Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan might be the most peaceful place in the world, despite what Western media has tried to tell us. Ninety-nine percent of Pakistan is just as safe as Europe, and Hunza Valley is even more peaceful than central Europe these days.
Hunza Valley is one of the main stops on the Legendary Karakoram Highway, and it´s a comfortable place to stay for days, if not weeks or even months. It’s truly a paradise valley.
Hunza Valley is divided into three geographic subdivisions, Upper Hunza, Central Hunza and Lower Hunza.
The central part of the valley is the most popular and the one people talks about when they say they are travelling to Hunza Valley.
Hunza Valley, A Real Shangri La Located in Pakistan.
Hunza valley is considered to be the epitome of travel locations in Pakistan. It is one of the first places to mind that come when foreigners and locals are looking to go for a vacation in the subcontinent. The encaptivating scenery of the valley is what has led tourists to coin the Hunza valley as paradise on earth.
My time at the valley was one of the most refreshing of all my trips, mainly because of the lively people and beautiful landscape that gives out countless feel-good vibes.
Read on ahead as I unravel my journey to the Hunza valley and present a complete guide on what to do, where to stay, and how to prepare for the lifetime trip to Hunza valley.
All You Need To Know About Hunza Valley:
Hunza valley is located at the Pakistan-China border in the Gilgit-Baltistan province. The state capital of Hunza is Karimabad that offers a breathtaking view of the Rakaposhi mountain.
Located at a height of 2438 meters, the weather in Hunza valley can go below 0°C and because of the closure of roads due to snow, the official tourism season is from May to October (during the summers).
People Of Hunza Valley:
The people of Hunza are known as the Hunzakuts who are fair-skinned and speak the almost unknown language Burushaski. Most of the locals in the region are Ismaili Muslims and are very generous in accommodating tourists.
You will find that you are always welcomed in the hotels, restaurants, cafés, and homes of the people of Hunza valley. One of the best parts of visiting the valley for me was to get to know about the history and culture of the locals there.
How To Get To Hunza valley?
Once you are in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, you have two options to reach Hunza valley. The first is to take a flight directly to Gilgit airport and then make a short 2-3 hour drive to Hunza valley. There are several rental van services that you can choose from to get from Gilgit to Hunza. You can find regular flights between Gilgit and Islamabad through PIA, but all flights are subject to delays due to weather clearance. This option is simpler but far less exciting than the second option.
The second option is to take a 24-hour bus directly from Islamabad, witnessing the beauty of Karakoram, Skardu, and Kaghan valley on the way. Like me, if you love exploring new places, then I would recommend taking the drive and staying overnight at some of the must-visit places in Pakistan such as Naran.
Once you are in Hunza valley, private vehicles are primarily used for transportation, and most people rent out jeeps for the duration of their tour. You can get to the different cities within Hunza via bus or through your own rented transport as well. The first stop is the state capital, i.e. Karimabad.
Preparing For A Trip To Hunza Valley:
Next up is how you should prepare for the trip to Hunza, including all the things that you will need to get by. This can be a long list depending on how long you plan your trip for, but in general, the most essential items that you will need for travelling to Hunza valley are:
Trekking and Hiking Gear: There are quite a few trekking and hiking locations in Hunza valley and nearby such as the Baltit Fort and Ultar Base Camp. Most of the time, particularly in Karimabad and other cities, you will have to walk through slightly hilly terrains so you should keep your big boots with you for the trip.
Food Items and Water Bottles: If you choose to go to Hunza through road via bus then keep in mind that there are not a lot of stops where you will find food and water supplies. When in Islamabad, it is advised that you keep basic food items and a few water bottles with you to quench the thirst along the way.
Local Sim Card: There are no service centers to register sim cards for you in Hunza valley so you will have to purchase a local sim card either from Islamabad or from Gilgit. The internet speed is not fantastic, but you get EDGE internet speeds and sometimes even 3G in those parts, so it is sufficient to get by.
Travel Essentials: Keep your sunblock, warm clothes, spare pair of boots, and camping gear with you when travelling to Hunza valley (if you will be visiting other places or want to hike to the mountain ranges).
As for the daily budget for your trip, it can range between 4000 PKR to 5000 PKR which includes accommodation and three sizeable meals at the local cafés. You will not find anything too expensive and should be able to get by in as little as 1500 PKR as well if you prefer walking over renting out jeeps and sleeping in dorms.
Where To Stay In Hunza Valley?
Hunza valley is one of the most popular tourist sites in the country, and there are many hotels that you can choose from to stay in. My experience is that there is very little difference between the hotels in terms of costs and facilities, but it comes down to the view.
There is the Old Hunza Inn that can cost up to 2500 PKR for a single or double bedroom (depending on availability). The hotel has an exquisite view of the Rakaposhi and Diran peaks so you can admire the beauty every night before you go to sleep.
Another option to choose from is the Hunza Serene Inn that is a little more expensive and can go as high as 7000 PKR per night but provides a view of the surrounding valleys and a fantastic view of the Baltit Fort.
Other hotels where you can stay are the Hilltop Hotel, Hunza Valley Hotel, and Fairy Land Hotel though most of them offer basic accommodation services. The Wi-Fi services available are nothing to brag about since you barely get good speeds there but other than that, everything is quite adequate for the average traveller.
Top Things To See And Do In Hunza Valley.
Now we move on to what makes Hunza valley a real Shangri La: the spectacular mountain ranges, the eye-catching valleys, and the tranquil rivers. Here are some of the must-visit locations in Hunza valley.
The Baltit Fort is a majestic fort that was built back in 800 BC, and it is located on the top of a hill overlooking Karimabad. It is one of the most prominent and awe-inspiring landmarks in the entire valley, surrounded by its snowy mountains and ancient design.
To get to Baltit Fort, you will need to climb up a steep hill for about 15 minutes. From the fort, you can get a magnificent view of Karimabad, its surrounding valleys, and the Rakaposhi peaks. Once you set your eyes on the Baltit Fort, you will realise why everyone coins Hunza valley as paradise.
As the name suggests, the Eagles Nest is one of the most popular viewpoints in Hunza valley that provides a glorious view of the entire valley, particularly during sunrise or sunset. It is a 30-minute steep drive from Karimabad, but once you reach the Eagles Nest Hotel and see the break of dawn over Hunza valley, you will forget everything else for that incredible moment.
Cafe de Hunza:
Café de Hunza is the most famous eatery in the valley, and it is at a five-minute walking distance from the Serena Inn. If you are craving for some amazing local food, then you must visit Café de Hunza. The must-haves at the café include the pancakes and Hunza walnut cake. This is also one of the very few locations where you will get decent Wi-Fi connectivity and internet speeds as well.
The Altit Fort And Village:
Like Baltit Fort, the Altit Fort is an ancient landmark in Hunza though it’s not as well maintained as the former. The Altit Fort and surrounding village are at the bottom of the Hunza valley, and you can get there by following the Sultanabad road.
The interior is not as impressive as that of the Baltit Fort, but the exterior of the fort and its surroundings are a memorable sight indeed.
Attabad Lake was formed because of a massive landslide that occurred in the Attabad village back in 2010. It is a point where two mountains meet, and the flow of the Hunza river is stopped. The lake is one of the most peaceful locations in the entire valley, and if you are looking for some alone time with nature, then this is a must-visit for you.
Gulmit is a historic town that is centuries old and is known for its hospitable and generous locals. If you want to enjoy a peaceful walk as you admire the beauty of nature, then go up to Upper Hunza to Gulmit. It is a popular tourist spot that has numerous museums and hamlets where you can learn about the rich history and culture of the Hunzakuts.
Ultar Base Camp:
If you love hiking, then there is an opportunity for about a day’s hike at Karimabad. You start near the Baltit fort and go up to the Ultar Base Camp, which is near the Ultar peaks.
You can see the glacier and the remarkable jagged peaks of Ultar once you hike all the way up to the base camp.
If you want, you can camp at the Ultar Base Camp or return to Karimabad within a day.
All in all, the scenery of the Ultar glacier and peaks will make the hike worthwhile for you.
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