What's the best about Islamabad
Islamabad in Pakistan: 11 sights & tips
Do you want to travel to Pakistan? Then you can't get past the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. This Islamabad travel guide is intended to make it easier for you to plan your stay. We'll tell you the most beautiful Islamabad sights and the best highlights that you shouldn't miss.
We also give you important travel tips and recommend restaurants and hotels in Islamabad. In addition, we explain everything about getting around on site, reveal when the best travel time is and much more.
You can already expect one thing: the city is different from other cities in Pakistan.
General tips for traveling to Pakistan:
➜ All Pakistan tips & travel reports on the Pakistan Blog
➜ Pakistan vacation: highlights, sights & tips
➜ Pakistan Sights: From Islamabad to Karachi
➜ Pakistan round trip: The perfect route for 3 weeks
Tips for preparing for a trip to Pakistan:
➜ Pakistan hotels: what's the best place to stay?
➜ Pakistan Getting Around: Tips for Bus, Train, Uber & Co.
➜ Security in Pakistan: is Pakistan a safe country to travel to?
➜ Pakistani food: Don't miss these dishes
➜ Conduct in Pakistan: Our Pakistan etiquette for your trip
City guides for Pakistan:
➜ Lahore in Pakistan: 15 sights, highlights & tips
➜ Karachi in Pakistan: 15 sights & tips
Pakistan travel reports:
➜ Walled City Lahore: In the Labyrinth
Do you already know our book Backpacking in Pakistan? On 288 pages we take you on our journey through Pakistan.
Islamabad, the planned city from the drawing board
The Pakistani capital is one thing above all: orderly. The streets are laid out like a chessboard and the city doesn't look like what is commonly imagined as a big city in Pakistan. Rather, Islamabad is a purely planned city. It is considered dreary and snobbish, but also the perfect start to the North Pakistan adventure. Is it worth the trip? We think so.
Islamabad Sights & Highlights
In this travel guide we provide an overview of the most important attractions and reveal the best way to get to the sights that you definitely shouldn't miss. On top of that, there are plenty of Islamabad tips and, above all, our very personal insider tips and insider tips for your trip.
You can easily navigate using the table of contents on the left.
Islamabad was only founded in 1960. Today the city has around one million inhabitants. The capital belongs to the independent capital territory and is located in the northeast of Pakistan. It is also the country’s seat of government.
Hand on your heart, there isn't much to see. Nevertheless, you can fill a day with sightseeing and use another to plan the coming trip, buy bus tickets or go shopping.
The Shah Faisal Mosque is the gold-decorated national mosque of Pakistan. It is located in the northwest of the city in front of the Margalla Hills and was named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who financed the construction. Although designed in the 1970s, the magnificent mosque was not completed until 1986.
Its architectural style is particularly striking. The very modern construction with four minarets is unusual. The prayer hall was also modeled on the shape of an Arab Bedouin tent.
Islamabad Tips: Be sure to go inside, but avoid the Friday prayer. How so? The mosque can accommodate 76,000 worshipers. That can lead to too much rush.
Admission: free (small fee for shoe storage)
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The Pakistan Monument is a national monument and local history museum in the western Shakarparian Hills in Islamabad, Pakistan. From up here you have a good view of the city.
The huge monument was erected to symbolize the unity of the Pakistani people. Accordingly, it is one of the most popular Islamabad sights among the Pakistanis themselves.
Don't be surprised if locals ask you to take a souvenir photo together.
Admission: 250 Rs. (About 1.60 €)
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Lok Virsa Heritage Museum
At the beginning of a trip to Pakistan, a visit to the Lok Virsa Heritage Museum is a great introduction to the history of the country.
Both outside and inside, various exhibitions guide you through the most important moments in Pakistan's history, provide insight into the different regions and show the many sounds and tastes of the country.
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed on Mondays
Admission: 200 Rs. (About 2.50 €)
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Pakistan Museum of Natural History
A few steps back into Pakistan's history can be found in the Museum of Natural History. Here the visitor learns about the early developments of the country, the flora and fauna.
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To sit enthroned high above the city and see the Faisal Mosque from afar? Not exactly one of the classic Islamabad sights, but the Margalla Hills are definitely worth a trip. They are considered to be the first foothills of the Himalayas.
Up here in the mountains of Islamabad you can hike very well and there are also plenty of restaurants with a view (although not exactly cheap).
The easiest way to get to Margalla Hills National Parks is with Uber or Careem. Unfortunately, some drivers who own small and old cars don't go all the way up because the cars can't stand it. If that's the case, just call a new car. Already works!
Islamabad insider tips:
A visit to the Margalla Hills at sunset is particularly worthwhile. The atmosphere is magical!
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The Daman-e-Koh viewpoint is also a garden. It is located on a hill north of Islamabad and in the middle of the Margalla Hills. From up here you have a spectacular view of the city, which is why the viewing platform is especially popular with locals. Especially in winter the Daman-e-Koh is also full of monkeys, which make the visit an experience.
The Pir Sohawa viewpoint is even higher, namely located on the top of the Margalla Hills at an altitude of about 1,100 meters.
Opening times: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily
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The most famous and oldest hiking trail in Islamabad is known as Trail 3. It starts at the Margalla road section F-6 and takes about 30 to 50 minutes to climb quite steeply to the lookout point. After the lookout point, it's up to an hour to get to Pir Sohawa.
There are two famous restaurants here, The Monal and La Montana. So if you don't want to take a taxi / Uber / Careem to the restaurant, you need about an hour and a half on foot.
Fatima Jinnah Park
Fatima Jinnah Park (Bagh-e-Fatima Jinnah) is known as Capital Park and, due to its location in Sector F-9, also simply as F-9 Park. Inaugurated in 1992, the park was named after Fatima Jinnah, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
A very green, spacious park awaits visitors here. This is mainly due to the fact that a large part of the facility is a nature reserve.
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Lake View Park
Lake View Park is another popular recreational area. Located near Village Malpur Rawal Lake on Murree Road, the wildlife park is very popular with locals.
Opening times: 10 am–10pm, daily
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Another popular destination is Rawal Lake. This is an artificial reservoir that provides water for the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The 8.8 km² lake is formed by the Korang River and some small streams from the Margalla hills. The Korang River, in turn, is the outlet stream of the Rawal Dam.
The recreational area around the reservoir has been planted with plenty of trees and provided with gardens and picnic areas. Fishing and boating are also popular here.
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National Art Gallery
The National Art Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan is the country's first national art gallery. Opened in 2007, the museum was built on a small hill across from the Pakistani Parliament Majlis-e-Shoora and the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the house of the President.
The building in itself is worth seeing, because it is a modernist brick cube that is a symbol of purity and functionality. Inside the gallery there are 14 galleries on 1,800 square meters. There are also lecture halls, workshops, laboratories and a library.
Opening times: Sunday to Thursday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
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Islamabad hotel tips
Where is the best place to stay in Islamabad is a question that everyone is probably asking. There are several options, from simple middle-class hotels to a large selection of guesthouses and a few real star hotels.
The location of the hotel in Islamabad doesn't play that big a role, as taxis, Uber and Careem are readily available and, above all, very inexpensive.
We stayed at the Executive Galaxy Guest House ourselves. Here you pay 50 euros per night for two people in a clean double room. The guesthouse is located in a very safe area and is guarded 24 hours a day.
The inn is also perfectly located. Centaurus Mall is just a few minutes away and owner Israr and his staff are incredibly helpful. For us, they even drove to the train station in Rawalpindi (45 minutes away) late in the evening to buy train tickets for the next day. Breakfast (tea / coffee, omelette and bread) is available for around 2 euros.
Our Pakistan hotel tips: which hotels in Islamabad can we recommend?
Good & cheap:
More accommodation recommendations and Pakistan hotel tips?
➜ Read our guide with tips for a vacation in Pakistan.
Food in Islamabad and Pakistan
The city is nowhere near the food scene of Lahore and Karachi. But if Islamabad is your first stop on your trip to Pakistan, we strongly recommend trying Pakistani dishes here. Because you can do that really well here.
The city offers fewer food markets than other cities, but a large selection of local restaurants with Western and international dishes, but above all with good Pakistani cuisine.
Pakistani Food - 3 Dishes You Must Try in Islamabad:
- Rolled Paratha: In terms of ingredients, the dish is similar to our kebab and yet different. Grilled meat ends up here with a little vegetables in a freshly baked Paratha bread - incredibly delicious! In Islamabad you can find the best rolled paratha at “The Corner Pan Shop” on Gol Market in District F7.
- Chelo kebab: Chelo Kebab is actually the secret national dish in Iran and yet there is a really good variant of it in Islamabad. The grilled lamb or optionally veal skewers end up on the grill and are usually served with a mountain of rice and a grilled tomato. The best Chelo Kebab in Islamabad can be found at Omar Khayyam, an Iranian restaurant in District E6 / 2 (Address: 46 Jinnah Ave, Block E G 6/2 Blue Area)
- Curries: We found a small pearl on the Jinnah Supermarket. Namely a restaurant that also has a small stand outside that sells curry from huge silver bowls. We don't know what the restaurant is called or if it even has a name, but it was incredibly tasty. You can easily recognize it by the table with the huge bowls.
For more information about the best Pakistani dishes and the country's cuisine, see our Guide to Pakistani Food.
➜ Pakistani food: Don't miss these dishes
Cafes & restaurants in Islamabad
Eating out is fancier and more upscale than in other cities in the country. Here are our restaurant recommendations for Islamabad.
Danger: Much is often called “market”. However, this does not mean a lively street or food market, nor a supermarket. It mostly describes a neighborhood in which there are a particularly large number of stalls, restaurants or kiosks.
The Gol Market complex is located in the middle of the chic F7 district. A few western, but also local restaurants congregate here. “Howdy” is recommended. The chain serves American cuisine, the waiters wear cowboy hats and boots, and the menu is crammed with all kinds of burger. The terrace is particularly beautiful.
Address: Gol Market, Shop 6 ، F 7/3 F-7, Islamabad, Pakistan
The Monal is located in the middle of the Margalla Hills and offers a wonderful view over the capital. At best, you come here about an hour before sunset to get the most beautiful light. The prices here are way above average, but it's worth it.
Address: 9KM Pir Sohawa Rd, Islamabad, Pakistan
Also a complex of several shops and restaurants, which is also located in the F / district. The Rolled Paratha ’from Crunchies are particularly recommended. In the evening completely different stands open, some of which do not have real names. For example, the ‘Rolled Parathas’ from the Paratha stand directly opposite the vis Pan Corner ’is incredibly good.
Danger: The Jinnah Supermarket goes under several names, such as F7 Foodcourt or Markaz Supermarket.
Address: Opposite To Flower Market ، College Rd, F-7 Markaz F 7 Markaz F-7, Islamabad, Pakistan
This huge shopping center is not only good for stocking up on your first-aid kit and equipment before you continue your journey, but also has a huge food court with all kinds of goodies. We particularly recommend the terrace of the Gloria Jean’s Café, which offers a great view of Islamabad and has a large outdoor terrace.
Address: F8 4 Jinnah Avenue, F 8/4 F-8, Islamabad, Pakistan
Best time to visit Islamabad
Islamabad has an incredibly pleasant climate as it is on the edge of the Pothohar Plateau. In the summer months, the temperatures here rarely climb above 35 degrees, while the winter months are fresh, similar to the European winter.
Unlike in Lahore or even in the even more southerly Karachi, you don't necessarily have to pay attention to avoid midsummer. Even then, the temperatures in Islamabad are still bearable.
Conclusion on the ideal travel time: The perfect travel time for Islamabad is between September and October. But spring in Islamabad is also highly recommended.
How long should one stay in Islamabad?
There isn't much to see. But it is part of every trip to Pakistan to get to know the very unusual planned city. If you start your backpacking adventure here and end up in Islamabad after a long flight, you should plan a minimum of two nights.
Two to three days is a very good amount of time to see the sights of Islamabad and plan the rest of the trip.
Islamabad travel tips
Here you will find useful information for planning your trip and our personal insider tips for your trip to Pakistan and your stay in Islamabad.
Arrival to Islamabad
Those arriving by plane will not land in Islamabad, but in Rawalpindi. The twin city is bigger, more chaotic and for many also the more real Pakistan. The airport is not exactly close. It is located about 40 kilometers from the center of Islamabad.
Which airlines fly to Islamabad?
Islamabad International Airport and Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB) are served by some international airlines. However, there are no direct flights to Islamabad from Germany.
As far as the flight to Islamabad is concerned, there is no avoiding a connecting flight.
Turkish Airlines (TK) flies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland via Istanbul in Turkey to Islamabad. Emirates (EK) flies to Islamabad via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Qatar Airways (QR) serves the capital via Doha in Qatar. Pakistan International Airlines and Etihad (EY) fly to the Pakistani capital via Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Gulf Air (GF) via Bahrain.
There are other flights to Islamabad with British Airways (BA) via London in England, Oman Air (WY) via Muscat in Oman and Kuwait Airways (KU) via Kuwait City in Kuwait.
A trip to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
Incidentally, Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines, SV) offers an extraordinary flight connection to Pakistan, flying as a feeder to Mecca via Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Islamabad. In this way, the extraordinary travel destinations Saudi Arabia and Pakistan could be combined in one trip.
The Pakistanis are proud of the Pakistani airline Pakistan International Airlines (PK), which was founded in 1946. They offer direct flights from London to Pakistan.
From Islamabad Airport to the city
Most international flights arrive early in the morning or at night. The problem is that there are only a few taxi drivers available at the airport and they come up with the highest prices for the ride.
It is best to call a car from Islamabad Airport with the ride sharing providers Uber or Careem. That costs an average of 600 to 1000 Rs. (About 4 - 6.50 €).
Anyone who neither has mobile internet nor is connected to WLAN at the airport has to negotiate. Prices start at 3500 Rs. How far down you can bargain depends on the ability of each individual.
Getting around in Islamabad
There aren't many options for getting around in Islsmabad. We want to introduce you all in more detail.
Uber & Careem
The easiest way to get from A to B in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are also the transport service providers Uber and Careem. Simply download the apps, leave a credit card and you're ready to go.
Note: Careem also offers the option of paying with cash. So if you have a strange feeling about paying small sums of money using the app with your credit card, you can just do it in cash.
The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus is a 24 km long high-speed bus system that connects Rawalpindi with Islamabad.
Compared to other cities in Pakistan, the buses are reliable and also really modern. No wonder, because the service as a feeder to the capital is provided by the government.
Internet in Islamabad
Pakistani sim cards and internet in Pakistan are very cheap and, above all, incredibly good. The provider ZONG is recommended.
Tourists in Pakistan can simply go to the “ZONG Customer Experience Center” and buy a SIM card and activate an internet plan. The offer with 12GB for 1200 Rs. (Approx. € 7.50) is particularly worthwhile.
Do not forget: A passport is required to register the SIM card in Pakistan.
Pakistan travel guide
Up to now there are no German travel guides for Pakistan. You will look in vain for printed travel guides from popular publishers such as Lonely Planet, DuMont, Reise Know-how, Trescher and Loose.
This is because tourism in the country is only just recovering. After September 11, 2001, Pakistan suddenly lost its tourists who came for the culture in Lahore and Karachi, but also for the mountains in northern Pakistan. The Nanga Parbat, Fairy Meadows, Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan are a dream for every mountain lover.
This is exactly why we have put together this Islamabad travel guide and, in addition to many other travel reports, also offer tips for Lahore and tips for Karachi.
Backpacking in Pakistan - the book
At the same time we wrote the first travel book about Pakistan ourselves. Backpacking in Pakistan is available in stores everywhere and offers you the perfect insight into the culture of the country.
Come with us on our trip to Pakistan:
➜ Buy backpacking in Pakistan on Amazon
➜ Buy backpacking in Pakistan from Thalia
➜ Buy backpacking in Pakistan at Hugendubel
We can also recommend the book KulturSchock Islam from Reise Know-How Verlag. It is a good introduction to everyday culture, traditions and rules of conduct in the Islamic world.
Islamabad information & interesting facts
- Where does the name Islamabad come from? The word is derived from two words: Islam = dominant religion and Abad = long live.
- How big is Islamabad? The city has an area of 220 km².
- How many years did it take to build Islamabad? Only four years.
- Does Islamabad have comparatively few inhabitants? At 1.015 million (as of 2017), Islamabad has a small population compared to Lahore (11.13 million) and Karachi (14.91 million) - (Source: United Nations).
- What is the old name of Islamabad? A small and inconsequential little village called Raj Shahi was chosen as the nation's capital and henceforth called Islamabad.
- What is the height of Islamabad? 1,770 feet above sea level.
- What do Islamabad, Radio City Music Hall, Kennedy Center and Pepsi Headquarters have in common? Edward Durel Stone, the renowned architect who designed the iconic Radio City Music Hall, Kennedy Center and Pepsi's headquarters, also designed the Parliament building of Pakistan in Islamabad.
- Islamabad is often referred to as a dead city by Pakistanis because there is virtually no nighttime activity.
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