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Pakistan Revisited

With Chitral Festival .. the last of the pagan tribes

May 09 to 20, 2021

Pakistan, a country located on the western side of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, has a rich, diverse terrain consisting of high mountain ranges, plateaus, and the Indus River Plain. Its long history includes a section of the ancient Silk Road (Karakoram Highway) that runs through the country over the famous Khyber Pass. There are many fascinating ancient archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage sites waiting to be discovered. On this amazing adventure, you will visit mountain villages to meet the hardy souls that live in a stunningly beautiful landscape under harsh conditions. Travel the Karakoram Highway to the high-mountain Kalash Valleys, surrounded by the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. Visit Kalash valley villages including Chitral, Swat, and Bamboret. The pagan tribes of Kalash Valley worship a pantheon of gods and goddesses and hold exuberant festivals inspired by the seasons and the farming year. You will take part in the celebration of Spring's arrival at the Chilam Joshi Festival and witness feasting, drinking, and dancing.

Led by Professor Tobin Hartnell, Archaeologist, American University of Iraq in Sulaimaniya, IRAQ

Tour cost per person in double occupancy (Land only): $7,550.00

Single Supplement: $850.00

Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and a maximum of 16 participants

Your tour does not include

  • International airfare (approx. $1,000 from NYC)

  • Pakistan Visa, obtainablne online, (Currently $60.00, subject to change).

  • Beverages with or without meals.

  • Items of a personal nature (camera fees, laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage, etc.).

  • Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled flights/tour dates.

  • Dayroom/overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

  • Travel protection insurance (HIGHLY Recommended).

Your tour includes

  • Transfers - airport/hotel/airport.

  • Accommodation at hotels mentioned or similar.

  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner).

  • Water on board the bus.

  • Transportation by mini-bus with A/C.

  • Entrance fees to all sites and museums.

  • English-speaking guides.

  • Gratuities to guide, drivers, and porters (provided min. number is reached)

Trip Grade:

III Moderately Rigorous - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, and high elevations (5,000-16,000 ft). comfortable but busy schedule, and some very long rides.

Lodging Level:

**-**** Basic to Superior - Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards (4-5 stars) in larger cities; some guesthouses (2 -3 stars) in small towns.

About your lecturer... Prof. Tobin Hartnell... As a student at the University of Chicago, Dr. Tobin Hartnell directed an archaeological survey of Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), where he also runs the AUIS Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE). His most recent archaeology project is at the Assyrian religious capital of Ashur, where he will use remote sensing and geophysics to detect buried archaeological structures. He has worked in the region since 2000 and lived in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2014.

Special trip notes and trip grade: Moderately Rigorous Touring:

Anyone joining this trip must understand that in many places, the tourist infrastructure (roads, restaurants and bathrooms) is very primitive. Some days are long and hard, and the level of services will not match those offered in most tourist locations. The hotels and lodges are comfortable but some lack the luxuries provided in the West. Security checkpoints can be annoying, but travelers must be flexible and patient. Many roads are in a bad state of repair and journeys can be long and tiring. You need to be flexible and accepting of any necessary changes. By signing up for this tour, you acknowledge your complete understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and assert that you are in good physical and mental health and that you will maintain an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a tolerant and patient spirit during all aspects of the tour. Recommended departure date from USA is May 7th, 2021 in order to arrive early morning May 9th.

Suggested air and post tour extensions:
We recommend using Qatar Airways or Emirates Airline with connecting flights through Doha or Dubai for a possible pre-or post stopover at either of these amazing cities. Both cities feature world renowned museums, stunning architecture, a delectable cuisine, and exceptional accommodations and in Dubai, the ultimate shopping experience. The other ideal air option is using Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Contact us for details.

View Tour Itinerary

Sunday, May 09
Arrive Islamabad

On arrival in Islamabad, our staff will be ready to greet you and assist with the transfer to your pre-booked hotel for check-in. After a short rest, head out on a city tour beginning with a visit to Lok Virsa Museum to learn about the history and culture of Pakistan. Drive past the cities modern streets and buildings to Faisal Mosque, a contemporary mosque built in the shape of a Bedouin tent. This mosque, the largest in Pakistan, does not have a dome, a typical feature of an Islamic mosque. Afterwards, visit the Shakarparian Gardens for a panoramic view of Islamabad, then on to Pir Sohawa to enjoy dinner and scenic views at the Monal Restaurant. Overnight at Islamabad Serena Hotel. (D)

Monday, May 10
Islamabad – Taxila – Peshawar

In the morning, drive to Peshawar, capital of Khaibar Phakhtoon Khwa (KPK), stopping en-route visit Taxila, one of the subcontinent's most important archaeological treasures. Here you will visit the Taxila National Museum where you will see some of the best Gandharan art excavated from this region as well as a detailed collection of stone, terra-cotta, metals, and precious stone dating back to the 6th century B.C. The drive to Peshawar (the center of Gangharan civilization) along Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia's oldest and longest roads, is a unique experience. This ancient road, linking India and Central Asia for centuries, made it possible for traders to buy and sell their goods and invaders to conquer lands. You can still see traces of this ancient trade in the fortresses and ancient caravanserais (roadside inns). One of these structures is the Attock Fort, built by Emperor Akbar in the 1580's and dominating the Indus Gorge. Due to its strategic location, the Pakistan Army currently occupies it and all invaders coming from the north have to stop as they prepare to cross the Indus. Sher Shah Suri's Caravanserai can be found below the fort. On arrival in Peshwar, check-in at the Pearl Continental Hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 11

Embark on a full day tour of Peshawar, which has traditionally been linked to its frontier location, close to the historic Khyber Pass. Today, it is large, rapidly developing and growing city. The fortified stronghold of Bala Hissar, the most imposing landmark in the city, was built in the early 16th century by Mughal Emperor Babar. It was a royal residence for the Afghan Durrani Dysnasty until it was captured and damaged in 1834. The fort was then rebuilt with mud by the Sikhs and further preserved with mud by the British. It is currently occupied by the Frontier Corps and currently closed to the public, but there is a small museum and excellent views of the city from the ramparts. Another interesting part of the Old City is Namak Mandi, famous for its street food and very interesting Tikka restaurants as well as the Khayber Bazaar, selling electric goods, and perhaps the most fascinating, Qissa Khawani Bazaar, known as the "street of storytellers". Chowk Yadgar lies at the heart of the Old City. Originally a memorial to Colonel C ,Hasting, it was replaced by a plaza and memorial to the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Androon-shehar Bazaar, meaning "inner city", houses the silver and goldsmiths selling a wide range of ethnic, antique, and modern jewelry. Also, visit the 17th century Mohbat Khan Mosque. an iconic site in Peshawar with a white marble façade . Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 12
Peshawar - Swat Valley

After breakfast at the hotels, drive to Swat Valley via Mardan, the second-largest city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Here you'll visit the ancient Takht-i-Bahi "Throne of the Water Spring", the archaeological site of an ancient, well-preserved Buddhist Monastery. This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded during the first century A.D. Not far from Mardan is the historic village of Shahbaz Garhi. At an altitude of 964 feet, this lovely village is surrounded by mountains and has a river that runs right through the village. See the historic third century Stones of Ashoka, ancient rock inscriptions written in Kharosthi script, as well as the ancient site of Mekha Sanda. Continue on over the Malakand Pass to the Swat Valley and check-in at the Swat Serena for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, May 13

The beautiful lush green valley of Swat was once a major Buddhist center known as Suwatsu (garden) by visitors from Central Asia and China. You'll visit some of its ruins including the seventh century Buddha Katha, a rock-carved Buddha sculpture that has been restored after it was nearly destroyed by the Taliban. Also visit the Swat Museum, which contains one of the best collections of Ghanharan art and the Bazaar of Mingora. Return to the Swat Serena Hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, May 14
Swat – Chitral - Ghahrat

In the morning, transfer to Chitral, a fascinating place offering the sheer natural beauty of the Hindu Kush Mountain range, which is dominated by Tirich Mir Mountain (25,282 ft). It is home to the Chitrali people who speak the Indo-European Khowar language, as well as the semi-nomadic Wakhi-speaking people, the most friendly and interesting people in the Kalash Valley. In upper Chitral, there are Ismaili Muslims, and similar to the Hunza, they are very open, peaceful, and friendly people. Historically, Chitral has been an independent princely state. Arrive at the Ghahrat Guesthouse for check-in, followed by dinner. (B,L,D)

Saturday, May 15
Ghahrat – Kalash Valley - Bamboret

After breakfast, head out to Bamboret, the largest of the three valleys in the Kalash Valley, to participate in the Kalash spring festival - Chilam Joshi. During this colorful event that lasts for several days you'll see people dancing, drinking wine, and celebrating the arrival of spring. This is also when young couples announce their new partners. Overnight at a Family Guesthouse in Bamboret. (B,L,D)

Sunday, May 16
Chitral Kalash Valley & Chilam Joshi Festival

You'll spend the day witnessing more of the Chilam Joshi Festival. Later in the day, visit the local Ethnographic Museum, built to resemble a traditional Kalash home using materials of wood, rock, and mud, and explore the village of Bamboret, located in the main valley of Kalash. Return to the family guest house for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 17
Kalash – Chitral

Today you'll return to Chitral and visit the Chitral Bazaar and Chitral Fort, situated on the banks of the Chitral River. The fort has a commanding position on the river and is believed to have been built by Raja Nadir Shah in the 14th Century. Afterwards, transfer to your hotel for check-in, followed by some down time and lunch. This afternoon, visit the Chitral Museum, built to preserve Chitral's rich cultural heritage. The museum has a display of cultural items dating back to as early as the 12th century such as costumes, jewelry, weapons such as guns, daggers, and swords, musical instruments, and household objects. There is also an archaeological gallery containing ancient pieces from the Kalash valley such as pottery, arrow heads, and jewelry. In the evening, enjoy an excursion to Birmugh Lasht to enjoy some spectacular views (time permitting). Overnight at the Hindu Kush Heights Hotel or similar. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 18
Chitral – Garam Chashma - Chitral

You will have a morning excursion to Lutkho Valley, along the Lutkho River, which flows down from the high peaks of the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. The river is a haven for a brown trout type fish. Continue on to Garam Chashma, one of the highest human settlements in the Hindu Kush range at an altitude of 8,389 feet. This region is known for its hot springs. On your way back to Chitral, stop to learn about the Markhore (the original wild goat of the Himalayas), the national animal of Pakistan. Dinner and overnight at Hindu Kush Heights Hotel or similar. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 19

In the morning, head out on the long drive back to Islamabad (10 hours). On arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight. Overnight at the Islamabad Serena Hotel. (B,L,D)

Thursday, May 20
Islamabad – USA

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight back to the USA.

We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed