Hunza Travel Guide By The Locals

By Seema Ghadir

Why Hunza?

Hunza Valley is situated in the farthest north of Pakistan, on the border with China to the North and Afghanistan to the West. The inhabitants belong to three particular ethnicities, and speak three of the oldest and most unique languages of the world: Burushaski, Shina, and Wakhi.

The people of Hunza are considered the friendliest of Pakistanis. They have the longest life expectancy and have the most natural lifestyle. Living in the middle of lush green fields, surrounded by even greener hills and further enclosed by snow-capped mountains is the closest a human can be to nature. One can get all of this in this blessed place.

Image source: hunzaexplorers.com

Now, who wouldn’t want to make a trip to the enthralling Hunza Valley? The only concern is how to make the best of that excursion. There are so many stunning landscapes around the valley that it would be a shame to not see even one of them.

We are here to help you, so that you can make the most out of your tour with expert guides. When we take care of all your logistics, you get more time to have a better experience from the tour, that you wouldn’t have otherwise had on your own.

Welcome to Hunza!

When to go?

Hunza is beautiful to travel to throughout the year. It is very colorful in the spring – Mid February to May, when the almond trees have blossomed in pink, white and orange-ish hues. Comfortable accommodation can be found, even though the valley would be a lot colder and quieter than it is in the summers.

Image source: hunzaadventuretours.com.pk

It is from June to August that Hunza is at its best. It is extremely pleasant during the day, sometimes hotter, but the evenings are always cold and you need a light jacket, sweater or shawl to keep off the cold. This time, Hunza is full of the hustle and bustle of local and foreign tourists, and the local inhabitants.

Autumn in Hunza is also a great image to behold. The valley seems like a huge canvas of extremely delicate oil painting, where the painter has used all shades of orange, red, green and yellow in perfect blends. Some hotels close their business for the season, but you can always get accommodation.

image source: hunzaadventuretours.com

Winters in Hunza are icy and cold. You need to have your warmest clothes with you. It snows sometimes, but that cannot be said for every year. Accommodations can be found where the hoteliers go to great lengths to provide hot bath water and heating arrangements in the rooms.

The temperature reaches a maximum of 27 º C in summers. In winters, it can go as low as 2 ° C.

Where to start?

It is all very exciting. You can reach Gilgit city either using your own travel preferences; by air, rent-a-car and travel though Babusar Top, or be a little economical and use the NATCO bus service. Once you have reached Gilgit, you have achieved a milestone in your travel experience. After this, all is easy and exciting.

Get into a local van, hire a jeep or drive your own car, climb onto the newly remodeled metallic road and enter different valleys through the Karakorum Highway. This wondrous road slithers through plains and terraced rocky mountains and hills altogether. There is a somewhat adventure in the highs and lows and turns of this incredibly built road. It is a scene in itself; you are in the vehicle in the middle of the road and on one side, you see mountains and on the other side, you see the river Hunza in all its glamor.  Alongside, the breathtaking views of the green fields and snowcapped mountains that follow you everywhere will enthrall you.

Be sure to stop by the Rakaposhi view point in Nagar Valley, before entering the Hunza Valley. You’ll get an epic view of the Rakaposhi Mountain at all its marvels. Feel the cool breeze on your faces, blown by the third highest mountain in the world itself and praise the splendor with which it stands there.

Image source: http://nativepakistan.com

Where to go?

The first place to go with the most commotion is Aliabad, which also is the commercial hub of the valley. You will be able to witness an array of visualizations here; old Hunza men in their traditional attire making their way across the streets, small low shops that have wooden twin doors and high, big mirrored shops. It is basically the perfect blend of the traditional old Hunza and the one trying to keep pace with modern times. You will be able to shop for basic commodities- toiletries, edibles, snacks and some shacks that provide Pakistani meals. There aren’t a lot of “good” restaurants in Aliabad, but the restaurants there will still fill your tummy in just a small amount of money.

Above Aliabad is the old, but small city of Karimabad, also known as Baltit. Going to this part of Hunza is another narrative. You go through another slithering road up, up, up the lush green hills that have a line of poplar trees, standing parallel. You witness several hotels and restaurants built in perfectly scenic spots. This –abad is basically the place that has the most in store for you. There is a 600-year-old fort, very much visible once you get there. A lot of handicraft, carpet, and shawl shops are available, as are shops that have mountaineering ‘stuff”.

Baltit Fort – Image Source umairadeeb Flickr.com

Altit is another place which is a must go. This place has a 900-year-old fort, which had been rehabilitated not so long ago by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Heritage. You get a guided tour of the fort and enlighten yourself with a bit of the history of the valley. Altit also has the royal garden just below the fort, which provided a soothing moment to relax after the visit of the fort. Don’t forget to check in at the Serena Hotel Hunza Kitchen. It is popular for serving delicious traditional cuisines of the Hunza Valley.

Altit Fort – Image Source: lukexmartin Flickr.com

Gojal Valley, also known as Upper Hunza, is yet another fascination for travelers. The valley comprises small villages in the extreme north of Aliabad and Karimabad. You will enter Gojal Valley through the recently constructed and popular Pak-China Friendship Tunnels. The tunnels are situated along the popular Attabad Lake. When you arrive in Gulmit village, you can indulge yourself in a number of experiences.

In Gulmit, you can visit the community schools that are exemplary education imparting institutes, go for boating in the Attabad Lake, go fishing in the Gojal River, trek to Zhrav, visit Borith Lake, and trek to the surrounding villages and hamlets. There is a fabled fort called Ondra Fort in Gulmit. Although it is in ruins now, it does provide an excellent view of the Attaabad Lake and half of the Gojal valley.

Gulmit – Image source: Johannes Zielcke Flickr.com

On your way to Khunjerab Pass, you stop in Passu village, that is surrounded by two splendid glaciers on each side. There are some very good restaurants in Passu as well. The famous apricot cake is a must taste. You can stop by to marvel at the renowned Passu Cones, Passu Peak or Passu Cathedrals, as it is known by all of these names.

Passu – Image Source: Khalid Bukhari Flickr.com

Top Experiences

Hunza offers you a lot of memories to gather. We have summed up some of the coolest endeavors here:

Top Eateries

There are a lot of chefs at the local restaurants, who have created their own unique recipes and do not like to share it with others. Thus to enjoy these delicacies, one must pay them a special visit. When you are in Aliabad, you must try the yak meat pizza at the Café De Pamir. You would also relish the scrumptious Walnut Cake, only available at Café De Hunza in Karimabad.

Walnut cake image source: youlinmagazine.com

In Passu Gojal, the famous Apricot Cake is a lip-smacking snack. Most of the restaurants also have local dishes on their menus. Local dishes in Hunza are mostly an amalgamation of wheat flour, butter, milk and apricot oil – sounds fatty, but is extremely delicious.

Drying out apricots in Hunza Image source: pinimg.com

Food Tour

You also have an option to experience an exclusive food tour, which involves home chefs preparing you authentic Hunza cuisine in a beautiful historic site. Indulge in a personalized Hunza food tour, with unmatched local hospitality in traditional settings to enjoy some: Dawo: Clear soup with vegetable, chicken and home-made noodles, then there is Burosh Chapik: A kind of bread made in home-made local cheese, with whole wheat flour sourced from the local village and Hoi Garma: Local green vegetable (howi) mixed with chapatti and apricot oil.

Image source: Chefling Tales

Hoi Garma  Image source: Chefling Tales.com

Top Lodgings

The valley has a lot of hotels, small inns and guest houses that provide comfortable accommodation at a very reasonable price. You need to be patient and compare prices along with the services, to confirm where to check in.

You can also opt for camping in the green lawn of most hotels where sometimes the hotels provide the tents. You may also bring your own tents. Here is our list of the best places:

  1. Eagle’s Nest Hotel Duikar

This hotel is located at the highest point in Hunza, above Altit on a rocky hill Duikar. It is true to it’s name and provides an excellent view of the valley. The rooms are reasonably decorated and there are electric heaters in the rooms, in case the temperature falls down. Free WiFi is available in the rooms and in the lobby. The food is also really good, cooked in the artistically built kitchen outside. If you are a view fanatic and would not compromise on comfort, this is the place for you.

Image source: Eagle’s Nest Hotel, Hunza Facebook.com

  1. Hunza Serena Inn

Situated at the beginning of the Karimabad village, Serena provides a great view of the Hunza Valley from most rooms. It’s not a very large sized hotel and has a limited capacity. It is artistically furnished in local style, is clean and well maintained. The hotel restaurant, Osho Maraka, provides an outstanding view of the valley, as well as fairly good food. The rooms are neat and well furnished. The service is very good.

They provide free Internet. The hotel lawn and adjacent garden is beautiful and full of fruit trees and flowers. The overall ambiance of the whole setup is great.

 Image source: Hunza Serena Inn Facebook.com

  1. Hotel Hunza Embassy

Hunza Embassy in Karimabad is a large hotel, with both tidy and large rooms. It also provides a great view of surrounding snow capped hills. Car parking is also available. The room rates are reasonable.

Image source: Hunza Embassy Hotel Facebook.com

Hotels in Gojal Valley/Upper Hunza

You can opt for staying further north from Hunza across the Attabad Lake. Gojal Valley also provides excellent hotels with admirable services, at an extremely reasonable price. Staying in Gojal can actually save you a lot of time during your trip, where you can check in one of these hotels and roam around or visit the Khunjerab Pass, come back, rest for the night as the distance between villages in Gojal and Khunjerab Pass is less than it is between Hunza.

  1. Hunza Marco Polo Inn-Gulmit Gojal

Hunza Marco Polo Inn is located in Gulmit. The hotel offers the best view of the snowcapped mountains. Gulmit Town is a point offering the entire mountain peaks in the vicinity. The staff is courteous. The hotel’s restaurant has Pakistani, Chinese, local, and continental dishes on their ala Carte menu. The rooms are good and the price is relatively higher.

Image source Hunza Marcopolo Inn, Gulmit Facebook.com
  1. Gulmit Continental Hotel-Gulmit Gojal

The hotel is clean, tidy and well maintained, and it offers spectacular views of the village and the surrounding peaks. The owner is a super friendly, polite, knowledgeable and helpful person.

Image source: Gulmit Continental Hotel Facebook.com

  1. Passu Ambassador Hotel-Passu Gojal

The Passu Ambassador is a small hotel along the Karakorum Highway, approximately 1.5-2 hours away from Karimabad in the Hunza Valley. It is a hotel built in the right place, where you get a mesmerizing view of the Passu Cathedrals. The staff here is extremely cooperative and go to great lengths to make your stay comfortable. The rooms are reasonably furnished. There is a parking lot and camping site. The food standard is reviewed extensively to be the best in the region.

Image source: Passu Ambassador Hotel Facebook.com

  1. Sarai Silk Route – Passu Gojal

The rooms were nice, clean and homely. The staff is really nice and polite. There was a nice, big garden outside for the kids to play in and for camping. The hotel and the staff was so good that it felt like you owned the place. I really recommend this hotel.

Image source: Sarai Silk Route Facebook.com

  1. Shisper View Hotel Passu Gojal

This hotel is in Passu Gojal and comes at the very beginning of the beautiful village. It is small, but it offers all the basic necessities one would ask for. Nice and clean rooms are available, as are quality meals at cheaper rates. Their chef is an amazing cook. Besides that, it offers a scenic view of the village and rugged mountains.

Image source: Shisper Hotel Facebook.com

Top Wonders

In Karimabad, visiting the Baltit Fort in the presence of an expert guide is a great experience. You get an excellent view of the valley below and Nagar Valley across the Hunza River, as the fort is on a high citadel. Here you can witness the old robes of the Hunza royalty known as ‘Thum’ or ‘Mir’. Old stone, mud and utensils made from pumpkin shell are a real sight. The guide also takes you to witness the old dungeons and prison cells to better understand the court system in the old Princely State of Hunza.

On the other side of Karimabad is Altit, that is also a very old settlement. The Altit fort is a 900-year-old citadel, with a wondrous watchtower overlooking the Karakorum Highway and Hunza River. A moment of rest in the Royal Garden under the fort is highly comforting.

Duikar is the top most area of Hunza. It gives a detailed vision into the valley. Eagle’s Nest, very true to its name is a hotel built on this mountain top. It is reachable by foot, as well as by cars or other sources.

Image source: travelcravingsdotcom

Top must-gos

The ‘Haldeikish’ comes along the Karakorum Highway on the way to Gojal valley from Hunza. This place is a fenced, rocky land that has inscriptions on it. These inscriptions are believed to be done by Buddhist pilgrims that traveled through the Silk Road long ago. It is also a wonderful place to snap pictures.

Image source: thelovelyplanet.net

The Pak-China Friendship Tunnels are built on the Karakorum Highway. The Prime Minister of Pakistan inaugurated these only recently in 2015. There are five long tunnels, which are an excellent proof of Chinese workmanship. The Attabad Lake following these tunnels on the left, makes the place a wonderful picture spot.

Image source: mountaintv.net

A tinge of novelty

Boating

The Attaabad Lake was formed in 2010, when a severe landslide blocked the Hunza River, submerged 3 villages and KKH itself for about 25 kilometers. The glacier water falls into this lake and gives it an admirable green-ish hue. You can hire boats to get you across as well. Boating across the icy cold lake is really something.

Image source: piyarapakistan.com

River Rafting

Another opportunity for adventurers is the recently started River Rafting in the Hunza River, near Gulmit Gojal.

Rock Climbing

You can practice your skills at Rock climbing or learn to do it in Passu Gojal. The professionally trained people lead you through this exertion. And you also get to choose whether you would like to do it on a rock or a part of a real rocky mountain.

Image source: mountaintv.net

Hiking

A hike to the Batura or Passu Galcier is much recommended. For this, you must have comfortable joggers, a small backpack, sun block creams and sub glasses. You can also hike down to the Hussaini or Passu Suspension Bridge and even attempt to cross it. It sure is a thrilling experience.

Image source: kahtours.com

Watching Ibex

You can stop by in Khyber village, which comes on the way to Khunjerab Pass to witness Ibex that come down to graze the green fields. This depends on luck sometimes, as it is not everyday that the Ibex come down to graze, but they do most days.

Image source: karakorumexpedition.com

Dry Port is the hub of Pak-China business. It is situated in Sost, which is the first town when you enter Pakistan from China.

Stepping into China

Khunjerab Pass is where we share borders with the People’s Republic of China. It is at a height of about 8000 ft, and you can sometimes find it snowing there even in the months of July and August.

Image source: wikimedia.org

If you have the right tourist guide with you, you might as well step into China, walk a few feet and then come back. These places are excellent for photography.

Advice: Always take warm clothes with you. Choose only the best tour operators. Do some research on which places to visit before you embark on your journey. Do not litter in the region, as the local inhabitants are extremely particular about the cleanliness of their region. Respect the norms of the local people and dress appropriately.

Seema Ghadir

"Seema Ghadir is an Islamabad - based Freelance writer who has covered technology, Android applications, environment, beauty products, and travel guides for publication on different blogs and websites. Seema Ghadir graduated from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi Pakistan in 2013 with a Master’s degree in English Literature. She has studied Creative Writing and Behavioral Psychology as an exchange student at Agnes Scott College Decatur Georgia in the United States of America. She is passionate about reading and writing and is an English language teacher by profession. She hails from the Hunza Valley."

Seema Ghadir

"Seema Ghadir is an Islamabad - based Freelance writer who has covered technology, Android applications, environment, beauty products, and travel guides for publication on different blogs and websites. Seema Ghadir graduated from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi Pakistan in 2013 with a Master’s degree in English Literature. She has studied Creative Writing and Behavioral Psychology as an exchange student at Agnes Scott College Decatur Georgia in the United States of America. She is passionate about reading and writing and is an English language teacher by profession. She hails from the Hunza Valley."