The city is well known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high-standard educational institutions and for hosting the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. It remains a popular hill station attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
Abbottabad was founded and named after Major James Abbott in January 1853 as the headquarters of Hazara District during the British Raj after the annexation of Punjab. He remained the first Deputy Commissioner of the Hazara district from 1849 until April 1853. Major Abbott is noted for having written a poem titled "Abbottabad", before his return to Britain, in which he wrote of his fondness for the town and his sadness at having to leave it.
In the early 20th century, Abbottabad became an important military cantonment and sanatorium, serving as the headquarters of a brigade in the Second Division of the Northern Army Corps. The garrison consisted of four battalions of native infantry, of the Frontier Force (including the 5th Gurkha Rifles) and two native mountain batteries.
In 1901, the population of the town and cantonment was 7,764 with an average income of Rs. 14,900. This increased to Rs. 22,300 in 1903, chiefly derived from octroi. During this time chief public institutions were built such as the Albert Victor Unaided Anglo-Vernacular High School, the Municipal Anglo-Vernacular High School and the government dispensary. In 1911, the population had risen to 11,506 and the town contained four battalions of Gurkhas. In June 1948, the British Red Cross opened a hospital in Abbottabad to deal with thousands of injured being brought in from Kashmir.
In October 2005 Abbottabad was devastated by the Kashmir earthquake. Although most of Abbottabad survived, many older buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.
On 25 January 2011, Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek was arrested in Abbotobad. Patek, a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group, was wanted in connection with a deadly series of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000, and three attacks that killed 202 people in tourist districts of Indonesia in what became known as the Bali bombings.
On 2 May 2011, Abbottabad gained worldwide attention when U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in his compound in the city. In February 2012, nine months after bin Laden was killed, Pakistani authorities demolished the compound where Osama bin Laden had lived for years.
The city is bounded at all four sides by the Sarban hills, from which residents and tourists can see breathtaking views of the region and city. The location of the city and the hills allows Abbottabad to experience pleasant weather in the summer and cold winters. The Dor river flows south of Abbottabad through the town of Harnol, eventually reaching Tarbela Dam, west of Abbottabad. Neighbouring districts are Mansehra to the north, Muzaffarabad to the east, Haripur to the west and Islamabad Capital Territory to the south.
Abbottabad is in the Orash Valley lying between 34°92′N latitude and 73°13′E longitude at an altitude of 4,120 feet (1,260 m). To the north is the picturesque Kaghan Valley.
Abbottabad has a humid subtropical climate, with mild to warm temperatures during the spring and autumn months, hot temperatures during June and July, and cool to mild temperatures during the winter. The temperature can rise as high as 38 °C (100 °F) during the mid-summer months and drop below −5 °C (23 °F) during the extreme cold waves. Snowfall occurs occasionally in December and January, though it is sparse, while heavy rainfall occurs during the monsoon season stretching from July to September that frequently cause flooding in lower lying parts of the city.
Abbottabad is the headquarters of Hazara Division and Abbottabad District. The District Nazim, Commissioner, Deputy Inspector General of police and Forest Conservator, all reside in Abbottabad. The city is divided into localities, towns, colonies and neighbourhoods. In addition to the civil administration, the town is also the regimental headquarters for the Frontier Force Regiment, the Baloch Regiment and Pakistan Army Medical Corps and Kakul Military Academy is also located in Abbottabad.
Abbottabad's economy is largely based on tourism. It is known for its shady gardens, church bells and wide streets in the Old Cantonment which evoke the British colonial era.
Abbottabad has been attracting tourists to the city since the colonial era, as it is a major transit point to all major tourist regions of Pakistan such as Nathiagali, Ayubia and Naran. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India, "the town is picturesquely situated at the southern corner of the Rash (Orash) plain, 4,120 feet (1,260 m) above the sea".
Like much of the mountainous Northern Areas, tourism is an important source of income in Abbottabad. In the summer when temperatures rise to around 45 degrees Celsius in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a large number of tourists travel to Abbottabad.
The Karakoram Highway, which traces one of the paths of the ancient Silk Road, starts from Hasan Abdal on the N5 and heads north passing through the city, eventually reaching Khunjerab Pass. The Karakorum Highway is a major attraction itself for its views. The Karakoram, Himalayas and the Hindu Kush ranges can be approached from Abbottabad, and it continues to be a transit city for tourists, serving as a base for visiting nearby places, such as Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Indus Kohistan, of the Karakoram Range.
Abbottabad is popular with those looking to relocate. Its weather, peaceful reputation and the perceived security of a garrison have drawn many from other cities to work or educate their children. There was an influx of migrants from Azad Kashmir after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, another from the Swat District during military operations against militants in 2009 and 2010, and from Waziristan after the army launched major operations against the Taliban in 2009. There is an under construction £19m amusement park in the city on a 50-acre site is includes a zoo, adventure sports facilities, restaurants and artificial waterfalls.
Some popular tourist destinations in and around Abbottabad include:
Mandian is the northern part of Abbottabad city. The population of this area is 100,000. The word mandian means fruit or vegetable markets: It is a center of commerce with markets and businesses. Today Mandian is a busy hub of the city.
Mandian is also known as Missile Chowk, because a Ghori missile is installed there.
Many renowned schools and colleges are in Mandian like Brook Montessori and School System, Government Postgraduate College Mandian, Army Burn Hall College, Wisdom House Public School, Pakistan International Public School and College (PIPS) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa University of Engineering & Technology Abbottabad Campus. Ayub Medical College and COMSAT Institute of Information Technology Abbottabad campus is 1 km away to the north from Mandian on main Karakoram Highway in Mirpur and Abbottabad Public School, Abbottabad International Medical College and Frontier Medical College is 5 km away on the same highway from Mandian, in the northern end of Abbottabad city.
Mandian has a small industrial estate, which promotes medium- and small-scale industries and provides employment to hundreds of people.
Abbottabad has one of the country's highest literacy rates with 67% in 2007, and 87% in 2011 ranking first in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and second overall in Pakistan. The city has a young demographic (ages 15–30) due to the large number of students who have come from across the country to study in its schools, for example PIPS, Army Burn Hall College, Army Public College and Abbottabad Public School.
The city has a wide variety of post-secondary institutions, such as Ayub Medical College, Frontier Medical College, COMSATS University of Science and Technology, and the University of Engineering & Technology.
Abbottabad is home to the Pakistan Military Academy, a four-year coeducational federal service military academy that provides training to the officers of the Pakistan Army. The academy has three training battalions and 12 companies. Another 2,000 guests each year, from over 34 countries, receive some training at PMA.
According to the Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2014, Abbottabad is ranked 37 out of 146 districts in Pakistan in the quality of education. For facilities and infrastructure, the district is ranked 67 out of 146. A detailed picture of the district’s education performance is available online.
Electronic and Print media is actively playing its role in Abbottabad. Cable Net Hazara is the largest cable operators of the region providing Pakistani channels to the masses. Kay 2 TV is the Hindko channel of the area.
There are daily newspapers published in Abbottabad. Some of the newspapers are Roznama AAJ, Roznama Shamal, Kay 2 Times, Roznama Pine, Weekly Manzar and the Hindko newspaper Chaita. The Daily Mahasib, published since 1997, is a local newspaper.
With the boom of social media websites like HCP are active in providing news to people of the region and is the first online portal of the Hazara Division.
The Abbottabad Falcons are the professional cricket team of Abbottabad who plays in the national Twenty 20 and List A cricket tournaments. Apart from cricket, field hockey and taekwondo are the other popular sports. Sports facilities in the city include:Abbottabad Cricket Stadium
Abbottabad Hockey Stadium
Jalal Baba Cricket Stadium Malik Pura
Abasin Karate & Martial Arts Training Center
Jansher Khan Squash Complex
Kunj Football Stadium
Nawanshehr Football Ground
Dhamtour Football Ground
Banda Lamba Football Ground
Barrahottar Cricket Stadium
Abbottabad's main public transport consists of modified taxis: pick-up Suzukis vans, which can accommodate anywhere from 1 to 14 people at one time. Taxis are available as well as wagons that connect Abbottabad to surrounding cities and towns (ex. Nawanshahr, Nathiagali, Sherwan, Dhamtour, Haripur, Mansehra) in the region.
Abbottabad is also served by Daewoo Express and Niazi Express, the NATCO, Skyways and many other bus services. Pakistan Railways does not serve Abbottabad. However, a PR Reservation Office is in Fawara Chowk in the city centre. The nearest railway station is in Havelian, which is the last and most northern station on the Pakistan Railway network. The station is approximately thirty minutes drive south from Abbottabad city centre.