Islamabad—the federal capital of Pakistan—is a relatively calm and quiet city, offering little in terms of entertainment to the youth. While the Diplomatic Enclave is often the hub of parties, locals have a hard time entering the area due to a barrage of security checks enacted to protect foreign diplomats. On the whole, the lack of entertainment facilities in Islamabad is not surprising, especially when you consider the fact that the city is relatively new, has a smaller population and covers a lesser area when compared to the metropolises of Lahore or Karachi.
While the city offers scenic views and hiking opportunities on Margalla Hills, what are Islamabadis supposed to do if they want to break the monotony over a weekend? Well, they could always head out for a weekend trip to one of the scenic spots that are a short drive away. Wondering about the best weekend getaways from Islamabad? We’ve listed down a number of them for your ease.
Distance from Islamabad by car: 1.5 hours (64 kilometres)
While increasing commercialisation and crowds have deterred people from going to Murree for a relaxing getaway, the place is relatively quiet and peaceful if you visit it during the offseason, when the summer and winter holidays have ended. Sitting at the height of almost 2,300 metres, Murree offers pleasant weather all year round. Also, there’s plenty of locally grown fruits and beautiful scenic views to feast on. The commercial centre of Mall Road and the chairlifts are the most popular tourist attractions.
Distance from Islamabad by car: 2.5 hours (86 kilometres)
The mountain resort of Nathia Gali lies more than 2,400 metres above sea level and is a popular spot for a mini-vacation. There is an abundance of animals and plant life to observe and get close to nature. The presence of green meadows and walnut, cedar, oak, maple, and pine trees make you feel like you are in the middle of a perfectly painted masterpiece. Horses and monkeys are a common sight, along with ravens, and a variety of other insects, birds, and mammals.
People looking for a more adventurous getaway can trek up the Miranjani and Mukeshpuri (or Mukshpuri) hills. With a height of around 3,000 metres, Miranjani offers a scenic trek to the top. Meanwhile, Mukshpuri’s altitude of 2,800 offers trekkers a glorious view of the surroundings from the top.
Distance from Islamabad by car: 3 hours (148 kilometres)
The hill station of Thandiani is approximately 2,750 metres above sea level. It is a perfect weekend retreat for people who like natural serenity. Unspoiled, due to the lack of tourism in the area, it offers scenic vistas for as far as the eye can see. Be prepared to rough it though, as the lack of development also means a shortage of accommodation options. The region is relatively cold, even in the summers, so make sure you pack for your weekend getaway accordingly.
Siri Paye Meadows
Distance from Islamabad by car: 6 hours (232 kilometres)
Siri Paye Meadows rise up to 3,000 metres above Shogran. They are accessible via a jeep or 4×4. Siri Lake comes first, at nearly 2,600 meters, but the road can take you further up to Paye, which is a green meadow offering picturesque views from the top on clear days. The area has a number of small tea stalls and is ideal for people who would like to head out on a camping trip over the weekend. If you are looking for a more comfortable stay, you can spend the night in Shogran.
Distance from Islamabad by car: 6.5 hours (278 kilometres)
Another popular tourist hub, Naran is 2,400 metres above sea level and offers a range of activities for Islamabadis. From hiking and trekking to fishing, boating, camping, and rafting, you can experience it all at the majestic Lake Saif-ul-Malook and the River Kunhar. The area offers a lot of natural beauty, particularly Lalazar where green plains and forests await you.
Distance from Islamabad by car: 7 hours (226 kilometres)
Located within Azad Kashmir, Neelum Valley is one of the perfect weekend getaways from Islamabad. It is nestled near the River Neelum, that gives the valley its name. The region is an ideal retreat for travellers who want to explore nature at its best without any disturbances. While hiking and trekking opportunities are plentiful, there is often little-to-no cell service in the area.
Islamabad is located in the northern part of Pakistan, and this is why it has access to many scenic mountainous getaways. As long as you don’t mind driving the distance, the options for weekend getaways from Islamabad are endless. Try out one of the spots on the list above as your next weekend retreat and if you’re looking for a shorter trip, head towards the Khewra Salt Mines at a short driving distance of 2.5 hours for an unusual experience that will leave you spellbound.