Map from Google - Pakistan
In much of Pakistan the climate is tropical or subtropical
, semi-arid or desert, but in the north there are also: an area near the mountains which is quite rainy, a cold mountainous area and a frigid area on the peaks of the Himalayas
In the cold half of the year, from late autumn to early spring, the north is reached by weather fronts of Mediterranean origin, which cause rainfall in the lowlands and snowfall in the mountains; in spring (ie March and April) the clashes of air masses can cause thunderstorms and strong winds; in summer, from July to mid September, the country is reached by an offshoot of the Indian monsoon
, but in most of the country it is not sufficient to bring heavy rains, while in the western part the monsoon doesn't arrive at all. However, the warmest months are those which precede the monsoon's arrival, especially June, which is very hot in the plains and hills, even up to quite high altitudes.
The monsoon has an irregular pattern: in some years it may have an unusual force generating floods, while in other years it doesn't even arrive. Rivers may overflow even at a distance from the area where the heaviest rainfall is recorded, which typically occur in the north. So the great valley of the Indus and its tributaries, may also be affected by widespread flooding in the southern area, where normally it rains less.
The cycle called ENSO
can affect the monsoon's performance: in the years of La Niña
, rainfall is heavier than normal, while El Niño
In the mountainous areas of the north and west, the climate is continental, with wide temperature range between winter and summer, and often even between night and day. The temperature naturally decreases with altitude. The northern area (zone 1 on the map) as well as being the coldest at equal altitude, is more vulnerable to the cold fronts related to the westerly winds of the middle latitudes, from December to May. But not all areas receive a lot of precipitation: it depends on slope exposure. The southern side (the mountains north of Peshawar and Islamabad) is much more rainy than the northern one. In Kashmir
, in the northernmost valleys of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan, the yearly rainfall is typical of the desert, below 10 inches. Anyway, at higher altitudes there can be snowfalls quite frequently in winter, and above 14,800 feet there are vast glaciers
, but the fact that the trekking season runs from April to October shows how this area is sheltered from the monsoon rains, although we cannot exclude some rains or thunderstorms, and maybe some snowfall on the higher peaks.
In Pakistan there are two mountain ranges, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush, which host some of the highest peaks on the planet, starting with K2
, the second highest mountain in the world with its 28,251 feet. The highest peak of the Hindu Kush is Tirich Mir
, 25,289 feet high.
at 7,200 feet above sea level, is the starting point for K2 and other peaks above 8,000 meters (26,250 feet); the climate here is arid and mild continental, with an average of 37.5 °F in January and 75 °F in July, when the average maximum is 86 °F.
Here are the average temperatures of Skardu.
Average temperatures - Skardu
In Skardu, precipitation amounts to 10 inches per year, with a relative maximum in summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Skardu
Expeditions to K2 are typically organized between the second half of July and early August. K2 and other peaks over 8,000 meters have a polar climate throughout the year, with strong winds that increase the sensation of cold.
On the southern side of the mountains, in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), the rains are plentiful, both those of winter and spring which are related to the western disturbances, and those of the monsoon period, which are even heavier. Therefore, the annual rainfall can exceed 60 inches in the district of Abbottabad. The Ayubia National Park
is definitely green and rainy.
In the south-western part of Pakistan the are other mountain ranges (zone 2), like the Chagai Hills and the Sulaiman Mountains, where the winter fronts come less frequently, and even the summer monsoon barely touches them. The result is a semi-desert climate, cold in winter, at least at night and above a certain altitude, while summer is very hot even at relatively high altitudes.
Even the plateau of Baluchistan
(or Balochistan) has an arid continental climate, cold in winter and hot in summer. In Quetta
, at 5,200 feet above sea level, the average in January is 39 °F, while that of July is 82 °F. The summer monsoon here produces little effects, with only sporadic rains. From December to March, when the temperature usually drops below freezing at night, but during the day it normally exceeds 50 °F. Sometimes it can snow in winter, and at night intense frosts may occur, with lows of about 5 °F. On the other hand, in the summer months the temperature can reach 105 °F despite the altitude. The sun shines all year round in Quetta. Here the best months, to avoid the weather extremes, are April and October.
Average temperatures - Quetta
In Quetta, 10 in of rain or snow fall in a year, the large part of which occurs from December to March. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Quetta
In the northern part of the Indo-Gangetic plain (zone A), corresponding to the region of Punjab
(or Panjab), the "five rivers land", the climate is sub-tropical with a mild (but with cool nights) and relatively rainy winter, followed by a very hot period between mid-April and June, when the temperature can reach 115/117 °F, and a sweltering summer, with a few rains linked to the monsoon from July to September. Before the monsoon, in May and June, a scorching wind blows, the Loo
which can cause dust storms, as well as the rapid dehydration in animals and humans, and the desiccation of vegetation. Scattered thunderstorms cause ephemeral decreases in temperature. The monsoon arrives from late June to early July, but it's not as intense as in several regions of India, and is characterized by periods of bad weather, alternating with long weeks of intense heat and drought. But the rains, although rare, can be violent and concentrated in a few hours or even a few minutes, and when they last a few days they can cause overflowing of rivers.
In winter, in Punjab (but also in northern Sindh), mists and fogs often form.
, in the northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
, the average temperature in January is 52 °F, that of June is 91 °F, with highs around 105 °F, while in July, August and September, the daytime temperature drops a little, around 95/100 °F, but at the cost of increased humidity. In winter, between December and February, the temperature is mild during the day, with highs around 65/67 °F, but at night it often gets cold, in fact the night-time temperature can go down to around freezing. Here is the average temperature.
Average temperatures - Peshawar
In an average year, 16.2 in of rain fall; in winter and spring, some rains may occur, with a maximum in March, when 2.9 in of rain fall on average, while the summer monsoon brings an average of only 2.9 inches per month in August, although in some years the rains may be heavier: in the rainiest August ever, rainfall amounted to 17.5 in. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Peshawar
, a large metropolis in Punjab, the climate is similar to that of Peshawar, but for the more southerly position, the winter is a bit milder: the average goes from 55.5 °F in January to 92.5 °F in June. Lying more to the east, the city is more exposed to the monsoon, so that it receives 20 in of rain per year, including 6 inches in July and 5 inches in August.
The capital city of Islamabad
and the neighboring Rawalpindi are located at 1,600 feet above sea level, and are a bit cooler, and also much more rainy, since they are at the foot of the mountains: in fact they receive 49 in of rain per year, including more than 10 inches per month in July and August. Here is the average precipitation in Islamabad.
Average precipitation - Islamabad
The average temperature in January is 51 °F, and at night sometimes light frosts may occur. In summer, the rains lower the daytime temperatures more than in other cities, to 92/95 °F in July and August, but moisture is high. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Islamabad
The Indus Plain is drier in the central part (zone B), where we find the Cholistan Desert: here precipitation drops even below 4 inches per year. In Jacobabad
, Sindh Province, only 4.3 in of rain per year fall, the majority of which occurring in July and August. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Jacobabad
In Jacobabad, winter is definitely mild, given that the average in January is 57 °F, but with significant differences between day and night, so the nights can be cold, while in May and June the daytime temperatures are around 113 °F, but sometimes they can reach 122/125 °F, making Jacobabad one of the hottest cities in the world. The weakness of the monsoon in this area is evidenced by the fact that the maximum temperatures remain around 108 °F in July and 104 °F in August, so they go down but not by much. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Jacobabad
In this area, the ruins of Mohenjo-daro
, one of the oldest cities in the world, are found.
More to the south, in Hyderabad the winter temperatures are even milder, while in summer they are a little lower, because of the proximity to the sea. Precipitation is still low, and amounts to 7 inches per year, with a peak of 2.5 inches per month in July and August. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Hyderabad
In the south-west, at the lower altitudes of the plateau of Baluchistan
(zone C), the climate is desert subtropical; winter is mild, although sometimes at night it get cold, while summer is definitely hot. At around 2,600/3,300 feet above sea level, in summer the average maximum temperatures are around 104 °F. Only in the south, however, there are some inland valleys at around sea level: in Turbat
, in the Kech River Valley, the June average maximum is 111 °F, which drops to 104 °F in July, a slight effect of the monsoon, which however brings very few rains, 4.3 inches per year, including 1 inches in July.
Average temperatures - Turbat
In the far south, along the coast of the Arabian Sea
(zone D) the climate becomes tropical, desert or semi-desert, with a reduced temperature range between winter and summer. The rainfall is low, about 4 inches per year in the western sector (ie in Makran, the coastal region of Balochistan), which receives little rainfall from the summer monsoon (but receives in reward a few rains in winter), as it becomes slightly more abundant, about 8 inches per year, in the mouth of the Indus, where basically the rains occur only from June to September.
, the megalopolis at the mouth of the Indus, the average goes from 67.5 °F in January, to 87 °F in June. Here winter is nice and sunny. In the months preceding the monsoon there can be hot days, with peaks of 113 °F, but it's more common for the temperature to remain about 90/91 °F, even though the relative humidity is high. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Karachi
From June to September, it doesn't rain a lot: about 6.3 in, including 3 inches in July, but even here, in certain years this season can be very rainy. In July and August, the weather is often cloudy and the heat is sweltering, especially in inland areas of the city, while the coastal districts receive a fairly steady breeze from the sea. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Karachi
The temperature of the Arabian Sea is warm enough for swimming all year round, although it becomes very warm in summer.
Sea temperature - Karachi
The coastal area of Pakistan may be affected by tropical cyclones
, especially in the south-east (coast of Sindh): Karachi, the large city located right on the coast, is the most at risk; sometimes the Makran coast can be interested as well, though more rarely. Cyclones form preferably in the first phase of the monsoon (May-June) and more rarely in the phase of its retreat (September-October).
When to go
It's hard to find a period which is good for all of Pakistan. The best time to visit central and southern Pakistan (zones B, C and D, where you can find Karachi) is winter
, from December to February. The northernmost lowland area (Punjab, zone A, where you can find Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad) can be visited from November to March, and if you want you can avoid the coldest months, choosing March and November.
In Quetta and in the mountain regions of the west (zone 2), April and October can be chosen, bearing in mind that it can get cold at night.
Even for the mountains of the north (zone 1), you can choose spring and autumn, but since the spring on the south side is rainy, you may prefer the autumn, in particular October and November. For the north side, in the high mountain areas of the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram, you may prefer the summer, from June to September.
All in all, wanting to find a single period for the whole country, you can choose autumn
, especially October and November, which is usually a dry and quiet season. October can still be hot in the center and south, and there's still some risk of cyclones in the coastal area, while in November it can get cold at night in Quetta and in the mountainous areas.
As we have seen, the sea
is warm throughout the year. For swimming, however, the air can be a bit cool from December to February, therefore you can choose March and November.
What to pack
: for the north at low altitude (Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi), spring/autumn clothes, sweater and warm jacket for the evening; raincoat or umbrella especially in Islamabad and Rawalpindi; above 3,000 feet (see Abbottabad), warm clothes, sweater, warm jacket, raincoat or umbrella. In Kashmir, above 10,000 feet, mountain clothes, down jacket, hat, scarf, gloves. In the center and south (Jacobabad, Sukkur, Hyderabad), spring/autumn clothes, a sweater and a jacket for the evening. On the southern coast (Lahore), spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, light jacket and sweater for the evening. For Quetta and the western mountains, around 5,000 feet, warm clothes, sweater, down jacket, hat.
: for all areas at low altitude, from Islamabad to Karachi, tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, desert turban, possibly a light raincoat or umbrella, useful in the north, at the foot of the mountains; above 3,000 feet, see Quetta, Abbottabad), a sweatshirt for the evening. For Kashmir, around 10,000 feet, spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, sun hat, sunglasses, sweater and jacket for the evening; for higher altitudes, warmer clothes depending on altitude.
For women, it's best to avoid low-cut dresses.
To visit mosques, men must keep their shoulders and knees covered, and bare feet, women should also cover their hair.