The UK’s national airline, British Airways, flies to 180 destination in 90 countries around the world. And they’ve just added one more: Pakistan.
This week, BA announced they’ll be resuming their London Heathrow to Islamabad flight route, more than a decade since it last flew. The airline will be the only western carrier to fly to Pakistan when the route reopens on 2 June 2019, and will operate three flights per week on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Why did flights stop 10 years ago?
British Airways stopped flights to Islamabad after the tragic 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel, in which 266 people were injured and six Britons died. The security situation in Pakistan was volatile, so the airline took measures to protect its staff and passengers.
Why have they resumed?
BA have said the return of the route is a ‘vote of confidence’ for the improving security situation, and will be a supremely useful connection for British Pakistanis wishing to visit, or be visited by, their families.
Is it safe for tourists?
The UK’s Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to most of Pakistan, with some regions entirely stricken off as too dangerous. However, there are tours for visitors in Pakistan run by experienced agents, such as Wild Frontiers or Exodus.
What’s there for visitors?
Those that do venture to Pakistan will be rewarded with spectacular scenery and superb hospitality. The Exodus Pakistan tour is a three-week epic hiking trip, taking in Concordia – an area with stunning mountains and glaciers – and the lakeside city of Skardu. For walkers, it’s truly a stunning destination with incredible mountain vistas, including the dramatic, vertiginous Trango Towers (pictured below).
Camping for much of the route, porters are on hand to bake bread on the glacier for the days ahead, and carry supplies and tents ahead to each new campsite. If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a mountain explorer, this is the trip for you.
Wild Frontiers have a range of trips, including one that follows the Karokaram Highway – a route that’s been travelled by pilgrims, traders and writers over the centuries. It runs through the stunning Hunza Valley and ends in Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Lahore’s beautiful fort has been rebuilt numerous times after damage and destruction from the various wars in Pakistan over the centuries, but its current form dates back to the 1500s, when Emperor Akbar made the city his capital.
Explore the fort, then spend an afternoon at the Badshahi Mosque or wandering the gorgeous landscaped Shalimar Gardens.
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The country is also home to an array of wildlife, including rare snow leopards and Himalayan brown bears. While it’s by no means a mainstream tourist destination, it’s without doubt a rewarding place for the intrepid traveller.
Are there other new flight routes launching?
Yes, BA are also launching direct flights to Pittsburgh and Charleston in the USA, and Osaka in Japan – yet another reason 2019 is the year to visit Japan.