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

October 14 to November 06, 2020

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.

Tour can be combined with Afghanistan trip: October 05 to 16, 2020

OR Chinese Silk Road: September 27 to October 12, 2020

Led by expert tour manager/lecturer Michel Behar

Tour cost per person in double occupancy (Air & Land)

South Part only (October 15 to 28, 2020): $7,995.00

Single Supplement: $995.00

Possible extension to North Part Land only

(Oct 28 to Nov 06, 2020): $4,500.00      Single Supplement: $595.00

Credit for not using the included air is $1000.00

Other Eastern US gateways cities available

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

Extra pre night in Karachi: $250 per person in double & 350 per person in single
Extra pre/post night in Islamabad: $240 per person in double & $320 per person in single

Your tour does not include

  • Any fluctuations in airport taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges.

  • 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.

  • Airport/hotel/airport transfers in every city.

  • Domestic Air

  • 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... Michel Behar boasts an impressive list of credentials and just reading through it makes you want to meet this person and share the road with him. A Dutch citizen, after his studies of Russian and Arabic in the Netherlands he took a course of advanced Arabic at the University of Khartoum in Sudan. Fluent in 12 languages including Farsi, English, Turkish, and French, he has an understanding of 7 others. He has been a tour manager since 1987 leading groups for US, Dutch, Swiss, German, and British companies. He has accompanied custom tours as a leader/photographer for many prestigious institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard Museum of Natural History, the American Institute of Archaeology, and the universities of Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern, Princeton and Wellesley. He has traveled extensively throughout the world and visited all 21 Arab countries and for the last 20 years has turned his passion for photography into a second career. Touring has afforded him the opportunity to capture stirring images from out of the way places in Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia just to name a few. His work has been exhibited in museums in the Netherlands and New York. He currently lectures on current affairs related to the Near East and the ethnic groups inhabiting this region. During this same period he has dabbled in journalism writing for several European newspapers on topics as varied as technology and economics. He maintains a travel blog has done freelance work for travel guides and likes of course what else World Music. He also is an expert in leading tours to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Mongolia and Iran.

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. There is a possibility that we may use a flight from Islamabad to Gilgit on October 29 and/or a flight from Gilgit to Islamabad on November 04, which may eliminate some of the very long drive days. The flights are subject to operation based on weather conditions.

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 discussing such options.

View Tour Itinerary

Wed-Fri, Oct 14-16
US/Kabul to Islamabad

Depart your hometown arriving Islamabad the third day morning (Oct 16), upon arrival meet and transfer to Pearl Continental hotel for check in. 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 fourth largest mosque: Shah Faisal, designed by the Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay and financed largely by donations from Saudi Arabia (1986). Your welcome dinner tonight will be at the top of Daman-e-Kok hill, overlooking Islamabad and offering panoramic views of the city. (L,D)

Sat, Oct 17
Islamabad – Taxila - Rawalpindi - Lahore

Morning drive to Taxila, one of the subcontinent's most important archaeological treasures, with the remains of three great cities and dozens of Buddhist monasteries dating from 600 BC to 600 AD. It is strategically located at the meeting place of trade routes linking China, India, Central Asia and the west. Continue to visit the Truck painting workshop near Raja Bazar, Truck art is a uniquely Pakistani artistic style. One may even call it the visual language of Pakistan. This tradition is as old as we can think, probably even older than Pakistan itself. A lot of transportation had to be done by road so trucks, although not the only canvas for this art form, are a common sight displaying the artist’s expression in all kinds of creative imagery. Afterwards head to visit Hindu temple at Kitas Village and Khewra where the Salt Mines are located (approx 3 hrs. drive). Walking tour through the Salt Mines (one way into the mine is done on train trolley & return by foot “15 minutes’ walk – total 2 hours tour” - There are currently 17 levels of the mine and visitors are allowed on the 6th level. Continue after lunch to Lahore (3 hours’ drive). Overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)

Sun, Oct 18

Visit Lahore Museum, - the biggest museum in Pakistan, established in 1894. It 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 era, 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 Civilization of Gandhara and the Greco-Bactrian periods as well as some Tibetan and Nepalese work on display. The Fasting Buddha from the Gandhara period is one of the most famous objects of the museum. After Lunch departs for Shahi Hammam (Royal Bath) and the Wazir Khan Mosque. Dinner at a restaurant on historic Food Street, with fabulous views of the historical sites of Lahore. (B,L,D)

Mon, Oct 19

After breakfast head to visit 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. Visit the mausoleum Samadhi of Ranjit Sing and Guru Arjun Dev (if possible), and the Shalimar Gardens before heading to the flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah border with India. Dinner will be at the famous Village Restaurant (B,L,D)

Tue, Oct 20
Lahore - Multan

After an early breakfast drive to Harappa, one of the world’s most ancient cities founded over 5,000 years ago. 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 Tombs of 13th c. Sufi saints Bahauddin Zakia and Rukun-e-din Alam and of the famous poet, dervish, Shams-i-Tabriz who taught Rumi to write poetry. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wed, Oct 21
Multan - Bahawalpur

After breakfast, visit the famous blue pottery factory of Multan then continue to Bahawalpur the city of the Abbassi who ruled it as a princely state. Visit the museum and the famous library of Bahawalpur. (B,L,D)

Thu, Oct 22

Today is another highlight of the trip as you travel to the Cholistan Desert, an extension of the Thal Desert, the largest desert on the subcontinent. You will see the remains of a great civilization that flourished here ca. 1000 BCE and visit the 9th c. CE Derawar Fort at the edge of the desert. In the afternoon, depart for Uch Sharif to visit the famous 15th C Sufi shrines of Bibi Jawandi and Saeed Jalaluddin Bukhari before returning to Bahawalpur for your overnight. (B,L,D)

Fri, Oct 23
Bahawalpur – Sukkur

In the morning drive to Sukkur, It 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 military importance of the town was recognized by the British in 1839 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. Upon arrival at Sukkur visit the Lodhy Barrage, and the famous Hindu pilgrimage center Sadu Bala, with a short safari on the Indus River in a wooden boat where you may see “blind dolphins” playing in the river. (B,L,D)

Sat, Oct 24
Sukkur – 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. 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. Continue to Larkana the city of Presidents Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto to explore the famous 3rd Millenium BCE 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)

Sun, Oct 25
Larkana - Haidarabad

After breakfast travel the Indus Highway towards 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. Have lunch at the Sewan Diven Hote then proceed to reach Haidarabad for some rest time before dinner. (B,L,D)

Mon, Oct 26
Haidarabad - Karachi

Have breakfast and then leave From Haidarabad and 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. Afterward head to Karachi to visit the historical necropolis at Makli, considered as one of the most visually stunning archaeological sites in Pakistan. Covering fifteen and one half square kilometers it contains 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 Scythian-Parthian, Hindu-Buddhist and Arab periods of influence. It has been suggested that Banbhore could be the site of the ancient Hindu port city of Debal, although this remains a 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 centerpiece being two large domed mausoleums. This style of the tomb is only found in Sind and Baluchistan provinces, (particularly along the coast of Makran). These intricate designs are still applied on textiles, pottery, Jewelry, and on woodcarving in those regions. Some free time then dinner & overnight. (B,L,D)

Tue, Oct 27

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 multitude of artifacts including objects from the pre and proto-history of the region dating from 5000 – 1500. 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, a leader of Pakistan’s independence movement. 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). Enjoy your last farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Wed, Oct 28
Karachi – USA or Islamabad

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to the USA OR to Islamabad for the North part, upon arrival, meet and transfer Pearl Continental hotel for check in and overnight. (B)

For those who would like to add North Pakistan Thu, Oct 29
Islamabad – Gilgit

Fly to Gilgit and transfer to Serena Hotel to freshen up. Then visit the Bazar, followed by the archaeological site of Kargah with its large standing Buddha carved high on a cliff face. Overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)

Fri, Oct 30
Gilgit - Karimabad

This morning, drive to Karimabad in the Hunza Valley. On the way, visit the Chinese Graveyard, known locally as China Yadgar, which is the final resting place of the Chinese engineers and workers who lost their lives during the construction of the Karakoram Highway. We also stop at a viewpoint to admire Rakaposhi (“Snow Covered”), one of the world’s most beautiful mountains and over 25,500 feet high. Transfer to the Serena Hunza Inn for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)

NOTE: If our Oct 29 flight to Gilgit is canceled, the itinerary for Oct 29 & 30 will change as follows:

Thu, Oct 29
Islamabad - Chilas

After breakfast, drive for 10 hours to Chilas. Transfer to the Shangrila Midway House Hotel for check-in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Fri, Oct 30
Chilas – Gilgit

This morning, drive for 4 hours to Gilgit. Transfer to the Serena Hunza Hotel for check-in. Then visit the Bazar, followed by the archaeological site of Kargah with its large standing Buddha carved high on a cliff face. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Sat, Oct 31

Start your day by exploring Hunza; a princely state ruled by one family – the Ayashkutz – for over 900 years. The family’s rule came to an end in 1974 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan at the time, eliminated all princely states. Visit the Baltit Fort, which was occupied by some of the elderly members of the Ayashkutz family until 1960 although the Mir of Hunza had moved to a new palace much earlier. In 1996, the Baltit Fort was reopened after a meticulous restoration by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and has been transformed into a heritage museum. Visit the Aga Khan Academy, an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network and part of a network of non-denominational schools around the world. Visit the Altit Forts, built on a rock cliff by people from Baltistan about 900 years ago. Legend has it that a local prince married a Baltistan princess whose wedding procession included 500 townspeople who accompanied her across the Biafo Hispar Glacier. Today, it is one of the most challenging routes for trekkers. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Sun, Nov 01

After breakfast, visit Hoppar in the Nagar Valley, site of the Spantik and Hoppar Glaciers. This evening, visit Duikar, Hunza’s highest village at over 9,000 feet high, to enjoy the sunset over Rakaposhi , Lady Finger, and other peaks. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Mon, Nov 02
Karimabad - Passu

This morning, drive along the Karakorum Highway to Sost, 90 kilometers from the border with China and Pakistan’s northernmost town. Continue to the Khunjerab Pass in the Karakoram Mountains. At 16,000 feet high, it is the highest paved international border crossing in the world, and the highest point on the Karakorum Highway. Then drive to the small village of Passu and transfer to the Passu Ambassador Hotel for check-in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tue, Nov 03
Passu – Gilgit

After breakfast, drive to Lake Attaabad, also known as Gojal Lake, which was created in 2010 by a landslide. The lake has since become a tourist attraction for its unique blue color and dramatic mountain scenery. Drive back to Gilgit and transfer to the Serena Gilgit for check-in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wed, Nov 04
Gilgit - Islamabad

Fly to Islamabad and transfer to the Pearl Continental Hotel for check-in and time to freshen up. In the afternoon, explore the city of Rawalpindi, commonly known as Pindi. Islamabad’s sister city, with which it shares strong social and economic links, Pindi, once a major British military base, is a bustling town with a strong British colonial influence. It now the headquarters of the Pakistan Army. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Thu, Nov 05
Islamabad - USA

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

NOTE: If our Nov 04 flight to Islamabad is canceled, the itinerary for Nov 04 & 05 will change as follows:

Wed, Nov 04
Gilgit – Besham

After breakfast, drive for 10 hours to Besham and transfer to PTDC Motel for check-in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thu, Nov 05
Besham – Islamabad

After breakfast, drive for 7 hours to Islamabad through the lush green Valleys and towns of the lower Himalaya. At Mansehra, view King Ashoka’s edicts carved on a roadside rock. Then drive through Abbotabad, the town where Osama Bin Laden was captured. On arrival in Islamabad, transfer to the Pearl Continental Hotel for check-in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Fri, Nov 06
Islamabad – USA

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