Magical Autumn Trip to Hunza Valley

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Many years back when I first heard about the mesmerizing beauty of North Pakistan, I remember opening the map, putting my finger on one destination and saying this to my sister, ‘One day I will go to this place – Hunza Valley!’ At that time going to Hunza Valley seemed almost like finding the mythical sanctuary Shangri-la from the famous novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. Little did I know that I would visit this breathtakingly beautiful valley in Gilgit-Baltistan sooner than later and that too three times in a row.


Hunza Valley
Royal Garden of Altit Fort


Wrapped in the Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges, Hunza Valley is no less than heaven on earth. Heaven – not just because of the vibrant landscape this valley offers but also because of how incredibly calm I felt surrounded by the serene nature and wildlife. My favorite time to visit Hunza has always been autumn, a time when you see the valley oozing colors of fire, orange, crimson, yellow, purple and brown. It was early autumn somewhere in the start of October. As we reached close to Gilgit it started drizzling and the weather got considerably cold. As we drove into the Hunza Valley it had already rained, the cold wind forced me to pull up the car window, take out my jacket and wrap a scarf around.  We made a quick stop for tea at Rakaposhi View Point which, unfortunately due to weather was hiding behind dense clouds.


Hunza Valley
Raining along Karakoram Highway..
Hunza Valley
Crossing Gilgit.
Hunza Valley
Colors of autumn as we enter Hunza Valley.
Hunza Valley
Colors of autumn.
Hunza Valley
Rakaposhi Peak hiding behind dense clouds.

We made our final stop at Hunza Serena Inn which is one of my favorite places to stay at Karimabad. This charming place will take you back in time with its landscaped gardens, fruit orchards and lush green fields. Hunza Serena Inn is nestled in the heart of Karimabad and offers you the most tranquil moments. I always admired the peace and calm in the air, the view around it, day or night is perhaps the best in entire Hunza Valley. Soon we were at Osho Marak Restaurant that offers local Hunza cuisine, Pakistani, Continental and Chinese dishes as well as a la carte menu. I remember enjoying traditional noodle soup in my room later in that night. There’s nothing more satisfying than a hot bowl of soup in the comfort of your bed.


Hunza Valley
View of Hunza Valley from Hunza Serena Inn lawns.
Hunza Valley
Autumn in full swing.
Hunza Valley
Luxury Huts at Hunza Serena Inn.
Hunza Valley
Leaves turn into shades of gold.

Hunza Valley
Directions...

Hunza Valley
Traditional Hunza Noodle Soup, best of the best!
Hunza Valley
The pass.... 
Hunza Valley
Stained glass work at Baltit Fort.

If you are at Hunza you must not leave without visiting these two: Attabad Lake, a naturally formed lake in Gojal and Khunjerab Pass, the Pakistan-China Border, the highest border in the world at 16,000 feet. Next morning we headed towards Attabad Lake which was now accessible thought the Attabad Tunnels, also known as Pak-China Friendship Tunnels. Attabad Lake was naturally created as a result of massive landslide back in 2010. On our last visit boats were the only means of transportation if you wanted to go further up the valley. Thanks to the engineering marvel, these tunnels have considerably reduced the travel time towards Gulmit, Passu, Sost and Khunjerab Pass, the Pakistan-China border.


The beauty of Attabad Lake is absolutely bewitching! As soon as I set my eyes on the deep blue, almost sapphire like color of its water I could not think of anything else in the world. I thought I could just sit there for hours and absorb the tremendous positivity that it filled me with just by looking at it – nature indeed nourishes our soul. We could not resist taking a boat ride so we got into one. The water felt calm and the panoramic view of the lake had amazing stories to tell on each side.


Attabad Lake
Attabad Lake.
Hunza Valley
Passu Glacier.
Hunza Valley
The famous Passu Cones.
Husseini Bridge
Husseini Bridge.

It was time to get back on the road and continue our journey towards the border. The landscape and view started getting broader from this point and the valley opened wide with fields. The transition of trees from green to gold, orange, brown, crimson was as artistic as it could get. The view had enough charm to win anyone over let alone me. We drove further up crossing many villages including Sost from where we drove further to the Khunjerab National Park security check-post. The crown of Khunjerab National Park is the Markhor, a species of wild goat which is also Pakistan’s national animal. You would be very lucky, like myself to see a bunch of them climbing vertical slopes effortlessly.


The drive towards the border is the most beautiful drive I ever experienced! The fresh, calm air, snow covered peaks, plateau with grazing herds of yaks, sheep and goats. I felt as if I had stepped into another world. This is where you see the true beauty and worth of the Karakoram Highway. No doubt it is the eighth wonder of the world due to its long stretch. The temperature had dropped considerably over here though the sun was shining bright. The wind was strong and cold enough to make your hands and ears freeze. As I got out of the car I looked all around me. The barbed wire marked the border along with the monument signifying the two sides of the border, China on the right and Pakistan on the left.


Khunjerab National Park
Beautiful autumn colors at Khunjerab National Park.
Khunjerab National Park
Travelling further into Khunjreb National Park. 
Khunjerab Border
Yaks peacefully grazing.

Khunjerab Border
Khunjerab Border

View around the border.

Khunjerab Border
Khunjerab Border
At the Khunjreb Border.

The border – a barren piece of land with its vastness, its wilderness, its snow-covered peaks, and its flora and fauna reminded me of how small I and my worldly problems were. There was life striving and thriving in on such high altitude and in such extreme weather. I was filled with hope and an amazing peace of mind in this soul-free location. 30 minutes and a few clicks it was about time to get back in the car. It was almost afternoon and we had a 3 hours journey back to our luxury tent at Hunza Serena Inn. As we left the border on our way back I looking out of the window quietly. I wanted to absorb as much of this whole journey to Hunza Valley and beyond as I could.


Later that night, I ordered the traditional Hunza Noodle Soup again. I sat outside my tent under the brilliantly clear and starry sky and kept gazing at the Milky Way. The inner peace I found through the raw energy of nature all around me was simply overwhelming. I wish I could freeze time this very moment – life is beautiful.

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Mesmerising Nathiagali in Winters

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I can give a million reasons why I love Galiyaat especially Nathiagali. But for this post maybe I'll skip the text part and focus more on the visuals. My love for Galiyaat developed and grew because of two main reasons: my love for travel and my best friend, both of us being travel bugs! Since I reside in Islamabad, it is fairly easy to plan a trip without much, and at times, any preparations at all! Without exaggerating I can say I visit these Galiyaats almost 3-4 times a year; both in summers and in winters. Nathiagali in particular since it is not thronged by as many tourists as the nearby hill station Murree is. Nathigali is a calm place and gives you an immense feeling of being close to nature. Forested with Pine, Oak, Maple and Walnut trees, it truely is a little piece of heaven for a nature lover like myself. I believe I can never get tired of this place ever.๐Ÿ’—

Nathiagali
A magical winter wonderland..
Nathiagali
A rainy drive means it is already snowing at Galiyaat.
Nathiagali
And then it starts to snow mid way!
Nathiagali
KPK - The land of hospitality
Nathiagali
Beautiful drive through out..
Nathiagali
Piles and piles of fresh snow everywhere ..
Nathiagali
Around Changlagali enroute Nathiagali..
Nathiagali
Road conditions get really tricky at alot of points in winters - only for expert drivers!

๐Ÿ”น Getting There
Typically our trip starts with basic car checks. Fuel, tyre pressure, a few minor checks, extra tyre, chains etc. Our typical trip starts from Kashmir Chowk in Islamabad towards Bhara Kahu till we reach Satra Meel (approx 13 kms). Onwards you have the choice of going via either Kashmir Road or Islamabad Murree Expressway. We usually take the Islamabad Murree Expressway N75 which is a longer route but a very comfortable drive and very scenic.

๐Ÿ”น What we Pack
Weather in Nathiagali remains cool and pleasant throughout the year. Summers or winters we always take warm clothes with us whenever we visit Galiyaat. During day time in summers weather is really pleasant but as soon as the sun starts to set it starts getting cold! In winters temperatures will easily go below freezing even during the day. So the best thing to do is pack some warm clothes regardless of the weather especially extra pair of socks, a water-proof jacket as it can rain, a warm cap or hoodie, boots or waterproof sneakers, gloves and scarf etc. Pick and choose what makes you feel more comfortable. I always prefer knee length socks, sneakers and winter jacket.

๐Ÿ”น Where we Stay
We always prefer staying at private cottages because it feels more like a home and less like a hotel. However there are plently of options to stay in at Nathigali. Hotels, rest houses, cottages all are available with basic facilities. During peak season, it is always a good idea to book in advance to avoid not staying at a place of your choice or facilities or budget. You will also find many affordable options in Nathiagali bazaar.

๐Ÿ”น What we Eat
Since we are slightly picky about food, we almost always opt for butter chicken with fried rice since we feel it satisfies our tastebuds the most. Summer or winter soups are also a must while in Nathiagali since the whole atmosphere and weather makes you crave for it even more. We love having tea or coffee from roadside vendors whenever we step out for a drive or a stroll.

Nathiagali
Best flavor ever..
Nathiagali
All time favorite - Butter Chicken. 
Nathiagali
And off course lots of tea...

๐Ÿ”น What we Do
We love to be around nature so we spend most of the time outdoors either driving around or going for a walk or hike. The Nathiagali Bazaar is a great place to walk around and grab a cup of coffee, tea or even Kashmiri Chai. I always manage to buy good quality shawls for my mom and friends every time I visit. You can also find traditional clothes, handbags, decorations etc on affordable prices. Mushkpuri Hike is a wonderful way to challenge your fitness. We managed to make it to the top in around an hour. You also have the option to drive down to Dungagali and take the Pipeline Walk which is an easy 3.5 km track with breathtaking views. St. Matthews Church is another landmark standing the test of time. Made entirely of wood almost 100 years ago, it is a remnant from the days of the British. It can be reached after a steep hike from main Nathigali bazaar. Take a stroll from the church to the Governor House to enjoy the calm of nature and beautiful landscape. There's much more to discover while in Nathigali thus do so on a slow pace.

I've spoken enough already, lets watch more photos and I am sure you will fall in love with this winter wonderland. 

Nathiagali
Untouched white carpet of snow everywhere!
Nathiagali
100 year old wooden St Matthews Church
Nathiagali
Super clean tyres, thanks to driving in fresh, clean snow..
Nathiagali
Every evening you will witness the most magical sunset..
Nathiagali
In peak season this is how your way back home will be like..

๐Ÿ”น What about you?
I hope you enjoyed the post; it was really refreshing to go through all these photos of beautiful landscape of Galiyaat. Have you been to Nathiagali or any of the Galiyaat? How was your experience? 
Leave a comment below and let me know. 

Disclaimer: All photos in this post are mine taken by me via my phone and DSLR camera. 

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#Instagram Lately..

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Islamabad, the beautiful
Truck Art, Pakistan
#NOTD
Reading lately..
KKH, The Karakoram Highway
Nathiagali memories
New love - Inglot nails
PC Muzaffarabad
What a classic! Had to get this one as a souvenir. 
Weekend weather moods
#throwback - somewhere around Jalkhad Road
Call-of-Duty, Murree Hills
Lebanese Tea
Goals! Gold heels.
Islamabad - you beauty!
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