With heavy hearts, we left Passu to make our way to Karimabad, stopping at Passu glacier, Borith Lake (where we came across a group of University students having a picnic and dancing
Gulmit, Attabad Lake (beautiful yet tragic) and then finally to Karimabad/Hunza. Spectacular scenery all along the way.
See pics below on the way from Passu to Karimabad.
Karimabad is a large town, located on the west bank of the Hunza river in the Middle Hunza area; and is the capital of Hunza Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Pakistan. The town was a Silk Road caravan stopping place for people who were traveling through the Hindu Kush mountains to Kashmir, and to China, as well as to the west. The predominant language here is Burusho, which then changes to Shina in Giglit, further south. (It was Wahi language in Upper Hunza)
Karimabad is also known as Baltit or Hunza. It is named after Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual head of Shia Ismaili Nizari community. Majority of the people here are Ismaili’s. It is at 8,500ft above sea level, and again nestled between impressive mountains of the Hindu Kush and the Karakorum mountain ranges, and deep gorges and valleys; with magnificient scenery all around; including Rakaposhi Peak.
The town on the East side of the Hunza River is called Nagar Khas, and was the capital of the princely state of Nagar until it was dissolved in 1974. The population is majority Ithnā‘ashari Shias (Twelvers)
Arrived in Karimabad, and started with the local Walnut cake and fresh apricot juice that Karimabad is famous for, at Café de Hunza,. They were as delicious; as good as touted. Great views of Rakaposhi peak (25,000ft) from the town.
We then took a drive up to Eagle’s Nest, which is the highest point of Karimabad, for breakfast of paratha’s and Pakistani omelets, and stunning views of Karimabad below and snowcapped mountains all around
Both Baltit Fort (built 13th century; and finally refurbished in 2006), and Altit Fort (1100yrs old; the oldest structure in Gilgit-Baltistan province; fully refurbished in 2007) are in Karimabad, and we went to visit Altit Fort for a guided tour with Javed, who gave us great insights into the Fort and its history. Apparently, this area was occupied by the Chinese and the Europeans (Alexander the Great) at different times in their history; small communities of Chinese and Macedonians still exist in remote areas nearby; preserving their heritage and cultures; amazing. Need to come back here and explore these remote cultures.
Around the fort, is the old preserved town of Altit. This old town was improved by the AKF to provide clean drinking water to all homes, sewage system, and electricity (buried wires), in exchange for maintaining the exterior of the houses to the same look/feel as in the olden times. That way, the old town is preserved. The old town was very nice; had a quick walk through it.
Then we went back to main Karimabad, and stopped at the Aga Khan Academy here, which is a girls high school. Since it was Sunday, the place was closed. We asked the guard if we could visit. After making a call, we were allowed inside, and he asked a resident teacher at the hostel to give us a tour. Aliya very kindly agreed and gave us a tour of this wonderful Academy, and the hostel attached to it. Since it was break time, there were only a few girls living in the hostel who could not go home for the vacation for whatever reason. The school takes girls only based on merit; and does provide financial assistance to those that need it. Wonderful.
Next day, we walked around the old town; and then left for Gilgit. Since we wanted to drive to Skardu, it made logical sense to stay overnight in Giglt and shorten the next drive. Drive was spectacular along the way, small towns and settlements of farming dotting the KKH all the way.
Gilgit is a big Pakistani Army Garrison/training/recruitment center, a dusty town without much character or much to see, and after driving through it, we went to the Serena hotel and stayed there, catching up with the internet
Next is the drive to Skardu, which is between the Karakorum and Himalayan mountain ranges; and closer to the Kashmir line of control with India than Hunza.