Hunza Valley tourism is considered to be the epitome of travel in Pakistan. It is one of the first places that come to mind when foreigners and locals are looking to go for a vacation in the country.
The encaptivating scenery of the valley is what has led tourists to coin the Hunza valley as a 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 trip of a lifetime.
All You Need To Know About Hunza Valley
There are a couple of things to take into consideration when deciding if this is the place for your next holiday.
The location, climate, and the locals are usually the three most important factors in regards to making this decision.
Where is Hunza Valley?
Hunza valley is located at the Pakistan-China border in the Gilgit-Baltistan province. The state capital of Hunza is Karimabad which offers a breathtaking view of the Rakaposhi mountains.
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 worthy of the name 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 talk about when they say they are traveling to the area.
Is Hunza Valley Safe?
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 the country is just as safe as Europe, and Hunza Valley is even more peaceful than central Europe these days.
Located at the height of 2438 meters above sea level, the weather in Hunza valley can go below 0°C. And due to the closure of roads because of the snow, the official tourism season is from May to October (during the summers). This is the best time to visit Hunza.
Hunza Valley sits among the mountains, and this means that the summers here are moderate, reaching a maximum of 31 degrees Celcius at its peak.
Hunza Valley People
The Hunza people are known as the Hunzakuts, who are fair-skinned and speak an almost unknown language, Burushaski. Most of the locals in the region are Ismaili Muslims and are very generous and accommodating to tourists.
You will find that you are always welcomed in the hotels, restaurants, cafés, and homes of the Hunzakuts.
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 Pakistan
To get to Hunza Valley from Islamabad, you will have to travel 320km. Once you are in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, you have two options to travel to Hunza valley.
The first is to take a flight directly to Gilgit airport and then take a short 2-3 hour drive to Hunza Valley.
The Gilgit to Hunza distance is about 100km. 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 with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), but all flights are subject to delays due to weather clearance. This option is simpler but far less exciting than the alternate option.
The most scenic option is to take a 24-hour bus directly from Islamabad to Hunza Valley. Witness the beauty of Karakoram, Skardu, and Kaghan valley on the way. There´s no direct bus from Lahore to Hunza Valley.
If, like me, you love exploring new places, then I would recommend taking the long trip and staying overnight at some of the must-visit places in Pakistan, such as Naran.
Especially since the Islamabad to Hunza distance is so moderate.
Getting Around in Hunza Pakistan
Once you are in Hunza valley, private vehicles are primarily used for transportation, and most people rent Jeeps for the duration of their tour.
You can get to the different cities within Hunza via bus or with your rented transport as well. Your first stop, however, should be the state capital of Karimabad.
Preparing for a Travel to Hunza Valley Pakistan
Next up is how you should prepare for the trip to Hunza, including all the things that you will need to survive the day-to-day.
The length of this list depends on how long you plan your trip for, but in general, the essential items that you will need for traveling to Hunza Valley are the same.
Trekking & 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, you will have to walk through hilly terrain, so you should keep your hiking boots on hand for the duration of the trip.
Food Items & Drinking Water
If you choose to go to Hunza by 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 stock up on basic food items and a few water bottles with you to quench your 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 will get EDGE internet speeds and sometimes even 3G in some parts, so it is sufficient to get by.
Keep your sunblock, warm clothes, spare pair of dry boots, and camping gear with you when traveling to Hunza valley (especially 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 and camping to renting out jeeps and sleeping in dorms.
Places To Visit in Hunza Valley
There are many wonderful places to visit in the Hunza Valley. These spots are not very commercial, so you’re sure to get the most authentic experience out of staying here.
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 built with 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 realize 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 within a five-minute walking distance from the Serena Inn. If you are craving some amazing local food, then you must visit Café de Hunza.
The must-haves at the café include the pancakes and the 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 & 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 lake is a must-visit for you.
And if you want to stay at one of the most spectacular hotels in all of Pakistan, so is Luxus Hunza, the place to stay, right on the shore of Attabad Lake.
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 visit Gulmit in Upper Hunza.
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 a great hike at Karimabad that should take roughly a full day to complete.
You start the hike 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 up to the base camp.
If you want, you can camp at the 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.
Final Thoughts on Hunza Valley Tourism
It’s pretty apparent from the above photos that Hunza Valley is a special place. The views, the experiences, and the hospitality of the locals are all world-class.
If you are planning to visit Hunza Valley, you are guaranteed to have a good time. However, it is important to remember that the area pretty much shuts down in the winter due to the heavy snowfall. The best time for Hunza tourism is in the Spring and Summer months.
It is fairly accessible (Hunza Valley distance from Islamabad is only 320km), and you can get to the valley by air or by bus. It is also relatively inexpensive, with your daily budget being around 30 USD for accommodation and food. What a steal!
Pack your bags, make sure your camera is fully charged and head off to Hunza Valley now.