Pakistan has no dearth of vacation spots and dream destinations, but it can be helpful to have a few tips on where to head to when wanderlust strikes or city life feels like a bit too much. To that end, here is a list of some winter destinations near you. Some are popular, some obscure, but all of them are worth a visit.
With longer days and lower thermometer reading, winter months are ideal for exploring the culturally rich region of Bahawalpur; there is simply more opportunity to be out and about. And on a cold winter’s night, there is no sight more tantalizing to behold than that of the famous Noor Mahal, the grand Darbar Mahal or the awe-inspiring Gulzar Mahal, all lighted up and reminiscent of a great past.
The grandiose Abbasi mosque Derawar fort tells stories of a glorious past as well; while Lal Suhandra Park and the Bahawalpur Zoo are nice places to head to if you are traveling with family. You would also want to venture into the Shahi Bazaar for shopping, as mukesh and thread work embroidery, along with chunri and ajraks, make for great souvenirs. The city also specializes in Sohan Halwa and you can load up by the kilos. Moreover, a nighttime barbeque out on the root top of any of Bahawalpur’s restaurants- be it Taj or Noor Mahal View- is a taste and experience you are unlikely to forget.
Naltar and Rattu
With its snow-capped mountains and natural slopes, Pakistan offers some of the best opportunities for skiing and snowboarding. The precipitation and accumulation in the northern parts of the country make them ideal for skiing. Chitral and the lower regions of Swat and Kaghan have all the markings of great skiing areas. Right now, the best available skiing slopes are at Naltar and Rattu (near Astore, in Gilgit). The resorts at Naltar are managed by the Pakistan Air Force while those at Rattu are operated by the Army, and both offer excellent lodging and skiing facilities. Make sure you go equipped with water proof clothing and appropriate footwear for walking up to the slopes in the snow. All other skiing equipment is available and provided on spot. While Rattu receives sufficient snowfall by December every year, with Naltar the snow accumulation may take a while. To avoid disappointment, call up a local hotel and ask about the snow!
A picturesque peak located in Nathiagali, Mukshpuri offers different but equally breathtaking sights throughout the year. However, the slightly but suddenly increased difficulty of the normally simple trek and the much more stunning views along the way, both recommend you make a visit during the winters. As you touch the mist and attempt to keep your footing in the snow covered trails, your lungs will fill with the freshest air and your eyes behold the best parts of nature. While the view from the summit is somewhat mediocre, the actual joy lies in the journey there and the stops along the way, including the base camp. There is a zoo there as well, with a few Markhor, bears and leopards. After having your fill of the photoshoots and exhausting your stamina, make sure you head down to Nathiagali for a taste of the famous and extremely tantalizing spicy Patakha Chicken. The best part is, you can cover the trip in a day if you make the trip from Islamabad!
Gwadar is up and coming as an international port, and it would be wise to visit the region before it is overrun with visitors. Featuring beaches of both the sandy and rocky variety, everything in Gwadar presently feels untouched and pristine. Leaving the small quaint airport, you can spot the sea on one side, and parched barren land on the other, making for a strange but awe-inspiring landscape. You can opt for a barbeque on the beach, or speedboats on the water, or simply behold the sights strangely reminiscent of Santorini. While the Pearl Continental hotel in the area is not equipped to deal with or used to having a great influx of visitors, it is excellent for small groups and offers the best food and luxury accommodation in the middle of basically nowhere. The Sunset Point is slightly disappointing, but the walk up to the Hammerhead is a treat in itself, as you are at the literal edge of the land border of Pakistan.
If there is heaven anywhere on earth, it is here, it is here. The valley starts from Muzaffarabad and lies on both sides of the river Neelum, and is equally beautiful each month of the year. However, one has to experience winter here at least once in a lifetime to know the true snow-capped beauty of Kashmir. If you are hard pressed for time and need to visit one town, make it Sharda; you will also score great deals on accommodation due to the relatively fewer number of tourists in the winter. If you are the adventurous sort, there is a trekking opportunity in the region like no other in the form of the Ratti Gali summit. The scarlet flowers in the region give the glacial lake its name, and add to the splendor.
Cholistan is a continuation of the Thar Desert and the Rajasthan desert, and is arguably one of the most picturesque deserts in the region. Locally known as Rohi, as an ode to its rolling sand dunes, the desert has great potential for tourism during the winter months. To promote the region as a winter destination, the government also initiated the Cholistan Desert Rally in 2005, incorporating historical sites such as the Dingarh Fort, Islamgarh Fort, Marrot Fort, Nawakot Fort, Moujgarh Fort, Mirgarh Fort and Jamgarh Fort into the route to serve a two-pronged purpose. The rally also features cultural performances by local artists, fireworks, camel and jeep safari, making for great entertainment. There are desert camps available for those who wish to stay a night or two as well, providing a unique camping experience in the heart of the desert.