food is similar to that of northern India, with a dollop of Middle
Eastern influence thrown in for good measure. This means menus peppered
with baked and deep-fried breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and
nan), meat curries, lentil mush (dhal), spicy spinach, cabbage,
peas and rice. Street snacks - samosas and tikkas (spiced and barbecued
beef, mutton or chicken) - are delicious, while a range of desserts
will satisfy any sweet tooth. The most common sweet is barfi (it
pays to overlook the name), which is made of dried milk solids and
comes in a variety of flavours.
has three seasons
(October through February); hot (March through June); and wet (July
through September). There are, however, big regional variations.
In the south, the cool season brings dry days and cool nights, while
the northern mountains get drizzle and plummeting nighttime temperatures.
The hot season means suffocating hot and humid conditions in the
south but pleasant temperatures northwards. During the wet season,
the tail end of the monsoon dumps steady rain mostly in the narrow
belt of the Punjab from Lahore to Islamabad. But further north,
the high mountains block all but the most determined clouds, which
means relatively little rain falls there (budding trekkers please
There & Away
flights from European and Asia arrive in Karachi, though a few also
go to Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Gwadar (Baluchistan).
Much more interesting is taking an overland route. A railway links
Lahore with the Indian railway system through Amritsar, and another
from Quetta crosses briefly into Iran. After the Grand Trunk Road,
the most famous road into Pakistan is the Karakoram Highway, over
the 4730m (15,514 ft) Khunjerab Pass from Kashgar in China; roads
also run from India and Iran. A bus service between Delhi and Lahore,
operating four times a week, is now up and running. Sea passage
is a possibility, with cargo ships calling at Karachi from either
the Middle East or Bombay.
around Pakistan is not always comfortable, but it's incredibly cheap.
The state-owned Pakistan International Airlines has regular flights
to 35 domestic terminals and daily connections between the major
centers. One of the bonuses of flying is that some of the air routes,
especially to the northern areas and Chitral, are spectacular. Buses
go anywhere, anytime. Vans, wagons, pick-ups and jeeps are also
a popular form of road transport. Train travel is slower and easier
on the nerves but, unfortunately, there are no routes into the mountains.
If you're fit and unafraid of feverish traffic, cycling is a particularly
good way to see the country. City transport is dominated by buses,
taxis, auto-rickshaws and two-wheeled, horse-drawn tongas.