The Northern Areas are the most remarkable areas in Pakistan. People say Switzerland is all about greenery and nature but have you visited the Northern areas of Pakistan, yet? The deafening silence at night in most places is an escape from the bustling artificiality of city centers. The only welcoming sounds you may hear are those from the flora and fauna or the soothing sound of the rivers flowing by. From snow-capped mountains to crystal clear lakes, the Northern areas have something to offer for everyone. Whether you are an adventurous soul or someone who likes to unwind around nature’s calmness, Northern Pakistan should be your go-to vacation spot for all purposes.
If you are specifically seeking some calming time off in the heart of nature’s best offerings, then this list is for you. These are just a few famous sites that every tourist or first-time local visitor must put on their list when traveling through the country.
KHAPLU FORT, SKARDU
Yes, this is the location we’ve all been dying to visit. It is a historical royal residence where the “Raja” of Khaplu lived. Also, this is the same location where the award-winning Pakistani Drama “Diyar-e-Dil” was shot. Many people were curious to know about the location, as its breath-taking view left everyone in awe. The fort’s history itself is rich with tales of various conquests and dynastic rules since it was built in 1840. Interestingly, the fort also doubles as a beautiful hotel operated by the well-known group of Serena Hotels and Resorts. So, you will literally be living in the pages of history, with world-class hospitality.
LOWER KACHURA LAKE-SHANGRILA, SKARDU
On the Karakoram Highway, a narrow road turns towards Skardu. During the seven-hour journey, one is greeted with several streams, springs, and the hospitality of the local people. Shangrila is located in Kachura Village, which is 20 minutes from Skardu city town. The region has some of the finest tourist attractions in the world such as the second highest peak on earth. Deosai Plains there form the longest, widest, and highest plateau in the world. The fast flowing River Indus that starts from Ladakh and snakes its way through the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges is also a sight to see in the area.
BALAKOT, MANSHERA DISTRICT
Small town Balakot that is the epitome of beauty, serenity, and wilderness. Garhi Habibullah is also located in Balakot. You can sit on the tickling, green grass and enjoy the sounds and views of the Kunhar river. Balakot is also the site to witness the unflinching resilience of Pakistanis, who suffered through the worst earthquake in our history in 2005. Yet, you will see people today greeting you with a smile, despite having lost a so much in the natural disaster. Lastly, the weather is usually cold and windy, but just perfect enough so you can plan a delicious, hot barbecue!!
Tip: This place is just perfect for yoga.
SAIF UL MALOOK, NARAN
This place is famous for its jheel, and it’s crystal clear waters that mirror the snowcapped mountains around it. The journey to the jheel begins with a crazy jeep ride. I repeat. It begins with a jeep ride. This adventurous journey will leave you with countless memories and “fear factor” vibes, as it looks dangerous but is one hell of an experience. After you complete your ride and finally reach the jheel, you will witness a natural wallpaper. This is when you will know you are at the right place.
KHUNJERAB PASS, GILGIT-BALTISTAN REGION
It is a high mountain pass that connects China and Pakistan. The Pak-China Border could potentially make you curious to travel beyond the boundary but you need a visa for that. Oh well. The temperature is usually freezing. But the blankets of glistening snow all around, are sights worth seeing. So make sure you stay warm and wear the right clothes when visiting for the perfect experience. Whilst there, you can also visit the Khunjerab National Park, which is a conservation site for several endangered species such as the Marco Polo Sheep and Snow Leopards.
These places are just a few gems we can find up North.
Wherever you go, however, the following are some things to be mindful of in the Northern Areas:
- You are NOT in a movie, so you can’t always manage to look top notch and that’s perfectly fine. So enjoy the simplicity of it all.
- It can be uncomfortable at times living in different places but that’s the adventure of traveling.
- Snap fewer photos and live in the moment, but that definitely does not mean you should not capture the breathtaking scenery around.
- Try all the local fruits and vegetables such as apples, peaches etc. because that is the best access to some of the freshest fruits you will receive, right where they are grown.
- Enjoy some tea at a small roadside dhaba, or indulge in some fresh desi-murghi ki karhai that is made right in front of your eyes.
- Don’t travel during a curfew. You might have to stop while crossing places like Chilaas.
- Be sure to have a good ride and a GOOD DRIVER!
- Have fun
With a much better current security situation that is continuing to improve, there is no reason not to visit these breathtaking places. Furthermore, the heartwarming hospitality of the locals is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in the world. There is a reason why the British Backpacker’s Society just recently named Pakistan the best adventure travel destination in the world. The beauty in the Northern Areas certainly has a lot to do with it. So, what are you waiting for? Add these places to your bucket list and start planning!