Historically a village of fishermen bordering the southernmost Arabian Sea, Karachi has grown to be the economic hub of Pakistan. It is the largest and most populous city rich in historic and contemporary attractions. Besides the magnificent tourist attractions spreading within the city, there are a number of interesting destinations located to the north and eastward and are easily accessible as a day excursion. Below are the top most picks to have excursions from Karachi.
The Chaukhandi tombs
The Chaukhandi tombs are an early Islamic cemetery situated about 30km from Karachi. Notable for their elaborate sandstone carvings, the tombs are similar in style to the elaborate tombs at the Makli Necropolis near Thatta. The tombs are built in the funerary architectural style typical of lower Sindh.
The ruins of Banbhore or Bhambore
Banbhore is a prehistoric port city and a famous archaeological site located about 65 km east of Karachi on the north bank of Gharo Creek. Its history spans from the 1st century BC to the 13th century AD featuring three distinct periods of occupation: Scythe Parthians from the 1st century BC to 2nd century AD, Hindu Buddhist period from 2nd to 8th century AD, and Muslim period from 8th to 13th century when it was abandoned due to change in the course of River Indus. Currently, it is a heap of a mound with ruins of an ancient city – the earliest known mosque dating back to 727 AD and other constructions including a deep well. The Arab General Muhammad Bin Qasim entered the subcontinent via Banbhore in 712 AD. Some unique artifacts have been collected from the site and are displayed in the Banbhore Museum.
Located some 98 km east of Karachi, in the Thatta district, the gigantic Muslim necropolis of historical monuments, Makli is one of the world’s largest graveyards in the world. The cemetery encompasses an area of 10 km2 and is home to more than half a million monuments witnessing glorious Sindhi culture between the 14th and 18th centuries. Sprawling in a diamond-shaped site, Makli houses tombs, graves, and mausoleums of people from all walks of life; notably of kings & queens, scholars & soldiers, philosophers, governors, saints, and commoners. It was included in the UNESCO world heritage sites in 1981. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hrs from Karachi and another 3-4 hrs to explore.
The Haleji Lake in the Thatta district of Sindh is 91 km from Karachi providing an eventful day trip to the lake itself and other attractions of Thatta city. The lake is Asia’s largest bird sanctuary attracting thousands of migrant birds from Siberia during the winters. It is home to 223 bird species including coots, ducks, purple moorhens, kingfishers, pigeons, white herons, teals, waders, mallards, pelicans, cormorants, egrets, black-headed gulls, pheasants, partridges, and storks. This lake is a paradise for bird watchers. Though the waterfowl is the best part of Haleji Lake, it also boasts of many other species including the marsh crocodiles.
Located 122 km from Karachi and about 22 km from Thatta, the blue-watered Keenjhar Lake is the second-largest freshwater lake in Pakistan. It was built in the 12th century by the local rulers as a water reservoir for the then capital of Sindh, Thatta. The lake is a great wildlife sanctuary providing a favorable habitat for winter migratory birds including ducks, geese, flamingos, cormorants, waders, herons, egrets, ibises, terns, coots, and gulls. It also serves as a breeding area for the black-crowned night heron, the cotton pygmy goose, the purple swamphen, and the pheasant-tailed jacana. The famous Sindhi folklore of Noori-Jam Tamachi is associated with this lake and the raised tomb at the center of the lake is said to be that of Noori – the Fisher girl – whom Jam Tamachi – the then ruler of Sindh – married.
Shah Jahan Mosque or Jamia Masjid Thatta
Built by the Mughal King Shah Jahan (1644-47) as a gift for the hospitality of the people of Thatta, the Shah Jahan mosque (Jamia Masjid Thatta) is a striking edifice standing elegantly to date. It was built using red brick with blue glazed tiles and embellished with exquisite geometric designs. Moreover, unlike other Mughal mosques, there are no frescos in this mosque. The architecture of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta deviates from conventional Mughal architecture in many ways. There are no minarets at all and the roof is topped by 93 domes. Its architecture bears a blend of Sindhi, Persian, Timurid, and Indian influences. The voice coming out from the Mehrab reaches out to all corners of the mosque without a need for acoustic aid. The ceilings of verandas are designed with ultimate engineering that allows maximum cool breeze inside the mosque. The mosque underwent repairs several times. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993.
Manora is a small 2.5 km2 island known as a popular picnic point ideal for a day excursion from Karachi. The island is accessible by a 30 min ferry ride from Keamari Harbour – the entrance to Karachi’s busy port. Its long sandy beaches along the southern edge and the breeze make it a unique spot to enjoy. Visitors usually carry their own food and enjoy the day out of the city’s hustle and bustle. Historically it has been the site of the fort where the Talpur rulers surrendered to the British who later erected a lighthouse still intact. Moreover, Alexander the Great was said to have camped after his Indus Valley campaign on his way to Babylonia.
Churna Island is an ideal place for water sports including scuba diving, jet-skiing, Banana boating, wake tubing, cliff jumping, snorkeling, and other water activities. It is a small rock reef in the Arabian sea surrounded by many attractive marine creatures and coral gardens and is much famous among kids and families. This ideal paradise makes a great day excursion from Karachi. The island is located about an hour’s drive from Mubarak Village.
Kund Malir Beach
Kund Malir is a serene beach on the Makran Coastal Highway in Balochistan’s Hingol National Park. The beach is accessible at 250 km as an ideal day excursion from Karachi taking approximately 4 hours each way. The excursion to the beach also provides an opportunity to explore some of the marvels along the highway and at the Hingol National park including the Princess of Hope and the Sphinx. The shallow stretch of golden beach provides tourists with fabulous views and sports opportunities. It is now included in Asia’s top 50 beaches. Yet, there is still no food and fuel but limited network facilities available on the way after the Zero Point. From Karachi, take the RCD highway towards N25 and then follow the Makran Coastal Highway on N10.
The Ranikot Fort is known as the “Great Wall of Sindh” located in the Jamshoro district of Sindh province in Pakistan. The Fort is a world-class tourist attraction located on the peaks of the Lakki Mountains accessible around 2 hours from Hyderabad (123 km) and 3.5 hours from Karachi (270 km). It’s a large fort with walls built on natural cliffs and mountains spanning approximately 29 kilometers and built in the 17th century. The massive fort connects several hills of the Kirthar range and houses two fortresses called “Meeri” and “Shergarth”. It was built from stone and lime mortar, but its original architects and the purpose for its construction remain unknown. The fort has four entry gates, one of which is touched by the Sann River. It’s important that visitors take their own food as the area around them is deserted and undeveloped.
Kirthar National Park
The Kirthar National Park is in the Kirthar Mountain Range of Sindh district founded in 1974. Stretching over 3,087 km, it is the second largest national park in Pakistan after the Hingol National Park in Balochistan province. The Kirthar National Park is accessible by a 4-wheel drive within 3 hours from Karachi providing an excellent driving spree for desert driving enthusiasts. It is home to several high points providing incredible views and excellent hiking and trekking opportunities for visitors. There are rest houses by the wildlife department to stay overnight and BBQ space for food enthusiasts. Visitors are advised to bring their own food items and water. The park was once home to wild predators like wolves, Indian leopards, and striped hyenas which are on the verge of extinction now. However, the wildlife that can be spotted is Chinkara gazelles, Sindh wild goats, urials, and badgers. Blackbuck antelopes being rare are kept in an enclosure for reintroductions.