Islamabad – The Capital
Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, is a modern and well-planned city with a lot of natural beauty. Located in the foot hills of the Margalla Hills, the greenery is the biggest attraction for tourists visiting the city. In the last few years Capital Development Authority (CDA) has worked on the beatification of the tourist resorts and now the city has become a must see place for at least all the Pakistanis who can afford. There are quite of few hotels but by and large they are on the expensive side. The best way to visit Islamabad is to look for a family member or friend who lives in the city and stay with him or her.
Daman-e-Koh, Daman means center and Koh means hill, serves as the midpoint for tourists on their way to the higher view point Pir Sohawa, and is 10 to 15 minutes-drive on a beautiful, green and winding road from Islamabad Zoo. It is located 3000 feet from sea level on the top of Margalla Hills. This low hill offers panoramic bird eye view of Islamabad and telescopes are also installed for keen observers. It is surely a place where natural and man-made beauty maneuverings the heart and mind of every visiting individual. With so many places to venture, and with wildlife (mainly monkeys) that will entertain for hours, it’s a must see for all tourists. This extra ordinary garden has two wings ‘north’ and ‘south’. Car parking facility is provided close to the Northern Spot where a cafe and some small tuck shops cater the needs of guests. Golf cars carry the tourists from the parking to the Southern Spot. A restaurant is located on the Southern Spot overlooking the city. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) upgraded the restaurant and introduced electric powered cars that provide tourists with a relaxing and enjoyable transport to and from the parking areas. The best time to visit Daman-e-koh is around sun set. Otherwise it remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.
2) Pir Suhawa
Located at an elevation of about 5000 feet, close to Monal village which exists on the slope towards Islamabad city. It catches the tourists’ attraction in winter due to the mild occasional snowfall. Beauty of this unique hill is that one can compare the urban and rural Pakistan simply by turning the head from one side to other side. Islamabad being at one side and towards other are rear lush green valley with villages, flowing streams and mountains beyond. The Monal Resturant, fame of Pir Suhawa , gives a impressive view of Islamabad in day as well as night. It is a popular place among the citizens of Islamabad, as well as the foreign visitors and tourists. It is a destination point for a hiking trip from the bottom of Margalla Hills climbing almost vertically straight up from the village of Saidpur, Islamabad. The sight is an ideal place for enjoying picnics in forest while listening to singing birds and watching wildlife. After rains of monsoon forest in the hills of Pir Sohawa turns green. Pir Sohawa proves for a good alternative of Murree to the residents of Islamabad and that too only at a distance of a 20 to thirty minutes beautiful drive.
3) Lok Virsa Museum
The National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) is a competent organization that contribute towards creating an awareness of cultural values and heritage by gathering, organizing and preserving the traditional values. The lifestyles of different areas of Pakistan are presented here in form of statues, poetry, arts etc. Lok Virsa is the well-organized cultural museum in Pakistan. It is situated near Shakarparian Hills and has a large collection and display of traditional assets i.e embroidered costumes, jewelry, woodwork, metalwork, block printing, ivory and bone work , fresco, mirror work and marble inlay tile, mosaic and stucco tracery are also displayed. A visitor to Lok Virsa can get benefit from the following:
a) Heritage Museum (Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology).
b) Heritage Library with a collection of over 25,000 books and journals.
c) Contain video archives of professionally recorded videos representing traditions, artifacts, folk and culture of over 1,200 hours videos.
d) 134 books on various aspects of Pakistani folklore and cultural heritage.
e) Traditional music in Pakistan and cultural videos.
f) The Lok Virsa cafe which offers food in the traditional ambience.
Lok Virsa festival is an annual feature, which is normally held in March / April. A big number of visitors attend the festival which is full of colorful cultural activities. Lok Virsa has its own production house. They have compiled, edited and produced a set of 36 cultural documentaries and 500 audio cassette labels of nation’s cultural heritage.
Timing: Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 to 20:00 with a break for prayer on Friday from 13:00 to 14:30. The Museum remains close
4) Pakistan Monument
Pakistan Monument is a national monument, beautifully constructed at the west view point of Shakarparian. It is constructed on the pattern of monuments in the western world and thus without any doubt be considered as one of the most beautiful monuments in the country. The structure of the monument is designed to reflect the history and culture of Pakistan through symbols and pictures. The monument consists of four blossoming flower petals representing the unity of Pakistan. Sayings of Quaid-i-Azam and poetry of Allama Iqbal are inscribed on the monument. Besides the monument the there is a museum presenting the history of Pakistan Movement. Wonderfully constructed statues of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal are master piece of art presented in the museum. It is a must see place for any person visiting Islamabad.
5| Lake View Park
This newly established park on the Murree road, at a distance of around five kilometers from Convention Center has become a favorite picnic spot for people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. It is constructed with many modern facilities and attractions on the northern bank of Rawal Lake. CDA has displayed list for all the amusing activity in the park. The biggest Bird Park in Pakistan and one of the biggest in South Asia with a collection of rare bird species is a major attraction for both children and adults. You would be entertained around the park with majority of enchanting birds that were gathered from various countries. Some of the facilities here include sitting pagoda, picnic point (with live barbeque facilities), ibex club, quad bike ride, rock climbing gym, motor sports ranch, boating, sailing, kayaking, fancy aviary, festival arena, passenger road train, paintball battlefield, boating area, fishing area, swimming pool. Besides, there are a lot of rides for kids and youth. Parking is very vast and inexpensive. A restaurant named “Dera” is offering tasty and healthy food and refreshment items for visitors.
6) Faisal Mosque
Situated in the foot hills of the Margalla Hills, Shah Faisal Mosque holds the record of being one of the largest Mosques in the world. Its total area is 46.87 Acres and the inner hall of Mosque is 1.9 Acres. A total of 3 lakh people can offer prayer at a time. The design of the Mosque was made by the famous architect Vedit Delow. Faisal Mosque is conceived as the National Mosque of Pakistan. The mosque represents a perfect blend of ultramodern and traditional Turkish architectural design. It has four 88m beautiful minarets and there floor are created with world best marble. Inside, the ceiling rise to 40m and the air hums with soft recitations. The mausoleum of the late President, Zia ul-Haq, is adjacent to the mosque. Visitors are welcome, but non-Muslims are requested to avoid prayer times and Fridays. Leave your shoes at a counter before entering the courtyard and remember to dress conservatively. The design is meant to represent a Turkish Bedouin’s tent and lacks the traditional domes and arches of most mosques in the world offering it a unique and modern look.
Location: Near E-7, Islamabad.
7) Saidpur Model Village
Saidpur is one of the villages, which existed before the construction of the modern city, Islamabad. It is a beautiful and scenic model village constructed for tourists and visitors. It potrays the rural lifestyle, which otherwise Islamabad lacks. The village provides for excellent food outlets of Pakistani cuisine. It also have spectacular settings and shops offering handicrafts and souvenirs. A must see thing at Saidpur Model Village is mud train made during colonial era. It also got an old temple and a trekking and rock climbing facilities. A small museum presenting pictorial history is Islamabad is also a good tourist attraction.
8) Golra Railway Station and the Railway Heritage Museum
Constructed in Victorian architecture, Golra Railway station was built in 1882 by the British to act as a supply line to Afghanistan through Khyber Pass. Though it is still active as many trains from Rawalpindi to Peshawar passes daily from the station, yet the reason for its importance the Railway Heritage Museum which was established in 2003. The museum is housed saloons, locomotives, coaches, tracks, trolleys etc. portraying the rich history of railways in the region. The stream and electric engines and the saloon cars used by Lord Mountbatten and Maharaja of Jodhpur are main attractions for the tourists. The station has repeatedly used as the location for filming different films, TV plays, songs and commercials.
9) Fatima Jinnah Park
This public recreational park is also called F-9 Park. The park is one of the largest parks in Asia. It is named after Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the father of the nation. Only a few areas of Fatima Jinnah Park are well organized. The developed area in Fatima Jinnah Park is the Mega zone complex, on the western side, which includes a sports zone with a standard-length swimming pool and tables for table tennis and snooker. The complex also covers the facilities for bowling, arcade games, laser tag, and other games, areas for a fast food and dining and an assortment of shops for clothes, DVDs, and other items. On the northern side of the park there is a modern style children park with a lot of swings and physical activities. There are also walking and jogging tracks.
10) Pakistan Museum of Natural History
The Natural History Museum is the only of its kind in Pakistan. The Museum shows the early human history, geology, and the wild life of Pakistan. They target the particular interest of students and children. The best part is that they represent the whole history in the form of a story with waxed statutes standing and portraying different events. It also shows a tour of the history of Muslims in British India.
Location: Garden Avenue, Shakarparian, Islamabad.
Timing: Saturday to Thursday: 9:00 16:00. It remains closed on Friday.
The small size hills are situated in the middle of Islamabad region and the terraces and gardens offer a beautiful and scenery view of Islamabad with the green Margalla hills in the backdrop. It is one of the oldest tourist places of Islamabad. There is corner where many dignitaries planted trees in 1960s and 1970s. Unlike Pir Sohawa and Damen-e-Koh, the Shakar Parian view point is at a lower altitude giving a closer and clear view. In Islamabad Shakarparian hills are located near Zero Point. Its height from sea level is 609 meters. The spot offers scenery views of Margalla and Murree hills, Rawal Lake, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
12) Rawal Dam
Located near Rawal Chowk, Rawal Dam is one of the main tourist resorts of Islamabad till 1980s. It is an artificial reservoir that fulfills the water demands for the twin cities, especially Rawalpindi. This artificial lake covers an area of 8.8 km. It has a storage capacity of 47,500 acre feet and covers 3.5 square miles. Rawal Lake is situated within an isolated section of the Margalla Hills National Park. It offers wide range facilities of recreational activities, fishing, picnicking, hiking, or relaxing alone, or with family and friends. The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation Jaltarang Restaurant has delicious snacks and refreshments to enjoy. Water flowing from the spill ways of the dam during heavy rains provide for a beautiful view. After the construction of Lake view-park on the northern side of the lake, the number of visitors to this place has significantly decreased.
13) Japanese Park
Situated at the scenic spot in the foothills near Islamabad Zoo, Japanese park is one of the major attractions of kids under 12. This park was gifted by Japanese children to Pakistani children on December 30, 1985. Japanese Park is beautiful park having food courts and lots of fun activities for the children including swings, monkey bars, slides, etc.
14) Islamabad Zoo
A small but beautiful zoo in Islamabad is called as “Marghazar”. It was established in 1978, and is administered by Capital Development Authority of Pakistan. Located in the feet of Margalla hill, Islamabad zoo provides for a very natural environment for the animals. The zoo has a good collection of different breads of birds including black kites, black swans, budgerigars, ostriches, peacocks, etc. Mammals including zebras, blackbuck, leopard, nilgai, monkeys, foxes and bears are also housed in this zoo. However, the best attraction for kids is an elephant. In 2013, The Capital Development Authority Islamabad, has extended the zoo and include a Dino Park in it. This park includes life like replicas of popular Dinosaur breeds and is an enjoyable walk.
15) Lotus Lake
Lotus Lake is one of those places in Islamabad, about which even most of the locals do not know. It is a small lake on the back of Lok Virsa Museum and after parking the car on the road, one has to follow a walkway to reach the natural surroundings of the small pool filled with lotus flowers.
16) Simli Dam
Constructed in 1982, Simli Dam provides drinking water to the residents of Islamabad. Situated at some 30 KM from Islamabad, the dam is built on Soan River. Initially the dam attracted some tourists but due to lack of facilities there are very few visitors to the dam these days. However, those who have contacts in the government circles are advised to book the dam rest house and arrange picnic.