You might not be familiar with the Hushe Valley, but if you want to get to the Karakoram range, the valley in north Pakistan will get you to some of the highest mountains of the Karakoram mountains.
And even if you don’t plan on trekking the famous mountain range, the Hushe Valley is stunning and well worth a trip to explore the several villages along the Hushe River.
Located in the Gilgit-Baltistan district, the Hushe Valley starts from the Shyok River opposite from Khaplu and extends up to the Masherbrum mountain (featured on the main photo of this blog post).
The Hushe Valley is known for some of the highest mountains in Pakistan, including several peaks above 6,000 meters, and even 8,000 meters. From Laila Peak, K6, K7 mountain, and to Masherbrum (K1) at 7,821 meters, Gasherbrum I (K5) at 8,080 meters, Gasherbrum II (K4) at 8,035 meters, and of course K2 at 8,611 meters. Simply astonishing!
Traditional Pakistani Villages
From Khaplu up to Hushe, a series of villages occupy the valley: Machollo, Thalis, Marzicon, and Kanday. Hushe village is the last one in the valley, in turn, the starting point of many treks.
As we traveled this part of Pakistan end of July, some of the wheat fields in the villages at a lower elevation at Machollo were ready for the harvest. In comparison, the areas in Kanday and Hushe were still green and would not be harvested until the end of August, another month after our visit.
The bigger village in the Hushe Valley, with about 5,000 villagers, Machollo spreads from the higher grounds of the foothills down to the lower side by the Hushe river. The village is defined by structured chaos: terraces after terraces of wheat fields, apricot trees, water irrigation systems lining up the side of the mountains together with tall birch trees to help with soil stabilization.
As we walked the narrow dirt roads passing by small houses, we came upon a beautiful small construction. Our first thoughts were the building was a mosque, but it was an Astana (moussdrouk in Balti, the local language), the resting place of a saint.
Our feet led us to a gathering by a small square, with food being prepared. As we approached, we got invited for tea (chai, chai!) and led to the inside of a nicely decorated house. Our host brought us a Zan, a special Balti meal made of flour, water, and apricot oil. The meal (chetour in Urdu, osse in Balti) is served at a funeral ceremony, as we learned we had stumbled upon.
Where to Stay in Machollo
The village has two hostels, both close to high school and the police checkpoint going up the Hushe Valley. A small local guesthouse is supposed to be nearby, close to the central hostel run by the Felix Foundation. This guesthouse has a couple of rooms, with shared bathroom, a restaurant, and relatively good wifi. Rooms start at 2,000 rps.
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How to Get to Machollo
If you have your car with driver, reaching Machollo is easy.
By public transportation, small minivans leave Khaplu in the morning from the main bus station. Cost is about 50 – 100 rps per person. To return to Skardu from Machollo, one daily bus leaves at 6 am from Machollo.
The small village of about 1,500 people is the second to last in the valley. A couple of tiny shops are available, but there is no guesthouse. Kanday is the last stop of the regular jeep run done by Jamil (see below for details).
From there, special arrangements need to be made to reach Hushe, about 30-45 minutes away.
The last village in the Hushe Valley, the Hushe village stands at around 3,000 meters. Nestled between the fast rushing Hushe River and on the slopes of mountains some 6,000 meters tall, Hushe is another traditional Pakistani village living off the wheat fields and vegetable patches, with the occasional apricot trees. Kids play in the streets; the elderly men sit quietly on the side, women work the field or wash clothes.
We spent a couple of days in Hushe, first as part of our trek to Humbrok, and then to appreciate the tranquil life in the village.
Given the central location in the Karakoram mountain range, Hushe is indeed one of the main hubs for trekking in Pakistan. About 1,000 people go through Hushe during the summer months of the trekking season.
During our stay in Hushe, we met different individuals who worked as guides, cooks, porters, for expeditions past. Sometimes among the first to ascent new peaks, or working with men of legends like Messner. Such a man was Aju Gulam Rassoul, who was indeed a guide, cook, and porter, during one of Messner’s expeditions.
Where to Stay in Hushe
There are two guesthouses in Hushe – a Spanish-run hostel called the Refugio, and a local guesthouse run by a Hushe resident, Hussain Guesthouse.
The rooms at the Refugio are from around 4,000 rps, and Hussain Guesthouse from 1,000 rps, though it is also possible to camp.
We stayed at the Hussain Guesthouse, in a basic double bedroom (though without an actual bed but sleeping on a thick mattress Pakistani-style) and private bathroom. No hot shower and no wifi, but family feel and Hussein is an excellent cook and attentive host. We can recommend Hussain Guesthouse for your stay in Huhe.
How to Get to Hushe
There is no regular bus going from neither Skardu nor Khaplu as the road after Machollo is primarily a dirt road.
- Take a regular minivan from Skardu to Khaplu. Note that this bus station is on the east side of Skardu, which is a different bus station that the one were buses from Gilgit reach.
- Minivans leave about every hour at the top of the hours (from 6 am to 2 pm).
- The ride takes about 4 hours and costs 300 rps per person.
- There is limited public transportation on Sundays.
- From Khaplu, you need to take a jeep to Kanday which once every day,
- Usually leaving in front of the Ghanche Continental hotel around 2 pm.
- The Jeep ride takes about 2 to 3 hours
- Cost about 140 rps per person
- Contact Jamil on 03554176762. Jamil owns a jeep and runs the Kanday – Khaplu road every day. He speaks good English and will be of great help to you to organize your travel to Hushe. We can heartily recommend Jamil.
- In case you can not reach Jamil, try Anwar Ali at 03555195524who is also a jeep driver from Khaplu to Hushe. We did not use his services.
- From Kandy, you will need a special pickup or ride to Hushe. Jamil is most likely the one you can organize this ride with, as he can push to Hushe after finishing his run to Kanday, his home village.
- The ride from Kanday to Hushe costs 2,500 rps for about a 30-minute drive
- The road can be quite rough, and minivans don’t go up that road
Skardu Pakistan is the hub for the mountain area, as from there, you can head to the Hushe Valley, the Shigar Valley up to Askole, as well Deosai National Park on the way to Astore.
Among the 800,000 tourists that visit the district of Gilgit-Baltistan every year, only 2,000 come to Skardu, and as mentioned, around 1,000 make their way to Hushe.
Places to Visit in Skardu
Skardu City and the whole region has plenty to offer. From the Skardu Desert, Skardu Fort, as well as day trips to Khaplu Valley, Shyok Valley on the way to the Hushe Valley.
The Skardu weather is usually hot but can get cold spells in winter. When we went, the Skardu weather in July was rather pleasant but was cloudy several days in a row.
You can find several Hotels in Skardu, Pakistan and European style alike. We stayed in a Pakistani budget hotel called K7 Wazir Hotel where we paid 600 RPs for a double room with bathroom. Not the cleanest, but central, safe, and cheap. Other budget accommodations we heard of include the Khapulo Inn Hotel close to the bus terminal. Rooms would start at 1,000 rps.
How to Get to Skardu
- Fly from Gilgit or Islamabad to Skardu via PIA (Pakistan International Airlines)
- Skardu road from Gilgit
- The Government-run NATCO bus leave from Gilgit every hour in the morning
- The drive takes about 8 hours, over an incredibly dusty and busy “highway.” Construction is being done to widen the road, but that means bulldozers and workers are always on the way. Note that Fridays, the building comes to a halt, and is a better day to travel if you can
- A ticket on the NATCO bus costs 600 Rps per person
You don’t need to stop at Khaplu on the way to Machollo as minivans from Skardu do go there directly. But the small village is worth a day stop and is a good break if you are headed straight to Hushe next.
What to See in Khaplu Pakistan
Leave the busy main road to explore the backstreets, fields of wheat and apricot trees lining up small houses. The must-see things while in Khaplu are the Khaplu Palace (also called the Khaplu Fort), and the 700-year old Chaqchan Mosque at the top of the hill.
Where to Stay in Khaplu
There are a couple of guesthouses in Khaplu but not many. We stayed at the Ghanche Continental on the main bazaar street, opposite the Ahle Sunnat Mosque (Tel: 05816-450145, 0341-9440262). Rooms start 2,000 rps. One of the rooms had bed bugs and believe me, that was awful. We changed room, and luckily we had no further infection. Wifi is alright, there is no restaurant on site but you can ask the hotel to cook for you.
We can recommend a small local food restaurant on the main street of Khaplu, up these stairs and close to the bus station and NATCO office.
How to Get to Khaplu
The Khaplu-Skardu section sees many minivans leaving regularly in the morning.
To return to Gilgit, you have to change minivan in Skardu. Two buses leave every day, one at 6 am, and one at 8 am. Due to the limited bus and its popularity, it’s recommended to book your seat the day before. The bus takes about 4 hours to Skardu, then leaves about one hour later from Skardu to Gilgit, arriving there around 8-9 pm, depending on road conditions.
Trekking in Pakistan: Hushe Valley
Most of the treks that depart from Hushe are considered full expeditions, lasting from 5 to 7 to 3 weeks and longer, and requiring a permit. Some of the most famous treks include K6 or K7 Base Camp Trek, or the Baltoro Glacier, all stunning peaks of Pakistan. Popular passes of Pakistan include the Gondogoro Pass
Other treks depart from Askole such as Snow Lake, or Lukpe La, K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro la Tre
About six shorter hikes and treks were previously available without a permit from Hushe. Today, most require a permit for safety reasons, in order to prevent mountaineering accidents to visiting travelers.
An overnight trek to Humbrok is one of the remaining trips you can do without a permit. However, you still need to be accompanied by a guide or a porter.
The Humbrok Trek is the one trek that can be done without the burdensome process of securing a trekking permit.
- Hiking up is steep, and it took us 3:30 hours to reach the pass where we camped. Local porters usually take about 2 hours up.
- The hike to the K2 View Point is rather incredibly steep and has no proper trail. Rather it’s a long way over loose stones. The way up and down takes about 2:30 hours. Bring a hiking pole if you can, it will be handy on the way down
- The hike up to the Glacier and back takes about 4 hours, walking along the river.
- Coming down from the pass took 2 hours
- We hired two porters to help us with the bag, and also because we could not go by ourselves anyway. Costs for each porter for the 3-day trek (with one day at the pass): 5,000 rps. Each hike (to the K2 viewpoint, and to the glacier: 1,000 rps extra)
We stocked up on dry noodles (kimchi), cookies, coffee, and sugar, at one of the small stores in Hushe. The variety is limited but that was enough for our trip. You can also ask the guesthouse for hard boil eggs and chapati for your lunch.
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Trekking Tour Companies
Among the local porters we talked too, the companies were mentioned as treating their porters fairly. However, this list below doesn’t mean that the other tour operators are not considerate but we did not hear them names from local folks.
- Karakoram Adventure Holidays
- Alpine Club
- Baltistan Tours
- Summit Karakoram
- K2 Pakistan
Safety in Pakistan
The Pakistani Government takes the safety of foreigners very seriously, to the point of sometimes being smoldering. During our two months in Pakistan, we did not feel unsafe at all, but we did have to follow through required check-points and mandatory police escorts in some locations (the latter around Chitral and the Kalash Valleys).
Trekking requires another level of security, and the government is imposing a trekking permit for “expeditions,” treks that go over high passes, glaciers, and that are overall in potentially challenging conditions. The permits are for both the trekkers and the tour operators safety alike. Part of the license involves securing proper wages and working conditions for the porters and supporting team of any of these long treks.
Pakistan Travel Tips
- Make about a dozen copies of your passport and Pakistan visa. You can hand these copies over at the numerous police checkpoints
- Have the name of a guide handy for the police checkpoint in Machollo, as the police there might decide you need one before letting you pass
- Always pack some snacks and water for the trip, as you don’t know for sure when you might arrive (landslide, rocks, etc)
- Bring cash as there are no ATMs in the valley, and credit cards are not used.
- If you come for trekking, review your gear list. Either you can get your trekking equipment through your Tour Operator, or you need to be self-sufficient. Check out our trekking gear list for ideas.
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Read our other posts on Pakistan: Places to Visit in Islamabad, Guide to Travel in Islamabad, the unique culture of the Kalash people, and Machollo, a Traditional Pakistani Village in the Hushe Valley.
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