A Drive to Hunza in April


Driving to Hunza via Karakoram Highway is a wonderful experience for someone who is keen to explore. Driving this route, one experiences the diverse nature the country possess. Among the many, there are Plain lands of Hassanabdal, Pine jungles of Chattar Plains, Tea gardens of Shinkiari, Green Hills of Kohistan, Fresh springs in Shangla, Rugged mountains of Chilas, Snowy mountains of Hunza, The Mighty Indus River, the Attabad Lake, Glacier of Passu and a lot more which I can not mention here.

The valley of snow paved mountains; Hunza
The valley of snow paved mountains; Hunza
Apricot blossom in Hunza
Apricot blossom in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan

The road stretches 887 km in Pakistan starting from Hassanabad to Khunjerab pass, but it's not just about Karakorum Highway which makes the journey beautiful. Every town on the road is an Island, having its own cultural values. People welcome you with their open hearts and help you with all they have. 
Hunza Valley itself is so mesmerizing that it call tourists around the world in all three sessions but visiting Hunza in spring season means you are about to witness apricot and cherry blossom among the high snow capped mountains in the valley.

High snow capped mountains, Hunza Valley
High snow capped mountains, Hunza Valley

The decision of traveling to Hunza was a tough one to make, I was unsure at the last minute if I would really make it to Hunza? My wife and I decided to give it a go by traveling on the road and seeing how far the road would let us go. She had never traveled so far before, and I had never driven such a long distance; which added a great deal of uncertainty. Everything was so unpredictable, It was possible that we return from Islamabad and it was even possible that we can reach Hunza.

The drive took the unusual time to reach Hunza, mainly because to the inexperience of traveling on such road but we also wanted to explore every bit we witness. Initially, we had no itinerary but an idea, we traveled slow, stopped everywhere we should have and experienced the local culture.

Itinerary

Date / Day# Notes
Day1: 18-04-2017 Jhelum to Abbottabad
Hotel: Hotel Demanchi, Abbottabad
Day2: 19-04-2017 Abbottabad to Besham
Hotel: PTDC model, Besham
Day3: 20-04-2017 Besham to Chilas
Hotel: Shangri-La Hotel, Chilas
Day4: 21-04-2017 Chilas to Hunza
Hotel: Hilltop, Hunza
Day5: 22-04-2017 Karimabad, Hunza
Hotel: Hilltop Hotel, Hunza

 We stayed Hunza for 3 days and took the same itinerary (reverse) while coming back.

Day1: Jhelum to Abbottabad


A typical day of summer at Jhelum and we head towards our destination Abbottabad. With a little stopover at Islamabad for breakfast we resumed our journey towards the mighty Karakoram Highway. It was past noon when we reached Hassanabdal and unlike G.T. road, Karakoram Highway was busy, and full of traffic because it was school off time. We were moving slow when the Karakoram Highway passed through the beautiful loquat gardens, it was Haripur. We stopped by a vendor who offered us to pay a visit to his garden. The vendor was generous and he offered us to eat as much we can from his garden because we were his guests. The garden was thick and vast it was the first time she experienced such huge loquat garden. Eating fresh fruits from the tree was a great experience.

A loquat vendor with his stall near Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
A loquat vendor with his stall near Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Stall of a loquat vendor near Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Stall of a loquat vendor near Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
ILAYSI Masjid, Abottabad
ILAYSI Masjid, Abottabad
If you visit ILAYSI Masjid, you must try these Pakoras, There are number of stall of Pakoras near the Masjid, Abottabad
If you visit ILAYSI Masjid, you must try these Pakoras, There are number of stall of Pakoras near the Masjid, Abottabad

We reached Abbottabad in an affordable family hotel, highly recommended.

Hotel deManchi Abbottabad

Room Condition Price Food / Service
4.5/5 4/5 5/5

Day2: Abbottabad to Besham


Yesterday, One thing which I really missed was being easy with clothes. Jeans & Shirt is not very comfortable combo when you have to spend a whole day driving. For the reason, I bought Salwar Kameez from the Abbottabad before continuing our journey on the Karakoram Highway. We set off from the city little late and it was noon when we check out of the hotel. This means we were going to cope traffic populated road again. The nearest destination Besham was 140 km away.

When we drove out of Mansehra, driving became very interesting and enjoyable. Less traffic, fresh air, rice fields, tea gardens and greenery wherever you look. Landscape and weather change dramatically when you reach Chattar Plains. The road ascent with twists and turns from the pine jungle and reaches Chattar Plain. The temperature in this area is relatively lower than Mansehra and Abbottabad because of the height.

View from the Chattar Plains, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
View from the Chattar Plains, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Beautiful sunset near Battagram, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Beautiful sunset near Battagram, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

International guides warn you to do not stop in Kohistan while traveling on Karakoram Highway, but we felt this otherwise. If you respect their culture and values, the people of Kohistan will respect you. We stayed in Besham for the night.

PTDC Model, Besham

Room Condition Price Food / Service
2/5 4/5 1/5

Day3: Besham to Chilas


Tourist in love with Karakoram Highway can disagree on many things but everyone agrees that actual beauty of Karakoram Highway starts from the Thakot. One of the main reason is that you have the first sight of Indus River at Thakot. From Thakot you experience the fresh water springs which are a symbol of life and greenery in this area. We stopped at many springs just to enjoy the view and to refresh ourselves from the severe heat in Kohistan area. Some offered spring waters bottles and others shared watermelon with us. Sitting beside the spring and enjoying the Punjab’s typical summer fruit was a blessing and an ultimate and refreshing experience. The temperature was high all the way till Chilas & we didn’t feel much difference in temperature than home other than the rugged terrain, rocky mountains and Indus River around us.

One of the many beautiful spring waterfalls in Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
One of the many beautiful spring waterfalls in Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Another beautiful spring waterfall in Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Another beautiful spring waterfall in Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Stopover at PTDC Khyber Lodge Hotel, Barseen,Khyber Pakhtunwkhwa
Stopover at PTDC Khyber Lodge Hotel, Barseen, Khyber Pakhtunwkhwa
Near Sazin, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Near Sazin, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

 

Shangri-La Hotel Chilas

Room Condition Price Food / Service
3.4/5 5/5 3/5

Day4: Chilas to Hunza


Hunza was an ultimate and most unpredictable destination for us, we were not sure if we could really make it to Hunza. Early in the morning with an expensive breakfast at the hotel, we set off to our final destination. We were determinant and willing to reach and see what Hunza have got. The temperature at Chilas makes us curious to know how weather and mountains can change in Hunza. We left behind the rugged terrain and stony mountains we continued our journey towards Hunza. We stopped at Jaglot & Gilgit to try taste the famous “Mamtu” & “Chapshroo”, but we were really disappointed as they were not so appealing because meat was not properly cooked. We stopped at Rakaposhi View Point and saw the giant mountain (Rakaposhi) in front of us. The cool breeze from the giant could take a minute to make a cup of tea cold. “It is beautiful,” she said, and we set off towards the destination with rain started to pour at the View Point.

Antique door at Shangri-La Hotel Chilas
Antique door at Shangri-La Hotel Chilas
The view of Indus River from Shangri-La Hotel Chilas
The view of Indus River from Shangri-La Hotel Chilas
Yet another massive waterfall on Karakoram Higahway,
Yet another massive waterfall on Karakoram Highway, between Dassu and Chilas. GoogleMaps
The first sight of the Rakaposhi from Karakoram Highway
The first sight of the Rakaposhi from Karakoram Highway

It was raining when we reached Karimabad in the evening, and the weather was cold. We found ourselves a hotel and went out for a dinner in the freezing weather. Unfortunately, we found nothing from the bazaar as it was late evening, we came back to the hotel and eat the-only-thing-left Dal Chawal. We were about to spend a couple of days in here, with this rainy and freezing weather but at last, we got the weather we were expecting for last four days.

Where the three mightiest mountain ranges of the world meet, near Gilgit
Where the three mightiest mountain ranges of the world meet, near Gilgit
Where the three mightiest mountain ranges of the world meet, near Gilgit
Where the three mightiest mountain ranges of the world meet, near Gilgit
The landscape changes when you enter in Gilgit-Baltistan
The landscape changes when you enter in Gilgit-Baltistan
The landscape changes when you enter in Gilgit-Baltistan
The landscape changes when you enter in Gilgit-Baltistan region
A typical view of cherry blossom in near Karimabad, Hunza
A typical view of cherry blossom in near Karimabad, Hunza
Cherry blossom in near Karimabad, Hunza
Cherry blossom in near Karimabad, Hunza

Hilltop Hotel, Karimabad

Room Condition Price Service / Food
4/5 4/5 4/5

Hunza Valley


We enjoyed spectacular views all three days in Hunza valley. Here are some of the pictures of the valley. 

Day-1: A cloudy morning in Hunza valley, view from Hilltop hotel, Karimabad
Day-1: A cloudy morning in Hunza valley, view from Hilltop hotel, Karimabad
Day-1 in Hunza: A cloudy morning in Hunza valley, view from Hilltop hotel, Karimabad
Day-2 in Hunza: A rainy morning in Hunza Valley.
Day-3 in Hunza: Another cold and cloudy morning in Hunza Valley.

Baltit Fort Hunza


Early in the morning, we saw the clouds came down low from the mountains providing an incredible view. It is a beautiful morning, she said having breakfast in “Cafe De Hunza”. We walked towards the Baltit fort in the rainy and freezing weather. A 700 years old fort of Mirs of Hunza which they abandoned in 1945, and moved to a new palace down the hill. The rain and severe cold trapped us for three hours in the fort before taking a jeep to the hotel.

View of Baltit Fort from Hilltop hotel window.
View of Baltit Fort from Hilltop hotel window.
View of Baltit Fort from Hilltop hotel window.
View of Baltit Fort from Hilltop hotel window.
Rain joined us when we were visiting Baltit Fort, Hunza

Visiting Passu Cones


Our next day in Hunza was a productive one, the weather was clearer and we set off to a nearby village, Passu. It is famous for his unique mountain structure which shapes as cones. Just a 30 minutes drive from the Karimabad, The journey passes through the Attabad Tunnel and provides beautiful views of the Attabad Lake afterward.

Dramatic view of Passu Cones, near Passu
Dramatic view of Passu Cones, near Passu
Karakoram Highway approching, Gilgit Baltistan
Karakoram Highway approching, Gilgit Baltistan
Colors of Autumn near Gulmit, Hunza
Colors of Autumn near Gulmit, Gojal
A random shot on Karakoram Highway near Gulmit, Gojal

Attabad Lake


We visited Attabad Lake, on our way back from Passu, which is beautiful in his own way.

Mesmerizing Attabad Lake
Mesmerizing Attabad Lake 
Mesmerizing Attabad Lake
This is not K-2, this a ordinary mountain near Attabad Lake, Hunza
This is not K-2, this an ordinary mountain near Attabad Lake, Hunza
Beautiful Sunset view in the mountains, Hunza Valley
Beautiful Sunset view in the mountains, Hunza Valley

We took the same route and itinerary on our way back and mostly the same hotels. The beautiful memories of the visit would last a long time.  We enjoyed watching the sunset in the mountains with noise Indus River. Stopping by the refreshing Nallas (Summar Nalla in particular) for lunch or a cup of tea. Stopping by the springs and taking photos. All in all, it was an ultimate experience of driving to Hunza via Karakoram Highway and it would have been impossible for me to drive there alone.


- Content and Photos by Author.

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