In 2024, with airfare hitting the roof and visas getting more and more difficult to obtain for Pakistanis, we should turn towards local options. Pakistan is a country blessed with so many natural landscapes going from tall mountains to serene beaches. Here are some ideas for the Karachiites, Islamabadis and Lahoris.

Islamabad:

Ayubia National Park(Travelling time≈ 2 hours)

Nestled in the lush hills of the Abbottabad District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, is an exceptional weekend getaway for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Spanning over 3,312 hectares, the park is a sanctuary of biodiversity, home to a variety of flora and fauna, including leopards, bears, and an array of bird species, making it a paradise for wildlife watchers. The park’s cool, temperate climate provides a refreshing escape from the city’s heat, while its scenic hiking trails, such as the famous Pipeline Track, offer breathtaking views of the verdant landscape and the majestic Himalayas. For those seeking relaxation, Ayubia’s serene environment, along with the sounds of nature, offers an ideal setting for picnics and leisurely strolls. Additionally, the charming hill stations within the park, like Dunga Gali and Khanspur, provide cozy accommodations and local hospitality, ensuring a comfortable stay. With its combination of natural beauty, recreational activities, and tranquility, Ayubia National Park stands out as a perfect destination for a rejuvenating weekend retreat.

Peshawar (Travelling time ≈ 2.5 hours)

The vibrant capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, is a captivating weekend getaway that offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and culinary delights. As one of the oldest cities in South Asia, Peshawar is steeped in history, with landmarks like the ancient Bala Hisar Fort, the Mahabat Khan Mosque, and the historic Sethi Houses providing glimpses into its storied past. The city’s bustling bazaars, such as Qissa Khwani Bazaar, are a treasure trove for shoppers and a feast for the senses, offering traditional crafts, spices, and the famed Peshawari chappal. Food enthusiasts will be delighted by the city’s renowned cuisine, featuring delicacies like chapli kebabs, lamb karahi, and flavorful pulao. Beyond its historical and cultural allure, Peshawar’s warm and welcoming atmosphere, coupled with its unique blend of Pashtun hospitality, makes visitors feel right at home. With its diverse attractions and vibrant local life, Peshawar provides a refreshing and enriching weekend escape for those looking to explore the heart of Pakistan’s northwest.

Karachi

Manora Island(Travelling time ≈ 45 mins)

Located just off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan, is an ideal weekend getaway offering a unique blend of historical intrigue, natural beauty, and serene beaches. A short boat ride from the bustling city, the island provides a peaceful retreat where visitors can unwind and explore. Manora’s sandy beaches, such as Sandspit and Manora Beach, are perfect for relaxing sunbaths, swimming, and leisurely strolls along the shore. The island is steeped in history, with landmarks like the Manora Lighthouse and the 19th-century St. Paul’s Church, which offer a glimpse into its colonial past. Additionally, the island’s quaint fishing village ambiance and fresh seafood eateries provide an authentic and delightful culinary experience. For those interested in culture and heritage, the island houses ancient Hindu temples and Sufi shrines, reflecting its rich and diverse cultural fabric. With its combination of tranquil beaches, historical sites, and cultural richness, Manora Island presents a refreshing and captivating escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, making it an excellent choice for a weekend getaway.

Gharo(Travelling time ≈ 1.5 hours)

A charming town located in the Sindh province of Pakistan, is an excellent weekend getaway offering a unique mix of natural beauty, recreational activities, and historical intrigue. Situated just a short drive from Karachi, Gharo is renowned for its lush landscapes and serene environment, providing a refreshing escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. One of its main attractions is the Gharo Wind Corridor, where visitors can marvel at the impressive wind farms that contribute to the region’s sustainable energy efforts. For water enthusiasts, the nearby Keenjhar Lake, also known as Kalri Lake, offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and picnicking along its scenic shores. The area is also home to historical sites such as the ancient Chaukhandi tombs, which showcase intricate sandstone carvings and provide a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage. Gharo’s blend of outdoor adventures, historical exploration, and peaceful surroundings makes it an ideal destination for a rejuvenating weekend retreat, offering something for everyone to enjoy.

Spotlight location: Unwind at Gharo

Lahore

Harappa(Travelling time ≈ 3.25 hours)

    Situated in the Punjab province of Pakistan, is an exceptional weekend getaway that immerses visitors in the ancient marvels of the Indus Valley Civilization. As one of the key archaeological sites of this prehistoric culture, Harappa offers a fascinating glimpse into one of the world’s earliest urban settlements, dating back to 2600 BCE. Visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins, including the remnants of sophisticated urban planning, granaries, and drainage systems that highlight the advanced nature of Harappan society. The Harappa Museum, located nearby, houses an impressive collection of artefacts such as pottery, tools, and jewellery, providing deeper insights into the daily lives and artistry of the ancient inhabitants. The serene countryside surrounding the site adds to the charm, offering a peaceful backdrop for reflection and exploration. Harappa’s unique combination of historical significance and tranquil setting makes it an enriching and inspiring destination, perfect for a weekend retreat that both educates and rejuvenates.

    Changa Manga Forest(Travelling time ≈ 1.5 hours)

      Located in the Punjab province of Pakistan, is a superb weekend getaway for nature lovers and adventure seekers. As one of the world’s largest man-made forests, Changa Manga offers a lush and tranquil retreat from urban life, just a short drive from Lahore. The forest is crisscrossed with numerous walking and biking trails, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities amidst the greenery. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely boat ride on the forest’s serene lake, or explore the small wildlife park that houses various native species. The area also boasts well-maintained picnic spots, making it perfect for family outings. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the forest offers horseback riding and a thrilling ride on the forest’s miniature train, which winds through the dense foliage. The rich biodiversity, coupled with the peaceful ambiance and recreational facilities, makes Changa Manga Forest an ideal destination for a refreshing and invigorating weekend escape.