My magical holiday in Hunza will inspire you to hit the road

This region is ridiculously beautiful and the pictures really don't do it justice.
Updated 23 Mar, 2017

Towards the end of summer, my family headed off to Hunza for a much needed vacation. We had been planning the trip for a while and there was one aspect of the trip that caused some indecision.

One option was to go by road, eliminating the uncertainty of flight delays and cancellations. The second option was to fly to Gilgit, and then make the two-hour drive on to Hunza.

In the end, we decided on the scenic route. Though the drive is a long one (we broke the drive by stopping in Naran for a night), it’s worth every second, as the views at every turn are stunning. I have been to Skardu a few times, but always by air.

It’s a completely different experience when you drive right through the mountains along the Karakoram Highway. This region is ridiculously beautiful and the pictures really don't do it justice. Just know that if it looks impressive in a picture, it's ten times more picturesque in real life.

We stayed at the Hunza Serena Inn, which has beautiful views of the surrounding valley and mountains everywhere you look, and a gorgeous view of Baltit Fort in the distance. At night, there is none of the noise and pollution of the big city, the clear skies are full of stars and music carries over from nearby villages.

Here are some of the things you should definitely check out if you’re in Hunza:

Baltit Fort

This fort is about 700 years old and is influenced by Tibetan architecture, bearing some similarity to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Over the years, various Hunza-Nagar rulers have made additions and changes to the original structure. In 1945, the Mir of Hunza abandoned the fort and moved into a new residence closeby. More than forty years of neglect left the fort in considerable disrepair and a four-year restoration programme, completed in 1996, was supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s Historic Cities Programme.

Tickets cost Rs250 and buy you a 45-minute guided tour, complete with a narration of the fascinating history of the fort and how its inhabitants used to live over the years.

Getting to the fort is about a 20-minute steep uphill walk (from Hunza Serena Inn) along a cobblestone path, so comfy shoes are essential. The magnificent view of the the Hunza valley once your reach the top is well worth the exertion.

Altit Fort

Restoration of the Altit Fort began in 2004 and was completed six years later. The fort is now open to the public and the grounds include the KhaBasi Cafe and the Leif Larsen Music Center.

Tickets cost Rs300 and here too you get a guided tour of the fort, which is a bit smaller than Baltit but just as fascinating and with equally remarkable views all around.

Kha Basi Cafe

This charming and unique cafe, run solely by women, has a small indoor dining space, but the best spot for a cup of tea is the veranda overlooking the adjacent valley. Stop by after touring the Altit Fort to sample traditional Hunza cuisine, like the Chap Chrro (flatbread with a meat filling), Brustz Shapik (flatbread filled with local cheese, seasoned with herbs and apricot oil), and Diram Phitti (a wholesome dessert made with wheat and apricot oil).

Eagles Nest

It’s a 40-minute, steep uphill drive to the Eagles Nest Hotel from Karimabad. Right next to the hotel is a popular viewpoint, frequented mostly at sunrise and sunset. We managed to get there just before sunset and the views all around were breathtaking as the light changed and faded.

Cafe de Hunza

This little cafe is a five minute walk from the Serena Inn. A particularly popular item is the Hunza walnut cake, which is a dense pastry-like cake with a caramel walnut filling. I’d also highly recommend their huge, fluffy pancakes, available with a variety of toppings like Spinach and Cheese and Nutella.

Attabad Lake

It was mostly cloudy and rainy during our drive to Hunza, but I’m really glad it was clear and sunny the day we went to Attabad Lake. The water is a striking shade of blue, surrounded by mountains, and it's crazy to think it didn't even exist until 2010, when a devastating landslide led to its formation.

The lake is a 40 minute drive from the Hunza Serena Inn. Boats rides are about 50 minutes long and cost Rs2000 per boat.

Glacier Breeze Restaurant

I hadn't had a satisfactory cup of tea of coffee since we left Islamabad. After Attabad Lake, we headed on to Glacier Breeze Restaurant (near the Passu village) for their famous apricot cake, and I was beyond excited when I saw filter coffee on the menu. When I inquired, I half expected the man taking our order to say they didn't have any. When he finally brought out a huge French press filled with coffee, I couldn't quite contain my joy.

You have to climb a lot of steps to get to the restaurant, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Once you reach the top though, there’s a great view of the Passu Glacier and Cathedral Ridge from here and you’re only about a two-hour drive away from Khunjerab Pass.

All photographs by author.


Pakistani Nov 05, 2016 04:22pm
How wonderful. Thank you. To my fellow Pakistanis PLEASE keep this area clean, dont throw your litter.
philosopherfromMARS Nov 05, 2016 04:40pm
simply awesome
Mehreen Chandan Nov 05, 2016 04:44pm
Beautiful article.
Dawn Nov 05, 2016 04:59pm
This magical land beckons the world to visit and explore the beauty it is endowed with. Simply breath taking.
Khwarezmi Nov 05, 2016 05:01pm
Beautiful. Thee should be more domestic travel agents in Karachi/Lahore/Quetta/Peshawar/Faislabad offering trips to these amazing plases.
zia Nov 05, 2016 05:08pm
Baltit Fort was constructed by labor from Baltistan hence it was named after their hard work. The fort is more a Ladakhi architecture and there nothing like Potala Palace. It was used until 70's by the last revered Mir of Hunza -Mir Jamal Khan who died in 1974 had started visiting the Fort recollecting his memories as a child and was sentimentally connected to place which was his childhood home. I was a regular visitor to the fort since '76 when it was in dilapidated condition and many roof tops were caving in but it old character was very much preserved. While standing on the Mir Saheb's favorite balcony looking southwards one can see Nagar valley from where Mir Saheb took his celebrated Rani of Hunza. At the end of Nagar valley there is a system of glaciers which have small paths leading into Baltistan which was regularly used. The last celebrated Rani saheba was from a Kashmiri blood line as her mother was a Kashmiri married into the ruling family of Astore.
M. A. Hussain Nov 05, 2016 05:25pm
Wonderful places to visit in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Upper Hunza is a beautiful place, which is the end of beauty nature. It may only be experienced & is not explainable verbally. A chain of beautiful lakes, peaks, glaciers & wild life somewhat up to Sust. Sust is a business hub in NA's where all Chinese made stuff is available, which arrives from the border abutting with Pakistan. Locals are very much welcoming & always like to share the proud of their tradition & culture.
tasneem khan Nov 05, 2016 05:49pm
No doubt pakistan is beautiful, one thing that really impressed me was the quality of the food .. their crockery and cutlery is excellent.
hilalxik Nov 05, 2016 06:03pm
Well described.
kamran Akbar Majid Nov 05, 2016 07:06pm
I made the trip this year with my family.
Hamza Dote Nov 05, 2016 07:14pm
I have been to this place but i recognised now what i missed during my visit. Hope i will get another chance to accomplished all these food again.
Hassan (Karachi) Nov 05, 2016 08:26pm
@Pakistani, Funny, when I was reading through the article and looking at the pictures. The first thing I noticed was the lack of trash bags on the ground (yes, i live in Karachi).
Farooq khan Nov 05, 2016 08:30pm
Very nice description
Jamal Nov 05, 2016 08:41pm
Splendid review, makes one yearn to drop everything and go backpacking. One observations from the images shared with the article, seems the food is quite expensive up there
Imdad bukhari Nov 05, 2016 08:46pm
Thank you! You made my day!
N.Sid Nov 05, 2016 09:11pm
@Hassan (Karachi) That's true. Has read lot of travel blogs about Gilgit Baltistan, some observation. - GB has a literacy rate of 90%, the highest of any region in Pakistan, comparable to Islamabad which is 96%, and it reflects in every sphere of life. Female literacy is also above 70%, which is again highest in Pakistan. - GB has some of the best schools supported by Agha Khan foundation and GB government, and they have big schools with large open grounds and not like many small private schools opened in Bungalows in Karachi. Technical/Vocational training is imparted on large scale, has great sense of preservation of environment and nature, no local cuts trees, nobody throws garbage anywhere. - The water streams are clean and litter free. GB people uses organic method in fruit growing and farming, one of the reason for their long life and they have mastered the art of sustainable living, by preserving nature. So many things to learn for Urban dwellers.
Stephen Wolstenholme Nov 05, 2016 09:27pm
N Pakistan is beautiful and deserves to see ore international tourists.
Agha Ata Nov 05, 2016 09:28pm
Readers would have loved to see lady workers in their beautiful dresses in all- women cafe , but there is none in the picture.
PK Nov 05, 2016 09:36pm
Super Nice!
laila Nov 05, 2016 09:56pm
Venkata Appa Rao Nov 05, 2016 09:57pm
I always felt that i lived in Gilgit, Hunzaand Baltistan and enjoyed its devine atmosphere in my previous life. These are such undisturbed beautiful and serene places. When ever I read such travelogues they rekindle my deep memory. I love these places with all my heart. I always wish to visit these places once. Now I stay in Hyderabad Deccan in India. I pray to god amighty to fulfill my wish.
SHAHID ULLAH baig Nov 05, 2016 10:41pm
Wonderful, Awesome................ being a Hunzai feeling proud
Safir Siddiqui Nov 06, 2016 01:27am
Mr Sahar Thanks for your beautiful narration of the place.Photographs are amazingly beautiful.I enjoyed them most as I spent some time in Gilgit-Baltistan. Also visited Hunza.The whole area is stunningly beautiful.Looks a paradise on God's earth.Readers who can afford should really hit the road and enjoy rarified air and starry nights with so vivid and conspicuous Milky Way.
Khan Nov 06, 2016 01:33am
I really appreciate that you took these pocs and showes us a beautiful Pakistan through lens of your Camera. l love road trips and want to explore each and and every inch of Pakistan. Hopefully one day InshaAllah.
ROHIT KUMAR MEENA Nov 06, 2016 05:02am
I am from india. as a indian how can i visit this place. can anyone tell me ? i love this beautiful paradise
Masood Nov 06, 2016 05:03am
Sheer Raw beauty is unbelievable Nothing like this can be found in Europe or North America Outstanding article!!!
Arij Nov 06, 2016 07:06am
@zia Have you seen the Potala Palace, or pictures of it?
Capt Faraz Nov 06, 2016 07:07am
Short crisp n smart. Should have discussed more about living, people n food n best traveling means. Though I read a lot in Mustansar Hussain Tarar' s Hunza Dastan n willing n wishing to visit but needs guidance n options. Anyways Good effort.
Dev Nov 06, 2016 09:35am
well done. finally a positive article and something that dosent involve terror or india ! really a beautiful place. you pakistanis must learn to enjoy your own country and not think about india or middle east. The walnut cake looks great..but where is the dhaba food? looks all angrezi food. no aloo, lentils, samosa, paratha ?
John Doe Nov 06, 2016 09:51am
@Masood actually, you can find very beautiful places in Europe, in the Americas, in Africa, in Australia, on Europa and everywhere else in the universe. Kindly, don't get into a competition. Admire, be thankful and enjoy.
S. A. M. Nov 06, 2016 10:21am
The narration strongly indicates that it's a very well organized area and the daily life is also very disciplined. terrific.
naeem Nov 06, 2016 12:33pm
Isn't 2000 Rupees for a boat ride too steep.....I rode across Lake Niagara and paid only 15 odd Dollars recently.......reeks of tourist fleece to me.
Yo'dilawar Nov 06, 2016 12:58pm
@ROHIT KUMAR MEENA In ongoing strife, not possible. But as soon as the situation gets better you will be able to do it.
Shaz Nov 06, 2016 02:15pm
Top read and some one travelling to Pakistan after very long time,I would love to travel this area. Only thing is that I'm going this month. Is this good time to travel to GB? I heard roads get closer off due to snow.
Asif jaral Nov 06, 2016 02:35pm
Wow the way you elaborated,i wish i had a magic and i jump over there right now
Junaid Nov 06, 2016 05:21pm
Can we visit Hunza in winter
Someone Nov 06, 2016 07:48pm
@Junaid if you can withstand negative 10 Celsius, please do
Nouman Rasheed Nov 07, 2016 12:20am
I have visited Hunza through . Found Altit Fort and Eagle's Nest the most amazing.
Gbian Nov 07, 2016 12:55am
@Shaz @junaid I'm afraid you are almost two weeks late, winter isn't the best time of the year for tourism here in Hunza, ideally April to October is suitable for tourists, it's particularly tough and harsh in winters temperature can go as low as negative 18°C and average at 5°C, but if you are a fan of winter sports there is skiing and snowboarding in the nearby Naltar Valley Ski Resort in Jan-Feb..
Qaafila Nov 07, 2016 01:58am
@Khwarezmi Follow our Facebook page "Qaafila" a Hunza based tour company takes tours to Gilgit Baltistan from across the country. Have an amazing adventurous experience with the native tour guides. Its worth experiencing.
Zi Nov 07, 2016 02:32am
These areas of Pakistan are like rough diamonds. Beautiful with huge potential for tourism IF paid attention to. Proud to be a Pakistani.
Proud Pakistani Nov 07, 2016 04:47am
@Dev first of all we are not obsessed with India in fact it is the other way round and see most of the times in your channels fake news about Pakistan. Beautiful article and pictures and should be advertised internationally for the promotion of tourism in Pakistan.
Mehboob Fatteh Nov 07, 2016 05:46am
How is this trip for elderlies with arthritis issues? Excellent article.
MA Nov 07, 2016 07:51am
Bhushan Parimoo Nov 07, 2016 12:41pm
nice job indicates zeal to be in the lap of nature for its motherly care with affection solace and peace, thanks Dawn
Hamza Shahzad Nov 07, 2016 12:48pm
Zohaib Nov 07, 2016 01:26pm
is it possible to visit there in early Dec? would weather be OK ?I am planning my honeymoon, need replies pls :)
Shaz Nov 07, 2016 02:05pm
@Junaid that's what I'm looking for ;(
ABL Nov 07, 2016 04:37pm
Reminds me of my visit to the Baltit Fort in Hunza. Just beautiful. Must see (at least for all Pakistanis)
A Fairdeal Muslim Nov 07, 2016 04:46pm
Shahbaz azmi Nov 07, 2016 08:11pm
Thank you for sharing your trip. If you could share how does on go about for booking accommodation. Renting a car with driver and the cost factor from and to Islamabad. Regards
Questioner Nov 07, 2016 11:19pm
Please keep the area clean. And I would also recommend banning motorboats, as they cause noise and disturb creatures in the water. There's nothing like rowing your boat on a quiet lake.
Riaz Ullah Baig Nov 07, 2016 11:45pm
@Shaz roads to these areas never close except in landslides but November is very beautiful and cold up in the mountains.
Riaz Ullah Baig Nov 07, 2016 11:48pm
@Junaid yes you can. But do take some really warm clothing with you.
Zeeshan Nov 08, 2016 02:51pm
You did not cover Nangaparbet the best part to show. This is memorizing beauty of Pakistan.
Muhammad Kamran Arain Nov 09, 2016 04:22pm
I have the Cafe deHunza Walnut cake in 2002 and I am glad it is still there. There is never a moment when I do not want to go back.
sheraz Mar 23, 2017 09:57pm
this is my home town , literacy rate 98.7, crime 0.001% , proud to be a HUNZAI
sheraz Mar 23, 2017 10:04pm
my home town
sheraz Mar 23, 2017 10:06pm
@Zohaib bro in dec temperture is below 0*C