A journey to the remote reaches of Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains.

This 17-day expedition is a brand-new trip through an ancient land. Beginning in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, the expedition takes travellers north to the stunning and rarely touristed Hunza Valley region. Here you’ll find nature unleashed: imagine imposing jagged peaks, alpine lakes and glaciers creeping into the valleys. Explore the ancient fortifications scattered among rural villages and learn about the modern innovations that help the local people prosper. Finish in Lahore, a city that’s not only stood strong through the rise and fall of empires, but also preserved the culture that makes Pakistan such a mesmerising, all-consuming country.


Start
Islamabad, Pakistan
Finish
Lahore, Pakistan
Destination
Pakistan
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
HQSP
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 4, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Learn about Pakistan – its turbulent past, fascinating present, and hopeful future – from a local leader who knows and loves the country best.

  • Homestays are unforgettable opportunities to share stories with the lovely locals and learn how they manage to thrive in such a beautiful yet hostile environment.

  • Travel on the famous Karakoram Highway past glaciers, alpine lakes and mountains as far as the eye can see.

  • Visit the point where the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush – three of the world’s largest mountain ranges – all meet each other.

  • Take a 4WD to Khunjerab National Park in search of snow leopards, bears, wolves, and rare Marco Polo sheep.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is an expedition trip and is new to our range this year. Despite rigorous planning and research, new itineraries can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a welcome surprise, but every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.

  • Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. Pakistan is a conservative country and travellers of all genders are advised to cover up when in public.

  • This trip visits places as high as 5200 metres above sea level and includes one or more overnight stays over 3200 metres (11500 ft) where there is a genuine risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If left untreated AMS can be life-threatening. While the vast majority will only feel discomfort, it is not uncommon for a small number of people to need extra care which will be provided by our leaders and local staff. All our trips that spend time at high altitude follow our standard altitude safety measures. A number of medical conditions and medications can also reduce your body's ability to acclimatise, and thus will affect your performance at altitude and make you more susceptible to AMS. If you are worried about any pre-existing condition (e.g. heart problems), or unsure of your physical ability, you must seek medical advice prior to booking. You may also wish to discuss medication such as Diamox that may help aid acclimatisation. Read more about AMS here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/altitude-sickness

  • The diversity of the seasons here makes for incredible scenery, but the weather in this region can be unpredictable. It’s best to wear layers at all times of the year in case conditions change during the day. At night the temperature can really drop, so bring your warm clothes. Even in the warmer months the temperature can be low in the mountains.

  • This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

  • The weather can be unpredictable in the Himalayas and a significant number of flights to/from Islamabad and Gilgit are delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions. If your flight is cancelled we will endeavour to get your group on the next available flight. Failing that, we will follow a contingency plan by private vehicle.

  • This trip involves some long travel days, which can be tiresome but offer a quintessential experience of the beautiful landscape and hospitable people of Pakistan.

Itinerary

Welcome to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. Translating as ‘City of Islam’, Islamabad was built in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the nation’s capital, though there’s evidence that humans have lived in the area for many thousands of years. Your expedition begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm but if you arrive earlier there are several sights worth checking out, including the Shah Allah Dita caves, Golra Railway Station, and the Lok Virsa Museum – dedicated to the preservation, documentation promotion of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. You may also wish to visit the historic Saidpur village, only a 20-minute drive away, which is over 400 years old and sits at the foothills of the nearby Margallas. The village is home to an old Hindu temple, a reminder of the different religions and cultures that once called this region home.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Make the most of the opportunity to explore Islamabad with your fellow travellers. Your local leader will speak with you about the history of both Islamabad and Pakistan and be able to answer any questions about this oft-misunderstood destination. There’ll be a chance to shop for local clothes, so keep an eye out for the shalwar kameez – the traditional dress of loose-fitting trousers and a long shirt.

Visit Faisal Mosque, which was the largest mosque in the world upon its completion in 1986 and is said to hold 10,000 worshippers, then head to the ancient site of Taxila. These World Heritage-listed ruins are evidence of over 500 years of cultural evolution influenced by Persia, Greece, and the spread of Buddhism. Enjoy a group meal in the evening at Monal, perhaps Islamabad’s most famous restaurant, which is nestled in the hills and has stunning views of the city below.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Islamabad - Faisal Mosque
  • Islamabad - Taxila museum and ruins
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Fly this morning from Islamabad to Gilgit, then travel north to Gulmit, a small town surrounded by mountains and glaciers. It sits by the famous Karakoram Highway, which is also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway as it connects the two countries. This is an achingly beautiful part of the world and there’ll be several opportunities to stop and take in views of Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi, as well as the point where the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalaya mountain ranges all meet. Nanga Parbat is a particularly impressive peak and is sometimes called the ‘killer mountain’ thanks to the high number of casualties from attempting its summit. You’ll also have time to visit the markets in Karimabad, the commercial hub and capital of the Hunza region, before arriving in Gulmit.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Gulmit - Rakaposhi viewpoint
  • Karimabad - Local market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Spend the day soaking up the atmosphere in Gulmit. Take a walk around the remote village and visit a carpet-weaving centre run by the local women, which operates in one of the oldest traditional houses. You’ll also trek out to the ruins of Ondra Fort, a walk of approximately three kilometres. The fort sits atop a rocky outcrop above Gulmit and would’ve commanded views of several strategically important passes in the area. It’s believed to have been built in the 16th century by a ruler named Qutlug Baig and, as if the historic ruins weren’t enough, there are phenomenal views of both the valley and the surrounding peaks.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Gulmit - Local musical performance
  • Gulmit - Ondra Fort ruins
  • Gulmit - Women-run carpet weaving center
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Travel today to the village of Passu, located on the banks of the Hunza River. Take tea at a local house, sample the town’s famous apricot cake and view the Hussaini Hanging Bridge, described by some as the most dangerous bridge in the world. Though the bridge’s condition is questionable its location is enviable, suspended above Borith Lake and surrounded by jagged mountains. Spend the afternoon walking to the lake, which sits at an elevation of approximately 2600 metres, and out to the impressive Passu Glacier. There’ll be plenty of time to relax and you’ll also see Passu Sar mountain (7470 metres) as well as the photogenic Tupopdan (6106 metres), the latter of which is known as Passu Cones or Passu Cathedral.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ghulkin - Passu's famous apricot cake
  • Ghulkin - Trek to Passu Glacier
  • Ghulkin - Passu village walk
  • Ghulkin - Trek to Borith Lake
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Take a drive out to Khunjerab National Park, established in 1975 to protect the region’s wildlife. Animals in the park include snow leopards, blue sheep, the Tibetan wolf, Marco Polo sheep, Himalayan ibex, and the Eurasian lynx, to name but a few. The park sits at an altitude of approximately 5200 metres and is close to the Khunjerab Pass – the border crossing from Pakistan to China. This Is the highest paved border crossing in the world (approximately 4700 metres) and marks the end of the Karakoram Highway and the start of China’s 314 National Road. Fun fact: this is a rare international border where traffic changes from driving on the left (Pakistan) to the right (China) side of the road.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ghulkin - Khunjerab Pass drive
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Travel by 4WD to the remote town of Shimshal, which was inaccessible by road up until 2003. The road took 18 years to build and was constructed by the local community, who previously had to walk for several days to reach other parts of Hunza. Shimshal is so remote that state prisoners from Hunza were once exiled here as punishment. The locals are resilient and extremely hardworking people. A number of notable Pakistani mountaineers grew up here, which isn’t surprising given the rugged, mountainous terrain. The Shimshali are to Pakistan what the Sherpa are to Nepal, and perhaps the most famous Shimshali are Samina and Mirza Ali Baig, a brother-sister climbing duo. Samina is the first and only Pakistani woman to climb Everest (at the age of 21) and the Seven Summits.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Spend the day exploring Shimshal and learn about the challenges that come with living in such an inhospitable environment. Meet the local families and hear their stories and struggles and take a hike for expansive views of the surrounding area. Almost every house in Shimshal is powered by solar electricity, as is the local school, which produces enough electricity to both run an IT lab and supply electricity to 18 classrooms. Enjoy the mountainous surrounds, take some time to relax and acclimatise to the altitude and know that you’re experiencing a destination that few will ever get a chance to visit.
Included Activities
  • Shimshal - Village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Lace up those hiking boots and spend the day exploring Shimshal’s beautiful walking tracks. Remember, the locals once had to walk for days to get to the next town on paths that even yaks could not pass. The exact trek will depend upon the group’s interest and the area’s accessibility, but you can be sure that there’ll be views for days and very few tourists, if any. Expect mountains, valleys, glaciers, and some hearty local food to keep you moving up those hills.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shimshal - Shimshal day hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Continue your exploration of the Shimshal area in the morning and enjoy a final lunch in the village. Say farewell to the locals before returning to Passu by 4WD, a journey of approximately 3 hours. After arriving at the village, perhaps practice your Wakhi or Urdu language skills, or join in a game of cricket if you can. Pakistan is cricket-mad and legends like Wasim Akram and Shahid Afridi are revered across the country.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
There’s a sad story lurking below Lake Attabad’s shimmering surface. The lake was formed in 2010 after a massive landslide that killed 20 people and displaced many thousands. The landslide essentially dammed the Hunza River for five months, creating a lake that measures some 21 kilometres across. Thankfully the dam held and the lake is now a popular tourist destination renowned for its insanely blue water. See it for yourself then explore Ganish, an ancient Silk Road settlement that received a cultural conservation award from UNESCO. You’ll also have an opportunity to visit the immense Hopar Valley for views of the Hopar Glacier before continuing to Karimabad for the evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Karimabad - Hopar Glacier
  • Karimabad - Ganish village walking tour
  • Karimabad - Attabad Lake
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Karimabad is the capital of the Hunza District, a town known for its locally made handicrafts, carpets, and, of course, its next-level views of the surrounding mountains. Today you’ll walk to Baltit and Altit forts, which have stood in the region for over 700 years and are a testament to the valley’s past strategic importance. These towns were crucial for controlling the ancient Asia trade routes and Baltit Fort holds a particularly commanding position above the village. These well-maintained forts were restored by the Aga Khan Foundation, which has also been working on several projects to empower local women’s groups. You’ll visit one of these groups, learn about their projects, and have lunch at a cafe run by local women. At sunset, walk up to the Eagle’s Nest for an unforgettable view of the surrounding mountains including – on a clear day – Rakaposhi, Ultar, the Bublimotin, and Spantik.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Karimabad - Sunset walk to Eagle's Nest
  • Karimabad - Walk to Baltit & Altit Fort
  • Karimabad - Women's Project Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Depart Karimabad and drive to Gilgit for a flight back to Islamabad. From here, the group will drive the Grand Trunk Road to Lahore. The Grand Trunk is one of Asia’s longest and oldest major roads, stretching 2700 kilometres from Bangladesh to Afghanistan via India and Pakistan. Stop en route at Rohtas Fort, which was built in the 16th century and is World Heritage-listed as ‘an exceptional example of early Muslim military architecture’. Located near the city of Jhelum in Punjab, the fort borrows architectural designs from Turkey and India and was used by both the Mughals and Sikhs prior to the British takeover.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Rohtas Fort - Guided tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
The drive to Gilgit from Kariambad takes approximately 2.5 hours.
The flight to Islamabad takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.
The drive to Lahore takes approximately 5 - 6 hours.
Lahore is Pakistan’s second-largest city and the capital of the Punjab region. It is a wealthy city known for being relatively cosmopolitan with a focus on education and the arts. Take your first steps into the city today and visit the Tomb of Jahangir, a 17th-century mausoleum built for the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who ruled from 1605–27. Your local leader will also take you to the Lahore Museum, which was founded in 1865. The museum is considered one of Pakistan’s finest and was featured in Rudyard Kipling’s novel ‘Kim’. Kipling’s father, John, was actually one of the first curators of the museum. From here you’ll have an opportunity to explore the Lawrence Gardens, now known as Bagh-e-Jinnah, which contains a botanical garden, an open-air theatre, and a historic cricket ground. These large gardens are a popular relaxation spot, so take some time to chill out and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lahore - Bagh-e-Jinnah (Lawrence Garden)
  • Lahore - Lahore Museum
  • Lahore - Tomb of Jahangir
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
As the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore isn’t short on delicious cuisine to try. You’ll have dinner tonight on Lahore’s famous (and mouth-watering) Food Street, but there’s a full day of exploration to be had beforehand. Spend some time visiting the city’s shrines, perhaps including that of Allama Iqbal, a poet and philosopher who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement (he also had a fantastic moustache).

Continue to the splendid Shalimar Gardens, built in the 17th century by the Emperor Shah Jahan and feature waterfalls, ponds, and several garden pavilions. Wander through the complex, designed to be a natural utopia on earth, then travel to the Wagah border of Pakistan and India to witness the flag-lowering ceremony. This impressive spectacle attracts both international tourists and locals and features both sets of soldiers performing some seriously macho choreography. The ceremony ends with both flags being lowered simultaneously and a handshake between the soldiers.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lahore - Wagah Border ceremony
  • Lahore - Shalimar Gardens
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Your last full day in Lahore will be spent visiting some of the city’s most famous places. First up is the Walled City of Lahore, which was constructed around the year 1000. Within its walls, you’ll find the Delhi Gate, the World Heritage-listed Lahore Fort, the huge Badshahi Mosque, and the ridiculously beautiful Wazir Khan Mosque. The interior is decorated with intricate mosaics and frescoes and the mosque houses historic shops, tombs of Sufi saints, and the Shahi Hammam baths.

You’ll have time to explore the markets within the Walled City too. Take a walk through the Akbari Mandi, dedicated to grains and spices, or the bustling fish market by Delhi Gate. There is also the Azam Cloth Market, one of Asia’s largest, which houses some 16,000 shops. And if those legs are feeling tired you can jump on a Rangeela rickshaw ride – these noise- and smoke-free rickshaws are a unique, environmentally friendly way to explore the city.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lahore - Rangeela rickshaw ride
  • Lahore - Badshahi Mosque
  • Lahore - Markets of Lahore
  • Lahore - Wazir Khan Mosque
  • Lahore - Walled City
  • Lahore - Delhi Gate
  • Lahore - Shahi Hammam
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Your Pakistan expedition comes to an end today. You are free to leave the accommodation at any time after breakfast, but please ensure you check out by 12 pm.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

15 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 15 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane, Jeep

Accommodation

Guesthouse (9 nights), Homestay (4 nights), Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Islamabad - Faisal Mosque
  • Islamabad - Taxila museum and ruins
  • Gulmit - Rakaposhi viewpoint
  • Karimabad - Local market
  • Gulmit - Local musical performance
  • Gulmit - Ondra Fort ruins
  • Gulmit - Women-run carpet weaving center
  • Ghulkin - Passu's famous apricot cake
  • Ghulkin - Trek to Passu Glacier
  • Ghulkin - Passu village walk
  • Ghulkin - Trek to Borith Lake
  • Ghulkin - Khunjerab Pass drive
  • Shimshal - Village tour
  • Shimshal - Shimshal day hike
  • Karimabad - Hopar Glacier
  • Karimabad - Ganish village walking tour
  • Karimabad - Attabad Lake
  • Karimabad - Sunset walk to Eagle's Nest
  • Karimabad - Walk to Baltit & Altit Fort
  • Karimabad - Women's Project Visit
  • Rohtas Fort - Guided tour
  • Lahore - Bagh-e-Jinnah (Lawrence Garden)
  • Lahore - Lahore Museum
  • Lahore - Tomb of Jahangir
  • Lahore - Wagah Border ceremony
  • Lahore - Shalimar Gardens
  • Lahore - Rangeela rickshaw ride
  • Lahore - Badshahi Mosque
  • Lahore - Markets of Lahore
  • Lahore - Wazir Khan Mosque
  • Lahore - Walled City
  • Lahore - Delhi Gate
  • Lahore - Shahi Hammam

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This is an expedition trip and is new to our range this year. And while we have thoroughly researched every detail of the logistics, new destinations can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a great surprise. But every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.
2. As an expedition trip, we require a minimum of 4 people to depart. Please do not book any non-refundable flights or services before the trip is guaranteed to depart.
3. An optional single supplement is available on this trip however this excludes nights spent in homestays on Days 3 - 6 where we will share one common sleeping space, just how the local people sleep.
4. Passport scans are required at the time of booking for visa invitation letters.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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