Islamabad: The idea of sleeping under the stars, and being closer to nature, has been around for centuries and continues to fascinate people, especially city dwellers. With this new travel experience, people can reconnect with nature while staying safe and enjoying modern day comforts and luxuries.
It’s called “glamping” – a combination of “glamour” and “camping” that brilliantly combines the charm of camping with luxury and comfort.
Glamping, yurts and eco-pods, some of the modern ways to enjoy the outdoors without leaving the comfort of a hotel, are becoming popular among tourists in Pakistan. Imagine being surrounded by sparkling white peaks, green meadows and incredible sunsets during the day, and then returning to a comfortable fully furnished room with panoramic views of the majestic mountains and the night sky filled with endless stars right from your bed. You feel closer to nature but have all the comforts like air conditioning, bathroom and fresh food. This unique experience makes glamping one of the most authentic ways to connect with nature.
Pakistan is home to the highest glamping country in the world
This emerging new tourism trend in Pakistan is attracting both extreme outdoor enthusiasts and leisure travelers. Glamp Pakistan in the country’s northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan offers a unique glamping experience in tents, domes and cabins. The two glamping sites have the most stunning locations: Deosai National Park, which is the second highest plateau in the world, and Katpana, the highest cold desert in the world, located at an altitude of 2,226 meters above sea level.
“We believe it is the highest glamping site on Earth at such a high altitude in the middle of a national park,” said Fahad Mahmood, CEO and founder of Glamp Pakistan, in an interview with Gulf News. The company is simply working in the desert and the nearest town to the Deosai glamping site is at least three hours away.
Founded in 2017, Pakistan’s first glamping company is going the extra mile to make the travel experience eco-friendly with a focus on ‘conserve, conserve and conserve’. The housing is powered by solar energy and has an international standard waste management system and green operation, leaving a zero footprint. Fahad says he has been working with the ministry and local authorities to run the facility in the national park in the most sustainable way and in accordance with the law.
Tents and glamping furniture are designed and manufactured in Pakistan using sustainable materials. The company prides itself on building weatherproof accommodation using local materials, mainly PVC and canvas fabrics, and providing locally sourced food to visitors at its 35 sites in Deosai and Katpana. The tourist facility also created employment opportunities for local residents with nearly 80 percent of the staff from Skardu. The venture that started with four individuals is now a 40-strong team and growing.
What led to the start of Pakistan’s glamping trip? Fahad Mahmood, a corporate marketer who pursued wildlife photography in his spare time, one day decided he was done with city life and ready to start a new adventure. Fahad describes it as “a family venture” as he discussed the idea with his father Liaqat Mahmood, an engineer and teacher, and his wife. Both encouraged him to take the first step. Soon after, Fahad moved from the urban city of Lahore to the mountain-surrounded Skardu with his wife and children and created what is now considered one of the most interesting eco-friendly travel experiences.
“About five years ago, people had no idea about glamping. They would be excited to see the camps, but then ask us to show them their rooms. It took some time, but our effort resonated with travelers,” says Fahad. Glamp Pakistan has two operational locations and is working on three more that will be ready next year. They welcomed between 3000 and 4000 visitors last year. “We are excited that more families, children and seniors are coming and enjoying this new experience.”
Comfort with a glorious view
Pakistan’s fintech pioneer Qasif Shahid believes glamping is “the future of outdoor vacations” as it offers a strong connection with nature. His family stay experience in the wonderful Katpana desert places offers the best of both worlds – nature and luxury vacations. Most travelers are enthralled by the idea of added comfort with a glorious view. Anam Hakeem, an adventure traveller, says she was “amazed” by the view outside her tent in the morning. But her favorite part was the solar-powered rooms, a cozy dining room and enjoying fresh food in the middle of a desert. “You can’t experience that in the city,” she said.
Built to accommodate two to four people, each glamp unit includes solar power, bathroom amenities, hot showers, room service, heating and cooling. The cost of a night’s stay starts from Rs 12,000 and goes up to Rs 30,000 ($55 to $138). Outdoor activities include bonfires, fishing, trekking, jeep safaris, golf driving, expeditions, archery, kite flying and board games. Talha Kamal, a visitor, says he and his family have “one of the most relaxing and memorable trips” in Skardu. “You can experience camping with all the basic amenities in the middle of the Katpana desert.”
The glamping trend is growing rapidly in Pakistan
Ali Raza, co-founder and director of Khanabadosh Glamps, says that “the glamping trend is growing in Pakistan” as these resorts are now “trying to do their best to match their services with hotels and provide an environment more comfortable but closer to nature.”
Speaking to Gulf News, Ali Raza shared that when they faced obstacles at the beginning of their journey in 2018, such as people’s conviction that “we cannot compare this experience with hotels in terms of services and prices, because we operate in the desert, in very remote areas without proper facilities.” Raza says they decided to set up luxury sites in the deep forest to “provide a unique experience” for those willing to make the long trek that rewards you with breathtaking views overlooking the magnificent Panjkora River and pine peaks.
Khanabadosh Glamps offer luxury domes, pods and camps in the Kumrat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The valley became a prominent tourist spot after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit and tweet. Apart from Kumrat, locally built pods are available in Murree, Kalam, Gabeen Jabba, Sharan Forest, Kalash Valley, Hunza and Deosai. The price ranges from Rs 2,000 to Rs 15,000 ($9 to $69) for an accommodation for 2 people.
Another company that offers this unique experience in Pakistan is Hunza Glamping Resort. It is the brainchild of Amir Raza Khan, an engineer by profession, who launched the resort in 2019, but his idea was in his mind since 2005 when he visited a glamping resort in Heidelberg, Germany, with his family. “It was a unique experience that stuck in my mind for a long time” and eventually led to the establishment of Hunza Glamping. They launched the glamping sites three years ago in Mominabad, Hunza, which was surrounded by stunning natural beauty, green fields and orchards. But the company is currently in the process of shifting locations due to technical and other reasons. Khan says they plan to soon bring a comfortable and completely eco-friendly tourist experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city to visitors.
“I’ve always wanted to go camping with my grandchildren, but young people are often not ready to give up the comforts of city life,” says Abdul Rafiq. Now he feels that his dream of sleeping under the stars while having his family by his side can be realized in the wonderful places in Pakistan ready to welcome travelers who want to explore the natural beauty but live in peace.