aga khan karimabad

Karimabad’s Timeless Charm: Crown of the Hunza Valley

Karimabad, formerly known as Baltit, is the capital of Hunza district in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan. An article in The Guardian listed it as one of the five “top tourist spots” in Pakistan.

Karimabad is heaven on earth, this Hunza Valley capital stands at 2,435 meters above sea level and is one of the best places to relax after all the hiking you have done in Fairy Meadows and Rakaposhi. With its relaxed atmosphere, amazing cafes, and beautiful places to explore, all surrounded by beautiful countryside, you’re sure to have a great time in Karimabad.

History of Karimabad, Hunza

Formerly known as Baltit, Karimabad was originally ruled by the ruler Mir of Hunza. At that time, Baltit Fort was built to function as Mir’s palace. The place was known as a caravan stop and slave trade.

Baltit served as the capital of the Hunza Valley for more than 750 years, until the middle of the 20th century. After Pakistan became an independent country in 1947, Mir-controlled Hunza province voluntarily joined Pakistan

Earlier, the capital was moved from the area around Balit down to the lower part of the hills where new buildings were built to become the new capital Karimabad. The new town developed into a tourist destination, following the development of the Karakoram Highway, with many shopping complexes dealing in handicrafts, hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies.

Both Baltit Fort and Karimabad Village received the World Tourism Award in 2000, with Indonesia, Australia, India, Britain, and other countries competing.

Things to do in Karimabad

Built-in the 8th century BC on a hilltop overlooking Karimabad, this fabled fort is the most prominent landmark of the Hunza Valley. Its majestic location surrounded by snow-capped mountains makes this fort one of the most photogenic places in Pakistan.

To reach the fort, you will have to climb a steep road through a local village for 15 minutes before reaching the fort from where you can have an unobstructed view of Karimabad and the valley beyond. On a clear day, you can see Rakaposhi and Diran peaks from the fort.

The local villages around the fort are also worth exploring, so be sure to take some time to walk around the village.

1. Visit Altit Fort and Village

At the bottom of the valley, there is another fort, although without much maintenance, which is also worth a visit. You can simply follow the Sultan Abad road across the river and down the Ahmedabad road before reaching the Altit fort. There’s not much to see inside as renovations are still underway, but the exterior is pretty interesting in its own right.

2. Excursion to 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 takes you to Ultar Base Camp, where you can see the glaciers and peaks of Ultar up close. The hike takes you along an irrigation canal as the trail climbs steeply up a narrow gorge. 

It should take you about 4-5 hours to reach the ridge where you will be rewarded with views of the massive Ultar Glacier and the beautiful jagged peaks of Ultar. There is a hut at the base camp where tea and food are served during the summer months. You can also camp here if you have camping equipment or return in one day to Karimabad.

3. Visit Ganish Village

Ganish Village is the first settlement in the Hunza Valley dating back thousands of years. The people came from different areas and as the settlement grew, they expanded out and into different areas around the Hunza Valley. There are several old mosques, one of which is 400 years old, and a Shikari watchtower that you can explore. If you’re a history buff like me, visiting Ganish Village is a breeze.

4. Take a break at Cafe De Hunza

Last, but not least, take a break at Cafe de Hunza for a nice cup of joe with their famous walnut cakes. They serve Western-style coffee and cakes, so if you are into really good coffee, especially if you have been traveling in Pakistan for a while, come to Cafe de Hunza and indulge in their selection of coffee and cakes.

Best Time to visit Karimabad, Hunza

The best time to visit Karimabad and Hunza Valley is from April to October, but if you don’t like crowds, avoid June to August. The Hunza Valley can get quite crowded during the summer months as both locals and Chinese tourists flock here when the temperature is pleasant and warm.

Internet is unreliable in Hunza Valley even if you have a local SIM card. You get unreliable EDGE internet speed that often doesn’t work. There are also frequent power outages in this area, so even if your accommodation has WIFI, it may not always work. If you haven’t bought a local SIM card from Islamabad or Lahore at this time, you are pretty much out of luck as there is no service center to register your SIM card.

Route to Karimabad, Hunza

There is no direct transport to Karimabad. You will either have to fly to Gilgit from Islamabad, Lahore, or Karachi or take a 20+ hour bus ride from these cities.

Once you reach Gilgit, you can take a van directly to Karimabad from the bus stand on the outskirts of the city. This should take about 3-4 hours depending on how long they drive and recruit more people.


Karimabad is easily accessible on foot. The town is a bit hilly but most attractions are within walking distance so no need to take a taxi.

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