Islamabad is Pakistan’s capital city, and is an underrated tourist destination. Located close to the metropolis of Rawalpindi, the Pakistani capital is a great place to relax and enjoy serene accommodation while being able to dive into the big city when you want to see the sights, indulge in some local cuisine and explore Pakistan’s rich culture.
The area around the city is rich in tourist attractions. Visit the astonishing Faisal Mosque which is one of Pakistan’s great modern works of art, or learn about folk culture at the Lok Virsa museum. Visit a reconstructed Mughal village at Saidpur and see how industry came to Pakistan at the Golra Railway Museum.
Another great local attraction is the ancient city of Taxila. One of Asia’s great ancient centers, Taxila was visited by Alexander the Great, and the excavations are a unique window into the fascinating history of the region.
Staying in the city is not all about ruins, museums, markets and mosques. There is natural beauty to be enjoyed as well, and you can easily drive up into the Margalla Hills, which makes for a superb picnic spot. Alternatively, the Lake View Park is a stunning place for an evening stroll.
If the capital city is too sedate, Rawalpindi is 9 miles away and provides an injection of excitement to any trip. See a cricket match at Nawaz Sharif Park and shop at the incredibly cheap Raja Bazaar before enjoying a meal at Fortress Street. All of this is half an hour from Islamabad.
The best time to visit Islamabad or Rawalpindi is between November and May, when the heat relents. Otherwise, walking in the Margalla Hills can be arduous and busy as a lot of hikers will be up to indulge in the scenery. The summer months can be extremely hot, although it is possible to secure cheap flights and accommodations during this period.
When you get into town, the city is relatively easy to navigate, as it is organized in a grid system. There are plenty of taxi firms to choose from, and those in the city have a good reputation for reliability and safety. It still pays to arrange a fare before setting off, however. Islamabad is a good place to hire a car as well, as the grid system makes driving safer than other Pakistani cities.
Be aware that the city is arranged in a “grid” pattern, with areas marked F2, F3 etc. Head to G7, G8 and G9 for the best restaurants and bazaars while F6 and F7 are full of accommodation options.