It was a simple conversation with my daughter, but one I didn’t expect.

“Would you like to go to Pakistan with me?” she asked. I replied “That would be cool.”

Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks so.

In a Forbes article published last December, Ann Abel named Pakistan as one of The 10 Coolest Places to Visit in 2019.

And so, I am preparing for a trip to a place about which I know very little. In anticipation of the trip (and in order to pack properly) I decided to learn a little bit about Pakistan’s geography and climate. If you’re interested, read on and I’ll share some interesting visuals that helped me learn more about this interesting country in South Asia.


Let’s start with a video from Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence organization based in Austin, Texas. The video begins with a fully-labelled map. The labels then disappear and single labels reappear as the video highlights each point of interest. This “decluttering” method helps convey the information and keep the audience fully engaged (Dennison, 2017).

The video also layers photographs of specific destinations, giving the viewer a more complete view of the landscapes described.

Pakistan is bordered by four countries, and is geographically diverse. Geographic areas include the:

  • Himalayan Mountains and Hindu Kush Range in the north
  • Balochistan Plateau in the southwest
  • Thar Desert in the south
  • 650-mile coast line along the Arabian Sea
  • Indus River

Speaking of borders, check out this photo of the boundary between India and Pakistan, taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station. To me, it’s a beautiful blend of science, technology and art, similar to the work performed at NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS).

“This photograph shows one of the few places on Earth where an international boundary can be seen at night. The winding border between Pakistan and India is lit by security lights that have a distinct orange tone” (NASA Earth Observatory, 2015).

(NASA Earth Observatory, 2015)


This map from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies does a great job showing how Pakistan’s regions are configured. “The country is divided into four provinces, one territory, and one capital territory for local administration” (Briney, 2019).

Take note of the inset in the bottom right hand corner of the map. The red text beneath it, as well as the corresponding red text in the Jammu & Kashmir section at the top of the map, describe a dispute over ownership between India and Pakistan.

According to Wikipedia, “the Instrument of Accession is a legal document executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, on 26 October 1947. … India claims that the accession is unconditional and final while Pakistan maintains that the accession is fraudulent” (n.d.).

“Red color, used sparingly, can serve to highlight or draw attention to certain components of a visual element” (Dennison, 2017).

The infographic below, by visual designer Asma Javeri, uses a green map and large icons to give his viewers some high-level information about the length of the coastline (1,046 km), types of terrain, climate, natural hazards, and natural resources. Green is used intentionally for the map and title, mimicking the color of the Pakistani flag.

Geography of Pakistan by Asma Javeri
Pakistani flag


Because Pakistan’s topography is diverse, climates vary across the country. The north has an arctic climate, it’s temperate in the northwest, but most of the country is hot and dry (Briney, 2019).

According to Sardar Sarfaraz from the University of Karachi, “Pakistan is the only country in the world to have a unique range of altitudes from sea level to the second highest mountain peak of the world. This distinct characteristic gives it large variation in climate across its different areas, like huge temperature differences and large spatial rainfall distribution” (Sarafaraz, Arsalan, & Fatima, 2014).

The color coded map below by Ali Zifan gives a more precise account of the variety of climates in Pakistan. Notice how the artist uses red for the warmest climate, evoking the emotion of being hot.

“Designers explore color’s cultural context, narrative content, and psychological effects in order to alter the meaning of an image, environment, or product — and change its impact on users” (Lupton, 2017).

(Zifan, 2016)

“Colors can help tie different components together by grouping by color borders or having the color in a graph correspond to the color of a map location” (Dennison, 2017).

I am headed to the city of Lahore, which falls within the upper right hand side of the map to the far right of the orange band. Its climate is designated as warm semi-arid, or semi-dry.

Lahore Weather Forecast

Just below you’ll see a screenshot from the BBC’s website for today, December 8, 2019.

(BBC, 2019)

This interactive display allows you to click on a specific day and see the hour by hour forecast on the bottom half of the screen. The BBC uses brightly colored icons to give the viewer the daily forecast; a sun, clouds, rain, and a lightning bolt quickly convey the information — no narrative required.

The 14-day forecast calls for temperatures that range from as high as 22 degrees to as low as 6 degrees Celsius. For those of you who only speak Fahrenheit, that’s roughly 71 to 43 degrees — so I’m thinking spring-like weather, but without the rain.

I definitely need to pack a light jacket.

Smog Season

So far so good, right? Except for smog season, which runs from October to February.

The cause?

” … poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning worsens the quality of the already unhealthy air in eastern Punjab Province, where Lahore is the capital” (Babar & Ahmed, 2019).

In this visual story, photographer Arif Ali captured the gravity of the challenges Pakistan grapples with when it comes to air quality. These school children, some of them masked, walk through the smog that engulfed the city of Lahore in November of 2017.

Pakistani children walk to school in heavy smog in Lahore on November 6, 2017. (ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

Lahore’s challenges with air pollution continue to plague the city. A photo essay from November 22nd of this year visually documents the severity of the situation. It can be viewed here.

“Photo essays are often used to show how extensive an event is — how much damage was done, how much effort something takes, how people are coping” (Shurbaji, 2014).

The Bigger Story

When I began preparing for my trip, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about visuals. But as you can see, the video, maps, and photographs I found tell the bigger story of Pakistan. Some things are good, some are challenging.

” … visuals are more than just an aesthetic element. They help us tell better stories” (Dahmen, 2017).

The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation’s website was created to promote the beauty of Pakistan and encourage tourism. They use strong visuals to do so, and I encourage you to take a look.

(Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, n.d.)

” … there are endless ways to create tourism offerings that both speak to the public and capitalize on the best of what a country has to offer” (Alton, 2018).

It’s true. But I believe visual storytelling is the best way.

And yes, despite the fact that it is “smog season,” I’m still going to Pakistan.

Don’t worry, I’ll bring back pictures to share.

until nxt time …


Abel, A. (2018, December 12). The 10 Coolest Places to Go in 2019. Retrieved from:

Ali, A. (2017, November 6). Pakistani children walk to school in heavy smog in Lahore on November… Retrieved from:

Alton, L. (2018, October 1). How the travel industry is using visual storytelling to bring its economic impact into clear view. Retrieved from: (Module 6)

Babar, Z., & Ahmed, M. (2019, November 22). Rights group draws attention to heavy smog in Pakistan. Retrieved from:

BBC. (2019, December 8). Lahore. Retrieved from: 14-day weather forecast for Lahore.

Behance. (n.d.). Infographics Pakistan- Geography. Retrieved from: Info-graphic: Geography of Pakistan 2011

Briney, A. (2019, September 1). What do you know about the geography of Pakistan? Retrieved from:

Cicolu. S. (2010, August 23). “Pakistan – a snapshot”. Retrieved from:

Dahmen, N. (2017, November 22). How to do better visual journalism for solutions stories. Retrieved from:

Dennison, B. (2017, March 28). Practical visual literacy for science communication « IAN/EcoCheck Blog. Retrieved from: (Module 6)

Geography | American Institute of Pakistan Studies. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2019, from

Gitner, S. (2016). Multimedia storytelling for digital communicators in a multiplatform world. New York: Routledge. (Module 1)

Kostis, H.-N., & Cohen, D. (2012, July 17). Scientific Visualization: Where art meets science and technology | APPEL Knowledge Services. Retrieved from: (Module 6)

Kwan-Liu Ma, Liao, I., Frazier, J., Hauser, H., & Kostis, H.-N. (2012). Scientific storytelling using visualization. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 32(1), 12–19.

Lahore. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Lupton, E. (2017). Design is Storytelling. New York, NY: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. (Module 2)

NASA Earth Observatory. (2015, October 5). India-Pakistan border at night. Retrieved from:

Pakistan’s Geographic Challenge. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Pakistan’s Geography, Climate, and Environment. (2011, February 10). Retrieved from:

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. (n.d.). Welcome to Pakistan. Retrieved from:

Sarfaraz, S., Arsalan, M. H., & Fatima, H. (2014). Regionalizing the climate of Pakistan using KÖPPEN classification system. Pakistan Geographical Review, 69(2), 111–132.

Shurbaji, E. (2014, December 17). Photo narratives. Retrieved from: (Module 4)

Stratfor. (2016). Pakistan’s Geographic Challenge. Retrieved from:

Toppa, S. (2018, February 26). As residents of Lahore choke on air pollution, Pakistani officials dawdle. Retrieved from:

Zifan, A. (2016). English: Pakistan map of Köppen climate classification. Retrieved from :

Header photo by Nazim Laghari on Unsplash

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