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Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our trip starts today in Islamabad, the cultural and financial centre of Pakistan and the nation's capital. A relatively new city - Islamabad was constructed in the 1960's to replace the former coastal capital of Karachi.
Islamabad's wide, leafy boulevards and backdrop of the rolling Margalla Hills give it the feel of a colonial city, but more recently, the city has seen a considerable injection of wealth, resulting in a curious blend of old and new. Glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping malls now stand side by side with its traditional mosques and markets.
For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 1pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on the afternoon tour.
We will start with a visit to the contemporary Faisal Mosque. Its striking architecture is inspired by a Bedouin style tent, and its triangular worship hall houses 10,000 worshippers, making it the largest mosque in South Asia. Continuing on the theme of striking architecture, we next take in the Pakistan monument - with its petal shaped structure taking its cues from Mughal architecture. The monument is dedicated to the people of Pakistan, with each petal representing the different individual cultures that make up the melting-pot that is modern-day Pakistan. We finish our tour at the Heritage Museum, offering a fascinating insight into the ethnology and heritage of the country.
Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information by note left at the front desk.
Many international flights arrive into Islamabad early this morning. Because of this, we have pre-booked rooms for all customers (including land-only) to be available to check straight into regardless of your arrival time. Those booking flights that arrive late in the evening should arrange to arrive the night before to make use of this pre-booked room.
Hotel Hillview (or similar)
We set off for the mountains today as we drive to the town of Naran, nestled in the Khagan Valley. As we leave the city and join the main highway, we will likely see a wide variety of colourful trucks transporting goods along the Friendship Highway between Pakistan and China. We quickly gain altitude as we ascend through the valley, surrounded on all sides by the forested peaks of the lesser Himalaya Range. There will be plenty of time to stop for photos and to take in the scenery, before we reach Naran in the afternoon, after a six hour drive. The remainder of the day has been left free to relax and enjoy the surroundings or explore this small, river-side town.
Royal Hotel (or similar)
Leaving Naran behind this morning, we continue north through the high altitude lakes of the Lulusar National Park, before turning onto the Karakoram Highway at Talichi. Officially known as the N35 but often called the 'Friendship Highway', or more simply 'KKH', this ambitious road took 20 years to construct as a joint project funded by the governments of Pakistan and China. The highway stretches some 1,300 kilometres from Abbottabad in Pakistan, snaking its way through the mountainous Karakoram range and crossing into China at the Khunjerab Pass, where it continues on to the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. The Karakoram Highway is regarded as the 'highest highway in the world'.
We cross the Babussar Pass (4,173m) before dropping down into Tarashing our base for the next two nights. The accommodation is a simple guesthouse with twin bedrooms and outside bathrooms, complete with bucket showers. All bedding and blankets are provided.
The total drive is around five to six hours, with plenty of time built in for scenic stops.
Tarashing Guest House (or similar)
We start this morning with a drive to the Upper Rupal Valley, where we continue on foot for the five kilometre walk up to Herligkoffer Base Camp, the eastern-facing base camp on the lower slopes of the towering Nanga Parbat. The walk takes us through a lush meadow as we follow the Bazhin Glacier up to a natural spring, which marks the start of the camp. So-named after Dr Karl Herrligkoffer, the leader of first expedition to successfully scale the world's 9th highest mountain, the camp offers incredible close-up views of Nanga Parbat and the surrounding western-Himalayan range. The total walk is approximately ten kilometres in length, with around 400 metres of ascent/descent, taking approximately three to four hours. For those not wishing to do today's walk, there is the option to take a 4WD tour of the Upper Rupal Valley, stopping at a scenic viewpoint and taking a short walk through the village.
After the walk we drive onto Tarashing town, our base for the night. The accommodation tonight is a simple guesthouse with twin bedrooms and outside bathrooms, complete with bucket showers. All bedding and blankets are provided.
Today we have a full but rewarding day of driving ahead as we ascend out of the Astore Valley and up to the Deosai Plateau, which stands at an altitude of 4,100 metres. The plateau was awarded national park status in 1993 to aid protection of a key habitat of the Himalayan Brown Bear, and is one of the world's highest alpine plains. The Bara Pani river winds its way through the national park, feeding several high-altitude lakes and providing the perfect environment for wildflowers to flourish. We will stop at Satpura Lake where its water appears a shimmering turquoise colour, due to it being fed predominately from the melting ice of the plateau. We will then disembark to stretch our legs for a short two kilometre walk around the dark-blue, reflective waters of Sheosar lake. Continuing on by 4WD, we reach Skardu in the early evening.
Concordia Motel (or similar)
It's an early start this morning as we set off in our 4WD vehicles, first travelling to Shigar village to explore Shigar Fort and the 400 year old Amboriq Mosque. This incredible and unusual piece of Islamic architecture is constructed entirely from wood and has been awarded UNESCO status.
We will break for lunch in Shigar and try some traditional Balti dishes. Look out for 'Chapsuro' - a calzone-like bread stuffed with lightly-spiced mince and vegetables, 'Gittey' - a type of sausage prepared with chilli and coriander, and 'Mamtu' - delicious stuffed dumplings which are ubiquitous to the Himalayan regions.
After enjoying a hearty lunch we will continue to the Katpana Desert - a high-altitude desert filled with rolling sand dunes that can sometimes be found covered in snow during the winter months.
On our way back to Skardu we will stop for a short walk up to the 16th Century Kharpocho Fort. The Fort appears as if it is precariously perched on the cliff side, but the location affords strategic views over the confluence of the Indus and Shigar Rivers. The walk will take approximately two hours including the visit to the Fort.
We set off this morning in our familiar 4WD vehicles, driving along the northern loop out of the Skardu Valley, re-joining the Karakoram Highway at Jaglot, before continuing on to Gilgit, a drive of approximately five hours.
We arrive in Gilgit for lunchtime, and in the afternoon, we set off for a tour of this bustling town. Lying at the heart of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, the town is a haven for trekkers, cyclists, mountaineers and adventurers, not to mention the traders passing through. It is a hubbub of activity that is somewhat juxtaposed by the serene snow-capped mountains it is surrounded by. We will take a walk through Gilgit's bazaar and stop at the Gilgit Bridge. At 158 metres long, this bridge spans the width of the fast-flowing Gilgit River and is the oldest suspension bridge in the region, dating back to the Raja period. We will also visit the old British Cemetery, and the Kargah Buddha, a 7th century rock carving that points. back to the town's significance in spreading Buddhism across the Silk Road and throughout the region.
Riveria Hotel (or similar)
Continuing along the KKH, we drive on to the more peaceful town of Karimabad. We stop en-route at a view point that offers a panoramic vista of Rakaposhi, a peak of 7,778 metres which juts out of the landscape and towers over other nearby mountains. Upon reaching Karimabad, we explore the 700 year old Baltit Fort, which was the former seat of the Kingdom of Hunza. The architecture of the fort is quite striking and very much Tibetan in feel, in fact many remark on its similarities to the iconic Potala Palace in Lhasa.
We finish the day by travelling out to Duikar Village, another viewpoint with glorious long-ranging views, to watch the sun dip into the Hunza Valley below. With the view in front of us, it is easy to see why this valley is widely believed to be the inspiration in James Hilton's iconic novel for the mythical utopia 'Shangri-La'.
This evening we join a local Huzakut family for an evening meal in their home, in a small village outside Karimabad. Here we get a fascinating insight into the way of life for many villagers in the region, and we try and array of local dishes such as 'Buttering Daudo' - a traditional apricot soup, 'Chap Churo' - a delicious pie stuffed with mincemeat between two pan-fried flatbreads, and 'Burish Chapik' - cheese chapattis with crushed almonds.
Roomy Daastaan (or similar)
Setting off early this morning, we head out by four-wheel drive to the Hoper Valley which contains three mighty glaciers - Hoper, Barpu and Mier. We leave behind our vehicles and continue on foot, walking for around an one and a half hours with a stop for a picnic lunch in front of this incredible glacier. Please note this walk is steep in places with some exposed sections.
In the afternoon, we continue on to Passu to see (but not cross!) the Hussaini suspension bridge. Spanning 64 metres across the Hunza river, this rudimentary piece of engineering is no more than a collection of generously-spaced, rotting wooden planks bound together with several pieces of steel cable. Built by the locals, it is the lifeline that helps them transport goods and agriculture across the fast-flowing river below. After some time to watch the comings and goings on the bridge, we will continue on towards Passu, stopping at Borith for incredible views of the Passu Glacier.
Leaving Karimabad behind today, we travel along the Karakoram Highway before turning off and joining the main highway linking Chitral and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the west with Gilgit Baltistan in the east. The drive itself is very scenic, full of wide open landscapes framed by snow-capped peaks. We make several stops along the way, including a picnic lunch in the picturesque village Gahkuch which is set on a wide sweeping bend of the Gilgit River. After a drive of approximately six hours, we reach the small river-side town of Gupis, our rest stop for the next two nights.
Ghizer Blossom Inn (or similar)
Today we spend a full day exploring the Yasin Valley. This historic area is linked to a network of valleys that stretch across the north-west frontier of Pakistan and into the Wakhan Corridor region of Afghanistan/Tajikistan. Control of this region has been fought over for centuries, from Central Asians vying for the silk trade to more recently the British colonial powers. This high altitude valley sits amongst the Hindu Raj Mountain Range, with a glacial river carving its way through the valley floor and is set to a backdrop of towering 6,000m+ mountains.
This morning we set off from Gupis by 4WD and drive to the village of Darkot, where we get to see what daily life is like for the few locals that live in this sparse, remote mountain area. We then drive onto Ghasum where the road ends and we leave the jeeps behind, continuing on foot for the 45 minute walk to the snout of the Ghamubar glacier. We break for lunch here in a spot overlooking the glacier, before continuing onto the picturesque Ghamubar Lake. We return to Gupis later in the afternoon. The total walk time is around 1 hour 30 minutes with an altitude gain of approximately 200 metres.
Leaving the remote valley area behind today, we head east and join the main highway once again, first crossing Babusar Pass (4,100 metres) and stopping at Lulusar Lake before we descend back down the Kaghan Valley to Naran. After checking into the hotel, there will be time for a short orientation tour of the town and its bustling main bazaar.
Continuing to lose altitude, we drop back down to the foothills this morning, travelling through the towns of Mansehra and Abbotabad. Along the way back to the capital we will explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Taxila, an ancient city dating back to 3500 BC, and fought over throughout the centuries by the many civilisations that inhabited this area. Next we visit the old city of Rawalpindi. Known as the 'Twin City' and forming part of the greater urban conurbation of Islamabad, this densely packed and sprawling city offers a stark contrast to the wide leafy streets of Islamabad. We plan to explore the narrow lanes on foot, stopping to barter in the bustling Raja Bazaar before returning to hotel.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Islamabad.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Islamabad at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Islamabad International Airport (ISB), which is 30-40 minutes from the hotel.
There is large variation between regions in Pakistan, but in general the climate is semi-arid with hot summers and cold winters. Pakistan has three distinct seasons with a cool, dry winter from December to February, a hot dry spring from March to May and the monsoon season running from June to October. In contrast to most of the country, the northern, mountainous region remains frozen during winter, and in the summer the mountains are mostly spared from the monsoon rains, whilst experiencing pleasant day-time temperatures. At night it can get very cold, especially at altitude. The capital Islamabad however can get very hot in the summer, whilst also experiencing considerably heavy rainfall.
3 Pin Round
Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto and English
Lightweight cottons are most suitable for the hot summers of Pakistan, with warmer clothing including a waterproof/windproof jacket needed for the time spent in the mountains. At any time of the year a good fleece or down jacket plus gloves and hat are recommended for nights spent at higher altitudes. A pair of thermals are good as an extra layer, or even for keeping you warm in bed. The region is traditionally Muslim so brief shorts and skirts, or clothes that are revealing or tight-fitting can offend local sensibilities. Women should bring a headscarf as this is necessary for some mosque visits
A pair of comfortable walking shoes or boots will be very useful during the walks as the trails can sometimes be uneven. Sandles will be useful for lakes and rivers, and comfotable trainers should suffice for everything else.
Due to the variety of transport and terrain on this trip, soft-sided holdalls are recommended for your main luggage. In addition to this, you will also need a good-sized day pack for carrying your water, suncream, fleece/waterproof and snacks.
Bring a small torch, a water bottle, insect repellent and suncream. A portable powerbank will be useful to recharge phones and camera batteries as the electricity supply is not always reliable. All bedding is provided on the trip, but you may wish to bring a sleeping sheet or sleeping bag for your own comfort. Please note it is prohibited to bring alcohol into Pakistan and any brought in will be confiscated on arrival. Alcohol in Pakistan is very limited and only available to purchase in selected hotels in Islamabad.
Bus, 4WD, On Foot
We use a variety of locally run hotels and guesthouses on this trip. Most hotels will be of a comfortable standard with twin rooms, en-suite facilities, Wi-Fi and other such conveniences, but for two night stops we classify our accommodation as simple -in Tarashing. The accommodation offers a warm welcome, and comprises of simple twin-bedded rooms with outside toilet and bucket showers, Electricity can be variable and there will be no availability for Wi-Fi here.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Pakistan: Visas are required for citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada and can be obtained in the form of an e-visa. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. Explore will need a copy of your passport no later than 8 weeks before your trip as we'll need to request an invitation letter on your behalf. This letter will be sent to you around a month before departure. The e-visa can then be applied for through the official Pakistan government visa website only https://visa.nadra.gov.pk/ You'll need to upload a scan of your passport, a passport photo and a copy of an invitation letter which Explore will send to you14 . Passports must have at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival in Pakistan. Visa applications will take approximately 10 working days to process. All visa related issues including information for other nationalities should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
This trip goes to an altitude where there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), a common and usually harmless condition caused by reduced air pressure and a lower concentration of oxygen. Whilst the itinerary has been specifically designed to allow your body to acclimatise gradually, the speed of onset and severity - as well as the height at which AMS develops can vary greatly between individuals; being physically fit affords no special protection. If symptoms occur while on tour you must let your tour leader know immediately. For further advice when travelling at altitude we recommend visiting the medical advice website of Medex and download their information booklet: http://medex.org.uk/medex_book/english_version.php Travellers with heart or lung conditions, anaemia, asthma, high blood pressure, or taking the contraceptive pill must seek the advice of their GP and specifically mention the maximum altitude the trip reaches (noted in the day to day text). Please take these to your medical appointment so that your doctor has the full details of your trip. You must have adequate travel insurance for your trip. Please ensure that your insurance policy covers you to the maximum altitude indicated above
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against Hepatitis A, Polio, Tetanus and Typhoid. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling