Hunza Region, Northern Pakistan: 15 Days Itinerary
Day 1 (Spring): Islambad Arrival - Drive to Besham/Chilas
Day 1 (Fall): Islamabad Arrival - Drive to Naran
Arrive into Islamabad airport where you will be met by the EBT team (if you are arriving within 24 hours of the start of the tour); we’ll ferry you to HQ where you can chill out and freshen up. We recommend arriving into Islamabad one day early so that you can settle in and be ready to go on the morning of day one.
After the briefing, it's time to hit the road and head to the mountains! Traveling by comfortable 24 seater minibus, the Kahn Express, with our fearless driver Mr. Khan – our good friend and driver for the whole adventure, we leave Islamabad behind and embark on our journey! The plan is to drive roughly 12-15 hours to the mountain bazar town of Naran located in the lush Kaghan Valley.
Here we will rest up for the night at a comfortable hotel before hitting the road again in the morning. If our driver is feeling good, we may push on to a hotel in the town of Chilas, which marks the start of the Karakoram Highway.
For the spring tours, we must take a different route due to heavy snow fall/road closures. Instead of driving to Naran, we will be stopping in Besham or Chilas on the evening of day 1. Drive time from Islamabad?: 10-14 hours with breaks and traffic.
After our group has assembled, we will have our first group meeting/introductions over tea/coffee and then we will hit the road. We will save visiting the highlights the neighboring city of Lahore until the end of the tour.
Day 2: Travel to Karimabad
The real attractions of Pakistan are in the north and to get there we need to travel along the world’s highest paved road, The Karakoram Highway. Traveling along The Karakoram Highway is an unforgettable experience; you will see peaks and valleys, rivers and glaciers. Twenty-one of the world’s one hundred highest peaks are visible from the KKH and the journey is a great introduction to the mountains as civilization slips away behind us…
The goal is to reach Karimabad by late afternoon/early evening. That way we have the whole next day to relax in this stunning mountain village.
Drive from Naran or Besham to Karimabad – approx. 11-15 hours – with plenty of stops along the way.
Day 3: Karimabad Exploration
Karimabad is the gateway to the mountains and a great place to wander about for a day. Today there is a mix of free time and planned activities. Explore the cobblestone streets, bargain for rubies and handicrafts, feast on Hunza cuisine, sip espresso in Café Hunza on your own time in the morning. After lunch we get to grips with the dark history of Baltit Fort and/or Altit Fort (time permitting).
After a day of exploring Karimabad, we’ll drive for thirty minutes up a steep switchback road to reach Mountain Story— an awesome guesthouse located above Aliabad, just south of Karimabad. This place is awesome (and they may even make home made cider and beer)...
Day 4: Eagles Nest Sunrise and Drive to Ghulkin Village Homestay
We will then have a very early morning start (in the dark) and drive to catch the sunrise above Eagles Nest. Well worth it! Our group will then return to Mountain Story for breakfast before starting our drive to Ghulkin Village in Upper Hunza.
The small village of Ghulkin is a truly special place where time stands still and mountains march away into the distance on all sides. En route we will take in the scenes at Attabad Lake.
Upper Hunza is one of the best places in Pakistan to trek, explore glaciers, snack on apricots, camp out under the stars and chat with the locals.
We will be staying with our good friends Rehman (one of our adventure guides) and Sitara; both of whom speak excellent English (Sitara is the local teacher) and can give an insight into life in the mountains.
Accommodation in Ghulkin will be in one huge guest room and we will all be sharing a space. Conditions in the village are very clean (yes, there’s a western toilet!) but are also basic; electricity is sporadic and there is no phone signal.
Aliabad to Ghulkin drive time: 2 hours max.
Day 5: Start of Patundas Pass Trek
Today we will be trekking into the mountains not too far from Ghulkin village. We begin the trek at the end of a jeep track at Borith Lake. After about 2-3 hours of steady, but steep hiking we will come to the truly stunning Passu Glacier crossing point. We take an easy pace as we hike across the ice as there are a few challenging sections, one of which we will use a fixed rope to safely cross. Here we will traverse the glacier for about 1/12-2 hours before arriving at our camp site for the night (3500 meters).
From here, our group can enjoy stunning views of Shispar peak and Passu peak. The stars at the camp are unreal if the weather is clear! Keep an eye out for eagles and ibex in the mountains above you and soak in some of the freshest air you’ve ever tasted.
Note: Group gear, tents, and food will be portered. If you would like additional gear portered for you, porter services are available at a reasonable cost.
Small crampons or micro spikes are recommend (but not mandatory) when crossing the Passu Glacier.
Day 6: Hike to Patundas Pass
Today, we start off on the second leg of our trek after breakfast. The distance is only a few kilometers, but it is straight up the side of a mountain and gains about 700 meters of elevation, so we will take our time and enjoy the views as we go.
Total trekking time today is roughly three hours and six hours, depending on group interest..
Once on the top, our group will savor in the 360 degree views of the Passu Cones, Batura Glacier, Shispar Peak, and Passu Peak. Formerly only a shepherd's settlement, only about 100 people come up here a year, so we should have the place to ourselves. The Batura Glacier viewpoint (4200 meters) is truly a magical place and offers up one of the best views in Pakistan.
Note: For most of the year there is no water at Patundas Pass, which means that we will keep our first low camp setup and just visit Patundas Pass as part of an epic day hike. During the springtime, it may not be possible to visit Patundas due to large amounts of snow covering the trail, but that is why the April/May tours start in the late spring!
Day 7: Hike Back to Borith Lake Jeep Track and Drive to Ghulkin
Today, we return to Ghulkin via the same route in which we came across the Passu glacier. The going is much easier on the way down, so the trek will likely take the group 4-6 hours.
Upon arrival in Ghulkin, we shall feast like the kings of old after our trek and sleep at our homestay with Rehman's family. We spend the afternoon relaxing in the Ghulkin, getting cleaned up, and soaking in the vibes of life in a small Pakistani village. Afternoon naps will probably be on the agenda for all. A short sunset walk will be possible for those who want to partake.
Day 8: Ghulin Chill Day and Passu Suspension Bridge Hike
After a few hectic days of hiking and camping, today is overall meant to be a relaxing day. Part of the experience of staying in a small mountain community is to take the time to fully appreciate the slower pace of life here without constantly rushing to the next thing.
In the afternoon, we go for an easy/moderate hike to visit the legendary Passu Suspension bridge. The bridge itself is far less visited than the more famous Hussaini bridge found directly off of the Karakoram Highway.
We return to Ghulkin for dinner and an evening musical performance if we are lucky!
Total trekking time 2-3 hours
Day 9: Onwards to China!
Today, we are off on an epic road trip adventure… Traveling by minibus, we will head up towards Khunjerab Pass National Park. The scenery from the road is truly incredible and we will make frequent stops for photos and chai. We will make our way up towards the Pakistan-China border crossing, the highest in the world.
Set in a craggy bowl of mountains and surrounded by glaciers, this is a truly breathtaking landscape steeped in history. We will spend the night in a comfortable but basic hotel in Passu where you will have access to decent showers (and maybe even WiFi).
There is no trekking or strenuous physical activity on this day. Pack your headphones and snacks!
Day 10: Travel to Fairy Meadows
Leaving Passu early (5 am start), we will travel to Raikot Bridge where we will transfer into 4x4 jeeps and traverse the legendary Fairy Meadows jeep track - think sheer drops and impossible hair-pin bends… In the distance, if the weather is clear, you will catch your first glimpse of Nanga Parbat; the most beautiful mountain in Pakistan, and the ninth highest mountain in the world. This is the stuff adventure is made of! You may have to hike part of the jeep track as the road is sometimes washed away.
Arriving at the end of the jeep track we will then hike for two to three hours (porters and horses available for an additional fee). Arriving into The Fairy Meadows, we will spend the next couple of nights in comfortable log cabins with wood burners to keep us warm.
Drive from Passu to Raikot Bridge – 5 - 6 hours - then 1.5 hour jeep journey and 2 - 3 hour trek
Day 11: Optional Trek to Nanga Parbat Base Camp.
The Fairy Meadows is the perfect place to chill out and unwind; watch the clouds dance past Nanga Parbat, the glacier snaking through the valley below, and explore the cool woods surrounding our log cabins. There are several optional treks available here but the real highlight is the hike to Nanga Parbat Basecamp (6-8 hours return).
If you’re not feeling it, you can chill out at the lodge. The Fairy Meadows is one of the best places in the world to relax and watch the mountains. At night at the Fairy Meadows we will have am epic bonfire beneath the stars!
Note: the optional hike to Nanga Parbat basecamp requires a moderate level of fitness and take around 6 - 8 hours round trip (with plenty of time to chill out at base camp, eat lunch, etc). For the spring tours it likely will not be possible to hike beyond the upper view point due to snow pack/rock fall hazard.
Day 12: Travel to Abbottabad / Islamabad
Leaving The Fairy Meadows behind, we will travel back to Raikot Bridge at first light where we will join our minibus and Mr. Khan and begin the long journey back to Abbottabad or Islamabad (spring/fall).
Note: 3 / 4 hours to reach Raikot Bridge (combination of hiking and the jeep ride down), 12-14 hours to reach Abbottabad/Islamabad with meal / bathroom stops on the way.
We sleep in Abbottabad or Islamabad to break up the super long drive. Islamabad is just a sleep / shower stop at a hotel before moving on back to Lahore in the morning.
During the spring tours, it is not possible for the group to make it to Islamabad from Raikot Bridge due to the alternate route we must take, thus we will likely sleep in Abbottabad.
Day 13: Arrive in Lahore
Today we have something special in store for you that we will reveal at some point on tour. Hint: your belly and heart will be full. We will aim to be back in Lahore sometime in the mid-afternoon. Arriving into Lahore, we will head straight to our hotel to freshen up / chill for a few hours. The plan for the evening is to eat diner at a fantastic restaurant overlooking the Badshahi Mosque.
Day 14: Final Day in Lahore
Our final full day of the tour will be action packed. In the morning, We’ll check out Badshahi Mosquen is a marvel of red sandstone and polished marble and the Lahore Fort. We will then have a few hours of chill time at the hotel following the mosque, before heading to the Wagah Border for the border ceremony towards the end of the afternoon. After one final feast together (and plenty of laughs and hugs), the tour officially ends (sadly).
Day 15: Tour Ends
We arrange for transfers to the airport for those who are flying out over the next 12 hours. Check out of the hotel is around 11 am on Day 15. You can choose to stay on at the same hotel if you are not flying home right away, though any additional nights at the hotel are not covered by EBT.