Growing up in Karachi, my dad used to take us to the north of Pakistan for vacations. We grew up exploring places like Islamabad, Lahore, Murree, Swat etc. and appreciating the beauty of northern Pakistan. But then I moved out of Pakistan and am raising my kids here in Doha.Every year we make a trip to Pakistan, however, it is always back home to family in Karachi. For my kids, Pakistan has always been Karachi, but this time we tried to change that and show them the diversity and beauty of Pakistan.
So we planned this trip with a couple of friends and since we were taking our farangi kids on a Pakistan tour for the first time, we tried to keep it less adventurous and tried to play it safe.
Our 10 Day itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Islamabad
Day 2: Explore Islamabad (Faisal Mosque, Monal)
Day 3: Drive to Bhurban and check in to hotel
Day 4: Day trip to Nathiagali and Ayubia
Day 5: Day trip to Neelum River and drive back to Islamabad
Day 6: Explore Islamabad (Lok Virsa Museum, Saidpur Village)
Day 7: Drive to Lahore via Khewra Salt Mines
Day 8: Explore Lahore (Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Wagah Border, Food Street)
Day 9: Explore Lahore (Walled City of Lahore, MM Alam Road and Liberty Market)
Day 10: Back home.
The trip was absolutely wonderful and the kids enjoyed as much as we did. No one had a stomach upset nor did we feel unsafe in any part of the country with our kids. And after the success of this trip, we have decided to take our kids back every year and explore a different place in Pakistan. Not only will it help our kids learn and love Pakistan, but also help boost our thriving tourism industry.
So in this part 1, I will only talk about what we did on Day 2 and Day 6 of the trip, which was spent exploring Islamabad and meeting some friends there. Here are my top things for Islamabad.
Absolute MUST things to do/see in Islamabad
Serena Hotel Islamabad
We stayed at the beautiful Serena Hotel Islamabad and the moment we stepped in, I was just in awe of the super gorgeous property! Not only was the hotel excellent, their service was superb as well.
We absolutely loved the service, great food and excellent hotel facilities! Would highly recommend staying there if you visit Islamabad.
Faisal Mosque is one of the major landmarks in Islamabad. It is located in the foothills of Margalla Hills in Islamabad, and the design is inspired by a Bedouin tent. The mosque is a major tourist attraction, and definitely, a MUST visit.
Though you can go in the courtyard anytime, the mosque only opens at prayer times.
After Zuhr prayers at Faisal Mosque, we headed to Pir Sohawa, which is a developing tourist resort located 17 kilometres from Islamabad on top of Margalla Hills. We went to have lunch at Monal Resturant, which had breathtaking views of Islamabad.
We enjoyed a desi mixed BBQ platter while the kids enjoyed pizza – it had both desi and non-desi cuisines.
Lok Virsa Museum
Also known as National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage, is a museum of history, art and culture in Islamabad, located on the Shakarparian Hills. Another gem in Islamabad that is an absolute MUST if you want to learn about Pakistan, its cultural heritage and diversity in one place. The museum covers an area of 60,000 sq. ft. featuring several exhibit halls, making it the largest museum in Pakistan.
The museum has various exhibit halls, one which displays all the Sufis & shrines and famous ballads & romances. The displays are made extremely well and it is a treat to see the displays and read their stories.
Another major area of the museum showcases Pakistan’s multicultural society by displaying history and living traditions of the various ethnic groups of Pakistan from all corners of the country. The kids were fascinated to see how people lived in various parts of the country.
It also has a large display of various crafts, jewellery, woodwork, metalwork, block printing, ivory and bone work etc. that is all done by the talented artisans in Pakistan
Another section is on the various musicians, writers, arts and entertainment. There is a Lok Virsa Library which consists of over 32,000 books, journals, manuscripts and field reports pertaining to Pakistani folklore, ethnology, cultural anthropology, art history and craft as well as over 200 books published by Lok Virsa.
And what got my husband very excited was a Faiz Ahmed Faiz Heritage Library (opening soon).Another section that pays tribute to all those who worked and sacrificed everything for the Independence of Pakistan.
And also an entire section dedicated to the remarkable women in the history of Pakistan.And this is just a glimpse of it… The Museum also has sections on Pakistan’s neighbouring countries like Turkey, Iran, China etc. There is so much to learn there!
I wish I had more time, because its huge and you can easily spend quite a few hours there for a mere ticket price of PKR 50 for locals and USD 5 for foreigners (Yes, you heard that right!)The Museum grounds also have some shops where they sell the various handicrafts and art which is made in various parts of Pakistan
It also has a cafe where you can put your feet up and relax after a long day of learning!
It is a historic Pakistani village located in a ravine in the Margalla Hills. The village has an abandoned Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara which were restored in 2006.
The village now has several famous restaurants and some shops which attract locals as well as tourists. We reached the village quite late in the evening and had dinner at the famous Des Pardes Restaurant, which had lovely outdoor traditional seating and good food!
Saeed Book Bank
Another MUST stop for us was the famous and the largest bookstore in South Asia, Saeed Book Bank, which to my surprise was open till 11:00P PM.
Needless to say, we all got lost in aisles and aisles of books! They have a great selection of all kinds of books – simply a heaven for all book lovers!
A Friend’s Family Farm House
If you know someone in Islamabad, who owns a farmhouse then don’t miss the chance to visit. Our friend’s parents have a beautiful farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad and I fell in love it! It was also the perfect time for us to visit since Spring was in full bloom in Islamabad. Needless to say, I went a lil cuckoo with my Macro photography!
All of us totally fell in LOVE with Islamabad, including my kids! My husband asked our son if he likes Pakistan… His reply was the cutest!
“Daddy, I like Pakistan but I love Islamabad more… “