Pakistan is a lovely country, but for those travellers who find themselves in its more arid area during the summer months, the sweltering temperature may well be too much for them to take unless they are used to it. Fortunately, the country has a lot of place where one may seek a bit of cooling air. In fact, near Islamabad is one of the places to go to once summer hits, a patch of land with rolling hills and old British edifices and cottages reflecting the Mock Tudor style that one may still find in some parts of England today. This is Murree, a place nestled in the western slopes of the Himalayas that stands at about 2,500 metres in altitude and which has a cool, nicely clement climate for most of the year.
When the British still used to occupy Pakistan, they would come to Murree to enjoy their summers and began to refer to it as the City of Hills due to its topography. The sobriquet persists today and also reflects the root of the official name of the city: “Murree” is said to have come from the local word for “an elevated place”. To some extent, one may well consider that meaning to have further layers of signification to it. After all, this has long been considered a fairly elite location for a vacation, with restrictions being applied for quite a while by the old British garrison to who could get in. Even now, some form of this exclusivity remains: many consider the academic institutions of the area to be among the most prestigious and expensive in the country.
Murree is, quite simply, a very charming place. The cool mountain air lets grow plants you would typically find in cool European forests, from pines and oak to bushes of cherries and raspberries thick with fruit. Go deep into the woods and out of the town and you may well spy a rare leopard or pheasant, or even more often, a sly-looking fox. This is the primary attraction to the town, actually: the sheer sense of serenity the surroundings offer as well as the kindness of its weather.
Of course, its history has something to do with its fame as well. It was used for British garrison along the North-East Frontier of the country in the middle of the 19th century. Part of the reason the place became so popular as a summer destination for the people in the area was that it was connected by rail to the capital of Punjab, Lahore. Even now, getting to the location is easy, especially if you take the road from Islamabad, which should take no longer than 2 hours, usually far less.
If you do decide to spend some time hobnobbing with the upper crust and savouring the remnants of colonial culture in Murree, be warned that you should avoid scheduling it in winter. Snow can get heavy in the city at that time, especially this close to the peaks of the Himalayas. Most of the tourist establishments may be shut down for the season as well.