Karimabad is the closest thing to a tourist trap in Pakistan. And deservedly so. It’s a small town on a hillside in a verdant valley that’s just about wide enough to swallow the shadows of the hills above. There are old forts guarding its left and right flanks, and restored ancient villages separated by herds of goats and dusty cricket pitches. All that and every so often the clouds around the hills open like curtains to Karimabad’s main performance, a dress circle of stunning 7,000m plus peaks. They’re all significant enough peaks to have a ‘base camp’ for expeditions.
The problem with being a tourist trap though is that you need a critical mass of tourists. We could count the Westeners we’ve seen on one hand, and the surprisingly strong contingent of Korean and Japanese travellers on the other. Restaurants and hostels are empty. Mountaineering gear on sale is exclusively second hand. Souvenir tees have faded almost beyond recognition. Piles of postcards gather dust and warp with the sun.
The lack of tourists shakes out to absurdly low prices. Our private room with bathroom and the view featured in this post costs about $6NZD/night. Last night’s dinner (beef kebabs, vegetable curry, beans and chapatis) came in around $4NZD. All round it works out pretty great for us.