Welcome hiking lovers! My name is Sher Ali Saafi. I’m someone who loves taking hikes in my beautiful country of Pakistan. Trekking is my passion and North Pakistan is my playground. I started traveling during the latter half of my 20’s. I’m a software engineer by trade and also a freelancer.
I started traveling out of necessity, as being a software engineer meant I was sitting in front of a computer for 12-14 hours a day and this caused me back pain (after working rigorously for six years). Hiking was the best remedy! It wasn’t long before my passion for hiking multiplied. The natural beauty of North Pakistan compelled me to buy my first DSLR (Canon 60D) in 2013 and now I love nothing more than taking photos on my hikes.
Why Hikes in Pakistan are so Amazing
Pakistan is one of those countries which offers something for everyone. We have culture, food, remnants of ancient civilizations, architecture, the sea, desert and mountains. My country is home to some of the tallest peaks in the world: five of the 14 8,000m+ mountains are located in Pakistan.
We have some of the largest glacial systems outside the polar regions. Then the untouched landscapes and lifestyles, surrounded by these towering mountains, make it one of the most unique destinations in the world for travelers. I love taking hikes in Pakistan and I’m sure you will too!
Personally, I love hiking to alpine lakes surrounded by lush green meadows. Therefore, I prefer to hike in the Kaghan Valley (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) and Neelum Valley (Azad Jammu and Kashmir region). For longer hiking adventures, I enjoy going to the Gilgit-Baltistan region (home to Pakistan’s “eight-thousanders”) and the Chitral district.
8 Best Hikes in Pakistan
There are hikes in Pakistan to suit every type of traveler – from towering high peaks and exhilarating mountain passes to lush meadows and pristine alpine lakes. This is a country where you need to put the travel warnings and preconceptions aside, and embrace what can only be described as an adventure of a lifetime! Below is my list of the 8 best hikes in Pakistan:
1. K2 Base Camp Trek
A bucket list hike if there ever was one. K2 is known as the hardest mountain in the world to climb and making it to K2 Base Camp is no mean feat! Standing at 8,611m, K2 is the second highest mountain on earth but don’t worry the base camp sits below that at 5,150m. Many regard K2 Base Camp as the world’s greatest trek (even surpassing Everest Base Camp) because along the way you can see four 8,000m peaks from one place.
Obviously this trek is not to be underestimated. It’s not suited for casual hikers or those with no experience. The duration itself will push many to their limits: 14 days. Even if you have knocked off a few hard hikes in Nepal you will still find the terrain on K2 Base Camp Trek to be more difficult. For example, there are sections where you will need to do a bit of cross-country walking. Make sure you go with a mountain guide for the best experience.
2. Rush Lake Trek
Rush Lake is one of the highest alpine lakes not only in Pakistan but in the entire world. It’s over 4,700 meters. Trekking to this lake takes you to breathtaking viewpoints of the Nagar Valley and Hunza Valley, crossing pristine glaciers, and immersing in high meadows and terraced fields with animals on the journey. There are a few different options to choose from but the best hiking expeditions span four or five days of trekking.
3. Karomber Lake Trek
Karomber Lake Trek is one of my absolute favorite treks. There are many entry and exit points to the lake but the best way to experience it (in my opinion) is to complete a 12-day hiking expedition starting in Islamabad and ending back where you started in Islamabad. I did this epic 12-day trek a few years ago. You can read all about it in this blog post on my website here: The Unexpected Adventures of Karomber Lake Trek.
4. Chitta Katha Lake Hike
“White Stream” is the translation of Chitta Katha and you will understand why when you see the stream flowing from the mountains. You can trek to the lake from a village called Kel by first taking a jeep to the village and then hiking a further five kilometers. This short distance means you can complete the trek within a day or two, or you have longer expeditions which include everything like pick up and drop off in Islamabad.
The lake is surrounded by the Hari Parbat mountains. These mountains are usually covered in snow – combine that with the steep and barren appearance of the peaks and you get a breathtaking view! The best time of year to tick this alpine lake hike off your bucket list is July/August.
5. Dudipatsar Lake and Saral Lake Trek
A fantastic hike that can be completed over five days. Dudipatsar Lake is encircled by the snow-capped mountains of Lulusar-Dodipat National Park and it will take your breath away! Saral Lake is just as impressive. It sits at an altitude of over 4,000 meters. The path to reach Saral Lake takes you through Gumot National Park before arriving at the lake.
6. Kutwal Lake Trek in Haramosh Valley
Another epic lake trek in Pakistan? You know it! The Kutwal Lake Trek takes hikers through the Haramosh Valley which is located 90 kms east of Gilgit city. There are several high peaks that surround Kutwal Lake and each one is more impressive than the next. The journey to the lake typically includes a jeep road to the trailhead and then five hours of trekking.
7. Fairy Meadows & Nanga Parbat Base Camp Trek
Want to see uninterrupted views of one of the tallest mountains on earth? How about driving along one of the world’s most dangerous roads? The Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat Base Camp Trek has it all! This trek differs significantly from the other hikes mentioned in this article as it takes you through beautiful alpine meadows – which is so pleasing on the eye! As incredible as the meadows are though, the highlight is still Nanga Parbat.
Nanga Parbat is the ninth tallest mountain in the world, standing at 8,126 meters. Only K2 is higher in Pakistan. While climbing this massive peak won’t be on the radar for most people (it’s nickname is “Killer Mountain” after all), making it to the Base Camp is still a viable option as long as you are reasonably fit and well adjusted to high altitudes. From the base camp you get offered magnificent views of Nanga Parbat’s northern face.
8. Rakaposhi Base Camp Trek
Rakaposhi Base Camp Trek is regarded as one of the most beautiful hikes in Pakistan, perhaps only outperformed on the beauty front by the Fairy Meadows hike just described. You can complete this trek in one, two or three days – so there is plenty of flexibility depending on your fitness. Rakaposhi means “snow-covered”. As it towers towards the heavens at just under 7,800 meters, you will be in awe of it at the base camp!
How to Prepare for Pakistan Hikes
The high altitude is what stumps people the most when they set off on hikes in Pakistan. If you aren’t accustomed to pushing yourself up steep terrain at those heights then you might struggle. The best thing you can do is to practice on similar hikes in nearby places like Nepal or back home if you can. If you get accustomed slowly to the altitude then your body will become stronger and you will be able to go higher and higher.
Another challenge is that some regions of North Pakistan are completely off-the-beaten-track and there isn’t much in terms of infrastructure or things like guides and porters to help you on your journey. You can solve this by booking a tour guide beforehand from Islamabad or another major Pakistani city. This way you will be looked after for your entire trip.
Before setting off on a trek it’s always a good idea to be prepared. If daily walks aren’t part of your lifestyle then you must start going for walks and practicing on local hills or mountains now. You need to be hiking fit before you can even think about taking on any of the eight hikes mentioned in this guide. Since I live in Rawalpindi, which is the twin city of Islamabad, I have the luxury of going on local hikes before I take on bigger adventures.
Final Tips for Pakistan Hikes
The hiking season in Pakistan starts in May and goes to September. I prefer the June to August period (which also happens to be the rainy monsoon season) because in these three months the alpine lakes melt and the meadows blossom. This is also a wonderful time of year to go camping when you hike because the weather is warmer in the mountains. Another unique accommodation is huts where you can stay with locals.
No matter where you go hiking in Pakistan remember to respect the local people and cultures. For example in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province I would suggest trying to avoid wearing shorts and not taking photos of people and their homes without their permission. Above all, enjoy yourself as much as possible! Pakistan is an underrated destination and the mountains of the north make for an adventure of a lifetime.