Destination Pakistan Guide

Destination Pakistan Guide

Altit Fort

Exploring the Magnificent Altit Fort: A Journey Through History and Architecture

In the mountain valley of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, stands a true marvel of history and architecture, the awe-inspiring Altit Fort. The fort is perched majestically on a 1000-foot towering cliff rising sharply from the Hunza River. This 900-year-old fort has witnessed centuries of dynastic rule, and cultural transformations. The award-winning Altit Fort now stands as a testament to the rich heritage of the region. Its historic background, architectural marvels, and restoration efforts make Altit Fort a must-visit destination.

Historic Background

Before becoming a part of Pakistan in 1974, Gilgit-Baltistan was a patchwork of independent princely states, with the kingdom of Hunza being one of them. The local Mirs, hereditary rulers of Hunza, held sway until 1974. However, the socio-political reforms stripped them of their power during the reign of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Altit Fort, which had once served as their palace, found itself in a state of disrepair. Later, the Aga Khan Foundation took over its renovation in 1990.

The village of Altit, founded in the 11th century, was the oldest settlement and the capital of Hunza. It was then called Altit Khun and served as the capital of Hunza. Its name evolved from “Hunokushal” to “Burushal” as the region’s culture shifted from the Turkic Huns to Burushaski speakers, who later converted to Islam in the 15th century.

The Power Struggle

According to historical accounts, the rulers of Hunza first resided in the Altit Fort. The rivalry between two royal brothers, Prince Shah Abbas (Shabos) and Prince Ali Khan (Aliqan), marked a pivotal moment in the fort’s history. Shah Abbas relocated to Baltit Fort, making it the new seat of power, while Prince Ali Khan fortified Altit Fort. With the capital shifted to Baltit, Altit Fort began to lose its significance. Prince Ali Khan made Altit Fort his stronghold and launched offensives against his elder brother. Tragically, this conflict ended with Prince Ali Khan’s death.

Balti Craftsmanship

When Princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan was married to Mir Ayaaho II of Hunza in the early fifteenth century, she was accompanied by craftsmen as a dowry. The Balti craftsmen carried out significant amendments to the fort with a Tibetan touch in its design. During their stay in Hunza, they used two Balti words to refer to the two forts “Elte” and “Delte” to say “here” and “there”. Later, the term Elte became Altit, and Delte was modified to Baltit as both valleys are famously known today.

The fort was purposefully built by the ruling family of Hunza as a display of power, to defend Hunza from external attacks, and to safeguard the predominant feudal system. Altit Fort has undergone several ups and downs before it was abandoned. It has been dexterously renovated and serves as a tourist attraction. Currently, the fort houses a museum, a culture center, and the offices of a successful Social Enterprise.


Altit Fort is a masterpiece of architectural ingenuity. Built over 800 years ago, its construction occurred in six distinct stages. The initial phase saw the construction of a two-floor building on the lower western edge, followed by a three-floor watchtower, a storage space, a mosque, grain storage on the eastern side, and the conversion of grain storage into guest rooms. Narrow corridors lead to the lower-level rooms, while the upper ones connect to the watchtower.

The fort’s main entrance, facing Ultar, leads through a dimly lit corridor on the ground floor. It reveals a rectangular supporting structure with a haunting history. Legend has it that a prince who was suspected of plotting against his kingdom was buried here in a standing position.

The first-floor royal kitchen boasts intricate carvings, surrounded by the lobby, a multipurpose traditional royal room, the queen’s room, and rubble stone masonry.

The watchtower is strategically positioned to oversee the land. It offers a 360-degree view and was even used for executing prisoners sentenced to death. The mosque, royal throne, and guest rooms are situated to the north of the tower, while the storage space lies to the south. The royal throne, in front of the mosque, provides a panoramic view of Altit Khun.


Altit Fort, once in a state of disrepair, was donated to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program in 2001 by Raja Amin Khan. Extensive restoration work, carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program and the Government of Norway, transformed it into a museum. Over the years, various development projects both within and outside the fort have flourished. These include a women’s social enterprise, the restoration of Altit Valley, the Kha Basi Café serving traditional Hunza food, an apricot orchard, and a new art center cum guesthouse. Historical tours are offered daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.

Access and location

Altit Fort is situated on the edge of Altit Valley, near the confluence of Hunza and Nagar rivers, approximately 3 km from Baltit Fort. The main entrance guides visitors through a royal garden—an apricot orchard surrounded by lush green grassland—leading to the fort entrance.

The fort offers breathtaking views of Hunza and Nagar from various locations. The galleries in front of the royal guest rooms provide a stunning vista of Altit village. While those hanging from the royal chambers overlook the Hunza River and the Nagar Valley. Similarly, the watchtower atop the fort provides an unparalleled panoramic view of the Hunza and Nagar valleys, making it a photographer’s dream. Altit Fort also offers a captivating perspective from the Karakoram Highway.


In recognition of its cultural heritage conservation efforts, Altit Fort received the prestigious UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award in 2011. These conservation projects focused on rectifying structural defects, stabilizing walls, replacing rooftops, addressing wood decay, and improving lighting.

Altit Fort stands as a living testament to the history and culture of Gilgit-Baltistan. Its architectural brilliance, rich history, and stunning location make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travelers alike. Experience the grandeur of Altit Fort and step back in time to a world steeped in history and intrigue.

About Author

Scroll to Top