A tribute to my Adventure Club members - a team of 3!
A peek into the past..
|The majestic Rakaposhi (elevation: 7,788 m))|
For centuries Hunza Valley provided quickest access to Swat and Gandhara for a person travelling on foot since the route was impassable for animals with luggage, only human porters could get though upon permission for the local authorities. Since the paths were often merely half a meter wide, Hunza Valley was easily defended and for centuries remained hidden from the rest of the world. This, no doubt made Hunza Valley the mythical Shangri-La of James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Formerly a princely state, it bordered China to its north-east, Pamir to its north-west and Gilgit to its south. Hunza was an independent state for more than 900 years before the British gained control of it 1889 - 1892 and later was dissolved by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974.
Spectacular View and PeaksHunza Valley provides spectacular view of some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains of the world including the breathtaking and one of my most favorite peak (after K-2 off course!) Rakaposhi 25,551 ft (7,788 m) situated in the Karakoram Mountain Range. I remember when we first visited Lake Saif ul Muluk in Naran Valley, the view was breathtaking. There was nothing like it, there is nothing like it. But I must admit, once we started traveling towards Hunza, the view was just amazing. It is like nothing I have seen before, something very different from what I have experience and visited before. Hunza is also surrounded by other majestic peaks like Hunza Peak, the famous LadyFinger Peak, Diran Peak, Ghenta Peak, Ultar Sar etc. Eagle Nest, a famous tourist spot at the top of Hunza Valley offers a view to seven of the surrounding peaks! Hunza Valley is also host to the ancient watch towers of Ganish, Altit Fort and Baltit Fort.
Karakoram Highway - KKHWitnessing of the spectacular scenery in the valley of Hunza is made possible due to the world's highest paved international road, Karakoram Highway or KKH. The route of KKH follows one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Route. During our trip, the excitement of getting on to KKH and experiencing the beauty of the landscape from Gilgit to Hunza Valley was something that magnifies the overall experience of this place. KKH crosses Hunza Valley connecting Pakistan to China via Khunjerab Pass. Although we did not go further towards Khunjerab Pass, something that we couldn't manage because of the lack of planning and research, we did went up till Attabad Lake which was an experience in itself. Tip: Click, click, click while on the road, it's KKH! En-route to Hunza Valley we made a quick stopover at Rakaposhi View Point famous for its french fries and tea along with a breathtaking view of Rakaposhi itself right in front of us. We spent some time along the water stream till our fries were ready and took a lot of photographs. Tip: Look out for apple and cherry trees, grapevines and request the owners for some. We managed to get our hands on the juiciest fruits! Thanks to the locals for the hospitality.
|That - is a pretty 'tanned' version of me.|
|The beauty of Hunza River|
|Two unkept, tanned, sun burned, vacation hands|
|Rakaposhi View Point|
|Much needed tea! (Nail polish: Artdeco 79 Orange Lush)|
|Haldeikish - sacred rocks of Hunza with ancient carvings is a cultural heritage of the valley.|
Climate and Tourist SeasonTourist season generally starts around May (temperature: 27 C/81 F) and goes up till October (temperature: 14 C/57 F). Hunza Valley is blessed with all four seasons.
Spring (March - April)
Summer (May - August)
Autumn (September - November)
Winter (December - February)
I personally think Hunza Valley is an absolute beauty in autumn! Tip: Plan a trip in October to witness the colors of autumn in Hunza Valley. However, I am assuming spring time with Sakura all around will be equally mesmerizing. Since I haven't witnessed spring in the valley yet I would say autumn is the best as the valley changes colors to different shades of yellow, brown and red! During our trip from end of September till early October the weather during the day was comparatively hot but not too uncomfortable. We all got a bit of tan all over since we were roaming in the sun and enjoying the cool breeze. Tip: Want to wash those tees? Go ahead. My jeans were dry like an autumn leaf in the morning, along with the towel and leggings. My sunblock didn't help us much though as I was told upon return that I looked kinda kali (dark). Mornings were beautiful and pleasant and nights were pretty chilly where you needed blankets and some bonfire. We had a great time bbq-ing one night out in the PTDC Hunza premises. Tip: If you step out at night in Hunza Valley look up at the sky. It will be nothing like you have ever seen before. All three of us saw 'the milky way' that night and fell asleep dreaming about it.
|Parked cars & motorbikes. We saw a lot of youngsters looking for gemstones down close to the river.|
|Autumn setting in slowly..|
|These beautiful roads..|
|PTDC Hunza - early morning view..|
|A glimpse of Attabad Lake|
Famous FortsWe also had a plan to visit the two famous forts of Hunza Valley - Altit Fort and Baltit Fort. Besides its scenic beauty, this valley is also famous among tourists for these two ancient forts. Altit Fort is one of the oldest forts in the northern region built in the 11th century. It was originally home to the hereditary rulers of Hunza before they decided to move to somewhat younger Baltit Fort three centuries later due to the conflict between the two sons of the ruler thus making it the capital seat of Hunza. Altit Fort is built with great architectural design on a rock where Hunza River flows at its back side. It has also won 2011 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award winner. Tip: Do go around the village to get the real feel of the vicinity. It's so peaceful and calm.
Baltit Fort is built on top of Karimabad foundations of which can be traced back to 700 years. Ayasho II, Tham (Mir of Hunza) in the early 15th century married a princess of Baltistan (meaning Land of Balti people) was the first to modify the face of Altit and Baltit Fort. Balti people had very strong relations of Ladakh territory in those times. Consequently, the structure of Baltit Fort was influenced by the Tibetan architecture with some resemblance to Potala Palace in Lhasa. Baltit Fort has also received the 2004 UNESCO Award of Excellence. During our visit at Baltit Fort we also witnessed, for the first time, an avalanche high up in the mountains. We were told by the tour guide that at one time the avalanche was so extreme that it came down to the fort and the valley!
|The Altit Fort apricot & orchid garden..|
|Vineyard full of sweet fruit..|
|Can you spot a beautiful bird?|
|Kha Basi Cafe - Altit Fort|
|Our tour guide..|
|Balcony overlooking the village..|
|From the Altit Fort balcony..|
|Royal thrown.. such a beautiful view.|
|Witnessed an avalanche high up on the mountains..|
|Looking down at the village from Baltit Fort|
Eagle's Nest at Duikar View PointOne of the best attractions of Hunza Valley was the Eagle's Nest Hotel at Duikar View Point at the height of 10,000 feets above sea level. Since our small ride failed to go that steep up the mountain we had to get off our car! It is wasily accessible by jeep however. Eagle's Nest Hotel has plenty of rooms where you can stay over night. It is most famous for the magnificent view of surrounding peaks like Rakaposhi, Ultar, Golden Peak, Lady Finger etc which are easily visible through naked eye. When we reached the spot we found plenty of tourists in groups taking photographs of the sunset and making time-lapse videos. We, however settled with out digital camera and cell phones since I did not own a DSLR at that time. We visited Eagle's nest twice. Once during daytime to have lunch, the restaurant was clean, food was tasty and ambiance traditional and comfortable. The second time, we went around sunset to experience the twilight and almost missed it! Tip: Do NOT leave Hunza Valley without a visit to Eagle's Nest.
We also made a quick stopover at the famous Hunza de Cafe for the best coffee and amazingly delicious Walnut Cake! We all had tea and Walnut Cake slices on the roof top looking towards the Baltit Fort and surrounding mountains. Hunza De Cafe not only offers the best kind of Espresso but also wide range of books and maps along with apricot oil, beauty soaps, pure honey etc made locally. Tip: Book your Walnut Cake for delivery to your hometown! We ordered 2 of them! I also filled my hot flask with Hot Chocolate and got a Brownie for breakfast.
|Trees changing colors - autumn is here..|
|Needed a 2 minute break every minute! We were literally hiking at 45 degrees angle.|
|Our ride - yes! |
It was a Mehran (600cc) & yes we came all the way on that little one!
|Lady Finger Peak! (Bubulimuting 19,685 ft)|
|The biggest pumpkins I ever came across! Almost every house had these.|
|The twilight.. the calm air..|
|Hot chocolate for me!|
@ Hunza de Cafe
|The famous Walnut Cake!|
@ Hunza de Cafe
The People of Hunza ValleyI've talked about everything that was beautiful and breathtaking but the best thing about Hunza Valley is it's people - Hunzakuts. Warmhearted, friendly and known for their hospitality, the people of Hunza Valley are probably the most friendly in the region and also the most literate (approx. 90%) as compared to other similar districts! It is indeed a 'role model' for Pakistan. Virtually every child in the valley goes to school and studies up to at least high school level.
There is a sense of calm and peace in this valley which is nothing like we felt elsewhere. Every morning when we used to wake up and prepare breakfast in the balcony (we stayed at PTDC Hunza) we saw kids, girls and boys, school teachers (wearing sneakers which was really cute) with books in their hands. Young girls and boys are often seen on the streets going to and from the schools and women doing everyday grocery shopping in the local market. Many times kids would wave and teachers (women) would smile a bit too, that welcoming smile. We hold them with great respect. And guys.. well they always smile, no? :) I think this is the essence of this beautiful valley. People are glued to their culture and traditions but the are open minded and welcoming. Most of the people of Hunza Valley are Ismaili Shia Muslims, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. The present Aga Khan has provided a lot of funding for the valley to help with agriculture and local economy through the Aga Khan Development Network. The Hunza region is home to people of three ethnicity.
The Lower Hunza area (Khizerabad - Nasirabad) mainly inhibited by Shinaki people who are Shina speakers. The Central Hunza area (Murtazaabad - Ahmedabad) mainly inhibited by Burushaski speakers and, the Upper Hunza area known as Gojal (Shiskat - Khunjerab) mainly populated by Wakhi speakers.
I have so much to write and talk about but let's just say you cannot experience the entire beauty of Hunza Valley through my eyes - make a plan and visit! I can assure it will be a memorable trip. You can either fly to Gilgit from Islamabad and drive to Hunza Valley which is approx 2 hours. Or if you plan to go all the way by road then make a detailed itinerary. This is how our itinerary looked like:
Islamabad > Naran (1 night stay)
Naran > Gilgit (via Babusar Pass and Chilas, 1 night stay at Gilgit)
Gilgit > Hunza Valley (4 nights stay)
Hunza Valley > Naran (1 night stay)
Naran > Islamabad
Oh fruit - how can I forget thee?
Tip: Do purchase any local fruits you come across. We got walnuts, apricots and apples!
|Our friendly neighbor - @ KKH|
Hunza Valley trip to us has been the most memorable of trip ever. We plan to visit HUnza Valley again, this time during spring when Sakura is at full bloom. Until then we will cherish the time spent at the beautiful valley with its wonderful people.
What is your favorite trip ever?
Leave a link below and I will check it out.