“If there were 3 places in Pakistan you would recommend for travel, which ones would they be? And why?”

More than twenty people in my network (which I believe to be broad-based) were asked this common question. This Miss Universe Pageant/Contest approach to a travel poll did wonders! People virtually dove in to vote for their favorite locations in Pakistan.

‘Heaven on Earth’

‘A meet with the clouds’

‘A rendezvous with the fairies’

‘A date with colors’

These were just some of the words with which people described their most treasured outdoor memories.

Anyway, based on the survey’s results, here are 5 Must-Visit locations when you’re thinking of traveling in Pakistan:

#1: Shogran

Kaghan, also called the ‘Himalayan Hide-out’, is a valley in the north-east of Pakistan’s NWFP province. Kaghan’s scenic marvels include a village which can be reached through Balakot: Shogran. At a height of nearly 7000 feet above sea level, the immediate reaction of those fortunate enough to visit Shogran is a gasp of wonder!

Unfortunately, Shogran, like many other tourist spots across the country, became a victim of the 2005 and 2010 natural catastrophes. However, the beauty has not been completely lost, and there is still lots one can do. You can ride horses and hike to the nearby peaks including the Sri Paya and Mount Makra. You can also visit the amazing Ansoo Jheel and gaze at its shimmering blue water.

#2: Saif-ul-Muluk

Naran without Kaghan is like butter without bread. Another village in NWFP, Naran also holds the wondrous lake Saif-ul-Muluk in the shadows of the Malika Parbat. If you are lucky enough to spend a starry night at this spot, you might also start believing the famous myth about this lake! Written by a classical poet, the story is that of a handsome Prince of Persia falling in love with a fairy at this lake.

But whether or not you believe in fairies, you have to admit that the beauty of the place is as close to fantasy as any place on earth.

You may also visit several woodland villages from this lake such as the Burawai and Lalazar. And if you’re in the really adventurous mood, you can hike up northwards to even more breath-taking locations like Muree, Nathiagali, Ayubia, Gilgit, Chitral and Kashmir!

#3: The Deosai Plains

A lush purple carpet of flowers woven with red and yellow fauna welcomes visitors to this wondrous plain. They add to the radiating beauty of the highest plateau of the world called the Deosai Plains, located between the Karakoram and the Himalayas.

The Deosai Plains are officially designated as a National Park and are a protected habitat for wild life. Hence, apart from seeing the rare species of flowers, you may also come across a Himalayan Brown Bear!

After you’ve survived the wilderness, you could relax a bit by soaking your feet in the Sheosar Lake or take a breezy evening drive through the Chokar Pass.

#4: Hanna Lake

If you’re not in the mood to travel up north, you’ll be glad to know that even the central and southern parts of Pakistan hold beautiful tourist spots. Just 21 km away from Quetta is the homely Urak valley. Here, you can bite into a large variety of fresh fruits and take in the sweet fragrances of several different types of roses at the same time!

And just a few kilometers down from this fruity landscape is the lovely Hanna Lake, where you can rest and gaze at the beautiful golden fish. The blue green sparkles of Hanna Lake are in sharp contrast to the sandy brown background.

Besides sight-seeing here, there are many other activities such as canoeing, rowing and kayaking!

#5: Taxila

Taxila is a location not only rich in beauty, but also history. This ancient city dates back to the time when Prince Alexander began his journey of conquest.

Various ruins throughout the city are related to different times in history, and each has a story to tell. This city within Punjab is counted amongst UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

While in Taxila, don’t forget to visit the famous museum which exhibits the relics of the Gandharan civilization. It’s something you won’t soon forget.