Travel Guide: 16 Must-Visit Historical Places in Pakistan [Pictures]

Pakistan is a history lover’s dream destination. The country is filled with empty remnants of genuinely ancient civilizations, 300+-year-old fortresses and mosques, and expertly carved tombs adorned with a rainbow of colors and an assemblage of geometry.

Historical places are found in abundance in Pakistan, as many empires and religions ruled the country. Visiting Pakistan and failing to admire the architectural and artistic beauty it has to offer calls for an incomplete travel experience.

Here is a list of 16 historical places you must visit in Pakistan:

1. Begum Shahi Mosque

Visiting Hours: 5 AM- 8 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

Colloquially known as the “Mother of all Mosques,” the Begum Shahi Mosque was built between 1611 and 1614 under Emperor Jahangir in honor of his mother, Mariam Zamani. The relatively small mosque sits across the way from the famous Lahore Fort and is one of the oldest historical places in Lahore. It is actually the city’s oldest surviving Mughal Era structure!

The architectural design of Begum Shahi gave inspiration to the Wazir Khan Mosque that was built several decades later. The mosque is impressive- complete with elaborate 400+-year-old frescoes and unique geometrical embellishments.

2. Mohenjo-Daro

Visiting Hours: 8:30 AM- 7 PM in summer, 9 AM- 7 PM in winter

Entrance Fee: 300 rupees foreigners, 20 rupees locals

You won’t have a complete list of historical places in Pakistan without including Mohenjo-Daro – one of the largest cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. The ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built around 2500 BCE and remained undocumented for over 3700 years until archeologists discovered it in the early 1920s.

Mohenjo-Daro’s size (over 300 hectares) and inclusion of public buildings seem to represent a high level of social organization, according to historians. You can find Mohenjo-Daro near the city of Larkana in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. It can then easily be reached by taxi.

3. Rohtas Fort

Visiting Hours: 9 AM- 5 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

This example of military architectural excellence sits about 15km away from the city of Jhelum and is one of the best historical places to visit in Punjab for good reasons!

Construction of the fort began in 1541 under the reign of Sher Shah Suri, an ethnic Pashtun who took control of the Mughal empire in 1538. Rohtas Fort spreads out over an area of 70 hectares and is considered to be one of the largest and most formidable fortresses in South Asia. It’s located about 2 hours from Islamabad and 4 hours from Lahore.

4. Taxila

Visiting Hours: Museum is open from 9 AM-5 PM, ruins are more flexible

Entrance Fee: Ruins are free; the museum costs 200 rupees for foreigners and 50 for Pakistanis

So many historical sites in Pakistan happen to be ancient civilizations- and the lost city of Taxila is one of them! The city’s origin dates back to 1000 BCE, though some ruins are thought to be as old as 3360 BCE. Due to its strategic location just off the Grand Trunk Road, it changed hands many a time throughout its history.

Keep in mind that Taxila is not just one spot but rather more than a dozen ancient structures that include a cave, a monastery, stupas, and more spread out over a pretty wide area. There is also a museum near the ruins that charges an entry fee. Due to its proximity to Islamabad (32 km), Taxila has long been one of the most famous historical places in Pakistan and can be easily visited as a day trip from the capital.

5. Wazir Khan Mosque

Visiting Hours: 5 AM- 8 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

The beautiful Wazir Khan Mosque took its architectural queues from the Begum Shahi, and though the similarities are evident, the Wazir Khan is notably more prominent and more colorful.

The mosque was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan and stood completed by the year 1641. Incredibly intricate buon frescoes and elaborate tile work cover almost every square inch of it – you could really spend hours admiring it all! The Wazir Khan Mosque can be found a few hundred meters after entering the Delhi Gate in Lahore’s Walled City.

6. Katas Raj Temples

Visiting Hours: 7 AM- 8 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

The Katasraj Temples are located near the village of Dulmial in Punjab and are said to be from the 7th Century CE or earlier. The temples surround a lake that is even fabled to have magical powers! The famous Hindu epic Mahabharata also gives them a mention, and it’s well known that the founder of the Sikh Faith- Guru Nanak- often visited the site in more recent centuries.

Sadly, the temples fell into a state of disarray post-Partition and still remain in less-than-stellar shape today. Nevertheless, as far as historical buildings in Pakistan go- the Katasraj Temples speak to the complicated history of the Subcontinent in a way few other structures can. The temples are located in Katas, about 2 hours from Islamabad and 3 hours from Lahore.

7. Lahore Fort

Visiting Hours: 8:30 AM-5 PM

Entrance Fee: 30 rupees for locals, 500 for foreigners

Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks of Pakistan, the Lahore Fort, is a piece of history most have heard of. The well-known fortress was entirely rebuilt in the 17th century, though it’s believed to have been inhabited in some way for millennia. Some of the most elaborate and well-known highlights of the massive structure were installed under Emperor Jahangir- including the epic Picture Wall adorned with a colorful array of mosaics, tile, and frescoes.

The Sheesh Mahal- AKA the “Palace of Mirrors” was commissioned later under Shah Jahan. The immaculate marble room is inlaid with complex, high-quality mirror work and is a must-visit when checking out the grounds. The Lahore Fort- which spreads over 20+ hectares- can be found at the northern end of Lahore’s famous Walled City.

8. Kot Diji

Visiting Hours: Always open

Entrance Fee: Free

The Kot Diji Fort can be found upon a hill in Kot Diji, Sindh, and though it isn’t that old- what’s underneath it sure is! The fort was built between 1785-1795 by Mir Sohrab Khan Talpur, but it actually lies above the remains of a pre-historic civilization by the same name.

It’s believed that the remains date back as far as 3300 BCE, placing it before the Indus Valley/ Harappan Civilization. Unlike some of the other forts mentioned on this list, Kot Diji is a bit more offbeat and attracts fewer tourists! Both the fort and the remains can be found about 24 km south of the city of Khairpur.

9. Takht-i-Bhai

Visiting Hours: 9 AM-5 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

Yes, there are notable historical places in KPK too! Takht-i-Bhai is an archeological site of a Buddhist Monastery found in Mardan. The site is considered exceptionally preserved and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Takht-i-Bhai was founded in the 1st century CE and was abandoned by the 7th. If you’re interested in Pakistan’s ancient Buddhist history- this is the place to check out. The ruins contain a cluster of Stupas, monastic chambers, and even a Tantric monastic chamber. The site sits at the top of a hill and can be easily accessed as a day trip from Mardan, Peshawar, or Islamabad.

10. Hiran Minar

Visiting Hours: 8 AM-8 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

The Hiran Minar is one of the most famous historical places in Pakistan as far as visits are concerned. And though it is a tomb- this one is a bit different than others! Most tombs in Punjab and across Pakistan house the remains of saints or royals. However, the Hiran Minar is dedicated not to Mughal Emperor Jahangir but to his pet antelope.

Emperor Jahangir was known for his love of nature and the Hiran Minar exemplifies that. It’s also set in a bit of a wilderness, which gave the Mughals a bit of a natural escape from the bustling city of Lahore. The complex structure consists of a minaret built over the antelope along with a massive pool and accompanying pavilion. And seeing that it’s only one hour from Lahore in Sheikhupura, the Hiran Minar is an easy day’s getaway.

11. Ranikot Fort

Visiting Hours: Always open

Entrance Fee: Free

The Ranikot Fort, yet another one of the many historical places in Sindh, is thought to be the world’s largest fort. Ranikot is also known as the Great Wall of Sindh! Unlike many other Pakistani forts, the exact origin and architects of The Great Wall of Sindh remain unknown.

Historians do believe that the first construction occurred sometime in the 17th century, with some reconstruction occurring in 1812 by the Talpur dynasty that ruled Sindh during that time period. The Ranikot Fort is located about 90 km from the city of Hyderabad, though the fort is closest to the Sindhi town of Sann.

12. Nagarparkar Jain Temples

Visiting Hours: Always open

Entrance Fee: Free

Very close to Pakistan’s dusty, desert border with India lies the Nagarparkar Jain Temples- a collection of abandoned temples from the 12th to 15th centuries. Jainism is an ancient religion of the Subcontinent. These temples are as unique as historical places in Pakistan can get- as Nagarparkar was a former epicenter of Jainism for several centuries. The temples represent a high point in the expression of Jain architecture. The entire region around them- which also includes the nearby pink-granite Karoonjhar Mountains- was once considered one of the “most glorious” in the entire country.

14 temples can be found here, including the Gori Temple, which boasts the oldest existing Jain frescoes in the world. Temples aren’t all that can be reveled here, though. The Bhodesar Mosque (above) can also be visited nearby that was built in 1505 CE and features a central dome that’s very similar to its Jain counterparts. To reach Nagarparkar via public transport, keep in mind that you’ll only be able to do so from the town of Mithi, some 150 km away.

13. Harappa

Visiting Hours: Always open

Entrance Fee: Free

Harappa was yet another city of the Indus Valley Civilization and was believed to be home to over 23,000 people. It’s worth noting that the Indus Valley Civilization is used interchangeably with the term Harappan Civilization, though it did include more than just the city of its namesake. The settlement spanned 150 hectares between 2600 BC and 1900 BC, but it was severely damaged under British Rule of Pakistan and is now much smaller.

The present-day archeological site is located about 24 km from the Punjabi city of Sahiwal. It’s infrequently visited compared to some of the other historical places in Pakistan.

14. Makli Necropolis

Visiting Hours: Always open

Entrance Fee: Free

The Makli Necropolis, one of the largest funerary sites globally, houses over 500,000 tombs spread out over an area of 10km near the Sindhi city of Thatta. The tombs were built over 400 years and belong to royalty, Sufi saints, and admired scholars. Makli began when Sufi saint Shaikh Jamali established a Sufi gathering site and was eventually buried there. Later on, in the 14th century, Trakhan ruler Jam Tamachi wished to be buried there as well, seeing as he venerated Shaikh Jamali, and so began the tradition.

The site rose in importance during the rule of the Samma dynasty. Like many historical places in Pakistan, the most architecturally significant tombs were crafted during the famed Mughal Era. The necropolis (cemetery) was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and is located about 2 hours from both Hyderabad and Karachi.

15. Tomb of Jahangir

Visiting Hours: 9 AM- 7 PM

Entrance Fee: Free

On the outskirts of Lahore, you can find one of the most beautiful landmarks of Pakistan- the exquisite tomb of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The tomb took 10 years to build and was finally finished in 1637.

The tomb walls are decorated with inlaid marble, stunning floral frescoes, and lush gardens. Though the site has been damaged in floods throughout the years, it stands in good condition today despite being nearly 400 years old. The tomb sits about 30-40 minutes outside Lahore and is best reached by Careem or Uber if you don’t have your own vehicle.

16. Baltit Fort

Visiting Hours: 9 AM- 5:30 PM

Entrance Fee: 500 rupees for foreigners

The Baltit Fort, located in Karimabad in the beautiful Hunza Valley, was founded in 8th CE and was inhabited by the Mirs of Hunza until 1945. The fort, which takes its shape from Tibetan architecture, sits atop a hill and lies claim to a marvelous view of the valley below.

The Baltit Fort has long been a popular tourist destination and is very easy to visit- even on foot- within Karimabad.

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