The Islamic Republic of Pakistan became a separate and independent nation from and along with India in August 1947. This historical change, known as Partition, has had a profound effect on its people. Thankfully, this change didn't erase the beauty within its borders.
While its history is dotted with battles, especially during the pre-independence period, Pakistan's culture goes as far back as the 56th century BCE, when the Indus Civilization grew from simple beginnings to rival the most notable and advanced peoples of the era. This progression gave way to understanding how to live and thrive in challenging terrains. Along with technological advancement came artistic and intellectual prosperity, much of which remains part of Pakistan’s landscape today. As the sixth most populous country in the world with growing economies mastering both architecture and military engineering, Pakistan’s history is an example of how to survive and excel under a multitude of circumstances.
Located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in northwestern Pakistan is the scenic Kaghan Valley. For its entire 96-mile length, there are the green and snowcapped mountains from the lower Himalaya range, with portions dotted by natural rocks and trails. Babusar Pass is the highest point at 13,960 feet, and alongside the valley is the 103-mile Khunar River. After the glaciers melt from February to April, the roads are open from May to late September.
Lahore Fort in Punjab spans nearly 50 acres and has over 21 monuments. Its exact origins of the fort are the stuff of myths and legends. Records show that there was a mud fort that was built in the 11th-century and was destroyed during the mid-13th-century Mongol invasion. It was rebuilt and destroyed at least once more before the Mughal Emperors introduced more sophisticated architectural practices. Inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site are various blocks worth exploring, such as Sheesh Mahal, known as the Palace of Mirrors.
One of the most breathtaking sights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Lake Saiful Muluk. The lake's name comes from a popular fairytale, Saif-ul-Muluk. In it, a prince of Persia, named Saiful Malook, falls in love with a fairy princess at the lake. In addition to the weaving mountain views, the lake holds ecological interest due to the varied species of blue-green algae and brown trout that can weigh as much as 15 pounds.
While Mughal Emperor Jahangir ruled Pakistan during the early 17th-century, he fought family insurrection and promoted foreign relations with Persia. His tomb in Shahdara Bagh is an ornate tribute, with an embellished pietra dura exterior, while the interior has frescoes and latticed stone screens, which allow the light to form special patterns. The Paradise Garden has water channels and paved walkways so that visitors can take in the surrounding landscape.
Mohenjo-Daro, which translates to “Mound of the Dead Men,” was built during the 26th century BCE and spans 750 acres. With feats in civil engineering and urban planning, it one of the most advanced cities of the time and had a peak of approximately 40,000 people when the Indus Civilization included modern-day Pakistan, Northern India, and the Iranian border. After it was abandoned during the 20th century BCE, it would take another four millennia before it was rediscovered, and its treasures, such as ancient sculptures and toys, were shared with the people of Pakistan and India.
The ancient site of Kot Diji, located in present-day Sindh province, was a settlement of pre-Harappan farming communities during the fourth millennia BCE. Researchers found copper and bronze as well as storage jars, toys, and jewelry that dates back to around 3000 BCE, which indicated phases of cultural progression and transformation of the people.
Informally called the Great Wall of Sindh, Rani Kot is a 19-mile fortification that’s possibly the world’s largest fort. Within Rani Kot is a smaller fort that was probably the Mir royal family’s palace. There are four rhomboid gates, as well as architectural carvings and designs on the walls.
In the foothills of Islamabad is Faisal Mosque, whose design was inspired by a Bedouin tent. With a $120 million grant from Saudi King Faisal, the 10-year construction project began in 1976. Faisal Mosque went against traditional dome designs, opting for an octagonal sloping roofs that form a triangular worship hall. At each of the four corners is a 260-foot minaret, which, when combined with the mountainous backdrop, help the mosque to cut an unmistakable figure across Islamabad’s skyline.
Mazar-e-Quaid is the final resting place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder and first Governor-General of Pakistan. As the most iconic structure in the busy city of Karachi, this mausoleum is a peaceful respite. Sitting on a 128-acre park, this 246-foot square building is made of white marble and copper, and inside, there are no fewer than 15 fountains that lead to an inner sanctum lit by a crystal chandelier. Foreign officials are invited to Mazar-e-Quaid for special ceremonies, such as Independence Day, Pakistan Day, and to commemorate the anniversary of Jinnah’s passing.
Affectionately called the Roof of the World, Shandur is a plateau that’s accessible between April and November. It has a Shandur Polo Ground that was developed in 1935 by UK administrator Evelyn Cobb, who enjoyed playing polo in the moonlight. The local streams were stocked with trout during Cobb’s time, and from that one act came the Directorate of Fisheries, more local employment, and trouts that tip the scales at between 50 and 90 pounds.
With its neoclassical lines, this Italian chateau-like palace in Bahawalpur, Punjab, is one of Pakistan’s must-see treasures. The story goes that in 1875, Shahjahan of Bahawalpur commissioned a British engineer to build this palace for his wife, who, after seeing the nearby graveyard on the first night, refused to live there. Since then, it has been vacant and is one of Pakistan’s most popular attractions.
This Mughal-era Imperial Mosque is one of the most breathtaking landmarks in Lahore. The Badshahi Mosque has three domes and is a combination of red sandstone and marble. It was commissioned in 1671 by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled for nearly 50 years, and was opened two years later. During the 19th-century Sikh occupation of Lahore, it was used for military purposes and plundered. Badshahi Mosque was eventually repaired and returned to its original purpose and the people of Pakistan.
Near the city of Jhelum is the 16th-century Rohtas Fort built by the founder of the Suri Empire, Sher Shah Suri. This 173-acre fortress is enclosed by 43 miles of thick walls. These walls could house as many as 30,000 men within it. With any number of trap gates, massive walls, and stepped wells, Rohtas couldn't be besieged during its time and is considered a prime, historical example of military architecture.