Pakistan is one of the few countries with such a dynamic landscape; rivers, deserts, lakes, waterfalls, springs, glaciers we seem to have it all in great abundance.
The much renowned Hunza valley is often referred to as heaven on earth, enveloped in the grand Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges, this place has been a great tourist attraction for many years.
For me it all happened when I was 22 years old and left the home without telling anyone and reached Gilgit. I did not know where to go from Gilgit; stranded, I heard a bus boy calling the passengers for Hunza. I had heard of Hunza, so I hopped the bus and I could only paint pictures in my mind of what was coming next.
It was April, the sun was shining and when we reached Nilt from Gilgit, I found myself surrounded by a whole new spectrum of colours; I was truly mesmerised.
The meadows, plants laden with white, pink, and orange flowers could be found all over. I kept thinking to myself, why did I not land here earlier?
There were so many flowers alongside the road from Hussainabad to Aliabad, it seemed to be the literal meaning of primrose path. Spring was my first love, and you can forget everything but not your first love.
Hunza is located at a distance of 100 kilometers from Gilgit. In early 1890s, the British embarked upon a mission to annex Hunza and Nagar, which is also known as the Hunza-Nagar Campaign.
British soldiers led by Colonel Durand occupied Nilt Fort in 1890. After that, they proceeded to the Baltit Fort, but faced heavy resistance.
The British gained complete control of Hunza and Nagar with little effort. Thereafter, the Mir of Hunza, Safdar Ali Khan along with his family, fled to Kashgar in China, and his brother Mir Muhammad Nazim Khan was made the new ruler of Hunza by the British.
Finding home away from home
Hunza enchanted me so much that I spent several years traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan soon after I was introduced to this place.
You can live a pretty comfortable life while being in your home in a large metropolis, but as soon as you travel to the northern areas, you find that the real peace of mind lies within these beautiful mountains.
There was a time when people used to visit Hunza for rehabilitation. They still do, but now the tourism factor has increased much more than before. From winters to spring, the nature seems to be in a transition period. This place remains remarkable with every changing season.
Whenever I am reminded of my Hunza expeditions, I have the urge to retreat to those places once again. After all, what charm is living in a society where lynching, blasts, and killing are the daily routine and the protesting voices are diminishing? How can there be peace of mind in such a place, where smiles are made-up with an intent to pull one’s leg as soon as there’s a chance.
In mountains, one feels seclude; secluded from depressions, secluded from everything but the hospitable people of northern areas, the loving and caring people that they are.
Spring has just arrived. Transition period is over. Transition period, whether its of weather or of circumstances, is full of turbulence and uncertainties.
But this period is the one which nurtures and enhances the upcoming weather, time, and the circumstances. And it also nurtures one’s creativities.
HUNZA VALLEY, A REAL SHANGRI LA LOCATED IN PAKISTAN.
Hunza valley is considered to be the epitome of travel locations in Pakistan. It is one of the first places to mind that come when foreigners and locals are looking to go for a vacation in the subcontinent. The encaptivating scenery of the valley is what has led tourists to coin the Hunza valley as paradise on earth.
My time at the valley was one of the most refreshing of all my trips, mainly because of the lively people and beautiful landscape that gives out countless feel-good vibes.
Read on ahead as I unravel my journey to the Hunza valley and present a complete guide on what to do, where to stay, and how to prepare for the lifetime trip to Hunza valley.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HUNZA VALLEY:
Hunza valley is located at the Pakistan-China border in the Gilgit-Baltistan province. The state capital of Hunza is Karimabad that offers a breathtaking view of the Rakaposhi mountain.
Located at a height of 2438 meters, the weather in Hunza valley can go below 0°C and because of the closure of roads due to snow, the official tourism season is from May to October (during the summers).
PEOPLE OF HUNZA VALLEY:
The people of Hunza are known as the Hunzakuts who are fair-skinned and speak the almost unknown language Burushaski. Most of the locals in the region are Ismaili Muslims and are very generous in accommodating tourists.
You will find that you are always welcomed in the hotels, restaurants, cafés, and homes of the people of Hunza valley. One of the best parts of visiting the valley for me was to get to know about the history and culture of the locals there.
HOW TO GET TO HUNZA VALLEY?
Once you are in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, you have two options to reach Hunza valley. The first is to take a flight directly to Gilgit airport and then make a short 2-3 hour drive to Hunza valley. There are several rental van services that you can choose from to get from Gilgit to Hunza. You can find regular flights between Gilgit and Islamabad through PIA, but all flights are subject to delays due to weather clearance. This option is simpler but far less exciting than the second option.
The second option is to take a 24-hour bus directly from Islamabad, witnessing the beauty of Karakoram, Skardu, and Kaghan valley on the way. Like me, if you love exploring new places, then I would recommend taking the drive and staying overnight at some of the must-visit places in Pakistan such as Naran.
Once you are in Hunza valley, private vehicles are primarily used for transportation, and most people rent out jeeps for the duration of their tour. You can get to the different cities within Hunza via bus or through your own rented transport as well. The first stop is the state capital, i.e. Karimabad.