This Weekend We Virtually Visited Lahore
Voted by the Conde Nast Traveller as the most exciting destination to visit in the coming decade, Pakistan is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. As the country’s cultural epicenter, Lahore is a city brimming with beautiful Mughal architecture and mesmerizing museums dating from the colonial times, the destination remains relatively obscure for travelers outside the country as foreign tourists are still not a very common sight. The region’s turbulent history yet rich culture make it an ideal destination for travelers looking for an offbeat and immersive experience.
The metropolis is also a haven for foodies and culinary enthusiasts with numerous local food tours and festivals taking place year-round that highlight the country’s flavor-filled and lip-smacking dishes. The Lahore Eat Food Festival is the city’s annual food fest that celebrates the region’s iconic and varied cuisine. Interestingly, there has also been a spike in web searches by Lahoris over the past month in western-influenced dishes and cooking methods such as Sushi (search increase by 80%) and Barbeque (search increase by 70%), indicating an increase in the number of tourists and also potentially a rise in the number of restaurant-owners wanting to cater to their interests and tastes.
Get set to explore a bastion of history, culture, and festivities in this vibrant destination as you embark upon a 36-hour virtual journey.
36 Hours in Lahore
9:00 AM: Visit a Mosque From the 17th Century
As the country’s most iconic and glamorous building, Badshahi Mosque was, for over 3 centuries, the largest of its kind in the world. Historically, it has been used as a military base because of its massive courtyard that is said to have the capacity to accommodate close to 100,000 people at a time. The mosque’s red sandstone minarets, intricate stone carvings, and marble domes make it an architectural wonder that should not be missed.
10:30 AM: Follow the Elephants’ Path at Lahore Fort
A short walk from Badshahi Mosque lies another masterpiece of Mughal civilization, the Lahore Fort. Surrounded by stunning palaces, gardens, and museums, the Fort displays diverse architectural designs ranging from Persian styled halls to brackets that depict a more Hindu-oriented pattern. The most unique section of the Fort is the Hathi Paer or Elephant Stairs which are a part of the private entrance to the royal quarters. Anyone care to enter the palace on elephant-back through the most majestic driveway we have ever laid eyes on?
12:30 PM: Lunch With a View
Make a pitstop for a rooftop lunch at the highly-rated Riwaj restaurant. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Badshahi Mosque, this will be a culinary experience like no other- enjoy authentic Pakistani cuisine such as Masala Chops (spiced chops), Mutton Kadai (mutton cooked in a traditional pot), and Tawa Chicken (marinated chicken pieces cooked in local spices). To end on a sweet note, try out the restaurant’s lip-smacking Firni (milk pudding) and Gulab Jamuns (milk-based sweet).
2:00 PM: An Ode to the Past
Next, immerse yourself in the gripping history of Pakistan at the Lahore Museum. Built in the 18th century, the museum is a breathtaking colonial establishment with an extensive collection of artifacts such as manuscripts, Qurans, paintings, and carpets from the ancient Asian civilizations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The display of Gandharan art is the highlight of the museum since it is one of the World's finest and most extensive collections of this ancient art form. For those wanting to dive a bit more into the history of the region, there is a bookstore with a plethora of interesting novels.
4:00 PM: Experience Freedom at the Minar-e-Pakistan
Located in the famous Iqbal Park of Lahore, the Minar-e-Pakistan is a symbol of Pakistani patriotism as it was here that the Lahore Resolution was passed by the All-India Muslim League in 1940, paving the way for the foundation of the country. Marble tiles around the monument hold scriptures that depict passages from the Quran as well as works of the founding fathers of the country.
5.30 PM: Experience a State of Trance
Embark upon one of the most unique Pakistani experiences as you witness a Sufi Dhamal at one of Lahore’s numerous shrines. The atmosphere is filled with pounding drums and carefree dancing as the participants believe this celebration will bring them closer to Allah and act as a means of communication. Dhamals generally take place on Thursdays (since this is considered to be a holy Islamic day) and on religious holidays, and can be attended at the Shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain and the Shrine of Mauj Darya in Lahore.
7.00 PM: Enjoy Live Music to Continue the Festivities
End the day by having dinner at Peeru’s Cafe while enjoying their live Qawwali night, which is a form of Sufi Islamic singing. Try the restaurant’s renowned Barbeque platter which includes a variety of meat marinated in local herbs and spices. The ambiance of the restaurant is highly rated as a result of its ethnic architecture and puppet museum, and makes for the perfect place to end Day 1 in Lahore.
9:00 AM: Visit a Quaint, Picturesque Tomb
The Tomb of Ali Mardan Khan, the former governor of the region, is a quaint burial structure built in the 1600s that was once surrounded by prolific gardens. The iconic dome and intricately carved pillars make it a breathtaking structure that should be added to every traveler’s bucket list. To add to its uniqueness, the tomb is currently surrounded by railway yards on all sides.
11:00 AM: Find Solitude at the Wazir Khan Mosque
Once an important center for training Islamic calligraphers, the eccentric yet gorgeous mosque of Wazir Khan is covered with glazed colorful tile mosaics in floral designs. One can also go up the mosque’s minarets to get a spectacular view of Lahore’s busy streets. This monument is the perfect destination for photography enthusiasts who want to capture some beautiful tile work, and also for those that want to experience peace and seclusion.
12:30 PM: Try Out Pakistani Hot Pot
Next, get ready for an authentic Lahori lunch at Butt Karahi Tikka which will leave you wanting for more! The restaurant’s specialty is the Karahi, a deep cooking pot originated in the Indian subcontinent. For those who can handle high spice levels, the Karahi Chicken and Karahi Gosht with Naan (a type of bread) are must-try dishes. The casual seating of the restaurant will give you a local Pakistani dining experience.
2:00 PM: Blend With the Locals at Liberty Market
Following a satisfying and delicious meal, stroll around Liberty Market, the best spot in the city to shop for local clothes and accessories. Be greeted by the warmth of friendly locals welcoming you into their stores to buy Salwar Kameez (a traditional and comfortable attire for women) and also bangles and jewellery to wear along with it. For the men, cotton kurtas can be an ideal piece of apparel to beat the Lahore heat!
5:00 PM: A Heartwarming Nationalistic Ritual
The Wagah Border ceremony between the countries of India and Pakistan takes place daily before sunset and is definitely one of its kind. Guards on both sides of the border participate in a dance-like parade to symbolize the solidarity between both the nations. Cheering crowds that are seated across the border from each other create a nationalistic sentiment that can leave you with goosebumps. Seeing two countries that have been sworn enemies for decades, perform a spectacle like this, is truly heartwarming.
6:30 PM: Explore Lahori Cuisine on an Autorickshaw!
As your final activity in Lahore, embark upon an exciting Night Food Tour of the city for a delectable culinary experience. Not only will you explore vibrant food streets and local restaurants, but will hear of the history behind the dishes and food culture. Try items such as Hareesa (a curry that is a combination of meat and wheat flour), Besan-Fried Rahu (deep-fried fish with local spices), and Taka Tak (stir-fried meat with vegetables), all from authentic kitchens. Leave room for dessert so that you can slurp down the Falooda, which is a unique mixture of milk, ice cream, and… noodles!
As the city where Pakistan’s Islamic identity was born, Lahore has a lot to offer the modern traveler. Having been ruled by several cultured civilizations such as the Mughals has ensured that the historic, cultural and gastronomical foothold in the city is still strong. Ancient monuments with intricate carvings, flavored mouth-watering dishes, and a custom of people spontaneously breaking into song and dance are a commonality in the city and are just a few reasons why the destination should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Lahore has emerged as Asia’s cultural capital that never ceases to amaze travelers visiting Pakistan. Untouched yet by the curse of over-tourism, increased security measures in the country have ensured that cities like Lahore will be in the limelight for the years to come. Just as the old Punjabi saying goes….“Anyone who hasn’t seen Lahore simply hasn’t lived”.
How To Get There
There are direct international flights into Lahore from major cities in Asia, Europe and the United States. It is also well connected domestically by trains and buses.
Where To Stay
For backpackers and budget travelers, Lahore Backpackers is an economic option. For those wanting a more luxurious alternative, Pearl Continental Lahore offers a premium stay.
When To Go
May to October is the best time to visit Lahore.
Visitors from most countries including the United States and Europe require a valid Pakistani tourist visa. Some countries are eligible for a visa on arrival.
Uber and rickshaws are the most convenient and cheapest way to get around the city. Alternatively, you could also rent a car for the duration of your stay.
The Pakistan Rupee (PKR) is the official currency of Pakistan.
Urdu and English are the official languages of the country. There are other languages such as Punjabi and Sindhi that are spoken by a minority of the population.
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