KARACHI: Magnificent, angular mountains. Hauntingly spectacular landscapes. Clear, glistening beaches. A wild landscape that invokes a serious case of wanderlust. It's hard to describe the untamed beauty of Balochistan but Hingol National Park gives you a bewildering sneak peak into the great outdoors of the province.
Covering a massive range of 6,100 square kilometres, it is one of the largest national parks of Pakistan. Karachi now links the scenic Makran Coastal Highway since 2004 – a drive you'd be crazy to miss!
The area encompasses a myriad of native flora, fauna and mammals including indescribable species. There's still a lot of mystery surrounding Hingol National Park and perhaps, this is what makes it so enchanting.
It's hard to believe that a well-known Hollywood star once visited the area. Or that a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site lies tucked away, boasting of a rich history and caves that have stood the test of time. Mountains, desert and sea alike surrounds a beach that is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
You can visit all these amazing destinations in one day, if you're willing to rise early and drive through wide, open highways. Don't let the lack of food and fuel facilities deter you from experiencing this marvel. Prepare all this a bit in advance and let your senses be ignited. It's all about the journey, after all.
1. Kund Malir
This is probably the most well-known hotspots of Hingol National Park. Many from Karachi and interior Sindh have started visiting this gorgeous body of water to experience the spectacular views while enjoying a picnic. Located about 150 kilometres from Zero-Point on Makran National Highway, the water is crystal clear with no-one in sight for miles apart, except for a few fishermen. It's fair to say the area rivals those of Thailand, Australia and other stunning beach destinations.
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Inhale the scents of the Arabian Sea and feel the smooth sand. This untouched shoreline rests between great mountains and vast deserts, making you feel as if you've entered a remote stretch of paradise. The azure blue waters almost put you in a trance. It's a definite destination for families as well as a small group of friends. The locals are also extremely friendly and offer crabs every little while. Take lots of pictures because you won't want to forget this beauty!
2. Princess of Hope and a random sphinx
Other than the surprisingly smooth road, the Makran Coastal Highway bears exquisite rock formations on both sides of your point of view and it is an actual pleasure to watch. The car drive is by no means boring but the scenery has more pleasures to behold. The Princess of Hope is a major attraction of these stark formations, situated around 190 kilometres away from Karachi.
Yes, the stunning rock was given its interesting name by none other than Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie. She famously visited Pakistan in 2010. Can you imagine one of Hollywood's highest-paid female actor's standing in the great wilderness alongside the coast of the Arabian Sea? Jolie was so taken aback after seeing the monument that she even named it the Princess of Hope, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a silhouette of a standing woman.
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At first, you may think you're in Egypt or in an adventure scene from a blockbuster film. You won't miss a sphinx-like rock formation very close by to the Princess of Hope along the highway. Stop your car, walk over to the edge of the road and just sit for a while, because it's not every day that you see these kinds of natural wonders.
3. Nani Mandir/Hinglaj Mata
We can say we've saved the best for last but everything in Hingol National Park is equally as fascinating that it's hard to decide. Nestled in the centre of the great stretch of land lies a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site, a town on Makran coast in the Lasbela locale of Balochistan. Immediately, the energy of the area feels different and quite special. Tiny, colourful bits of cloth are tied to trees which stand for a wish that a visitor once prayed to be fulfilled.
Prayers aside, the caves leave you simply awe-struck. They are thought to be millions of years old - no-one really knows how long they've graced the planet. The sanctuary is situated in an old hollow that smells of incense and soothed by a balmy breeze. Hundreds of Hindu's come to perform pilgrimage (Utam Yatra) for four days.
Be sure to get acquainted with Mr Gopal Gree, who shares fascinating information about the place as he sits with a calm smile inside the caves. We don't need to share the story. Go there for yourself and experience the wonders of this magnificent spectacle. It will not disappoint!
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