Indus Valley Civilization – UNESCO world heritage and vibrant culture
Join us in an epic 1200 km road trip through the Indus Valley, plunging into 5000 years of history from the Bronze Age to contemporary day. The fertile floodplains of Punjab and Sindh bear witness to mighty civilizations that rose and fell by the banks of the River Indus and its tributaries. From the highly advanced urban developments of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, centers of learning and commerce that flourished during classical Buddhist and Hindu dynasties, shrines of Sufi saints who showed the masses ways of love, to mosques and monuments that commemorate rulers and leaders, these heritage sites are residues of a rich tapestry of diverse people’s stories that was interwoven on this land, intricately bound up with the changing flow of the rivers.
The Indus River is the lifeline of present day Pakistan. In ancient times, it was known in Sanskrit as Sindhu. Punjab is also named after its rivers: Panj-aab: the land of five rivers. This fan of tributaries join into the Indus in the border areas of Punjab and Sindh; its waters have nourished the alluvial soils of the two provinces, blessing its inhabitants with abundant agricultural produce.
In our journey, we will trace the river upstream from the coast of the Arabian Sea. The rivers of the Indus Valley have been channels of commerce and travel since ancient times. As early as 2600 BCE, the Indus Valley Civilization has been participating in maritime trade networks that extended from Central Asia to the Middle East. The army of Alexander the Great had marched south along the river in their Indian military campaign around 326 BCE, founding ‘Alexandria on the Indus’ at the junction of the Chenab and Indus, and waited for their fleet at Krokola (present day Karachi area) before departing for Babylonia. Arab traders have long been visiting ports on the Indus before Muslim armies invaded in the 8th century CE. The palm tree groves around the twin cities of Sukkar and Rohri are said to be accidentally sown by Arab soldiers when they discarded date seeds where they had camped. The rivers have also been conduits of folk romance and mysticism. We will visit shrines where Hindus and Muslims alike flocked, in reverence to Odero Lal and Khwaja Khizr, patron saints of the Indus, and Shah Latif, whose poetry includes spiritual interpretation of a legendary folktale: that of the heroine Sohni who swam across the River Chenab every night to meet her beloved Mahiwal.
We begin in Karachi, the 7th most populous city in the world in 2017, and the largest, most important commercial port city of Pakistan. Modern day Karachi was founded as Kolachi in 1729 and quickly gained importance after the arrival of the East India Company. After the British took over Sindh in the 19th century, Karachi grew into a bustling cosmopolitan city that continues to this day. We will see some of its early grandeur in the Mohatta Palace, built in 1927 by a Hindu Marwari businessman from present day Rajasthan as his summer home. Karachi briefly became the capital city of the newly independent Pakistan in 1947. We will visit the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam (“great leader”) and founder of Pakistan, and the Tooba Mosque, a beautiful example of modern Islamic architecture built in 1969, for a taste of the history of modern day Pakistan. No visit to Karachi is complete without a stroll on Clifton Beach, a popular recreational spot for all urbanites, where colorfully decorated camels jostle with horses and dune buggies to take visitors for rides, and flavorful snack carts park at where the sea laps the sand.
We will set out toward Thatta, which was once a capital and center for Islamic culture between the 14th-18th centuries. The rulers of the Samma Dynasty are buried in the adjacent Makli necropolis, an UNESCO world heritage and the largest funerary site in the world, along with Sufi saints, their followers, and countless nobles and scholars. Feast your aesthetic senses on the intricate sculptural patterns in yellow sandstone at Makli, and dazzling blue tilework designs at the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta. We then continue on to Keenjhar Lake, where a folk romance unfolded between a royal Samma king, Jam Tamachi, and Noori, a fisherwoman whose community still work their decorated boats in this lake today. Then, we pay a visit to the shrine of Odero Lal, a site of Hindu-Muslim joint reverence for this saint of River Indus. Finally, we will rest for the night in Bhit Shah, at the abode of the 18th century saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai–the greatest mystical poet of Sindh. At the shrine, we will hear specialist devotees sing his poetry in a traditional musical style call Shah Jo Raag in the peace of the evening.
Today, we leap back 5000 years to the one of the most sophisticated major urban centers in the world in 2600 BCE. The famous Mohenjo-daro is a UNESCO world heritage site; it boasted of advanced urban planning and technologies such as drainage and water supply systems, public baths, baked brick houses, sectored land-use. At the museum, you will see important innovations of the Bronze Age including standardized weights, seal carving, and works in metallurgy. After this, we will head for the twin cities Sukkar and Rohri, built on opposite banks of the Indus. Rohri, under the guise of several names–Roruka, Rorik, Aror–was founded around 450 BCE and served as an important trading center and the capital of the Ror Dynasty, which ruled Sindh until 5th century CE. We will catch sights including the shrine of Khwaja Khizr, a saint who redirected the course of the Indus, whose shrine is on an island near the Landsowne Bridge, built in 1889 by the British and one of the first bridges to cross the River Indus. We retire for the night in new Sukkar, where the British constructed new infrastructures such as railways and the Sukkar Barrage, which controls one of the largest irrigation systems in the world.
We will head north out of Sindh into South Punjab to the small town of Uch, which is believed to be the site of Alexandria on the Indus, founded by Alexander the Great around 326 BCE. Uch was a regional metropolitan centre between the 12th and 17th centuries, it served as a stronghold of the Delhi Sultanate, as well as a center for religious learning. Later, the city became a center of Suharwadi Sufism. Some figures from this Sufi order are buried in the Uch Monument Complex; the most striking blue-tiled mausoleum, built in the 14th century, belongs to Bibi Jaiwindi, the great granddaughter of Sufi saint Jahaniyan Jahangasht. We then continue north into the heart of Punjab countryside to visit the site of Harappa, another ancient city in the Indus Valley Civilization, to marvel at its fortified administrative and religious centers and granaries. After this, we will speed toward Lahore, the Pearl of Punjab and City of Gardens, to feast heartily at its famous food street, and be enchanted by the illuminated Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque by night.
Today we will take in the opulence of the Mughal Empire at the height of its power in the 17th century. We start from the UNESCO heritage, Lahore Fort, an outstanding architectural complex of artistic splendour, including the Naulakha Pavilion, Sheesh Mahal (“Palace of Mirrors”), and glazed mosaics and scenes on the Picture Wall. The formidable Alamgiri Gate of the Fort faces the iconic Mughal-era Badshahi Mosque, as well as the Hazuri Bagh and Gurdwaras built during the 19th century Sikh Empire. We will walk through select areas of the historical Walled City of Lahore, to wonder at the breathtakingly beautiful colored frescos at Wazir Khan Mosque and Shahi Hammam (“royal baths”), wander through dense bazaars, spot ornate haveli mansions in the winding lanes, and exit through the Shahi Guzargah (“royal passage”) at the Delhi Gate. We finish off our tour on British-era Mall Road at the renowned Lahore Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Gandharan Buddhist art, as well as relics from the Indus civilization, Graeco-Bactrian periods, Mughal and Pahari painting, Sikh woodwork, an artistic and cultural culmination of our travels through the history of the Indus Valley.
Tour at a glance
Day-01: Welcome to Karachi excursion of mohatta palace, tomb of Qaid e Azam and Clifton beach
Day-02: Drive to Bhitshah with excursions of Makli Thata Buddhist heritage site, shahjahan mosque and Lake keenjhar and Lal Odero Bhitshsah Overnight in guest house.
Day-03: Drive to sukkar visiting Mohenjodaro and skkar Rohri overnight at sukkar
Day-04: Drive to Lahore visiting Uch Sharif Multan
Day-05: visit Badshai mosque, Lahore fort, Wazir khan mosque and Shahi Hamam
Day-06: Optional Excursions in Lahore city overnight in hotel lahore
Day-07: Tour ends Fly home from Lahore airport
- We will provide clean drinking water throughout the trip. However, to conserve the environment, we will not provide plastic water bottles, so please bring your own water flask.
- Our winter journey will start from warm Karachi and end in chilly Lahore so we recommend dressing in layers as we move from south to north of Pakistan
- We can arrange trips for 2-16 persons per group (can be multiple groups), costs will vary depending on the number of person per transport, dates, and exchange rates. Please contact us directly for the price quote and discuss possible tour dates (see cost below for groups of 10-16 people).
- We can customize and combine itineraries according to your interests, please contact us to discuss feasibility.
- Operating season: 1st Nov to 28th Feb
- After signing up, booking will be complete with payment of 50% advance fee, to be paid 30 days before start of trip.
Cost [for groups of 10-16 person]
[$1600 USD/per person]
- All road transportation by mini bus/car
- All night stays in hotels (will have wifi, hot water from tap, plush rooms, room service, restaurants in hotel), 2 persons per room (additional charges if you want to stay in your own room)
- Professional tour guide accompanying throughout your trip
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner, drinking water, fresh local fruits depending on season
- Tickets to historical monuments listed in the itinerary
Does not include:
- Travel insurance
- Visa to Pakistan (we will help provide supporting documents)
- Tips for guides
- For cancellations 15 days or more prior to start of trip, you will be refunded half of the advance payment.
- No refunds if you cancel within 2 weeks of tour start date.