Silk Road 9: Karakorum Highway; Karimabad/Hunza, Pakistan

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road Pakistan June 2016
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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, Attaabad 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.

silk-road-9-image001Passu Glacier

silk-road-9-image002Note the interesting use of the boulder to provide shelter for the humble abode under its protection

silk-road-9-image003Suspension wooden footbridge across the Hunza river

silk-road-9-image004Hunza river snaking along

silk-road-9-image005Gulmit JK

silk-road-9-image006Beautiful, yet tragic Attabad Lake

silk-road-9-image007Attaabad Lake; note the submerged roof which used to be the JK on a small hill

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.

silk-road-9-image008Small settlements/towns along Hunza Valley; cultivation wherever possible

silk-road-9-image009Shopping on the go

silk-road-9-image010Interesting Butcheries

silk-road-9-image011Cannot miss the fruit and vegetable stands

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.

silk-road-9-image012Rakaposhi peak view from Karimabad

silk-road-9-image013Baltit Fort on hilltop above Karimabad town; under towering Karakoram mountains

silk-road-9-image014View from our hotel balcony in Karimabad

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

silk-road-9-image015Eagle’s Nest; high above Karimabad, Hunza River and Nagar on other side of the river

silk-road-9-image016Baltit Fort perched on a strategic hilltop above Karimabad; from Eagle’s Nest

silk-road-9-image017Settlements where land could be cultivated; irrigated with glacier water

silk-road-9-image018Interesting Abode

silk-road-9-image019Breakfast at Eagle’s Nest (Pakistani omelets, Paratha’s and Chai). Fantastic 360 degree views

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.

silk-road-9-image020Old village surrounding Altit Fort; all the old houses were preserved

silk-road-9-image021

silk-road-9-image022Old town by Altit Fort; kids enjoying the warm summer weather

silk-road-9-image023Views from Altit Fort

silk-road-9-image024Rahimabad JK perched on hilltop; viewed from Altit Fort

silk-road-9-image025Altit Fort, strategically located

silk-road-9-image026Old preserved town around Altit Fort; the flat roofs are used for multiple activities like drying fruit, clothes, etc

silk-road-9-image027Old Town Altit

silk-road-9-image028Altit Fort

silk-road-9-image029Friendly Local Ismaili’s

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.

silk-road-9-image030

silk-road-9-image031Aga Khan Academy Girls School and Hostel

silk-road-9-image032Grounds of the Academy and academic builds in the back

silk-road-9-image033Boarding Hostel room; 9 per room. Bunkbed on top, cupboard and desk on bottom

silk-road-9-image034Jamat Khana at the Girls Hostel

silk-road-9-image035With Aliya, teacher at the Aga Khan academy

silk-road-9-image036Hilly Karimabad town

silk-road-9-image037Dinner in Karimabad was street mishkaki 🙂

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.

silk-road-9-image038

silk-road-9-image039Lunch at Rakaposhi viewpoint with Zafar and Abbas

silk-road-9-image040AKF presence was everywhere

silk-road-9-image041No excuse to miss any prayers

silk-road-9-image042College girls (all Ithnashri’s; the locals could tell right away as Ithnashri females tended to wear very colorful clothes) from Nagar Nala on weekend trip

silk-road-9-image043

silk-road-9-image044Silk Road cut into the mountainside

silk-road-9-image045Karakarom Highway was always interesting

silk-road-9-image046Landslides were still pervasive on the KKH

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.

This entry was posted in Asia, Pakistan, Silk Road Pakistan June 2016

4 thoughts on “Silk Road 9: Karakorum Highway; Karimabad/Hunza, Pakistan

  • Eric c September 30, 2017 at 6:11 am Reply

    Enjoyed every bit of your post. Awesome.

    • Ali Karim May 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm Reply

      HI Eric, so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the feedback; I really appreciate it

  • Jane Willson May 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm Reply

    Brilliant! Loved your descriptions with gorgeous photos…

    • Ali Karim May 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm Reply

      Thanks Jane. Glad you liked my blog postings.

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