Day 01: Arrive Karachi
Khush Amdeed! Arrival Karachi airport and we are warmly received and transferred to our hotel. In the evening we visit the elegant white marble mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah founder of Pakistan, and the Defence Mosque, an impressive modern concrete shell dome mosque followed by our welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight: Pearl Continental Hotel, Karachi (2 nights) (D)
Day 02: Karachi / Thatta / Karachi
We visit the National Museum that houses an impressive collection of relics from Indus Valley Civilization and the Gandhara period. Afterward we take an excursion to the Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta*. The archaeological site of Thatta and the necropolis of Makli testify in an outstanding manner to the civilization of Sind from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Within the broad family of Islamic monuments, those of Thatta represent a particular type, notable for the fusion of diverse influences into a local style. The effect of the Grand Mosque of Shah Jahan with its complex of blue and white buildings capped by 93 domes is unique. From the 14th to the 18th centuries, Thatta played an important role in the history of Sind, as the city, which commanded the delta of the Indus, had been successively the capital of the Samma, Argun and Tarkhan dynasties before being governed from 1592 to 1739 in the name of the Mughal emperors of Delhi. From 1739, when the province of Sind was ceded to the Shah Nadir of Iran, Thatta entered into a period of decadence and neglect. The site preserves, in a state of exceptional integrity, an imposing monumental complex with the remains of the city itself in the valley and especially those of the necropolis, massed at the edge of the Makli plateau, covering a distance of about 12 km. The four centuries that comprise the golden age of Thatta have left their traces on the form of monuments of high quality in stone and brick. Among those in stone are the tombs of Jam Nizammudin, who reigned from 1461 to 1509, and those of Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger and of his father, Jan Baba, both of which were constructed before 1644. Among the edifices in brick and glazed tiles are the mosque of Dabgir, that of Shah Jahan (1644-47) and numerous mausolea, and tombs of which the most colourful is that of Diwan Shurfa Khan (died 1638). If the tomb of Jam Nizamuddin establishes evident ties with Hindu architecture of the Gujerat style and the influence of Mughal imperial architecture, it is in no way a simple copy. At Thatta, an original concept of stone decoration was born, perhaps using glazed tile models. Even in the area of architectural terracotta, the distant examples of Persia and Asia were transposed. (B, D)
Day 03: Karachi / Sukkur / Moenjodaro
After a short flight to Sukkur we proceed to the archaeological site of Mohenjodaro*, the most ancient and best-preserved urban ruin on the Indian subcontinent. The archaeological site is located on the right bank of the Indus River, and flourished for about 800 years during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Centre of the Indus Civilization, this 5,000-year old city is the earliest manifestation of urbanization in South Asia. Its urban planning surpasses that of many other sites of the oriental civilizations that were to follow. Of massive proportions, Moenjodaro comprises two sectors: a stupa mound that rises in the western sector and, to the east, the lower city ruins spread out along the banks of the Indus. The acropolis, set on high embankments, the ramparts, and the lower town, which is laid out according to strict rules, provide evidence of an early system of town planning. The stupa mound, built on a massive platform of mud brick, is composed of the ruins of several major structures: Great Bath, Great Granary, College Square and Pillared Hall, as well as a number of private homes. The extensive lower city is a complex of private and public houses, wells, shops and commercial buildings. These buildings are laid out along streets intersecting each other at right angles, in a highly orderly form of city planning that also incorporated important systems of sanitation and drainage. We also visit the Moenjodaro Museum, before returning to Sukkur for the night.
Overnight: Inter Pak Inn, Sukkur (1 night) (B, D)
Day 04: Sukkur / Bhong / Bahawalpur
We start with a tour of Sukkur, the largest settlement in interior Sind and continue on a scenic rural Sind and Lower Punjab drive to Bhong. Bhong is well known for its most extraordinary, albeit modern, mosque. It is a recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Islamic Architecture. Built in traditional style with extravagant use of gold leaf, mirror work and onyx it displays extraordinary Arabic calligraphy. We continue to the princely city of Bahawalpur.
Overnight: PTDC Motel, Bahawalpur (1 night) (B, D)
Day 05: Bahawalpur / Multan
We explore the city of Nawabs and Rajas before proceeding to Multan. Well known as a Sufi centre, Multan was the place where Alexander was hit with the arrow that led to his eventual death. Our afternoon tour commences with a visit to the Old Fort, which houses the elaborately decorated shrines of Sheikh Bahad-ud-din Zakriya, Shah Shams Tabriz and the Tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam. The latter tomb of the saint is still revered today and his tomb is the focus of the pilgrimage of over 100,000 pilgrims from all over South Asia who visit and commemorate his memory. We also explore the colourful Hussain Agahi Bazaar and enjoy a free evening.
Overnight: Ramada Inn Hotel, Multan (1 night) B, D)
Day 06: Multan / Harappa / Lahore
A drive through green and rural Punjab gets to Harappa. The archaeological site of Harappa consists of a series of low archaeological mounds and cemeteries to the south of a dry bed of the Ravi river. A modern sign posted network of concrete paths links most of these mounds. The site’s sequence stretches from the fourth to the second millennium BC and whilst there are a limited number of open sections, the only exposed structures, on mound AB and F, date to the third millennium. There are a number of historic structures scattered across the property including an un-conserved Gupta period temple, a partially conserved mosque and the recently excavated foundations of a Mughal serai. A modern reconstruction of a Bronze Age city wall and gate has been constructed on the southern edge of mounds. We will explore the site and visit the Harappa Museum before continuing to the majestic city of Lahore.
Overnight: Pearl Continental Lahore (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 07: Lahore
Lahore successively served as regional capital of the empires of the Shahi kingdoms in the 11th century, the Ghaznavids in the 12th century, the Ghurid State in the 12th and 13th centuries the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, the Sikh expansion in the early 19th century, and it was the capital of the Punjab region under the British Raj in the mid-19th and early 20th century. The traditional capital of Punjab for a thousand years, Lahore was the cultural center of the northern Indian subcontinent, which extends from the eastern banks of the Indus River to New Delhi.
We start our visit in the Lahore Fort*, situated in the northwest corner of the Walled City of Lahore. Assuming its present configuration during the 11th century, the Fort was destroyed and rebuilt several times by the early Mughals during the 13th to the 15th centuries. The 21 monuments which survive within its boundaries comprise an outstanding repertory of the forms of Mughal architecture from the reign of Akbar (1542-1605), characterized by standardized masonry of baked brick and red sandstone courses relieved by Hindu motifs including zooomorphic corbels, through that of Shah Jahan (1627-58), characterized by the use of luxurious marbles, inlays of precious materials and mosaics, set within exuberant decorative motifs of Persian origins. Akbar’s efforts are exemplified in the Masjidi Gate flanked by two bastions and the Khana-e-Khas-o-Am (Public and Private Audience Hall). Akbar’s successor, Jahangir, finished the large north court begun by Akbar and decorated the north and northwest walls of the Fort. Shah Jahan added a fairy tale-like complex of buildings surrounding the Court of Shah Jahan: Diwan-e-Kas, Lal Burj, Khwabgah-e-Jahangiri, and the Shish Mahal, one of the most beautiful palaces in the world, sparkling with mosaics of glass, gilt, semi-precious stones and marble screening. We then explore the Badshahi Mosque and its vast courtyard. The entrance, which is a double story edifice is elaborately decorated with framed and carved paneling on all its facades. At the four corners there are square minarets surmounted by pseudo-pavilions of red sandstone with white marble cupolas. At the four corners of the courtyard are the tall octagonal minars (towers). Four smaller minarets, also octagonal, are attached to the corners of the prayer chamber. Above them rise three grand bulbous marble domes. The red sandstone of the building is decorated externally with unobtrusive lines and patterns in white marble inlay. The embellishment of the prayer chamber in the interior and exterior with Zanjira interlacing and flowers with their spidery tendrils, and treated in bold relief, is a unique work of unsurpassed beauty and workmanship in Mughal architecture. We then explore the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, the mausoleum of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Guru Arjun Dev, both important places for the Sikhs; and Shalimar Gardens*, constructed by Shah Jahan. This Mughal garden is characterized by enclosing walls, a rectilinear layout of paths and features, and large expanses of flowing water. The Shalimar Gardens cover 16 hectares, and is arranged in three terraces descending from the south to the north. The regular plan, enclosed by a crenellated wall of red sandstone, disposes square beds on the upper and lower terraces and elongated blocks on the narrower, intermediate terrace; within, elegant pavilions balance harmoniously arranged poplar and cypress trees, reflected in the vast basins of water. In the afternoon tour we visit the Lahore Museum and its many galleries displaying artifacts from the Gandhara, Buddhist, Jain, Mogul and Colonial periods. The highlights of the museum are a statue of the fasting Siddhartha (Buddha) and the Zamzamma, Rudyard Kipling’s gun. Next we head to the town of Shahdara Bagh to visit the Tombs of Jahangir and his Empress, Nur Jehan. The mausoleum was built for the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who ruled from 1605 to 1627 by his son Shah Jahan. It is sited in an attractive walled garden. It has four 30 meter high minarets. The interior of the mausoleum is an elevated sarcophagus of white marble, the sides of which are wrought with flowers of mosaic in the same elegant style as the tombs in the Taj Mahal. On two sides of the sarcophagus the ninety-nine attributes of God are inlaid in black. Beautiful 'jalis' admit light in various patterns. We also explore the famous Wazir Khan's Mosque the many bazaars in Old Lahore. (B, D)
Day 08: Lahore / Rawalpindi
We take the historical Grand Trunk Road to visit Rohtas Fort*, also called Qila Rohtas. Following his defeat of the Mughal emperor Humayun in 1541, Sher Shah Suri built a strong fortified complex at Rohtas, a strategic site in the north of what is now Pakistan. It was never taken by storm and has survived intact to the present day. The main fortifications consist of the massive walls, which extend for more than 4 km; they are lined with bastions and pierced by monumental gateways. It is an exceptional example of early Muslim military architecture in Central and South Asia. After visiting the fort we drive to Rawalpindi and are transferred to our hotel. Rawalpindi is the twin city to Islamabad.
Overnight: Pearl Continental Hotel, Rawalpindi (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 09: Taxila / Rawalpindi / Islamabad
Today we explore Taxila*. From the ancient Neolithic tumulus of Saraikala to the ramparts of Sirkap (2nd century B.C.) and the city of Sirsukh (1st century A.D.), Taxila illustrates the different stages in the development of a city on the Indus that was alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia and which, from the 5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D., was an important Buddhist centre of learning. The history of Taxila spans over a thousand years - from 500 BC to 500 AD. The Taxila Museum reflects the original culture and tradition of the old Gandhara Civilization. From here we continue to Shakarparian (sweet hills) Gardens from where we get a panoramic view of Islamabad. We visit the Lok Virsa Museum housing a fascinating array of traditional handicrafts including embroidered costumes, old jewellery and intricate woodcarvings. It is a popular place for those wishing to buy traditional Pakistani crafts. We then drive past various modern streets and buildings – gracefully designed in Islamic architecture. The Islamabad portion of the tour culminates at one of the world’s largest mosque - Shah Faisal Mosque. The architecture has a blend of the Ottoman minarets. The mosque is considered to be amongst the largest in the world. From here we drive to Rawalpindi and visit this much older town including the historical Raja Bazaar. Evening we have a farewell dinner in Rawalpindi. (B, D)
Day 10: Departure Islamabad or continue to Peshawar via Takht-e-Bhai
For those ending the tour in Islamabad you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight. For those continuing on to Peshawar we drive to the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi* (Throne of Origins), which was founded in the early 1st century. Owing to its location on the crest of a high hill, it escaped successive invasions and is still exceptionally well preserved. We will also visit the nearby ruins of Sahr-i-Bahlol*, a small fortified city dating from the same period before continuing to the historical city of Peshawar.
Overnight: Pearl Continental, Peshawar (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 11: Peshawar
Peshawar is now officially recognized as being one of the Oldest Living Cities in Asia. Its history and culture has continued uninterrupted since several centuries, as Peshawar has for centuries been a centre of trade between Afghanistan, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. We explore this historical city visiting the historical Quissa Khawani (Story Tellers) bazaar. In olden days this was the place where caravans and military adventures would halt and professional storytellers recited ballads and tales of travel war and love to the locals and the traders. Today the storytellers are gone but the atmosphere still lingers on. It offers everything from goldsmiths and silversmiths, traditional carpets, pottery, and clothing to artwork in wood, brass or semi-precious stones. We then visit the incredible Mahabat Khan Mosque followed by a sightseeing tour of the city. In the afternoon we have an in-depth visit of the Peshawar Museum, known for its rich collection of Gandhara artifacts. (B, D)
Day 12: Depart Peshawar
After our enlightening journey through millenary history, we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. (B)