Fiestas, folktales, and a whole lot of fun! The Buddha Trail is straight out of a history enthusiast's drawing board. Our 8 day trip gives you a chance to witness a plethora of throwback pieces from the Buddhist Civilization and explore the ruins from that era still standing in all their rustic glory. These ancient Buddhist lands are now inhabited by generations of Pashtuns, known collectively as Pathans. Hospitality, chivalry, cultural dances, and lavish cuisines are the soul of their deep rooted culture. So have no doubts that you will be celebrated and spoiled at every step of the way as you discover the best of both worlds. An ancient Buddhist trail and a thriving Pashtun civilization that carries the legacy of this abundant region, this tour is perfect for history lovers. Here's a complete itinerary to get you excited for this trip to the past.
You will be picked up from Islamabad Airport and taken to Serena Hotel. After a quick check-in, the tour guide will lead the guests to Lok Virsa Cultural Museum with a surreal stopover at Faisal Mosque. Located in the foothill of Margalla Hill, Faisal Mosque is a reflection of Islamic architectural preferences featuring eight sides of the concrete shell and its design is a subtle ode to a Bedouin tent.
We will drive for approximately 12 minutes to reach the Lok Virsa Cultural Museum. The museum hosts an archive of Pakistan s multicultural history and chapters on the ethnic groups residing and growing in the country.
The capital also offers other tourist attractions such as Pakistan Monument a symbol of the unity of Pakistan located 9 minutes away (by car) from the museum.
Don t forget to ask your driver to give you a quick tour of these attractions before you start your climb to Daman-e-Koh. Witness sunset at Daman-e Koh a renowned viewing point and hilltop garden located between Margalla Hills that offers an unhindered panoramic view of the city and its thick forests.
We then drive for approximately 20 minutes to enjoy dinner at Monal Restaurant with a view of the city and its lush meadows and forests. Monal Restaurants hosts thousands of travelers every year who want to indulge in its culinary offerings without peeling their eyes away from nature s artwork. Dinner will be served at Dawat at Serena, where we will introduce you to the fine dining Pashtun cuisine such as barbecued meatballs and masala fried meat platters.
Pack up for an eventful day! After breakfast, the guests head to Julian Monastery a rocky masterpiece dedicated to Buddhism approximately 1 hour 20 minutes away by car from Serena Hotel.
Sirkap an archeological site built by a Greco-Bactrian king and approximately 13 minutes away from the monastery has also been added to your tour. To top up this adventure into the history of Buddhism, we take you to Taxila Museum to track the trails of Buddhism.
Explore traditional pray practices and votive stupas built and donated by students after completion of their studies to truly experience the soul of Buddhism. You will continue the drive to Swat and rest at leisure in Serena Hotel Swat.
A guided walk around the property will be arranged for the guests so that they can soak in the tranquility of the valley and take pictures with the mountains. The day will end with a themed dinner to introduce you to Pashtun music and traditional culinary expertise at Suvastu Restaurant. Experience the region s finest food with a splendid view of the snow-capped peaks of the Hindukush Mountains.
A day meticulously planned for the history buffs and action lovers! After breakfast, guests will visit the Swat Museum and Butkara to learn the history of peak prayer halls. The Swat Museum is home to statuettes from the Gandhara Civilization as well as friezes telling the story of Buddha s inspirational life journey along with seals and other treasures.
Hike through a forest to reach Butkara - a stupa that many believe was built by Emperor Asoka. Ask your tour guides to take to the White Palace of Marghazar an exquisite white marble palace built in 1940 by the first king of Swat. Located in the small town of Marghazar the palace is approximately 30 minutes away from Butkara. After soaking in the antiquated charm of these two historic sites, the guests will be driven to Fizagat located on the bank of Swat River - for a brief tryst with nature. Cross the raging Swat River in an adrenaline-pumping chairlift ride here and experience the grandiosity of the area in panoramic mode.
The adventure will come to an end with guests returning to the hotel for an evening nap before a fancy meal next to a bonfire at Suvastu Restaurant. Chat up a storm with your friends as Serena Hotel cooks you the top-rated traditional food in the region the braised lamb Charsi Karahi, slow-cooked in a tomato stew and served with tandoori naan.
Early morning breakfast will be followed by a road trip to Peshawar. You will stop at the archeological ruins of Takht-Bahi (Throne of the Water Spring) to admire its crumbling regality.
This Indo-Parthian archeological wonder is a cluster of ruins from an ancient Buddhist Monastery and still manages to attract history buffs and archeologists in flocks. After reaching Peshawar, the guests will explore the crafts and culture of the city by taking a light walk in Khyber Bazaar.
This bazaar is lined with tea and snacks kiosks usually buzzing with conversations by locals hanging in the area to catch a breath and a cup of hot tea. Try local snacks, engage in conversation, and pick a few items from the bazaar.
You would also love a walk through the Qissakhwani Bazaar located approximately 5 minutes away (by car) from Khyber Bazaar. The guide will help you through this historic Bazar sprawled with historic gems such as Mahabat Khan Mosque, Cunningham Clock Tower. Buy Peshawari chappals (Pashtun-style sandals) or a local outfit for the wedding two days ahead. Enjoy local delicacies at the Namak Mandi food street mutton ribs, pizza naan, fruit chaat, and green cardamom tea a combination loved by the Pashtuns.
Indulge in light snacking and keep your appetite for the luxurious dinner we have arranged for you. The shopping and snacking spree will come to an end with guests checking-in at Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar, and taking a quick nap before dinner is served. We will dine at Tai Pan at PC Peshawar and enjoy the taste of Asian cuisine blended with Pakistani influences.
You will leave the Pak-Afghan border viewpoint for Khyber Pass - the historical gateway to India to reach the riches. The mountain pass is one of the main tourist attractions of Peshawar because of its heritage and history. Guests will love the semi-rural earthiness of the area and the unwavering hospitality of the Pashtuns working and residing in this area.
Don t forget to try the sweet, milky tea from one of the roadside kiosks. We have also arranged a visit to Qila Balahisar a historic fortress located approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes away (by car) from Khyber Pass.
We stop for lunch replete with local delicacies here. After lunch, a short tour of 100 years old Islamia College Peshawar where we enjoy tea with the locals has been arranged. Upon request we arrange for a tea with an academic to brief you on the Buddhism and human history of the region to bring it all together. We will cover this route of historic relevance from ancient times to the hippie trail with stopovers at Buddhist relics.
Next up, you will visit The Peshawar Museum to delve into the historical chapter of Peshawar.
Peshawar Museum has many memorabilia but it s the vast collection of Buddhist artwork from the ancient Gandhara Empire that it is famous for. The museum has close to 14,000 throwback pieces from the Gandhara, Greco-Buddhist, and Indo-Scythian life such as weapons, dresses, inscriptions, paintings, and many more! A spa therapy treatment in the evening at the hotel will be followed by an on-site dinner at Bukhara with BBQ, Tikkas, and Meat Pilafs.
Its time to witness the understated glamour and traditional exuberance of a Pashtun wedding! We skip breakfast at the hotel and start the day early with a half-day street food tour back at the Namak Mandi.
This time we lunch out the heavy ticket items such as Chole Puri, Paaye (goat s feet) Dumpukht and Charsi Tikka at some of the most delectable and famous food stops. Come back and relax in the expansive pool with sauna and steam, and visit the salon spa ready for the wedding tonight.
The subcontinent is known for extravagant and lively weddings and we especially arranged this activity so that our guests can experience the local lifestyle on a broad spectrum. Pashtun weddings are gender-separate but don t worry you will get treated like family on either side of the party. And there will be great feast food as wedding menus are even more elaborate than a 5-star dining experience. Witness the music, rhythm, dance, customs, and traditions at this wedding before returning to the hotel.
Don t forget to devour the wholesome meals at this merry affair. From lamb to mutton to beef Pashtuns have a never-ending romance with meaty delicacies marinated in traditional spices to tenderness. Return to the hotel, journal the robust and colorful affair, and call it a day.
Not in the mood to clock out? Explore the on-site facilities at Pearl Continental Hotel or go out for a light stroll in the vicinity. * The wedding experiences can range and are subject to prior arrangement.
After check-out from Pearl Continental, the guests will leave for a peaceful drive back to Islamabad. Enjoy this quiet and relaxing drive through the primeval forest of the city that seems to come alive on balmy, summer days.
The guests will check-in at Serena Hotel and rest at leisure or explore on-site amenities. From a fully-equipped gym to a well-maintained pool, you will have an array of facilities to choose from at the hotel. We have procured special Maisha Spa passes for our guests so you can experience luxury right till the end.
Maisha spa offers treatments with the Khewra Salt crystals known to have therapeutic properties. Calm your senses with crystals from the world s second-largest salt mine in a clean setting with Buddhist chimes to serenade you.
Set out early evening for a short drive to Saidpur Village and dine there. Walkthrough the village after your meal, to explore the sightseeing spot peppered with mosques and temples.
After breakfast, guests will be taken to the airport where they can catch their homebound flights. The rollercoaster ride to the past ends here but you can always come back to relive the thrill of historic sites, culture, and cuisine tucked away in this region.
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