By Shereen Shabnam
Pakistan is blessed with abundant natural and dynamic landscapes with crystal clear rivers, arid deserts, lakes, waterfalls, springs and snowcapped mountains in abundance but I only realized how beautiful the country really is recently when I chanced upon some images online of the Hunza Valley and Gilgit.
Visitors to this fascinating region describe it as heaven on earth and the stunning mountain ranges has started bringing tourists to the country in great numbers recently.
What caught my eye in the images was the spectrum of colours in the natural surroundings of the villages that leaves one truly mesmerised. The lakes, the trees, the meadows, the flora and fauna brightening up the scene with pink, white, red and orange flowers looking as magical as the fiery sunsets in the evenings.
This motivated me to explore more images of Pakistan, a place I have wanted to visit as a child when I first started learning Urdu in school in Fiji Islands. The country has bustling cities, wild frontiers, colourful landscapes but most of all, the message that came across strongly from visitors and travel bloggers was the charm and hospitality of the locals.
Every Pakistani friend I have met, every travel blog I read and speaking with foreigners and travellers I met around the world as we exchanged our travel notes said the kindest, down to earth, hospitable, charitable and warm people they met during their travels was in Pakistan which made me even more curious to plan a visit but a pandemic laid my plans to rest.
Not wanting to give up hope of visiting this enchanting country in the future, I asked my friends for information, images and ideas on where to go and what to do in Pakistan. Trying wholesome local food was on top of the list of everyone who has been to Pakistan. As a foodie and as an editor of three coffee table cookbooks, this was music to my ears.
My Pakistani friend in UAE invited me to sample some delicacies at her home so I would know what to order when I got to Pakistan. She cooked many iftar meals in Ramadan and the Biryani dishes, meat dishes and sweets surpassed every curry meal I have ever had so I am looking forward to a delectable culinary journey when I land in Pakistan when borders open.
Another thing that caught my eye as a motoring enthusiast and Jury for regional and international Car awards was the stunning and epic highways in Pakistan – most roads are amazing for picturesque drives but some are an astonishing feat of engineering cut across mountains against the odds – somehow the local drivers make it look easy. Seeing the road trips others have taken and their pictures showcasing the natural beauty of the terrain makes the journey worth it up the rolling mountains and the quaint villages and valleys.
Most of our readers also love adventure tourism and Pakistan has plenty of that, including hiking, trekking and hunting. Those brave enough to venture outdoors into the rough terrain can come across mountain species like sheep, deers, gazelles, wild cats, buffalos, golden jackals, goats etc.
Personally, if I ever make it there, I would prefer a walk along the small villages near Hunza and Gilgit areas that includes beautiful scenery, culture, some history, and try the fresh local fruits and authentic Pakistani food.
In addition to the outback areas, also on my bucket list is to experience the bustling city life in Pakistan, in particular the different markets. As I continue to explore Pakistan virtually for ideas on where to go and what to do, I am praying for travel restrictions to ease world over so that we get a chance to experience the beauty of countries like Pakistan first hand instead of images and videos online.