Undoubtedly Pakistan is one of the most beautiful country of the world. It has four seasons, beautiful plains, breathtaking rivers, lush green valleys, sky high ice packed mountains and glaciers, beaches, deserts and attractive lakes and waterfalls. In other words you can say Pakistan is a tourist heaven. Unfortunately the tourism industry in Pakistan is highly impacted by the terrorism activities taking place over there for the past decade. It has been on US high alert list for quite a few years now.
Chris and I decided to visit Pakistan in May 2016. It was an emotional trip for both of us. I was going back after 2 years to attend my father’s first death anniversary and since nobody in my close family could travel to the US for my wedding, none of my family had met Chris personally. Chris was equally excited to meet my family, and was looking forward to some great exotic food and photographing Pakistan’s beauty through his camera’s lens. We were only going to be around for 12 days and so I we stayed in the proximity of the twin cities, i.e Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Here are a few pictures and suggestions for places to visit .
Serena is one of the best hotel located in the capital of Pakistan. If your travels take you to Islamabad, this is basically the only safe place to stay. Exquisite hotel with several security checks including bomb sniffing dogs, under car cameras, scanners, etc. to enter the hotel. Of course this is important and a very good thing, given the times and my companion (an American !). The hotel and gardens are very beautiful and the rooms are huge with tasteful decor. The room rate include an extensive buffet breakfast . The spa is worth checking out. Its pricey but the staff is really good at massages and facial treatments.
Khewra Salt Mines:
You must have heard about the Himalyan salt or perhaps even used it instead of table salt. Well Himalayan salts is actually not from the Himalayas. It is sourced from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. Khewra in the Salt Range where the world’s largest salt mines are located and attracts around 250,000 visitors a year. . Khewra salt mines are 154 kms away from Rawalpindi. Himalayan salt varies in color from white to opaque to pink. The pink color is due to the presence of iron oxide. An electric railway has been working in the mine since the 1930s. It once hauled extracted salt from the mines, but now the old railway brings tourists in to marvel at the salt formations. I suggest you take the rickety train into the mines and then either walk around yourself or go with a tour guide. Its amazing to see rock-solid-salt all over, especially as this mine has all three colors, white, pink & dark pink stones. The mine is full of beautiful salt sculptures inside including a mosque, tower, and natural lakes and bridges. Its A marvelous place but unfortunately not a pleasant tourist experience. The place could needs proper lighting system, a new train and information signs.
We made a day trip to PC Bhurban up in the mountains. Very beautiful setting, centrally located in the mountains where from many adjoining places like Nathiagali , Murree, Ayubia and Patriayata can be visited as day-trips. The Hotel itself is very old and is in dire need of some renovations, but the journey to the hotel and the view from there is amazing. This is the only 4 star hotel in this region.
Faisal mosque is an iconic and one of the beautiful mosques of the world. Its named after the Saudi king Shah Faisal and located in the federal capital of Pakistan. The architecture of the mosque is magnificent . With the surrounding views of mountains , this is a place you must visit. At night when approaching the mosque in your car, you can see it lit up in the distance and it looks beautiful. Dome, minarets and verandahs and an inspired theme of a Bedouin tent in the desert is the work of Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay
As this is a religious place, everyone must wear conservative clothing and take off your shoes while touring the place.
Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum
Pakistan Railway Heritage Museum is also known as Golra Sharif Railway Museum. Built during British Raj in 1882 , this is a beautiful railway station with many parts still in tact. It is located in Sector E-11 of Pakistan’s capital city – Islamabad. Its a working station and more than 20 trains pass through this station every day. They even use the old traffic controls!
Amazing steam and electric locomotives that you can go aboard, a saloon car used by the last Indian viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and another saloon car belonging to the Maharaja of Jodhpur given as a wedding present to his daughter .
The platforms are very scenic, lined with old banyan trees. The museum hosts artifacts from the century old railways system. Fantastic people who will show you around the museum, no entry fee but we tipped the guy Rs.1000.
A must visit for railway enthusiast !
The first night of our arrival in Pakistan, my family took us to Monal. Its located 11 miles from Islamabad on top of Margalla Hills facing Islamabad. The highest point of the hills is 5200 ft. The drive to Monal Restaurant is full of greenery with the roads that wind up and down with sharp bends. On your way up you can see playful and sometimes dangerous monkeys sitting by the road.
From the restaurant you get spectacular views of the hills and Islamabad, especially Faisal Mosque. The restaurant is famous for its local food which is pretty good.