Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, continue their tour of Pakistan this week. The historic journey, which marks the first official visit by a British royal in 13 years since 2006 when Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visited in 2006, is poised to put the country back on the tourist map with an eclectic itinerary showcasing the nation’s best.
“From the modern leafy capital Islamabad, to the vibrant city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside in the North, and the rugged border regions to the West, the visit will span over 1,000 kilometers, and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes,” said a statement by Kensington Palace on the official website of the British royal family.
Cradled by the borders of India, Iran, Afghanistan and China, Pakistan sits at the unique intersection of South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia. Its varied climate with four distinct seasons supports a range of wildlife as well as rich fauna and flora across a diverse landscape.
Yet much of Pakistan has remained underexplored following ongoing conflict in the country for the past 15 years.
The royal visit has been described as “the most complex tour undertaken by The Duke and Duchess to date, given the logistical and security considerations,” according to the statement by Kensington Palace.
The security situation has seen vast improvement in recent years and most visits outside high risk areas are deemed to be safe. But the U.S. Department of State currently advises visitors to “reconsider travel” to some parts of the country, while warning them “not to travel” to other parts as “some areas have increased risk,” the department notes. See the official U.S. government website for more information and the full advice about traveling to Pakistan.
Below are some of the places to safely explore Pakistan’s unsung tourist attractions in the country’s non-restricted areas.
Go birdwatching in the Himalayas
The Pakistani capital of Islamabad was the first stop on the tour, where William and Catherine visited workers and schools in the Margalla Hills, part of the Margalla Hills National Park at the foothills of the Himalayas. The lush region offers plenty of scenic hiking trails and places for spotting wildlife including a host of birds from Egyptian vultures, falcons and hawks to spotted doves, as well as leopards, deer and wild boar.
Celebrate Pakistan’s diverse identity
William and Catherine also attended an evening reception in the capital held in their honor at the Pakistan Monument, the country’s spectacular national monument and museum, which has been built in the shape of a flower with several petal structures as different sections. These represent the various cultures and regions of the country, with the complex as a whole being a symbol of national unity.
Absorb Karachi culture
Pakistan’s most populous city is also its most cosmopolitan, forming the cultural heart of the country. Karachi’s national treasures include the imposing Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum (dedicated to Pakistan’s founder Muhammed Ali Jinna), the National Museum of Pakistan (displaying the country’s earliest artifacts such as 2 million-year-old Stone Age axe) as well as cathedrals, halls and other traditional structures of architectural interest.
Dive into Karachi’s beaches
The coastal fringes of Karachi boast several beaches and bays, from the popular Clifton Beach and the family-friendly Sandspit to the less-crowded French Beach, Hawkes Bay and Paradise Point, all carved out about 25 to 45 kilometers from central Karachi.
Admire Lahore’s imposing architecture
The country’s buzzing second city is centered around an old quarter housing some of Pakistan’s greatest architectural wonders including the 17th century Badshahi Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world, noted for its striking silhouette of minarets, marble domes and a grand courtyard with a capacity for 100,000 people.
Get lost in the gardens of Lahore
Just opposite the mosque is the main gateway to the 16th century Lahore Fort, where visitors can get lost in a maze of marble pavilions, palaces and gardens. For more quiet retreats head north to the Shalimar Gardens and the decorated tomb of Emperor Jahangir, hidden within a garden on the outskirts of Lahore.
Walk on water in the Hunza Valley
The valley along Pakistan’s northernmost edge is just one among many picturesque mountainous valleys in the Gilgit-Baltistan region bordering China and Afghanistan. Navigating its many water channels from the Ultar peak is an ideal way to soak up the glorious surrounding landscape. Other places of note in the area include historic forts and villages such as the 1,000 year-old Altit Fort and village of the same name along the Hunza River as well as the Baltic Fort.
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