Islamabad is a fascinating city, rich with culture, history, and great activities. This part of Pakistan is also home to wonderful nature and a perfect example is Margalla Hills National Park. The Margalla Hills form part of the Himalayan foothills, so as you can imagine, it’s a pretty spectacular location to visit. There are lots of fun ways to enjoy Margalla Hills National Park, especially when it comes to hiking, so if you have booked a flight to Islamabad, read on to discover what there is to look forward to.
Activities at Margalla Hills
There is more than one way to enjoy the beauty and wild nature of Margalla Hills National Park. Whether you want to get in some sturdy exercise or just relax while taking in the scenery, read on to discover some of the activities you can look forward to at Margalla Hills.
Hiking is one of the main attractions at Margalla Hills, with six different hiking routes available to enjoy. The routes cater to both novice and experienced hikers so whatever type of adventure you desire, there is a trail waiting. With the temperatures soaring quite high in the summer months, those who fancy a bit of hiking when in Islamabad will probably want to visit at the start of winter when the weather is milder and with less rain to contend with. There are hiking milestones and direction guidelines at regular intervals along the trails to help with navigation, allowing you to enjoy the scenic beauty of the hills and springs.
Jonny and Sidra, from the travel blog Backpacking Man, have been to Margalla Hills and have offered their hiking suggestions: “There are 6 trails worth doing and our favourites are Trails 3 and 5. Trail 3 is tougher with some very steep trails at times to get up and can be hard work. Trail 5 on the other hand is a gentle hike by the side of a stream for the first 20 minutes or so before getting more vertical. But going up is not that bad and is gradual in parts.”
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Hiking routes at Margalla Hills
There are six different hiking trails available at Margalla Hills, handily named 1-6. You can find out more details below.
Trail No.1 – This trail leads to the top of the Pir Sohawa Road and the hike takes about 2 hours. If you walk a bit further along the trail for 20 minutes, you will reach Monal Restaurant.
Trail No.2 – Trail No.2 begins near Islamabad Zoo above the Pir Sohawa. After a walk along the trail for about 1 to 1.5 hours, you can reach Daman-e-Koh viewpoint.
Trail No.3 – Trail No.3 begins on Margalla Road and is the most famous hiking trail of them all. This 1.5-hour route can be an exhausting climb as it features steep inclines. The trail will lead you directly to the summit, but refreshments can be found along the way at two restaurants located at Pir Sohawa.
Trail No.4 – Trail No.4 is a connecting route of about 1.5 kilometres between Trails No.3 and 5.
Trail No.5 – Trail No.5 begins from Margalla Road in Sector F5 and is known as a much easier climb than others. It lies somewhat parallel to Trail No.3 and leads the hiker to the top of Pir Sohawa Road, taking roughly 2.5 to 3.5 hours to complete. This trail features a waterfall sighting, so is definitely one to consider.
Trail No.6 – Perhaps the most underappreciated trail is Trail No.6, mostly because its entrance is actually hidden behind Shah Faisal Mosque in Sector E7. The route is well defined and takes you through a valley and ends at the top of Pir Sohawa Road. Cyclists will also enjoy this path as it offers a separate track for bikes.
Enjoy the wildlife
When spending time in Margalla Hills, visitors should certainly keep their eyes peeled for an abundance of wonderful wildlife. There are many different species to look out for when wandering the park’s trails, and in fact, bird watching is a key activity that people like to make time for.
Bring a pair of binoculars with you and you could see paradise flycatchers, Himalayan griffon vultures, spotted doves, eagles, falcons, pheasants, hawks, and yellow vented bulbul depending on what time of the year you are visiting. Apart from the amazing birdlife, the wilder areas of the Margalla Hills are also home to many terrestrial inhabitants, such as leopards, deer, jackals, wild boar, and various snakes.
Mansoureh, from the travel blog, Travel with Mansoureh, recommends visiting Margalla Hills as a top activity in Islamabad, and shares her thoughts on the wildlife you might see while on the trails: “There are various walking and hiking trails you can take. You might see some wildlife such as wild boars, Asian paradise flycatchers and monkeys. You can find the trails map in major bookstores in Islamabad. Some of the trails are good for a short walk, but some of them can take up to three days.”
If hiking and bird watching don’t sound like your cup of tea, maybe a spot of rock climbing might be more your speed. Margalla Hills is known for having a great climbing scene, however, it should be noted, that a number of the cliffs used for climbing are for experienced rock-climbing enthusiasts. There are some locations for beginners, but others aren’t the place for casuals to try out the sport for the first time. But if you are an experienced climber and are looking for your next challenge, Margalla Hills has you covered.
Experienced climbers will be interested in the crags known as Musical Lounge and Shahdra Wall. The experts can try their hand at surmounting Shah Allah Ditta. For more information on the crags at Margalla Hills, take a look a look at the info available on Crag.com.
Someone who has been rock climbing at Margalla Hills is Fatima, from the website Blogs by FA. She shares her recollection of climbing here with family: “Islamabad is a mountainous city and I had gone rock climbing with three big cousins. It was fun and all I could see from the middle of the mountain (that’s the most I could climb at that age) were very tiny cars or dinkies that were actually real cars! One of them was ours too!”
Margalla Hills has an abundance of beautiful scenery to admire, from the hills and mountainous terrain to all the wildlife that calls the area home. If you want to enjoy one of the best sights in Islamabad, however, make sure to head to the hill and viewpoint known as Daman-e-Koh Park. Its name means ‘foothills’ and at 2,100 ft high, it is a favourite spot among locals for its views of the city.
Describing the sight that you can expect, David, from the travel blog, David’s Been Here, shares: “Daman-e-Koh offers a panoramic view of the city and several of its top attractions and is also a fairground-like area with games and rides. The area is frequented by monkeys and occasional cheetahs have been known to enter the park. There are also a number of street food vendors who sell a wide variety of Pakistani treats!”
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What to do at Margalla Hills in Pakistan
- Enjoy the wildlife
- Rock climbing
- Admire the awesome views
As you can see, there is plenty to get excited about at Margalla Hills. If you are a keen hiker, wildlife lover, or just looking to get away from the city for a little while, this national park is the perfect spot.
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