[Wanderlust Tips January 2020] People always have one place that leaves their heart full of nostalgia and Hunza is mine. I was madly in love with this place, a love that I have not shared with other lands that I have visited.
When thinking of Pakistan, most people think of riots, wars and continuous gunfire, but these dangers are more limited to the South and the West. Arriving in Gilgit after a flight that seemed to touch the tops of the snowy mountains, it became apparent that the Northern region is in fact safe for tourists to visit, especially the Hunza Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan is a spectacular country blessed by Mother Nature as it is home to more than 108 mountain peaks that stand above 7000m and an enormous number of mountain peaks standing above 5000m.
Most of the highest peaks in Pakistan lie in the Karakoram mountain range of Gilgit-Baltistan, including K2 which is known as the second-highest peak in the world and is more difficult to conquer than Mount Everest. It is here that I began my voyage through the valleys between the snowy peaks. From Gilgit, I followed the Karakoram highway along the Hunza River for 100km, I finally reached the Hunza Valley. Perfectly situated on the Central Asian Silk Road, Hunza boasts picture-perfect natural landscapes. This rich land is home to a variety of peaceful turquoise lakes, vast glaciers and verdant valleys full of apricots, apples and many other fruits.
In the last days of March into early April, when spring still lingers in the air, the whole valley is blanketed in a beautifully unprecedented charm. The apricot, cherry, apple and peach blossoms burst into enchanting hues of pure white and pastel shades. The trees are in full bloom along the way passing from Karimabad to Nagar, Hopar and even along the roads running through the beautiful villages in Upper HunzaGulmit, Ghulkin, Kamaris, Passu and Hussaini. The Hunza Valley is marvellous and I was mesmerised by its unparalleled beauty. No matter how many photos I took here, I still cannot describe my feelings while I was in Hunza.
Aside from the rich natural landscapes, Hunza is truly home to a vast array of long-standing attractions that are imbued with local cultural identity. When entering the heartland of the valley, I felt as if I was getting lost in an ancient world of historical relics, for instance, the thousand-year-old Altit Fort and even the 700-year-old Baltit Fort. Magnificent and mighty, these towering walls have stood over the course of centuries. The Baltit Fort has been perfectly preserved and even inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative list in 2004.
FALL IN LOVE WITH HUNZA – A LAND OF DEEP AFFECTION
Taking a meander through the peaceful valleys in the spring made me feel like I was lost in a paradise on Earth. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth of the local people. Along the stone fences, the blooming flowers were brightly coloured and plumes of smoke billowed from the roofs in the distance. Traversing the small path in the valley filled with blooming flowers, I was welcomed warmly by friendly smiles and intrigue of the locals.
They invited me to enjoy their tea, fruits, dried apricots and dried almonds which are all famous in Hunza. The heartfelt actions of the local people imprinted on my mind throughout my trip, I will always remember their warm smiles. Hunza really enchanted me, I felt as though I missed it before I had even left. The warmth in Hunza comes not only from the gentle sunshine but also from the sincere people, they really did bring endless joy and warmth to my heart and soul.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched but must be felt with the heart”. Pay a visit to the Hunza Valley once to experience the bland scent of weed in the early morning, to hear the beautiful birdsong that breaks the silence of the mountains and forests. Listen to the sound of ice cracking and watch as the first or last rays of sunlight shimmer over the top of the snowy mountains. Take it all in and marvel at the most magnificent moments that arrive with the changing of seasons.
Everyone should take a few days away from the comforts of their own home to come to the Hunza Valley. Surrounded by a vast array of snowy mountains, the valley is an ideal destination for you to feel at peace in your mind. Bear in mind that the roads are remote and the domestic flights are often cancelled when clouds completely cover the Nanga Parbat mountain. When you come here, you will not want to leave and the striking landscapes will fill your heart and captivate your thoughts.
GENERAL INFORMATION HUNZA
Hunza is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, situated in the Northern part of Pakistan and surrounded by the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindu Kush. Hunza is blessed with four seasons. Spring begins from late March to late April. Apricot, apple and cherry blossoms come into bloom from the lowlands to the highlands, blanketing the valley with a charmingly-hued beauty. Summer beginning from May to September is the climbing season.
During this time, an array of trekking roads will open to tourists, for instance, Fairy Meadows, Nanga Parbat, Rakaposhi and Lake Rush. Autumn starts in September, but it is not until mid-October that the leaves begin to change their colour from the highlands to the lowlands. Winter starts in December, but you can experience early snowfall in November. In winter, Hunza is quite cold with an average temperature of approximately 10°C, but there are times when the temperature has dropped to -40oC.
ACCOMMODATION IN HUNZA
There is an amazing variety of hotels from budget to four-star or five-star in Hunza. Currently, Hunza is only provided six-hour electricity access and then people are required to use electricity from generators. Most local hotels offer Wi-Fi and some places have 4G mobile phone connection with relatively stable speed.
TRANSPORTATION TO HUNZA
From Vietnam, you have to fly to Islamabad then take the road to reach Hunza. It is about 600km from the Babusar Pass or 700km via Besham-Chilas. Alternatively, you can take a domestic flight to Gilgit and then take the 100-kilometre road from Gilgit to Hunza. There are two airlines with convenient routes to Islamabad including Thai Airways and Qatar Airways. Note that the Qatar Airways flight time is usually longer and the tickets are more expensive than Thai Airways.
There are a variety of traditional bread in Hunza, for instance, Naan and Chapati that are served with curry. Notably, regional curries are not too strong and easy to enjoy. Hunza is also home to a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Huong Giang | Wanderlust Tips