The largest city in Pakistan, Karachi is a cosmopolitan melting pot of eastern and western influences. The city is spread over a massive 1,350 square miles (3,500sq km) and is home to more than 15 million people.
Karachi is the heart of Pakistan's economy: its busy port is home to the financial and commercial centres for the country. The pace of life is generally quite frenetic, with terrifying traffic and frequent cuts in the city's overtaxed power infrastructure. However, the energy in Karachi is palpable, and visitors will find themselves caught up in the buzz of one of Asia's major cities.
Karachi is a huge city and can be difficult to navigate. Luckily for tourists, many of the popular attractions are concentrated in South Karachi; including Port Grand, a large food street and entertainment complex; Clifton Beach, home to the world's tallest fountain; Dolmen City, the largest shopping complex in Karachi; and Bagh-e-Ibn-e-Qasim, an attractive night-time park with a century-old amusement park. South Karachi is also home to many of the city's museums and colonial buildings.
While Karachi's 37-mile (60km) coastline is mostly polluted and underdeveloped, there are several islands nearby worth visiting. Minora Island is home to ruins of 19th-century Hindu temples, while Churna Island has a marine park where visitors can spot dolphins, turtles, jellyfish, barracuda, parrot fish, and many other beautiful sea creatures on organised diving and snorkelling trips.
Outside of Karachi, several national parks have spectacular landscapes to explore, while lake resorts offer activities like boating, bird-watching, and fishing. One of the most popular excursions from Karachi is Thatta, which contains both UNESCO-recognised ancient structures and the Sunway Lagoon Waterpark.
Karachi has an arid climate with hot summers and mild winters. Rainfall levels are relatively low, with most rain falling during the monsoon season from July to August. Humidity is high in the city, although the heat is tempered somewhat by cool sea breezes. Summer temperatures average between 78°F (26°C) and 95°F (35°C). The winter months of December and January experience pleasant weather and are the best months to visit Karachi, with temperatures ranging between 52°F (11°C) and 81°F (27°C).
The majority of the local population travel around Karachi by bus. Buses travel along set routes around the city, including to and from the airport. However, buses are not the most comfortable mode of transport as they are often overcrowded, and routes are often poorly marked. A number of taxi companies operate across Karachi, and offer a reasonably inexpensive means of getting around the city. Not all taxis are metered so the fare should be agreed on before entering the vehicle. The best option is to hire a car with a driver. Traffic jams can be nightmarish in Karachi so it's best to plan your journey well ahead of time.