The terrain in Pakistan ranges from sea level deserts to the second highest point on earth at the summit of 8611m (28,251ft) K2, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the country sees a huge range of climatic conditions. The best time to visit will depend largely on whether you are drawn by the dramatic mountain scenery of the far north or by the mosques, bazaars and archaeological sites of the lowlands to the south.
If you want a taste of everything, then shoulder-season October might just be your perfect month, but there are reasons to visit at any time of year. When planning your trip, also consider the scheduling of local religious holidays (which shift date every year with the Islamic lunar calendar), as well as the impact of the monsoon rains – flooding can seriously impact your transportation options.
To avoid slogging to the sights in baking 40°C (104°F) heat or freezing your toes off on an icy mountain trail, here are our tips for the best times to visit Pakistan.
April to October is the best time to visit the northern mountains and the Karakoram Highway
The Pakistani summer, from April to October, is the prime time to head north along the dramatic Karakoram Highway into Pakistan’s most jaw-dropping mountain scenery. Aim your sights at the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza, Chitral and Skardu. The summer temperatures in the mountains are comfortable (though hot at times around Gilgit) and the high pastures are at their glorious peak.
Between April and September, it’s too hot to visit lowland destinations such as the Punjab in comfort. Even if you make a beeline for the mountains, you’ll likely have to endure baking 40°C (104°F) temperatures for a day or two while transiting through Islamabad or Rawalpindi.
June and July are the peak months for domestic travel, as even Pakistanis flee the southern heat for the cool of the hills. Accommodation prices are at their peak during these months, and July also brings the famous – and highly popular – polo festival that takes place atop the dramatic Shandur Pass, dividing Gilgit and Chitral. Book ahead at these times.
The beginning and end of summer, notably September and October, are our favorite times to visit. These are the best months if you are looking for fewer crowds, cooler weather, and appealing shoulder-season discounts at hotels.
Note that while the Karakoram Highway through Pakistan is open year-round from Islamabad to the customs post at Sost, the international border crossing between Pakistan and China’s Xinjiang border closes in winter between November and March. The exact dates depend on weather conditions; the political situation can also lead to closures. The crossing is also closed on weekends and during the public holidays of either country.
Winter, from November to March, is the best time to explore Sindh and the Punjab
Central and southern Pakistan offer an incredible range of historical, architectural and archaeological sites, from ancient lost cities such as Moenjodaro to massive walled forts such as Rohtas and buzzing Sufi shrines – sacred to a mystical branch of Islam. Spring and summer are suffocatingly hot here, but the winter temperatures are warm and comfortable.
The southernmost province of Sindh is warm even in the coldest months of December and January, including on the beaches of Karachi. November to March is also good for the Punjab, including trips to the city of Lahore, though temperatures are starting to heat up by March However, be aware that December is crop burning time in the Punjab, making it oppressively hazy and smoggy.
Much of northern Pakistan, from the upper Swat Valley northwards, shivers in a mantle of snow during winter, though transport on the main highways still operates and the views are spectacular, if you are equipped for the cold.
October and November are the best months to combine the mountains and the plains
If you want to experience the extraordinary scenic beauty of mountainous places such as Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan, but also want to visit the cultural highlights of central Pakistan, such as Mughal-era Lahore or the 2000-year-old Buddhist remains of Taxila, then autumn offers the best of both worlds. As an added bonus, throughout October you’ll get to see some stunning fall colors on the trees that line the mountain valleys around Hunza, Skardu and Chitral.
Come in July and August for trekking in the north
By June, the wide mountain crossings of the Babusar, Shandur and Khunjerab passes have generally opened to vehicles, but if you have your sights on crossing high passes on foot, then you are better waiting until July. This sweet spot is short-lived; August brings snow-free trails but also more chance of rain and flooding, as the monsoon wreaks its havoc further south.
If we had to recommend one trek, the world-class K2 Base Camp trek is epic. Starting from the village of Askole (northeast of Skardu), the trail can be walked between mid-June and mid-September, but July is the best and most popular month.
Mid-March to mid-April is the best time for beautiful spring blooms in mountain valleys
If you are more concerned with looking at the mountains rather than hiking into them, then spring is a sublimely beautiful season in the Hunza, Swat and Chitral valleys. April in particular brings flourishes of apple, cherry and apricot blossoms to the mountain valleys, as the heavily snow-capped mountains provide a dramatic backdrop. However, be warned that April brings some of the hottest temperatures of the year further south – something to consider when planning a trip.
Monsoon flooding is a real possibility in July and August in the south
The annual monsoon rains hit Pakistan slightly later than India, generally arriving by mid-July, and the effects are felt most strongly in the south. Peak rainfall combined with high temperatures and maximum meltwater from the mountains means that flooding can be a real problem, especially in August.
Massive flooding in 2022 caused cataclysmic damage throughout Pakistan, particularly in the southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh, and more than two million people lost their homes. Avoid travel in the southern lowlands during these months if possible.
Islamic Festivals in Pakistan
Note that the dates of Pakistan’s major religious festivals are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar and the dates for these events shift forward by 10 to 11 days each year, relative to the Gregorian solar calendar. The holy month of fasting known in Pakistan as Ramzan (Ramadan) is the festival that most directly affects travelers – most restaurants close from dawn to dusk making mealtimes tricky for those not fasting. In 2024, the fasting month starts around March 11, ending around April 10 with the three-day public holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Other important festivals include the Shia festival of Ashura (July 16–17, 2024) and Eid-ul-Azha, the three-day Feast of Sacrifice, starting on June 17, 2024. Mainly celebrated in Sindh and the Punjab, Pakistan’s colorful urs celebrations (death anniversaries of Sufi saints), are also held on dates fixed by the lunar calendar.