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Pakistan.. The Roof of the World to the civilizations of the Indus Valley

October 17 to November 04, 2018

Pakistan, which got its independence from British controlled India on 14th August 1947, shares an eastern border with India and a northeastern border with China. This tour will take you to the mountain villages to meet the hardy souls that live in stunningly beautiful scenery under harsh conditions. You will travel the Karakoram Highway to Hunza Valley, through Besham, Khoistan, Chilas and Gilgit. The high mountain valley of Hunza is located in the extreme north of Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is bordered by the Wakhan Corridor and surrounded by the giant mountain ranges of Karakorum, the Himalayas, Hindu-Kush and Pamir. Neighbors to the far north are the heavenly mountains of Tianshan and Kunlunsun and the historic city of Kashgar, which you will visit if you join our pre-tour to Western China. The legendary land of Hunza is most majestically placed on the roof of the world. It falls on a junction of the old Silk Route, now replaced by the Karakoram Highway or KKH, snaking into the People’s Republic of China through the Khunjerab Pass 15,528’, between the Oxus and Indus rivers.

The Indus Valley Civilization flourished in the vast river plains and adjacent regions in what are now Pakistan and western India. The earliest cities became integrated into an extensive urban culture around 4,600 years ago and continued to dominate the region for at least 700 years from 2600 to 1900 B.C.

The Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappa Civilization, after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s, in what was then the Punjab province of British India, and is now in Pakistan. The discovery of Harappa, and soon afterwards, Mohenjo Daro, was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India in the British Raj. Excavation of Harappan sites has been ongoing since 1920, with important breakthroughs occurring as recently as 1999.

Per person sharing in double occupancy (air and land from JFK): $8,995.00
Single Supplement: $995.00

Led by Professor Mehreen Chida-Razvi, Lecturer in Islamic Art & Architecture

Credit for not using our included airfare $800.00

Price based on a group size minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 participants

Your tour does not include

  • Airport taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges (estimated at $500.00 at time of printing).
  • Airfare from cities other than New York City (price differs depending on gateway city & same other East coast cities could be at same rate).
  • Pakistan Visa (Currently $199.00, 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

  • International airfare from New York into Islamabad and out of Karachi & Internal flights inside Pakistan.
  • Airport/hotel/airport transfers in every city.
  • Accommodation in hotels as per the itinerary (based on 3-4 stars categories and few 5* hotels in larger cities.)
  • All meals as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Sightseeing in each city as per the itinerary.
  • Services of English speaking guides.
  • Visa support letter and approval.
  • Porterage at airports and hotels throughout program.
  • Entrance fees to all visited historical sites and museums.
  • Water on board every day.
  • Gratuities to guides, drivers and porters.

Trip Grade:

III Challenging – Parts of the trip are physically challenging, involve hiking on rough terrain or in sand or at high altitudes. There may be very long drives on rough roads; weather conditions will be cold in the north & warm in the south. You may have simple picnic lunches, primitive bathroom facilities along the road and remoteness from modern towns or cities.

Lodging Level:

✶✶✶ - ✶✶✶✶ Superior: Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (3 or 4 stars with a couple of 5 stars as well.)

About your lecturer Dr. Mehreen Chida-Razvi; earned her BSc and BA from the University of Florida, Gainesville, before moving to London, England where she completed an MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a second MA and a PhD in the History of Art & Archaeology from SOAS, University of London. She specializes in the history of Islamic art, architecture and material culture in the early modern era, with a particular emphasis on the Persianate regions of Mughal South Asia, Iran and Central Asia. Dr. Chida-Razvi’s primary research examines the history of architecture and the built environment and she has carried out extensive fieldwork and site-research in Pakistan and India. Another area of particular interest is the cultural and artistic interactions between Europe and the Persianate world and the social and historical circumstances which allowed for such connections to take place. Since 2007 Mehreen has given lectures and taught courses on Islamic art and architecture in London and Oxford, and has furthermore been an academic contributor and consultant for a documentary on the Taj Mahal

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. Elevations vary from 5,000’ up to 10,000’. The hotels and lodges are comfortable but some lack the usual luxuries of the west. Security checkpoints can sometimes be annoying but one has to be flexible, and patient. Many roads are in a bad state of repair and hence journeys can be long and tiring. By signing up for this tour, participants are acknowledging their full understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and are admitting that they are in good physical and mental health and are equipped with an open mind, a sense of adventure and a tolerant and patient spirit to cope with the tour.


View Tour Itinerary

Oct 17-18
USA - Islamabad

Depart USA, connecting to Pakistan’s Islamabad airport arriving the second day very late at night. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Oct 19

The morning is free to rest. This afternoon explore Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, set against the backdrop of the Margalla Hills at the northern edge of the Potohar Mountain range. The city is lush, green and spacious. Tour Lok Virsa the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage. Next visit the world’s second largest mosque the Shah Faisal, designed by the Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay and financed largely by donations from Saudi Arabia. Your welcome dinner tonight will be at the top of Daman-e-Kok hill, overlooking Islamabad and offering panoramic views of the city. (B,L,D)

Oct 20
Islamabad to Chilas

Today you have a fascinating journey ahead of you on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to reach Chilas. In Pakistan the KKH is considered the 8th wonder of the world. To approach the KKH from Islamabad/Rawalpindi you drive west on the Grand Trunk Road, through the Margala Pass. Turn north at Hassan Abdal and continue through the lush green valley of the Hazara Division passing through Haripur to reach Havelian the official starting point of the KKH. At Mansehra you will visit the roadside Ashoka’s Rock Edicts, written in Kharoashthi script, that date from the 3rd century AD. At Thakot near Besham cross the Indus River to enter the famous Kohistan - the ‘Land of Mountains’. Geologically Kohistan is one of most fascinating places on earth. The section of the KKH that passes through Kohistan is one of the most dramatic, as the road clings to increasingly more vertical sides of the narrow Indus Gorge. You are now traveling in the upper end of the Indus Valley to Chilas. Just before reaching Chilas you will have a view of Nanga Parbat the 2nd highest peak in Pakistan and the 9th highest in the world. (B,L,D)

Oct 21
Chilas to Karimabad

After breakfast depart on a very scenic journey to Hunza. First you will see the historic rock carvings of Chilas along the roadside. Some of these rock carvings were inscribed as early as 5000 years ago up to the 6th century AD. “The ethnologist Karl Jettmar has tried to piece together the history of the area from various inscriptions and recorded his findings in “Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan" and the later released "Between Gandhara and the Silk Roads: Rock Carvings along the Karakoram Highway". At the village of Thalichi on the KKH you will see the magnificent mountain Nanga Parbat’s west face. Continue to a unique point where three great mountain ranges meet: the Himalaya, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush. It is also the confluence of the Gilgit-Hunza and Indus rivers. Before heading for Hunza, visit nearby Kargah, known for its large standing Buddha carved high on a cliff face. Have lunch at the Serena Gilgit. On the road to Hunza you will see some of the most beautiful mountain peaks and glacier: Rakaposhi 7778m, Diran Peak 7266m, the Ultar Glacier 7388m and several others above seven thousand meters high. End your day in Karimabad the central town of Hunza which was once the capital of the Princely State of Hunza. Check in to the Serena Baltit Inn, your home for the next two nights. It is ideally located and has the most beautiful view and clean and cozy rooms. (B,L,D)

Oct 22

After a relaxed breakfast head out to visit Baltit Fort. Hunza was a princely state ruled by one family, the Ayashkutz, for over 900 years. The ruler of Hunza was called the Mir of Hunza by outsiders and THUM by locals. The people of Hunza are called the Hunzokutz. The rule of the Ayashkutz family came to an end when in 1974 the then Prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, eliminated all the princely states in Pakistan. Baltit Fort was occupied by some of the elderly members of the Ayashkutz family until 1960. Mir himself had already shifted to a new palace much earlier. In 1996 Baltit Fort was reopened after a meticulous restoration by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. It has been transformed into a heritage museum, and it has been given several International awards. Continue to the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School for Girls, a premier academic institution to educate girls who wish to attend university. Next have lunch at the Altit Fort Garden restaurant before visiting the Altit Fort. Altit Fort was built on a solid rock cliff by people from Baltistan about 900 years ago. Baltistan is also known as little Tibet as the people have Tibetan origins. Legend has it that a local prince married a princess from Baltistan and her wedding procession consisted of around 500 of her town’s people who accompanied her across the Biafo Hispar Glacier. Nowadays, that is one of the most challenging routes for trekkers. Upon their return the Biafo Hisper Pass was closed due to heavy snow and they had to remain in Hunza until the following summer when the pass reopened. Among these people were masons, carpenters and other skillful craftsmen that decided to build a fort for their princess while they waited for the pass to open. Prince Charles and Camilla visited Altit Fort along with Prince Karim Aga Khan when it was still being restored in October of 2006. (B,L,D)

Oct 23
Karimabad to Besham

After an early breakfast depart on the long but rewarding journey to Besham. First you will skirt the bottom of Rakhaposhi to Gilgit and then Nanga Parbat to Chilas. Pass through the proposed site for one of the largest dams in Pakistan, the Diamir Basha Dam. Visit some of the remarkable rock inscriptions at Shatiyal and then drive through Kohistan to Besham. (B,L,D)

Oct 24
Besham to Rawalpindi

Travel back towards Islamabad via Chatarplains, Manserah and Abbottabad. Stop in Taxila, one of the sub-continent’s most important archaeological treasures, with the remains of three great cities and dozens of Buddhist monasteries dating from 600 BC to AD 600. It is strategically located at the meeting place of trade routes linking China, India, Central Asia and the west. Taxila survived through many empires and became the cultural crossroad of the ancient world. Buddhism took hold in the region around 275 BC and from here the religion spread to Central Asia, Tibet and China. Julian, Dharmarajika, Jandial and Sirkap are some of the best-preserved sites. Time permitting you will try to visit a couple of them along with the Taxila Museum. Continue to Rawalpindi and late afternoon tour of Babu Mohalla driving through vibrant Sadar bazar Rawalpindi. Known today as Asia’s leading car parts market, its rich and diverse cultural heritage makes it deceptively fascinating. On one side stands the grand Bohra Mosque with a thriving Bohra community. Right next to it you’ll find an old Victorian church and a Hindu temple right in the back street. The Jewish building on Nishtar Street lies in the middle Overnight at Pearl Continental Rawalpindi. (B,L,D)

Oct 25
Rawalpindi to Lahore

Leave Rawalpindi. For 6 hours’ driving to Lahore. The highway crosses through the lush green fertile land of Punbjab. As soon as we arrive, visit Lahore museum - the biggest of Pakistan, established in 1894. Rudyard Kipling's father, John Lockwood Kipling, was one of the earliest and most famous curators of the museum. The Museum contains some fine specimens of Mughal and Sikh door-ways and wood-work and has a large collection of paintings dating back to the Mughal, Sikh and British periods. It includes a collection of musical instruments, ancient jewelry, textiles, pottery, and armory. There are important relics from the Indus Valley Civilisation, Gandhara and Graeco-Bactrian periods as well as some Tibetan and Nepalese work on display. The museum has a number of Greco-Buddhist sculptures, and Mughal paintings on display. The Fasting Buddha from the Gandhara period is one of the most famous objects of the museum. The ceiling of the entrance hall features a large mural by renowned Pakistani artist Sadequain. Check into the hotel and freshen up before heading out to enjoy the night glamour of the city. Have dinner at a restaurant with fabulous views of the historical sites of Lahore (B,L,D)

Oct 26

After breakfast depart for Shahi Hammam (Royal Bath) and the Wazir Khan Mosque. Then head to the Badshahi Mosque constructed in 1674. This marble structure is an example of some of the most aesthetically pleasing architecture of the Moghul period. Continue to visit Lahore Fort locally known as Shahi Qilla. Built in 1631 by Shah Jahan as a private apartment for his empress, it has several pavilions including Shish Mahal, the palace of mirrors. Lahore was the capital of the Punjab province of ancient Pakistan that flourished in the Moghul period. Visit Samadhi of Ranjit Singh and Guru Arjun Dev (if possible), and the Shalimar Gardens before heading to the flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah border (B,L,D)

Oct 27
Lahore to Multan

After an early breakfast drive to Harappa, one of the world’s first cities founded over 5,000 years ago. Archeological discoveries at Harappa in the 1920s have completely changed the history of India. The ancient city discovered at Harappa is thought to be the first ancient Indus urban center. Today it is being studied with modern scientific and multi-disciplinary tools. Tour both the archaeological site and the museum. Continue to Multan, the city of saints, where this evening you will visit the Tomb of Bahauddin Zakia and Rukun-e-din Alam and the Tomb of Shams-i-Tabriz. (B,L,D)

Oct 28
Multan to Bahawalpur

After breakfast, visit the famous blue pottery factory of Multan then continue to Bahawalpur the city of the Abbassi family. Visit the museum and the famous library of Bahawalpur. Bahawalpur was also a princely state until 1974. (B,L,D)

Oct 29

Today is another highlight of the trip as you travel to the Cholistan Desert, an extension of the That Desert, the largest desert on the subcontinent. You will see the remains of a great civilization that once flourished here and visit the Derawar Fort at the edge of the desert. In the afternoon depart for Uch Sharif to visit the famous Sufi shrines of Bibi Jawandi and Saeed Jalaludin Bukhari before returning to Bahawalpur for your overnight. (B,L,D)

Oct 30
Bahawalpur to Sukkur

In the morning drive to Sukkur stopping en route to visit the famous Bong Mosque and for lunch in a local restaurant. Sukkur is strategically placed at a crossing point on the Indus where the river cuts through the last outcrop of solid limestone before proceeding to the sea. It has played a vital part in Sind’s history for over 2000 years. The young Arab invader Mohammad Bin Qasim took the town during the Arab conquest of Sind. The military importance of the town was recognized by the British as part of the strategic route to the Bolan Pass in Baluchistan. It is largely located on the west side of the Indus River, with its twin town of Rohri occupying the opposite bank. Visit the Lodhy Barrage, (time permitting) and the famous Hindu pilgrimage center Sadu Bala. Upon arrival in Sukkur, take a short safari on the Indus River in a wooden boat where you may see blind dolphin playing in the river. (B,L,D)

Oct 31
Sukkur to Larkana

After breakfast drive to the Kot Diji archaeological site to visit the famous fort of the state of Khairpur. The site stands on one of the rare outcrops of limestone that are part of the Rohri Hills to the north. Dating between 3500- 2500 BC, there are two distinct parts to the site. One is comprised of the citadel and the residences of the ruling class and the other is where the residences of the commoners are located. Excavation of the upper level revealed pottery of the Harappan civilization while the lower levels exposed evidence of an unknown pre-Harappan culture, designated as Kot Diji. Distinct forms of pottery were found at this level depicting a new type of ceramic industry. Another interesting feature is evidence of the production and use of the sun and oven dried bricks. Continue to Larkana the city of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto to explore the famous archaeological site of Mohenjo-daro. Tour the great bath, the granary, the College Square and Pillared Hall, private homes, and the Mohenjo-daro Museum. Besides being one of the most important archaeological sites in South Asia, Mohenjo-daro is one of the most stunningly preserved and meticulously restored prehistoric sites in the whole world. It was first excavated by the Indian Archaeological Survey team under Sir John Marshall in 1922 and 1931, and then by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1947. Now in the hands of the Pakistan Archaeological Survey team supported by UNESCO, the site is excellently presented. If time permits, visit the Bhutto Mausoleum at Larkana. (B,L,D)

Nov 01
Larkana to Haidarabad

After breakfast travel the Indus Highway towards Dadu and Sehwan Sharif to visit one of the main highlights of the province of Sindh, the famous 12th century shrine of Hazrat Lal Sabaz Qalander (divine spirit of the Red Falcon) who was a famous Sufi poet and philosopher. He was born in Afghanistan and later became Qalanadar (a wandering Sufi). Have lunch at the Sewan Diven Hotel. (B,L,D)

Nov 02
Haidarabad to Karachi

From Haidarabad drive on the National Highway to Thatta to visit the Grand Mosque of Shah Jahan. Built between 1644 and 1647, it was a gift from Shah Jahan in recognition of the hospitality he received in Thatta while seeking refuge from his father, Jahangir. The mosque is a contemporary of one of Shah Jahan’s other great buildings, the Taj Mahal. The mosque is built in the form of a great caravanserai with a large court enclosed by a double arcaded corridor of 93 domed compartments. Afterwards head to Karachi to visit the historical monuments at Makli, considered being one of the most visually stunning archaeological sites in Pakistan. Covering fifteen and one half square kilometers and said to contain over one million tombs, it is considered to be the world’s largest necropolis. Tour the tombs of Jam Nizammudin, Isa Khan Tarkhan, Jan Baba and Diwan Shurfa Khan. Continue to Banbhore to explore the ruins from the Sythian-Parthian, Hindu-Buddhist and Arab periods of influence. The remains of a fort with walls and bastions that are distinctly traceable and further excavations have revealed the plan of a well-fortified harbor town. It has been suggested that Banbhore could be the site of the ancient Hindu port city of Debal, although this remains speculation. Your last stop is Chokondhi to view the tombs that are thought to be from the 13th – 16th century and are attributed to the Jokhio and Baluch tribes. The superbly carved sandstone tombs are built out of Rectangular slabs placed one on top of the other in pyramidal fashion, some reaching four meters in height. They stretch for several kilometers along a low ridge with a center piece being two large domed mausoleums. Women’s tombs display carved reproductions of Jewelry, while the tombs of men feature spears, swords, shields and even horsemen. This style of tomb is only found in Sind and Baluchistan, (particularly along the coast of Makran). These intricate designs are still applied on textiles, pottery, Jewelry, and on woodcarving in Sind and Baluchistan. End your day in Karachi. (B,L,D)

Nov 03

After breakfast, head out to tour Karachi. Visit the Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of this nation. Continue to the National Museum of Pakistan with its numerous galleries housing a multitude of artifacts including objects from the pre and proto-history of the region dating from 5000 – 1500. There are some gaps, but the remarkable exhibits represent sites such as Amri (c. 3500-2200 BC) and Kot Diji (c. 3500– 2500 BC). Other artifacts are exhibited in the Gandharan Gallery, the Islamic Gallery, the Freedom Movement Gallery, the Ethnology Gallery and the Hall of Manuscript. Have lunch before touring the Mohatta Palace Museum near Clifton Beach, where there is always a unique exhibition of art collections on display including textiles. Mohatta Palace was built by Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta, a Hindu Marwari merchant from modern day Rajasthan, India in 1927. After partition it became state Property, and initially it was Pakistan’s foreign affairs office when the capital of Pakistan was in Karachi. After the capital was moved to Islamabad, the palace became the private residence of Fatima Jinnah. Now it has been converted to a museum by the Sind government and it has been restored meticulously to its former glory. If time permits, visit the Saddar Bazaar (Empress Market). (B,L,D)

Nov 04
Karachi to the US

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

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