Religious Tourism and Its Potential in Pakistan

the potential of religious tourism in Pakistan


Religious tourism has been a part of the larger religious landscape for the most part of religion’s history. The tradition of religious tourism has been synonymous with religious pilgrimage and other travel done in the pursuit of religious duties. This blog discusses the history of religious tourism in Pakistan and the different religious tourism destinations, which have the potential to attract millions of tourists in the country.

Research Questions

  1. What is religious tourism: An Introduction
  2. What is the history of religious tourism in Pakistan?
  3. What is the potential of religious tourism in Pakistan?
  4. What are the benefits of religious tourism in Pakistan?

Religious Tourism: An Introduction

Religious tourism can be defined as a recurring phenomenon within the history of religious traditions and obligations, which makes some forms of travel mandatory for a set of religious beliefs. This sector is a recent niche in the tourism economy. For centuries, the typology of a pilgrimage, made mandatory by religious decrees, has been the primary cause of religious tourism across the world.  Currently, many people in the world travel to different locations for religious purposes and most of these religious tourist destinations are places to which different faiths attach great loyalty to. As a result of this attachment by different faiths, and by an extension to different people, religious tourism finds significance in its ability to be a force for good in economic, social, and political dimensions (Kim, Sam, & King, 2019). Much of the world’s population is a follower of a particular religion with most of them belonging to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. The pilgrimage is a holy duty in all these religions, which makes this form of tourism relevant to most people in the world. (Syamala & Shivam, 2016). 

What is The History of Religious Tourism in Pakistan?

The area of the subcontinent in which Pakistan exists is host to one of the most ancient civilizations, and by extension, some of the oldest religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Archaeological evidence found in the region proves that the Indus Valley was considered the tree of life, as its seals of animals show two Gods Shiva and Rudra. The tracing of major religions like Buddhism and Jainism through the history of Indus valley proves the heterogeneous religions that existed in the place. In medieval times, the region was inhabited by Hindus, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and finally Muslims in 712 AD. Religion has been a significant social force in the subcontinent which has unified and divided its people simultaneously. Events which unfolded in the last century are responsible for the demographic distribution in the sub-continent. After the partition in 1947, people were forced to evacuate areas closer to their places of religious significance, like the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib, or religious educational institutions like Aligarh in India. 

Religious Tourism of Pakistan: Potential

Sikh population and Tourism

The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, was born in Nankana Sahib Punjab, currently one of the holiest cities for the Sikh religion. Punjab, being the centre of the Sikh empire, especially during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, became a place of not just religious, but also of socio-political importance as well. The most holy and reverend Sikh Gurdwaras are in Nankana sahib, which further multiplies its significance. Moreover, some of the oldest manuscripts of Guru Granth are preserved in the Lahore museum. One of the most important personality in the  Sikh history, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, remains preserved in Lahore, and contributes to the Sikh heritage conservation in the subcontinent. Nankana Sahib can become an important religious destination for religious tourists as it hosts two revered temples, one in Ballila, where the founder of the religion Guru Nanak spent his childhood, and the other in Janmasthan, which is considered his birthplace. The legacy of the revered religious leader is maintained by conserving his belongings and sacred relics. Important days like the anniversary of the late Maharaja and birthday of the religious leader are celebrated as Sikh Yatries visit the places by the thousands. The region has more religious attractions as well like Gurdwaras Maulvi Patti sahib, Tambu Sahib, Kaira Sahib and Nahang and Singh Chhauni. The Birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Gujranwala also holds religious importance.  

A review of the tourism potential of Punjab, with respect to Sikh religion, proves the true potential of Pakistan in terms of religious tourism. Even though Pakistan hosts the birthplace of the founder of the religion, yet, barely 6000 Sikhs visit the place from across the border as well as domestically. On the other hand, the Golden Temple in Amritsar India, which is 120-200 kilometres from the Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, is host to millions of visitors, including repeated visitors as well. Surveys have been conducted to understand the religious tourist preferences amongst Sikhs on both sides of the border in India and Pakistan. The restrictions on the Sikh diaspora are uneven as Sikhs coming from the Indian side of the border have to face greater visa restrictions (Haq & Medhekar, 2015). Fortunately, last year the prime minister of Pakistan, inaugurated a visa-free corridor between India and Pakistan for the devotees of Sikh religion which would enable them to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib along with a tour of the rest of the holy places. The move comes as an important step in normalising tourism in the country. With each year, the country’s tourism level increases and more and more Sikhs tend to show a willingness to come to Pakistan. Although the Sikh population in India does want to visit different religious destinations, only a small percentage have made the trips (Saher, Hassan, Zafar, & Ahmad, 2019). 

Buddhism Tourism

Buddhism, as a religion, has had a solid presence in the heritage of the subcontinent. Pakistan is host to different tourist destinations which promote Buddhism as a religion. The Dharmarajika Stupa in Takht-i-Bahi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Votive Stupa, Shingardar stupa, and the Amluk Dara Stupa in Taxila, as well as the iconic Buddha statue in Swat, are important heritage sites having religious significance. In addition to these, 50 archaeological sites are distributed across Taxila, which date between 600 BC to 500AD, and are reminiscent of the Gandhara civilization (Zahid, 2019). Taxila, being the capital or the centre of the civilization, is home to places where Gautama Buddha is believed to have stayed during his travels. The Taxila Museum has preserved the relics and ornaments for tourists to discover the Buddhists heritage. Although holy pilgrimage is not made by many people to different sites, many tourists are interested in the age-old religion and the heritage preserved. Like Nepal, which preserves the birthplace of the religious leader Buddha, Pakistan has enough important tourist destinations which can attract religious followers of the Buddhist faith. 

Apart from the major chunk of the population belonging to Sikhism and Buddhism, Pakistan is home to a small but significant Zoroastrian population. The religion has an old Persian legacy, and the followers of the religion came to settle in the Subcontinent when Persia was conquered by Muslim rulers. The minority religion has different places of worship and temples, and the excessive use of fire in most of their rituals has given the followers their name, fire preachers. By preserving their religious sites, Pakistan can improve interfaith harmony amongst the Parsi diaspora abroad and home (Mullins & Desmukh, 2012). 

Benefits of Religious Tourism to Pakistan

The proliferating economic benefits of the tourism industry are diverse affecting the labor market and foreign direct investments to a great extent. Tourism creates jobs to a great extent as the sector was responsible for the creation of 6.1 million jobs globally in 2014. The jobs related to tourism include employment in hotels, restaurants, taxis, sale of souvenirs and indirectly through the supply of goods and services which are required by all tourism-related businesses. Tourism is an important sector for circulating money in different industries as it helps the economy use the investment in one sector (tourism) to use it for the betterment in other sectors (construction or transportation). 

Considering the number of people who wish to visit the religious locations in Pakistan, be it the revered Gurdwaras of Nankana Sahib or the Buddhist archaeological sites spread across the country, can contribute in billions to the economy including thousands of jobs. It is unfortunate that the country has not been able to realize this economically massive potential before. However, the opening of the Kartarpur border has initiated a series of tourist activities that would snowball its socio-economic benefits in the sector (Shaikh & Nazish, 2019). 


Pakistan has been suffering from problematic relations with its neighbors and on the other hand, struggles with interfaith harmony. Introducing religious tourism can not just help Pakistan create harmony amongst the different religious groups, it can also help in improving Pakistan’s soft image in the international community. As the government continues to contribute towards religious tourism by taking initiatives like the Kartarpur corridor, the benefits of interfaith harmony will expedite a niche in tourism previously overlooked and open windows of opportunity for this sector in Pakistan.


Haq, F., & Medhekar, A. (2015). Islamic Tourism in India and Pakistan: Opportunities and Challenges. Semantics scholar.

Kim, B., Sam, K., & King, B. (2019). Religious tourism studies: evolution, progress, and future prospects. Tourism Research recreation Journal, 45(4), 1-19.

Mullins, L., & Desmukh, F. (2012, December). The Parsi Community in Karachi, Pakistan. Retrieved from The World:

Saher, H., Hassan, A. T., Zafar, B., & Ahmad, B. (2019). CRITICAL ANALYSIS RELATION BETWEEN INDO-PAK: KARTARPUR CORRIDOR. International journal of RAR, Volume 7, issue 1. Retrieved from

Shaikh, H., & Nazish, A. (2019, October 17). Pakistan is uniquely placed to take advantage of religious tourism. What is stopping us? Retrieved from Dawn, PRISM:

Syamala, G., & Shivam, K. (2016). A Study on Religious Tourism-Potential and Possibilities with reference to Shirdi, A place of Religious Tourism. Online International Interdisciplinary Research Journal, Issue 3, Volume 6, 2249-9598. 

Zahid, M. R. (2019, September). Buddhists Heritage in Pakistan. Retrieved from Daily times:



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