Even before the Iranian revolution and the Afghan and Iran-Iraq wars throttled Asian overland travel, Pakistan tended to be seen as simply the last hurdle before reaching India. Few Westerners know much about Pakistan beyond media impressions of guns and drugs, communal violence and martial law, but it contains some of Asia’s most mind-blowing landscapes, extraordinary trekking, a multitude of cultures and a deeply hospitable people. It’s the site of some of the earliest human settlements, home to an ancient civilization rivaling those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the crucible of two of the world’s major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Warning: The security situation in parts of Pakistan has been on the rocks since 1997, with several areas previously considered safe experiencing the same sort of violence and crime as in the long-troubled Sind regions well as the danger of being caught up in sectarian skirmishes, travelers have occasionally been the specific target of violence in Karachi and Lahore. The situation has improved little since the bloodless coup of General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. While there are still many safe and welcoming attractions in Pakistan, I suggest you exercise caution in troubled areas.