Buddhism in Pakistan took root some 2,300 years ago under the Mauryan king Ashoka. Buddhism has played a major role in the history of Pakistan, the land of which over time has been part of predominantly Buddhist empires such as the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Kushan Empire, the Maurya Empire of Ashoka, the Pala Empire.
The majority of people in Gandhara, present-day Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, were Buddhist. Gandhara was largely Mahayana Buddhist, but also a stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. The Swat Valley, known in antiquity as Uddiyana, was a kingdom tributary to Gandhara. There are many archaeological sites from the Buddhist era in Swat. Buddhist scholar Kumaralabdha of the Taxila was comparable to Aryadeva, Asvaghoṣa and Nagarjuna.
Buddhism came to this part of the country in the late 7th century when most of the masses were practicing Bon religion. Before the arrival of Islam, Tibetan Buddhism and Bon (to a lesser extent) were the main religions in Gilgit Baltistan. Buddhism can be traced back to before the formation of the Tibetan Empire. The region has a number of surviving Buddhist archaeological sites. These include the Manthal Buddha Rock, a rock relief of the Buddha at the edge of the village (near Skardu) and the Sacred Rock of Hunza. Nearby are former sites of Buddhist shelters.
Gilgit Baltistan had Buddhist majority till the 15th century, before the arrival of Islam in this region. Since then the people converted to Islam, the presence of Buddhism in this region has now been limited to archeological sites, as the remaining Buddhists of this region moved east to Ladakh where Buddhism is the majority religion.
Day 01: Islamabad
Arrival at the airport in Islamabad, our guide and driver will meet you upon your arrival at the airport and drive to the hotel.
Day 02: Islamabad – Besham
Drive to Besham, en route we shall visit Taxila museum and heritages sites. Arrive in Besham and transfer to the hotel.
Day 03: Besham – Chilas
Drive to Chilas, en route we shall visit Rock carvings at Butogah, Rock carvings at Thalpan and Rock carvings at Thor. Arrive in Chilas and transfer to the hotel.
Day 04: Chilas – Skardu
Drive to Skardu, en route we shall visit Alam Bridge inscriptions. Arrive in Skardu and transfer to the hotel.
Day 05: Skardu
Today we shall visit Manthal Buddha Rock (Buddhist inscriptions) and Skardu Fort. If time allows we shall visit Sadpara lake and Upper Kachura lake.
Day 06: Skardu – Gilgit
Drive to Gilgit, arrive and transfer to the hotel.
Day 07: Gilgit – Karimabad
Before we drive to Karimabad we shall explore Gilgit city. We shall visit Kargah Buddha and Danyore Rock Inscriptions. Later drive to Karimabad, en route we shall stop at remaining of Old Silk Road at Chalt and Rakaposhi viewpoint. Arrive in Karimabad and transfer to the hotel.
Day 08: Karimabad
Day to explore around, today we shall visit Baltit Fort, Altit Fort, Royal garden and in the evening, we shall drive to Duiker to see sunset. After sunset we shall drive back to the hotel in Karimabad.
Day 09: Karimabad – Ghulkin/Gulmit
Drive to Ghulkin/Gulmit, en route we shall stop at sacred rocks of Hunza and Attabad Lake, arrive in Ghulkin/Gulmit and visit old house and Mir’s palace.
Day 10: Ghulkin/Gulmit
Day to explore around. Today we shall visit Ghulkin Maktab, Ondra Fort (Ondra Poygah) and if time allows we shall hike Passu glacier and Passu suspension Bridge.
Day 11: Ghulkin/Gulmit – Besham
Drive back to Besham via Karakorum Highway. Arrive and transfer to the hotel.
Day 12: Besham – Swat
Drive to swat valley. In the afternoon, we shall visit the swat museum and Mingoro market, which are adjacent to Saidu, the Saidu Sharif stupa and the Butkara iii Buddhist site.
Day 13: Swat Valley
Explore the beautiful swat valley (commonly called Switzerland in Pakistan) and the many Buddhist heritage sites, including Butkara stupa (2nd century bce), Shingardar stupa, Nemogram (2nd–3rd century AD), Amluk Dara stupa (2nd–3rd century a.d), and Najigram stupa & monastery.
Day 14 Swat valley – Peshawar
Drive to Peshawar; we shall drive to the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi (UNESCO heritage site), which was founded in the early 1st century. Owing to its location on the crest of a high hill, it escaped successive invasions and is still exceptionally well preserved. We shall also visit the nearby ruins of Sahr-i-Bahlol, a small fortified city dating from the same period; later we shall make the easy drive to Peshawar.
Day 15: Peshawar – Islamabad
Drive to Islamabad. Arrive and visit Shah Alla Ditta Buddhist caves. If time allows we shall Faisal mosque, Pakistan monument and the local bazaar.
Day 16: Islamabad – Fly to your destination
Depending on your flight time, if it is in the evening/night we shall explore the twin city “Rawalpindi & Islamabad”. Later drive to the airport, our service ends here and you shall fly to your destination.