Pakistan for women, by women (2 weeks)

Female travelers on a Pakistan women's tour, trekking across Hussaini suspension bridge in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan

2-week Pakistan women’s tour

A warm smile as someone invites you in for chai. Kebabs sizzling while the call to prayer sings from mosque minarets. Sunrises blanketing snowy mountains in gold. Swapping stories from the comfort of pillows ‘round a warm stove in the evening.

These are moments that made us fall in love with Pakistan. We want to share them with you.

This won’t be your typical tour de Pakistan. We’re not squeezing in as much as humanly possible, rushing you from spot to spot, nor showing you a polished version. You’ll be fully immersed in Pakistan: traditional homes, offbeat locations, local food and guides, treks with nary a soul in sight.

Rich and poor, urban and rural, liberal and conservative: our 2-week Pakistan women’s tour will show you the diversity that makes Pakistan what it is. And then some.

Tour gallery

Tour itinerary

When traveling in Pakistan, things don’t always go according to plan. From spontaneous chai invites to landslides blocking whole highways, delays can happen anywhere. Flexibility is key. If we have to make changes on the fly, don’t fret; we’ll still try to do everything mentioned.

Pakistan adventure motorcycle tour day 1: Islamabad arrival

We’ll take it easy on the first day, and do some simple sightseeing in Islamabad. First up is local clothes shopping, then visits to Pakistan Monument and Faisal Mosque.

Sleeping: Islamabad hotel

Flowers over the Indus river in Chilas, Pakistan

So begins the long drive to the mountains in the north! Though we’ll be in the car most of the day, the views will be undeniably epic. We’ll stop for a scenic lunch and photos at Lulusar Lake and the 4,100m Babusar Pass.

Sleeping: Chilas guesthouse

Older female traveler looking at Nanga Parbat on a tour

Time to follow the most famous road in Pakistan: the Karakoram Highway. As we glide along smooth roads between some of the world’s highest mountains, we’ll stop at a few particularly nice viewpoints en-route. Our long journey ends in Gulmit, a quiet village in the Upper Hunza region.

Sleeping: Gulmit homestay

Female traveler sitting on the ruins of Ondra Fort in Gulmit, Gojal, Pakistan

This day is all about exploring Gulmit—a village that’s making an effort to attract more tourists through community-run initiatives. We’ll shop at a women-run carpet center, visit one of the oldest houses in town, and climb up to the ruins of Ondra Fort to enjoy views over Gulmit.

Sleeping: Gulmit homestay

Woman walking on the Passu suspension bridge in Hunza, Pakistan

Time for one of the most harrowing—but beautiful—treks in Hunza: the suspension bridge trek. The 9 km trek will take us between two rickety suspension bridges: Hussaini and Passu. Never fear, the bridges are more secure than they seem and we’ll have a local female guide with us the whole way. If you’re afraid of heights, you can also stay back and explore Gulmit or Passu while others go out trekking.

Sleeping: Gulmit homestay

Jeep ride to Shimshal Valley, Pakistan

The villages of Shimshal Valley are some of the highest and most remote in all of Pakistan… and the road to them is equally remarkable! A narrow jeep track runs alongside craggy mountains, with an unnervingly steep drop to a rushing river below. We’ll take 4x4s for the 3-4 hour journey, stopping en route for photos… if you dare.

Sleeping: Shimshal guesthouse

A stone gate in Shimshal Valley, Pakistan

Shimshal is at a (literally) breathtaking 3000 meters above sea level, so we’ll take this day to acclimatize, catch our breaths, and explore the peaceful villages throughout the valley.

Sleeping: Shimshal guesthouse

Yazghil glacier in Shimshal, Pakistan

We’ll strike out deeper into Shimshal Valley to take a peep at one of the most brilliantly white glaciers in the region: Yazghil Glacier. It’s 20 kilometers to the glacier and back, but the vast majority of the hike follows a flat riverbed, so no need to be a mountaineer to make it.

Sleeping: Shimshal guesthouse

Attabad lake, Pakistan

We’ll say our goodbyes to Shimshal Valley, bump in our 4x4s back down to the Karakoram Highway, then head south to central Hunza Valley. On our way, we’ll stop at Attabad Lake, a vivid turquoise lake that was formed by a natural disaster almost a decade ago.

Sleeping: Altit guesthouse

Sunset over Hunza Valley, Pakistan

Central Hunza is the most popular destination in Gilgit-Baltistan, and as a result, there are all kinds of things to do! We’ll tour through Baltit and Altit, two centuries-old forts, visit the oldest village in the region, lounge over lunch in a women-run cafe, and admire the sunset from the aptly-named Eagle’s Nest viewpoint.

Sleeping: Altit guesthouse

Car driving by Lulusar Lake, coming down from Babusar Pass on a cloudy day in Pakistan

Alas, it’s time to start traveling back down the plains… but we’re not done with mountains yet! We’ll cross back over Babusar Pass, weather permitting, and stop for the night among the green meadows and pine forests of the Naran Kaghan region.

Sleeping: Burawai hotel

Sun beams over the road through Naran, Pakistan

Back to Islamabad we go! Gone are the cracked mountain roads, in are the silky smooth highways leading to the capital. Returning to Islamabad is always bittersweet, but your bottom will appreciate it.

Sleeping: Islamabad hotel

Female travelers on a Pakistan women's tour in the old city of Rawalpindi

This day depends on you! If the group is feeling adventurous, we can go for a swim in a lake nearby Islamabad, or we can take time to relax and go souvenir shopping. In the evening, we’ll travel to the old city center of Rawalpindi for a historic walking tour… and a bite of street food or two, naturally.

(This day is a buffer day in case landslides or other unexpected delights cause delays in our schedule.)

Sleeping: Islamabad hotel

Airplane on a flight from Pakistan

All good things must come to an end! We’ll finish up any last sightseeing in Islamabad, and people will begin flying home in the evening or the early morning on the next day.

Testimonials

Who this tour is for

You’re fascinated by culture and thirsty for adventure. If things don’t go according to plan, that’s okay: you’re flexible, and like the challenge of the unexpected. You don’t mind roughing it a bit, and aren’t intimidated by squat toilets or no electricity. Mountains thrill you and cultures intrigue you. Meeting locals and getting a feel for a place is more important than getting a perfect Instagram shot and ticking a million bucket list items.

You need the luxury and comforts of home while traveling, or want to travel as fast as possible. Know that Wifi, mobile data, hot water, and electricity aren’t always available. You’ll have to use (sometimes disturbing) squat toilets every once in a while, including where we stay. Local foods comprise the majority of our diets unless you have restrictions. Accommodations in remote areas can be basic at best.

Tour leaders

Aneeqa Ali, a Pakistani female tour guide on our Pakistan women's tour

Aneeqa Ali (Local)

Aneeqa is a trailblazing entrepreneur from Lahore (ish). For years, she’s run one of the few women-owned travel companies in Pakistan, The Mad Hatters. Despite cultural barriers, she’s traveled all over Pakistan both solo and with others. She’s never afraid to stand her ground in the face of chaos (or men being difficult) and never says no to requests for food quests.

Alex Reynolds, the foreign female tour guide for the Pakistan women's tour

Alex Reynolds (Foreign)

Alexandra (Alex) is a solo female traveler, writer, and photographer from the United States. She began traveling Pakistan in 2016—blogging about it excessively the entire time—and started leading tours in 2019. After many a year and many a misadventure, she can now say she’s pet goats in every single province and territory of Pakistan.

Inclusions

Included

  • 3x meals daily
  • Accommodation during the tour
  • Transportation during the tour
  • Letter of invitation (LOI) for e-visa
  • Airport transfer
  • Entry fees

Not included

  • Flight tickets
  • Visa fees
  • Souvenirs
  • Alcohol
  • Snacks
  • Tips for guides and drivers (optional)

Payment and cancellations

To secure your spot on our tour, all you have to do is pay a $500 deposit via bank transfer, Wise (all major cards and most currencies), or credit card (Pakistani rupees). A deposit of $500 is required to secure your position on the tour.

Tour cancellation policy

If you need to cancel your tour for some reason, our cancellation policy is:

  • 2+ months in advance: Full refund minus deposit
  • 1-2 months in advance: 50% refund minus deposit
  • < 1 month in advance: 25% refund minus deposit
  • < 2 weeks in advance: Too last minute! No refunds, but we can move your payment (minus deposit) to another tour.

COVID cancellation policy

We understand that travel plans can change in the blink of an eye in times like these, so we offer the following cancellation policy for coronavirus-related issues:

  • If we cancel the trip: Full refund minus $100 to cover our time, transfer fees, and any vendor payments we might have made already.
  • If you cancel your trip due to COVID concerns: Same cancellation policy as above.
  • If you test positive before your flight and can’t come: You can move your payment minus the deposit to a future tour.

FAQ

This is a tour made for female travelers by female travelers.

Both Aneeqa and I have traveled all over Pakistan independently and otherwise; you won’t find many women working in Pakistan’s travelsphere with more experience than us. To quote one of our tour guests: we’re “badass motherfuckers”.

Though rich, our experiences have proven Pakistan isn’t an easy place to travel as a woman. Nevertheless, we love the country, and want more women to travel Pakistan. This Pakistan women’s tour is meant to help more female travelers come and experience a positive side of the country, and normalize the idea of women traveling without men there (it’s still unusual!).

To keep things intimate and encourage local interactions we’re capping the number at 10 women.

We’ll ask you a few questions before giving you a spot on a tour. Don’t take it personally; we want to make sure everyone is on the same page since the group is small.

No tour is perfect, but we do our best! On this tour, we…

  • Stay in local homestays and guesthouses instead of international chains.
  • Eat local, seasonal food as often as possible.
  • Travel to more offbeat locations to distribute our tourist money.
  • Use locals instead of outsiders as guides, and hire female guides where possible.
  • Visit women-run initiatives and shop at women-run businesses.
  • Reduce our waste by filtering water instead of buying single-use bottles, carrying reusable shopping bags, and using reusable boxes and eating utensils for packed lunches.
  • Pay all drivers, guides, and hosts a fair wage for their time.

We’ll stay at hotels, guesthouses, and traditional homestays. You’ll have to share double rooms in hotels and guesthouses. In homestays, part of the group may have to share one common sleeping space and sleep on the floor. It’s how local people sleep!

Connectivity is limited at times. Though cities have decent signals and wifi, mobile signals in Gilgit Baltistan territory are unreliable. Wifi is slow (if even available) and many areas have no signal. We’ll arrange local SIM cards for you if desired, but overall don’t count on doing video calls or uploading videos unless we’re in a city.

Hygiene standards can be poor in Pakistan. Our chosen hotels and guesthouses have clean facilities, but when we’re out on the road we’ll encounter restrooms in sometimes terrifying states. Food is often problematic, and upset stomachs are inevitable. We’ll do our best to find clean food and help anyone who falls ill; just know it’s a common side effect of traveling here.

Infrastructure is basic. Running hot water is not always available in the mountains. Some accommodations will only have bucket showers (bucket of water and something to pour it on you). Squat toilets are common, toilet paper is not common. These are part of the challenges of traveling in a developing country! Keep an open mind (and always have hand sanitizer ready) and you’ll be okay.

Electricity is not available 24/7 in the mountains. Many places only have electricity for a few hours each day. Some establishments have generators to provide electricity, but they don’t run all day. Heating in remote areas is sometimes limited to wood stoves rather than electric heating. A power bank for small devices is useful (charge it before we leave the city!). We’ll make sure you have access to outlets when electricity is available.

Roads are long and bumpy, particularly on the 20+ hour drive up to Gilgit Baltistan and in remote valleys. We’ll use jeeps to reach some locations. Landslides often cause unexpected delays in the mountains. Prepare yourself for hours of bumpy rides, and know that plans may sometimes be altered due to road delays.

The longest drives we’ll do are going to and from Gilgit-Baltistan: a 2-day journey either way. One day will be around 14 hours of driving, the other will be 6-8 depending on traffic, stops, and road conditions.

Day trekking is part of our 2-week Pakistan women’s tour. You need to be fit enough to walk for several hours at a time. We won’t be doing anything extreme—we’re not fit enough to trek to K2 Basecamp, either!—but you should be fit enough to walk on uneven paths in the mountains for several hours. With breaks, of course. The longest trek we’ll do is 20 kilometers (about 12 miles).

We won’t be doing any camping on this trip.

Altitude sickness is always a risk when going more than 2,000 meters (6,500′) above sea level… which we will! The highest altitude we’ll be sleeping at is in Shimshal at 3,000 meters (9,842′), and our accommodations in Hunza will be in the 2,000m+ range.

However, we’ve never had any women have serious issues with altitude aside from minor headaches and some nausea. If you’re concerned about altitude on the trip, we recommend talking to your doctor before leaving to see if they advise you to travel with Diamox, a common altitude sickness prevention drug.

Weather is varied. Islamabad will be hot (up to 40°C or so, depending on if it’s rained), while mountains will be warm during the day and chilly at night (sometimes 20-30°C during the day and 10°C at night). Rain is unpredictable and can be hard when it falls. Pack both light clothes, warm layers, and a raincoat.

Laundry services are offered by some hotels… but don’t count on it. You’ll be able to wash clothes in sinks or buckets and hang them out to dry when we’re in the mountains.

Men are the most intense part of traveling as a woman in Pakistan. Streets are predominantly a man’s world; many local women stay inside unless they have to go out for errands, school, or work. You’ll be stared at because you’re foreign, because we’re a group of women walking around, because people generally love staring, etc. It’s an inescapable part of traveling to Pakistan… ignore them. The further north we go, the less intense the staring and scrutiny will be.

For more on what it’s like to be a female traveler in Pakistan, check out my women’s travel guide.

Have a question?