Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world © Tahsin Anwar Ali
Pakistan is undeniably beautiful but, tragically, isn't quite suitable for leisure travel at the moment. Home to the entire coast of the Arabian Sea, the snowy peaks of the Karakoram Mountains, and a cultural legacy that needs no introduction, it is sadly too politically unstable to accommodate any but the most intrepid of adventurers. Should the country's situation ever improve, tourists will undoubtedly scurry to enjoy its varied delights.
The country itself may be relatively new but the Indus region has hosted civilisation for thousands of years. History buffs who dive into this particular pool will discover depths that recall the British Empire's influence, rivalries between Hindu and Islamic dynasties, the Silk Road trade network that connected China, India and the Roman Empire, and Alexander the Great's conquest of the East. Nature lovers can follow the Indus River down from the spectacular mountain ranges in the north (which include the world's second highest peak, K2) to the arid plateau of Balochistan in the rugged southwest, which is as beautiful as it is unforgiving.
The major cities of Karachi, the capital Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi are all situated in the lowlands of the Indus valley. Life in these bustling urban areas is a mix of ancient tradition and modern technology, where shoppers haggle in colourful bazaars and craftsmen ply their trade, while others tuck into hot and spicy treats at street restaurants, or unwind at teahouses.
For now, sadly, Pakistan must continue to be overlooked as a mainstream travel destination due to valid safety concerns. Those brave souls who do decide to explore its cities and landscapes, however, will be rewarded with unforgettable sights and experiences.
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