Home to an abundance of mosques and forts and a diverse topographical landscape ranging from some of the world’s tallest mountains to sprawling sands of extensive desert, Pakistan is home to a wide variety of iconic landmarks, both natural and man-made.
The country is home to no less than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while twenty others are featured on tentative lists for inscription. From iconic natural landforms to extensive religious and militaristic complexes, these are the 15 most famous landmarks in Pakistan that all visitors to the country have to see.
The 15 Most Famous Landmarks in Pakistan
1. Badshahi Mosque
Built-in 1673 by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Badshahi Mosque is a breathtaking sacred site within the Muslim faith, attracting droves of worshippers and tourists alike.
At the time of its construction, the expansive 276,000-square-foot complex was the largest mosque in Pakistan, a title it held for over 300 years until the completion of the Faisal Mosque in 1986.
Today, Badshahi Mosque is still recognized as one of the biggest mosques on the planet and is an iconic landmark in Pakistan, and continues to attract visitors to its charming setting within the country’s second-largest city, Lahore.
Amongst the mosque’s most notable architectural designs are its four three-story sandstone minarets, three large marble-coated domes, and a colossal open courtyard capable of accommodating up to 100,000 worshippers at a time.
Between its historical presence in the city and its breathtaking architectural displays, Badshahi Mosque is one of the most important landmarks in Pakistan all tourists need to visit while in Lahore.
2. Shalimar Gardens
Located less than eight kilometers from Badshahi Mosque is another of Pakistan’s most iconic landmarks, the Shalimar Gardens. Completed in 1642, this beautiful landmark in the heart of Lahore belonged to the Mughal Empire’s royal family and primarily served as a venue for hosting guests, although large portions of the garden were left open to the public.
Based on the design of the Timurid Gardens of Central Asia and Iran, the Shalimar Garden is laid out over three expansive tiered terraces, each rising 13 to 15 feet above the previous. The terraces are given the names of Bestower of Pleasure, Bestower of Goodness, and Bestower of Life, each featuring colorful displays of flowers and fruit trees.
However, the most alluring aspect of the gardens is the landmark’s water features, which consist of large pools in the center of each tier and are fed by over 410 fountains and five water cascades.
3. Faisal Mosque
Completed in 1986 after ten years of construction, the Faisal Mosque is an impressive architectural landmark in Islamabad. Covering an expansive 300,000-square-foot area, Faisal Mosque is recognized as the largest mosque in Pakistan and the sixth largest in the world.
Along with its sheer size, Faisal Mosque is also notable for its unique architecture, which omits the traditional mosque dome in favor of a more modern design. The complex includes four 88-meter-high minarets and a 5,000-square-meter prayer hall capable of housing 100,000 worshippers at a time.
While the Faisal Mosque is a relatively new monument compared to other buildings featured on this list, it has quickly grown into one of the most iconic landmarks in Pakistan and attracts tourists and worshippers to its breathtaking property set within the foothills of Margalla Hills in the country’s capital city.
Suggested Reading: The Most Famous Landmarks in Asia
4. Deosai National Park
Established in 1993 to protect the declining habitats of the endangered Himalayan Brown Bear, Deosai National Park is one of the most breathtaking natural landmarks in Pakistan and is located within a high-altitude alpine plain in the western Himalayas of the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Set at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 5,200 meters, the Deosai plateau is considered the second-highest plateau on earth and encompasses a total area of 358,400 hectares of pristine natural landscapes and biodiverse ecosystems.
Along with protecting the Himalayan Brown Bear for which the park was initially established, the Deoasai plateau is home to a wide variety of endemic flora and fauna species and is a popular spot for exploring the untouched habits of Pakistan’s natural environments.
Among some of the park’s most exciting inhabitants are the Siberian ibex, the snow leopard, the Himalayan Vulture, and the Golden Eagle.
5. The Pakistan Monument
Set within the western reaches of the Shakarparian Hills in Islamabad, the Pakistan Monument was only inaugurated in 2007 but has quickly become a symbol of the unity of the Pakistani people and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the country today.
Designed by architect Arif Masood, the Pakistan Monument encompasses an area of 2.8 hectares and features influences of traditional Mughal architecture while maintaining modern designs in a way that honors the country’s rich heritage and technological future.
The petal-shaped structure engages themes of unity through its use of four large petals representing the provinces of Pakistan and three smaller petals reflecting the smaller territories of the nation. Meanwhile, when viewed from above, the monument reflects the iconic five-pointed star on Pakistan’s national flag.
6. Lahore Fort
The history of Lahore Fort goes so far back that the numerous stories of its founding are all based on myth and legends. Still, while the site is known to have been fortified for millennia, the stronghold that sits within Pakistan’s second-largest city today is largely attributed to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Since then, the site has undergone several renovations and additions throughout its history and has become an extensive citadel spanning an area of over 20 hectares. Within the massive complex are 21 monuments, including mosques, audience halls, palaces, watch towers, and much more, dating from all of Pakistan’s major eras from the 16th century onward.
As such, the Lahore Fort has become one of the most popular attractions for exploring the country’s history and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Pakistan today.
7. Ranikot Fort
Also known as The Great Wall of Sindh, Ranikot Fort is a colossal fortress in Kirthar National Park in the Jamshoro District of Sindh, Pakistan. Boasting a circumference of approximately 32 kilometers, the stronghold is the largest known fort in the world and has become an iconic landmark within the Pakistan landscape.
Despite its size and modern fame, very little is known about the fort’s historical origins, purpose, or architects, although it is believed that its original construction can be attributed to the 17th century, with many present structures today being built about 200 years later, in 1812.
The most prominent feature of the fort is its impressive wall spanning the horizons between several bleak mountains within the Kirthar Hills. The wall features interspersed bastions and four entry gates, which can be climbed for some of the most surreal views of the national park.
8. The Tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Also known as Mazar-e-Quaid, the Tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah is the final resting place of the historical founder of Pakistan and has become a beautiful monument honoring the influential man affectionately referred to as the Great Leader and Father of the Nation.
One of the most important cultural landmarks in Pakistan today, construction of the modern monument did not start until 1960, 12 years after the death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The monument took eleven years to complete, with its official inauguration occurring in 1971. The gardens around the complex took a further three decades to complete in 2000.
One of the most recognized Mausoleums in the country today, the Tomb of Muhammed Ali Jinnah consists of a simple design when viewed from a distance but promises plenty of grandeur and complexity within its finer details and building materials.
Along with housing the resting place of the country’s founder, the Mausoleum also contains the tombs of the leader’s sister, as well as the first prime minister of Pakistan.
Built atop the spot at which the All-India Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution, Minar-e-Oakistan is a monumental commemorative tower designed to honor this first official call and a massive step in establishing Pakistan as a separate and independent nation for the Muslims of British India.
Also known as the Tower of Pakistan, construction on the monument commenced in 1960, twenty years after the resolution was signed, and lasted for eight years, with the monument officially being inaugurated in 1968.
Since then, Minar-e-Pakistan has served as a monumental representation of the country’s independence and serves as an iconic cultural landmark in Pakistan and to its people.
The monument consists of a 203-foot minaret tower with four platforms at its base set within a star shape. Additionally, the monument’s lower sections are constructed in the shape of a flower, with the rest of the tower rising from its buds like a blooming nation.
10. Baltit Fort
Located in the Gilgit-Baltistan territory of northern Pakistan, Baltit Fort is a picturesque fortress believed to have been built in the 14th century and served as the home of the Mirs, the historical rulers of the state of Hunza, of which Baltit Fort served as the capital until the abandonment of the site in 1945.
Set atop a strategic position promising panoramic views that, at the time of its construction, served as a convenient spot for assessing threats from all sides, Baltit Fort has become an iconic landmark in northern Pakistan and a favorite travel destination amongst tourists.
Restored in 1990 by the Aga Khan Foundation, the three-story building features a grand open hall, an audience hall, a dining hall, a kitchen, and more and promises visitors an extensive tour of one of the country’s largest and best-preserved strongholds.
11. Wazir Khan Mosque
Commissioned during the rule of Mughal Emperor Shah Hammam, the Wazir Khan Mosque is a 17th-century mosque located within Old Lahore. Once known as the Walled City of Lahore, the historic city’s wall has since been removed, but most of the site’s 13 gates still exist today, and visitors can reach the monumental Wazir Khan Mosque by passing through the Delhi Gate.
Built entirely out of small bricks, the mosque features four 33-meter minarets topped with five turnip-shaped domes.
Known for its colorful glazed tiles and picturesque mosaics, Wazir Khan Mosque may not compete with other places of worship on this list in terms of size, but it is easily one of the most beautiful religious complexes in the country today and is a must-visit landmark when touring Pakistan.
12. Rohtas Fort
Located within the Punjab Province of northern Pakistan, Rohtas Fortress is a 16th-century fortress attributed to the Afghan founder of the Sur Empire, Sher Shah Suri, who constructed the fortification as a strategic site for the defense of his new territory following his defeat of the Mughal emperor Humayun in 1541.
Through the following centuries, Rohtas Fortress was never taken by conquest, although it was ceded back to Humayan following the death of Sher Shah Suri in 1555.
Today, the fortress remains largely intact and is one of the best-preserved forts in Pakistan today. As a result, Rohtas Fort was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, with UNESCO referring to it as “an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of Central and South Asia.”
13. Khewra Salt Mine
Said to have been discovered by Alexander the Great’s horse as his troops marched through the Pakistani region during his conquests of Asia, Africa, and Europe in 320 BC, Khewra Salt Mine is considered to be the planet’s second largest salt mine, capable of outputting 325,000 tons of salt annually.
Covering an expansive 1120 square kilometers and depths reaching 228 meters laid out over 11 stories, the colossal mine features 40 kilometers of tunnel. The mines have become an iconic landmark in Pakistan and attract thousands of tourists each year to explore its monumental shafts.
Along with its historical complex, the mines also feature small salt structures popular amongst tourists, including the Badshahi Mosque and small salt models of the Great Wall of China and Lahore’s Shimla Hill.
14. Hiran Minar
Located within the Punjab Province of Pakistan, Hiran Minar is a beautiful monument set alongside a water-tank pool and was constructed in the early 16th century by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in honor of his beloved pet antelope.
Once a game reserve set aside for hosting the hunts of Mughal emperors, the site became witness to tragedy in 1606, when for whatever reason, Jahangir’s pet antelope known as Mansraj was struck down during one of his hunts.
The same year, construction began on the 30-meter-tall Minaret, which continues to serve as Minsraj’s tomb marker today. Over the following decades, the complex witnessed the addition of a massive water-tank pool, pavilion, and causeway, which all remain today in excellent condition.
Dedicated to perhaps the country’s most famous pet, Hiran Minar is one of the most iconic tomb landmarks in Pakistan today.
15. Derawar Fort
Originally built in the 9th century as Dera Rawal, Derawar Fort underwent a series of renovations in the 18th century following the Muslim takeover of the region from the Sahotra Tribe. Today, the monumental complex is an extensive fort consisting of forty giant sand castle-like bastions and a wall spanning a breathtaking 1500 meters in circumference and heights of 30 meters.
The massive fort stands colossal over the sprawling deserts of Pakistan’s Punjab region and is an ionic landmark along the horizons spottable for several miles in either direction. Derawar Fort can be visited by anyone, but its remote location requires a special guide to access while touring the inside of the complex requires special permission from the Amir of Bahawalpur.