I’ve heard a lot of amazing stories from travellers to Pakistan this year. So when Samantha, a traveller who has visited and adores the country, offered to write a 2 week overland Pakistan itinerary for this blog, I jumped at the chance! Here’s Samantha’s top tips for making the most of a two week Pakistan holiday!
It’s hard to describe just how much I love Pakistan. The incredibly hospitable people, the delicious food, the endless history… and of course: the mountains.
Pakistan is just starting to emerge onto the travel scene after massive improvements in security and tourist infrastructure. While it’s certainly not as easy to travel around as somewhere like Thailand, Pakistan is a dream for any traveler who loves real, authentic experiences and epic views. Because trust me- the country sure has a lot of both!
Though Pakistan is massive- seriously you could spend a lifetime exploring it- it’s very possible to see some truly amazing spots with just 2-3 weeks. If you’re looking to get a feel for the country, here’s a 2 week Pakistan itinerary that caters to anyone looking for a quick bit of adventure through one of the most incredible places in South Asia.
Getting Around Pakistan
This travel guide focuses on overland travel. During my time backpacking in Pakistan, I didn’t take any internal flights. Not only is this better for the environment, but I think it’s the best way to see the country! Not to mention that flights are expensive and often cancelled due to weather concerns in the mountains. Though you might have to suffer through some uber- long bus journeys- keep in mind that the worst ones are usually at night anyways, allowing you to save on accommodation!
When transiting between cities, I highly recommend utilizing one of these bus companies. They are incredibly comfortable, affordable and overall nicer than many bus companies in the West!
To make a reservation as a foreigner without a Pakistani debit card, call within 24 hours of your journey. The only catch is you must arrive at the station an hour before the bus leaves to ensure you’ll be able to get the seat.
- Daewoo– slightly cheaper
- Faisal Movers– a bit more expensive but better quality than Daewoo
- NATCO- Pakistan’s government-operated bus company that runs to, from and in Gilgit-Baltistan
Though not as extensive as that of its neighbor India, keep in mind Pakistan does have a railway system that covers much of the country. Trains are not included in this itinerary as they don’t extend into the mountains, but I highly recommend you use it to travel long distances in other provinces.
When travelling around in cities, Uber or Careem (the local version of Uber) are excellent and very cheap options! Pakistan doesn’t really have metros yet, so these are the way to go.
Getting a Pakistani Visa
These days, it couldn’t be easier to get a visa to Pakistan! With the introduction of the e-Visa scheme, most travelers opt to go that route. The e-Visa costs around $60 for most nationalities, and officially only requires a hotel booking. I suggest you book a no-money-down, non-refundable room and then cancel it if you don’t know your exact travel dates.
In the past a LOI (letter of invitation) was required to apply for a Pakistani visa. Nowadays, it’s not guaranteed to be asked for but if it is, Lost Horizons Treks and Tours is a quick and official company that provides LOIs- without the need to book a tour.
When to visit Pakistan
As far as this itinerary goes, the best time to visit Pakistan will be from April-late October. Weather is warm even in the mountains for much of that duration, and all roads will be open! In April, you’ll be able to see the cherry blossoms in the North, and towards the end of October you’ll find all kinds of autumnal colors.
Keep in mind that southern cities will be absolutely boiling for most of this time period- but things get more manageable come October.
Where to Visit in Pakistan
Since this itinerary is just focusing on 2 weeks in Pakistan, many of the incredible places in the country won’t be highlighted. Keep in mind that if you have more time, you can easily add Swat Valley and Chitral into your Pakistan plans. With an entire month, it would also be possible to see both the Northern mountains AND the cultural cacophony that is the Southern province of Sindh in the same trip (and that’s where the trains would come in!)
2 Week Pakistan Itinerary
Days 1,2- Explore Lahore
I highly recommend starting off your Pakistan adventure in Lahore, the country’s cultural capital! It’s possible to enter Lahore at either the Wagah Border with India or by flying into its international airport.
Lahore is a magical city and the sheer amount of history it holds is something remarkable. The city was an important stronghold of the Mughal Era and many of their masterpieces still remain.
There are enough places to visit in Lahore to keep you busy for 2 weeks, but 2 days is still enough to get a taste by this crazy cool place. Here are some of the best places to visit in Lahore. I would recommend picking a 2-3 places to visit in each day to give yourself time to breathe and truly enjoy what you’re experiencing:
- Walled City of Lahore- Wander around Lahore’s ancient Old City that’s been around for centuries. Tons of hidden havelis, mosques and eateries await!
- Wazir Khan Mosque- A Beautiful Mughal era mosque that was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1642. The mosque is located near the Delhi Gate in the Walled
- Madho lal Hussain Shrine– The shrine of Sufi saint Shah Hussain and his Hindu lover Madho. The best time to visit the shrine is on 7:00PM on Thursday night to see dhamal which is a crazy Sufi dance akin to some sort of rave!
- Lahore Fort– A massive Mughal citadel that had been standing since 1566.
- Badshahi Mosque– One of the most iconic landmarks in Lahore, the Badshahi Mosque that’s made out of red sandstone and white marble. It was completed in 1673 under Emperor Aurangzeb.
- Jahangir’s Tomb– The intricately carved tomb and elaborate, sprawling grounds are dedicated to Emperor Jahangir and were finished in 1637.
- Mian Mir Shrine– A peaceful shrine that also holds qawwali (traditional music)
performances on Thursday nights as well. The shrine holds the remains of Mian Mir, a famous Sufi saint who served as spiritual instructor to Shah Jahan’s son.
- Anarkali Bazaar– As one of South Asia’s oldest surviving markets, Anarkali is a must visit in while in Lahore. There are a ton of places to shop in, people watch or stop for food!
- Shalimar Gardens– The Shalimar Gardens are one of Lahore’s top attractions for a reason. The combination of fountains, trees and garden pavilions were also created during Shah Jahan’s reign in 1642 as a symbol of “earthly utopia”.
Where to stay in Lahore
The best value place you can find in Lahore is the Rose Palace in the Gulberg section of the city. For $18 a night, it’s clean, comfy, has hot water and is located in a quiet area. If you’re looking for a more local experience, the Couchsurfing experience is very active in Lahore as well! Click here for rates and to book your spot.
Day 3- Take a bus to Islamabad and stay overnight there
You can use either Daewoo or Faisal Movers to reach Pakistan’s glitzy capital, Islamabad. Buses leave from Lahore every half hour, and the ride will take about 6 hours total- giving you anything from half a day to an evening in the newest city in Pakistan.
If you make it on time, I highly recommend visiting the Faisal Mosque for sunset. The Faisal Mosque is the largest in the country and a stunning display of modern architecture set against the backdrop of the iconic Margala Hills.
Where to stay in Islamabad
Islamabad Backpacker’s Hostel is not just the best place to stay in Islamabad, but perhaps in all of Pakistan! It’s located in a sleek apartment complex and is a great place to meet other backpackers/travelers. Expect to pay about 1000 rupees for a room in a dorm and 3000 rupees for a private room with an attached bathroom. Click here to reserve your spot.
Day 4- Spend the day in Islamabad and take an overnight bus to Gilgit
Depending on when you arrived in Islamabad the day prior, this might be your first time exploring in the daylight! There’s not as much to see in this city as there was in Lahore, but you can also check out Islamabad’s sister city of Rawalpindi- a much older and livelier place (and also where a lot of the night buses depart from.)
Tonight will be the night of a painfully long (but worth it) bus ride up to Gilgit- which is the gateway to Northern Pakistan. Though both NATCO and Faisal Movers run there, I would recommend taking the latter. It’s significantly more comfortable and a much better value than NATCO if you ask me.
To survive the bus ride, bring some sort of neck pillow and lots of snacks! You should arrive in Gilgit around noon the following day.
Day 5- Arrive in Gilgit and rest/relax
Trust me- I know how long the bus ride is! Take tonight to rest, relax, sleep and walk around Gilgit. It’s not the most mesmerizing city, but there are some fabulous stores to browse in- especially if you’re interested in stones!
Where to stay in Gilgit
The Madina Hotel 2 is your best bet in Gilgit! Backpacker friendly, located in a quiet part of the city, and home to a quaint garden and good food, this place is the ideal spot to relax in after such a long journey. Expect to pay 1500 rupees a night for a double room. If the Madina 2 is full, there’s also a Madina 1 in Gilgit’s main market that’s not as quiet but definitely good enough.
Day 6- Travel to Minapin and stay the night
Minapin is a village about 1.5 hours from Gilgit. You can either find a shared jeep or hitchhike to make it there. The shared jeep leaves at about 3PM and costs 200 rupees per person.
Why Minapin? Because it’s the beginning of the Rakaposhi Basecamp Trek- an absolute must for a visit to Pakistan. As long as your relatively fit, even beginner trekkers can enjoy this epic journey.
Where to stay in Minapin
Either the Osho Thang Hotel which offers yurt style accommodation – click here to book – or the Diran Hotel, a bit more pricey, but click here to see more, are good options before starting the day-long trek
Note: If you’re not into trekking, you can skip Minapin and head straight to the next destination, Karimabad.
Day 7- Trek to Rakaposhi Basecamp
Rakaposhi is a 7778-meter-high mountain that remains covered in snow throughout the entire year. Hiking to its basecamp is considered one of the most epic treks that the average person can do while in Pakistan and was a must for this 2 week Pakistan itinerary.
Though you can elect to spend the night at the basecamp, (as there’s camping equipment for rent at the top), it’s very possible to ascend to the basecamp and head back down to Minapin provided you start early. For the purpose of the itinerary, the trek can be completed in just one day. The ascent to the 3500 m basecamp should take about 4-5 hours depending on stops. After enjoying the immense beauty of Rakaposhi for a few hours, it should take you about 2-3 hours to descend back to Minapin.
Day 8- Travel to Karimabad and stay the night there
Karimabad is perhaps Pakistan’s most traveller-friendly town- with great cafes, great views, and lots of fun shops, it’s a perfect place to spend a bit of time in. It will take about an hour to travel to Karimabad from Minapin. You can either hire a taxi for around 1500 rupees, hitchhike or take a shared mini-van (which will leave when full, usually in the afternoon).
The best thing to do in Karimabad is to head up to the Eagles Nest Hotel for sunset. The viewpoint near the hotel has one of the best views in Hunza- the entire valley will be visible!
It’s also a must to visit the Baltit Fort, an 8th century fort that’s one of the most notable landmarks in Hunza Valley.
Where to Stay in Karimabad
The Old Hunza Inn is the best place to stay in Karimabad, and also a great place to meet other travelers. Private rooms go for about 1500 rupees a night!
Day 9- Visit Attabad Lake on the way to Ghulkin
The next stop on this 2 Week Pakistan Itinerary is the village of Ghulkin, but visiting the famous Attabad Lake is a must on your way there! The lake was formed after a catastrophic landslide blocked the flow of the Hunza River back in 2010.
Attabad Lake is about an hour from Karimabad, and is best reached by either hitchhiking or by hiring a private taxi.
After marveling at the turquoise waters, get back on the KKH and head to Ghulkin, a picturesque village that’s home to Pakistan’s most famous homestay!
Where to stay in Ghulkin
Rehman’s Backpacker Hostel & Homestay. Rehman is well known in the Pakistan backpacker’s community. You can contact him here.
Day 10- Explore Ghulkin & Visit the Hussaini Bridge and Passu Bridge (stay overnight in Ghulkin again)
The Hussaini Bridge is a bit terrifying- think partially removed planks and gushing water running below- but the Passu Bridge is even scarier! Even if you don’t want to cross them, they’re definitely worth visiting since Ghulkin is so close to both!
You’ll also be able to see the incredible Passu Cathedral, an epic rock formation that’s considered to be the most beautiful in all of Pakistan. Rehman will be sure to help guide you- there are also numerous glaciers nearby the village that are feasible to check out if they interest you.
Day 11- Visit the Khunjerab Pass, the world’s highest motorable border crossing
Pakistan’s border with China is a high one- at over 15,000 feet it’s the highest in the world! The border sits about 2 hours or so from Ghulkin- so visiting and coming back is a full day’s event.
Like most outings on the KKH, there’s not much in the way of public transport. Hitchhiking and or hiring a private driver are your two options with the former obviously being significantly cheaper.
If you’re not looking to see the Khunjerab Pass/ China Border use this day to spend more time adventuring in and around Ghulkin!
If you’re on a strict 14 day schedule, I highly recommend heading back to Gilgit today. From the border, Gilgit is about 6 hours and about 4 from Gilgit.
Day 12- Leave Gilgit and travel to Islamabad
Assuming you arrived back to Gilgit last night, today’s the day for the return bus journey back to Islamabad. If you’re planning to exit from Lahore, keep in mind that there are not any direct buses from Gilgit but it will be easy to get on one that’s heading there once you reach the capital.
Buses tend to leave Gilgit around 1-2PM, though your exact ticket might be different as schedules can fluctuate. When I left Gilgit at 1PM, I arrived into Islamabad around 5:30AM the next day. As you might remember from the ride up, there are a couple of stops for food/bathroom breaks but definitely don’t forget those snacks.
Day 13- Rest Day in Islamabad/Travel back to Lahore
If you plan to exit Pakistan from Islamabad, today’s a day to rest and recuperate after that infamously long bus ride! If you’re planning to exit either overland or by plane from Lahore, you can take another bus back to Lahore today or wait until tomorrow.
Since the ride is only about 4 hours and buses head there constantly, I’d recommend getting some rest and transiting early tomorrow. If you’re planning on crossing the Wagah Border, keep in mind that it’s open for overlanding until 3:30 PM in the winters, and 4:00PM in the summers.
Day 14- Back to Lahore/ Leave Pakistan
All good trips must come to an end! Today is the day you’ll leave Pakistan, and even though it was quick with this 2-week itinerary- you’ll definitely be able to say you saw some of the most beautiful places in the country. Trust me- no amount of time in Pakistan ever feels like enough but Inshallah (by this time you should be pretty familiar with this phrase) you’ll be able to come back for more soon!
Pakistan Itinerary Add-Ons
If you have a more flexible schedule, I highly recommend visiting Chapursan Valley whilst you’re in Hunza. Chapursan will be relatively straight forward to reach from Ghulkin. You would first need to head to the town of Sost, where shared jeeps then leave for Chapursan every morning around 6:00AM.
Why Chapursan? It’s a beautiful, remote landscape home to the Wahki people, a group that originally comes from Afghanistan. Speaking of Afghanistan- the valley actually borders the Afghani Wakhan Corridor!
It should take about 5-6 hours to reach the valley from Sost. I would recommend spending at least 2-3 days there if you can to make the journey worthwhile!
Where to stay in Chapursan
Pamir Serai Homestay, located in Zood Khun the last village in the valley.
Another feasible (and excellent if you ask me) addition would be the city of Peshawar. Peshawar can be easily reached by Daewoo bus from Lahore or Islamabad so it’s your choice where you’d like to add it in. The city is conservative, yes, but it’s home to the Pashtuns, widely considered the most hospitable people in Pakistan and is the oldest city in South Asia! Give Peshawar at least two days if your schedule will allow.
Where to stay in Peshawar
Couchsurfing is an excellent option in this city, but there’s also the Al-Ibadat Hotel which charges 800 rupees a night.
Pakistan in Two Weeks
I hope this 2-week itinerary has given you a good idea of where to go and where to stay on your Pakistan trip! Keep in mind that landslides and other unexpected events (like bus breakdowns) can occur whilst travelling in Pakistan. To be safe, give yourself a few buffer days if you can! This will also allow you to be able to add a day or to (or return to) a place you really enjoyed.
Don’t be afraid to reach out with any questions or concerns- travelling to Pakistan might sound daunting at first but armed with the right info and an open-mind I have no doubt you’ll love it just as much as I did!
About the Author
Samantha is a self-proclaimed South Asia addict and hippopotamus lover who’s been on the road for seven months so far. She blogs about her indefinite budget-backpacking adventure at Intentional Detours, where she shares guides and stories to help and inspire you to visit offbeat places, too.