Khanabadosh Glamping site is located in the Kumrat Valley in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province-1660999599601
Khanabadosh Glamping site is located in the Kumrat Valley in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Image Credit: Supplied

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, humans get to reconnect with nature while staying safe and enjoying modern-day amenities and luxury.

It is called “glamping” - a combination of “glamour” and “camping” that splendidly combines the charm of camping with luxury and comfort.

Glamping, yurts, and eco-pods, some of the modern ways of enjoying the outdoors without leaving the comfort of a hotel, are becoming popular among tourists in Pakistan. Imagine being surrounded by gleaming white peaks, green meadows, and extraordinary sunsets during the day, and then returning to a fully furnished cosy room with panoramic views of majestic mountains, and the night sky filled with infinite stars right from your bed. You feel closest to nature yet have all the amenities such as air-conditioning, restroom, and fresh meal. This unique experience makes glamping one of the most authentic ways to connect with nature.

Pakistan is home to world’s highest glamping site

This new emerging tourism trend in Pakistan is attracting both extreme outdoor enthusiasts and leisure travellers. Glamp Pakistan in the country’s northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan offers a unique glamping experience in tents, domes and cabins. The two glamp sites have the most stunning locations: Deosai National Park which is the second-highest plateau in the world and Katpana, the world’s highest cold desert situated at an elevation of 2,226 metres above sea level.

Glamping travel experience splendidly combines the charm of camping with luxury and comfort. This inside view is at Khanabadosh glamping site in Pakistan-1660999602083
Glamping travel experience combines the charm of camping with luxury and comfort. This inside view is at Khanabadosh glamping site in Pakistan. Image Credit: Supplied

“We believe it is the highest glamping site on Earth at such a high altitude in the middle of a national park,” Fahad Mahmood, CEO and founder of Glamp Pakistan, said in an interview with Gulf News. The company is purely working in the wilderness and the nearest city to the Deosai glamping site is at least three hours away.

Founded in 2017, the first glamping company in Pakistan is going the extra mile to make the travel experience eco-friendly with a focus on ‘conserve, preserve and sustain’. The lodging is powered by solar energy and has an international standard waste management system and green operations, leaving zero footprints. Fahad says he worked 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.

The glamping tents and furniture are designed and manufactured in Pakistan using sustainable materials. The company takes pride in building weather-resistant lodging sites using local materials, mostly PVC and canvas fabrics, and offering locally sourced food to visitors at its 35 sites in Deosai and Katpana. The tourist facility also created job opportunities for local people with nearly 80 per cent of the staff from Skardu. The venture that began with four individuals is now a 40-member strong team and increasing.

What led to the beginning of Pakistan’s glamping journey? Fahad Mahmood, a corporate marketer who pursued wildlife photography in his leisure time, one day decided that he was done with city life and ready to begin 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 also 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 kids and created what is now considered one of the most fascinating eco-friendly travel experiences.

“About five years ago, people had no idea about glamping. They’d be excited to see the camps but then ask us to show them their rooms. It took a while but our effort resonated with the travellers” says Fahad. Glamp Pakistan has two functional sites and working on three more to be ready by next year. They have welcomed between 3000 to 4000 visitors last year. “We are excited that more families, kids and elders are coming and enjoying this new experience.”

Comfort with a glorious view

Qasif Shahid, Pakistan’s fintech pioneer, believes that glamping is “the future of outdoor vacation” as it offers a strong connection with nature. His experience of staying at Katpana Desert glamping sites with family offers the best of both worlds - nature and luxury vacation. Most travellers are mesmerised by the idea of extra comfort with a glorious view. Anam Hakeem, an adventure traveller, says she was “awe-struck” looking at the view outside her tent in the morning. But her favourite part was the solar-powered rooms, a cosy dining hall and enjoying fresh food in the middle of a desert. “You don’t get to experience that in the city,” she said.

Built to accommodate two to four people, each glamp unit includes solar power, bath kit, hot shower, room service, heating and cooling. A one-night stay cost starts from Rs12,000 and goes up to Rs30,000 (US$55 to $138). The outdoors activities include bonfires, fishing, trekking, jeep safari, golf driving, expeditions, archery, kite flying and board games. Talha Kamal, a visitor, says he and his family has “one of the most relaxing and memorable trips” glamping in Skardu. “You get to experience camping with all the basic amenities in the middle of the Katpana Desert.”

Glamping trend fast picking up in Pakistan

Ali Raza, the co-founder and director of Khanabadosh Glamps, says that the “glamping trend is picking up in Pakistan” as these tourist sites are now “trying their best to match their services with hotels and to provide an environment more comfortable yet closer to nature.”

Talking to Gulf News, Ali Raza shared that when they faced hurdles at the beginning of their journey in 2018 such as convincing the people that “we cannot compare this experience with hotels in terms of both services and prices because we operate in the wilderness, in very remote areas with no proper facilities.” Raza says they decided to set up glamping sites in the deep forest to “provide a unique experience” to those eager to take the long journey that rewards you with breathtaking views overlooking the gorgeous Panjkora River and pine treetops.

Khanabadosh Glamps offer luxury domes, pods and camps in Kumrat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The valley became a prominent tourist site after a visit and tweet of former prime minister Imran Khan. Besides Kumrat, the locally-built pods are available at Murree, Kalam, Gabeen Jabba, Sharan Forest, Kalash Valley, Hunza and Deosai. The price ranges from as little as Rs2,000 to Rs15,000 ($9 to $69) for a 2-person accommodation.

Another company offering this unique experience in Pakistan is Hunza Glamping Resort. It is the project of Amir Raza Khan, an engineer by profession, who launched the resort in 2019 but the 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 stayed inside my mind for long” and ultimately led to the foundation of Hunza Glamping. They launched the glamping sites three years ago in Mominabad, Hunza, which was surrounded by stunning natural beauty, green fields and fruit gardens. But the company is currently in the process of relocating sites due to technical and other reasons. Khan says they plan to bring a comfortable and completely eco-friendly tourism experience away from city noise to visitors soon.

“I 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 his dream of sleeping under the stars while having family by his side may just come true at glamping sites in Pakistan ready to welcome travellers who want to explore natural beauty yet live comfortably.