Nestled between the upright Margalla Hills (of Himalayan Range), stands Islamabad-the capital city of Pakistan. Owing to its picturesque backdrop and beautiful setting, Islamabad is ranked as the second most beautiful capital of the world. Rolling back in time to 1960s it was only a barren piece of land. Islamabad was populated with seeds of Mulberry trees from a helicopter to spew life-bearing conditions in it.
The lush green terrain of Islamabad is divided in different sectors today i.e. from A-I. Rawalpindi is present adjoining Islamabad and both are termed as Twin-Cities of Pakistan. Islamabad has so many must visit popular places to visit that will leave you awestruck and amazed. Pack your bag and get ready to roll along the roads of Islamabad.
Let’s look at the Top 10 Most Popular and Must Visit Places in Islamabad
1.Faisal Mosque Islamabad-Third Largest in the World
Faisal Mosque is first in our list of most popular must visit places in Islamabad. Named after a Saudi King Shah Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, Faisal Mosque located (Google Map) at the feet of Margalla Hills is a perfect blend of Traditional and Contemporary Architecture. The place which got erected from the ground in 10 years (1976-1986) is designed to accommodate at most 100,000 worshippers at one time. The architectural design (which got selected through an International Competition) is the effort of a Turkish architect-Vedat Dalokay.
Moving inside, the central prayer hall holds a large chandelier and the Qibla walls are adorned with Turkish tiles. The Mosque walls are decorated with calligraphic work and Ayat from Quraan. There is also a book shop inside where several books about Islam are available. The entry is free. However, for non-Muslims it is advised to avoid visiting on prayer times or Friday as entry to mosque is restricted . The tomb of General Zia-Ul-Haq can be located in the near vicinity of the Mosque.
2.Margalla Hills-A Glistening Backdrop
Margalla Hills is second in our list of most popular must visit places in Islamabad. In extension of the Himalayan Range, the Margalla Hills are the crown in the beauty of Islamabad. Known for their serene and tranquil surroundings, these hills call the fitness freaks and families for a healthy hangout. Margalla Hills is divided into 6 different tracks, each offering its package of excitement. Trail 3 is a Fire lane track and mountaineers and cyclers can be spotted moving along the ridges on Track 2 (Cycling Track). Track 5 and 6 are packed with various streams and pits which portray a beautiful frame during monsoon season.
The hills are flooded with pines and are much crowded with diverse animals & birds’ species. There are various signposts installed along the way to indicate the path. Pack your party snacks or the BBQ items and let these hills be your picnic spot. These tracks lead to Shah Allah Ditta Caves which are estimated to be 700 years old.
3. Daman e Koh- Panoramic Views of Islamabad
The two words can be located in Urdu Dictionary (Persian Origin). Daman means “Lap” and Koh means “Mountains”. So it sums up as “In the lap of Mountains” or “Foothills”. It is a viewpoint in the mid of Margalla Hills leading towards Pir Sohawa (top of Margalla Hills) and present at 2400 feet from sea level. Southern edge offers a picturesque panoramic view of Islamabad. It can be reached either through the Pir Sohawa Road or through hiking trails.
4. Monal -The Double Treat
Monal (A restaurant) is present atop of Margalla Hills on Pir Sohawa Road. The breathtaking views of Islamabad from the gallery of Monal make it a favorite tourist spot. Aside from panoramic views, Monal is famous due to breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner menus consisting of Pakistani and Continental cuisine. The venue is also open for private gatherings amidst the surrounding hills and hovering the umbrella of clouds. Monal never disappoints you due to views of Islamabad at anytime of the day. Click here for location of Monal on Google Map
5. Rawal Lake-Escape from Urban Buzz
Placed in the adjoining location of Rawal Dam, the lake has been set up artificially to satisfy the water needs of twin cities (Islamabad-Rawalpindi). The streams running down from Margalla Hills join with the efflux of Rawal Dam (Korang River) to contribute to this artificial reservoir. The lake serves as a tourist attraction and is open to boating, fishing, and picnic feasts. Islamabad Club along with other clubs provides skating and diving facilities.
The lakeside is flooded with flower plants and other shady trees which add a tranquil hint to the place. Nearly 15 species of fish including Doula, Rahu, Thaila, Carp fish can be found in the waters of a lake. The place is an excellent reservoir of various birds’ species and animal diversity (Fox, Porcupine, Jackal, Wild boar, and others)
6. Pakistan Monument-The Nation’s Pride
While descending down from Monument, there is museum that hosts the independence journey of Pakistan with sculptures and carvings. It makes one feel like he has moved back to the 20th century when Muslims were struggling for the identity in the sub-continent. There is also an audio-visual library and an auditorium (Panorama Hall). The museum and monument are bridged by Freedom Plaza whose walls carry the handprints of those who played a part in erecting this national monument. Arif Masoud served as the lead architect and his hand impressions can be located at the front of Plaza.
7. Lok Virsa Museum- Documentary of Local Culture
Commonly known as Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology, this structure has played a significant part in preserving our cultures and traditions in their original form. There are a great promotion and display of Folk heritage which is a beautiful fusion of cultural diversities along with Pakistan.
Quite a significant part of the Museum is dedicated to the Heritage Library, Media Center, and Research & Publications Center. Nearly 200 books are published under this platform out of which some are even taught at the postgraduate level. A Traditional Food Folk Festival is held every year which connects us back to our Poets, Sufis, and Folk Tale tradition allowing us to relive our past. Do not get surprised by live folk performances on your visit to Lok Virsa.
8. Said Pur Village-Glimpse into the Past
The history of Said Pur Village rolls at least 500 years back making it one of the oldest villages on the map of Pakistan. Situated at the slopes and ridges of Margalla Hills, the place is heavily influenced by cultural tints from Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. The Mughal Emperor-Jahangir married the daughter of Said Khan (after whom the village is named) owing to which this village is mentioned in Tuzk-e-Jahangir (Jahangir’s biography).
During Hindu Raj various temples and ponds were built in the village. In the 20th century, the place remained under the dominance of Sikh rulers who built Gurdwara and a religious school in the place. The place is restored today as a depiction of the historical and cultural diversity of the area. All the buildings have been preserved in their original form to maintain the significance of the village. The place is open to visitors to move around and dine in Des Pardes & Andaaz.
9. The Centaurus & Safa Gold Mall-Shopping Treats
Moving from the itineraries to dining and shopping stuff, Islamabad holds two main malls on its list. The Centaurus is located in Sector F-8 and Safa Gold Mall is located in Sector F-7. The Centaurus is comprised of the hotel, residential slots, and Shopping malls. The same goes for Safa Gold Mall. However if you are craving for a movie on a bigger screen then Centaurus mall got it. The Food Court offers every sort of cuisine hosting both national and international brands.
10. Jinnah Super Market-Hop & Shop
Located in the heart of Sector F-7 is one of the most popular markets of Islamabad. Name it and you will find it in Jinnah Super Market. Shaped in the form of donut, it houses several sorts of restaurants, hotels, cafes, shops, and all sorts of eating outlets. Saeed Book Bank is quite famous for its vast collection of books in their original copies. China Silks (China Antiques, Gifts, Fabric) and Off Beat (Music store) are the best sellers in the town. Ranging from national to international cuisine, you will be served what you will ask for. Be it street food or the tasty Afghan cuisine, you will not be left disappointed.
You can also check Top 5 Natural Wonders to Visit in Islamabad
Check out the Ten Famous Popular Places in Peshawar