PAKISTAN: ANCIENT CITIES, TRIBAL CULTURE & NATURE 16-31 MAY, 2023

PAKISTAN: ANCIENT CITIES, TRIBAL CULTURE & NATURE
16-31 MAY, 2023

with Jeremy Woodhouse
(16 days – 15 nights), maximum group size 6

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Pakistani Soldiers at the Wagah Border

This is a cultural and historical trip for all types of travelers looking for authentic experiences and controlled adventure around the most interesting regions of Central and Northern Pakistan. No trekking, just some small walks. Highlights: Lahore, Taxila archaeological sites, Karakorum Highway, Himalayas, Hunza Valley, Kalash tribe, Peshawar, Pashtun culture, Gypsy camp.

Pakistan is starting to open up to tourism
In August 2019, the country announced a new, more relaxed visa policy to make it easier for travellers to visit. They have created a new visa system and online portal so potential visitors can find all the information they need in one place. 

Pakistan has also abolished most restrictions of movement within the country. Until this week, tourists had to apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to visit some areas. These have mainly been scrapped, opening up many parts of Kashmir, Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan to overseas visitors.

There are still restrictions in six areas. Tourists are still unable to travel within 10 miles of the borders with China and Afghanistan and within five miles of the military control lines in Siachen, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Long-term plans are underway to turn Pakistan into a “a heaven for tourists”. The country also already has its fans among the more adventurous travellers. In 2018 the British Backpacking Society voted the country the top destination for backpackers, saying it is “home to some of the world’s friendliest and most hospitable people, and offers some of the world’s most dramatic mountain scenery.”


Itinerary 

Day 1: 16 May — Arrival in Lahore
Arrival at Lahore airport where the guide will be waiting. Transfer to the hotel. Explanation about the travel plan (route, distances, and activities) and talk introduction about Lahore, its cultural legacy and monumentality. The most beautiful city in Pakistan, cultural and artistic center and former capital of Punjab before the partition between India and Pakistan in 1947, when India reached Peshawar. We will visit Lahore Fort (World Heritage Site), Badshahi Mosque (1674) and we will get lost in the walled city.

O/N Faletti’s Hotel (Full Board)

Day 2: 17 May — Lahore
Visit to the Lahore Museum and the Shalimar Bagh Mughal Gardens (World Heritage Site). Transfer to Wagah Border, border with India, to participate in the colorful ceremony “Lowering of the Flags”, daily closing of borders between the two countries at 4:00 p.m. (35km / 1h). Return to Lahore, visit the illuminated Badshahi Mosque and Anarkali Bazaar.

O/N Faletti’s Hotel (Full Board)

Day 3: 18 May — Lahore | Islamabad (7h)
Breakfast. Transfer by road to Islamabad. Stop en route to visit the Rohtas Fort (World Heritage Site). Extraordinary example of military architecture, built by Pashtun King Sher Shah Suri to protect the communication route between Calcutta and Peshawar from Mughal attacks. We will visit some main parts of the Fort – to include couple entrance gates, Sikh period constructions and the parts of ancient wall. Later, continue to Islamabad, the current capital of Pakistan, built in 1960 with funds from King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, to replace Karachi. Modern, planned and impersonal city, political center of the country. Transfer to the hotel.

Accommodation: Mongolia Hotel or similar (Full Board)

Day 4: 19 May — Islamabad | Taxila | Naran (7h)
Breakfast. Morning departure for Kaghan Valley. En route, we will visit the archaeological site of Taxila, base to explore Gandhara culture (06th BC– 06th AD). Our first stop will be Taxila Museum – see some of the rare sculpture in stone while this museum has best collection of stucco collection of Greco-Ropa courtman Art of Gandhara. Afterwards, we shall depart for Sirkap – the 2nd city of Taxila. Dating from 1st BC to late 1st AD or 2nd AD. We will visit the shrine of Double Headed Eagle, Acropolis área, Temple with Apse probably Greek. Afterwards, continue to Jaulian Buddhist Monastery site dating 2nd – 5th AD. Jaulian is a typical plan of a Gandharan monastery with main stupa, votive stupa court, Sangarama or monastery, Hall of Assembly and the Kitchen area. Continue to Naran we will drive through the country side and rejoin the main road to Abbotabad to continue to the beautiful Kaghan Valley. On arrival at Naran transfer to the hotel

Accommodation: Northern Retreat Hotel or similar (Full Board)

Day 5: 20 May — Naran | Gilgit (5h)
Breakfast. Morning departure for Gilgit, we will start our drive to Babusar Pass. En-route, we will stop at the scenic views of the valley and the moving nomads, usually at this time of the year for their summer camps higher up in the valley. Soon, after crossing Babusar Pass, we will descend into Babusar vilage onto Chilas, joining Karakoram Highway, driving along River Indus. En route, stop at Thaliche view point for stunning sight of Nanga Parbat Mountain, 8125m, while Haramosh range in the east. Continue further with a short stop at the confluence of Indus and Gilgit rivers – see a beautiful hanging bridge on the river. Continue to Gilgit and transfer to the hotel. In the afternoon, we will visit Gilgit bazaar and we may see polo game which is usual in the late afternoons.

Accommodation: Park Hotel or similar (Full Board)

Day 6: 21 May — Gilgit | Karimabad | Gulmit (6h)
Breakfast. This will be an interesting drive as start driving along Hunza River with Occasional stops en route, near the village of Gulmat, we will see a close view of Rakaposhi Peak 7788m. Stop for photos. Later, continue to Karimabad, the centre of Hunza Valley. We will visit Baltit Village and Fort and later Altit Village and Fort, now residence. After lunch, we will continue to Gulmit, with short stop at the Sacred Rock of Hunza. There are rock drawings and inscriptions from 1st BC to 2nd AD. Later continue with a short stop at Attabad Lake view. On arrival at Gulmit, transfer to the hotel. Enjoy the sunset views on the surrounding peaks and Gojal Cathedrals.

Accommodation: Marco Polo Inn Hotel or similar (Full Board)

Day 7: 22 May — Gulmit
Full day activities, including the possibility of driving up to Khunjerab Pass. Walk to Ghulkin village, visit to a local farmer’s house and enjoy a home cooked meal. We shall be doing short leg stretching walks today

Accommodation: Marco Polo Inn Hotel or similar (Full Board)

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Kalash Girls Braiding Tour Participant's Hair

Day 8: 23 May — Gulmit | Gilgit | Damas (6h)
Depart for Damas west of Gilgit. We will make a short stop at Gilgit and then continue to Ghizer Valley. En route, short stops at villages with wonderful hanging bridges. On arrival, transfer to the hotel

Accommodation: Damas Resort or similar (Full Board)

Day 9: 24 May — Shandur Pass | Mastuj (5h)
Breakfast. Depart for Chitral District. Drive along the river further west and start a gradual climb while driving through villages. We will continue driving through the beautiful Phandar Valley, and later towards Shandur Pass. We will make a short stop at the site Polo ground, which is now a usual venue of annual polo games held in the month of july. Later, drive down into Laspur Valley, passing through the villages to Mastuj, after taking the Shandur Pass, where the highest Polo tournament in the World is celebrated. Arrival and transfer to the hotel.

Accommodation: Noor Mahal Hotel (Full Board)

Day 10: 25 May — Mastuj | Chitral | Ayun (4h)
Breakfast. Depart for Chitral. Our first stop will be at the sight of Bunizom Peak, with views and the village below. Short photo stop and continue to Chitral. On arrival, we will visit the Old Fort of Chitral, with nicest view of Tirch Mir Peak in the background. Also visit the local museum and later continue to Chitral Bazaar for short walk and see the local folks around. Afterwards, continue to Ayun and transfer to the hotel
Accommodation: Ayun Fort Guest House Boutique (Full Board)

Day 11: 26 May — Ayun | Kalash Valleys (Birir) | Ayun
Breakfast. For two days we will explore two valleys Rumbur and Birir, to learn about the reality of this unique and fascinating town. Surprisingly the physical appearance of the men and women are light skin, blue and green eyes and many with blonde hair. There is a theory that they are descendants of soldiers of Central-European origin who were part of the troops of Alexander the Great who passed through this region on their way to India. Their physical aspect aside, the Kalash are very hospitable and like to explain things about their culture. They have different taboos, very particular traditions and above all, a unique dress (women only) that is worth discovering.

Today we will make our first visit to the Kalash Valleys. We will go to Birir Valley. Visit the village, walk through various side villages, this will be a walking tour. Later return to Ayun and walking tour.

Accommodation: Ayun Fort Guest House Boutique (Full Board)

Day 12: 27 May — Ayun | Kalash Valleys (Rumbur) | Ayun (20km/1hr)
Breakfast. Talk about the Kalash culture, the last villages of the Himalaic religion in the Hindukush. Winding track route to the Kalash Valleys, a magical place that has preserved its identity despite the pressures of the outside world (Islamization, forced schooling, Afghan conflict, immigration of people from the Chitral Valley, and tourism that comes with more strength to these, until recently, forgotten mountain valleys).

We visit the Birir Valley and walk through various side villages (this will be a walking tour). Later return to Ayun and walking tour of the bazaar.

Accommodation: Yasir Guest House (Full Board)

Day 13: 28 May — Rumbur
Today we will continue to explore the valley of Rumbur and drive to Shekhandeh to meetthe  Nuristani people, who settled here in 1896 after the waging of holy war by the Afghan King Abdurehamn. These people fled to the parts under British India territory. They are very interesting and shall have interaction with them.Later return to Rumbur. 

Accommodation: Yasir Guest House (Full Board)

Day 14: 29 May — Kalash Valley | Peshawar (8h)
Breakfast. Farewell to our hosts the Kalash and goodbye to this wild land. Long route enjoying the landscape through gorges next to the Panjkora River, to the fertile valleys of the Hindus. Talk summary of the trip and the highlights so far.

Accommodation: Hotel Shelton Rezidor (Full Board)

Day 15: 30 May — Peshawar
Breakfast. Visit the Khyber and Khawani Bazaars with its old storytelling street, the Mahabat Khan Mosque, the Shinwar shopping plaza, the University, the Islamia College, the Peshawar Club, Khyber House, the Bala Hisar Fortress, Sethi St. and the Caravanserai Gor Khatri. With the local guide we explore the backstreets of the most authentic Peshawar and understand the essence of the most magical city in Pakistan.

Accommodation: Hotel Shelton Rezidor (Full Board)

Day 16: 31 May — Peshawar | Home
Breakfast. Airport transfer. Flight departure back home.

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Portrait of a Man with a Hennaed Beard

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Portrait of a Kalash Woman


Trip Notes

  • Visits and excursions order may be modified according with local conditions (road conditions, market days.
  • If some visit or excursion can’t be done for external causes, they will be replaced if possible.
  • Long distances between cities and villages, very often roads are in bad conditions.
  • We recommend you to take a single “soft” suitcase not a big a rigid one for the trip, and one backpack.
  • Compulsory vaccinations: Yellow fever
  • Meals: All meals included where it’s indicated, but the traveler is allowed to bring dried fruit, some can, and energy bars.
  • Trip expenses: traveler must change into local coin about 200 € approx for drinks, not included meals and shopping. To buy craftwork we recommend bringing some extra money. The guide will help you change money in the hotel.
  • Electricity and how to charge cameras: There are sockets in the hotels and in some isolated places there is a generator where batteries can be charged.
  • Internet: each person has to buy a telephone card

Arrival & Departure 

Arrival & Meeting Place
Lahore Airport. Depending on where you are coming from, the following airlines fly direct in to Lahore: Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, KLM, Air Arabia, Kenya Airways, Malindo Air and Alitalia.

Departure
Peshawar Airport. Airlines including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines fly out of Peshawar.

Visa
In August 2019, the country announced a new, more relaxed visa policy to make it easier for travellers to visit. They have created a new visa system and an online portal so potential visitors can find all the information they need in one place. ​

For US citizens a valid passport and valid Pakistani visa are required. There are no provisions for visas upon arrival. 


Weather 
Temperatures in the northern mountainous regions of Pakistan in August averages between the mid 80s F to the mid 60s overnight. Temperatures in the cities will be somewhat higher from the low 90s during the day to the mid 80s at night

Language
While many nations are adopting English, Pakistan is going the opposite way, with the Supreme Court ruling for it to be replaced with Urdu as the official language. Urdu is beautiful, vastly expressive, and the medium of some of the most powerful literature generated in the Indian sub-continent over the last two or three centuries. It is spoken by many in Pakistan, especially in the main urban centres. However there is no region in Pakistan which can be categorised as originally Urdu-speaking.

Currency
The Pakistani Rupee is the official currency of Pakistan since 1948. The coins and notes are issued and controlled by the central bank, namely State Bank of Pakistan.

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Women Wearing Burqas and Shopping for Jewelry in Peshawar

2 SPOTS OPEN

Tour Cost: $6,900
DeposiT: $1,000 
(NON-REFUNDABLE)

BALANCE OF $100 INTEREST DEPOSIT: $900 (NON-REFUNDABLE)

Single: $650

Maximum Group Size: 6


Tour Highlights 

  • Lahore
  • Taxila archaeological sites
  • Karakorum Higway
  • Himalayas
  • Hunza Valley
  • Kalash tribe
  • Peshawar
  • Pashtun culture

Tour Price Includes

  • All transfers
  • Hotels, campsites, and tented camps with breakfast
  • English speaking guide during the trip
  • Full board
  • Land transport in private vehicle (minibus + 4x4 to reach remote tribal villages and mountain roads)
  • Fuel and tolls
  • Mentioned excursions.
  • Tickets to the places mentioned in the itinerary.

Tour Price Excludes

  • International flights, visa upon arrival.
  • Charter flights
  • Beverages
  • Insurance
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Tipping of guides through out stay or staff at restaurants/hotels
  • Banking fees incurred

Paying by check

If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:

Nicole Woodhouse
Pixelchrome, Inc, 
605 Rouen Drive, 
McKinney TX 75072

Paying by Wire Transfer

If you would like to pay by Wire Transfer please contact nicole@pixelchrome.com for bank account details.


Equipment Checklist

  • Bring you own laptop computer and storage media
  • Camera body(s)
  • Lenses, 16-35mm, 24-70mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom or similar lenses are very good
  • Light bag for easy hiking with camera bodies and accessories
  • Cleaning kit for cameras and lenses
  • Rain/dust covers for cameras and lenses
  • Charger for batteries
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare Memory cards
  • Memory card reader
  • USB key to exchange images

Also good to have

  • Tripod
  • Good quality polarizing filter