I believe that road trips give you the opportunity to be amazed by the geographical diversity and enjoy simple beauties in the landscape and the surrounding that we mostly ignore in our daily 9-5 life. Ofcourse, travelling by road is exhausting. Especially for the driver but they make a trip more memorable, easier and more comfortable. Flexibility is the best perk! For me our road trip to Hunza valley was the most memorable one. Having taken more than five road trips to all of the borders I can surely say that there is still a lot more for us to explore in our home country.
Well connected through the Karakoram Highway, a road trip to the Hunza and Baltistan province is definitely a bucket list item for every traveller(should be) and all Pakistanis! The Hunza and the neighbouring valleys up north in Pakistan are a dreamland with unparalleled beauty of the panoramic mountains with pure white snow iced on top, river and streams flowing in the middle and the place having a cherry blossom season as well.
BEST SEASONS TO VISIT HUNZA VALLEY
The summer months are the most popular amongst travellers to visit Hunza valley because the temperature is warm. The weather in the beginning of the year is extremely cold but if you are prepared than it can be quite fun and you’ll be able to enjoy many festivals and activities that take place in winter. I think the best thing about visiting the place in winter is the northern lights. The dark, star-studded skies illuminated by these dancing lights is a sight to see.
From January-March extreme snowfall is expected therefore be sure to check and plan your trip according to the weather. Also note that Babusar top is closed during this period therefore, you’ll have to take the longer KKH route. The road is curvy so don’t forget your pills. Motion sickness is the worst of things that one can encounter during the trip!
April is a good time to visit Hunza valley as the weather is more pleasant and days are longer. This month is the best to ski and enjoy the cherry blossom season.
If you want to travel to Hunza in summer than May is the best month. There are fewer crowds, the weather is mostly warm in day time with chilly nights but in this time largely the snow is gone. The prices are also cheaper as this is the off-peak timing of the year. Road are mostly accessible at this time.
June is the time the main tourist season starts. This is perfect time to enjoy the full summer season and deeply explore the northern wonders of pakistan.
July-August are the worst times to go to in terms of crowds and prices. This is the time when Hunza Valley is jam-packed with local and international tourists. There’ve been times times when all of the hotels in Hunza valley and nearby towns were all fully booked!This time of the year has its own charm but be prepared as you’ll have to face the jam-packed roads and public places.
From September till the beginning of November – the weather is bearable/comfortable and the changing of colours as autumn begins is spectacular. October and November are colder but most activities can be done.
December is quite chilly as the temperature falls to the negative side. During this extremely cold period there are hardly a few visitors but for locals this is also a lively time. Roads are mostly blocked at this time due to heavy snowfall.
All in all, I think to enjoy the chill you can visit Hunza valley in November, the cherry blossom in April, Summers in May or the beginning of June and lastly to experience autumn go there in September.
GETTING THERE AND THE TIME REQUIRED
Hunza – located near the Pak-China border is quite a long distance away from the capital – Islamabad. The journey is going to be a long one! We started from Karachi and it was extremely long but worth it! Mostly people visit the Hunza valley and the main tourist spots that are linked to it whereas, I think that there are many more picturesque valleys along with Hunza that should be visited. Therefore, to explore and fully enjoy the region near Hunza you will require minimum 7 days. Considering the long time that is spent on the road.
Once you are in Islamabad you have to options. Firstly, you can take a direct flight to Gilgit and then take an approx. 2 hours drive further to Hunza valley. The second route is to go by road. For this you can take a 24 hours bus from Islamabad all the way through the Kaghan valley and Skardu on the KKH highway, witnessing the unmatched beauty.
If you prefer slow-travelling than I would recommend that you rent a car from Islamabad. It’d be better if you hire a local driver as well because the mountainous terrain ahead is not easy for everyone-you need to be an experienced driver to be able to drive safely on the KKH. This way you’ll be able to stop on other scenic places on the way such as Naran and the Lulusar lake near Mansehra district. It is also one of the most visited places and luckily comes on the way!
Short stop at Naran on the way to Hunza
When you reach Hunza usually the first town where tourists stop is Karimabad. We stayed in Aliabad town which was less crowded. Hunza is the base point and from there you can go to Fairy meadows, the K2 base camp, Phandar valley or the Deosai National Park.
Bortih Lake Landscape, Gojal
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Here are some tips to prepare for a wonderful road trip to Hunza. This list can be a long one depending on how much time you’re gonna spend there but in genral the most important items are:
Food and Water: If you’re travelling by bus or car than keep in mind there are very few stops for food and refreshment on the KKH highway. It’s better that you stock some basic food items and water bottles when you are in Islamabad. The next big city after Islamabad is Chilas 9 hours drive ahead.
Clothing: For a trip to the baltistan province you must keep some jackets with you. As the altitude is very high the weather is unpredictable. Near Chilas it was very hot but as we drove further it became cooler. Even in the summer months you should keep some winter clothes. Remember that the snow is always there.
Local Sim: There are no service centres in hunza to register sim card in Hunza therefore, you’ll have to get the local sim from either Islamabad or Gilgit. Prepare yourself to spend time with nature as the internet speed is not good but there’ll be enough to survive.
TOP THINGS TO DO
Hunza valley – the most popular tourist destination of Pakistan is quite popular because of the natural, historical and man-made wonders it has. Here are the must visit locations:
Baltit Fort is located in Karimabad town of Hunza. This majestic fort was built in 800 BC and since 2004 it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This fort is situated on top of a hill that overlooks the Karimabad town and the magnificent view of the valley surrounded by snowy mountains and the view of mighty Rakaposhi peaks.
To reach the fort you will have to climb a steep hill for 10-15 minutes.
View this post on Instagram
Pictures - the most integral part of every trip! 13.8.2020 #halaltravel #attabadlake #beautifullandscape #bestscenery #attabadlakehunza #hunza #gilgitbaltistan #gilgit #natureofpakistan #wonderfulpakistan #allahscreation #subhanallah #pakistanitraveller #explorepakistan #roadtrippin #offthebeatenpath #travelblogger #traveltheworld #halalfun #muslimexplorer #pakistantourism #visitpakistan #lovepakistan #pakistanzindabad #natureiseverything #modestfashion #hijabi #midesttraveler #traveldestination #travellersofpakistan
The lake was formed in 2010 due to huge landslides that blocked the flow of Hunza river for about 5 months causing the nearby Attabad village to be submerged under its clear blue water.
Now the lake is a tourist hub because of its beauty. It is one of the most peaceful places in the valley a perfect spot for nature therapy.
Khunjerab Pass, the port of entry between China and Pakistan
This is the world’s highest paved border pass between China and Pakistan 4,693 meters above sea level and the highest point of the KKH highway. It is popular among the Pakistani travellers and place which will amaze you a lot. The altitude is too high but the road is beautifully built. It definitely is an engineering marvel. Although crossing the border is not allowed unless you have visa but the place is magical on its own!
Gulmit is a historic town in upper Hunza which is known for is friendly and generous locals. The town is centuries old and is a popular but peaceful tourist spot where you can learn about the history and culture of Hunza and its people as there are numerous museums.
Hike to the Ultar Basecamp
If you are an adventure-seeker than you can go for a day’s hike in Karimabad up to the Ultar basecamp starting from Baltit fort. You can see the glacier and the Ultar peaks up close and even camp at the basecamp for the night. Or return within a day.
Cross the Hussaini Bridge
The Hussaini hanging bridge is hung over the powerful Hunza river. This bridge is dubbed as the most dangerous bridge due to the massive gaps between the planks and the wild swing.
In 1960, the then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan directed the authorities to construct a suspension bridge which was finally completed in 1967-68. Despite its dangerous looks the new bridge is relatively safe. It is now a tourist attraction and hikers come here to test their nerves!
Hunza has many hotels and resorts that you can choose for where to say.
The hotel we stayed in was Col. Ikram Shaheed Lodge located on the Aliabad and Karimabad link road. The hotel was clean and tidy, the services were good. The best thing about this lodge is the exquisite view of the white Rakaposhi peak and the surrounding brown mountains. The economy room for one night is around 3,500 PKR (the price may vary according to seasons.) It costed us 10,000 PKR for the suite room.
Another option is the Hunza Serena Inn located in the middle of Karimabad and provides a wonderful view of the Baltit fort, surrounding valleys and the mountains. It is a bit expensive, 8,000 PKR per night but the services are great.