Discovering the Capital of Pakistan

Islamabad's Faisal Mosque. Picture: The Dayspring
By: Munaza Kazmi

Pakistan is a beautiful country, filled with awesome people and the best mountain ranges on the planet… The Himalayas are truly without rival anywhere in the world. I’ve spent months traveling Pakistan over the last year and I cannot recommend this incredible country enough…

Nevertheless, Pakistan is one of the most misjudged travel destinations for a variety of reasons. Hence, there is a fair bit of taboo surrounding travel in Pakistan – thanks, media – but really, Pakistan is a very safe country to visit.

Islamabad

Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan but not even close to the biggest city. There are 213 million people in Pakistan and just 1 million in Islamabad. That makes the city great for a stopover and introduction to the country. I’d recommend at least one day to explore Islamabad.

Start the day right with one of the best coffees in Islamabad, found at Mocca Cafe in Kohsar Market. While you are there be sure to wander around and begin to experience the local shopping. I would suggest taking advantage of the opportunity to buy some handicrafts, that would remind you of this mesmerizing land, when home. For a beautiful pashmina, head over to F6 markez, school road. For Afghan Handicrafts and antiques head over to the few shops around the corner from Maharaja Handicrafts on Aga Khan Road near the flower market.

I would suggest, if you are a nature lover, then you must visit the hiking trails, since it is a wonderful passage with a lot of beautiful surprises awaiting, like mesmerizing fresh water pools and waterfalls, a glace of little squirrels playing around, a hello from a mama monkey, or a lovely song from a colorful rare sparrow and maybe a meeting with a leopard…. leopards do live in the forest, so it’s better to visit in the day light and with guide.

This trail will lead you to a superb restaurant on the hill top, Monal, where you can fill your appetite, by having breakfast buffet and view of whole city.

In the mean while when you would be landing back to the city from Monal, I would recommend you stop by Faisal Mosque, to glace at the serenity and the art of perfection.

Islamabad’s Faisal Mosque. Picture: The Dayspring

Running with the clock, the day can be spent in the lush green Shakrparia, where you can have an opportunity to witness the gigantic Pakistan National Monument and Heritage Museum, a blooming flower petal-shaped structure built of granite, with the inner walls inscribed with the outlines of Pakistan’s landmarks i.e. Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Khyber Pass and Minar-e-Pakistan.

Nearby, in the Garden Avenue, it’s located a heritage museum Lok Virsa, which I would recommend you pay a visit, since it is itself a history, showcasing the true colors of Pakistan. Also, don’t forget to have lunch in the 1969 Restaurant, located on the opposite of the museum, that is based on 1960’s Pakistan Film Industry theme, where one could see the flashback of time.

For the evening, get ready to have an experience of a blend of culture with a cup of tea. Saidpur Village, more than 500 years, located at slopes of Margalla Hills, and known for its heritage, culture, history and, folklore. The area is now look after by local government and have been transformed into restaurants for tourist.  By sitting in one of the resultants there, one could image how glamorous the past was, the blend of three epochs; Muslim, Hindu and Sikhs.

Later check in to the Serena Hotel if you want an unforgettable introduction to Pakistani culture, architecture, and opulent interiors inside what is considered the most beautiful hotel in Islamabad. The hotel has all the perks you could ever need, including an outdoor swimming pool, fitness center and huge restaurant to enjoy a buffet dinner.