Venture beyond the infamous Karakoram Highway (KKH) into the Hunza Valley's natural magnificence. Tucked between the soaring peaks of Pakistan in a strategic location nestled along the ancient Silk Road, merchants and traders have traversed through these humble villages for centuries. Only in recent years, has there been the infrastructure to access these ancient villages by road, revealing a time frozen wonderland of rich culture, glistening glaciers, fertile apricot farms and turquoise alpine lakes. Oozing with cultural heritage, this journey takes in the best of what Pakistan has to offer whilst exploring hidden mountain paradises and villages from another world.
Day 1 - Arrival in Lahore
Welcome to Pakistan! Upon arrival into Lahore, you will be met and tranferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Lahore may not be Pakistan’s capital city, but it is considered the cultural, intellectual and artistic hub of the country. If history and architecture are your passion, there is an interesting mix of formidable Mughal monuments to faded legacies of the British Raj. Even a ramble around the Old City can unfold into a mini-adventure. Lahore also has qawwali (Islamic devotional singing) and Sufism (Islamic mysticism) for those in search of spiritual sustenance.
Overnight Luxus Grand or similar
Day 2 - Lahore
The City of Gardens and Centre of art & culture, Lahore is the second largest populated city in Pakistan. Depart your hotel this morning for a visit to the Lahore Museum before continuing on to the Royal Fort. Explore the grounds of the Royal Mosque and then venture into the Old City or the Walled City of Lahore. This is known as the city’s historical and cultural core. Dating back over 1000 years, the western part of the wall was originally mud during the medieval era. The Walled City was bestowed with numerous monuments during the Mughal era, with some of Lahore’s most iconic structures being located in the Walled City, such as the lavishly decorated Wazir Khan Mosque which you will also visit today, the massive Badshahi Mosque, and the Shahi Hammam.
Break for lunch before you continue to the Shalimar Garden and to the Indian border at Wagah to witness the Indian and Pakistani border guards lower their flags in the daily flag ceremony. You will then enjoy dinner this evening at the Fortress market area of town (not included). A bustling area with many eateries, cafes and entertainment areas. (B)
Overnight Luxur Grand or similar
Day 3 - Islamabad
Departing at 8am this morning, you farewell Lahore and travel to Islamabad along the motorway. On this journey, you will experience a glimpse of the rural plains of Punjab and the Salt range. This was the first salt range discovered by the horses of Alexander’s troops in 320 BC but trade didn’t commence here until the Mughal era and there is said to be an estimated reserve of over 82 million to 600 million tons of salt.
You will visit Raj Katas temple, a complex surrounding a pound named Katas, which is regarded as sacred by Hindus and is located along the motorway near Kallar Kahar. The pound is said to have been created from tear drops of Shiva after he wandered the earth inconsolable following the death of his wife Sati. Enjoy a break for lunch before reaching Islamabad in the early afternoon. This afternoon, enjoy exploring the local bazaar before dining at Monal for dinner (optional – not inclluded). This restaurant is said to have the best views of the city. (B)
Overnight Islamabad Serena Hotel or similar
Day 4 - Skardu to Khaplu
This morning, you will depart your hotel at 9.30am and head to the airport for your flight to Skardu, the district headquarters of Baltistan is often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’ because it is home to the highest mountains of the world. Skardu is surrounded by dry rugged, snow-capped mountains and sand dunes. Connect through to Khaplu, the second largest Kingdom of Baltistan and the trade route to Ladakh along the Shayok river. This afternoon, you will visit the Chaqchan Mosque, one of the earliest mosques in the region. (B)
Overnight Serena Khaplu Palace or similar
Day 5 - Hushe
Depart your hotel this morning and head towards the stunning Hushe Valley which leads to the base for trekking the Masherbrum Mountains such as K6, K7 Sherpi Kang, and Sia Kangri.
You will start to hike along the Honbrok trail before stopping for lunch.
After lunch, return to Khaplu. (B)
Overnight Serena Khaplu Palace or similar
Day 6 - Shigar Valley
Today you will depart to the Shiger Valley which is one of the largest valleys of Baltistan stretching 170km from Skardu to Askole. It is the gateway to the great mountain ranges including Karakrum where 5 peaks all over 8000m tower.
Departing at 8.30am, you will visit Manthal Buddha Rock, a large granite rock which has a picture of Buddha engraved which probably dates back to the 8th century. Buddha Rock is one of the most important relics of Buddhism in Skardu.
Enjoy exploring the Skardu Bazaar before having a break for lunch. This afternoon, you will visit a small organic village where people live in a very traditional way and grow and farm their own produce.
Continue to the Cold Desert or the Katpana Sand Dunes, a high-altitude desert containing expanses of large sand dunes that are sometimes covered in snow during winter, hence the name.
Your last stop for the day is the Amburik mosque. This mosque does not look like a traditional mosque at all being made of mud and wood back in the 14th century. Designed by a Kashmiri architect, the mosque deviates from the conventional architectural pattern due to its visibly tall insignia. A closer inspection, however, reveals its mosque-like features that have been shaped by years of history and events that have transpired in the Shigar valley. (B)
Overnight Serena Shigar Palace or similar
Day 7 - Gilgit
Today you will travel towards Gilgit along the Indus river. It was an important stop on the ancient silk road and today serves as a major junction along the Karakorum Highway with the road connection to China, Skardu, Chitral Peshawar and Islamabad. There are several remains of the Buddhist era with the most prominent being Karga Buda and Buddah carved in rock.
Along the way you will stop at Katchura Lake. The beauty of the Upper Kachura Lake is almost untampered and mostly unexplored by travellers, due to the lack of infrastructure. The area has a rich flora and is also known for its wild apricots. Continuing through Stak, you will break for lunch before arriving in Gilgit late in the afternoon. Travelling through Gilgit in Autumn, brings the falling of leaves from trees and the white of the birches in contrast with evergreen conifers. (B)
Overnight Gilgit Serena Hotel or similar
Day 8 - Hunza
Travel towards the Hunza and Nagar valley’s in the central Karakorum ranges along the Hunza-Nagar river bordering the Xinjiang province of China and Pamir’s to the north west. These valleys are home to historical monuments and spectacular scenery with the Rakaposhi mountain range and Batura Mountain range providing a stunning backdrop.
Today you will visit the India-Asia ‘continental collision’ which is is marked by a road sign reading ‘Collision Point of Continental Plates’. Apart from offering information about the place where the Indian and Eurasian continental plates are said to have collided almost 55 million years ago, this is quite literally, the ground that has shaped the subcontinent and the surrounding mountainous region.
Continuing on, you will go to the viewpoint overlooking Rakaposhi Mountain. Rakaposhi means ‘Snow Covered’ in the local language. It is also known as Dumani (‘Mother of Mist’ or ‘Mother of Clouds’). It is ranked the 27th highest mountain in the world.
Check into your hotel where you can break for lunch before continuing on to visit the thousand-year-old Altit fort and 700-year-old Baltit fort which are some of the region’s oldest standing monuments and evidence of the valley’s feudal regime. Traditionally home to the Mir, or King of Hunza, Altit Fort was eventually vacated in favour of Baltit Fort. The rectangular stronghold sits at the foot of the Ulter Glacier and commands a view of the Hunza Valley and its tributaries—a strategic position for controlling the trans-Karakoram trade route between South and Central Asia. The fort served as home to the Mir until 1945.
Later this afternoon, visit Duikar Valley which provides the best views anywhere in Pakistan. It is a great photo-taking spot with magnificent view of the whole Hunza Nagar district. (B)
Overnight Hotel Hunza Serena Hotel or similar
Day 9 - Shimshal
Head to Shimshal nestled in the valley in the Upper Hunza bordering the Wakhan corridor and Xingjiang province. This area is home to the Wakhi-Tajik community who have settled in this region.
Enroute, visit Attabad Lake which was created from tragedy. In January 2010, a massive landslide blocked the flow of River Hunza, creating a natural dam and burying 20 people beneath it. The rising water displaced thousands of residents and submerged countless villages, fields, orchards a well as a 19-kilometre stretch of the Karakoram Highway. In 2012, a spillway was created to release a steady flow of water and as the water receded, it revealed the villages that had been buried beneath. It is only now that people have started returning to rebuild their homes and lives. It is a fascinating area to explore.
Continue to Shimshal village. This is the remotest villages of Hunza and has only recently become accessible by road. Until recent years, the locals here had to walk two days to reach the Karakorum highway. The locals here follow a practice or belief called ‘Nomus’, a Wakhi word that can be translated as ‘showing concern for humanity’, which is a unique system of social philanthropy – and an integral part of Shimshal society. Hike in and around this village as you learn of life in this isolated community. (B)
Overnight at a local guest house
Day 10 - Passu
Head to Passu village today which lies at the mouth of the Passu glacier and is home for trekking to Bautra glacier, the 7th longest non polar glacier. The famous peak Batura, Shisper and Passu Cathedral are all over 7000m high. Explore the quaint village of Passu and the surrounding region rich with stunning hiking trails. This afternoon you will hike to Lake Borit lying above the village of Hussaini. You can admire the views of two glaciers and two different lakes during this hike. Borit Lake sits at the height of 2600m and from here, you will be blown away by the incredible scenery of the Batura mountain range. The hike to the glacier is fairly easy and enjoyable. (B)
Overnight Passu Ambassador or similar
Day 11 - Passu to Gilgit
This morning you will walk to the rope bridge near the town of Husseini, only 10km away. The local people of Hussaini village, especially the women, often use this bridge to cross the river to Zarabad, which in itself is another gem for trekking lovers. Known as the most perilous bridge in the world, the Hussaini Suspension Bridge may look dangerous, however, it is a comparatively benign bridge and attracts hikers challenging their nerves as they prudently work their way across.
Return to Gulmit where you will visit the local museum and a local house. At this traditional local home, you will be welcomed and experience the culture and local hospitality of the family who live here. Enjoy learning about their fascinating lifestyles. No questions are off limits. Continue to Gilgit. (B)
Overnight Gilgit Serena Hotel or similar
Day 12 - Besham
Today is a long drive day. Although it is long, the scenery is breathtaking. Besham city, today’s destination, is the half way point on the Karakorum Highway to Islamabad following the Indus river though the Kohistan Valley. The landscape is spectacular. Stop in Chilas for lunch before breaking again in Dassu. Arrive in Besham late in the afternoon. (B)
Overnight PTDC Motel Besham
Day 13 - Islamabad
As you continue your journey back to Islamabad, you will stop at the Indus View Point to see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers. Stop for lunch in Abbotabad before you travel through the Hazara district of Khyber Pukhunkhwa on the Haro river and then visit the world heritage site of Taxila, one of South Asia’s richest archaeological sites.
A fascinating place for those who have an interest in Buddhism and the art of Gandhara. The city excavations, most of which are found around the museum, are open to the public, along with dozens of smaller sites over a 25-sq-km area.
Gandhara is the historical name for the Peshawar Plain, and Taxila has always been one of Gandhara’s more important cities. In the 6th century BC, the Achaemenians made Takshasila (Taxila) the Gandharan capital, at a site now called Bhir Mound. In 326 BC Alexander the Great paused here en route to India. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka, a patron of Buddhism, built a university here, to which pilgrims and scholars came from all over Asia. In about 180 BC, Bactrian Greeks developed a ‘new’ Taxila, at the site called Sirkap.
In the 1st century AD came the Kushans, building their own city at the Sirsukh site. Until the 3rd century Taxila was the cultured capital of an empire stretching across the subcontinent and into Central Asia. It was the birthplace of a striking fusion of Greek and Indian art, and also the place from which Buddhism spread into China. The city fell into obscurity after it was destroyed by White Huns in the 5th century. The modern-era excavation of the site was led by Sir John Marshall between the years of 1913 and 1934. (B)
Overnight Islamabad Serena or similar
Day 14 - Departure
This morning you will visit the Faisal Mosque followed by Daman-e-Koh, a picnic spot and lookout in the Margalla Hills offering panoramic views over Islamabad. It’s a splendid spot to get a sense of the city’s layout, with the Shah Faisal Mosque a breathtaking sight in the skyline. From here, the day is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
- Return airport transfers
- 13 Breakfasts
- Domestic flight Islamabad-Skardu, economy class
- Private transportation and a 4WD vehicle from Skardu to Khaplu-Shimshal and Gilgit
- English speaking guide
- Entrances for sights as per the itinerary
- Bottled water daily
- International flights
- Travel and medical insurance
- All services, meals other than those indicated above
- Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
- All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
$5860 AUD per person
$1834 AUD single supplement