Attractions That Make Islamabad Pakistan’s Must-visit City

Part I

As the country's capital and a city of diplomats, Islamabad offers a wide selection of high-end hotels, providing all the luxuries and comforts for the most discerning travellers. Those on a more restricted budget can also choose from an array of mid-range and budget hotels, as well as guesthouses and hostels for the adventurer and the backpacker. But luxury is not the only thing this beautiful city has to offer. Here are some of the best attractions that make Islamabad worth-visiting.

A Taste Of Both Worlds
Nowhere is the juxtaposition of the new and old of Pakistan better displayed than in Islamabad and its twin city of Rawalpindi, two distinct sides of the country as it is today. Islamabad is modern, sleek and classy, full of broad tree-lined avenues, square city blocks and suburban sprawl, expansive parks and green spaces, elegant government buildings and embassies, up-scale restaurants and of course, the mighty Faisal Mosque overlooking it all. It has long been popular for its peaceful and quiet vibe, and its beautiful greenery.
In contrast, Rawalpindi (affectionately called "Pindi") is much more a South Asian metropolis, with the exciting and sometimes hectic bustle of people, traffic, rickshaws and outdoor markets, what many would refer to as "the real Pakistan". It is a fascinating city in its own right, and though it may not boast as many famous attractions as its sister city, it has a special feel of intimacy that makes it unique in the eyes of visitors.

Shah Faisal Mosque
The stunning national mosque of Pakistan, designed to look like a Bedouin tent, is a beautiful mix of traditional and modern architecture that symbolises the aspirations of the country. It is one of the largest in the world, and can hold up to 100,000 in the hall and courtyard. Visitors are allowed, but non-Muslims should avoid prayer times. The majestic Faisal Mosque stands against the backdrop of the lush Margalla Hills as a symbol of a Pakistan placed firmly in the modern day, while holding on to its history and traditions. The capital city of Islamabad is a forward-thinking metropolis nestled among the green base of the Himalayas. Usually regarded as a diplomatic city, it has recently grown to become an important business and financial centre for the region, as well as an emerging travel destination.

Pakistan Monument
This massive and breathtaking monument symbolises the country's cultural diversity and national unity. It is shaped like a blooming flower with four main petals, each representing the four majour provinces, and three smaller ones, meant to represent smaller regions, such as Kashmir.

Lok Virsa Museum
This fantastic ethnographic museum showcases a large collection of traditional Pakistani handicrafts, including wood carvings, jewellery and textiles. It offers a unique glimpse into the artistic and artisanal past of the country. Be sure to visit the gift shop and pick up a souvenir.

This huge national park located just south of the city's main urban area is a lush expanse of gardens and trees that provide a welcome escape from the city streets for both, locals and visitors. The area also houses many monuments and museums, and has hill lookouts just a 20-minute walk uphill.

The city is surrounded by the beautiful and lush Margalla Hills, and the citizens of Islamabad like to enjoy them. Daman-e-Koh is a splendid picnic spot about a 30-minute walk up the hills just north of the zoo that offers breathtaking views of the city, and specifically of the Faisal Mosque.

Taxila Excavations
The archeological excavations in Taxila make for a great day-trip from Islamabad. The sites can be thoroughly explored in about six hours of walking, if the oppressive heat allows. The sites and museum display Buddhist sculptures, metal artifacts and coins, and other interesting finds from times gone by.

Pakistan Army Museum
One of the more unique museums found in Islamabad, the Pakistan Army Museum offers a historical tour through military development in the region, displaying arms and weapons through the ages, from prehistoric axes, to swords and rifles, to modern-day missile systems.

For a whirlwind tour of the cultural history of Pakistan, a visit to Saidpur, located just one kilometre from the city, is in order. This former Hindu village was famous for its skill in pottery, and it now holds a Model Village which shows off handicrafts from different regions in the country.

Islamabad Zoo
The Islamabad Zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon, especially for those travelling with children. The Zoo is home to a wide array of beautiful animals, including bears, elephants, baboons, and many more. Especially impressive is the huge collection of wild and exotic birds.

Dining Scene
Islamabad's restaurant scene has exploded in recent times, in part to accommodate the high standards and tastes of the many international diplomats that call the city home. The city now boasts a wide selection of fine dining, local family-run restaurants, cool diners and cafés and plenty of international options for travelling foodies. There is an abundance of fantastic Western-style cafés in Islamabad at the moment, all offering high-quality coffee and a surprising range of snacks, meals and freshly made desserts and pastries. They are a great way to take a break from sightseeing and escape the afternoon heat, and some offer truly unique experiences either for their inventive décor or the views from their terraces.

To be contd…