By Shanal Kazi
It’s another mundane Monday morning, the weekend couldn’t have whizzed by faster and now you’re sitting trying to make heads or tails out of the many emails stacked up in your inbox. On such days, even the strongest caffeine dose ceases to wake up all your senses. With a dreary long week ahead, you wish your next holiday was sooner but unfortunately, your boss won’t let you out of their sight, your annuals have been used up, and let’s admit your many guilty pleasures leave little money in the bank for an exotic holiday in the Bahamas!
What if we told you that we have a plan that won’t break the bank and won’t require any queuing up for visas!
We at Women’s Own have done all the homework for you. All you have to do is pick one option from the five amazing low budget weekend destinations we’ve rounded up!
Astola Island, Balochistan
Image source: https://i.dawn.com/primary/2016/12/5865156a31475.jpg
A hidden gem tucked away in Balochistan’s less explored coastal belt, Astola Island is astoundingly beautiful and serene!
How to get there: The journey to Astola is an exciting one, starting first with a 7-hour car ride from Karachi to Pasni in Balochistan and then about a 2-hour boat ride to the Island itself.
The locals are beyond friendly and help you camp out.
Watch out for: Sunrise, Sunset, and local seafood!
Activities to do: Gather seashells, meditate, practice some yoga asanas, go scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing, or grab a book and sit by the sea to enjoy the spectacular view!
Recommended months: February, March, April
Remember to take: Water bottles, sun block, travel snacks, bug spray, and a great ethnic Balochi Coke Studio playlist!
Total Expenditure per person: Rs. 25,000
Sharan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/asifcae/4742750907
This is one of the few existing forest reserves in the country. High up in the mountains is the small reserve of Sharan with its dense lush green walnut trees and its small streams make it a peaceful spot for a weekend getaway. The summer sun is mild and the breeze pleasant, it gets cold at night time which makes it the perfect retreat in the sweltering summer.
How to get there: A 10-hour ride from Islamabad to a town called Paras, and then a thrilling one hour, nail biting ride in open jeeps to Sharan!
Watch out for: The star filled nights, shooting stars, white monkeys, and many exotic birds!
Activities to do: Hiking, trekking, waterfall rappelling, and bird watching!
Recommended months: May, June, July, August
Remember to take: Camping gear, binoculars (for an awe inspiring view of the Himalayas!), waterproof jacket, trekking shoes!
Off the beaten track tip: On the top of the mountain is a plateau called Manshi Meadows, which is a 40 minute hike from the base camp of Sharan. Once you reach there, it’ll feel like a dream, take a while, lie on the grass and soak in all the beauty – the Himalayas on one side and vast grass land covered for miles with shepherds and their flocks at distances, one feels nothing but ultimate peace and happiness here!
Total expenditure per person: 15,000 – 20,000 rupees
Image source: The Express Tribune
This historic city is better known for its mystic Sufi charm. It is home to the shrine of one of the most important Sufi Saints, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, also known as Jhule Lal, the God of the Indus. Here you will find people from all walks of life, gypsy wanderers, devoted worshippers, tourists, curious bystanders, and music aficionados.
How to get there: A three and a half hour car journey from Karachi, Sehwan is an easily doable weekend trip!
Watch out for: The Dhamaal at Maghrib is a truly unique experience for the soul. You might find the reason of your existence within the entrancing drum beat. Some are mesmerized by the atmosphere and dance to it while some stay silent taking it in all its glory – whichever way you choose, the dhamal stays with you for a long time.
Activities to do: Fishing at Manchar Lake, visit shrines in the area such as Shah Sadar and Bodla Bahar.
Recommended months: October, November, December, January and Monsoon season!
Remember to take: A scarf/chaadar and some small change to pay alms to the homeless at the shrine.
Total expenditure per person: Rs. 10,000
Nathiagali, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Nathia is the ultimate getaway for a short, low budget trip from Isloo, one which allows you to transcend into nature and bliss in no time! Whether it’s a long overdue break from your job or wedding preparations, this town will have you calm and refreshed in no time!
How to get there: Nathiagali is a three hour car ride from Islamabad!
Watch out for: Foggy morning views of the hills and mountains, purple-pink hued sunsets!
Activities to do: Trekking, camping, hiking, visits to the local bazaar to buy ethnic stone jewelry and carved wooden ornaments, or curl up with a nice book on a chair by a bonfire!
Recommended Months: May, June, July, August
Remember to take: Warm clothes for the chilly evenings, hiking gear, and good durable shoes!
Total Expenditure per person: Rs. 15,000
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/khalidakhtar/8452727000
One of the lesser known destinations in our list, Nagarparkar is situated right at the border with the Indian city Gujarat. It is a sensory treat and an altogether unique cultural experience. The best time to go is in the monsoon season, when the desert magically blooms into a magical land!
Sand dunes transform into rolling green hills and the highway is laced with locals selling wild mushrooms – one of the many delicacies that the monsoon brings in Thar!
How to get there: It is an eight hour car journey from Karachi. Stop on the way at Shahjahan Mosque and Makli for a real historic experience!
Watch out for: Local folk singers, post monsoon unique vegetarian dishes, Karoonjar mountain range, Churio and Kasbo temples (which are only a few kilometers away from the Indian border), border lights, and beautiful winding roads carved in between sand dunes!
Things to do: Home to some of the oldest Jain temples in all of Asia, Nagarparkar is rich in history and culture. You can buy local handicrafts and herbs for various ailments at the foot of the Karoonjhar range and visit all the local temples.
Recommended months: July, August (if it rains) or December, January or during Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali.
Remember to: Pack lots of snacks, a wifi device, and sturdy covered shoes!
Off the beaten track tip: Buy mushrooms that the locals sell on the road if you happen to visit during or after the monsoon season. Do not miss the Gori temple – now occupied only by musicians and bats – in Gori village, where there are ceiling frescos dating as far back as 500 AD!
Total Expenditure per person: Rs. 10,000