Baltit Fort in Karimabad, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan: A Complete Guide.

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Baltit Fort is an ancient fort located in the scenic Karimabad village of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. This magnificent piece of architecture is not just a fort, but a symbol of the rich culture and history of the region. In this guide, we’ll explore the history, architecture, and tourism potential of Baltit Fort.

History of Baltit Fort Hunza.

Baltit Fort Karimabad Hunza East Elevation.

Baltit Fort or Balti Fort is an ancient fort in the Hunza Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Founded in the 1st CE, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list since 2004.

In the past, the survival of the feudal regime of Hunza was ensured by the impressive fort, which overlooks Karimabad. The foundations of the fort date back 700 years ago, with rebuilds and alterations over the centuries. In the 16th century, the local prince married a princess from Baltistan who brought master Balti craftsmen to renovate the building as part of her dowry.

The Mirs of Hunza abandoned the fort in 1945 and moved to a new palace down the hill. The fort started to decay which caused concern that it might possibly fall into ruin. Following a survey by the Royal Geographical Society of London, a restoration program was initiated and supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Programme. The program was completed in 1996 and the fort is now a museum run by the Baltit Heritage Trust.

Read Also: Shigar Fort, a Royal Fort Locally Known as The Palace on Rocks.

View of Hunza from the royal window of Baltit Fort Karimabad.
Shahbazaslam1, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In the past several small independent states formed part of the history of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Among them, Hunza and Nager were traditional rival states, situated on opposite sides of the Hunza (Kanjut) river. The rulers of these two states, Mirs known as Thum (also Tham, Thom, or Thámo), built various strongholds to consolidate their power. According to historical sources, the Hunza rulers initially resided in nearby Altit Fort, but after a conflict between the two sons of the ruler Sultan, Shah Abbas (Shάboos) and Ali Khan (Aliqhάn), Shaboos moved to Baltit Fort, making it the capital seat of Hunza. The power struggle between the two brothers eventually resulted in the death of the younger one, and so Baltit Fort became the prime seat of power in the Hunza state.

Ayasho II, Thum/Mir of Hunza in the early 15th fifteenth century married Princess Shah Khatoon (Sha Qhatun) from Baltistan (in Moghul history Baltistan is called Tibet Khurd, which means Little Tibet), and was the first to modify the face of Altit and, subsequently Baltit Fort. Baltistan had a very strong cultural and ethical relationship with the Ladakh territory to the east. Not surprisingly, the structure of Baltit Fort was influenced by Ladakhi/Tibetan architecture, with some resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The additions, renovations, and changes to the building were made through the centuries by a long line of following rulers of Hunza.

Home of many ancient forts, the Northern Areas of Pakistan lost some of its heritage around the 19th century as a result of attacks by the Maharaja of Kashmir. However, one of the biggest changes in the structure of the Baltit Fort came with the invasion of the British in December 1891. Safdar Ali Khan, ruler of Hunza, and his wazir Dadu (Thara Baig III) fled to befriend Kashgar (China) to seek ‘political asylum’ with their fellows and families. With the conquest of Hunza and Nager states the fortified wall and watchtowers of the old Baltit village and watchtowers of Baltit Fort on its north-western end were demolished as required by the British. They installed his younger brother, Sir Muhammad Nazim Khan K.C.I.E, as the ruler of Hunza state in September 1892. During his reign, Nazeem Khan made several major alterations to the Baltit Fort. He demolished a number of rooms on the third floor and added a few rooms in the British colonial style on the front elevation, using the lime wash and colored glass panel windows. Baltit Fort remained officially inhabited until 1945, when the last ruler of Hunza, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, moved to a new palatial house further down the hill, where the present Mir of Hunza, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, and his family are still residing.

Architectural Features of Baltit Fort Hunza:

Baltit Fort Hunza is a stunning example of traditional Hunza architecture. The fort is made of stone and wood and features intricate carvings, intricate woodwork, and decorative motifs. The fort is a perfect blend of traditional and modern architecture, with its ancient features complemented by modern amenities.

The fort has several levels, with each level housing a different part of the palace. The top level houses the royal apartments, while the lower levels house the stables, storehouses, and servant quarters. The fort also has a magnificent balcony that provides stunning views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Cultural Significance of Baltit Fort Hunza:

Baltit Fort Hunza holds great cultural significance for the people of the region. The fort is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of the Hunza people and their history. The fort has played an essential role in the social, political, and economic life of the region for centuries.

The fort is also home to several artifacts and treasures that provide insight into the history and culture of the region. These artifacts include traditional costumes, jewelry, weapons, and household items.

Restoration and Preservation of the Baltit Fort:

With no proper authority entrusted the Fort was exposed to the ravages of time and over the years its structure weakened and began to deteriorate. His Highness Aga Khan IV initiated the restoration efforts for Baltit Fort in 1990 when Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his family generously transferred the Fort to the Baltit Heritage Trust, a public charity formed for the explicit purpose of owning and maintaining the Fort. The restoration undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva in association with the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (Pakistan), took six years to complete. The project was supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture as the main donor through its Historic Cities Support Programme, as well as by the Getty Grant Program (USA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the French Government.

The restored Fort, resplendent in its formal regal glory, was inaugurated on September 29, 1996, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan IV and the president of Pakistan Farooq Ahmad Khan Laghari. It is now operated and maintained by the Baltit Heritage Trust and is open to visitors. The Baltit Fort serves as a good example of culture restored and preserved for future generations.

Front View of Baltit Fort, Karimabad. Hunza. Vasiq Eqbal, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things to do at Baltit Fort Hunza.

A Timeless Journey through the Royal Seat of Hunza.

Discover the wonders of the Tibetan-influenced Baltit Fort, a UNESCO award-winning heritage site, and travel back 700 years to the realm of Hunza’s rulers. Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this stunning landmark, and explore the magnificent architecture that stands as a testament to the region’s past.

Indulge in the Ultimate Dining Experience with a View.

Relax and unwind at the Baltit Fort Café while taking in the breathtaking scenery of Karimabad. Savor a delectable lunch or sip on freshly brewed coffee while admiring the panoramic views that surround you. Experience the best of both worlds, as you indulge in sumptuous cuisine and awe-inspiring vistas.

Tourism Potential:

Baltit Fort is a popular tourist destination in Pakistan, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The fort’s unique architecture, rich history, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains make it a must-visit destination for anyone visiting the region.

Read also: 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit Hunza Valley, Gilgit Baltistan.

Tourists can explore the fort’s different rooms, learn about the history and culture of the region, and enjoy the stunning views of the Hunza valley from the fort’s rooftop. The fort also hosts cultural events, including festivals and music concerts, which add to its tourism potential.

Exploring the Fort: Practical Tips:

If you’re planning to visit Baltit Fort Hunza, here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your trip:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing as the fort has several levels and stairs to climb.
  • The fort is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and the last entry is at 4:30 pm.
  • A guided tour of the fort is highly recommended as it will provide you with valuable insights into the history and culture of the region.
  • The fort has a small museum that showcases the region’s history and culture through various artifacts and exhibits. Don’t forget to check it out during your visit.
  • The fort can get crowded during peak tourist season, so it’s best to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
  • Photography is allowed inside the fort, but you’ll need to purchase a separate photography pass.
  • The fort is located in the town of Karimabad in Hunza, and there are several accommodation options available in the town. It’s best to book your stay in advance, especially during peak tourist season.
  • Finally, make sure to take some time to explore the town of Karimabad itself. It’s a charming and picturesque town with plenty of local markets, shops, and restaurants to explore.

Frequently Asked Questions about Baltit Fort Hunza:

What is the best time to visit Baltit Fort Hunza?

The best time to visit Baltit Fort Hunza is from April to October when the weather is mild and pleasant.

How long does it take to explore the fort?

It takes around 2-3 hours to explore the fort thoroughly, including a guided tour and a visit to the museum.

Is photography allowed inside the fort?

Yes, photography is allowed inside the fort, but you’ll need to purchase a separate photography pass.

Is there an entry fee to visit the fort?

Yes, there is an entry fee to visit the fort, which is around 500 PKR per person.

Are there any accommodation options near the fort?

Yes, there are several accommodation options available in the town of Karimabad, where the fort is located.


Baltit Fort is a significant landmark in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, showcasing the region’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Visitors can explore the fort and appreciate the architectural design influenced by Ladakhi/Tibetan architecture, with some resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The fort is open to visitors and managed by the Baltit Heritage Trust, providing a glimpse into the history and cultural significance of the Hunza Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

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