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The Lost Hippie Trail of Pakistan - A Story of Culture, Mountains and Adventure

Updated: May 4

The lost hippie trail of Pakistan was once a popular destination for Western travellers seeking adventure, spiritual fulfilment, and a chance to escape the trappings of modern society.

In the 1960s and 70s, young Westerners, inspired by the counterculture movement, set out to explore the world in search of new experiences and perspectives. Pakistan, with its majestic mountains, lush green valleys in the North, deserts in the South, and rich cultural heritage, was a natural choice for many of these 'mouhimjos' (adventure-seekers).

The Allure of Pakistan's Hippie Trail:

The hippie trail passed through the breathtaking, towering peaks of the Himalayas and Karakoram to the beautiful valleys in the North, and then to the deserts in the South.

The culture in Pakistan is rich and diverse, with influences from ancient civilizations to modern-day customs, it's a melting pot of cultures. Hippies loved it! From dancing on traditional music to delicious local cuisine, they were welcomed with open arms by the warm and hospitable people of Pakistan.

Foreigner Hippies in Peshawar, Pakistan
Young hippies staying at Peshawar, Pakistan (1970s)

Foreign Hippy Tourist in Pakistan
British Hippies in KPK, Pakistan (late 1960s)

However, over the years, the trail has become lost, and today, few people are aware of its existence, even many young Pakistanis do not know about it.

Understanding the Hippie Trail:

Global Route of Hippie Trail: Istanbul (Turkey) - Beirut (Lebanon) - Iran - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India - Nepal.

Global Route of Hippy Trail
Global route of hippie trail - From Europe to the East

Pakistan Route of Hippie Trail:

Old Swat, KPK map, Pakistan
Hippies’ Reference Map for Swat Valley

  1. From the Eastern border (India): Lahore - Swat - Kalash Valley - Chitral - Hunza - Balochistan - Quetta - Chaman - Afghanistan

  2. From Western border (Afghanistan): Peshawar - Swat - Kalash Valley - Chitral - Hunza - Lahore - India

Popular Points on the Trail

Lahore - The Heart of Pakistan:

The trail began in Lahore, a city steeped in history and culture. Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan and the capital of the Punjab province, is known for its rich cultural heritage, architectural masterpieces and vibrant food scene. The city is home to many historical sites, including the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort, which dates back to the Mughal era (1526 - 1858), and the Wazir Khan Mosque, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques.

Sufi Dancing in Lahore, Pakistan
Sufi dancing his soul out in the streets of Lahore, Pakistan

Swat Valley - ‘The Switzerland of Pakistan’:

From Lahore, travellers would head north to the Swat Valley, where they could explore ancient Buddhist monasteries and soak up the stunning mountain scenery. The Swat Valley is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan and is known for its natural beauty, as well as its rich cultural heritage. The valley is home to many pristine, lush-green valleys, and ancient Buddhist monasteries, including the famous Butkara Stupa, which dates back to the 2nd century BC.

Kalash Valley, Chitral - Descendants of the 'Alexander the Great':

Located near Chitral city is a hidden gem - The Kalash valley - UNESCO-designated historical site - nestled in the rugged peaks of the Hindu Kush, offering a unique cultural experience. The valley is home to the Kalash people, an ancient tribe that has managed to preserve their unique culture and traditions. The Kalash people, believed to be descendants of Pakistan, are known for their striking appearance, with the women adorning themselves in vibrant, traditional clothing and intricate jewellery. They are also known for their animistic beliefs, which is a rarity in the predominantly Muslim region of Pakistan.

Last MouhimJo Tour: American Guests dancing in Bamborat, Kalash, Pakistan

Chilam Joshi Festival, Kalash Valley
Chilam Joshi Festival - May 2018 at Kalash Valley

One of the super interesting aspects of Kalash culture is the annual festival of Chilam Joshi. This festival is celebrated by the Kalash people to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. During this festival, the Kalash people adorn themselves in colorful clothes, dance to traditional music, and offer prayers to their gods. The festival is a unique blend of ancient animistic beliefs and Islamic customs and is a sight to behold.

FunFact: Kalasha People don't bury or burn their dead. They just left them out in the open.

Hunza & Skardu Valley

Next, they would travel to the Hunza Valley, a remote region known for its rugged beauty and traditional way of life. The Hunza Valley is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and is one of the most beautiful and remote regions in the country. The valley is known for its picturesque landscapes, including the Rakaposhi mountain, which is one of the most beautiful peaks in the world. Here, they could hike to the base of the world's second-highest peak, K2, or take a jeep tour through the valley's narrow gorges and vast expanses of glaciers.

Famous Masrur Rock, similar to Troltunga Rock in Norwar
Masrur rock, Skardu, Pakistan - akin to Trolltunga Rock, Norway

Khyber Pass, Peshawar:

Hippy Tourists in Pakistan
1970s: Hippies travelling via private bus in KPK, Pakistan

Finally, the trail would lead travellers to the Khyber Pass, the historic gateway between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This rugged mountain pass, which has been a crossroads of trade and culture for centuries, was a fitting end to the journey. The Khyber Pass is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan and is one of the most historic and strategic routes in the region. The pass has been a crossroads for trade, culture and war for centuries, with many historical sites and landmarks located in the area. Interestingly, this belt is also know for the best producing marijuana in the world.

Marijuana & The Hippies:

On this wild journey of free-spirited hippies, who, despite the strict laws against drug consumption, found a way to indulge in the sweet, sweet herb, locally known as 'charas'. Nestled in the picturesque valleys of the western tribal belt of Pakistan, this was a land perfect for the growth of pure and high-quality marijuana, akin to the legendary buds of neighbouring Afghanistan.

Fun Fact: In the documentary “ Murder Mountain”, it's claimed that the hippies brought seeds from the Khyber Pass which were later laid in Humboldt county, California and actually started the Marijuana culture in the USA.

For these carefree travellers, the happy smoke was more than just a quick fix - it was a way of life. The hippies would set up camp for months at a time, gazing out at the majestic Karakoram and Himalayan mountains, basking in the warm sun, and passing around joints with reckless abandon.

Hippies smoking out in Peshawar, Pakistan
Hippies smoking out on a roof in Peshawar (1972), Pakistan

The fragrant smoke would dance on the breeze, mingling with the music that filled the air. As the hippies laughed and chatted, the world around them seemed to melt away, leaving only the pure joy of the moment.

And oh, the price was affordable, making this paradise all the more tempting. With the perfect blend of nature and substance, the hippies were in a state of perpetual bliss - a never-ending vacation where the highs were high and the lows were non-existent.

The Demise of Hippie Trail:

The hippie trail in Pakistan came to a slow end by the late 1970s due to several factors. One was the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which led to the closure of the borders between Pakistan and Iran, making it difficult for travellers to continue on to Afghanistan and beyond.

Another was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which led to a significant decrease in tourism to the region due to concerns over safety and political instability.

Additionally, stricter visa regulations and changing attitudes towards drug use due to an Islamist regime in Pakistan played a role in the decline of the hippie trail in Pakistan.

Lastly, 9/11 has put the final nail in the coffin. In response to Pakistan’s support to USA-led War on Terror, armed groups who were Taliban-allies, unleashed hell on the Pakistanis by suicide bombings and every form of barbarism. This was the final blow to the tourism.

However, in the last 8 years, the peace and security has returned and so have the foreign tourists. Pakistan is once again experiencing historic surge in foreign hikers, adventure-seekers and mountaineers.

Can you experience the Hippie trail locations today?

Absolutely! The hippie trail of Pakistan may have come to an end, but the stunning locations along the trail are still waiting to be explored by adventure-seekers and nature enthusiasts. So, the answer is YES, you can still experience the hippie trail locations today!

Camping at K2 Basecamp - World's 2nd Highest and Deadliest Mountain - Pakistan
Camping at K2 Basecamp - World's 2nd Highest and Deadliest Mountain - Pakistan

If you're looking for a way to explore these hidden gems in Pakistan, MouhimJo offers unique experiences that cater to different preferences and interests. You can do it on your own too, but having the on-ground local contacts helps give a authentic experience

Let us know what do you think about the hippie trail. Would you want to experience it?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Beyal Camp, Fairy Meadows, Nanga Parbat, Pakistan
Beyal Camp, Nanga Parbat, Pakistan (2022)


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