You don’t need to travel to Turkey or Scotland to see some iconic castles. If you love history and appreciate ancient architecture, you must make sure to visit at least one of the several historical forts in Pakistan this summer.
List of Historical Forts in Pakistan
- Lahore Fort
- Baltit Fort
- Rohtas Fort
- Ranikot Fort
- Derawar Fort
Take a look at the history, architecture, interior as well as ticket prices and timing of these ancient forts in Pakistan.
If you have ever been to Lahore, there’s a good chance you have already visited the stunning Lahore Fort located in the Walled City. Also known as Shahi Qila, this ancient fort in Pakistan is also one of the most popular historical places in Punjab.
History of Lahore Fort
Though the foundation of the modern Lahore Fort was laid in 1566 AD during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, historians claim the site had been occupied by a fortified structure over 500 years before that. In fact, Iranian scholar and polymath Al-Biruni mentioned the fort in his writings during the 11th century. In the mid-13th century, the Mongol invaders destroyed the structure, which was later rebuilt by Sultan of Delhi Ghiyas ud din Balban, according to some historical accounts. Some 150 years down the road, Sultan Mubarak Shah of Sayyid dynasty rebuilt the castle in red mud following the devastation caused by the army of Persian Conqueror Amir Timur.
While King Akbar built the Lahore Fort as we know it today, his successors also made a number of modifications to the castle during their reign. However, after the fall of the Mughal Empire in India, the founder of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, used the fort as his residence. It was later taken over by the British forces. By the time Pakistan was created, Lahore Fort was in need of a serious renovation.
In 1981, the United Nations declared this historical fort in Pakistan as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Moreover, this famous fort in Pakistan is known for its unique architecture and design as it includes both Islamic and Hindu motifs. The entire structure spreads over an area greater than 400 kanal and is one of the most iconic moments from the glorious Mughal era.
The major structures inside Shahi Qila in Lahore include the lavish white marble structure called Naulakha Pavilion, which served as Emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chambers. Furthermore, Lahore Fort’s Sheesh Mahal is another popular tourist attraction within the complex. Although commissioned by Shah Jahan, this intricately designed marble pavilion inlaid with thousands of mirrors was built during the reign of Mughal Rule Jahangir. A 350-foot long and 50-foot tall portion of Lahore Fort’s Picture Wall, yet another popular tourist attractions in Pakistan, is currently under renovation.
Lahore Fort Timings: 08:30 AM to 05:00 PM
Lahore Fort Entry Fee: PKR 30
(Visitors who want to visit Sheesh Mahal must pay PKR 100 in addition to the Lahore Fort’s ticket price.)
Looking over the beautiful town of Karimabad in the picturesque Hunza Valley, the ancient Baltit Fort was built as a part of the dowry of a princess from Baltistan who had married a local prince.
History of Baltit Fort
Influenced by the old Tibetan architectural style, Baltit Fort in Gilgit-Baltistan dates back to the 16th century.
Over the years, more room and amenities were added to the impressive structure located on the hilltop. In fact, until 1945, this historical fort in Pakistan served as the primary residence of the Mirs of Hunza. However, they later moved into yet another spectacular castle down the hill over concerns that the fort had begun to decay.
Shortly after that, the Royal Geographical Society of London began a restoration program to return one of the historical castles in Pakistan to its former glory with the help of Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program. The renovation was completed in 1996 and Baltit Fort was turned into a heritage museum under the supervision of the Baltit Heritage Trust. It is now considered one of the top tourist attractions in Pakistan.
The stone and wooden structure of Baltit Fort features beautiful carvings and brickwork in the traditional style. Most of the rooms inside the castle are single-storied, wide and properly ventilated. The staircases are also made out of stone.
Visitors can also see the ancient, handmade cooking utensils used by the royals of Baltistan regions in the curved royal kitchen, whereas the outer courtyard features wall mounted heads of several animals including the rare Marco Polo Sheep and ibex.
Since Baltit Fort is situated at a hilltop, visitors have to walk a steep stone road to reach the entrance. Although the walk might take long and seem tiring to some, the captivating view from the fort is definitely worth the hike.
Baltit Fort Timing: 09:00 AM to 05:50 PM
Baltit Fort Entry Fee: PKR 200
(The ticket price includes a detailed guided tour.)
One of the most famous forts in Pakistan, Rohtas Fort was built by General Sher Shah Suri, the founder of the short-lived Suri Dynasty in the Indian sub-continent.
This formidable fortress was constructed between 1541 and 1548 and is located near the city of Dina in Jhelum District.
History of Rohtas Fort
Sher Shah Suri built the sprawling castle following the historic Battle of Chausa where Mughal Emperor Humayun faced defeat at the hands of the Pashtun rulers. If you ever visit the beautiful city of Jhelum in Punjab, you need to include Rohtas Fort to your travel itinerary.
If you’re wondering what is so special about Rohtas Fort, well, for starters, it has never been invaded or conquered by force. In fact, it is considered an epitome of military fortifications in South Asia. Apart from the fact that this historical fort in Pakistan could hold up to 30,000 army personnel at a time, Suri chose an elevated hill on the Pothohar Plateau to construct this castle so that his forces could keep an eye on the passageway into the region. This military stronghold only meant to keep the Mughal forces at bay but also monitor the local Ghakkar tribe.
As far as defence mechanisms are concerned, nearly four kilometres of fortified walls surround Rohtas Fort. The structure has 68 bastion towers and 12 gates. The inner complex housed a small village that still exists.
In 1997, UNESCO declared this impenetrable fortress to its list of World Heritage Sites in Pakistan. The organization described Rohtas Fort as an ‘exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of Central and South Asia.’
Visitors are advised to obtain the services of a local guide during their trip to one of the most historic forts in Pakistan as there are many tales associated to the castle that would make your visit even more memorable.
Rohtas Fort Timing: 08:00 AM to 09:00 PM
Rohtas Fort Entry Fee: PKR 20
(Foreigners may have to pay a certain fee or show their passport to enter the fort.)
Ranikot Fort is not only considered one of the largest historical forts in Sindh but perhaps the entire world. Also known as ‘The Great Wall of Sindh,’ Ranikot fort is situated near the city of San in Jamshoro District and has the circumference of about 32 kilometres. Those travelling from Karachi can easily reach the fort via the National Highway. It’ll take about an hour to reach Sann from Karachi and then an additional 30 to 40 minutes to reach the ancient fort in Pakistan. You can also join one of the many tour groups offering Ranikot Fort trips from Karachi.
History of Ranikot Fort
The dilapidated Ranikot Fort, which is gradually becoming one of the popular tourist attractions in Pakistan, was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century. The vast fort complex is located on a hilly area and has several gates, some of which are still in good condition. If you enter the fort through the San Gate, you can even climb up the historic stone and lime wall for a panoramic view of the entire area.
Apart from the large fortified wall surrounding the Ranikot Fort on the three sides, travellers can also visit Meeri, a small castle-like structure within the fort that once housed the royal Mir family. There’s also another fortress called Shergah up in the mountains, but you’ll need to dedicate an entire day to travel and explore that structure alone.
Meanwhile, during your visit to this historic fort in Pakistan, don’t forget to drive from the diversion leading to Meeri and then walking a small distance to Mohan Gate.
Along with the intricate carvings and traditional floral designs on the wall, visitors can also see crumbling bastions, watchtowers and smaller fortresses within the Ranikot complex. There are also three ancient graveyards in the area. Moreover, according to the locals, some prehistoric fossils and animal skeletons can be found on these hills.
Ranikot Fort Timing: Open 24 hours
Ranikot Fort Entry Fee: None
You can’t compile a list of historical forts in Pakistan without mentioning the picturesque Derawar Fort even once. Located about 100 kilometres south of the city of Bahawalpur in Ahmedpur East, this spectacular landmark in the Cholistan Desert dates back to the 9th century.
History of Derawar Fort
Derawar Fort was constructed by a Hindu ruler from India’s Rajasthan state as a tribute to Rawal Deoraj Bhatti, the sovereign king of the Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur region. Historians suggest the large square fortress was initially called Dera Rawal, which later turned to Dera Rawar and then Derawar.
In 1733, Nawab of Bahawalpur Sadeq Mohammad Khan I took over and rebuilt the fort to how it looks like today. Nearly 15 years later, the Nawab lost Derawar Fort. However, Nawab Mubarak Khan reclaimed it in 1804 before the British forces invaded and captured it.
The dilapidating red-bricked fort, which is visible for miles in the vast Cholistan Desert, is surrounded by 30-metre-high bastions along with walls spanning over 1.5 kilometres. Moreover, the origin of some of the archaeological sites around the fort can be traced to the Indus Valley Civilization. The locals claim one of the tunnelled pathways inside the fort leads to an underground railway tunnel connecting the magnificent Sadiq Garh Palace in Bahawalpur to Derawar.
The fort has gained new-found fame in the recent years as camping in the Cholistan has become rather popular among the adventure seekers. These tours not only provide people to sleep under the stars near the walls of Derawar Fort but also enjoy the local cuisines and culture.
Derawar Fort Timing: Open 24 hours
Derawar Fort Entry Fee: None
To read more about the historical places in Pakistan, pay a visit to Zameen Blog, the leading lifestyle blog in Pakistan.