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.