North-West Frontier Province
Impenetrable mountains, intractable
people, and impossibly romantic cities are just some of the reasons
why the North-Western Frontier Province is perhaps the most memorable
of Pakistan's destinations.
Most visits begin in Peshawar, the rough and ready provincial capital.
The highlight here is the Old City - a brawl of vendors selling
everything from tribal jewelry to leather pistol holsters. Clopping
horse-drawn tongas choke the streets which are thick with fearsome-looking
Pashtuns - members of a vast tribal society - Afghans and Chitrali.
A short distance outside Peshawar (but a million miles away) is
the Smugglers Bazaar. It's definitely not what you'd expect: turbaned
merchants in tents have been replaced by Westernized malls stocking
the latest TVs, VCRs and refrigerators. There's even a shop flogging
Marks & Spencer's merchandise. The fabled Khyber Pass, sprinkled
with tiny army forts, is nearby.
of Peshawar is the district of Swat, reckoned to have the loveliest
scenery in Pakistan's northern valleys, and Chitral, a relatively
unspoiled area of lush valleys, hot springs and great walks. Vertigo
sufferers should steer clear of Indus Koshitan to the west, a land
of colossal peaks and bottomless canyons with more good walks.
You can get domestic flights from Peshawar to any number of Pakistani
destinations, as well as direct flights to Qatar, Tashkent, Abu
Dhabi, Dubai, and Jeddah. Buses and minibuses go to and fro from
Lahore and Rawalpindi all day, although the train is as cheap, and
safer than, the buses. Peshawar is 150 Km (93 Mi) west of Islamabad.