Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, is one of the beautiful cities of the world. The city is the melting pot of diverse cultures, mostly constitutes 9 to 5 working class moved in from different parts of the country, speaking their respective provincial and regional languages. The major source of communication is Urdu due to the ethnic mix of the population while English as the official language is widely used. Islamabad has a wealth of attractions ranging from ancient archaeological sites to modern buildings housing shopping malls and eateries. Below are the details.
The Blue Area is a corridor running along Islamabad’s Khayaban-e-Quaid-e-Azam serving as a commercial and business hub of Islamabad, Pakistan. It is named the “Blue Area” because it was represented in a colour blue in the original design of the planned city. The Centaurus, The stock exchange building, U Fone tower, Saudi-Pak tower, Green Trust Tower, UBL Building, OGDCL Building, Statelife Building, and Shaheed-e-Millat building are tall skyscrapers lined up along the blue area attracting significant business.
Margalla Hills National Park:
The Margalla Hills National Park is the offshoot of the Himalayas located to the north of Islamabad. The Park is made up of Margalla Hills, Shakarparian, and Rawal Lake. The park covers approximately 17,386 hectares (67.13 sq mi) and was established in 1980. Margalla National park is rich in biodiversity, especially flora and fauna including 600 plant species, 250 bird varieties, 38 mammals, and 13 species of reptiles. Pir Sohawa and Daman-e-Koh are two major viewpoints visited by local and international tourists frequently.
At 3600 ft above sea level, Pir Sohawa on the top of the Margalla Hills is the highest viewpoint in Islamabad. The viewpoint has modern restaurants with ample parking and security facilities. Pir Sohawa is accessible by car in about 30 min from Islamabad Zoo and by foot along Trail 3, from F-6/3 in around 2-3 hours and along Trail 5 from G-5 around 3-4 hours.
Daman-e-Koh is a viewpoint in the heart of Margalla Hills above E-6 sector with panoramic views of the capital city. At an elevation of 2400 m above sea level, Daman-e-Koh is just a 5 km drive from Islamabad zoo. This tourist attraction draws a huge volume of visitors every day, particularly during the summers. Daman-e-Koh can be reached by foot from the zoo via trail 2 in 40 min.
Japanese Park is a children’s park located at the foot of Margalla hills adjacent to Margalla road across the F6 sector near Islamabad Zoo. The park is equipped with all modern facilities and is famous among children and families.
Stretched over 82 acres Islamabad Zoo is home to more than 300 animals including 200 birds of different kinds. The zoo is located at the foot of Daman-e-Koh viewpoint at an easy access form all sectors of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The zoo is visited by a huge number of citizens and foreigners on a daily basis.
Saidpur Model Village:
Saidpur is a 400 to 500-year-old village and a popular attraction in the foothills of Margalla visited frequently by people from all walks of life. The model village is named after Said Khan, one of the sons of Sultan Sarang, the Gakhar chief of the Pothohar region during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Babur. The village was converted into a place of Hindu worship by a Mughal commander, Raja Man Singh and after renovation, the Saidpur village is now home to many Hindu temples showcasing Hindu civilization and architecture. Currently, it is one of the best places in Islamabad to eat out.
The Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad is the largest mosque in South Asia and 6th largest in the world, gifted by King Shah Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. It is a desert Beduine tent-shaped structure designed by the Turkish Architect Vedat Delokay. The mosque was completed in 1988 after ten years and it cost USD 130 million. Its 5000 m2 area can accommodate 10,000 worshippers in the main hall, 24000 in the porticoes and courtyards, and about 200,000 in the adjoining grounds.
Fatima Jinnah Park:
Fatima Jinnah Park, also called F-9 Park is a public recreational park made of the entire F-9 sector of Islamabad. Named after Miss Fatima Jinnah (the sister of the founder of Pakistan: Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah), the park is considered one of the largest in South East Asia.
Shakarparian is one of the most frequently visited tourist points in Islamabad located near Zero Point at 2000 ft. It is a small hill station with a beautiful view of Islamabad. Pakistan monument and the nearby wax museum are also located in Shakarparian. The old Ghakhar tribe leaders settled here before partition. Shakarparian used to be a “place to rest” and is basically the combination of two Potohari words Shakar (sweet) and Parian (parao).
Built in 2004, the Pakistan National Monument is a symbol of national progress. The four petals represent the four provinces (Balochistan, North West Frontier Province, Punjab, and Sindh), while the three sandwiched smaller petals represent the three territories (Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas). The aerial view of petals representing a crescent and the central star together represent Pakistan flag.
The Rawal Lake or Rawal Dam is an artificial lake in Islamabad and source of water in the twin cities dug in 1962. The lake is fed by Korang River and adjoining small creeks. The total area the lake covers is 8.8km2.
It is a beautiful modern park in Islamabad built to provide all kinds of recreation amenities. The Park has a panoramic view of Rawal Lake and the town across the lake. The Park has a beautiful bird sanctuary, outdoor cooking places, eateries, walking paths, running tracks, boating and sailing facilities, live music, flower gardens, ample parking lot and shades, and bathroom facility.
Rose and Jasmine Garden:
The beautiful Rose and Jasmine Garden is located adjacent to Islamabad sports complex & Aabpara market. The garden has a collection of almost all varieties of roses.
Located to the northeast of Islamabad, on the way to Murree Hills, Chattar bagh is a small water park at around 25 minutes away from Islamabad. The park has a few amusement rides and famous for families and children. However, for people having experience in amusement parks, it’s slightly less facilitated.
During the reign of Sher Shah Suri (Farid Khan), also known as the Lion King, the Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) from Kabul to Calcutta was connected by many Traveler Inns for rest and recreation of travellers which were called the Sarai. Each Sarai was equipped with basic facilities for travellers. Sara-e-Kharbooza is one of them and is dilapidated and encroached.
Shah Allah Ditta Caves
Shah Allah Ditta Caves are situated to the west of Islamabad, about 15 km from Golra interchange, in a centuries-old village called Shah Allah Ditta (also known as sadhu ka bagh), just next to the tomb and shrine of Shah Allah Ditta. The more than seven hundred years old village was named after a Mughal period Darvesh. The caves, however, are believed to have been a meditation spot of Buddhist monks in the 4th century BC. There are only two caves on both sides of a spring which contains traces of human existence from ancient times. Hindu families lived in Shah Allah Ditta before the partition and the caves were used for their daily worship. There is a pathway right next to the village is said to have been used as a route from Kabul to the Taxila by Alexander the Great and Sher Shah Suri while Mughal rulers and emperors often passed through while travelling from Afghanistan to the Hindustan. There is also a Buddhist stupa at a 1.5-hour walk from the caves.
Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum
The Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum, also known as Golra Sharif Railway Museum, near E-11 sector of Islamabad, has a rich collection of relics dating back to the establishment of railways in the subcontinent by the British to memorabilia depicting the creation of the museum. The museum has a big yard and three different halls. The big yard has cranes, saloons, trolleys, coaches, and tracks assembled impressively, while the halls contain artefacts reflecting the history of the railway over a period of more than 150 years. The open yard has an array of relics which have become almost extinct. The station was established in 1882 and upgraded as a junction in 1912 while the museum was established in October 2003, is truly a site not to miss. The huge old banyan trees around this railway museum add to the scenery.
Lok Virsa Museum
Lok Virsa Museum on the Shakarparian Hills Islamabad, also known as the National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage, showcases the cultural heritage of the people of Pakistan and the living style of the different areas of Pakistan. It is the finest cultural museum housing the rich history and art in the form of statues, pictures, pottery, music and textile work.
This trail leads to the top terminal of the Pir Sohawa road, in more or less two hours. The extension of the trail will reach Monal Restaurant in another twenty minutes.
Starting from Islamabad Zoo, it is roughly an hour walk and leads you to Daman-e-Koh. You can move beyond this spot upward to the cactus ridge.
It is the famous trail starts from the Margalla road F-7. The track is exhausting to some extent, due to steep hills. The course will lead you to the summit and concludes near to the three famous restaurants at Pir Sohawa. It is approximately two hours uphill hike.
This trail links Trail 3 and Trail 5. One can do this trail either way – from Trail 3 to 5 or in reverse direction.
This easy to hike trail begins from Margalla Road in sector F-5 and runs almost parallel to Trail 3. The trail 5 leads to the top of Pir Sohawa road. It is possible to switch to trail 3 either at midway via Trail 4 or on the top by walking an extra distance of 1.5 Kms along the ridge of the Margalla Hills. The estimated time to cover the distance on the trail is about 3 – 5 hours depending on the pace.
This is another famous trail starts from the back of the Faisal Mosque in Sector E7. Trail 6 will walk you through a valley along a well-defined route that guides you to the top terminal of the Pir Sohawa road. The trail has a track for mountain bikes and a bird watching point.
This trail leads to Monal Restaurant through the village right along the spring. However, Saidpur trail is only used by the local residents and not much used by the outsiders.
Islamabad is the modern capital city of Pakistan located in the north of Potohar Plateau, at the foothill of the Margalla Hills, at an elevation of 507 m above the sea level. Geographically the capital city is located 185 km (115 mi) east of Peshawar, 295 km (183 mi) North and Northeast of Lahore, 120 km (75 mi) South and Southwest of Muzaffarabad, and 300 km(190 mi) West and Southwest of Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir.
History of Islamabad
Historically the city is known to have been one of the ancient human settlements in Asia. Some of the earliest Stone Age artefacts found on the plateau date back to 100,000 to 500,000 years. Excavations have also revealed the existence of a pre-historic culture settled on the banks of Soan River where relics and human skulls found were dating back to 5000 BC. Moreover, the region has historically been crossroads of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the Margalla pass acting as a gateway.
Islamabad Capital City
After the partition of the subcontinent, when Pakistan was established in 1947, Karachi was the first capital. Soon it was realized that Karachi as capital was not suitable technically as it was located at one end of the country, making it vulnerable to attacks from the Arabian Sea. A capital, preferably in the centre with a moderate climate, which could easily be accessed from all parts of the country and logistically viable, was therefore needed. The commission that was specially constituted for the selection of the capital city in 1958 chose the land making up current-day Islamabad as the location of Islamabad was closer to army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the disputed territory of Kashmir in the North.
In 1960, Islamabad was constructed as a forward capital for several reasons. Originally nestled against the Margalla hills, Islamabad was planned by a Greek firm of architects, called Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, based on grid scheme and triangular in shape with apex towards the Hills. The capital territory is divided into eight zones designated Administrative Zone, Commercial District, Educational Sector, Industrial Sector, Diplomatic Enclave, Residential Areas, Rural Areas and Green Area. Islamabad city is divided into five major zones: Zone I, Zone II, Zone III, Zone IV, and Zone V. The sectors are lettered from A to I, and each sector is further divided into four numbered sub-sectors 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each sub-sector is accessed by streets and Galis and any address can easily be accessed.
The city is broadly spread having well paved and wide tree-lined streets, elegant public buildings and larges houses; each sector has its own well – organized residences, shops, and parks. Because of its easy-to-navigate sectors & zones and other characteristics Islamabad is ranked as Gamma-world city. The capital was not moved directly from Karachi to Islamabad, it was first shifted temporarily to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad when the development was completed.
Islamabad features a strange climate with hot summers accompanied by a monsoon season and then follows wet winters. Usually, its micro-climate is regulated by three artificial reservoirs; Rawal Lake in Islamabad, Simli Dam, and Khanpur Dam. Summers from May to July are the hottest months with an average temperature of 40 degrees; the highest temperature recorded was 45 °C (113.0 °F) on June 23, 2005. Monsoon season spans from July through September with heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms where the highest monthly rainfall recorded in July 1995 was 743.3 millimetres (29.26 in). Winters, however, are from October to March with temperature varies subject to location. The lowest ever temperature was recorded was −6 °C (21.2 °F) on January 17, 1967.
Things to Do:
Islamabad is a beautiful city for sightseeing. There are a number of exciting things to do in Islamabad including fishing in Rawal Lake, Paragliding on the Margalla Hills, Cycling along various designated routes in Islamabad, walking on the specially designed trails named as Trail 1, Trail 2, Trail 3, Trail 4, Trail 5, Trail 6, Saidpur Trail, and Bari Imam Trail, exploring museums and tourist places and visiting surrounding attractions in Rawalpindi, and Murree Hills as day excursion.
Islamabad is well-planned city and each sector in Islamabad has a central shopping mall. One can hope to find all types of local and international brands at a reasonable cost. The popular markets are the F6 Markaz (aka Supermarket) F7 Markaz (aka Jinnah Super Market), F8 Markaz (aka Ayub Market), G6 Markaz (aka Melody Park), and G9 Markaz (aka Karachi Company). Each Markaz (Center) has its own uniqueness and each one is worth visiting. Besides, the Blue Area in Islamabad also has a variety of shops from tech shops to backers to garments and what not.
Super Market and Jinnah Super Market have a large collection of western food products, handicrafts, rugs and carpets, Pashmina shawls, Jewelry, souvenirs, gift items, furniture, bookstores and whatever tourists like to buy at reasonable prices.
Where to Eat:
Islamabad has almost all the tastes of food. From the Restaurants of star hotels to international chain restaurants to local food chains, and from Chinese to Thai to Italian to local cuisines, the food variety is diverse. Major restaurants are located in
How to reach Islamabad
Islamabad has an international airport called Benazir Bhutto International Airport (IATA: ISB). Flights from a variety of international destinations, including Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, London, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China.
Local transport companies including Skyways, Faisal Movers, Niazi express, and Daewoo Sammi are some of the international standard long-haul operators. It is possible to travel directly from major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Multan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Lahore, Peshawar etc. Almost all major transport stations are located outside twin cities and they have alternate arrangements to get passengers to the offices located within cities.
There is train service to Rawalpindi from all major cities and it is possible to make it by train to Islamabad.
Daman-e-Koh is a prominent tourist attraction and a viewpoint in the heart of Margalla Hills, located to the north of the capital city, Islamabad. The name “Daman-e-Koh” is a blend of two Persian words “Daman” and “Koh” which together mean “Lap of the Mountain”.
Historically Daman-e-Koh was established in the early 80s and was later developed with modern amenities in 2007 as a major tourist point under the leadership of Kamran Lashari. It is located at an elevation of 2400ft from the sea level and almost 500ft from the city of Islamabad.
While driving from Islamabad to Pir Sohawa – another attraction and viewpoint at the top of the Margalla Hills at an elevation of 3600m – Daman-e-Koh serve as the midpoint. It is a popular and a must-visit point for tourists visiting the capital city and for local residents who visit the site frequently. Its cool climate attracts voluminous visitors during summers, especially on weekends. The weather at Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa always remain pleasant.
There are two major spots – the northern viewpoint and the southern lookout. The northern viewpoint is adjacent to the parking lot with tuck shops and a café catering to the needs of visitors. With a spacious parking lot and other amenities for visitors including eateries, private benches and tables on the carpeted grass under shades of green trees, electric powered cars to shuttle visitors to the northern viewpoint, Daman-e-Koh has always been filled with tourists.
The southern viewpoint located at an elevation provides a panoramic view of Islamabad. Telescopes are installed for keen observers. The tourists experience an exclusive view of the Seventh Avenue, Faisal Mosque, the Centaurus towers, Blue Area, Shakar Parian Hills, Rawal Lake, and Rawalpindi city to the south on a clear day.
The Margalla Hills are a great bird sanctuary and while travelling by car or hiking through different tracks, one can see different bird species. Moreover, Margalla hills are home to monkeys and during winters when it snows heavily, there are chances that one can sight the Cheetah.
The road to Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa is quite adventurous and scenic with every turn giving a panoramic view of the city and surroundings. At only 5km from the Zoo, taking 15 to 20 min by car, Daman-e-Koh is a well-managed tourist attraction.
Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa are also accessible through various hiking trails with each trail given specific name ranging from Trail 1 to Trail 6. Trail 2 starting from the Zoo (starting either side of the Zoo as both trails meet up) leads up to Daman-e-Koh and it hardly takes 40 minutes.
- Do not walk through the hills all alone.
- Do not enter the hills very early or when it is dark.
- Do not make a fire in the jungle.
- Always follow the trail.
- Never try to disturb wildlife.
- Dress properly
- Do not litter in the hills.
The Faisal Mosque in Islamabad is the 6th largest mosques in the world. The mosque is popular in the Islamic world and famous for its size and architecture. By design, Faisal mosque is a blend of ultramodern and conventional architecture. The Faisal Mosque is sited at the foothills of the Margalla Hills at an elevated land and can be seen day and night from miles. Unusual in design, the mosque is one of the key tourist attractions in Islamabad and permissible to people of all faiths. Faisal mosque is considered a national mosque of Pakistan.
History of Faisal Mosque
When Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan in 1966, he supported the initiative to build a grand mosque, giant as largest in the world that time, in Islamabad. Four years later, in this regard, in 1969, an international competition held and 43 architects from 17 countries submitted design proposals. The unique design submitted by the Turkish architect Vedat Delokay was approved as the final design. Vedat Delokay was the recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for this project.
Construction of the mosque began in 1976 and it took 10 years to complete the whole building. Finally, in 1988, the project was completed at a total cost of 130 million Saudi Riyal (US$ 120 million) fully financed by King Shah Faisal. It has the honor of being the largest mosque of the world from 1988 to 1993 until the Hasan II mosque of Casablanca in Morocco was built. The name given to the mosque, as Shah Faisal Mosque, was named after the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
Art & Architecture
The unconventional design without domes and arches was inspired by a desert Beduin tent. The main hall is surrounded by four equal height minarets adjoining its four corners as tall as 260 feet (79 m) and 10 x 10 m in circumference. The eight-sided shell shaped sloping roofs forming a triangular worship hall feature a contemporary design and reflect a stark contrast from the conventional Islamic architecture. At the time of construction the design was heavily criticized for its unconventional design but with its completion, the criticism also pacified.
The interior of the main building is richly decorated with mosaics and calligraphy by Sadequain, the famous Pakistani artist. The overhanging spectacular Turkish-style chandelier from the 40-meter high roof is an added beauty. West wall of the building is adorned with mosaic pattern and has Kalimah written on in early Kufi script.
The hall can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at a time. The front of the hall is a huge courtyard and can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. The whole structure of the mosque covers an area of 5,000m2 (54,000 sq. ft.). The surrounding porticoes, courtyard, and adjoining grounds have the capacity to hold more than 200,000 worshippers at a time.
Location and Attractions
The Faisal Mosque is situated at the foot of Margalla Hills, at the north end of Faisal Avenue – the name given to the road leading to the mosque after the assassination of King Faisal in 1975. The ground floor of the mosque housed the campus of International Islamic university now moved to a different location.
The mosque is surrounded by lush green grounds. The mausoleum of the late President, Zia ul-Haq who died in an air crash in 1988, is adjacent to the mosque. the surroundings are all decked with green carpeted grass, trees, flowers of various kinds, sitting areas and ample parking lot. The best view of the mosque is probably from Daman-e-Koh viewpoint.
The building can be entered from a small courtyard surrounding a small water pond. The staircases on both sides of the courtyard lead up to the main courtyard of the mosque. The main courtyard offers the best view of the main building and surroundings.
Visitors are always welcome and are free to explore all areas of the building and take photographs. The courtyard of the building presents a scenic view of the surrounding Margalla hills. This place is quite peaceful and cool during summers.
While entering the main building, visitors must leave shoes at the counter. Remember to dress conservatively, women especially must wear a headscarf. Avoid eating, dancing, singing or making loud voices.