Are These 3 Cities on Your Winter Holiday’s Destination list?

By Amina Gul

Well, winter is almost here, especially in Pakistan and the kids are going a little crazy waiting for their winter holidays. It’s a relief for me as well because it tends to get really cold as December wraps up, and it’s a difficult job getting them up and ready for school. Also, I’m just about ready for a break from the daily routine. At this time of year, we usually pack up and visit our parents, but this time I wanted to do something different; something that will be a memorable experience for my children as time goes on.

Pakistan is full of breathtaking locations. There are just so many that they’re sure to make you fall in love with this country all over again. Amidst all the political and social chaos, it seems to me as if we have forgotten the beauty that our beloved country has to offer. I did a little homework on the top places that are perfect for a short winter vacation. If you’re a tourist or an explorer do put these places on your to-do list. You won’t regret it! They’re a bit different from what is usually recommended as vacation spots here, and I’m sure you’ll find them of interest.

Gwadar

In the last few years, Gwadar’s reputation has risen significantly. The port has been getting a lot of attention and is fast becoming a tourist spot for an increasing number of visitors. The number of tourists coming to the place is increasing every year, and the economic value to the region has been undeniable. The Gwadar port is located to the south of the province of Balochistan, near the Iranian border. Apart from the beautiful sea view here there are places for you to go scuba diving, fishing and camping.

The areas around Gwadar is also worth exploring, such as Ormara, with its pristine beach and untouched waters. Others include the Hammerhead and Astola Island. These places are not to be missed, especially for those who are explorers at heart.

When it comes to food, Gwadar is still a work in progress. There are not a lot of restaurants or food places here as yet, but the future is very promising, especially with the rapid rate of development. If you’re looking for a place to stay then the Zaver Pearl-Continental Hotel Gwadar is hands down the best place to check in. Its location is picturesque with beautiful views and it’s very own private beach. The hotel caters to all your foodie needs, serving both local and international flavors. The best part is that you can buy any kind of seafood and the chefs at PC will cook it to your liking. So if you are a seafood lover like me, you will be in heaven in Gwadar. Another popular foodie spot is Sadaf Resort, which serves you the freshest seafood you can ask for; prawns, lobster, you name it and they have it. Check out our travel blog to Gwadar, here.

Skardu

Located at the confluence of the Indus and Shigar rivers at an altitude of 8,200 feet, the town of Skardu is the capital district of Gilgit-Baltistan in the country’s northeast. The town is surrounded by mountains that touch the sky (your headgear will literally fall off as you try to look at them from ground level). There are three magnificent lakes in the vicinity of Skardu: Lake Upper Kachura, Lake Lower Kachura and Lake Sadpara. The area is also well known for its high altitude trekking routes which go all the way up to Baltoro Glacier, the K-2 base camp, and Concordia. It is located approximately five hours away from Gilgit and is a good 10-hour drive from Besham. One of the most common tourist spots in Skardu is the Shangrila Resort which, as the name suggests, is an enchanting place with beautiful huts surrounding a small lake. I remember it’s crystal clear waters where you can easily see the fish swimming all the way to the bottom. You must visit this place, even if you plan on coming here in the winters.

Over the years, Skardu has gained massive popularity as a tourist destination. The area is already famous for it’s dry fruit, which is sent far and wide, both locally and abroad. I have never seen such huge piles of dried apricots like the ones I saw in Skardu. And the taste is out of this world. Aside from dry fruit, Skardu is also known for it’s abundant fresh trout fish. You will come across ‘trout farms’ in this part of the world, including one located on the outskirts of the Shangrila Resort. Get some and have them grilled — you will ascend to the seventh heaven of flavor, that I promise. There are a lot of restaurants now open in Skardu that serve just about everything; from pizzas to Chinese cuisine. I doubt you will be missing the big city anytime soon while you’re here.

552534a77b507

Image: Dawn

Bahawalpur

I have spent two glorious years in this enchanting historical city while my husband was posted there. And not a day went by when I wasn’t falling in love with the culture and beautiful people of this city. There is so much to see and explore in Bahawalpur. The princely state of Punjab boasts a treasure of historic buildings, monuments, and parks that are all breathtaking. The best part is that all this beauty has been very well maintained and the city retains its glory and splendor.

If you’re planning to visit Bahawalpur you’ll want to do your homework as there is a lot to see and many places to explore here. There is the famous Noor Mahal, the very regal Darbar Mahal and the stunning architecture of the Gulzar Mahal. Derawar Fort, a historical outpost located on the outskirts of the city is another sight to be seen. Lal Suhandra Park and the Bahawalpur Zoo are both places you want to be, especially if you’re traveling with your family and children.

Bahawalpur is very popular among the ladies because of all the different hand-embroideries on offer. Mukesh, thread work, chunri and ajraks are just some of the splendors you will find in Bahawalpur’s famous Shahi Bazar in abundance. So make sure you make the most of your trip to this beautiful and historic city.

So let’s talk about the food in this glorious city. No doubt some if not all of you may have tasted or heard of Bahawalpur’s famous ‘Sohan halwa’. The love with which it is prepared, packed and presented to customers embodies the traditional hospitality of the city’s people. With winters upon us, this delight is sold by the kilos to both locals and tourists.

There are quite a number of restaurants now open in Bahawalpur, ranging from continental to desi food. My best recommendation in the city has to be the restaurant inside the Noor Mahal — Noor Mahal View. And what a view it is. This outdoor eatery specializes in barbecue and it’s famous Khadda Chicken, where a whole chicken is marinated in special spices and buried in a shallow ditch with coals and roasted to perfection. This one is not to be missed.

derawarfort1

Image: Destination Pakistan

So are you guys packing your bags already or what? Get your gear and visit these places now! Tell us about your journey and of other places you have (or want to) visit. Safe travels!