When is the best time to visit?
Islamabad is Pakistan's capital city and located 9 miles from the sprawling metropolis of Rawalpindi, the Pakistani capital is a great place to relax and enjoy serene accommodation. Visitors fly to Islamabad because of its proximity to Rawalpindi, which allows visitors to dive into the big city for sightseeing, or to indulge in some local cuisine and explore Pakistan's rich culture.
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 like to indulge in the scenery during these times. Although the summer months can be extremely hot, it is possible to secure cheap flights to Islamabad including reasonably priced accommodation during this period.
As well as the temperature, tourists need to consider the monsoon season; this runs from July through to late September, causing enormous amounts of rainfall. During March and April, the rainfall levels are very low, yet the temperatures are pleasantly warm, at around 25 to 30°C, conditions are similar during October and November.
A number of holidays and festivals are celebrated annually in Islamabad. These are usually linked to the various religions practiced within Pakistan. One such example is the festival of Eid ul-Fitr which comes at the end of Ramadan. Another great time to find flight deals to Islamabad is during the holidays and festivals, if you want to immerse yourself in authentic Pakistani culture.
The area around the city is rich in attractions. See 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 attraction of historical significance is the ancient city of Taxila. One of Asia's ancient centres, 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 close by and can provide 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.
Getting from the Airport to the CityThe main form of transport from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB) into the city is a taxi, as several companies have manned desks at the airport, although some local hotels provide shuttle services for guests. Expect an average journey to take approximately 30 minutes.
Getting around Islamabad
When you get into town, the city is relatively easy to navigate, as it is organised 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 convenient place to hire a car as well as the grid system makes driving safer than other Pakistani cities.
As 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.
Public transport is readily available in the city, but is often too crowded and can be rather slow to use, although it is very cheap. An interesting way to see the sights is from the back of one of the local motorised or pedal-powered rickshaws.