No matter which direction you turn in Pakistan, there's potential for trouble. On one side is Afghanistan, a country still in upheaval following anti-Taliban military operations. On the other is India, Pakistan's bitter rival. The two countries have been engaged in an on-again, off-again battle over the region of Kashmir for decades. Today, the situation is more tense than ever, with both sides brandishing nuclear weapons, and within Pakistan al-Qaida elements engaging in acts of violence against foreigners. For travelers, this is not the time to go to Pakistan.

Even in less turbulent times, much of Pakistan had a rough, frontier feel to it. The northern reaches have always been a trekker's paradise, with five of the world's 14 highest peaks (including the forbidding K2), several of the world's largest glaciers and a number of raging rivers. The remote valley of Hunza, with its rarefied atmosphere and long-lived people, was the inspiration for the mythical Shangri-La. Those who have visited Pakistan praise the spirit and culture of its people, its inspiring vistas and the sense of history the country imparts.

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