It’s hard to imagine a more magnificent landscape than the rugged peaks, hidden villages and wind-swept plains of Pakistan. Here are 20 of the most beautiful places in Pakistan, from wild mountain passes and unreal lakes, to ornate mosques and ancient fortresses.
This is a guest post by Samantha, 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.
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Western media might try to tell you otherwise, but trust me – Pakistan is an absolutely stunning country. Think famous mountain peaks, emerald-green and turquoise-blue valleys, deserts filled with remnants of ancient civilization… And that’s not even the half of it.
One thing’s for sure: Pakistan sure isn’t lacking in beautiful places to visit!
During the 4 months I spent in the country, I was constantly blown away by what I was seeing. There’s an endless number of perfect natural (and man-made) sights to see while backpacking Pakistan, so I thought I’d spotlight 20 of the very best for future travellers.
20 most beautiful places in Pakistan
Without further ado, here are the 20 most beautiful places in Pakistan (in no particular order), a country that quickly and fiercely stole my heart.
1. Swat Valley
Though it has had a rough past, the present and future of Swat Valley are shining very bright. This stunning valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan is something straight out of a fairy tale. Think bright green fields and forests, picturesque villages, and rivers boasting shades of blue so clear and bright you wouldn’t have thought them real!
The true beauty of Swat can be found around the town of Kalam, which serves as a base to the explore the beauty of the valley. Here are 3 places you can’t miss in Swat Valley:
Boyun, also known as Green Top, is a short drive or manageable up-hill walk from Kalam town. When you finally reached the pinnacle, you’ll be rewarded with a panorama of one of the most vast and beautiful villages I’ve ever seen – along with sweeping views of the valley below. Boyun is an easy day trip from Kalam.
Kandol and Spindhor Lakes
These alpine lakes lie 2 hours away from Kalam. These days, Kandol Lake is accessible via jeep track and is a bit more commercialised, whereas Spindhor can only be reached on a 2-hour trek. Whichever you choose to visit, both are absolutely counted among the most beautiful places in Pakistan.
This well-preserved forest is full of deodar trees and is a fabulous place to get lost. The road that leads into the forest continues on to several villages set along the Kalam River.
2. Hunza Valley
If you live in Pakistan – or have read anything about the country – it’s almost certain you’ve come across the name Hunza. Don’t let the word ‘valley’ confuse you, though – Hunza is actually a massive district made up of numerous valleys and villages. Here are some of the most beautiful sights in Hunza:
The Passu Cathedral is a natural work of art and one of the most recognisable scenes in Pakistan. Though staying overnight in Passu village is no longer allowed, the cones are visible from a ways away, starting from the village of Gulmit. The most iconic view of the Cathedral is from the Karakoram Highway, about an hour’s drive from Gilgit City.
A lake that doesn’t look real… Even when you’re standing right in front of it. Attabad was born out of tragedy when a massive landslide occurred in 2010. The flow of the Hunza River was blocked, and the now-famous lake was created in its wake. Its bright-blue turquoise waters make the it one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan.
Want to see one of the most epic sunsets in the Hunza Valley? Head to Eagle’s Nest around golden hour! The name comes from an upscale hotel/restaurant nearby, but you can drive up to the viewpoint without going there.
3. Yarkhun Valley
Though it’s relatively unheard of and forgotten compared to Pakistan’s most famous tourist spots, I think Yarkhun Valley was the most beautiful place I visited in the country. Located in the Upper Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Yarkhun dazzles with its mountain ranges and untouched villages.
Reaching the valley, which stretches for many kilometres past the administrative town of Mastuj, requires a bit of effort if you don’t have your own vehicle. If you do have one though, the ride isn’t too bad – just prepare for mostly dirt roads!
The side valley of Gazin is most definitely worth a detour if you make it all the way to Yarkhun. Here, you can see the mountains of the Thoi Pass, a high-altitude pass that connects Upper Chitral with Yasin Valley in Gilgit Baltistan.
4. Phander Lake
Phander Lake, located in Phander Village, is almost too good to be true. The teal-coloured lake sits silently amongst light-green trees befitting a landscape painting. Despite being insanely beautiful, Phander Lake doesn’t see anywhere as close to the number of tourists as the more popular Attabad Lake does.
During the 4 days I spent in Phander relaxing lakeside, I didn’t encounter any other tourists. If you do visit, I highly recommend you stay at the Lake Inn, which is a short walk away and charges 1,000 rupees per night. There is also the expensive (5,000 rupees) PTDC that overlooks the lake, but the hospitality and value at Lake Inn reign superior.
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5. Broghil Valley
Located way up north very close to Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, Broghil Valley was formerly only accessible via trek or horseback. These days, the once-hidden locale can be reached by a treacherous jeep track – yet it still only receives a handful of visitors during the few months it’s not frozen under heaps of snow.
Currently, whether or not foreigners are allowed to visit Broghil is iffy. (If you’re insistent, make sure you check with the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Chitral before making the trek up there.) But Pakistanis – please go see this beauty! The valley is home to numerous high-altitude lakes, yaks, and sprawling green pastures, all set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop that soars above 13,000 feet.
Moreover, a day’s trek from Lashkargaz, the last village in Broghil, will lead you to Karambar Lake, one of the highest in the world!
A city… Say what? Yes, Lahore may be a metro but its treasure trove of historical places surely makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pakistan. Lahore was the city of Mughals, and so much of their creations still remain. If you’re wondering what are the best places to visit in Lahore, hold tight because there’s a whole lot of them!
The most famous of the city’s monuments include the Badshahi Mosque, the Wazir Khan Mosque, and of course the Lahore Fort. Add to that dozens upon dozens of beautifully preserved tombs, lively shrines, and havelis upon havelis, and you have yourself the cultural capital of Pakistan.
7. Hingol National Park
Hingol National Park is technically in Pakistan, but it looks more like a Martian planet! The park is over 6,000-square-kilometres and contains incredibly unique rock formations, vast canyons, numerous animal species, and even a mud volcano.
What’s more, part of the National Park hugs the coast, adding the ocean to all its other assets. Though totally out-of-this-world in its looks, Hingol is only 3.5 hours from Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city.
Pakistanis shouldn’t have any problem entering the park, but foreigners have had mixed experiences. Some who were accompanied by locals have been able to spend a night/ weekend in the park, while others were only given day permission. There is no public transport to the park, so having access to your own transportation is a must.
8. Kalash Valleys
The Kalash Valleys, comprised of Bumboret, Rumbur, and Birir, are home to the Kalash people, a religious and ethnic minority in Pakistan with their own beliefs, culture and language. The valleys they live in are certainly some of the most beautiful places in Pakistan – not just for their natural splendour, but also for the beauty of the Kalash themselves.
The valley of Rumbur is particularly stunning. Here, kilometres of dusty road and mountains rumble alongside the Kalash River. The Kalash people live in wooden homes that cling to the high hills, and the women are particularly famous for their brightly-coloured traditional dress and headwear that differs from anything else one can find in Pakistan.
Being only 2.5 hours from Chitral City, it’s very easy to make it out to one of the valleys these days. If you do decide to head to Rumbur, take a day to trek all the way into the valley. The last settlement of Rumbur, Sheikhandeh, is a former Nuristani village whose inhabitants migrated across the border to Pakistan a few hundred years ago.
9. Deosai Plains National Park
Deosai is often referred to as the roof of the world. And it kinda is. At 4,117 metres (13,497 feet), the massive plateau is the second-highest on the planet, and is only really accessible during summer.
Sprawling emerald-green meadows, snow-capped peaks and glistening blue lakes greet visitors who make the journey to this beautiful spot. The Himalayan Brown Bear calls Deosai its home and has been spotted by many a visitor – watch out for them if you’re camping!
The park charges an entrance fee of 1,000 rupees for foreigners and 40 rupees for Pakistanis.
10. Gorakh Hills
Hills in the desert… Yup, the Gorakh Hill Station is located in Sindh, but is certainly elevated as a part of the Kirthar Mountains. At 1,734 metres (5,689 feet), the top of the hills provide some of the most beautiful views in Southern Pakistan. This is the perfect spot for a weekend camping trip.
Gorakh Hills are about 8 hours from Karachi, but only 2 to 3 hours from the city of Dadu, making the latter a better place to start your journey. There is no public transport, but there are a few rest houses for anyone who isn’t looking to pitch a tent.
Though a bit out of the way compared to some of the other beautiful tourist places in Pakistan featured on this list, Shimshal Valley is well worth the effort required to reach it. The locale is known for being a major adventure destination that’s particularly popular amongst climbers and mountaineers.
But Shimshal isn’t just one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan for adrenaline junkies. The village itself is divine come summer. Incredibly, it almost exclusively relies on solar energy! Easier short treks to nearby yak pastures can also be arranged, as can just simply wandering around and enjoying the epic vistas and fields of mustard-yellow flowers.
12. Shah Jahan Mosque
Thought all the Mughal relics were in Punjab? Think again! The Shah Jahan Mosque – also known as the Jamia Masjid – is located in Thatta, a town in Pakistan’s Sindh province. It’s widely known for having the most elaborate display of tile work in all of South Asia. Blue and sandstone colours adorn the interior of the mosque and are sure to wow all who visit.
The mosque was commissioned by Shah Jahan when he sought refuge in Thatta back in 1647 and somehow remains in amazing shape today. Though Sindh might seem to be a far cry from the mountains, the immaculate artistry present here makes it one of the most beautiful tourist places in Pakistan.
13. Fairy Meadows
Though it has become a bit touristy (and pricey), Fairy Meadows is no doubt a stunner. The meadows offer an incredible view of Nanga Prabat, the world’s 9th highest mountain peak.
Reaching Fairy Meadows is a bit of a challenge. The journey starts with a jeep ride across one of the most dangerous roads in the world and culminates with a 5 kilometre trek. It’s possible to rent a campsite, or you can bring your own equipment to enjoy a night or two basking in one of Pakistan’s most epic views.
Currently, the price for a jeep into the meadows is around 8,000 rupees ($51), and walking the road is prohibited. Lucky it’s possible to split the cost with other travellers.
14. Chapursan Valley
Like Broghil, Chapursan Valley also borders Afghanistan’s Wakhan but is situated more to the east. This stunning collection of villages and vistas sees only a handful of tourists and is one of the most remote places you can visit in Hunza.
Chapursan is home to the Wakhi people, an ethnic group who speak Wakhi and belong to the Ismaili sect of Islam. With royal blue skies, massive mountain peaks, sprawling lakes and virtually no commercialisation, Chapursan Valley is as beautiful a place in Pakistan as they come!
To reach it, you’ll first need to head to the town of Sost that sits near the Pakistan-China Border. If you have your own vehicle, you’re all set to head on up from there. If not, shared jeeps leave from Sost each morning around 6am.
While in the valley, don’t miss the Baba Ghundi Shrine, a mystical Sufi shrine dedicated to a saint who supposedly held magical powers. Also don’t forget to enjoy the company of the yaks!
15. Khunjerab Pass
This high-mountain pass isn’t for the faint of heart. At nearly 4,600 metres (15,397 feet), this popular tourist attraction connects Pakistan with China to form the highest paved border crossing in the world.
Many people venture to the border to take photos at the official gate, which is surrounded by insanely tall peaks and grassy fields. As for transport, it’s best to travel here with your own vehicle as bus tickets can get pricey. For adventurous travellers, hitchhiking is also an option, as it is on much of the Karakoram Highway.
16. Rakaposhi Base Camp
For all those trekking enthusiasts out there – this one’s for you! The Rakaposhi Base Camp Trek is doable in one day, even for beginners, and offers some truly insane views of Rakaposhi, a 7,800-foot peak!
There are few ways to get as up close and personal with Pakistan’s giants than this. The trek starts from the village of Minapin, where it should take those with a decent fitness level about 4 to 5 hours to reach the top.
While it is possible to camp, the descent is much quicker, making the entire journey there and back a plausible one-day affair. Due to extreme weather, it’s only possible to do the trek between May and October.
17. Margala Hills
Islamabad might be a glitzy ‘new’ city, but did you know it also has a vast array of hills perfect for climbing? The Margala Hills are spread out over over 12,000 hectares and contain multiple hiking and running trails.
Ascending to the various peaks of the range show off Islamabad in ways you might not have known were possible. There are few places in Pakistan that remain so close to the city yet so deeply connected to nature.
18. Rohtas Fort
Say hello to another of the most beautiful places in Pakistan – this time a 16th-century fortress that’s recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rohtas Fort is located near Jhelum in Punjab, which is about 4 hours from Lahore and 2 hours from Islamabad.
The fortress is one of the largest in the Subcontinent and has remained in remarkable condition despite its age. Hours can be spent roaming around the massive structure, a beautiful relic that almost seems to transport visitors back in time.
It’s easy to get lost amongst the walls and gates for an entire day. Keep in mind that the fort charges an entrance fee of 500 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for Pakistanis.
19. Naltar Valley
Naltar Valley is about 54 kilometres (34 miles) from Gilgit City in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. The popular tourist attraction is known for its dramatic forests, a collection of crystal-clear lakes, and in the winter, skiing facilities.
Though many tourists just come for the slopes, I think the real magic of Naltar can only be witnessed in the summer months when the lakes unfreeze and the forests can be best enjoyed.
This magical valley is only accessible via Jeep, but public transport does exist from Gilgit. There are a number of hotels and guesthouses to accommodate tourists in the valley’s two villages. To avoid peak tourist season, steer clear of visiting during the month of May and try coming in fall instead. You might be lucky enough to catch some epic foliage towards the end of October.
20. Katpana Desert
Beautiful places in Pakistan truly cover every landscape imaginable… Including the Katpana Cold Desert. Though it has all the makings of a ‘warm’ desert, what makes the Katpana stand out is its altitude. It does, in fact, become covered with snow in the winter.
Said to be the highest cold desert in the world, sand dunes at this altitude look truly unique. Very few countries can lay claim to such a rarity. Travellers can reach the Katpana Desert easily from Skardu, as it’s only about 30 minutes away. Don’t count on there being public transport, though.
Most beautiful places in Pakistan: Final thoughts
Listing the 20 most beautiful places in Pakistan isn’t an easy task when almost everywhere you turn, the landscape is mesmerising in one way or another. Though this is only a small sample of what Pakistan has to offer, I strongly recommend trying to visit at least a few of these highlights.
I absolutely loved every minute of the 4 months I spent travelling through Pakistan. But in a country this big and beautiful, I know there’s always more to discover. Happy adventuring!