North Pakistan Gandhara Kingdom and Kalash Tour - Swat - Kalash - Hunza - Baltistan

Trip description

This tour is designed to discover the hidden treasures of ancient Gandhara history and the marvels of nature of the northern valleys of Pakistan. The Gandhara Civilization (500 BC to 10th Century AD) is an era devoted mainly to Buddhism, it has been the centre of spiritual influence as well as art and architecture. The museums at Taxila, Peshawar and Swat host the finest remains of the civilization, but the more intriguing is the visit of the archaeological sites spread all over Taxila, Swat and other parts of the North of Pakistan.

Driving on the Karakorum Highway, we can recapitulate the history by visiting petroglyphs that are found along the Indus, Gilgit and Hunza Rivers. These carvings bear not only the "guest books" of passing by traders and pilgrims but also depict the natural beliefs of fairy worshippers.

Along with the journey into the history, one enjoys the splendors of nature while traveling in the valleys of Swat, Indus, Gilgit and Hunza. From dense pine forest to high passes, thundering rivers, picturesque valleys, terraced fields, orchards, breath-taking gigantic peaks and shining glaciers form the salient features of nature. An added bonus will be our visit to the Kalash Valleys. The culture of Kalash people is unique and differs completely from the various ethnic groups surrounding them. They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life.

Discover the agency :
Adventure Pakistan

21 days

From : €2,750*

Day 1: Islamabad

Day 2: Taxila - Peshawar

Day 3: Swat

Day 4: Swat

Day 5: Chitral

Day 6: Kalash

Day 7: Kalash

Day 8: Phander Lake

Day 9: Gilgit

Day 10: Karimabad

Day 11: Karimabad

Day 12: Gulmit

Day 13: Gilgit

Day 14: Skardu

Day 15: Shigar

Day 16: Khaplu

Day 17: Chilas

Day 18: Fairy Meadows

Day 19: Fairy Meadows

Day 20: Besham or Naran

Day 21: Islamabad

Day 1 : Islamabad

Temple Islamabad ©Shahid Khan /

Welcome to Pakistan! Your Adventure Pakistan guide will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you to your hotel. Depending on your flight arrival time and or preference you can take rest or go for half a day or a full day of sightseeing in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Sightseeing tour will consist of a selection of some of the following sites: the Faisal Mosque, the Government buildings on Constitution Avenue, the Shakar Parian Park with its rose and jasmine garden, the Pakistan Monument, the Islamabad museum, the Lok Virsa heritage museum, Rawal Lake, Saidpur village, Daman-e-Koh to look out over the twin cities. Overnight in Islamabad.

Day 2 : Taxila - Peshawar

Mosquée Peshawar ©K_Boonnitrod /

Drive from Islamabad to Peshawar with a sightseeing visit at Taxila on the way. Taxila has been the centre of the ancient Gandhara Kingdom, we will visit the museum and the archeaological sites at Jaulian and Sirkap where lots of Buddhist artefacts can be seen.

Optional: add an extra sightseeing day in Peshawar to visit various interesting places within the city: Kanishka Stupa, Gorkhatri, Peshawar Museum, Islamia College, Qissa Khawani Bazaar (the Story Tellers Bazaar) and Bala Hisar Fort.

Day 3 : Swat

Porte de Swat ©Arifkamalzaidi - Shutterstock

In the morning we will visit the Peshawar museum and after that we drive to Swat to explore two ancient Buddhist sites: Takht-i-Bahi and Sahr-i-Bahlol; overnight in Swat.

Takht-i-Bhai is a Parthian archaeological site, after first having been a Zoroastrian complex it was later converted into a Buddhist monastic complex. It is dated to the 1st century BCE and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Sahr-i-Bahlol (Seri Bahlol) is also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site and can be found not far from Takht-i-Bahi. It is said to contain the remains of Buddha, but the area has not been properly excavated.

Day 4 : Swat

Chameau reflet ©Hervé Bernard - Iconotec

Full day to visit the Swat museum, drive around the Swat Valley to enjoy the incredible scenery and visit various Gandhara sites.

Day 5 : Chitral

Vue Chitral ©Oriane Zerah

Today will be a full day of driving as we leave the Swat Valley and head to Chitral while passing by Dir. On arrival we walk through the bazaar area and have a look at the Chitral Fort. Overnight in Chitral.

Day 6 : Kalash

Bouddhiste en cours ©Itzak Newmann - Iconotec

Whole day sightseeing in the Kalash Valleys. 

The culture of Kalash people is unique and differs completely from the various ethnic groups surrounding them. They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life. As part of their religious tradition, sacrifices are offered and festivals held to give thanks for the abundant resources of their three valleys. Kalasha Desh (the three Kalash valleys) is made up of two distinct cultural areas, the valleys of Rumbur and Brumbret forming one and Birir valley the other, Birir valley being the most traditional of the two.


Important Kalash festivals:

Joshi (Spring) Festival: from approx. 13 – 16 May

Utchal (Summer) Festival: from approx. 21 – 23 August

Phoo (Autumn) Festival: around Mid October

Chaumos (Winter) Festival: from approx. 7 – 22 December

Day 7 : Kalash

lac barque ©Oriane Zerah

Day to be spend at leisure in the Kalash Valleys, meet the local people or just relax at your hotel or guest house.

Day 8 : Phander Lake

Lac Phander ©Natalia Davidovich /

We depart early morning for the 6 hour drive to the Shandur Pass - where every year the famous Polo match is being payed - from here we head to Ghizer Valley, our destination is the beautiful Phander Lake which is famous for its trout fishing. Overnight at Phander Lake.

Day 9 : Gilgit

Gilgit panorama ©Naihei /

From Phander we go to the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, the city of Gilgit.

In / near Gilgit we can go for sightseeing of: Gilgit Bazaar, the Kargha Buddha and the Danyor Buddhist rock carvings. Overnight in Gilgit.

Day 10 : Karimabad

Paysage d'Hunza ©Taha Masood -

Driving on the world famous Karakoram Highway to Hunza you will see spectacular scenery with high lofty mountains, first from the Himalayan and later from the Karakoram ranges. We will have a short stop at Rakaposhi view point, from here we can have a close and wonderful view of Rakaposhi Peak (7788m).

On arrival in Karimabad we will visit the Baltit Fort, Ganish Village and or the Altit Fort at the end of the afternoon we will drive to Duikar to watch the sun-set at the viewpoint above the Eagle’s Nest hotel. Overnight in Karimabad. Optional: spend the night at a hotel in Duikar if you want to have the possibility to also see sunrise from the viewpoint.

Day 11 : Karimabad

Karimabad temple ©Ghulam Rasool /

Free day to spend at leisure in Karimabad, relax at your hotel or guest house or make a nice walk through the town or fields. Additional sightseeing is also possible: for example a day trip to Hoper glacier and Nagar Valley or a day hike to Ultar Meadows.

Day 12 : Gulmit

Lac montagne Pakistan ©Oriane Zerah

From Karimabad we drive to Gulmit (Upper Hunza), we will stop at several interesting places along the way like the "Sacred Rocks"at Haldeikish which contain ancient Buddhist rock carvings and at the Attabad Lake. On arrival we will visit various sites in and arund Gulmit village including a small museum, the Old House / carpet centra, local music school, Polo ground as well as the Husaini supspension bridge. Dinner and overnight at hotel in Gulmit.

Optional: add one or more extra days for example to make a nice hike between Passu glacier and Borith Lake and or make a day trip to the remote Shimshal Valley.

Day 13 : Gilgit

Vue montagne été Gulmit ©aaabbbccc -

From Gulmit we drive further north to the top of the Khunjerab Pass (4733m) which is at the border of Pakistan and China. After visiting the border we will drive all the way down to Gilgit for our overnight stay.

The Khunjerab Pass has been used for millenia, it is part of the ancient Silk Road and is the highest paved border crossing in the world. When going to the top of the Khunjerab Pass we will drive through the Khunjerab National Park which is famous for its Marco Polo sheep.

Day 14 : Skardu

Vallée de Skardu. ©iAsfandiYAR -

Today will be a full day drive (incl. lunch half way) from Gilgit to Skardu. But luckily the road and constant change of scenery with small villages on the way will give us enough to enjoy.

Dinner & overnight stay in hotel in Skardu.

Day 15 : Shigar

Shigar ruisseau ©Khlongwangchao /

A sightseeing day to discover the incredible diverse nature and nice villages in and around the Skardu & Shigar area incl. Skardu Fort, Kachura Lake, the Katpana cold desert and Shigar Fort. Dinner & overnight at a hotel in Shigar. (or Skardu)

Day 16 : Khaplu

Kaplu au dessus des nuages ©Tomasz Wozniak -

A 3 hour drive will take us to Khaplu, here we can make a nice walk to a viewpoint from where you can have an incredible view of the whole area. Afterwards we will go for a tour of the Khaplu palace and sightseeing of the Chaqchan Mosque. In the afternoon we drive back to Skardu. Dinner & overnight at a hotel in Skardu. 

Option: add one or more extra day(s) in Khaplu for additional sightseeing of the area by for example visiting the Hushe Valley with its great mountain views and nice hiking options.

Day 17 : Chilas

Chilas panorama ©My Good Images -

Today will be a full day drive from Skardu to Chilas. If the weather is clear we might be able to have an amazing view of Nanga Parbat (8125m – the 9th highest mountain in the world) from a viewpoint next to the road and we will visit the junction of the three greatest mountain ranges in the world: the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu-Kush. On the way we will look at some ancient Buddhist petroglyps at various locations including Alam bridge and Chilas.

Day 18 : Fairy Meadows

Cheval lac Fairy Meadows ©Mina Fouad /

From Chilas we go to Raikot bridge, there we will change to 4X4 jeeps for a very spectacular Jeep drive of approx. 1 hour to Tatto village, from here it will be a 2-3 hours hike up to Fairy Meadows. Overnight stay in huts.

(if you do not want to carry your luggage and or are unable to hike it is possible to hire a donkey or horse)

Day 19 : Fairy Meadows

Panaroma Montagne Pakistan ©Patrick Poendl /

Full rest day at Fairy Meadows or make a day hike to Beyal, Raikot face base camp of Nanga Parbat, explore around BC and in the afternoon return, overnight stay in huts.

Day 20 : Besham or Naran

En haut du mont en cheval ©Nadeem Mushtaq Jass -

2 hours trek from Fairy Meadows down to Tatto village, then by 4X4 to Raikot Bridge (less than 1 hour). Transfer to AC car or mini bus to drive to Besham or Naran. Dinner & overnight stay in hotel Besham or Naran.

In the summer months we might be able to take the shorter route over the Babusar Pass going into the beautiful Kaghan Valley and spending the night at a hotel in Naran.

Day 21 : Islamabad

Culture Pakistan ©Infinity21 - Shutterstock

After breakfast we start the last part of the KKH if driving from Besham or we will continue our drive through the Kaghan Valley if driving from Naran. In the afternoon we will arrive in Islamabad. Here you can take rest or do some last minute souvenir shopping, we will take you for a special farewell dinner on the top of the Margalla Hills. After dinner transfer to the airport for your home flight.

Option: add one or more nights in Islamabad depending on your flight schedule and preference in case you would like to have some more sightseeing in the capital city and or surrounding areas.

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