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Unveiling Extraordinary Pakistan Destinations

The Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour

14 days / 13 Nights

Road to the Hunza Valley

About the Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour

This tour includes the beautiful Swat Valley, known as the Switzerland of Pakistan; the Kalash villages of Chitral, where you can visit the Indo-Aryan Kalash tribal people; and the incredibly scenic, high-altitude area of the Hunza Valley, with its many named peaks. You can arrange for your trip to take place during one of the major Kalash festivals, which, if better known, would be on most people’s ‘bucket list’. If you decide to time your tour to coincide with one of the festivals, it may be necessary to alter the itinerary described below so that you can spend more time in the Kalash area. Since all of our tours are tailor-made, this should not represent a problem.

Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour Pricing

A single supplement for all tours is $595. For example, if two people travel together but each has his or her own room, the cost is an additional $595.

Included in the Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour Price:

Not Included in the Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour Price:

Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour Itinerary

Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 1
Arrive Islamabad
Arrive Islamabad
Faisal Masjid Islamabad

Upon your arrival at Islamabad Airport, you will be met by your driver and guide and taken to the Islamabad Serena Hotel. The Serena chain is a top luxury hotel group in Pakistan and measures up to the best international standards. You will be staying at Serena Hotels at other stops on your tour whenever possible.

Since you are probably arriving in Pakistan after a long flight, the activities of your first day in the country will depend on what time you arrive and how much activity you are ready for after your flight. One of the two best choices of places to visit in Islamabad is the Faisal Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. There can also be a visit to the Lok Virsa Ethnology Museum, which offers a comprehensive look at the history and culture of Pakistan. Or you may decide that you prefer to drive out to the Shakarparian National Park to see views of the city and the Pakistan National Monument. In the evening, your guide will help you make a choice of restaurants for dinner. Or you may decide to take it easy and dine at the hotel.

  • Overnight at the Serena Hotel Islamabad
    • Dinner
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 2
Valley of Swat
Valley of Swat
Bahrain of Swat Valley Pakistan luxury tours

After a full buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will set out, driving north, for the fabled Valley of Swat. Known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, the Swat Valley is one of the major tourist attractions in Pakistan. Visitors can enjoy its magnificent mountains, lush green forests, running streams, and meadows. Swat has one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and Alexander the Great was just one of many conquerors to occupy it. It is possible that some of the fair-skinned, red-headed children you meet are descendents of Alexander’s soldiers. Of course, that is only conjecture. Swat is a good area to purchase souvenirs. Even ancient coins may be found.

After breakfast, we set off on the drive to Swat. En route, we break our journey to visit the Takht-I-Bahi, which are the extensive ruins of a 7th-Century AD Buddhist monastery, spectacularly placed on a rocky hill 15 km. north-west of Mardan. It was excavated from 1907 to 1913 and later reconstructed.

After this visit, we continue on to Swat and check into the beautiful Swat Serena Hotel. Later, we will go on a city tour of the main district town of Saidu Sharif, which has an interesting local museum as well as a colorful bazaar. 

  • Overnight at the Serena Hotel
    • Breakfast
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 3
Chakdara Fort
Chakdara Fort
Lowari tunnel Chitral Pakistan luxury tour

Today we will have a spectacular drive past the Chakdara Fort, where Winston Churchill served in the 1890s, before continuing through the Lowari tunnel and into the ancient kingdom of Chitral. Before the opening of the Lowari Tunnel in 2018, the only way into Chitral was over the Lowari Pass. (We made this trip in the early 2000’s.) The road from Dir to Chitral used to be extremely dangerous due to steep inclines and hairpin turns and was often closed due to snow and frequent landslides. This all changed when the tunnel was opened. Two tunnels, 8.5 km and 2 km in length, were completed, connecting the Dir side to the Chitral side.The tunnels are at a height of around 7000 feet, whereas the previous road tracked up to more than 10,000 feet. On both sides, the views are beautiful, with snow-covered peaks lining the highway in all directions.

Chakdara has been an important center for the last 3500 years and is littered with remains of the Gandhara grave culture, Buddhist sites, and Hindu Shahi forts. The ancient route from Afghanistan via the Nawa Pass and the Swat River crosses at Chakdara.

The Mughals built a fort here, known as Chakdara Fort, in 1586; it was occupied in 1895 by the British, who built the present fort in 1896 and were forced to defend it during the Siege of Malakand in 1897.

This small picket on a hilltop is famous. In 1895, when Winston Churchill, then a lieutenant accompanying the Malakand Field Force, was there, the fort was surrounded by a Lashkar of local tribesmen. Churchill seems to have led a charmed life in this as well as several other dangerous situations he found himself in throughout his lifetime. He appeared to be utterly fearless.

  • Overnight at the Ayun Fort Inn
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 4
Kalash people
Kalash people
luxury Hunza tours Kalash tribe

Today you will be visiting the fascinating Kalash people, who live in three nearby valleys known collectively as the Kalash Valley. This will be one of the most fascinating parts of your whole tour, and you will be visiting an area unknown to most Western tourists. The Kalash people are known for their unique culture, traditions, and religious practices. The Valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is a popular tourist destination because of its natural beauty and the opportunity to learn about the Kalash way of life. Differing from the rest of Pakistan’s people, the Kalash are said to be descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great. Whether or not this is actually the case, we can say that the Kalash people do not look like other Pakistanis and that they form a distinct ethnic and cultural group.

Our first stop is Rumbur, where we explore the village and meet the Kalash people in their unique costumes of robes and shells. After a picnic lunch, we continue on to the largest village in these valleys, Bomburet. In the evening, we will visit Brun, another Kalash village.

  • Overnight at the Hindukush Heights Hotel
    • Lunch
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 5
Chitral
Chitral
City of Chitra and Tirich Mir tour

This morning we will go on a tour of the historical town of Chitral. This will include the Chitral Mosque and the Chitral Fort.

  • Overnight at the Hindukush Heights Hotel
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 6
Mastuj
Mastuj
Mastuj, Chitral, KPK, Pakistan tours

Today you will enjoy a dramatic drive, heading northeast through the Mastuj Valley to the town of Mastuj. The road follows the Chitral River flowing below. The landscape of the Hindukush range appears more arid here since this area is outside the reach of the monsoons and receives very little rain. We will have great views of snow-clad peaks, including Tirich Mir, the highest peak in the Hindu Kush, at over 25,000 feet high.

Your route will take you close to the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. If you look at a map of Afghanistan, you will see an unusual finger-shaped protrusion in the east. That is the Wakhan Corridor, and it dates back to the days of the Great Game, separating the British and Russian Empires by creating an artificial buffer zone between them. You might want to familiarize yourself with the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893, which is the root of many of the issues we face today, before leaving home.

  • Overnight at the Mastuj Hindukush Heights
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 7
Khalti Lake
Khalti Lake
Polo at Shandur Top Tahsin Shah

This morning we start the drive up the Phander Road towards Khalti Lake. The zigzag road climbs up to the top of the Shandur Pass (11,500 ft.). We will leave our jeep and walk over the pass to the highest polo field in the world.

This is where a grand polo festival takes place every year, when teams from all over northern Pakistan meet to decide the champion of the year. Polo fans from every village camp here for days to watch their team compete at the festival. From the Shandur Pass, we continue on to the town of Gupis.

  • Overnight at either the PTDC Hotel or Blossom Inn
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 8
Phander Valley
Phander Valley
Hunza tours Fields of Phander Valley

After an early breakfast, we drive farther into the Phander Valley, a mountainous valley in upper Ghizer. High mountain passes separate the valley from Chitral and Swat, which are both located to the east and north of it, respectively. It is considered the most beautiful valley in the area. There are not a lot of “official” tourist sites here, but the beauty of the place should be sufficient to hold your interest. If you are so inclined, you might want to try your hand at trout fishing, for which the Phander Valley is famous. Note that the fishing season ends in the fall when the trout mating season begins. Towards the end of the day, you will reach Gilgit.

  • Overnight at the Gilgit Serena Hotel, part of the 35-hotel Serena chain and all beautiful hotels.
    • Breakfast
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 9
Gilgit
Gilgit
Hunza tours Rakaposhi Mountain Top from Viewpoint

After having breakfast, we check out of the hotel and have a half-day sightseeing tour in Gilgit. Gilgit is an old tribal town that was a rest stop for weary travelers on the Silk Route. Rakaposhi is the most impressive peak surrounding Gilgit, which is located in the heart of the Karakoram range.

Gilgit is accessible both by road and by air; the road, newly constructed along the path of the ancient Silk Road, is an unforgettable journey through winding valleys and tumbling waterfalls. The main attractions we will visit include Buddha's statue at Karga Nalla, a memorial of the war of liberation at Chinar Bagh, and the Gilgit bazaar, where traditional souvenirs, antiques, and silk are sold. Back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch, we drive to Karimabad, around 65 miles away, in around 3 hours, including a photo and tea stop at the Rakaposhi viewpoint. 

  • Overnight at the Darbar Hotel in Karimabad
    • Breakfast and Lunch
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 10
Karimabad
Karimabad
Baltit fort Karimabad Hunza Tour

Karimabad is set in the heart of the stunning Hunza Valley, which has been called “the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur... the most spectacular country I have ever seen,” as Sir Claremont Skrine, British consul general in Kashgar, wrote in the 1920s. There are diverse elements in its landscape: villages embedded in foliage; neatly terraced fields overhung by glaciers; needle-tipped peaks ribbed with ice; orchards perched on dizzy cliff-tops; romantic castles built on crags above the gorge; plume-like waterfalls spraying vineyards perched at terrifying angles; irrigation channels carried along the face of vertical cliffs.

Then there is the unmatched friendliness of the local Hunzukuts—a proud people who are Ismaili Muslims. In Karimabad, you have a chance to shop for rubies and local crafts. At about 8,000 feet, you will have extraordinary views of the surrounding valley. Later in the day, there will be time for a visit to Baltit Fort. Located at the top of a large rocky amphitheater, Baltit Fort is about a 20-minute walk or a short drive from Karimabad.

  • Overnight at the Darbar Hotel
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 11
Hoper Glacier
Hoper Glacier
A glacial stream on Hispar glacier

Leaving the KKH near Karimabad, we drive on a jeep track that leads to the Hoper Glacier. The drive will be scenic, with views of the 59-kilometer-long Hispar Glacier in the distance. Arriving at Hoper Village, you will have commanding views of the Hunza Valley peaks on one side and the Hispar-Hoper range on the other. After enjoying the viewpoint, we drive back to Karimabad and proceed to Duiker.

At over 9,000 feet, Duiker is said to be Hunza’s highest village. It is about 11 kilometers and 25 minutes by jeep from Karimabad, past gravity-defying terraced fields. The rewards include immense valley views and a great hotel. From the strangely eroded hill behind the Eagle Nest Hotel, where you will be spending the night, you can look down on the Hunza River and the twisting ribbon of the KKH. You will be able to see 11 named peaks from your viewpoint at the hotel. After lunch, explore Duiker and enjoy a fabulous sunset and panoramic views.

  • Overnight at the famous Eagle Nest Hotel
    • Lunch and Dinner
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 12
Lake Attabad
Lake Attabad
Pakistan China Border at khunjerab Pass

En route to the Khunjerab Pass, we start the day with a drive to Lake Attabad, formed almost overnight in 2010 when a landslide created a natural dam across the Hunza River, displacing more than 25,000 people. We will pass through a series of five mountain tunnels, which were built to restore access to China on the KKH. Passing through the tunnels, we will reach the town of Sost, the last Pakistani town on the Karakoram Highway. The border between Pakistan and China is at the Pass.

We ascend through magnificent scenery as we make our way onto the relatively flat Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved border crossing in the world at 15,397 feet. It can be said that the Khunjerab Pass is the gateway from the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia. After time for photos, we wind down the mountains, passing through Marco Polo sheep and snow leopard country, spiraling dramatically past looming peaks and tumbling glaciers, and back down to Sost. There we begin a heart-pounding drive to Gulmit in upper Hunza, one of the oldest settlements in the region.

  • Overnight at the Silk Route Lodge in Gulmit
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 13
Kohistan
Kohistan
Nanga Parbat Killer Mountain Swat Kalash Hunza Tour

After an early breakfast, we set out for Besham on the Karakoram Highway, one of the greatest feats of modern road building. Following the mighty Indus River through the remote valleys of Kohistan, we stop en route at Thalachi. Here you will have a beautiful view of Nanga Parbat, which is almost 27,000 feet high.

After several more photo stops, we will arrive at Besham. Even though this will be a long day of driving, you will be rewarded on the Gilgit to Besham stretch by impressive scenery and with panoramic views all along the way.

  • Overnight and dinner at the Dreamland Hotel in Besham.
    • Breakfast
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 14
Return to Islamabad
Return to Islamabad
Dharmarajika stupa Taxila

Today is the last travel day of the tour. It is time to return to Islamabad for your flight home. There is now a newly constructed highway, the Hazara Motorway, that will get you back to Islamabad, around 175 miles away, within just a few hours. This new road has 6 tunnels and saves around 3 hours of driving time versus the old road. We will break our trip to stop at the Gandhara art center of Taxila, a very famous Buddhist archeological site, with 8 excavated areas plus a museum within an 8-mile radius. The site dates back to the 6th Century BC. and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Upon returning to Islamabad you will check back into the Islamabad Serena Hotel. Dinner will be at the famous Kabul Restaurant and after dinner back to the Serena for overnight. 

  • Overnight at the Serena Hotel
    • Dinner
Swat-Kalash-Hunza Tour: Day 15
End of Tour
End of Tour

 Transfer to Islamabad airport for your flight home.

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