The title says it all.
Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is one of the most beautiful, green cities you will find in the country. Surrounded on one side by the lush green Margalla Hills, it gives a perfect blend of sightseeing and an urban lifestyle.
Being the capital, it is the most developed city in the country, and the most organized one. Areas are easy to access as the roads are well developed and mostly straight and at right angles to each other.
The city is divided into square areas of 4 km2 each, called sectors. The sectors are arranged and numbered such that it is really easy to identify which direction a particular sector lies in. Each sector has a market or a shopping area in the middle, called the Markaz.
The usual way to commute is via taxi or cabs. Though one can rent a car from the various rent-a-cars operating here, or commute via the radio cabs which are just a phone call away.
Just adjacent to Islamabad lays the city of Rawalpindi, often simply called “Pindi.” Interestingly, the Islamabad International Airport lies in Rawalpindi. However, the boundaries between the cities aren’t discernible. You’ll know when you enter the city because of the old houses and the congested roads. Rawalpindi also offers its decent share of visiting sites and delicacies.
The capital houses some prominent attractions. A 1-2 hour hike or 45-minute drive up the Margalla Hills takes you up Pir Sohawa, which offers a great view of the city, especially at night.
The place houses some prominent restaurants which specialize in local cuisine. Another prominent attraction is the Lake View Park located along the Kashmir Highway towards the Murree Hills. The park is built alongside the city’s Rawal Dam. You can have a boating trip or jet ski in the reservoir. The Park also has the city’s only Go Karting track, a café, and a paintball arena.
In the foot of Margalla Hills lies the Islamabad Zoo, the Playland (a children’s park), and the Saidpur Village. The Saidpur Village was made into a model village by the administration, and offers a decent exposure to Pakistani rural life. There are a few decent restaurants and cafés here which serve local cuisine.
The Lok Virsa Museum located to Shakarparian Hills showcases cultures of different regions of the country, and is a decent place to shop for any souvenir items you may wish to take back. The road goes onto the Pakistan Monument which is a landmark worth seeing. The Pakistan Monument Museum also visually depicts the history of Pakistan through various times.
Pakistan is famous for its colorful and tasty food. You can find good restaurants in almost every sector; however, I would recommend the Tehzeeb Restaurant in F-8. Any caffeine cravings can be satisfied with a visit to any of the Espresso Lounge, Coffee Planet, Coffee Republic, or Gloria Jean’s Coffees outlets, other than almost every other café which serve coffee. The choice of drink here is tea, though, which is popularly available.
For shopping, the Centaurus Mall and the Safa Gold Mall are popular malls and host to most of the popular local and foreign brands. The F-7 Markaz is also a popular shopping market with almost all kinds of products available there.
A 1.5-hour drive along the Murree Road takes you to Murree, a hill station built in the days of the British rule here. You can enjoy the cool weather there, take a stroll along the mall road, or a further drive can take you to different Galiyaats each of which is a popular tourist resort.
These places are crammed in both the hottest as well as the coldest days as people look to spend time in a cooler setting, or want to enjoy a snowfall. A 1-hour drive along the famous Grand Trunk road takes you to Taxila, an ancient city with ruins found dating as back as the 6th century BC.
You can visit different sites of archaeological importance, the art and architecture from the days of Buddhist glory in the region. A 30-minute drive from Taxila takes you to the Khanpur Dam where you can enjoy archery, cliff diving, motor boating, fishing, and various other activities.
Overall, you will enjoy Islamabad’s cleanliness and greenery, and the serene environment. For any visitors, Islamabad will probably be their first stop in Pakistan. Due to its location, the beautiful valleys of Kashmir, Gilgit, Naran, Kaghan etc, and the gigantic mountains to the north are easily accessible from Islamabad than other places. Be sure to include visiting the north in your trip plans, because that’s where it gets the most beautiful.
There are many negative perceptions about the country, and the country has its fair share of problems, but visiting the country yourself will clear most negative opinions. The people are hospitable, the land is beautiful, and the culture is unique. Whether you are an adventurer, or a person seeking a spiritual journey, or someone who wants to travel the world; Pakistan has ample opportunities for everyone.
Salman is a young mechanical engineer who spent his life in Islamabad. He really likes the city, and its serenity, and would recommend it to anyone seeking a decent share of this in a dominantly urban environment.