- 07 Sep - 13 Sep, 2019
Hunza Nature’s Masterpiece
- 08 Dec - 14 Dec, 2018
- Travel Diaries
When you feel like you’ve had enough and you need to reboot, you need to get closer to nature, spend time with yourself and get a different perspective– a lasting one, then you go offline from the world and take a trip to Hunza. The valley is like nature’s gift for us.
Think lush green valleys cradled between towering mountains with icy peaks hidden in the clouds like nature’s best kept secret. Think narrow roads carved in plush forest plains and trees welcoming you along the way with hues of green, yellow and reddish purple autumn leaves like the most aesthetic picture come to life. Welcoming and heavenly, cold breeze and the dark blanket of the night featuring an expanse of stars- the word beautiful cannot encapsulate what Hunza truly is.
Nestled between the mighty Karakoram Range, under the shadow of the majestic Nanga Parbat resides a city, Karimabad. It is easy to assume all Hunza has to offer is nature but to my surprise, it is just as rich in history and culture. With tourism currently on the rise in the country and the untouched natural heritage of Pakistan being sponsored on an international stage, Hunza has the potential to become THE destination for mountaineers and adventurers, if it isn’t already.
WHAT TO DO
There is a whole list of things to do in Hunza from camping out, exploring the culture, boating and sight-seeing but the best way to travelling in Hunza is without a checklist of scheduled activities and the stress of seeing everything. To travel in Hunza, ditch your gadgets and be one with nature.
The whole valley has a European village vibe– clean, colourful and cobblestoned streets and it is a city that demands to be seen on foot, not in a vehicle. If you want to take the vacation vibe up a notch, then rent out a bike. I imagined myself biking around the snaking road wanting to feel the thrill of unknown streets but time didn’t permit. Forget all plans of dining out in restaurants and dish out sitting on chaar pais at local dhabbas with chai paratha. For breakfast with the ultimate view, you HAVE TO visit the Eagle’s Nest hotel. The panoramic view overlooking the entire valley is best absorbed alone, with chai and good music.
Tourism around town is in its very early phases, so not a lot exists in terms of cosy cafes but you have to visit the Sweet Tooth for divine hot cocoa and scrumptious selection of cakes that will have you licking the last of it off the spoon. There are a lot of hotels and inns which offer a camping set-up. Although it looked vaguely exciting but I’m going to go ahead and say it wouldn’t count as an actual camping experience.
ALTIT AND BALTIT FORTS
There is quite a rich history surrounding Hunza that range from ancient civilisations that once inhabited the valley to how it became a part of the country. Baltit Fort sits on top of the highest mountain, proof of well-preserved historical heritage, and paints a compelling picture of the history that has been written between these walls. Altit Fort sits in the heart of the city, adjacent to one another; these forts were the ruling seats of the former princely state. It is best to take a tour with a guide for a learning experience.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are two ways to get to Hunza. You could take a flight to Gilgit which will most probably be an airbus since the runway cannot cater to Boeing 737. Or alternatively, you could drive. The latter is the go-to option for everyone who seeks a cheaper and a more adventurous vacation, every bit of it is breaking free from the strains of work life and society and getting lost in nature’s finest artwork. The drive from Islamabad to Hunza is over 14 hours, covering a distance of 610km, you could make the drive straight, or you could do multiple layovers staying at different hill stations and villages, all of which are increasingly becoming tourist-friendly.
Rightly titled, the eighth wonder of the world, the Karakoram Highway is the highest international road that will take you straight to China. The highway snakes through valleys, mountain ranges, villages and alongside gem-blue, endlessly flowing rivers. I did not see a single area where a river didn’t flow.
Once upon a time, Hunza was quite inaccessible, the highway full of potholes and poor infrastructure but thankfully, all that is history now. The KKH is one long, smooth road where land-sliding is still expected but other than that, it quite easily makes a road trip of a lifetime. For legit road-trip-feels, rent a four-wheel drive. Thank me later.
SATIATE YOUR TASTEBUDS
The complete travel destination, Hunza has a lot to offer in terms of culinary heritage. A localised version of pizza, Berckuzh, is bread stuffed with richly seasoned meat (yak, not beef) and veggies baked to golden-brown perfection. Hunza also has its own version of dumplings, a fast food it has adopted from China, a kind of unforgotten link. Mamtu are dumplings with meat and spice centre that go through long process to cook, a delicacy you can only enjoy in Hunza. And of course, namkeen chai, is a local specialty not to be missed.
STORIES THAT LIVE ON
The Hunzai are very proud of their town, a fact that exudes from their welcoming smiles they so freely flash to tourists. Hunza is also very famous to foreigners. I met all kinds of Europeans, some who drove all the way, others who cycled. It’s so humbling, an experience like that when people meet over a cup of chai at a remote dhabba in the middle of nowhere and open up to strangers like a book.
Hunza for me was a future-planning experience. The ultimate place to grow old in, where worries of the world are carried away by the wind and only happy vibes flow in through the windows. Between these mountains, every sunrise and every sunset is picturesque; a sight that needs not be seen, but felt. The experience is so collective, it’s almost funny. In Hunza, you can have the experiences of a kid, a childlike awe and also crave the silence like an old soul. Two stories that are going down in my Hunza experience are falling off a tree, trying to pluck an apple and being chased by a yak and contrary to that, sitting atop a mountain, simple absorbing the manifestation that lies so calmly, so exquisitely, it feels almost like a dream.
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