Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights

Pakistan’s tourism appeal reaches its zenith here. One phrase comes to mind when describing Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – primal beauty. Pakistan’s Northern Areas showcases some of the most primal and raw beauty in the world.


Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview


So, after much planning, our journey begins. First of all, we traveled by large van. Rather than trying this on our own, we used a guide and driver. Moreover, this is an out and back trip. Our journey started and ended in Islamabad. We went as far as Khunjerab Pass on the Pakistan-China border.

This post only touches highlights. Consequently, I organized highlights into categories reflecting my memories:

  • Gazing at jaw-dropping scenery
  • Meeting beautiful children along the way
  • Visiting a Hunza Valley School
  • Meeting fellow travelers
  • Navigating challenging roads
  • Having fun
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Northern areas route. However, ignore the time estimate. The drive requires much more time.

Pakistan Vacation Underway


Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights -Scenery is the Star

Highlights abound. However, scenery is the ultimate star in this journey.

Rakaposhi Peak

Rakaposhi Peak reaches 7,788m. Consequently, it is the 27th highest peak in the world. Also, Rakaposhi is the only mountain on earth that plummets directly, for almost 6000 meters, to its base.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Rakaposhi, 27th highest peak in the world.

Most noteworthy, after 20 years of attempts, a British-Pakistan expedition conquered the mountain in 1958. Moreover, Captain Sher Khan (later Colonel) lead a successful 1979 Pakistan-Polish expedition. Khan was the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.

Hoper Glacier

We reached Hoper Glacier by 4-wheel drive. In contrast to some glaciers, Hoper is fast moving and deep. Most importantly, a lovely village and valley provide context.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Hoper Glacier
Passu Cathedral

There are so many tall mountains! Over 60 moutain peaks top 7400 m.  Consequently, uniqueness matters. Tupopdan, commonly known as “Passu Cathedral”, reaches 6,106 m. It lies to the north of the village Passu.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Hunza River looking toward Passu Cathedral

Passu’s cathedral-like cones provide mountain drama.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Passu Cathedral with its distinctive cones
Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat anchors the western Himalayan Range. This huge mountain is not a single peak. Rather, it is a series of ridges culminating in an ice crest at 8,126 m. Notably, Nanga Parbat is the 9th highest peak in the world. It is the second highest in Pakistan after K2.

The name Nanga Parbat is Kashmiri for ‘naked mountain’ because its slopes have no vegetation.

Especially relevant, early disasters gave Nanga Parbat the nickname Killer Mountain. 12 climbers and 18 sherpas had died there by 1937. A joint Austrian-German expedition conquered the mountain in 1953. Moreover, Herman Buhl made the final successful ascent on July 3rd in a grueling solo climb without oxygen.

On July 13, 1989 Colonel Sher Khan became the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.

Meeting children along the way

Meeting children is crucial to our Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights. While we both met children, Dinah especially bonded. We often just stopped on the side of the road to say hello.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah greeting school boys on the side of the road
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah more easily approached girls. As a man, I had to be careful to focus on the boys.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
These young men joined Amir at Hoper Glacier. However, they exhibited more reserve than others.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah is greeting children of parents that pan for gold along the river. These particular children are especially poor.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
I saw these girls going to school on top of a wall near our gas station.

Visiting a Hunza Valley School

What a special day! After my sore ankle climb up (in the dark) and down from the Eagle’s Nest (with big thanks to our guide Amir for holding my hand and Aized for shining phone flashlight on a good path for me), we had a quick breakfast. Then, a big highlight! We visited Hasegawa Memorial Public School in Karimabad, Hunza.

First, we attended assembly. They sang the Pakistan National Anthem. The Principal discussed the schools goals and principles. The assembly sang. Then, they invited Dinah and I on stage. A group of children performed a traditional dance for us. However, Dinah and I were not getting away that easily. They invited Dinah and I to perform the traditional dance for them!! Yikes! We did. I then offered a few words from the U.S. Then, Dinah took the microphone and spontaneously decided to sing “Whatever a Wonderful World”, a cappella. The children cheered and screamed for us and Dinah.

After all this we met and had tea with the Principal and visited a classroom.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Morning school assembly to begin the day

They invited us to perform the traditional dance for the children.

Dinah and I attempted the traditional dance in front of the school children at Hunza. We were not good. But, the kids enjoyed it. Plus, I was doing this on a day-old sprained ankle. However, I doubt that contributed to my lack of skill. Nadia and Amir (our guide) joined to help rescue our performance.


Dinah sang “What a Wonderful World’ as a gift for the children.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah singing “What a Wonderful World” to the children as a gift.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Classroom children performing a traditional dance for us.

Meeting Fellow Travelers

Scenery, meeting children, and visiting the school seems wonderful. However, we relished meeting fellow travelers.

I felt lazy! We flagged down Nedo and Swinde on the road from Hunza to Gilgit. They had biked from Switzerland through China! Swinde is a photojournalist and writes a blog.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Nedo and Swinde biking from Switzerland through China to Pakistan
Travelers from Karachi who wanted us to remind the U.S. that Pakistan is a beautiful place to visit.

We left copies of our passports and visas at innumerable checkpoints. This individual next to me checked us in and out of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. He remembered us when we returned our visitor card today. He told me to tell everyone how nice Pakistan is to visit and that he will never forget this day.

Gilgit security checkpoint

Navigating challenging roads

Roads create Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. We experienced hairpin curves. Our drived dodged landslides. We drove around animals. And, we created two-way roads out of one lane roads. Also, we even had traffic jams from Pakistan-China trade transport.

Road leading down from Babasur Pass.
Truck traffic jam on a one-lane road!
Dodging sheep headed to market.
Waiting for a landslide to clear
Yes, this is typical! Landslides routinely demolish guard rails.
Road to Hoper Glacier

Health Adventures

I added my health to our Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. First, I have a well-know sensitivity to altitude. I walked from the parking lot to the Pakistan-China arch at Khunjerab Pass (15,397 feet). Dizziness crept up on me. I thought I could make it back to the parking lot. However, my traveling companions and Pakistan security officers thought otherwise. So, I got to sit in the security vehicle and then hitched a motorcycle ride back to the parking lot.

The second health adventure involved spraining my ankle. I stepped off into soft sand. And, down I went. My ankle is still sore. However, I never slowed down. Our guide found me a hiking stick. I kept to our itinerary!

Me sitting in the security vehicle.
It had been been a long time since I rode on the back of a motorcycle!

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – Simply Have Fun

Not everything needs adventure. Or, education. We often just relaxed, laughed, and had fun.

We saw innumerable suspension bridges. So, I decided to be silly at this one.
Wonderful decorated trucks and buses!
Demonstrating how to get in and out of the back seat of a jeep.
Had to touch the mountain water!
Mellow and happy after a long, busy day!

This is not the easiest trip. Yes, it is easier to sit by the pool at a major hotel chain. However, you will never experience something like this unless you jump out of your comfort zone. Go create your own Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. Hire a guide and a good driver. And, you will build memories for a lifetime.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.