Pakistan, the land known manufacturing a lot of motorcycle gear, smuggling drugs and unfortunately, for terrorism. But, that’s just what we see and hear in the news. For a motorcycle traveller itching to ride and explore remote and beautiful landscapes, motorcycle touring in Pakistan should be a part of the top five places on your list. From the snow- capped Himalayas in the north-east to the desert near the Iranian border, Pakistan is a country that offers extremes when it comes to terrain and temperatures. Not only that, there are two extremes to people too because you come across extremely hospitable, kind and sweet people on one hand and on the other, a smattering of terrorists that try to ruin things for everybody.
Top Routes and Destinations for Motorcycle Touring in Pakistan
The Karakoram highway, also known as the KKH is the highest international highway in the world, connecting West China to Pakistan. It has been legendary for overlanders since the days of the silk road. Find out more …
An extremely pretty valley lies in Gilgit, a province of Baltistan. Known for its Pine trees, wildlife and magnificent mountain scenery, there are two villages that lie in the area where one could opt to stay. To explore the region, you may opt for jeeps if it gets challenging on motorcycles. Also famous for its picturesque lakes, Naltar is a mere two to three hour ride from the town of Gilgit.
Lying on the boundary of Karakoram and Western Himalaya, the second highest plateau in the world named Deosai plains is home to a variety of flowers, wildlife, mountain peaks and grass. Not a single tree can be found here but the kind of colours and contrasts it offers is simply staggering. It snows on Deosai plains for about 8 months but in summer, the plains reveal their inner beauty once the snow has melted. This too, is located in the Gilgit- Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan. It can be reached from Skardu city, which is roughly 30 km away. Deosai Plains is also home to one of the highest lakes in the world called Sheosar lake, that lies at an altitude of 13,500 feet.
The Kirthar mountain range serves as a natural border between the province of Sindh and the disputed Balochistan and is quite a popular tourist spot due to several streams, historic sites and hot springs. The local population is very friendly and welcomes tourists. The region also consists of Kirthar National Park towards the city of Karachi that is home to endangered animals like the Sindh Ibex, deer, Leopard and Macqueen’s Bustard.
Planning your ride in Pakistan
Pakistan is a highly volatile region in terms of disputes and terrorist attacks, hence there is absolutely no guarantee of your safety. There are some regions which have friendly people and enough security but the current political scenario makes these times highly unpredictable. It is best to first take note of the current situation of the areas you would be riding to. Ensure you look up for every information and are updated with the latest and accurate information before starting the ride. If possible, get in touch with your foreign office to get a situation update as sensitive areas, especially border regions near Afghanistan, Iran are prone to conflicts and tensions. Here are a few handy links:
Not all checkpoints in Pakistan will ask you for your documents, but they will tend to frisk you. If the security is at a high alert, then there would check each and every document you have with you before allowing you to proceed with the journey. A driver’s licence, basic motorcycle insurance documents and a carnet for your motorcycle is a must to have with you, apart from the passport. The authorities may not be strict with the insurance papers but if you’re crossing over to Iran or India, then your papers need to be genuine and up-to-date.
The north of Pakistan, especially around the Himalayan range is usually cool throughout the year and with temperatures reaching 25-30 degrees centigrade in summers, it is wise to keep yourself warm during the night. Acclimatisation is a healthy precaution to practice while riding to regions above 9000 feet. Frequent food and water breaks are good to take at high altitudes. The south of Pakistan, especially towards the border with Iran and Afghanistan to the west, the terrain is barren and deserted, literally. Temperatures reach 45 to 50 degrees centigrade in the summer, hence you’ll have to be very cautious about the food and water you consume. Hydration with glucose intake is recommended. Ensure you consume less spicy food throughout and communicate the same to the cook/hotelier. If at all you do ride in peak summers, try and plan your route in a way where you ride more often early in the morning, just after sunrise, take rest in the afternoon and then continue the ride in the evening until sunset.
Bike Preparation and Gear
It is highly recommended that you prep your motorcycle up in all aspects so that it can take up the beating Pakistan’s unpaved roads offer. Not that you’ll have to ride off road throughout, but if you’re riding in unexplored regions, then your definition of ‘bad roads’ may change to ‘smooth roads’. Therefore, knowing how to solve small issues, cleaning the carb (if your motorcycle has one), cleaning or replacing the air filter and the ability to diagnose and solve certain problems may come in handy. There are areas where you may not find people around and if you’re thinking about highway assistance, you should reconsider doing this ride. In terms of gear, the thermal liners would be useful in the north but the moment you head down south, ensure you have riding gear with a lot of pockets for ventilation as it is bound to be hot and dusty.
Road and Traffic Conditions
Road conditions in Pakistan are unpredictable. In some areas, especially around the countryside and mountains lie perfectly paved roads but with intervals of unpaved, broken roads. On the other hand, there are areas with no roads, either broken pathways or trails exist. Traffic is hardly a problem in most areas except in cities like Karachi and Islamabad where the pattern is quite scattered and congested. While riding through sensitive areas, you may have the local police escort you in armed vehicles or on motorcycles till your destination. Guidelines will be given to you to not veer off path and to not ride at night, ensure that you strictly adhere to their instructions for your safety as they’re the only ones you can trust.