Pakistan is a naturally rich Country in South Asia, with all types of seasons available, with many Beautiful and Stunning Paradises. This time around I managed to visit this hidden Paradise at Hunza Valley, in Gilgit Baltistan Province of Pakistan and along the way I explored mesmerising Kaghan Valley, Naran Valley, Saiful Malouk Lake, Lulusar Lake, BabuSar Top, Hunza Valley, Gilgit, Passu Cones, Borith Lake, Nagar Valley, Karimabad and Atabad Lake.
We divided our long journey trip into two trips due to long distance from Lahore, Punjab to Hunza Valley, Gilgit Baltistan which is about 943 km or 585 miles and straight 18 hours travel time by road.
First trip was to get to Naran and stay there for two nights and then second trip was to move on towards Hunza Valley from there and return.
I did some planning effort before going to trip which is very essential, even though many people will claim to chill and not worry about it, but it’s important to do so to be well prepared for any unforeseen issues and to gain maximum out of this lovely time especially if you’re travelling with families.
My checklist includes following:
+ Validated all the forecasts from online weather forecast of all destinations.
+ Kept warmer clothes with us due to weather forecast.
+ Checked nearby hotels and their locations to shortlist them.
+ Reserved our nights already at our hotels.
+ Made a list of items, I packed with me to know what I’m bringing and what I missed.
+ Got my car tyres checked which I had to upgrade, so I did.
+ Got done regular maintenance on my car to ensure there aren’t anything that left unchecked.
+ Bought some snacks and drinks already locally with some preserved food items.
+ Brought extra shopping bags with us so I could put trash in them.
Please note that wherever you go, you must keep your trash bags with you so you could throw trash in them, instead of ruining the beauty of that place. We have seen so much trash at the banks of lakes, resorts and Mountain treks which is heart breaking and frustrating at how people have misused the God gifted paradise.
Our Trip started on the early morning at 01:00 am on 22nd June, 2018 with clear skies from Lahore, Punjab by road.
We started our journey through lush green M2 Motorway, all the way through beautiful Kalar Kahar and Salt Range mountains. I must share that Khewra Salt mines are second largest Salt Reservoirs in the whole world.
We kept driving straight towards Peshawar via M2 Motorway to M1 Motorway, and around Hassan Abdal area, after crossing Burhan interchange, we took left Exit towards E35 Hazara expressway.
At about Shah Maqsood Interchange, we took turn towards N-35 National Highway at around 7 am in the morning.
This highway led us towards beautiful Abbottabad and Mansehra cities. It’s important to mention that N-35 goes through the Abbottabad city, hence you should try to go through the Main city before 8 am in the morning or in between 10 am to noon, to avoid peak traffic.
Before entering Mansehra city, there’s Zeeb Town from where you’ll take right turn towards Balakot on N15. There’s another alternate route as well which passes through Mansehra City, but we took this N15 Highway route to avoid City traffic.
When you cross initial patch of the N15 route, there’d be slightly rough patch (Which may not be in your case) in start for about 5 minutes, and then the road is in Good condition towards Balakot.
On the way to Balakot, you’ll witness Mansehra city on your left spread out all across and mountain on your right.
After driving round and round of about 30 minutes’ drive, you’ll reach to Balakot. If you see any car or someone having a quick stop on the way, for the most part, it’s due to motion sickness caused due to very steep rounds.
Once you reach Balakot, you will see the first glimpse of Kunhar river and you will absolutely want to stop your car for that breathtaking view with mountains at the back.
We stopped our car for a quick breakfast at the hotel at the bank of Kunhar river, at around 8:15 am. There are several resorts and restaurants you can pick from based on your preferences. They will serve you breakfast at the bank of Kunhar River which makes the breakfast experience even better.
From there onwards, we crossed Balakot which is located at the bank of Kunhar River. After crossing Balakot, you’ll reach to another paradise called Kaghan Valley, which is 155 kilometers long, rising from an elevation of 2,134 feet to its highest point, the Babusar Pass, at 13,690 feet.
It was perfect timings in the morning with sun behind green mountains and Kunhar River passing by the valley.
After traveling for an hour or so, you’ll reach to Kiwai, from where if you would like to take a tour towards Beautiful Shogran and Siri Payee. There would be Lot of Special Jeeps available to take you for the ride.
We continued to move as we our base camp was in Naran, as we moved forward, we reached Kaghan town on the way. We took the couple of lush green beautiful mountain pictures with a quick stop for ten minutes.
As we moved further for an hour, we reached Naran town around 11 am. We were not surprised at how Naran town was built past few years with lots of Hotels and Restaurants on the sideways. We crossed the congested strip of Hotels at Naran and took right on Saiful Malouk Road towards our Hotel.
The next morning, we took a Jeep ride towards Most beautiful and Amazing Saiful Malouk lake.
Saiful Malouk Lake is located at an elevation of 3,224 m (10,578 feet) above sea level, with a last known depth of 50 ft.
You could see highest peak in the area at the back of this lake called Malika Parbat which is 5,290 metres (17,356 ft) high.
After coming back from Saiful Malouk Lake, we took a quick rest and went towards the Rafting point at Kunhar River, located on Karakoram Highway N15 towards Lulusar Lake. We went back from Saiful Malouk Road towards Naran (Town) and took right towards Babusar Top. The spot for Rafting was only 15-25 minutes’ drive on N15 Highway.
Tip: Before you go for Rafting, make sure you have dry shorts/bathing suit, sandals with straps, and wet suit boots. During Rafting they will get your signature for disclaimer, given you all precautionary instructions and provide life jackets too.
We loved every bit of Rafting adventure with our cousins. We wanted to do it again, but it was already sunset so we had to mark that for next time.
Next stops in our to do was to check out Lulusar Lake and Babusar Top, also known as Babusar Pass which is located at elevation of 4,173 metres or 13,691 feet. They both are on same N15 Highway going towards BabuSar Pass.
The next morning, we left at 6:00 am sharp towards BabuSar Pass, as we had to reach to Hunza Valley before sunset. We planned to see Lulusar Lake and Babusar Top on the way, hence started early to have enough time at those spots too.
Tip: Please note that there are lot of Open Fuel / Gas shops, which are selling at their own rates, so in case you get stuck, you still have a chance to buy extra gas or fuel from them.
As you go on N15 highway towards Babusar Pass, you’ll witness lot of breathtaking sceneries with Kunhar river flowing with you. You’ll also see herds of mountain goats passing by too.
After an hour and 30 minutes on N15 highway, we reached to magnificent Lulusar Lake which is located at 3,410 m (11,190 ft.), is the primary headwaters of the Kunhar River. It flows southwest through the entire length of Kaghan Valley passing Jalkhand, Naran, Kaghan, Jared, Paras and Balakot until its confluence with the Jhelum River. It is located about 48 kilometres (30 mi) away from Naran and is accessible by any kind of vehicle.
We could see reflection of Sky and mountains on the mesmerizing lake. We took a couple of pictures there while we stopped there for fifteen to twenty minutes.
From Lulusar Lake, it took us about 45 minutes to 1 hour, to reach at BabuSar Top. It got colder as we went close to BabuSar Top and if temperature decreases enough, you could see snow fall there too quite often. As soon as we reached to BabuSar Top, we could see all the peaks top from there and rightly so stopped to take few clicks.
We stopped at BabuSar Top for few pictures and some snacks. There’re some tuck shops and temporary restaurants to entertain you with food. E.g. you could order tea and pakoras there.
Babusar Top os located at an elevation of 4,173 meters or 13691 feet along the Kaghan Valley, connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Gilgit Baltistan province of Pakistan. It’s the highest peak that is accessible through cars and jeeps.
This range of mountains flanks the right bank of the Kunhar, contains a peak Malika Parbat of over 17,000 feet, the highest in the district.
From this point onwards, Chillas is 40 Km, Gilgit is 180 Km, Khunjrab is 384 km, Kashghar is 802 Km, Tashkent is 1866 Km and Beijing is 5252 Km.
We left immediately as we had to reach to Hunza Valley before sunset and had a planned lunch at Chilas.
Tip: If you run into flat tyre, there’s a small tyre shop next to BabuSar Top towards Chilas 5-10 minutes ahead.
There’s a very steep drive from Babusar Top towards Chilas, so you must drive your car slow in lower gears and take a break after every 15 to 20 minutes to cool down breaks and tyres.
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Please read through my next Blog for Later trip from BabuSar Top to Hunza Valley, Gilgit Baltistan.