Travelling From Islamabad to Hunza – A Complete Guide

We at Roaming Pakistan have put a great emphasis on the Northern areas of Pakistan. The reason behind doing so is that even the citizens of Pakistan who are unaware of its beauty can get a chance to explore it fully. We have talked about all the hidden heavens of Naran and Kaghan Valley that are worth a visit. in our articles, we have also talked about the budget-friendly and luxury hotels that you can stay at while in Naran. We have provided all the authentic information you need as a guide before planning a trip up there. But how to reach from Islamabad to Hunza?

Most of us, who are beginners in travelling expedition or want to give a try for the first time, must be wondering how to get to Hunza or the places between Islamabad to Hunza? Are the roads safe for travelling or do we have flights for Hunza? What are the preparations before setting up on this journey?

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So here we are, with the wholesome guide for all our readers who are thinking of going from Islamabad to Hunza this summer. We’ll talk about all the routes and amazing places that you will pass through when travelling by personal car or bus. Moreover, which companies are taking buses on this route. What if we want to travel by air, is that an option? We will also talk about the places you can stop by for a stay at night. What are the famous foods that you must try while on a visit to Hunza? So let’s start!

All You Need To Know About Hunza

If you compare Hunza valley with any European country, I can say that it is no less than any of them in terms of nature and its beauty. Hunza is in the Northern part of Pakistan. It is one of the beauties on Earth. Located on the mighty Karakoram Highway, Hunza is considered to be one of the most worthy places to stop by. It has some amazing tourist locations that are rich in history and culture. 

Famous Food in Hunza

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When most of us are planning a vacation, heading up North is the first destination that comes to mind. So as for the foreigners too when they want a trip in the subcontinent. Hunza is one stop on the way where people love to stay for 2 or 3 days, even more. There are a lot of hotels both high end and budget-friendly to stay in, restaurants and cafes making authentic Hunzans food. Hunza is a paradise of apples, apricots and dry fruits. Chap Shuru and Manto are the two most known dishes of Hunza. Chap shuru is a pie/pizza crust with mince inside and Manto is the dumplings that you can cook in steam with meat inside. Wherever you go there, these two things is a must-try. You can find them on every corner.

Photo by Ali Sheikh on Instagram

Hotels To Stay In Hunza

Staying at Hunza for a few days or even months wouldn’t be a problem. The hotels are great in number. Some are the top most exquisite, luxurious with just the perfect vibe for you to stay in. But surely they are heavy on your pockets so you might be able to afford 2-3 nights only. Luxus Hunza, Hunza Serena Inn and Eagles Nest are a few of these divine hotels. But don’t worry, you can easily find something that suits your limited budget but with a memorable experience. Some of them are PTDC Hunza, Tara Homestay, Hunza Hidden Palace and so many more. From the long list of hotels in Hunza, there will be at least one to fit your requirements.

People of Hunza Valley

People of Hunza; Hunzan are known for their down to earth and very calm personality. They are considered very intelligent and have good knowledge with a strong educational background mostly. Their welcoming attitude towards the tourists spread such a positive vibe all around that even foreigners love to come back every season. These fair-skinned people of Hunza are mostly Ismailis and they speak a language called Burushaski. Their culture is strongly knitted and followed over the generations. The bond among their people is so strong and loyal but equally generous towards others. 

Arts and Crafts in Hunza

One of the dying yet specialities of Hunza is the wood carving industry that’s facing the downfall. The people of Hunza are famous for wooden hand-carved things like cutlery, crockery and other decoration pieces. These people are mostly self-taught artisans who are passionate about their work. Some of them are working hard to revive the tradition as the explorers love buying unique wooden art pieces. They spend a good amount of time finding fallen trees as they believe in sustainability hence do not cut trees for this purpose. How thoughtful right?

Islamabad to Hunza distance

Hunza is a mountainous valley located in the Northern region of Gilgit Baltistan, touching the China border from the North-west. It is situated at an elevation of 2483 meters above sea level. The distance between Islamabad to Hunza is around 600 kilometres from the N-15 route and takes 12-13 hours to cover this distance. 

Hunza is on a 100-kilometre drive from Gilgit which takes 2-3 hours of drive if you are planning to travel via plane. There is a lot to see here; from the highest peaks to the old villages. Rakaposhi, Lady Finger, Ghent and Ultar Sar are some of the high peaks that can be witnessed from the naked eye in Hunza. The beautiful but mighty mountains will make you think about the marvellous creature of this universe. Other places that you must visit over your trip are Karimabad village, Altit Fort, Baltit Fort, Attabad Lake, Passu Cones, Sost Border and Hussaini Hanging Bridge.

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Camping, swimming, hiking and trekking, rafting, fishing, mountaineering, mountain biking, skiing and horse riding are the activities you can take part in to make your trip from Islamabad to Hunza adventurous and unforgettable. 

How To Reach Hunza From Islamabad

Islamabad to Hunza by road

Gilgit Baltistan Region is considered as the heaven on Earth. While you travel by road from Islamabad towards the Northern Areas, the more you cover the distance the more you get close to the mighty peaks. Throughout the journey you will witness the snow-capped mountains, the river rushing by, lush green grasslands, beautiful valleys as far as the eye can see and the fresh air will blow your mind. Serenity in the air will make you forget everything stressful. 

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This journey could be equally interesting for the first-timers as much for the adventure seekers. There are two routes that you can take to travel from Islamabad to Hunza. Read ahead for details of the two routes leading to Hunza. Both of these routes are the same till Mansehra and then joins at Chilas

Islamabad to Hunza by N-35 Route

If you plan to take route N-35 which is also known as Karakoram Highway then from Islamabad you will travel towards Abbottabad and then Mansehra. From Mansehra, if you take a left, you will be on Karakoram Highway. This route will follow Pattan, Besham and finally Chilas. This highway is almost 806 kilometres long stretching from Kashmir to Gilgit on the east, touches swat from North and on its South is Besham and Mansehra. Kohistan district is the highlight of this route. 

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Kohistan District

The single road runs between the rocky and huge mountains throughout the Kohistan District. You can see the sunrise here with peculiar beauty showing green patches from a distance. Kohistanis are genetically related to afghanis. Their skin and features are different from most of the people here in Gilgit or Hunza. They are known for their difficult and no welcoming behaviour, however, they haven’t caused any problem to the travellers so far. Kohistan is divided into Upper and Lower Kohistan. Pattan is the capital of lower Kohistan and is the exact centre of Islamabad to Gilgit. Dassu is the capital of Upper Kohistan. This is the location for Diamer Bhasha Dam. This whole area is known for development projects between Pakistan and China. You can see the magnificent view of the Indus River from the bridges built here over small towns.

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It takes 7-8 hours to reach Pattan from Islamabad to Hunza. You can stay a night here to take a break from driving in case you are travelling through a personal car. 

Chilas on way from Islamabad to Hunza

As soon as you enter Chilas, you’ll notice that the air is dry and hot. The temperature here is definitely higher than the rest of the areas we have just crossed. The mountains here are a big pile of sound. There is no greenery as far as you can see. The brown mountains are running on the side of the Indus river making its water sandy too.

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After Chilas the view will change drastically as you are about to enter Gilgit. Near this point, you will see three giant mountains meeting each other; The Hindukush, The Himalayas and The Karakoram Range. You will find boards on the way explaining the demographics and landscape of these mountain ranges. It’s quite informative for the tourists.

There are guest houses and hotels in Chilas and Gilgit where you can stay. Both the places have Army Cantt and if you have a network, you can stay here too for a much better experience. 

Islamabad to Hunza by N-15 Route

For taking the N-15 route, follow the same route as above mentioned till Mansehra. From here if you take the right turn, the road will connect you to the newly carpeted highway that leads to Naran Kaghan Valley, Babusar Top and comes back to Chilas on Karakoram Highway. So this route diverges from Mansehra and connects back to Chilas. The scenery throughout the way is breathtaking. The road is wide and easy to travel on. To avoid the traffic you can travel at night, it’s completely safe. 

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Naran And Lake Saif ul Malook

By taking the N-15 route, comes a beautiful lush green valley of Naran and Kaghan. The eyes can capture its beautiful scenery forever but the cameras can never do them justice. To reach Naran it takes around 5 to 6 hours. This incredible town is the main stop for travellers on the route from Islamabad to Hunza. There are countless hotels to stay in, there are lots of scenic and historical places that you need to visit. Restaurants have their own unique style.

Photo by Farooq Umer on Instagram

If you have a plan to visit just till Naran, read more about the places you need to visit here as tourists. In this, we have talked about the magnificent Lake Saif ul Malook that you can reach after a drive of one hour. Since the road is extremely thin and bumpy, random drivers won’t be able to drive here but the locals of Naran with jeeps are a pro at handling these dangerous roads with deadly turns. After another four hours, the drive will take you to Ansoo Lake which is even tidier than Saif ul Malook. There are numerous restaurants on the river banks where you can enjoy the view with fresh trout which is a famous treat of this area.

Babusar Top

After you cross Naran Kaghan Valley, the next milestone is Lulusar, which then leads to Babusar top. This area is no less than Switzerland because of its thick green plains with cattle grazing everywhere. The big turns on this scenic road will take you to a breathtaking view on top which is called Babusar Peak. People stop here to take a look at the most wonderful view that you cannot forget. The road is open throughout the year but the best time to visit this heaven is from May to October when the temperature is pleasant and the lands are uncovered from snow. This road connects you to the Karakoram Highway on Chilas.

Photo by Fahad Hanif on Instagram

Head over to our previous articles The Top 5 Luxury Hotels in Naran (2021) and Top 4 Budget-friendly Naran Hotels (2021) to see the best hotels where you can stay.

Chilas to Hunza

After Chilas and crossing the Raikot bridge, the highway becomes even wider and you can rush towards Gilgit with more speed. Gilgit is a well-established city where you can find all the necessities of life. From here, after one hour drive, you can reach Hunza. From here you can further extend your trip to Khunjerab Pass or towards Skardu and Chitral.

Islamabad to Hunza bus service

If you are not willing to drive all by yourself, or you don’t have your own conveyance. Even if you have your own conveyance but want to make it a special family trip then you can definitely opt for travelling by bus or hiring a separate van. You can explore the beauties on the way without stressful driving and even capture nature in the eye of your camera. You can take buses that commute on the direct route from Islamabad to Hunza. Once you are there, local transport can be rented or in case of van/bus on rent from Islamabad, you can continue using it for commuting anywhere. Let’s see which bus services are offering a route from Islamabad to Hunza. 

NATCO Bus service

NATCO stands for Northern Areas Transportation Corporation that aims to improve the commuting problems and connect the Northern Areas of Pakistan with the rest of the country. They provide booking services, courier and logistics services, and many other services related to transportation. 

NATCO bus service works 24/7, throughout the year whether it’s summers or winters. For hassle-free commuting, visit the website and book your tickets online. They accept different modes of transactions like debit credit cards, cash etc. For travelling from Islamabad to Gilgit the timings of their bus service with charges are down below;

And if you want to travel from Hunza to Islamabad the bus timings and charges are;

Faisal Movers

After the PTI took the government and there was more emphasis on tourism, Faisal movers started their new route from Islamabad/Rawalpindi to Hunza. They were the pioneers in stepping up to boost the tourism of Pakistan from the Bus service industry. They also offer service from Lahore to the Northern areas. Now the travellers; foreigners or locals can easily enjoy the trip with comfort, trust and adventure. The bus departs from Islamabad at 1 pm. The fare on the routes are;

Islamabad to Naran = Rs 1790

ISB to Babusar = Rs 2950

Islamabad to Gilgit = Rs 3000

ISL to Hunza = Rs 3500

Islamabad to Hunza by air

If you want a comfortable and easy journey and want to cut the long travelling time, you can choose to reach Hunza by air. For which you have to land at Gilgit airport which is small but functional. From here you will have to book a taxi or any other conveyance to reach Hunza which will take another 1 to 2 hours.

Islamabad to Gilgit 

For travelling by air, you have to reach from Islamabad to Hunza. It’s one hour and fifteen minutes long flight. PIA is the only airline providing flights on this route seven days a week. From Islamabad to Gilgit, there are two flights every day. One is at 6:30 AM and the second flight takes off at 10:50 AM. Fare for this route may vary and goes up to Rs 29000 depending on whether it’s one way or a round trip.

Gilgit to Hunza by Road

There is no direct flight from Islamabad to Hunza so you need to land at Gilgit airport. After that, by car or van, there is a distance of 100 kilometres till you reach Hunza. This takes around 90 minutes and costs around Rs 5000-6000 for one way. 

Islamabad to hunza
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Preparations Before Islamabad to Hunza Trip

You need to be well prepared before you set up for a journey towards the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Even citizens of Pakistan might face a little difficulty staying there as it gets out of the comfort zone for most of the people. Thus, it is important for us to be mentally and physically prepared for this trip with all the essentials ready in your backpack. Soe of these essentials are;

Covid Kit

Under the current pandemic situation, even if the tourist spots are open for visitors still you need to be careful. Take all the precautionary measures. Wear a mask all the time. Sanitize your hands if water is not available and maintain social distance. It would be appreciated if you avoid visiting any tourist locations to control the spread of Covid and cause damage to the people living nearby. But if you plan a trip this summer, make sure to follow all the SOPs very strictly.

Food And Water

It is a long distance to travel via road. Make sure you keep enough snacks and water bottles with you. There is a chance that the local water might not suit you. It’s better to keep your own supply to avoid any sickness. Taking home-cooked food for a day or two can be another brilliant idea while for the rest of the days you must try specialities of Hunza and nearby towns and cities. 

Local SIM With Network Coverage

You might face weak or no network at all in most of the areas. This is because our mobile networks do not provide complete coverage in Northern areas. Getting enough signals for contact can be slightly difficult. To avoid this problem, you can get a local Sim that works here or a network that provides enough coverage in these areas. Internet service gets extremely low, it might work on Edge or sometimes on 3G. However, the trip has to be about taking a break from our stressful lives. And a major chunk of this stress comes from screens that we use so the first target should be to live without cell phones. 

Travel Essentials

Even in summers, the temperature at Hunza and even nearby areas can get very chilly at night so make sure you keep enough warm clothes. Sunblock, caps, umbrellas are few other things that you might need. Keep extra shoes and socks too. 

Camping and Hiking Gear

There are many hiking tracks and camping sites. If you are interested in making your trip even closer to nature and adventurous, keep nice, well-functioning camping gears with a sleeping bag and tents. Other than trekking and hiking, you can get rafting at Attabad Lake. it is not necessary that they provide life jackets so it’s better to keep them with you for your own safety. 

Safety Concerns

You must be wondering whether it is safe to travel by road or via bus on such a long-distance at such dangerous steep locations at times. Well, it’s totally safe. The newly carpeted, wide highways with street lights and cat eyes will help you drive at night. There is no pressure on the driver, you just have to take breaks and take a rest. There are some locations that have deadly edges, plan your trip in a way that these patches are passed by in the daylight. For instance, in Chilas it is very likely to witness land sliding so be careful while crossing the area. You should pass it on day time and in speed to avoid any accident. While the areas in Naran are concerned, you can always hire jeeps as the locals are expert in driving in those locations.

As mentioned earlier, the people of Hunza and all the passing areas are very welcoming and generous. You would not feel any security threat while on a trip to Hunza. It’s completely safe and secure. Other than that, keep all your necessary documents to prove your identity at any point. For foreigners, they have to get themselves registered before entering the Northern areas.

So here we have a complete travelling guide from Islamabad to Hunza to help you plan and organize your trip better. As it is important to understand all the little details for a hassle-free vacation. Enjoy and have a memorable trip this summer. Don’t forget to comment and share!

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