Pakistan women’s tour – Spring & Fall 2020
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: you’ll see the diversity that makes Pakistan what it is. And then some.
“This trip truly and honestly changed my life.”
Why you should travel Pakistan ASAP
There’s no better time to travel to Pakistan. The security situation has improved immensely. Foreign tourists are returning. The government is relaxing travel restrictions.
In a few years, Pakistan is going to be on far more travelers’ maps. Now is the time to come and experience it for yourself… before everyone else figures out how amazing it is.
“I can’t think of anyone better to have shown us around Pakistan than you two.”
Why THIS tour?
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 tour is meant to help more female travelers come and experience a positive side of Pakistan, and normalize the idea of women traveling without men in the country (it’s still unusual!).
We also designed this tour with responsible tourism in mind. On this tour, we will…
- 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.
Where are we going?
We’ll be heading to both famous sights and off the beaten track locales, including but not limited to:
Our tour begins in Pakistan’s peaceful capital, with a visit to its far older and slightly more chaotic neighboring city, Rawalpindi.
Hunza – Gulmit, Passu, Khunjerab, Karimabad, Altit
Pakistan’s most famous valley, embraced by the Karakoram Mountains and filled with crackling glaciers, forested foothills, and ancient fortresses. We’ll travel along the famous Karakoram Highway to visit multiple locations in Hunza, and stay in a traditional homestay.
Ghizer – Darkot, Taus
A quiet and little-visited region in western Gilgit Baltistan, where we’ll find intimate mountain valleys and some of the most hospitable people in the north. Idyllic Yasin Valley will be our focus, and we’ll stay at two different homestays while there.
Astore – Tarashing, Rama
Out with the dry mountains, in with the green meadows! Pastoral postcard views, aquamarine lakes, and the ninth highest mountain in the world await us in this region east of the Karakoram Highway.
Pakistan’s cultural capital is our grand finale! Mughal-era monuments, religious shrines still very much alive, a passionate food scene and more await in this historic city, my favorite in Pakistan.
“I would recommend it in a heartbeat.”
Which tour season is best?
We’re currently offering two women-only tours per year:
- Spring: March 22 – April 10, 2020
- Fall: October 18 – November 6, 2020
It depends on your availability—which can you join?
Spring: Cherry blossoms and snow
You’ll see mountain valleys blooming with white and pink cherry blossoms… but it’ll still be cold! Some passes will be closed, meaning we have to take the longer and bumpier road to the northern mountains. You’ll trek through snow some days, but on the bright side the peaks around us will be snowier and more beautiful! It will also be pleasant in the southern cities. If you love flower blossoms or snowy adventures this one’s for you!
Fall (Autumn): Fall colors and harvest
We’ve timed the tour to align with trees changing colors in the mountains. Peak travel season will be over, but many foreign groups come to see fall in the mountains. Fall is also the end of harvest season, so you’ll get to taste local apples, walnuts, etc. It’ll be getting cold, especially toward the end of the trip, and we may see some snow at higher altitudes. We’ll be able to take the nicely paved road over Babusar Pass when driving north, but will likely have to take the long and bumpy way back down south.
How many people will be on the tour?
To keep things intimate and encourage local interactions we’re capping the number at 12 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.
Tour cost and what’s included
The tour is US$2500 per person.
Payments can be made by bank transfer, Transferwise (all major cards and most currencies), or credit card (Pakistani rupees). A deposit of $500 is required to secure your position on the tour.
The cost includes:
- Letter of Invitation (LOI) for your visa
- Airport transfers within Pakistan
- Accommodation for duration of tour
- Accommodation around tour dates can be arranged for an extra cost
- Transportation within Pakistan
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Entrance fees
The following aren’t included:
- Visa fees
- Flight tickets
- Tips for guides/workers (optional)
Note: If this cost seems too high to you, know it’s priced for a reason. We’re not racing to the bottom like other tour operators in Pakistan—this is what a unique, responsible, small group tour costs.
If you need to cancel your tour for some reason, our cancellation policy is:
- Cancel more than 2 months in advance: full refund minus deposit
- 1-2 months in advance: 50% refund minus deposit
- Less than one month in advance: 25% refund minus deposit
- Less than two weeks in advance: Too last minute! No refunds.
The perfect woman for this tour
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.
If this sounds like you, this tour is made for you! Sign up now before spots run out.
This tour isn’t suitable for…
If you need luxury and comforts of home while traveling, or want to travel as fast as possible, this tour isn’t the best choice for you.
Wifi, mobile data, and electricity aren’t always available. You’ll have to use (sometimes disturbing) squat toilets every once in a while. Local foods comprise the majority of our diets unless you have restrictions. Accommodations in remote areas can be basic at best. We’ll be exploring at a relaxed pace; we’re not trying to see every. single. sight. in Hunza in one day.
Sounds like a nightmare? You might want to pass on this tour.
Prepare yourself: what to expect from Pakistan and this tour
Most adventures require some comfort sacrifices, but we’ll do our best to make sure you’re taken care of despite occasionally basic infrastructure.
Accommodation includes hotels, guesthouses, and traditional homestays. You’ll have to share double rooms in hotels and guesthouses. In homestays we sometimes have to share one common sleeping space (how local people sleep).
Connectivity is limited at times—see the full itinerary for details on where there is and isn’t signal. Though cities have decent signal and wifi, mobile signals in Gilgit Baltistan territory are wretched at best. 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 Skyping home 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 accommodation 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.
Day trekking is part of our tour. You need to be fit enough to walk for 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.
Weather is varied. Lahore and Islamabad can be warm (up to 20-30°C), while mountains will be cold (sometimes 10-15°C during the day and below freezing at night). Pack warm layers.
Laundry services are offered by some hotels, but aren’t something you can always count on. 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 intense 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 Pakistan; ignore them. The further north we go, the less intense the staring and scrutiny will be.