get to fairy meadows you need to take a scary jeep ride up a mountain, followed by a 2-3 hour hike to the campsite. Although challenging to reach, it’s one of the most unique campsites I’ve stayed at. The views of Nanga Parbat are unreal. You can also do a day hike from the Fairy Meadows campsite to Nanga Parbat base camp.
In the center of Gilgit-Baltistan in Skardu District. Made up of lakes, deserts, roadways and picturesque villages, this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pakistan for nature.
Skardu District is the base camp for some of the world’s highest mountain peaks including K2. Another attraction is Deosai National Park, a 4,114-metre high wonderland rich in flora and fauna.
We didn’t get the chance to visit Skardu district on my trip but I’ve heard many good things about it. When I return to Pakistan, it is one of the first places I will visit!
Karimabad (Hunza Valley)
Karimabad is the capital of Hunza valley, a mountainous valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region that is often called heaven on earth. Once you see Hunza Valley, it’s not hard to understand how it got that title.
Two of the best viewpoints for enjoying Hunza Valley are Eagles Nest and Baltit Fort.
Baltit Fort is not only good for views but has an interesting history. This fairy-tale-like fort was built in the 8th Century BC on top of a hill overlooking Karimabad. You can get guided tours inside the fort where you can learn about its history and get a glimpse of how they used to live.
To visit Baltit fort you will need to walk up a steep hill for 10-15 minutes where there are some stores along the way. I recommend visiting these afterward to buy souvenirs in Pakistan. You can get excellent quality gemstones and real Ibex scarfs.
Another incredible place to view Hunza Valley is at Eagles Nest. It can be reached by vehicle and a short walk up to the top. I recommend visiting Eagles Nest at either at sunrise or sunset. Although the area is beautiful any time of day, to see the sky change colors against all of that beauty is a special experience.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pakistan, Attabad Lake should be high on your list. This turquoise-hued Lake in Hunza Valley was created after a massive landslide in 2010. Although the landslide created a lot of destruction at the time, what got left behind is beautiful.
At the dock, you can rent jet-skis or take a boat tour to explore around the lake.
Driving along the Karakoram highway you will encounter a lot of beauty, but one of the most striking landmarks was Passu Cones. You can start to view the cones from the town of Gulmit, but if you drive further down the road you get even better views. There is a place to pull off the side of the road, marked by the words ‘Passu’.
Hussaini Suspension Bridge
A few KM North of Karimabad in Upper Hunza is the Hussaini Suspension Bridge. Known as the most dangerous bridge in the world, it’s composed of steel ropes and wooden planks. The bridge serves as a connection between the villages in the area, and locals walk it every day.
As a tourist, you can try and walk on it but this comes with a word of caution. The rapids in the water below are fast and it is unlikely you will be saved if you fall.
I was on the fence if I would walk across Hussaini Bridge, but the decision was made for me as when we arrived, as the bridge was closed due to safety issues. I am still curious about it and wish we could have gone. Let me know if you get the chance to walk across Hussaini Bridge!
The Pak-China border is one of the most stunning borders I have ever encountered. To get there you have to drive through the Khunjerav Pass, which goes up to a total elevation of 4,673m!
You start the drive through green valleys and by the end, you will be surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It’s an amazing drive and a fun experience at the top. There were many people who hadn’t seen snow before which was so fun to see!
Other places to visit in Pakistan
Another region of Pakistan which looks quite beautiful is Kashmir. Unfortunately, at the time I was visiting Pakistan there were tensions rising between India and Pakistan over the dispute of the Kashmir territory, and I was advised that it wouldn’t be safe to visit.
However, Kashmir home to some of the most beautiful areas in the country so I feel it should be mentioned in this article. I hope to see it one day.
I can’t recommend Kashmir as a place to visit due to the ongoing issues. But of course, things change quite frequently when it comes to political situations. When planning your trip to Pakistan find out what the current situation is there and maybe you can go.
Pakistan has an extensive train network that goes as far North as Islamabad. We took the train from Karachi to Islamabad which took about 24 hours in total (although it was supposed to take 18). I also took the train back from Lahore to Karachi, which took about 18 hours.
There are three different classes on the train in Pakistan. We traveled in the business class section which was quite nice as far as train travel goes. Each compartment has six fold-out beds (3 on each side) with a large viewing window and a small table. They serve you meals on the train and will come by with snacks that you can purchase.
You can also fly between many places in Pakistan, although this option is typically more expensive than taking the train or bus. One of the main regional airlines is Pakistan International Airline. I haven’t flown with them, but I’ve heard some bad reviews from friends who have, so be careful when booking a flight with them. To find the cheapest flights within Pakistan, search on Skyscanner.
Once you reach the northern areas, mini-busses are likely how you will be traveling around. Due to the sharp turns on the roads in the North over mountainous locations, it is not recommended to take a large-sized bus through this area. Pakistan’s tourism industry is still developing, so you have to be patient with bus times and expect delays!
You could also consider renting a car in Pakistan, which would give you the ultimate freedom to explore the country. Note that there are checkpoints throughout the country, and in certain parts, they will put a security guard in the car to travel with you. This may seem strange, but it’s just how things are in Pakistan. You don’t have to worry about arranging this, as they will assign you a guard at the checkpoints. Just make sure you leave an empty seat for them!
There is also the option of hiring a private driver. This may sound expensive, but it can be surprisingly affordable in a country like Pakistan, especially if shared with other travelers. Of course, it won’t be as cheap as taking the local bus, but you have the freedom to explore wherever you want, at your own schedule. Plus free hands to take photos!
Within the cities in Pakistan, there are local buses, taxis, and Uber. They also have a service called Careem in Pakistan, which works the same way as Uber.
Safety in Pakistan is a big concern for travelers, and even I felt nervous as I left on the plane to go there. However, once I arrived those concerns quickly went out the window.
Pakistan is not a country full of crazy extreme terrorists as the media may have you believe. Pakistan is a country full of the kindest and warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. Every single person I met in the country welcomed me with open arms and went out of their way to make sure I was ok at all times.
There was no time during my month in Pakistan where I felt in danger or threatened. But of course, Pakistan does have its problems and I can’t say the entire country is safe. It’s important to realize that many of these issues are localized, mostly in the border areas near Afghanistan. All of the places I have recommended to visit in this article are safe and tourist-friendly.
One of the best things you can do to keep safe while traveling is to have travel insurance to protect you in case something goes wrong. I recommend using World Nomad’s Insurance for coverage in Pakistan.
The best time to visit Pakistan depends on where you want to go. High season is from May-October when the weather is dry and warm throughout the country. It might seem strange to visit such a hot country during the North American summer, but this is the best time if you want to explore the Northern areas.
This is because during the winter (November-April) much of the landscape is covered in snow. During this time, you likely won’t be able to access many of the places I’ve mentioned in this post. Even in August, it was still snowing in some places we visited! May-October is also peak trekking season, as there is little rainfall in the area.
If you only want to visit regions like Sindh and Punjab, then November to April would be a good time to visit, as the weather will be more pleasant. I visited these areas during the summertime and it is very hot. Not unbearable, but you won’t be able to spend long periods of time outside without shade.
I spent almost a month in Pakistan, and honestly, it wasn’t long enough to see all the places I wanted too. Because the distances are so long between places, and road conditions aren’t the best, you can expect long days of travel between places.
You could see a lot of the province of Sindh in one week, and then at least a day to travel to either Lahore or Islamabad, depending on how you get there. Lahore is worth spending a couple of days as there are many interesting places to visit. Islamabad is a good stop before heading into the Northern Area.
If you only want to visit the Northern Areas of Pakistan then to save time it is better to fly into Islamabad instead of Karachi. I recommend a minimum of two weeks to explore the Northern areas of Pakistan properly. Otherwise, you will spend all your days driving and not have much time to just relax and enjoy the scenery.
If you plan to do trekking then you will need even more time, to give your body rest days and time to adjust to the altitude. I could have easily spent a month just in the Northern areas of Pakistan.
Final thoughts on places to visit in Pakistan
I am so grateful to have had the chance to explore Pakistan. Full of natural beauty and amazing hospitality, it’s a place that surprised me over and over again.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of these places become much more popular in the upcoming years. Now is a great time to visit Pakistan if you want to have the incredible scenery to yourself.
I hope this post could give you some inspiration and guidance on places to visit in Pakistan when planning your trip. I’ll be writing a post soon about essential tips to know when visiting Pakistan so be sure to stay tuned for that.
If you have any questions about traveling through Pakistan or suggestions on places to add to this list, let me know in the comments below!