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Hunza Valley

 

History | Things to do | What to eat | Places to stay | Places to visit | Events and Festivals

Hunza Valley at a Glance

 

Hunza Valley is a mountainous valley located in Gilgit, an area under the government of Pakistan. A beauty to behold, Hunza is situated in the extreme northern part of Pakistan borders with the Xinjiang region of China. Prince Karim Agha khan was the spiritual head of Shia Ismaili Nizari community, and Karimabad is named after him. The capital of Hunza, Karimabad (previously known as Baltit) is well known as the most popular tourist destination of Hunza known for its beauty, the people of Hunza are also well-known for their friendliness and hospitality.

Hunza has many mountains and of course surrounded by valleys and lakes. Several high peaks rise above 6,000m the of Hunza valley environs. The valley affords panoramic views of some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains of the world, particularly Rakhaposhi, Hunza, Darmyani, Ghenta Sar, ultar Sar, Bojahagur Duanasir, and Ladyfinger peak. The mountainous valley situated to the north of Hunza river in Gilgit Baltistan is known as Hunza valley seen as a paradise for tourists. Hunza valley is perhaps one of the most beautiful and attractive areas in northern areas. This area boasts of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Hunza is a lush green mountainous valley. Beyond this iconic glaciers, fertile apricot farms, and turquoise lakes lies a wealthy region with a great cultural heritage. Hunza Valley is a paradise on earth at 2,435 above sea-level, and it is one of the best places to have a vacation. With grand cafes and beautiful places to explore, all hemmed in by lovely landscape. The best time to visit the Hunza Valley is from April to October; June to August is usually a crowded period, if you are not cool with crowds, the Hunza Valley gets quite crowded during the mid-summer months as both the local and the Chinese tourist’s troop the place.

Hunza Valley Tour allows you to explore the local wealthy culture and customs, taste the incredible local foods, and see how histories come to life right in your eyes. Hunza Valley Tour is one of the best tours in the world where you will experience the Khunjerab Pass, explore the ancient Silk Route, Baltit & Altit Fort, Fairy Meadows and the world-famous mountains Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi. Hunza Valley Tour starts from Islamabad. Hunza’s tourist period is generally from May to October; in winter the Karakoram Highway is usually blocked by snow.

The beauty of this haven is incomparable; from the soft blossoms of the apricot trees to the dark snowcapped rock monuments of Rakaposhi.

 

History of Hunza

Panoramic view of Hunza Valley

The Hunza people are also known as the Burusho or Brusho. Hunza, formerly a princely state was bordering Xinjiang (autonomous region of China) to the northeast and Pamir to the northwest, surviving until 1974, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto finally dissolved it. The state borders former princely state of Nagar to the east and the Gilgit Agency to the south. The state capital was the town of Karimabad.

Hunza was an independent territory for over than 900 years until the British gained power over it and its neighboring valley Nagar between 1889 and 1891 through military conquest. The ruler then Mir/Tham Safdar Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what is now called political asylum.

The ancient history of Hunza is recorded only in legends. Alexander the Great reported having discovered the gigantic mountains of the Karakoram and to have arrived at Hunza in 325 B.C. Some proofs of the early history of Hunza are evident on a massive rock near Ganesh village; carvings and engravements in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, Gupta, Sogdian, and Tibetan scripts. The Tibetan words depicting hunters and Ibex. Bactrian writings point out the attack of Sassanians from Central Asia. Chinese characters portray the passage of a noble ambassador, Ta Wei.

Similarly, Buddhist stupas and horsemen also tell their own stories. These rocks served as a guestbook for early adventurers. Hunza arose in Tibetan past as part of Gilgit. Tibetans named it Bruza and the people of the area with the name Burushos. During 11th century A.D., the invading Shinas paraded them to the Hunza valleys and Yasin where they built Altit, Baltit, and Ganesh villages. While in the 15th century, Hunza was a piece of Nagar sovereignty. This sovereignty broke away in the 15th century. It was separated into Nagar and Hunza valleys among two warring brothers because of a religious clash. These were the only villages till the 18th century unto the introduction of new techniques of farming, and this caused the colony to grow considerably.

The clash exists even till now. The Nagar people are Shiite Muslims and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran followers. While, the Hunzakuts follow Agha Khani. The hills of Hunza face southwards to the warming sun. Therefore, the people are warm and open. Nagar meets frozen Rakaposhi, so they are cold and unsociable. For an extended period, Hunza remained under Chinese authority. The Hunzakuts paid honor to Xingjian and enjoyed internal sovereignty. They earned their income by taxing the caravans passing through the well-known Silk Route. They even made numerous attacks and robed wealthy groups. They received weights of silks and jewels in this way and sold young hostages as slaves in Kashgar. Hunza’s history is so legendary.

 

Things to do in Hunza Valley

Hunza Valley Autumn
Autumn in Hunza Valley with Ladyfinger mountain in the background

In visiting Hunza, there are so many activities one could participate in, so many exciting and fascinating ones. These activities make Hunza a lovable and ever- exciting place. Tourism is top-notch in Hunza, who wouldn’t love to be there; the water bodies, the mountains, shore excursions, traditional and theme tours, kid-friendly, luxurious and unusual occasions, dishes, drinks uncommon to you and the nightlife is so wow !
I bet you, there is no dull or boring moment in Hunza, every bit of your time would be fun.

The amazing events include swimming, hunting, hiking, walking and biking tour, and polo games, eco-trips, skating, fishing, shopping, slithering makes your tour even more interesting. Visiting the sacred rocks of Hunza, satrangi lake, passu glacier, watching the awesome autumn foliage. The experience is rather entralling, countless sight of grand peaks, the astounding views of the Himalaya Mountain is startling, having seen a great mountain with such magnificence. I could only mention a few, you just got to be there to see and feel it for yourself.

paved road Passu
Passu Road

What to Eat in Hunza Valley


Hunza valley is one of the captivating northern areas of Pakistan that covers the snow-capped mountains and greenery. Hunza valley is well-known around the world for its prolonged existence of the people living in the Valley. Hunza has lots of traditional dishes for different occasions. The foods in this region are delicious and tasty; feeling the real of nature and purity in these foods. If you ever tasted the food of Hunza, then you’d realize they are mouth-watering dishes.

The meals in the region are so delicious that even if you have to control your appetite you wouldn’t. Hunza is always ready to serve you a variety of local foods, you can never be bored with their meals. These foods are well-tasting and rich in nutrients. I bet you are wandering if it comes only in special occasions, they are available always; appetizing odour of specially cooked meals calls for so much attention. Just be open to eat new food while on your tour.

Hunza valley is well known all over the world for the longevity of their people, do you know why? They eat quality, fresh and nutritious meals, even the water from the glaciers are pure with good alkaline pH level, and it competes as the best water anywhere in the world. Many researches have been conducted in view to finding the reason why these people are so healthy and their life span is past the average man and a conclusion was made. It is believed that the pure and healthy diet in Hunza Valley is the reason why they as so healthy and strong.

There are so many delicious dishes the local people love to eat with a unique trademark and they include;

Eat ‘Gyal’ – A Local Hunza Breakfast:

A traditional local breakfast food, wheat pan-fried cakes with honey or fruit jam, apricot oil, and the local ingredients. The apricot oil creates such a sweet smell to go with the smoky flavors from the charcoal or wood while baking. There are numerous types of gyal, with different delightsome taste.

Gyal a Hunza food
A sample of Gyal Hunza food

Local Oats (Muesli)

Truthfully speaking, this is one of the tastiest breakfast foods ever. The almonds, walnuts, brown flaxseed, and apricot seeds are roasted perfectly and then crushed, sprinkled over the barley and a local species of wheat germ. It is incredible when topped off with a scoop of fresh, locally made cream or yogurt and a spoonful of honey.

Muesli lookalike food
A look alike of Muesli

Dried Fruits from Hunza:

This valley is seated at the perfect altitude where many fruits are grown and are very expensive in other regions of the world. I know you would like to try the locally grown almonds, walnuts, apricots, and grapes they have a very sour but delicious-smelling taste like that of local species of quince.

Dry fruits of Hunza
Hunza Dry Fruits

Dowdo (Noodle Soup):

Hand-cut noodles are made from local wheat, and prepared with minced chicken meat. It is a combination of a few slices of cilantro and onion, sauced with cumin, cardamom, and broth. Dowdo is one of the foods you should try during your visit to the Hunza Valley. The dowdo served, has an incredible warmth with the gently spiced minced meat. It’s so lovely.

Chapshurro (Meat Pies):

It is common to find full of minced beef, the traditional chapshurro recipe. It utilizes spiced yak beef. The sauce is simple, with a few chopped onions, red chilies, small local tomatoes, and coriander leave.

Berekutz:

This cheese-filled flour cake is a hearty dish, ideal for those living and working in colder peak regions. The cheese in this food is from goat’s milk and is a staple food for Hunza and Balti cuisines. Flour is flattened out, and apricot oil is spread liberally on each side before the cake fries lightly on a hot iron skillet. The cheese dressing is added, and then a thin cake of flour is set above, then the cake is cut crosswise into triangles before serving.

Berekutz
Berekutz depiction

Rose Mantu (Dumplings):

These artful dumplings with rose shape. It is a special dish usually reserved for special occasions. They are very delicious and palatable.

Harissa:

Harissa one of the delicious meals of Hunza made from pre-boiled meat and peeled local brown wheat, an excellent combination of wheat meal, beef, rice, and green lentil. It is a dish with few recipes; this is another ingredient Baltistan eats on a day of special event. Having the chance to taste local Hunza food with a great community of people even makes the trip more enjoyable. It is a very nutritious dish preferred by the locals.

Harissa is very easy to prepare and its excellent source of protein. It could be eaten singly or served with naan.

Go- Lee:

Go- Lee is also called giyaling is a traditional breakfast item of Hunza. It is a specially prepared meal for the event of giani celebrated in May and June each year after the planting of wheat crops. Giyaling is primarily flatbread made with the whole grain flour. The bread is baked on special occasions and served by spreading butter on it along with tea.

Hoi lo Garma:

This meal is a delicious one that is prepared from mustard greens and boiled with flat-bread. Also called Garma and it is served locally with a plain salad containing diced tomatoes, greens chilies, salt, and green onions with lemon juice to spice up the taste.

Shopan:

Shopan is a local dish from Gilgit-Baltistan chiefly made in the Nasalo/Nos celebration (Death festival of cannibal king), called Haggis in Scotland as a national meal.

Diram Fitti:

Diram Fiti bread is made from just germinated wheat flour producing that natural sweetness, served by mixing butter, almond oil; it is energy-giving food.

 

Places to Stay in Hunza Valley


When we describe a paradise on Earth your mind jumps to Hunza because that’s what it is. It is nature’s beauty, everything you can think about a paradise lies within the borders of Hunza. Humza is a must-visit place for you, friends and family. The grandeur of the mountain, the lushness in the natural landscape, the serenity of wildlife in the lakes and rivers is encompassing. And creative minds thought it wise to build wonderful and beautiful abodes for your comfort while visiting.

Baltit fort with clouds in background
Baltit fort with clouds in background

Baltit Heritage Inn

It is an excellent location with fantastic views over the valley and Rakaposhi. Featuring free WiFi, Baltit Heritage Inn is situated in Hunza. The bathrooms are beautiful and well padded. The owner is very friendly and helpful.

Embassy Vantage Resort:

It features a garden, terrace, and classy restaurant, set in Hunza. With amenities like free WiFi and exceptional room service.

Eagle Nest hotel:

The place in Hunza is Eagle Nest hotel, situated on the top of Hunza Valley at the best view-point of Duikar Village (in Duikar valley) which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Karimabad where you can have a magnificent view of Rakaposhi mountain (7700 m). It started as a small camping site in 1994 and grew into a full-service hotel. The hotel has 30 fully furnished rooms, two restaurants, a lobby, an open terrace built on a rock, a fruit garden & a traditional Hunza House.

Official website: https://eaglesnesthotel.com/

Hunza Darbar Hotel:

Hunza Darbar Hotel is situated in Karimabad, at proximity to the recently renovated Altit and Baltit Fort a critical tourist site. The sizeable sprawl building with three floors and a majestic mountain as the backdrop, the hotel is a sight to behold. The hotels’ lobby is adorned with traditional carpets and rugs, adding to its aesthetic value. Rooms at the Hunza Darbar Hotel are spacious with private balconies that offer a fantastic view of the surrounding area. Staffs at the hotel are very friendly and attentive to all needs ensuring that your stay is pleasant and comfortable. Guests dine-in at the restaurant offering traditional and international cuisines served within or outside in the garden.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/HunzaDarbarHotel/

 

Famous places to Visit in Hunza Valley


Hunza’s beauty is captivating. Its land is enchanting than all of Gilgit Baltistan. It is of note that the Valley of Hunza holds a strong historical background.

Hunza valley has beautiful, and majestic sceneries. Hunza means Heaven, and this explains its fascinating, glamorous, panoramic views, colourful landscape, and the illustrious for lush green beauty and with cold weather. Hunza is a hallmark for tourism with endless outdoor activities. The memories of Hunza would not elude you for a lifetime.

There are several places to visit in Hunza which captivates the eye, the allures of beauty all around, its nature’s grandeur.

There are lists of amazing locations that hold historical significance, consisting of three central regions; Upper Hunza Gojal, Central & Lower Hunza. These main areas have some places that you have to tour when you visit:

Karimabad

karimabad hunza
Karimabad, Hunza

It was formerly known as Baltit and the capital city of Hunza. Karimabad was named after Prince Karim Aga Khan. It is located on the west bank of the Hunza River in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, in a valley at 8,200 feet (2,500 m) elevation. The town is made up of stone walled steep sloping large terraces. The village is legendary as it accommodated the Royal family. The village holds the most antique works of stones of which their houses and streets are made. The fort was built in Balti art style by the masons. It was renovated during Ayesho II’s son’s rule. Mir Nazim Khan refurnished with curtains, wall paper, firesides, terraces, and tinted glass windows. The exterior of the fort was painted white. He also built a raised platform in the terraces for council meetings. When the capital was moved to Karimabad, the fort was bare of all its interior furnishings and decorations. At Nazim 1945, Khan’s son had moved to Karimabad. Presently, the fort holds a view as a newly built monument but maintains all its original features, and still carries that scenic view of the Hunza valley. Some of the rooms hold the exhibits of dresses, pictures and some other ancient vessels, artefacts’ and furniture donated by the local people. There are a couple of activities one could do while in Karimabad; climb up the beautiful scenic Baltit fort and lots more that will be discovered while touring the Karimabad mountain.

Altit fort

Altit Fort is an old fort above Karimabad in the Hunza valley. It was home to traditional rulers of the Hunza state who took the title Mir. It was the residence of the former prince for about 1100 years. At the moment, the forte is a museum and an architectural and artistic masterpiece, renovated by Agha Khan Culture Trust, preserved as a heritage. Altit means this side down and this is the region around the fort occupied by Burusho people.

The Altit Fort was in serious disorder, it has been refurbished now by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Historic, Cities Support Programme and the Norway Government. The forte consists of small rooms and low porches with attractive wood carvings. Japan has contributed to the renovation of the surrounding old village. Since 2007, Altit Fort has been used as a tourist site opened for public use.

Rakaposhi Peak

Rakaposhi sunset
Sunset at Rakaposhi Mountain

Rakaposhi has ‘massive’ mountain seen from all around gilgit. Moreover, the mountain is a part of Karakoram Mountain with a range height of 7,788m.

Baltit Fort

Baltit Fort is a very beautiful fort in Hunza. The foundation of the fort was constructed about 600 years ago. Well, there have been refurbishments and renovations done over the years. The castle of Baltit, built above Karimabad, is a wonderful landmark in Hunza with stilted massive legs and wooden-bay windows.

Baltit Fort
Baltit Fort

Attabad Lake

Attabad Lake is also an amazing place to visit in Hunza valley. The crystal turquoise water awes anyone who comes to the Karakoram massive mountains. The colours and the allure of the spring season are grand and attractive to tourists every year.

Attabad Lake view
Turquoise Attabad Lake

Rush Lake

Nagar is another graced valley in Hunza, the massive mountains surround the lake; the Rush lake and alphine lake.

Sost Border

Sost Border is the very last village of Hunza on Karakoram Highway by the Chinese boundary, and it is an important place on the highway because every passengers and cargo travel en-route, hence the traffic crosses the Pakistan-China border.

Gulmit

Around about, the Gojal valley of upper Hunza lies the nine coloured valleys. Gulmit which provides this astonishing tourist site in Hunza; there are wonderful colours of nature, creating a long lasting impression on anyone who views it. Also, Gulmit offers full package for tourist.

Borith Lake

On exploring the beauties of the Gulmit valley, especially the saline lake of Borith, you’d want to take some time and view the wild ducks and other birds flying around the lake, it so beguling.
The lake is of so much beauty, compassed by vast plains. The lake was formed by the melted water of Ghulkin Glacier.

Borith Lake, Hunza
Borith Lake, Hunza

Eagle Nest Duikar

Dukair is a small village known by Eagle Nest. The experience of staying in Hunza is to see the dawn and dusk on the fascinating peak of Lady Finger and Rakaposhi from the famous eagle nest in Dukair.

Events and Festivals in Hunza


 

Here’s a list of some famous festivals celebrated in Hunza every year.

Gianni Festival 21st June to 25th June

The traditional “Ginani’’ festival is celebrated in Central and lower parts of Hunza valley with the usual enthusiasm. Main gatherings, arranged in Altit and Aliabad villages. The locals perform rituals at central places and also performed traditional dances on local tunes. The distinct local dish known as Dirum Pitti is prepared for the festival.

Before the construction of KKH, the community depended on subsistence farming, so during the winter periods, most families were faced with food shortages. This festival was therefore celebrated to denote the beginning of the harvest season. Also, during the time, when Hunza was an independent state, the rites were performed at the royal court. This event described as Chineer and Ginani in Hunza, Ganoni in Gilgit and Strublah in Baltistan.

Kalash Festivals

Kalash Valleys Festivals is one of the major attractions of Pakistan Cultural Festivals. Within Chitral in the North-West Frontier, near Nuristan in Afghanistan lies the Kalash Valleys of Rumbur, Bunboret, and Birir. The people are non-Muslims; they are of a primitive pagan tribe. According to the myth, General Salik Shah, called General with five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedon are the ancestors of the Kafir Kalash and now the settlers in Chitral. The Kalash are notorious during their festivals, known for much dancing, elders chanting legends with drum complement and the women dance outdoor. They are known to celebrate three main festivals in a year.

Spring Blossom Festival

This festival is observed at spring fall from 20 March to 30 April. The locals enjoy the weather during this period. Tourist from around the world also comes to celebrate with them not only the beauty for Gilgit Baltistan but also for the festivity.

Joshio Chilmjusht ( 14th -15th Of May)

The function is usually arranged to pay thanks to God, observed at the start of spring with new hopes and desires.

Uchao O Utchal (19th – 20th August)

Kalash celebrates Uchao to pay homage to Almighty because of grapes and other ripe fruit.