For centuries, life in Hunza Valley tucked in the Himalayas was isolated, calm, and simple; its beauty and serenity was unknown to the outside world until the opening of Karakorom Highway. Hunza Valley is ringed by towering ranges, where snow peaks puncturing the skyline, highland lakes dotted the landscape, tranquil hill villages overlooking terrace fields, glacier-fed rivers flowing by, and its residents go about in an unhurried pace. The remote valley seems other-worldly, a trip there would rid your stereotypical impression of Pakistan.
Board an afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur to Pakistan capital Islamabad via Bangkok. Arrival in late night, transfer to hotel, retire early to bed in preparation for the exciting journey ahead.
Early morning transfer to airport, take a domestic flight to Gilgit. After landing, transfer to Karimabad; en-route breakfast stop at viewpoint of Rakaposhi Mountain. Upon arrival in Karimabad (2500m), check into hotel and refreshed. Later, explore the local bazaar and have a walk along the elaborate network of water channels based on gravity system to draw melted glacier snow for farming. During sunset, visit “Eagle Nest” to admire twilight from a high point.
After breakfast, visit Altit Fort (11th century) and Baltit Fort (14th century), once home to Hunza rulers. Both palace-fortresses sit on nearby hilltops, a strategic position for defense and control over the trans-Karakoram trade route between South and Central Asia. Later, move on to Hopper Valley and trek for an hour to the “moving” Hopper Glacier. After lunch, visit Attabad Lake, which was formed after an earthquake in 2010 and now a popular scenic tourist spot; enjoy boating on the lake. Evening arrive in Gulmit (2500m), the base for next 3 nights.
Gulmit is a small town in Upper Hunza surrounded by towering peaks, including Shisper Peak (7611m), Gulmit Tower (5810m), and Passu Catheral (6106m) that looks like a crown. Today explore nearby Passu Village, observe local life up-close and mingle with villagers. Afternoon visit and walk on the impressive Passu Glacier. On the way back to Gulmit, visit Hussaini Suspension Bridge that straddles two villages on the banks of Hunza River, take a suspenseful walk on the bridge swaying between high mountains and admire sunset view.
Today take a scenic drive up north along Karakoram Highway till Khunjerab Pass that borders Pakistan and China (Xinjiang). Set at an altitude of 4733m, Khunjerab pass has always been an important route linking Central Asia, China, and India since the Silk Road days. Admire impressive view of Pamir ranges along the way, if lucky, one might spot wild animals like Marcopolo sheep, snow leopard, or Himalayan Ibexes. Evening return to Gulmit for stay.
After breakfast, journey to Gupis Valley located by the west bank of Gilgit River. The scenic valley offers view of farmland sandwiched between high mountains, traditional villages scattered here and there, with crystal clear river oozing by. Lots of photo opportunities along the way. Upon arrival at accommodation nestled in the valley, take a short trek to Khalti Lake, famed for its trout fish, with a glacier nearby. The turquoise blue lake is a popular fishing and leisure spot for locals.
Today explore the picturesque Phander Valley, crops of various hues covered the flat land by riverbanks, surrounded by tall ranges and snow-capped peaks, and bluish river snaking through the valley. Embrace the nature and fresh air, enjoy hospitality of the locals, and feel as if being in the other-worldly Shangri-la. Lots of photo stops along the way. Evening return to Gupis for stay.
After breakfast, journey back to Gilgit, en-route drive across Asia’s longest suspension bridge measuring 182m in length and 2m in width, just enough room for one vehicle to pass through at a time. Upon arrival in Gilgit, visit the busy and colourful local bazaar. The hill town has been a trading hub for ceramics, silk, cashmere, precious stones, etc, since Silk Road era; today it remains an important hub for goods in transit from China to South Asia via the Karakorum Highway.
Today drive to Fairy Meadows, set in the foothills of Mt. Nanga Parbat (8125m), Pakistan’s second highest peak (after K2, the world’s second highest mountain). Change into mountain jeep at Raikot Bridge to proceed to Tatto Village, set at the end of the road, after that embark on a 3-hour trek to Fairy Meadows, altitude climbed from around 2300m to 3300m. Fairy Meadows is surrounded by pine forest, offering clear view of Nanga Parbat peak. Overnight at wooden cottages.
Wake up early to admire sunrise view over Fairy Meadows and towering snow-capped peaks in a distance. After breakfast, trek downhill back to Tatto Village, then transfer by mountain jeep back to Raikot Bridge, and change into minibus to proceed to Chilas. Enjoy a scenic drive, with view of three world famous mountain ranges – Karakorum, Himalaya, Hindu Kush – in sight. Lots of photo opportunities along the way. Overnight in Chilas.
A day of long drive through winding mountain road back to capital city. En-route, stopover in Besham to visit Taxila Museum that showcases a collection of Gandharan (Buddhism) art dating from 1st to 7th centuries excavated from ruins of ancient Taxila (dating back to 2500 years), once visited and documented by Chinese monk Xuan Zhuang. Upon arrival in Islamabad, visit Shah Faisal Mosque, the biggest in Pakistan. The mosque blends contemporary design with traditional Middle East and Turkish styles. After dinner, transfer to airport, take a late night flight bound for Kuala Lumpur via Bangkok.
Early morning landing in Bangkok for transit, take a connecting flight back to Kuala Lumpur. Arrive at destination in the afternoon. End of tour.
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Lam Yuet is an avid traveler, leaving her trails in four continents of the world. She had once spent two years making an Asia-Europe overland journey. Her tales from the road have been published under three titles – The Grand Overland Voyage, A State Called Home, and My Private Map.
She was a feature journalist, specialized in travel writing. As her former job involved lots of oversea assignments, she had experienced luxurious business tour as well as travel on a shoestring. Backpacking is still her preferred choice.
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