Hunza

by Ucman Scher
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Hunza

Hunza is famous for its beauty, the richness of its cuisine and its people. Officially Hunza Nagar, this valley is located in the very north of Pakistan bordering the Xinjiang province of China.

For anyone travelling to Pakistan, Hunza is a must see and I am no different, I honestly fell in love with this place the moment I got to it.

Fun Fact: The language of Hunza valley, Brushuski is still unclassified and has no connection to any other language int he entire world.


Check my ultimate Pakistan travel guide for all information to come fully prepared.

Getting to Hunza

From Islamabad

There is no airport in Hunza and the nearest airport is in Gilgit, some 2.5-3 hours away. It is a small airport with flights from Islamabad but the planes are small due to small runway and flights are subject to weather, they get cancelled a lot. From Gilgit, it takes 3 hours to take a local minivan to that will bring you to Aliabad. From here you will need to find a way to your own accommodation.

The junction point

You can also take direct NATCO bus from Islamabad to Aliabad which will roughly take 18-20 hours.

I wouldn’t recommend taking public transport from Gilgit onwards because there are 2 interesting points where you’d want to stop. I certainly did. However you arrive in Gilgit take a car from there, it will cost you around PKR 7000-8000.

From Skardu

In summer season take the road through Deosai that will bring you to Astor and then you can come up to Hunza. It is an epic road trip and takes 6-8 hours.

Off season that road is closed and you will need to take the Skardu Gilgit road which is also really beautiful but very rugged and rough. Thsi is what I did and it took me 26 hours to get from Skardu to Hunza due to a landslide that took 10 hours to clear as well as 2 stops when the rock was being blasted to widen the road. Despite all that I still loved how crazy beautiful the road was.

Getting Around In Hunza

There is no organised public transport in Hunza and getting around is a little difficult if you don’t have your own transport. The easiest way is to get your own car which is what I did.

I saw some local taxis as well and apparently local cars do ask you if you want a ride. I am not sure how safe that is.

Where To Stay In Hunza?

I stayed in a beautiful hotel with the best views any hotel has to offer. Hunza Serena Inn was absolutely divine.

It is a small property with beautiful gardens all around and the best pet is the views of entire Hunza Valley valley as well as Baltit fort from the gardens or porticos outside the rooms. Hunza has been a little overdeveloped and there is no lack of shady looking hotels, in all that this place offered the best experience. The rooms were in line with local decor and staff was really hospitable and honestly went above and beyond to help make my stay perfect.

Since I visited during spring which is blossom season, I got the best experience of cherry and apricot blossoms with uninterrupted views of entire valley.

My favourite part was getting the green tea and sitting on a bench under the tree to watch Rakaposhi mountain.

From the garden I could see Diran peak in the left followed by Rakaposhi then Hunza river and valley and on the right hand side Lady finger peak followed by Ulter peaks with Baltit fort nested on top of a cliff. I could spend a lifetime and not get tired of that view.

Food in Hunza

I wonder if you’ve heard of Hunza diet. The food here is to die for. People in Hunza on average have the longest life expectancy in Pakistan and most of them are fit as fiddle. The food here is preservative free, locally sourced and organic. They also use a lot of apricot oil and local herbs. To start the morning I got Chummus? and apricot nectar. Both are great for stomach. I found two great places for local food.

Some local dishes not to miss:

Chap shuro stuffed bread

Chummus apricot drink

Balay soup

Buckwheat pancakes

Savoury Tumuru Tea

Mumtoo  dumplings

Here are my favourites spots:

Osho Maraka Restaurant

The restaurant belongs to Hunza Serena inn. What I really loved is that the grow their own vegetables and fruits and most of the stuff on the table comes from within the property. I requested the chef to prepare a couple of local meals for me. I wasn’t disappointed the meals were absolutely divine.

A tiny bit of breakfast

The breakfast Had a few types of pancakes the one I really liked what is the one made with buckwheat and apricot oil with a hint of honey. I really got to enjoy the best view of the entire valley With amazing food.

The other dinner and lunch I had were also Delicious. I got talking to the server and found out that they work on local recipes to preserve them. My favourite was apricot chicken it was wow.

Dinner galore

I had never thought dried fruits apricot and chicken would go together so well. My other favourite was the local mutton stew. It was sort of a broth. Food wasn’t hot just the right amount of spicy. Totally worth the value!

Cafe Culture Hunza

Right outside where you turn from the parking towards the Altit Fort, there is a small sign for culture café Hunza. I tried looking for it but couldn’t find it until I saw a lady in a small shop with a small board outside of same name. She takes food orders to go. Something told me that the food was good so I ordered some rose dumplings, apricot chapati and chap shuru.

In an hour or so on the way back from the visit of the fort I picked up my food and headed up do you see the sunset over the golden peaks. It was too cold to eat there so I ate it in the car. From the dumplings to the mini pizzas and sauses everything was just perfect. My gut was right. I was actually really surprised at how well presented the food was. Definitely worth a meal!

How Many Days for Hunza?

If you really want to explore Hunza you need 2 to 4 days. If you are going to Khunjerab pass, it will take a full day as well as half a day for Atabad Lake. The rest of the time is to explore in and around Karimabad and Altit.

Best Time To Visit Hunza

Hunza is beautiful Throughout the year but it gets really cold here in winter. Spring comes here around March April time. It is also called the blossom season due to Blossoming off cherry and apricot trees. The entire Valley is covered in blossoms, it is magical. It does get a bit cold here in the evenings to come prepared for that if you’re coming for blossom season. I visited right at the end of March and got extremely lucky my beautiful weather.

The peak season is from May to September when  the valley is lush green it is also the busiest time to visit.

Best Things To Do In Hunza

Baltit Fort

Entrance – PKR 600 (local) PKR 1200 (foreign)

Baltit Fort is one of the best placed forts in the entire world. It overlooks the entire Hunza valley. It sits on top of Karimabad which is the most touristy village in Hunza under the might Ulter peaks.

The fort is more than 800 years old. It showcases the old culture of The Valley and its Mir’s. Mir is the title of the ruler of Hunza valley and the current Mir is closely associated with the fort which was donated by the family as a place fo local interest.

To go to the fort I went to Karimabad and then headed up in foot from parking lot. It is quite steep and I remembered to pace myself because oxygen this high up is low.

There were tourist shops all around until I got to a beautiful little house perched on top of a street. Things became much more local and beautiful after that. The ticket office itself is the most beautiful I have ever seen. It had the local decor.

I got the tickets and went in with the guide who explained the places, stories, culture and traditions as well as some information about the Royal Family of the area.

The visit lasted an hour or so which was great, my favourite was the Royal Kitchen and the throne on the rooftop.

I walked around after coming back, the view of the entire valley is spectacular form up here.

Altit Fort

Entrance – PKR 600 (local) PKR 1200 (foreign)

The second most important place to see in Hunza, this fort is even older than Baltit Fort. To see it in all its glory perched atop a mountain head to the Sacred rock carvings of Hunza (more about that below).

The fort is located in the village is Altit and it took us about 20 minutes in car to get there from Karimabad. To get to the fort, I walked through the Altit village which has a much more local feel than Karimabad. Kids played around and women sat outside the doors chatting to each other,  as great to experience that.

I got the ticket and walked in. I have to say, this place has a much better walk in experience than Baltit Fort. It also has the most beautiful garden in the entire valley with blossoms on full bloom. I felt a bit like a geisha if it weren’t for my lovely Hunza cap.

The guide was waiting and out your started, I got to learn a bit about the history.

Fun Fact: According to legend, the prince of realm married a princess. She wasn’t impressed by her abode so the prince made this fort for her. The view alone impressed her and they lived happily ever after.

From room to room, the fort is mysterious much like the politics that worked inside. There was a certain intrigue that developed with stories of secret treasure pits and people being thrown out of windows Game of Thrones style. I shuddered at the thought of even looking down from this height.

The roof was my favourite spot because of the tower and the view of Hunza river and its turquoise blue water. The tour lasted around 30 minutes and then I was on my own, sitting on the grass admiring the view being showered with flower petals. Does life get better than that?

Fun Fact: To this day the spring sowing festival starts from the central room of Altit Fort with the Mir sprinkling the seeds in fields for good luck. It is celebrated in 22nd February.

Atabad Lake

This is the latest addition in the beauty of Hunza. Barely 30 minutes away, it is a must visit even for a few hours. Prior to 2010, this was a sleepy valley. It had a cute village called Ainabad which had fields and a few houses. People would pass by without thinking much of the place but in Jan 2010, a massive landslide caused the water of Hunza River to get stuck and the water level rose, people evacuated and this turned into Atabad lake.

Atabad LakeI got here after a long drive from Skardu and loved it the moment I arrived. I stayed half a day before travelling to Khunjerab Pass next day.

The lake has turquoise blue water which shimmers and the best part is, no matter what the light, water stays the same gorgeous blue. There are a few spots around to hang out and construction seemed to be happening fast and haphazardly, I guess the place will turn into a tourist spot with most of nature gone in a few years.

The weather was dreamy. Clouds covering the peaks of Passu on one side and sun shining through patches of clouds on the other side. I sat by the lakeside for quite some time with my green tea.

You can also do boating here, watching the sunset over the mountains was my preferred things to do.

Passu Peaks and Khunjerab Pass

The Passu Cones, Passu Glacier as well as Bhorit Lake, Sost, Hussaini Hanging Bridge and Khunjerab Pass can all be done in a single day as a day trip. You can read about it here in my A Day Trip To Khunjerab Pass article.

Fun Fact: Khunjerab Pass is the highest land border crossing in the world and it also has the highest ATM machine in the world on Pakistani side. It is a friendly border.

Sunset Over Golden Peaks From Duikar

Duikar peak provides the best views of the golden peaks. I’d recommend visiting Altit in the afternoon and then heading up to the Duikar Peak before sunset. It takes about 20 minutes on car.

On the way up comes the best and clear view of lady finger mountain.

We parked the car near Elysion Hotel and headed up on foot, it took 10 minutes and I was in front of the golden peaks. They indeed are golden in the golden hour. There are quite a few peaks and the stage is set for one of the most dramatic sunsets eve. On this scale, everything impressed, this was one of my favourite things; sunset.

The light started to dip behind and the shadows grew longer before the sun glistened on the white snow of golden peaks turning them grey. I almost forgot to breath, it was that beautiful.

If I weren’t freezing I would have stayed up to see the grey turn black.

Tip: Come prepared with warm clothes, it gets quite windy and cold up there.

The Sacred Rock Carvings (Haldeikish)

The road to Khunjerab pass and Atabad lake has another curiosity which is off the tourist map. The sacred rock carvings of Hunza or Haldeikish.

The locals consider them sacred and provide details of their importance.

From Karimabad I headed down to the bridge on Hunza river. It barely took 5 minutes to see the carvings on the left hand side. What really fascinated me were the ibex and animals drawn especially the horns of ibexes.

Not far from it is an abandoned building with a thin tower and a low roofed abandoned building. I didn’t get any reference to it but it was such an interesting building.


Another amazing reason to come here is to enjoy the Opal waters of river Hunza flowing under, the lady finger on top with Altit fort in the middle. One of the best views of Hunza!

Rakaposhi View Point

Rakaposhi is ever so vain, so beautiful and doesn’t shy away from showing her beauty. On the way from Gilgit to Hunza, the viewpoint celebrates the view of this majestic mountain. In summers it is lush with water streaming down but before that I would recommend skipping this place. Sadly it has been overbuilt and the view has been destroyed from the road. The only way to enjoy is to hike slightly higher up to enjoy uninterrupted view. In spring there was no water and I got a much more beautiful view from the Old Silk Road Point.

If you don’t stop at either, worry not you will still see a different face of Rakaposhi from Baltit fort.

Tip: if you want a great view in the morning for photos head to the garden of Serena and enjoy the best view of Baltit and Rakaposhi both by just turning in your seat.

Old Silk Route

Just before the town of Sikandarabad, a small board indicates the old silk route. It is a zigzag line that is carved as a thin line on a massive brown mountain. Looking at it, it is hard to believe people used to travel on this. It used to be on animals and later on jeeps. I shuddered just at the thought of that journey. After Karakoram Highway was built in 1950’s it fell into disuse and now it is a reminder of how cosy our lives are.

Fun Fact: This is not the actual big silk route but a minor artery of it that was used for trade with China by the rulers of this area and further.

To make things better, the place has no people almost always and has the best view of Rakaposhi mountain, much better than the actual designated viewpoint.

Hunza is truly magical, very different from he rest of the neighbouring places, be it people, landscape or culture, I cannot wait to go back. I hope this Hunza travel guide helps you plan an amazing trip. Feel free to ask if you have more questions.

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