I dare say, Karimabad is the real Shangri-La that was mentioned in James Hilton's Lost Horizon. A paradise on earth, this capital city of Hunza Valley stood at 2,435 above sea-level and it is one of the best places to take a break after all the hikes you did in Fairy Meadows and Rakaposhi. With its laid-back vibe, awesome cafes and beautiful places to explore, all surrounded by beautiful landscape, you are sure to have a great time in Karimabad. Here are 5 awesome things you can do in Karimabad:
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Karimabad Things to Do Map
When to Go to Karimabad
The best time to visit Karimabad is from Apirl to October but avoid June to August if you do not like crowds. Karimabad can get quite crowded during the midsummar months as both the local and the Chinese tourists flock the place when the temperature is nice and warm.
I was in Karimabad in October and the temperature hovers around 15°C while the nights go a bit below. The temperature was very manageable but I didn't have to deal with the crowds.
Where to Stay in Karimabad
Old Hunza inn - 11 USD/Night (Double Room)
The most budget places in Hunza with basic room but a killer view of Diran and Rakaposhi peaks.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
The internet is unreliable in Hunza Valley, even if you have a local sim card. You will be getting unreliable EDGE internet speed that often doesn't work. Power outages also happen a lot in this region and so even if your accommodation has WIFI, it might not work all the time. By this time, if you haven't bought a local sim card from Islamabad or Lahore, you are pretty much out of luck as there is no service center to register the sim card for you.
The only reliable internet I found is from Cafe de Hunza. They have fast internet and are often available even during the power outage so if you want to stay in contact with your friends and families, buy a cup of coffee there and ask for their WIFI.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Pakistan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Karimabad
There is no direct transport to Karimabad. You will either have to fly to Gilgit from Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi or you will have to take a 20+ hours bus from these cities. If you are looking for a flight, I would recommend you browse through Momondo or Skyscanner for the best and cheapest deal possible.
Once you get to Gilgit, you can take a van directly to Karimabad from the bus stop in the outskirt of the city. This should take around 3 - 4 hours depending on how long they will be driving around, picking more people up. The location is shown below:
If you are somewhere along the Karakoram Highway like in Minapin, the fastest option is to walk to the Karakoram Highway and hitchhike directly to Karimabad or if they are passing through Ali Abad, you can drop by there and take a taxi up to Karimabad or walk. People are very friendly and they are willing to help you by any means.
You can also wait for a bus or a van and flag them down if you don't feel comfortable hitchhiking. Either way, you will have to get yourself to the Karakoram Highway and flag your transportation yourself.
How to Get Around Karimabad
Karimabad is easily accessible on foot. The town is a little hilly but most of the attractions are all in walking distance so there is no need to get a taxi.
5 Awesome Things to Do in Karimabad
1. Climb up the Baltit Fort
This fairy-tale-like fort built in the 8th Century BC on top of a hill overlooking Karimabad, is the most prominent landmarks in Hunza Valley. The moment I gazed my eyes upon the fort, I knew this is Shangri-La. Its majestic location, being surrounded by the snowy mountains, make this fort one of the most photogenic spots in Pakistan.
In order to get to the fort, you will have to climb a steep road for 15 minutes through a local village before you will arrive at the fort where you will be able to get an unobstructed view of Karimabad and the valleys beyond. On a clear day, you can see Rakaposhi and Diran peaks all the way from the fort.
The local village around the fort is also worth exploring as well so be sure to spend some time and walk around the village.
2. Visit the Altit Fort and Village
There is another fort, although without much maintenance, that lies below at the bottom of the valley which is worth visiting as well. You can simply follow the Sultan Abad road across the river and down the Ahmedabad road before you arrive at the fort. There is not much to see inside as the renovation is still ongoing but the exterior is quite interesting in itself.
3. Hike to the Ultar Base Camp
If you can't get enough of hiking in Pakistan, there is a day hike you can do here in Karimabad. The trail starts near the Baltit fort and it will take you all the way up to Ultar Base Camp where you can see the glacier and the Ultar peaks up close. The hike will take you along the irrigation channel as the trail climb steeply up a narrow gorge. It should take you around 4 - 5 hours to reach the ridge where you will be rewarded with a view of the massive Ultar glacier and the beautiful jagged peaks of Ultar. There is a hut at the base camp where they serve tea and food during the summer months. You can also camp here if you have camping gear or return in one day to Karimabad.
4. Visit Ganish Village
Photos by Shahnawaz Qasim.
Ganish village is THE first settlement of Hunza Valley dated back a thousand years. The people came from the different area and as the settlement grew, they expand outward and into different areas around Hunza Valley. There are several old mosques, one of which is 400 years old and the Shikari watchtower you can go explore. If you are a history buff like I do, visiting the Ganish Village is a no-brainer.
5. Take a Break at Cafe de Hunza
Last but not least, take a break at Cafe de Hunza and have a nice cup of joe with their famous walnut cakes. They serve western-style coffees and cakes so if you are indeed of a proper coffee fix, especially if you have been traveling in Pakistan for a while, come by Cafe de Hunza and indulge yourself in their selections of coffee and cakes.
If you have been disconnected for a while and would like to let your friends and families know how you are, Cafe de Hunza also provide free reliable WIFI you can use. They probably have the most reliable wifi in Karimabad. Either or, the cafe offers a great view of the valley as well from the balcony on the third floor so be sure to check that out.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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