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Attabad Lake.

Attabad Lake.

Lal Suhanra National Park. Hanna Lake. Derawar Fort. Borith Lake. Batakundi. Banjosa Lake. Banjosa Lake. Attabad Lake. Ansoo Lake.

An average Pakistani is reminded a million times a day of everything that is wrong with the country. But there are times when that takes a backseat. It may happen while you witness an unusual act of kindness by someone or walk along unexplored trails that remind you of just how beautiful this land is.

This is why we have decided to take you on a journey through some magical destinations across Pakistan, which are easy on the pocket but will reignite your love for the country.

Ansoo Lake and Batakundi

If you get tired of the crowds that throng to Naran who send tourism prices through the room, then take a trip to Batakundi, a small town 16 kilometers (km) from Naran and an alternate base to explore the Kaghan Valley.

You can stay at the Batakundi Hotel, which is located on a hilltop and offers a view of the meandering snake-like Kunhar River along with lush green mountains and wheat fields. Furthermore, the Lalazar meadows are a one-hour trek across the hill.

Among the many day-trips it has to offer, the best one is a trek to the teardrop-shaped, Ansoo Lake. At a height of 13,550 feet above sea level, it is covered with snow almost throughout the year. A person of average physical fitness but a tough attitude can easily attempt the five- to six-hour trek from Saiful Maluk Lake.

The climate is cold and unpredictable so loads of warm clothes, a raincoat and a local guide (which can be arranged from Naran or Saiful Maluk) are recommended. There are no restaurants on the way so don’t forget to carry your own supplies of food and water for the day.

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Passu, Upper Hunza

Located at 150 km from Gilgit and 40 km ahead of Karimabad, Passu is not a spot to be missed. To reach Passu, one has to pass across the 20kmlong Ataabad Lake, but the contrast between the gleaming turquoise blue water and flat rigid mountains in various shades of brown on both sides of the lake, make the boat ride extremely enjoyable.

For a nature lover, Passu is a dream come true as it offers everything from the glorious mountains of the Karakoram Range to a variety of serene lakes contrasted by roaring rivers, some of the largest glaciers in the world and a cultural cocktail of China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While you are in the area, a day trip to Khunjerab top and the China border is a worthwhile investment. The journey through the Karakoram highway is one of its kind in the world but is not recommended for the faint-hearted. Those who prefer to play it safe can instead take a dip in the lukewarm water of the Borith Lake, located on the way to the Chinese border.

A walk across the Passu bridge and a visit to the glaciers is also a must as the grandeur of the golden brown Passu cones at sunset can even put the famous Italian Dolomites to shame.

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Banjosa Lake, Azad Jammu and Kashmir

Banjosa Lake is located in Tehsil Hajira, Poonch district, Azad Kashmir, at a distance of 19 km from the city of Rawalakot.

The four hour drive from Islamabad to Rawalakot, also known as the ‘Pearl Valley’of Kashmir relaxes you instantly as you pass by lush green hills, small towns, fruit orchards and cattle grazing on green pastures. Once you reach the lake, the view of its frozen surface reflecting the early morning golden sunlight is bound to take your breath away. The whole area is covered with pine forests which offer a thick green shade over the lake. Commonly considered a summer destination, the place is a must-visit for those who love snow, even during the winter.

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Garam Chashma, Chitral

Located at a two-hour drive, north-west of Chitral, Garam Chashma is a town named after its hot water spring. The water from the spring, which comes from several sources, is so hot that it is impossible to dip your finger in it for more than five seconds. But if you really want to turn up the heat, go to Hotel Innjigan, for a swim in the pool with fresh hot water straight from the spring.

The water is also said to cure a lot of skin diseases and people from different parts of the country flock to the area to bathe in it. The trend is at its peak around March and lasts for two months every year.But the spring is not the town’s only claim to fame. It is also famous for the woolen cloth (locally known as patti) that is used to make Chitrali topis, shawls and jackets which are sent all over the country.

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Bahawalpur , the Royal range

For those travelling from Karachi to Lahore by road, Bahawalpur is often treated as a mere stopover. But with its rich history, architecture and royal heritage, the city is a treat on its own.

The state of Bahawalpur, governed by the Abbasi nawabs acceded to Pakistan in 1947 but continued as an independent state, with their own prime minister, until 1955. The royal heritage of the region is visible in its architecture and prestigious institutions such as the central library built in 1927 and Sadiq Public School.

The palaces of the nawabs, such as the Noor Mahal, Sadiqgarh Palace, Gulzar Mahal and Durbar Mahal are also a must-see. Although access to interiors of palaces other than the Noor Mahal might be restricted, a drive through the city is a treat for every architecture and history enthusiast.

For the more adventurous souls, a desert safari to Derawar fort is a must.

The fort is still the private property of the nawabs and requires permission, which is usually granted easily. A visit to Bahawalpur would not be complete without a stay at Lal Suhanra National Park that is home to a healthy population of Black Bucks, Chinkaras and Neel Gai (Blue Bulls).

The park has acres of forests, sand dunes and wetlands and must feature on every nature-lover’s bucket list.

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Hanna Lake, Quetta

Hanna Lake, the water reservoir built by the British during the late 19th century and located 15km from Quetta is the most visited tourist destination for people living in the area but unknown to the rest of Pakistan.

The irrigation dam rises majestically out of the water on one end while the eastern side is dominated by the Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy, which is the only rowing, canoeing, kayaking and sailing training center in the province.

The greenish-blue waters of the lake with goldfish swimming up to the shore make an excellent backdrop for photography or just walking around. You can also enjoy the boat ride that gives you a tour around the lake and the artificial island in the center. The lakeside restaurant also offers a meal with a fantastic view under the shade of pine trees.

Gorakh Hill Station, Dadu, Sindh

Situated at a distance of roughly 450 km from Karachi in Dadu district, Sindh and riding high upon the Kirthar range, the Gorakh hill station is approximately 5,600 feet above sea level.

Driving from Dadu, up to the Wahi Pandi village, only 50 km away from Gorakh, one cannot imagine the presence of a such a high spot nearby, but then the Kirthar range gains altitude abruptly, creating some spectacular mountain passes.

Visiting Gorakh remains a proposition for the adventurous only, as the road is difficult to drive on and facilities at the top are less than luxurious. Until recently, tourists had to get their own water supplies from Wah Pindi but the arrival of electricity recently has improved the water availability.

A two-room rest house is the only accommodation option available but the drive through the mountain passes, a bonfire under the twinkling stars and the early morning view from the cliff is enough of a reason to embark on this trip.

Due to the logistical difficulties and the law and order situation in Dadu, it is recommended to plan your trip with some local support.

The cult of foreigners that flocks to Pakistan every year despite all the negative attention is a testimony to what all the country has to offer. For the people at home, it should be a reason to brush off that cynicism, pack up their bags, set aside a small budget and get ready to fall in love with Pakistan all over again.

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Photos by: Adil Mulki, Danial Shah and Sharjeel Ahmad. 

Adil Mulki works for a private bank and is interested in the outdoors, wildlife and science. He can be reached at vagabonds.odyssey@gmail.com

Danial Shah is travel writer and photographer who is always on the lookout for positive stories. He tweets @DanialShah_

Sharjeel Ahmad is a freelance consultant and budding entrepreneur. He tweets @thisissharjeel

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 5th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Queen
    Jan 5, 2014 - 5:06PM

    My beautiful country!!

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  • asif
    Jan 5, 2014 - 5:11PM

    That is what God has made. But what have Pakistanis made?

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  • optimist
    Jan 5, 2014 - 5:54PM

    Wow! It is beautiful.

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  • omair shahid
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:02PM

    We need more pieces like this to promote positive image of our beautiful Pakistan.

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  • Abdullah
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:04PM

    Truly Amazing..

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  • Maha
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:07PM

    Beautiful country…Mera Piyara Pakistan

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  • Takloo
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:08PM

    Dil Dil Pakistan. Jaan Jaan Pakistan

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  • Frankie
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:09PM

    The love for Pak is in every drop of my blood. Long live my motherland Pakistan

    Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jan 5, 2014 - 7:14PM

    We are one of the luckiest nations on this planet to have such a frutile and diverse land ranging from deserts to lushgreen forests with lot of mineral resources…its only our administration failure that we are begging to others instead of using our own resources..government can earn billion from these hill stations if they organised the toursim industry properly

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  • Jan 5, 2014 - 7:23PM

    Sir, well done on exquisite design. All 5 marks to your team !

    But, I dont agree with the contents of this feature. Firstly, you cannot place Gorakh hill, a barren mountain perch over the wonderous Ranikot fort in Sindh. If there is a place in Sindh which needs a mention it should be it. Gorakh doesn’t make a cut for the outstanding or the historical. But it probably is the highest place in Sindh.

    In Kashmir, Banjoosa lake wouldn’t make a cut for me either. Its beauty is fine but it would have been better to have Upper Katchura or the spectacular Deosai in place. No visitor to Northern Pakistan should leave out Deosai for sure !

    I would thoroughly agree with classic Ansoo jheel and Hanna for inclusions. Another missed contender, one that is marked in every travel guide written on Pakistan, is Uch Sharif in South Punjab. It is a Tomb of rare beauty and sublime touch. How could our good authors miss on that !

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  • Mazhar
    Jan 5, 2014 - 8:47PM

    Thanks for sharing & giving us information,places to see in our beautiful country. It has lot to offer & off course many lovely places to visit.

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  • Jan 5, 2014 - 9:16PM

    I am a lover of nature and wanted to visit all those places, but afraid of terrorists, cos I am a Shia.

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  • Mohd tarekh
    Jan 5, 2014 - 9:46PM

    HaHa..but gilgit is part of kashmir and its a disputed area……am telling facts..if et bans..than sorry to democrazy……..

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  • Saz
    Jan 5, 2014 - 10:29PM

    Looking at this it would seem that Pakistan is a landlocked mountain country, where are the beautiful beaches.

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  • Jan 5, 2014 - 10:33PM

    @All
    Thank you for your feedback and appreciation.

    @Ameer Hamza
    Thanks for the feedback and appreciation.

    You have also disagreed with some of our choices. Let me walk you through the parameters that we had formulated for the piece. At least one spot from each province, GB and AJK were to be picked. The spots had to be relatively easier to access with families, and comparatively in a “settled” area. The number of spots on this criteria was 6 at the minimum. Keeping word limits and editorial guidelines in mind, that left us very little room to play with. Hopefully you will get to read about Ranikot and Uch Sharif in a separate feature.

    Further, you recommend Deosai and Upper Kachura both of which are in GB, in place of Banjosa which is in AJK – that would have left AJK out and we wanted to include that.

    Once again, thank you for your detailed feedback. Would love to have you on our team when we start our travel guidebook for Pakistan.

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  • Adil Uddin
    Jan 5, 2014 - 11:23PM

    @Mohd tarekh:

    And Muammar Gaddafi said the same that Kashmir is indeed a disputed land but what did Indian media do, they misquoted him turning him into an enemy of India. And sadly many Indians bought what their channels said.

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  • Deeds
    Jan 6, 2014 - 12:00AM

    wow! Amazing Pakistan.

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  • Jan 6, 2014 - 5:51AM

    What an excellent article! And so informative. Basically, providing
    all the information needed. Definitely should be on, To Do List.

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  • Khalid butt
    Jan 6, 2014 - 6:57AM

    Sirs, you made my day. An Expatriot is tearful to remember these places. Pakistan is more beautiful than most countries in the world. Thank you again

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  • nsa@cht
    Jan 6, 2014 - 10:35AM

    Wow….simply amazing!
    Thank you Adil & team for your hard works & commitments in highlighting the beauties of our beloved country–Pakistan. Long live Pakistan!!!

    And yes, you guys got 5/5 from me too…just keep it up.

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  • Aamna
    Jan 6, 2014 - 1:45PM

    Great article. Love the information bit at the end. Definitely need to see more of these.

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  • Daniyah Sehar
    Jan 6, 2014 - 6:43PM

    Pakistan Zindabad ! Recommend

  • Huzaifa Saifuddin
    Jan 6, 2014 - 9:20PM

    Splendid indeed. Research, story and photographs too good. Commendable work.
    Hats off !!Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ahmed Bhatti
    Jan 6, 2014 - 11:08PM

    Banjosa is an artificial lake and requires annual cleaning, which i believe hasnt been done in last 3 years.

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  • Imran Hayat
    Jan 7, 2014 - 9:52AM

    very nice

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  • Jan 7, 2014 - 10:19AM

    WOW!
    So much negativity about Quetta in last decade but what a beauty it is! Few of my friends are in Bahawalpur, I am definitely gonna visit them this spring then.

    Recommend

  • Ansar
    Jan 7, 2014 - 2:14PM

    Wow!… What a wonderful piece of work with mix of superb pics and excellent tips to plan ahead!!

    Recommend

  • Indianhatewatch
    Jan 7, 2014 - 4:06PM

    @asif:
    Offtopic comment & by that logic name one country that has made it itself !!! Did the swiss people contruct the mountains there???? I agree we lack facilities but that doesnt give you to bash pakistan on everything good or bad, you sound like a cyber indian to me !!!

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  • Haseeb
    Jan 7, 2014 - 5:16PM

    We really need to ‘Experience Pakistan’!!! Hats off to all the team for such a great effort. Its Awsum..:)

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  • Tiredofhypocrites
    Jan 7, 2014 - 5:46PM

    I have travelled to many countries, but havent seen a more beautiful country than my pakistan i really hope every politician, official & civilian unites in developing facilities to encourage tourism here even if it means just local tourism.
    Love my beautiful country

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  • powvow
    Jan 7, 2014 - 9:59PM

    @Adil Mulki… Thanks for bringing out the beauty in your country…

    However I feel food could have been covered food with travel in this piece making it whole.

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  • Jan 8, 2014 - 12:29AM

    @powvow
    Thank you for your feedback. It was a team effort and I am thankful to ET for providing this platform to discuss our beautiful country.
    Food is a recurring topic in Danial Shah’s blogs. You can checkout some of them here:

    http://www.iexplorepakistan.com/category/food/

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  • Wandering Falcon
    Jan 8, 2014 - 2:10PM

    Pakistan is a beautiful place. If only Pakistanis realise the potential and its true value, this place could be very pleasant.
    The people need to reject hatrid and extremism. The “powers that must not be named” need to realise that Pakistanis deserve peace. Let them be.

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  • Jamali
    Jan 8, 2014 - 5:11PM

    Well Done Team ET.
    This is the kind of work that the PTDC, TDCP, Sindh Tourism, KPK Tourism etc should have been doing. I hope there exists a department for tourism in Baluchistan.
    Simply writing “Islamabad the Beautiful” on walls is not going to market the country to international or even national travellers.

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  • Jan 9, 2014 - 3:00AM

    Masha Allah, beautifulRecommend

  • Maj (r)
    Jan 9, 2014 - 10:37AM

    I like this new breed of local travellers armed with good cameras. They are slowly chipping away at the veil of secrecy and mystery that was intentionally or unintentionally (through incompetence) spread over Pakistan’s beauty.

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  • Jan 9, 2014 - 3:59PM

    Waah. Great work Sharjeel, Danial and Adil…. Keep it up…. God bless you guys…..

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