Pakistan Expedition

enquire now 15 Days From NZD $7,220 pp twinshare
Small group
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A journey to the remote reaches of Pakistan’s Hunza Valley

This 15-day expedition is a brand-new trip through an ancient land. Beginning in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, the expedition takes you north to the stunning and rarely touristed Hunza Valley region. Here you’ll find nature unleashed: imagine imposing jagged peaks, alpine lakes and glaciers creeping into the valleys. Hike between ancient fortifications scattered among rural villages and learn about the modern innovations that help the local people prosper. Finish in Lahore, a city that not only stood strong through the rise and fall of empires but also preserved the culture that makes Pakistan such a mesmerising, all-consuming country.

Why you’ll love this trip

  • Learn about Pakistan – its turbulent past, fascinating present, and hopeful future – from a local leader who knows and loves the country best.
  • Discover the jagged snow-capped peaks, bright blue lakes and traditional culture of the Hunza Valley, a little touristed but unbelievably beautiful region of northern Pakistan.
  • From its ancient museums, gardens and forts to its fantastic food scene, Lahore has so much to offer. Spend three days discovering this dynamic city.
  • Travel to the incredibly remote village of Shimshal where you’ll meet the local families who live in this challenging environment and hike through the surrounding mountains.
  • Visit a women’s group supported by the Aga Khan Foundation to learn about their projects and have lunch at a cafe run by local women.


Day 1: Islamabad

Welcome to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. Translating as ‘City of Islam’, Islamabad was built in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the nation’s capital, though there’s evidence that humans have lived in the area for many thousands of years. Your expedition begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm but if you arrive earlier there are several sights worth checking out, including the Shah Allah Dita caves, Golra Railway Station, and the Lok Virsa Museum – dedicated to the preservation, documentation promotion of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. You may also wish to visit the historic Saidpur village, only a 20-minute drive away, which is over 400 years old and sits at the foothills of the nearby Margallas. The village is home to an old Hindu temple, a reminder of the different religions and cultures that once called this region home. After your welcome meeting, get to know your group and local leader over an optional dinner at your hotel.

Day 2: Islamabad

Make the most of the opportunity to explore Islamabad with your fellow travellers. Your local leader will speak with you about the history of both Islamabad and Pakistan and be able to answer any questions about this oft-misunderstood destination. There’ll be a chance to shop for local clothes, so perhaps take the opportunity to buy a shalwar kameez – the traditional dress of loose-fitting trousers and a long shirt. Visit Faisal Mosque, which was the largest mosque in the world upon its completion in 1986 and is said to hold 10,000 worshippers, then head to the ancient site of Taxila. These World Heritage-listed ruins are evidence of over 500 years of cultural evolution influenced by Persia, Greece, and the spread of Buddhism. Enjoy a group meal in the evening at Monal, perhaps Islamabad’s most famous restaurant, which is nestled in the hills and has stunning views of the city below.

Day 3: Islamabat – Gilgit – Gulmit (2465m)

Fly this morning from Islamabad to Gilgit, then travel north to Gulmit, a small town surrounded by mountains and glaciers. It sits by the famous Karakoram Highway, which is also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway as it connects the two countries. This is an achingly beautiful part of the world and there’ll be several opportunities to stop and take in views of Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi, as well as the point where the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalaya mountain ranges all meet.

Day 4: Hunza Valley

Spend the day soaking up the atmosphere in Gulmit. Take a walk around the village and visit a carpet-weaving centre run by the local women, which operates in one of the oldest traditional houses. You’ll also hike out to the ruins of Ondra Fort. While not a particularly long hike, you’ll want to take it slow to adjust to the altitude (and all the stairs!) – you can expect to take 1-2 hours each way. The fort sits atop a rocky outcrop above Gulmit and would’ve commanded views of several strategically important passes in the area. It’s believed to have been built in the 16th century by a ruler named Qutlug Baig and, as if the historic ruins weren’t enough, there are phenomenal views of both the valley and the surrounding peaks.

Day 5: Hunza Valley

Travel today to see the Hussaini Hanging Bridge, considered one of the most dangerous bridges in the world. Though the bridge’s condition is questionable its location is enviable, suspended above Borith Lake and surrounded by jagged mountains. Spend some time hiking to the lake, which sits at an elevation of approximately 2600 metres, and out to the impressive Passu Glacier. Your leader will set a safe pace for the altitude, and it’s a good idea to take it easy. There’ll be plenty of time to relax and you’ll also see Passu Sar mountain (7470 metres) as well as the photogenic Tupopdan (6106 metres), the latter of which is known as Passu Cones or Passu Cathedral. Later in the day, travel to the village of Passu, located on the banks of the Hunza River. Take tea at a local house, sample the town’s famous apricot cake and yak burgers. This evening you’ll be treated to a traditional performance by a band who will play their local instruments, sing songs with you, and teach you some traditional dance moves.

Day 6: Shimshal (3100m)

Travel by 4WD to the remote town of Shimshal, which was inaccessible by road up until 2003. The road took 18 years to build and was constructed by the local community, who previously had to walk for several days to reach other parts of Hunza. Shimshal is so remote that state prisoners from Hunza were once exiled here as punishment. The locals are resilient and extremely hardworking people. A number of notable Pakistani mountaineers grew up here, which isn’t surprising given the rugged, mountainous terrain. The Shimshali are to Pakistan what the Sherpa are to Nepal, and perhaps the most famous Shimshali are Samina and Mirza Ali Baig, a brother-sister climbing duo. Samina is the first and only Pakistani woman to climb Everest (at the age of 21) and the Seven Summits.

Day 7: Shimshal (3100m)

Spend the day exploring Shimshal and learn about the challenges that come with living in such an inhospitable environment. Meet the local families and hear their stories and struggles and take a hike for expansive views of the surrounding area. Almost every house in Shimshal is powered by solar electricity, as is the local school, which produces enough electricity to both run an IT lab and supply electricity to 18 classrooms. Enjoy the mountainous surroundings, take some time to relax and acclimatise to the altitude and know that you’re experiencing a destination that few will ever get a chance to visit.

Day 8: Shimshal (3100m)

Lace up those hiking boots and spend the day exploring Shimshal’s beautiful walking tracks. Remember, the locals once had to walk for days to get to the next town on paths that even yaks could not pass. The exact hike will depend upon the group’s interest and the area’s accessibility, but you can be sure that there’ll be views for days and very few tourists if any. The hike is made more challenging by the region’s high altitude, but the mountain and valley views make the effort worth it. If you’d prefer to sit out on today’s hike, you can spend the day exploring the village.

Day 9: Hunza Valley – Karimabad (2206m)

Say farewell to the Shimshal locals before returning to Passu by 4WD. Along the way, make a stop at Lake Attabad and the village of Ganish. There’s a sad story lurking below Lake Attabad’s shimmering surface. The lake was formed in 2010 after a massive landslide that killed 20 people and displaced many thousands. The landslide essentially dammed the Hunza River for five months, creating a lake that measures some 21 kilometres across. Thankfully the dam held and the lake is now a popular tourist destination renowned for its insanely blue water. See it for yourself then explore Ganish, an ancient Silk Road settlement that received a cultural conservation award from UNESCO. In the evening, visit the town of Karimabad, the commercial hub and capital of the Hunza region. Take some time to wander around the local market before heading to your accommodation in Aliabad for the evening.

Day 10: Karimabad (2206m)

Today you’ll walk to Baltit and Altit forts, which have stood in the region for over 700 years and are a testament to the valley’s past strategic importance. These towns were crucial for controlling the ancient Asia trade routes and Baltit Fort holds a particularly commanding position above the village. These well-maintained forts were restored by the Aga Khan Foundation, which has also been working on several projects to empower local women’s groups. You’ll visit one of these groups, learn about their projects, and have lunch at a cafe run by local women. At sunset, walk up to the Eagle’s Nest for an unforgettable view of the surrounding mountains including – on a clear day – Rakaposhi, Ultar, the Bublimotin, and Spantik.

Day 11: Karimabad – Gilgit – Islamabad – Lahore

Depart Aliabad and drive to Gilgit for a flight back to Islamabad. From here, the group will drive to Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city and the capital of the Punjab region. It is a wealthy city known for being relatively cosmopolitan with a focus on education and the arts. On the way, you’ll stop at Katas Raj temples, a stunning complex of Hindu temples located in the Chakwal district.

Day 12: Lahore

Today your leader will take you on a tour of the Lahore Museum, founded in 1865. The museum is considered one of Pakistan’s finest and was featured in Rudyard Kipling’s novel ‘Kim’. Kipling’s father, John, was actually one of the first curators of the museum. From here you’ll have an opportunity to explore the Lawrence Gardens, now known as Bagh-e-Jinnah, which contains a botanical garden, an open-air theatre, and a historic cricket ground. These large gardens are a popular relaxation spot, so take some time to chill out and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Day 13: Lahore

Start your day with a visit the Tomb of Jahangir, a 17th-century mausoleum built for the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who ruled from 1605–27. Continue to the splendid Shalimar Gardens, built in the 17th century by the Emperor Shah Jahan and feature waterfalls, ponds, and several garden pavilions. Wander through the complex, designed to be a natural utopia on earth, then travel to the Wagah border of Pakistan and India to witness the flag-lowering ceremony. This impressive spectacle attracts both international tourists and locals and features both sets of soldiers performing some seriously macho choreography. The ceremony ends with both flags being lowered simultaneously and a handshake between the soldiers.

Day 14: Lahore

Your last full day in Lahore will be spent visiting some of the city’s most famous places. First up is the Walled City of Lahore, which was constructed around the year 1000. Within its walls, you’ll find the Delhi Gate, the World Heritage-listed Lahore Fort, the huge Badshahi Mosque, and the ridiculously beautiful Wazir Khan Mosque. The interior is decorated with intricate mosaics and frescoes and the mosque houses historic shops, tombs of Sufi saints, and the Shahi Hammam baths. You’ll also visit the tomb of Allama Iqbal, a poet and philosopher who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement (he also had a fantastic moustache). You’ll have time to explore the markets within the Walled City too. Take a walk through the Akbari Mandi, dedicated to grains and spices, or the bustling fish market by Delhi Gate. There is also the Azam Cloth Market, one of Asia’s largest, which houses some 16,000 shops. As the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore isn’t short on delicious cuisine to try. Get together for a final group dinner on Lahore’s famous (and mouth-watering) Food Street.

Day 15: Lahore

Your Pakistan expedition comes to an end today. You are free to leave the accommodation at any time after breakfast, but please ensure you check out by 12 pm.


Images Courtesy of Intrepid Group