Top Things To In Peshawar
Peshawar has a lot to offer and luckily a big chunk of touristy places aren’t far from each other. If you follow the places in the order below, you should be able to make the most of your trip. These are my top things to do in Peshawar.
Bab e Khyber & Jamrud Fort
Important: This is the wild Wild West version of Pakistan even more dangerous. Take a local with you and definitely don’t go alone flouting your expensive camera and phones. Things can change here in seconds and you’ll be on your own.
This seemingly small arch has huge important. It is the icon of Peshawar and the entire province of KPK which Peshawar is capital of. It took us about 30-40 minutes from University road because the traffic is Karkhano Market on the way is really crazy and road is congested. Once we crossed the market, the old tribal area started. This is the crazy land where police has no jurisdiction yet (it is work in progress). Things can change in minutes and arms and ammunition as well as drugs are traded like apples and oranges. It is a fascinating place nevertheless.
The road is small and traffic from Torkham border is crazy. There wasn’t much to do after a few photos except for a sneak peak of Jamrud Fort. It is an old fort which is under army control and visiting isn’t allowed for tourists. Such a shame!
This beautiful and massive fort is located on University Rod and sadly under Pakistan Army control. You won’t be able to enter but that doesn’t mean you can appreciate the scale, magnitude and it’s architecture. When you see the flyover turn left to the side and you will be able to see the other side of the building.
Entrance – Free
One of the most beautiful and grand building in the entire country but I love it for a few reasons:
1- The building is beautiful and well maintained, the style has been applied even to the later additions to the complex.
2- Away from the craziness of old city of Peshawar, i could actually sit in the lawn and appreciate the beauty of this place. It is a little oasis with plenty of flowers and greenery.
3- My mother and grandfather both are alumni, the most important reason for me personally.
To get to Islamia College, I headed to University road. After crossing the first barrier, just ask for the directions to Chemistry department. The office of Vice Chancellor is right behind and after that is the lawn. The entire building is right in front and a real stunner. It was the first college in the entire province and was built with support of many grandees of the area.
The best time to appreciate it is the golden hour, the students walking around or sitting in the lawns, light fading and birds singing and flying around. This is one place not to miss in Peshawar.
Entrance – Free
Sunehri mosque or the Golden Mosque is one of the newer additions to Peshawar relatively. Despite its name it is a beautiful pink colour adorned with white decorative work. It is located in the Saddar area and perhaps the only place of significance in this part of the city. I went in the morning first thing and found the mosque empty. The staff was the friendliest guys who were happy to show me around.
The courtyard isn’t symmetrical which adds to the beauty of this building. The tea pink colour was glistening in the sunlight. It is also well maintained with matching fans and a rather simple interior for main prayer hall except for the arch of Imam (leader of the prayers).
I spent a good hour roaming around, enjoying the serenity when the world outside the door was ridiculously busy.
Chowk Yadgar (Hasting’s Memorial)
The main intersection of the old city of Peshawar, the Chowk is one of the business places I. The entire city. It has been turned into an underground parking now and a small area is available to stand and enjoy the view. It is the convergence point of the walled city of Peshawar. Each road leads to a different market or bazar. I just stood there and looks around and most facades and balconies from first floor were really beautiful but dilapidated). It is a great place to watch people.
Ghanta Ghar (Sir Cunningham Clock Tower)
A small walk from Chowk Yadgar is the Ghanta Ghar or clock tower. It is located at the end of a very busy street and other than the fact that it is a pink tall tower with a clock face there’s nothing else that’s interesting. (I am not sure what I was expecting but it is on the way to Sethi house and historic street and a good guide point.
Mahabat Khan Mosque
Entrance – Free
One of the most precious gems in Peshawar passing it’s days in relative ignominy, this is a Mughal era building from 1630. The facade of the building is made of white marble and decorated extensively inside. To get to the mosque I arrived at the Chowk Yadgar and then headed to Sarafa bazar (gold market), it was located just after a few metres to the right. Before going in though, I looked up and within the tangled web of electric wires, I could see the facades of neighbouring houses, the beautiful balconies made with intricately carved wood was breathtaking even in this dilapidated state. The mosque has a small entrance by its scale and the shops with their bling take over the limelight.
The exterior of the mosque was being renovated and the central courtyard was covered as well, not much I could see there. That’s rather irrelevant though because the real gem lies inside, the interior of the main prayer hall.
At first glance it reminded me of the Wazir Khan Mosque from Lahore. The detailed painted work inside the entire place is breathtaking. Every arch, every wall, every nook and cranny is decorated. The most beautiful are the domes. Sadly the structure has been ruined by addition of ceiling fans and ugly fluorescent lighting. It impresses like no where else in Peshawar though.
You must go in the morning though before lunch if you want to see the place uninterrupted otherwise you’ll be asked to wait for prayers to finish.
Note: While the most beautiful and elaborate, if you get time do check out other mosques from Mughal era as well. These include Masjid Dilawar Khan, Masjid Qasim Ali Khan in Qissa Khwani Bazaar and Masjid Gunj Ali Khan, all situated inside the Walled City, which date back to the 1600s.
Qissa Khuwani & Khyber Bazar
Qissa means story and Khuwan means teller. This si the market of story tellers. In olden times, merchants from all over would come trade here and stay around. To entertain them, storytellers would sit with samawar’s (giant tanks to heat water for qehva (green tea with cardamom), you wills still see them in Qissa Khuwani bazar.
To arrive here, I headed to Khyber Bazar and then walked through the streets. I loved the old balconies on main road but there isn’t much left here and the place is hot bed of trading activity which is at its peak during the day. It was sad to see most of the place being destroyed, I would recommend skipping it and heading to Sethi houses and historic streets which is a much better place to spend time and appreciate the architecture.
Khyber bazar is the same and the only interesting thing to see are the street food vendors selling a lot of different types of things you won’t find elsewhere.
Historic Street (Bazaar Kalan) & Sethi House
Entrance – PKR 10 local, 500 foreigner, 300 for still photography
The Sethis were a rich and noble family, some of the richest people in Peshawar and around. They built this house as a place to show off. To arrive here, I headed to the historic street from Ghanta Ghar or clock tower. The street is lined with beautiful buildings, wooden balconies and wooden arches. It is also quite a busy place but traffic seems to die down by the end.
Sethi house is located inside a small street and doesn’t look much from outside. It changed completely when I entered the courtyard.
There is a small fountain in the middle with wood work covering all 4 walls. The detailed carving on the wood mixed with coloured wood are really unique and a signature of artists of Peshawar. This was the best way to show off your wealth. The rooms were adorned with wooden ceilings and detailed patterns with mirror work on the walls in line with main window in the wooden wall. I felt like royalty just walking around these beautiful corridor like rooms that seamlessly merged into one another.
The house is built on three levels, the basement was simple, the roof was interesting though and fashioned multiple styles of woodwork.
Fun Fact: The Sethis went bankrupt when Soviet Union collapsed. People used to have strong connection to USSR for trade and Rouble was used as reserve currency. Their entire stash of roubles became worthless overnight.
Tehsil Park (Gorkhatri) and Gorakh Nath Temple Ruins
The end of historic street or Bazaar Kalan is a giant gate for Gorkhatri which is an ancient site. During Mughal era, a Caravan Sarai was built to facilitate the travellers. The site is location of an ancient stupa called Kanishk’s Stupa as well as the giant brown of Buddha. The entire complex was closed during my visit during my visit so I sadly couldn’t visit. It is definitely worth a visit and offers despite from the craziness of old city.
Peshawar is a city of glorious past that still has the look of a granny that smiles with the memories of a past when she was the Belle off he ball. It is just not there yet when it comes to tourism but I hope it does, soon. It has a lot to show and offer.