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 visiting. Our articles 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 traveling expedition or want to try for the first time, must be wondering how to get to Hunza or the places between Islamabad and Hunza? Are the roads safe for traveling, 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 unique places you will pass through when traveling 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 to stay at night. What are the famous foods that you must try while visiting 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 one of the most worthy places to stop by. It has some fantastic 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 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 are 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 indeed 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 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 personalities. 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 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 firmly 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 specialties of Hunza is the wood carving industry that’s facing the downfall. Hunza people are famous for wooden hand-carved things like cutlery, crockery, and other decoration pieces. These people are primarily 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 reasonable 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

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

Hunza is on a 100-kilometer 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 Ultra Sar are some of Hunza’s high peaks witnessed by the naked eye. The beautiful but mighty mountains will make you think about the marvelous 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. You can take two routes 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, also known as Karakoram Highway, from Islamabad, you will travel towards Abbottabad and then Mansehra. From Mansehra, you will be on Karakoram Highway if you take a left. This route will follow Pattan, Besham, and finally Chilas. This highway is almost 806 kilometers 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 behavior. However, they haven’t caused any problem to the travelers so far. Kohistan is divided into Upper and Lower Kohistan. Pattan is the capital of lower Kohistan and is the exact center 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 if you travel through a personal car. 

Chilas on the 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 visit here too for a much better experience. 

Islamabad to Hunza by N-15 Route

For taking the N-15 route, follow the same route mentioned above until 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,12hr 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, and it’s completely safe. Islamabad to Hunza distance by road map Via N-15 Route is 12 hr and 52 min.

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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 travelers on the route from Islamabad to Hunza. There are countless hotels to stay in, and there are lots of scenic and historical places you need to visit. Restaurants have their unique style.

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If you 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, leading to the Babusar top. This area is no less than Switzerland because of its vast green plains with cattle grazing everywhere. The big turns on this scenic road will take you to a breathtaking view on top called Babusar Peak. People stop here to take a look at the most beautiful scenery 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 more comprehensive, 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 conveyance. Even if you have your conveyance but want to make it a special family trip, then you can opt for traveling 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 the case of van/bus on rent from Islamabad, you can continue using it for commuting anywhere. Let’s see which bus services offer 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 traveling 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 travelers, 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 traveling 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 travel 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 kilometers till you reach Hunza. It takes around 90 minutes and costs around Rs 5000-6000 for one way. 

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 people. Thus, we need to be mentally and physically prepared for this trip with all the essentials ready in backpacks. Soe of these essentials are;

Covid Kit

Under the current pandemic situation, even if the tourist spots are open for visitors, you still need to be careful. Take all the preventive measures. Wear a mask all the time. Sanitize your hands if water is not available and maintain social distance. It will 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 supply to avoid any sickness. Taking home-cooked food for a day or two can be another brilliant idea, while you must try the specialties of Hunza and nearby towns and cities for the rest of the days. 

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. You can get a local Sim that works here or a network that provides enough coverage in these areas to avoid this problem. Internet service gets extremely low, and 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 significant 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 nearby areas can get very chilly at night so make sure you keep enough warm clothes. Sunblock, caps, umbrellas are a few other things 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 gear with a sleeping bag and tents. Other than trekking and hiking, you can get rafting at Attabad Lake. They don’t need to provide life jackets, so it’s better to keep them with you for your 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 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, and you just have to take breaks and rest. Some locations have deadly edges; plan your trip so 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 in the daytime and at speed to avoid accidents. While the regions of Naran are concerned, you can always hire jeeps as the locals are experts 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. Foreigners have to get themselves registered before entering the Northern areas.

So here we have a complete traveling guide from Islamabad to Hunza to help you plan and organize your trip better, as it is crucial 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!

FAQ’s

Below are the answers to questions that people commonly ask about traveling from Islamabad to Hunza by road.

What is the cheapest way to get from Islamabad to Hunza?

The cheapest to get from Islamabad to Hunza is by road. The bus will cost you around Rs 35,000 only. The Hunza valley distance from Islamabad is around 600 km Via the N-15 route. 

Is the road from Islamabad to Hunza safe?

The road from Islamabad to Hunza across Naran Kagan Valley is safe. You will cross many lush green meadows on your way to Hunza. The road is not dangerous, but the journey is long. So, it is preferred to travel to Hunza between March and October. 

Is it safe to go to Hunza by road?

It is safe to go to Hunza by road between March to October when the weather is pleasant. During other months, the climate becomes harsh and makes the journey less feasible. Islamabad to Hunza distance time is approximately 8h 4mins. 

Can I go to Hunza in my car?

You can definitely go to Hunza in your car and explore new adventures. It is a very pleasant experience to hit the road for Hunza with a group of family and friends. The path is extremely beautiful and full of scenic views on both sides of the road. Islamabad to Hunza distance by car is 582 Km. 

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