Want to escape city-life for a day? Here are seven places you should visit:
1. Makran Coastal Highway
If you live in Karachi, drive down the Makran Coastal Highway, preferably with enough friends and family members that you have a mini-convoy. The 653-kilometre engineering marvel passes through some stunning landscape – lunar-like mountains on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, and starts after only an hour’s drive from Karachi. All you will end up spending on is fuel and food – well under Rs10,000.
If you live in Islamabad, Rawalpindi or Lahore, get into your car and drive up to Nathiagali. Don’t stay in the overpriced hotels in the town. Most of them are terrible and definitely not worth even a fraction of what they charge.
Instead, stay in the main market or better still, try and get one of the many government or military resthouses in the Galiyat area. These can be booked for nominal rates.
Those who live in the Islamabad/Rawalpindi area can make this into a day trip, while those who live in Lahore can get away for the weekend. Major cost is fuel and food, and, if you are staying overnight, a cheap rest house or cheap-ish hotel in Nathiagali Bazar.
Interesting activities in the area include hiking along the famed pipeline walk — from Doonga Gali bazaar to Ayubia — or climbing up the 3,000-metre high Mushkpuri peak (from Doonga Gali bazaar).
If you’re in Karachi, make a day trip to Makli in neighbouring Thatta district. This is less than 100 kilometres from Karachi, and has a necropolis which is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It has over 125,000 graves of local rulers, saints and others, with the oldest dating back to the 14th century CE.
Makli makes for an easy day trip, though one should avoid travelling in the warm summer months. The only expense is food and fuel.
4. Rohtas Fort
From Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, or Gujranwala, you can plan a day trip to explore the Rohtas Fort near Jhelum. The fort was built by Raja Todar Mal in the 16th Century, on the orders of Sher Shah Suri, to put the local warring tribes of the area in their place. Todar Mal eventually rose to be a finance minister in Emperor Akbar’s Darbar.
The fort is just off the GT Road and offers an exciting half-day worth exploring. Also nearby is the famous Tilla Jogian, which rises 900 metres above sea level and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area in Jhelum district.
If in Islamabad or Rawalpindi, make a day trip to the incredible Taxila Museum and see the ruins of the Buddhist city that dates back over 2,300 years. The site is situated less than an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities and is a reminder to all of us that, contrary to what our Pakistan Studies textbooks teach us, our past is not exclusively Muslim.
6. Gorakh Hills: If in Karachi, take a trip to the Gorakh Hills in Dadu district. This is the highest point in Sindh at 1,734 metres and gets cold enough in the winter for it to snow. The place is part of the Kirthar National Park and has a rest house on the top which can be booked through the government. Again, the cost is fuel and the relatively cheap rent for the guesthouse. The top of the hill offers some spectacular views of Sindh’s mountain scenery, something not known even to most Karachi residents.
Residents of Lahore can take a trip to the Wagah border checkpoint and see the much-hyped flag hoisting ceremony that takes place every evening by Pakistan Rangers and India’s Border Security Force. At least one trip to watch this should be mandatory for every Pakistani to get an insight into much of what goes into the making of the Pakistan-India relationship. Of course, in this instance, the key ideas are to treat the neighbour as an enemy who should be kept at bay and treated with disdain (both sides adopt this view through this histrionics-filled daily exercise).