Pakistan: Women’s Expedition

enquire now 12 Days From NZD $5,790 pp twinshare
Small group
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Get to know a beautiful country and its trailblazing women

Learn what life looks like for women living in Pakistan’s vibrant capital city and ancient mountain villages. Join a local female leader as she takes you on a unique journey to the Hunza Valley. See the communities and landscapes associated with the hallowed Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains and meet pioneering women working on female empowerment projects throughout the region. Trek to alpine lakes, ancient glaciers and the remnants of ruined empires, then witness the evolution of modern Pakistan in the country’s capital of Islamabad. From cooking classes to village homestays, this women’s only expedition will have you sharing more than just photographs.

Why you’ll love this trip

  • This is a rare opportunity to travel through Pakistan with a local female leader. Her knowledge and insights will make this an eye-opening and unforgettable expedition.
  • Experience a unique female-only salon, owned by a local woman and run out her home in Gulmit, a town that has existed for hundreds of years and is surrounded by mountains and glaciers.
  • Spend time with the inspiring women working to empower their communities through local projects including carpet-weaving, cooking classes and cafes.
  • Immerse yourself in remote mountain villages while staying overnight and sharing food and stories with a local family.


Day 1: Islamabad

Welcome to Pakistan’s capital city: Islamabad. The ‘City of Islam’ was built in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the nation’s capital and is divided into eight zones including the commercial district, educational sector, diplomatic enclave, residential areas and green area. It is an extensively (and successfully) planned city on a site chosen for its accessibility to the rest of the country and its location close to the army headquarters and disputed Kashmir area. Your expedition begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm but if you arrive early it is worth checking out Lake View Park and the Lok Virsa Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation, documentation and promotion of Pakistan’s cultural heritage.

Day 2: Islamabad

Today presents an opportunity to explore Islamabad with your local female leader, who will speak with you about the history of both the city and Pakistan as a whole. There’ll be a chance to shop for local clothes, so keep an eye out for the ‘shalwar kameez’ – the traditional dress incorporating loose-fitting trousers and a long shirt, worn in various forms by men, women and children. Be sure to cover up for a visit to the female-only section of the Faisal Mosque, which was the largest mosque in the world upon its completion in 1986 and is said to hold 10,000 worshippers. It’s a vast building and at odds with the Taxila ruins, a World Heritage-listed complex that’s not only the largest Buddhist site in the country, but also an important witness to years of cultural evolution thanks to the Persians and Greeks. In the evening, head to the hills for a group dinner overlooking the city lights below.

Day 3: Gulmit (2465 m)

Depart Islamabad this morning on a flight to Gilgit then transfer to a private vehicle and travel north on the Karakoram Highway. Also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, the road was built, believe it or not, in conjunction with China and connects the two countries at Khunjerab Pass. It passes through the Karakoram mountain range and is sometimes referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World thanks to the level of engineering that went into its construction, not to mention the phenomenal views on either side of the road. Stops en route include a viewpoint, where you can see the 7788-metre Rakaposhi mountain.

Day 4: Gulmit (2465m)

Spend the day exploring the village of Gulmit with the other women in your group. Located in a deep valley by the Hunza River, Gulmit has existed for hundreds of years and is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Take a walk through town and visit a carpet-weaving centre run by the local women, then take advantage of an opportunity to be pampered at a one-of-a-kind salon in one of the oldest houses in town. While in Gulmit, pop into the home of a local family to enjoy some tea together while you chat with your hosts about life in this remote part of Pakistan. You’ll also trek out to the ruins of Ondra Fort, a walk of approximately three kilometres. The fort sits atop a rocky outcrop above Gulmit and would’ve once commanded views of several strategically important passes in the area, though there’s no doubt the sentries of old were just as distracted by the jaw-dropping scenery as you will be.

Day 5: Gulmit (2465m)

Enjoy some time in Pakistan’s fresh mountain air today as you trek out to Borith Lake and Passu Glacier. The lake sits at an altitude of 2600 metres and is a quiet, peaceful spot to relax, not to mention a good opportunity to recharge after a few adventurous days. Read a book, soak up some sun or go for a swim (it’s saltwater) before trekking to Passu Glacier, a round-trip of approximately six kilometres. It wasn’t so long ago that walking was the primary means of transport in these parts, with some villages in the region only gaining road access as late as 2003. Later, travel to the village of Passu, located on the banks of the Hunza River. Sample the town’s famous apricot cake and yak burgers.

Day 6: Gulmit

Spend the morning in Passu’s tiny but charming town, sitting at the feet of the jagged Passu Cones. Wander the streets filled with stone houses and fruit trees. In the afternoon you’ll be invited into a local’s home where the women of the house will teach you how to make some delicious Hunzai dishes. Depending on what’s available, you might make some molida (a mixture of buttermilk, cheese and bread), graal (pancakes usually served with apricot or walnut oil and mulberry sauce), dawdo (noodle soup) or chaapshuro (flatbread stuffed with meat). 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 7: Hopar (2438 m)

This morning you’ll pay a visit to the beautiful Lake Attabad, which has a sad story lurking below its 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. After your visit, travel to Karimabad, the capital of the Hunza District, known for its locally made handicrafts and take-your-breath-away views. Lace up your hiking boots and trek out to Baltit and Altit forts, which were restored by the Aga Khan Foundation and have stood in the region for over 700 years. These forts are a testament to the valley’s past strategic importance and were used to control the ancient Asia trade routes, with Baltit Fort holding a particularly commanding position above the local village. The Aga Khan Foundation also runs several projects focusing on empowering local women. There’ll be an opportunity to visit one of the groups and chat to them about their work, followed by lunch at cafe run by the local women. Later, travel on to the Hopar Valley where you’ll spend the night in the home of a local family.

Day 8: Hopar (2438 m)

Today begins with a visit to the striking black Hopar Glacier. Take a short hike near the glacier and you’ll be rewarded with remarkable views over the Hopar Valley. Return to your homestay for the rest of the day. Take some time to appreciate the architecture of the home, which is unique to this part of Pakistan – it’s believed they’ve been building homes in this style for almost 2000 years. Later in the day you’ll join your hosts to make dinner, taking the opportunity to learn some more traditional local recipes and find out more about their lives and culture.

Day 9: Gilgit (1500m)

Say goodbye to your hosts and travel to Gilgit, located on the famously scenic Karakoram Highway. The city was once an important centre for Buddhism and also served as a stop on the Silk Road. Today you’ll discover a more modern side of the city as you explore the local markets with your leader, browsing stalls of handmade clothes and jewellery.

Day 10: Islamabad

Enjoy a final morning in the beautiful Gilgit Baltistan before boarding a flight to Islamabad. Settle in at the hotel upon arrival, then head out to see some more of Islamabad’s sights. Visit the Shah Allah Dita caves, where Buddhist monks used to meditate when the religion was widespread, dating back some 2500 years. Evidence of the British colonial period can be seen at Golra Railway Station, which was built in 1882 in a Victorian style and operates as a working station and popular museum. The museum was established in 2003 and contains artefacts from the British Raj, celebrating the past 150-odd years of rail travel in Pakistan.

Day 11: Islamabad

Spend your final full day in Pakistan exploring the nearby city of Rawalpindi. Visit the Markazi Jamia Masjid – one of the oldest mosques in the city. With beautiful frescos, mosaics and paintings, the mosque is a cultural icon and its colourful interior can’t be missed. Speaking of colour, there’ll be plenty at the Rawalpindi markets, so shop up a storm. This afternoon you’ll visit a local beauty salon where you’ll have the chance to chat to the local women and learn about their work, lives and culture. While you’re here, you may like to treat yourself to a facial or manicure. Then, pay a visit to the 500- year-old Saidpur village, known for its varied religious and cultural heritage. Here you’ll gather for a final dinner – a chance to celebrate all you’ve seen and done on your journey.

Day 12: Islamabad

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