Destination Pakistan Guide

Destination Pakistan Guide

Excursions from Islamabad

Situated in the heart of Pakistan, the capital city of Islamabad boasts an ideal location that offers easy accessibility from both within the country and internationally. Moreover, its proximity to various key destinations allows visitors to embark on captivating day excursions to explore the region’s natural and cultural wonders. Below are outlined some of the major excursions from Islamabad.


Rawalpindi, the sister city of Islamabad, is a dynamic urban center celebrated for its bustling markets, rich historical sites, and lively ambiance. Travelers have the opportunity to discover various attractions such as the antique structures within Raja Bazaar, the lively markets of Saddar, and the historic edifices and thoroughfares predating Pakistan’s formation. Notable landmarks include the Pakistan Army Museum, Ayub National Park, and the iconic St. Paul’s Church Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi’s proximity to the capital city adds to its accessibility and appeal to visitors.


Taxila is an ancient metropolis situated approximately 45 kilometers north of Islamabad, the country’s capital city. Positioned on the border between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, Taxila derives its name from the Sanskrit term Taksasila, translating to “city of cut stones.” This significant archaeological site was discovered in the late 1800s by the renowned archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham. Covering an area of approximately 30 square kilometers, Taxila boasts a rich museum and over 50 sites of historical importance. Notable sites within Taxila include Julian, Sirkap, Mohra Moradu, and Julian. Acknowledging its cultural significance, Taxila was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pakistan in 1980.

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The Mughal Gardens, dating back to the era of Akbar, are situated in the city of Wah, less than an hour’s drive from Islamabad. Akbar commissioned Ahmed Mehmar Lahori for their structural and architectural design. These gardens boast exquisite design and have served as the inspiration for numerous significant architectural endeavors due to their ingenuity. In 2006, a team of researchers discovered evidence of a sophisticated water system underlying the gardens, showcasing their modernity for their time. Travelers along the Grand Trunk Road from Peshawar to Islamabad, or those visiting Taxila and Khanpur Dam, can take a moment to explore these historic gardens.


Gurdwara Panja Sahib, located in Hasan Abdal approximately 50 kilometers from Islamabad, holds immense significance for the Sikh community as one of their most sacred places of worship. Its importance lies in a rock within its premises believed to bear the handprint of Guru Nanak. Twice a year, Sikhs from across the globe make pilgrimages to this Gurdwara. While the Gurdwara’s architecture is stunning and worth admiring, access to the compound is restricted to the general public.

Rohtas Fort
Rohtas Fort

Rohtas Fort (Qila Rohtas) is one of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pakistan, designated in 1997. The gigantic Rohtas fort is an exceptional example of early Muslim military architecture surviving today. It was built by Farid Khan – the “Lion King” – well known as Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century. Located some 16km northwest of Jehlum city, the fort was strategically built in a gorge on a small hill 300ft above its surroundings, and it commands the old route from the north to the plans of Punjab across the Potohar Plateau. Rohtas Fort is located some 98 km from Islamabad and takes about 2 hours to reach. The major reason behind the erection of this rampart was to subdue the pro-Mughal Ghakkar tribe and to thwart the possible return of Mughal Emperor Humayun who had fled to Iran after his defeat in the battle of Kanauj at Chaunsa.


Kalarkahar is a serene town located in the Chakwal District of Punjab, Pakistan. It is approximately a two-hour drive from Islamabad, making an ideal day excursion from the capital city. Kalarkahar is renowned for its scenic beauty, featuring lush green hills, freshwater lakes, and picturesque landscapes. One of the main attractions in Kalarkahar is the Kalarkahar Lake, a tranquil reservoir surrounded by verdant hills. The Malot Temples, also known as the Malot Fort Temples, are a historical and archaeological site located near the village of Malot in the Salt Range of Punjab, Pakistan. These temples date back to the 10th century and are an important representation of the region’s ancient Hindu heritage.

Khewra Salt Mines
Khewra Salt Mines

The Khewra Salt Mine, also known as the Mayo Salt Mine, stands as the world’s second-largest salt deposit. Situated in Khewra, an administrative division within the Jehlum District of Punjab Province, Pakistan, it holds the distinction of being the largest salt deposit in the country. This remarkable site serves as a crucial source of salt and stands as one of Pakistan’s premier tourist attractions, boasting an estimated total of 220 million tons of rock salt deposits. Its origins trace back to the era of Alexander the Great, where legend has it that his horses were observed licking the rocks during their encampments. Located approximately 160 kilometers from Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Khewra is easily accessible and can be reached within a three-hour drive.

Ketas Raj Temples in Punjab, Pakistan
Ketas Raj Temples

Ketas Raj is a complex of ancient Hindu Temples nestled at an altitude of 2,000 feet above sea level.  The temples are situated near the Chakwal district in the Potohar region of Pakistan. The Ketas Raj, also known as Qilla Ketas, originally is a sacred pilgrimage site steeped in history and spirituality. The temples hold a history that dates back to the days of the Mahabharata, approximately 300 BC. Katas Raj encompasses a cluster of seven ancient temples, remnants of a Buddhist Stupa, medieval temples, Havelis, and recently constructed temples, all centered around a revered pond. This pond was once enclosed by a fort, temples, bathhouses, and rest houses.


Attock Fort stands as a significant historical monument situated along the banks of the River Indus at the border town between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are conflicting accounts regarding its construction, with some attributing it to the Mughal emperor Akbar, while others credit Nadir Shah. Nevertheless, it is undisputed that the fort played a prominent role during the Sikh-Afghan wars. Its beautiful red brick architecture and picturesque setting add to its allure. Presently, the fort is under military control and inaccessible to tourists. However, visitors passing through Kund or traveling from Islamabad to Peshawar via the GT Road can still appreciate its distant view, appreciating this captivating historical monument.


Kund is a remarkable site where two rivers, the Indus and the Kabul, converge. This junction is visible from the main GT Road near the border between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, specifically at the Attock Bridge. To reach Kund, located approximately 120 kilometers from Islamabad, the most convenient route is via the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway. One can exit at Swabi and then take the Swabi-Jahangira road to reach the destination. Previously, tourists could only witness the confluence of the two rivers from the road, but now the area has been transformed into a popular recreational spot. People from surrounding areas such as Islamabad, Attock, and Mardan frequent the place for picnics. The amusement park offers various activities including boating, fishing, children’s rides, sports facilities, and dining areas, enhancing the appeal of this picturesque location. Enjoying freshly fried fish on the riverbank remains a cherished tradition among tourists visiting the area.

Bab-e-Khyber, Peshawar
Bab-e-Khyber, Peshawar

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), stands as the oldest living inhabited city in South Asia acting as a nexus between the subcontinent and Central Asia. Situated approximately 180 km from Islamabad, it’s easily accessible within a three-hour drive. The historic heart of Peshawar lies within its ancient walled city, boasting a rich heritage spanning Buddhist, Mughal, and Sikh epochs; remnants of its fortified past endured until the 20th century. The British Cantonment, established in 1849, encompasses the city’s boulevard area, adorned with enduring architectural marvels reminiscent of British colonial rule. University Town harbors Islamia College, inaugurated in 1913 to educate the progeny of Pathan chieftains, standing as a testament to the city’s educational legacy. The legendary Khyber Pass, flanked by the formidable Jamrud Fort, serves as the gateway to Peshawar, symbolizing its historical significance as a crossroads of civilizations.

Takht-i-Bahi Monastery view with Mardan city in background
Takht-e-Bahi Monastery

At a distance of 160km from Islamabad, the relics of the imposing Takht-i-Bahi Monastery are an important Buddhist site in the Gandhara region and can be reached in 2.5 hours. It made up the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Pakistan in 1980. Takht-i-Bahi monastery has a guarding view of Mardan city and is situated on the crest of a small hill about 16 kilometers northwest of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.


The Tarbela Dam, the world’s largest earth-filled dam, is situated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Approximately 130 kilometers from Islamabad, the journey can now be completed in less than two hours. The dam creates the Tarbela reservoir, spanning an area of around 250 square kilometers. Completed in 1974, it was designed for water storage, irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectric power generation purposes. Aside from its functional significance, the dam offers a stunning scenic vista. Recognizing its tourism potential, the Government of Pakistan has recently decided to develop recreational and theme parks in the area. Plans include the construction of water sports facilities, restaurants, and a water jetty to enhance the visitor experience and promote tourism in this naturally beautiful location.


A day trip to Swat Valley from Islamabad is quite ambitious due to the considerable distance involved. Situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Swat Valley lies approximately 250 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. While it’s technically feasible to make the journey from Islamabad to Swat Valley within a day, it would necessitate a lengthy drive and leave limited time for fully experiencing the valley’s beauty. Notable attractions to explore in Mingora encompass the Swat Museum, Marghazar White Palace, Islampur Shwal weaving site, Butkara Stupa, Saidu Sharif Stupa, Swat Serena Hotel, and the bustling local market.


Jabri, a village nestled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, lies approximately 45 kilometers north of Islamabad and 28 kilometers from Monal. Characterized by its rugged terrain, Jabri boasts a picturesque landscape abundant in water sources, forests, and natural splendor. Serving as a gateway to attractions like the Noori Waterfall and Umbrella Waterfall, Jabri is an idyllic destination for leisurely outings with friends and family, especially sought after during the sweltering summers to escape the heat and hectic urban life. The journey from Monal to Jabri offers a breathtaking drive through verdant hills, enhancing the overall experience of this scenic retreat.


The Umbrella Waterfall stands as a breathtaking natural wonder situated within the Abbottabad district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Renowned for its mesmerizing beauty, this picturesque cascade derives its name from the distinctive shape of the falling water, resembling an open umbrella. Recently gaining prominence as a must-visit destination, it lies 27 kilometers from Havelian town, sharing the same route as the renowned Sajikot Waterfall. Accessing the Umbrella Waterfall is convenient via the Hazara Expressway, with travelers advised to take the Shah Maqsood interchange exit, where ample parking space is available. Nestled deep within a gorge, reaching the waterfall entails a descent of approximately 30-45 minutes, presenting a challenge for some. The return journey, uphill, offers a rewarding hike, testing the stamina of even the less seasoned walkers. Alternatively, visitors can also reach the Umbrella Waterfall from Pir Suhawa to Poona, passing through Jabri, and adding another scenic route to the adventure.


Sajikot Waterfall, situated in Havelian Tehsil, Abbottabad District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, is a renowned tourist hotspot. Located approximately 27 kilometers from Havelian and 40 kilometers from Abbottabad District, it attracts visitors with its scenic beauty and accessibility. A newly constructed narrow road from Havelian to Sajikot facilitates visitors to drive their cars to the top of the majestic waterfall. Standing tall at around 200 feet, the waterfall is comprised of a smaller cascade flowing into a pond before merging into the larger one. The site offers various recreational activities such as swimming, hiking, trekking, and camping, providing ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The tranquil ambiance of the surroundings offers a refreshing experience for tourists, making it a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


Noori Waterfall is nestled in Tial village within the Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Located approximately 54 kilometers away from Islamabad, the journey takes about three hours to reach. Accessible with just a 15-minute walk from the parking area, the waterfall is locally known as ‘Noori de Tahand’ (Noori’s Pond). Standing at a height of around 10 feet, it features a vibrant blue stream of water cascading into a pond spanning about 80 by 120 feet. Positioned within an open bay on the hillside, the pond boasts waist-deep water with a sandy bottom, deepening at its edges. Noori Waterfall is a small segment of the majestic Haro River that meanders through the Abbottabad Valley and is also home to the Khanpur Dam. The river comprises a series of six falls, each progressively deeper and more challenging to navigate upstream, offering a thrilling experience for adventurers seeking nature’s wonders.


Khanpur Dam stands as one of Pakistan’s most magnificent dams, spanning the Haro River originating from Abbottabad. Situated in Khanpur, KPK province, it lies approximately 50 km away from Islamabad along the Taxila-Haripur Road. Constructed during Ayub Khan’s government in 1953, the dam boasts a 52-meter (170-foot) high Spillway. Covering an expansive area of up to 110,000 acres with a depth of 40 feet, the dam’s azure-green waters draw in numerous tourists from across Pakistan. Renowned for its water sports activities; Khanpur Dam offers a thrilling experience for adventure enthusiasts. Visitors can partake in a variety of activities including boating, jet skiing, cliff diving, parasailing, scuba diving, and paragliding, making it a popular destination for those seeking excitement and outdoor adventure.


Simly Dam is an impressive 80-meter (260 ft) high earthen embankment dam situated on the Soan River. Positioned 30 kilometers (19 mi) to the east of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, it resides within Rawalpindi District, Punjab, Pakistan, nestled between Islamabad and Kotli Satian. Serving as the primary reservoir of drinking water for the inhabitants of Islamabad, the nation’s capital, this dam plays a vital role in ensuring water supply to the city. The reservoir stores water sourced from melting snow and natural springs originating from the Murree and Kotli Sattian hills. Apart from its utility as a water source, Simly Dam offers recreational activities such as angling and boating. However, fishing requires a permit issued by the Capital Development Authority, Islamabad.


Located 18 kilometers from Islamabad on the route to Murree, Chattar Park has evolved from its origins as a site known for Loquat gardens and water streams. Nowadays, it boasts an amusement park that draws many families with children, who often travel less than half an hour in the evenings to enjoy the rides. Additionally, there are eating establishments and stalls selling handicrafts and other items, which particularly attract women. Just 6 kilometers from Chattar, on the same Islamabad-Murree road, another amusement park called Salgiran can be found.

Murree hills
Murree hills

Murree is a picturesque hill station and a famous tourist attraction that bears a significant legacy of British heritage. It was founded in 1851 as a summer headquarters of the Punjab Government until 1876 when it was moved to Shimla. It is about 30 km northeast of Islamabad City. Murree served as a popular retreat for British officials and soldiers seeking respite from the summer heat of the plains. As a result, the town is dotted with remnants of colonial architecture, including charming cottages, churches, and administrative buildings, that reflect the influence of British colonial design and planning. Notable landmarks include iconic Mall Road, Colonial-era St. Paul’s Church featuring exquisite architecture, and Lawrence College. It has several other attractions for tourists including hiking trails, resorts, flora and fauna, and a unique climate.


Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, sits gracefully on the banks of the Neelum and Jehlum Rivers. Located approximately 138 kilometers (86 miles) from Islamabad, it’s easily accessible via the Kohala Bridge. As one of the ten districts of Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad serves as the entry point to the enchanting Neelum Valley. Surrounded by captivating sights, one notable attraction is Pir Chinasi, reachable through a 30-kilometer uphill journey. In Muzaffarabad itself, visitors can explore the riverside, the historic Red Fort, and Lohar Gali, and indulge in local handicrafts, embroidery, and traditional cuisine. For the adventurous souls, the drive to Pir Chinasi offers a panoramic view of Muzaffarabad and its neighboring mountain valleys, including the picturesque Shogran Hills. Atop the hill, the shrine of Sufi saint Pir Shah Hussain Bukhari stands as the main attraction, adding a touch of spirituality to the scenic landscape.


Mangla Dam, situated in the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, lies approximately 140 kilometers from Islamabad, easily reachable within a two-hour drive. It stands as one of Pakistan’s largest dams, constructed in the 1960s, and continues to supply electricity to various regions of the country. The vast lake formed by the dam, with its deep blue waters, presents a captivating sight. Despite restrictions due to significant military presence, efforts have been made to promote tourism by developing one side of the lake into a recreational area offering activities such as boating, fishing, and water sports. Speed boats and water scooters are particularly popular among visitors. Additionally, Mangla boasts the historical Mangla Fort, although a portion of it was demolished during dam construction. Nevertheless, some sections remain accessible to tourists. Those visiting Rohtas Fort can take a half-hour detour to explore Mangla Dam as well.


Banjosa Lake, an artificial reservoir and popular tourist destination, lies 20 kilometers from Rawalakot city in District Poonch of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Situated at an altitude of 1,981 meters, the area boasts cool summers and chilly winters. Snowfall is a common occurrence during December and January, with temperatures dropping to -5°C. Toli Pir, a captivating hilltop, stands as the highlight of the northeastern region of Rawalakot. With an approximate elevation of 8,800 feet above sea level, it is located roughly 30 kilometers away from Rawalakot, accessible via a 120-minute drive. Toli Pir offers serene moments amidst expansive grassy fields and breathtaking vistas, serving as the origin point for three distinct mountainous ridges. The hill station derives its name from a revered saint, with monuments of his shrine adorning the mountaintop, adding a touch of spirituality to the scenic landscape.


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