Karimabad, also called Baltit or Hunza, town in the Northern Areas of the Pakistani-administered portion of the Kashmir region, in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Formerly a small principality under the hereditary ruler known as the Mir of Hunza, it joined with Pakistan in 1947. The town, situated on the west bank of the Hunza River, was a stopping place for travelers descending from the Hindu Kush mountains into the Vale of Kashmir. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks such as the Rakaposhi, vast glaciers such as the Ulter, and deep gorges, Karimabad is accessible by mountain road from Gilgit. Roses, pansies, lilies, zinnias, and cosmos grow wild in the area, as do willow, fir, and poplar trees. Snow leopards, markhors (a type of goat), ibexes, yaks, red-striped foxes, ducks, and Marco Polo sheep also inhabit the region. The local residents use irrigation to grow crops of rice, corn (maize), fruits, and vegetables.
|Location:||On the west bank of the Hunza River, is in the Northern Areas of the Pakistan|
|Old Name:||Baltit is the old name of Karimabad|
|Local Language Name:||كريم آباد|
|Coordinates :||36.333°N 74.666°E|
|Named after:||Prince Karim Aga Khan|
|World Award of Tourism:||In 2000 when Indonesia, Australia, India and Britain and other countries competed|
|Political entity :||Gilgit-Baltistan|
|Elevation:||8,200 feet (2,500 m)|
|Other Languages:||Urdu, English|
|Government Type:||Goverment of Pakistan|
|Population :||(5,000 in 1992, 16,000 in 1996)|
|Time zone:||PKT (UTC+5)|
|Vehicle registration:||Three letters beginning with K and random four numbers|
Karimabad has a lot to offer. For starters, most visitors head up to the Baltit Fort that was renovated a few years ago. To get to the Baltit Fort; well just walk in the direction of the Fort which is located at the end of Karimabad and is visible from everywhere. A trip to the Altit Fort is highly recommended. Unlike Baltit, the Altit Fort is in ruins though word in Karimabad this year was that renovations on the fort had begun. To get to Altit Fort simply walk to Altit village that is a mere 20 minutes away from Karimabad.The most highly recommended day hike from Karimabad is up to the pastures by the Ultar Base Camp. Simply follow the irrigation channel that gushes from behind the obvious gorge behind the Baltit Fort. Unless you leave at dawn and are exceptionally fit, expect to spend the entire day going up and down. Locals claim that they can go up and in a mere two to three hours and I don’t doubt them. But the three times I’ve been up to the pastures it’s been a solid day hike to the pastures and back.
Karimabad town, located on the west bank of the Hunza River, is in the Northern Areas of the Pakistan, in a valley which is at 8,200 feet (2,500 m) elevation.The town is made up of stone walled steep sloping large terraces.The town was a caravan halting place for people who were traveling through the Hindu Kush mountains to the Vale of Kashmir. It is set amidst snow clad mountain peaks of Rakaposhi (altitude of about 25,000 feet (7,600 m)), and glaciers like the Ulter Nala as a backdrop, and deep gorges. Access is by hill road from Gilgit.
Baltit, which was the original capital of the Hunza valley, was established in the 13th century. A fort was built, in the backdrop of snow clad mountains, in the 17th century when Mir Ayesho II’s (great-grandson of Girkis, a legendary ruler) wife, the daughter of the Balti ruler, came to live in Hunza. The fort was built in Balti-style by the artisans brought by her. It was refurbished during Ayesho II’s son’s rule. Mir Nazim Khan got it refurnished with wall paper, curtains, fireplaces, balconies, and windows with tinted glass. The exterior of the fort was given a white wash. He also built a raised platform in the terrace to hold meetings of the council. Once the capital was moved to Karimabad, the fort was stripped of all its interior furnishings and decorations. Nazim Khan’s son had moved to Karimabad in 1945.It was a deserted structure in 1984. However, between 1990 and 1996 the fort was completely rebuilt with all structural elements of the old fort to its original plan taking earthquake factor into consideration. The fort presents a view as if it has been newly built but retains all the original features, and commands a scenic view of the Hunsa valley. Some of the rooms in the fort have exhibits of dresses and pictures as also some ancient vessels and furniture donated by the local people.
Beauty of Karimabad
Once at the pastures you are rewarded by stunning views of the jagged Ultar ridges and the extremely steep Ultar Glacier. Below is a lovely meadow with ample tent space and clean water. Should you not have your own camping equipment, a local entrepreneur rents out tents for the night and can prepare food as well. Day hikers can buy tea, soft drinks, and snacks. Beware that for some unknown reason, a few years ago these services were extremely expensive. Be sure to ask for prices beforehand to avoid an extremely rude shock afterwards. From the pastures it is supposedly another three to four hours to Hon Pass at 4,000 meters. Hon Pass is said to offer superb views of the entire lower Hunza valley. A young helper whom Nasir employs at the Punjab Sindh claims he can ascend the Pass from Karimabad in less than two hours by climbing up the mountain behind the Baltit Fort. For the rest of us mere mortals, Hon would certainly be an overnight trip.
Lastly, Karimabad has a surprising number of souvenir shops that sell local handicrafts. Depending on what you are buying and whom you are buying from, the handicrafts can range from cheap to ludicrously expensive. We are poor, dirt-bag travelers – and probably shall be well into the foreseeable future – quite content to simply admire the crafts. Feel free to negotiate the prices, but avoid the aggressive bargaining tactics common down-country. Sher Ali runs the Hunza Weaving Center, a shop with a diverse selection of handicrafts. He is also a well-known local musician well versed in the musical traditions of Hunza.
In addition, Karimabad has a few shops that stock canned food, chocolates, film (including slide film and sometimes black and white too), and most types of camera batteries. Prices are usually ten percent more than what you would pay in the big cities. A shop next to Karim’s Hotel has some trekking and climbing equipment, and a few shops sell second hand boots. Needless to say, secondhand climbing equipment is NOT recommended.
There are two surprisingly good bookstores in Karimabad. The GM Beig Bookstore is located in front of Punjab Sindh and has a good collection of travel books and some fiction. Opposite Hill Top Hotel is Cafe de Hunza, Pakistan’s only cafe’ bookstore. The selection is as good as it is going to get in the Northern Areas. In addition, the cafe’ also serves all sorts of exotic hot drinks, waffles, and other goodies that you wouldn’t expect to find in Hunza.
Restaurants in Karimabad
- Cafe De Hunza
- Hunza Food Pavilion
- Rainbow Hotel & Restaurant
- Hidden Paradise Hunza
- Hunza Cuisine Hunza
Distance From Other Cities
Karimabad is 100 km drive from Gilgit. Most people arrive by road: it takes almost 2 – 3 hours to reach Hunza from Gilgit. The main bus stand is on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) ‘Aliabad’. There are booking agents in town for long distance buses & jeeps along the KKH. The journey from Islamabad can take as long as 24 hours.
Gilgit Airport (GIL IATA) is small and has 45-minute flights to Islamabad on Pakistan International Airways (PIA). It is 2.3 km east of Gilgit.Pakistani International Airlines has at least one daily flight from the capital Islamabad to the nearest major airport, in Gilgit three hours south of Karimabad. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and in winters, flights are often delayed by several days.