Colours of Paradise – Karimabad Hunza

Nestled in the high ranges, Karimabad still retains its idyllic charm.

Towering on both sides of the highway, the mighty black-grey-brown mountains with specks of snow on top give way to a breathtakingly beautiful valley below. Welcome to Karimabad, Hunza’s ancient capital.

Here, bursts of wild, endless colours in abundance greet visitors at this time of the year — minty green, wine red, sunny yellow, woody brown, lemony orange, snowy white, dreamy blue, shy pink. Women in thick, woolen shawls singing tribal songs to the accompaniment of the leisurely wind, bend over ripe maize and wheat, storing food supplies before winter soon approaches.

Green-yellow leaves from the poplar trees, perched precariously on the slopes’ edges, sway right-to-left-to-right under the sun’s reflection, contributing yet another unique sight to the captivating village.

Tiers after tiers of fruit trees erupt in endless blossom of apricots, cherries, peaches, mulberries, apples, grapes, walnuts and almonds; the riot of reddening orchards and maize sunning on rooftops.

Local specialty

It’s cool even during summer with night temperatures dropping to below 20 degrees Celcius, and to below freezing point during winter. Fruit cakes are a speciality here, especially the walnut cakes. The mulberry, apricot and almond cakes are equally good too. Along the bazaar in Karimabad, the Cafe de Hunza is known to churn out tantalising walnut cakes with honey encrusted inside. Add a cup of Hunza tea to go along with the cakes and spend a lazy afternoon gazing at the resplendent valley from the windows of the cafe. Or drop by any of the carpet and shawl shops that dot the bazaar and feast your eyes (and wallets) on the intricate designs and styles.


Autumnal shades: The Hunza Valley and the famous home-made walnut cakes (below).


The Hunza river, visible from all parts of the valley, cuts deep into the Karakoram Highway which leads to Kashgar, China, after passing through some of the narrowest gorges along the 35-km Kunjerab Pass. The river sweeps continuously through gigantic mountainous slopes up to snowy peaks, including the 7,790-metres Rakaposhi.

To explore Karimabad on foot, take the route along the water channels that snake past quaint local houses and plantations. It’s an easy task which takes up to five hours to accomplish but be careful of the stone stairs — some can be steep and difficult on the knees, if you have weak legs.

The water channels are a hallmark of Hunza. The stone-made channels give life to the valley, bringing water to orchards and homes to sustain the livelihood of the locals. The irrigation system also nourishes other resources such as timber and firewood.

Travellers are not only fascinated with the valley’s beauty but also by an evocative mythology about Hunza’s isolation and purity. Films about the lost kingdom of Shangri-La and stories of extraordinary health and longevity had heightened Hunza’s image. Although the Karakoram Highway has put a stop to Hunza’s isolation, many who came have remained equally awed by its beauty, easygoing lifestyle and hospitable people.

Different lifestyle

The people here are Muslim Ismaili, a sect that split from the Shiites in the 8th Century. The present leader is Prince Karim Aga Khan, who is currently living in France. The religious practice of the Ismailis is less regimented compared to the Sunnis and Shiites. For example, the style of prayer is a personal matter, the mosque is replaced by a community hall called jamaat khana where men and women pray together and women are more visible outside homes. Aga Khan has considerably modernised the Ismailis through various institutions to uplift social development in the communities.

The other notable sight not to be missed is the Baltit Fort, which is more than 700 years old. The Baltit Fort remained inhabited until 1945, when the last ruler of Hunza, Mir Mohammed Jamal Khan moved into a new palace further down the hills in the valley. Through the marriage of the Mir of Hunza, Ayasho II, in the early 15th Century to Princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan, which was initially part of the Tibetan empire, other cultural influences entered Hunza. The structure of the Baltit Fort has some resemblance of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

Visitors get a tour with a knowledgeable local guide upon purchase of entrance tickets (foreigners are charged Rs. 350 while locals pay Rs. 50 and you can’t go in without a guide). An extra Rs. 150 allows you to take photographs.


Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

5 thoughts

  1. The northern areas of Pakistan are real beauties. This year in summer I was at Fairy Meadows. Can you guide me the way to reach Karimabad from Raikot Bridge and how much distance it is?


  2. my wife and i would like to stay in hunza for three to four month to regain our health. We are not sick like we cannot walk or something, but we are weak and tired. can you give me some information on living there economically? thank you very much. my email address is



  3. Hi Anita,

    Thanks for your comments, I am Karim based in Islamabad Pakistan.

    No doubt, Hunza, is one of the most interesting and fascinating valley in the extreme part of North Pakistan. With a reputation for outstanding natural beauty, welcoming people, endless trekking & hiking potential and tourism infrastructure that is sufficient developed so that you don’t have to rough it.

    “Hunza” The name of long living people, foreign tourist taking keen interest to visit this isolated region. A part from fruits, ample time to know the secrete of long living Hunzukuts (People of Hunza), interacting with local Hunzukuts (Hunza People), distinguishing of Education and amenities of daily life, well infrastructure being many 100 miles from the main cities of Pakistan and star attraction of local handicrafts.


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