Hunza - Heaven on Earth

Hunza Valley Travel Blog

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The family of Mirs of Hunza ruled Hunza for 960 years. Hunzakuts are believed to be the descendents of five wandering soldiers of Alexander the Great. The people of Hunza speak Brushuski, an aboriginal language. This princely state retained its isolated independence for a long time in the remote part of the areas which now form the Northern Areas of Pakistan adjoining the Sinkiang Autonomous Region of China.

During early nineteenth century, Hunza resented Kashmir's attempts to gain control and its ruler's periodically expelled Kashmir garrisons, threatened Gilgit, and politicked with the rulers of Kashgar to the north where the Russians were gaining influence. Fearing Russians infiltration into their northern frontiers, the British took over direct political control at Gilgit in 1889.
Incessant fratricidal intrigues in Hunza and Nagar made the areas doubly insecure. This, coupled with the Mir of Hunza's consistent intransigence induced the British to march on Hunza in December 1891, where they fought a decisive battle at Nilit, 60 km beyond Diaynor Bridge. After this the British garrisoned Aliabad until 1897 when Hunza became a princely state protected by the Government of British India. After the Pakistan was created in 1947, the people of Hunza also gained liberation and the princely state was merged in Pakistan.

Places of Interest:

Karimabad: Miles and miles of terraced fields and fruit orchards mark Karimabad, the capital of Hunza Valley.

It offers a panoramic view of the Rakaposhi, Ultar and Balimo peaks. It is 112 kms from Gilgit and it takes a jeep about 3 hours to cover the distance.

Baltit Fort: is a kilometer away from Karimabad. It was built 700 years ago by 300Labourers brought to Hunza in the dowry of the Princess of Baltistan when she married Mir of Hunza. The area is named Baltit after those laborers. Over the centuries, it has been inhabited by the ruling family of the Hunza State.

Rock Carving: and inscriptions around Ganesh village give proof of the Buddhist influence in the area. The inscriptions are in four different scripts and the carvings are of human and animals figures.

Batura Passu Hisper and Hopper:Batura Passu glacier is 35 kms from Karimabad while the Hopper and Hisper glaciers are 25 kms away.

The journey takes two hours by jeep and the last two kilometers have to be traveled on foot.

Altit fort:It is situated in the village of Altit about three kilometers from Karimbabd. It has been built on a sheer rock cliff that falls 300 meters (1,000 feet) in the Indus River. The fort is a 100 years older than the Baltit Fort and at one time inhabited by the ruling family.

Ultar peak: known as the Killer Mountain is the only un-conquered peak.

Nagar People from Baltistan who arrived over the mountains by walking along the Biafo and Hispar glaciers possibly first settled Nagar, the large kingdom across the river from Hunza. Hunzakuts who crossed the river settled it again in about the 14th century. A man called Borosh from Hunza supposedly founded the first village of Boroshal, and married a Balti girl he found there.

The legend says the girl and her grandmother were the sole survivors of a landslide that killed all the early Balti settlers.

The jeep road that leaves the KKH just beyond the Ganesh Bridge across the Hunza River enters Nagar. The first five kilometres (three miles) of this road are dry and barren, and then the road divides. Once branch of crosses the Hispar River on a bridge and climbs up into the fertile villages of central Nagar, where many kilometres of irrigation channels provide pleasant walks through fields and villages right up to the last village of Hoper. You can get here by public transport from Aliabad in Hunza, which leaves most days for Nagar, and occasionally continues, to Hopar.

The Ruby Mines of Hunza are also nearby. A sales center is located at Aliabad who sale precious and semi-precious stones and jewelry.

The Karakoram Highway is at its most spectacular between Ganesh and Gulmit. The road rides high on the eastern side of the river, twisting and turning round the barren foot of the Hispar Range, which boasts six peaks over 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). On the opposite bank, villages cling implausibly to the side of the 7,388 metro (24,240 foot) Ultar Mountain. Between the villages, Grey screen slithers down to the river, looking in the distance like piles of find cigarette ash. Above, the jagged teeth along the ridge hide the highest snow-covered peaks from view.

The KKH crosses back to the West Bank at Shishkot Bridge, from which the view upstream of the serrated ridge of mountains above the river is one of the most photogenic prospects of the entire drive. From here to Tashkurgan in China the people speak Wakhi.

Gulmit Eight kms (five miles) past the bridge, is a fertile plateau 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) high, with irrigated fields on either side of the road. This is a good place to spend a night or two, marking the halfway point between Gilgit and the Khunjerab Pass. The small museum here belongs to the prince, Raja Bahadur Khan, and is full of interesting ethnic artifacts. And two of the hotels here belong to Mirzada Shah Khan, hero of the 1947 mutiny.

The rock and gravel covered Ghilkin Glacier comes right down to the road about one kilometer (just over half a mile) past Gulmit. The road crosses the snout of the glacier at the very edge of the river, then climbs up on to the lateral moraine - a great, Grey slagheap. About five kilometers (three miles) further on; you round a corner to find Passu Glacier straight-ahead. It is shining white and deploys creased - just as you would expect a glacier to look. Above the glacier to the left is the jagged line of the Passu and Batua peaks, seven of which are over 7,500 meters (25,000 feet). On the opposite side of the river, which you can cross over a terrifying footbridge, the valley is hemmed in by a half-circle of saw-toothed summits, down the flanks of which slide Grey alluvial fans.

Passu is a village of farmers and mountain guides 15 kilometres (nine miles) beyond Gulmit. This is the setting-off point for climbing expeditions up the Batura, Passu, Kurk and Lupgar groups of peaks, and for trekking trips up the Shimshal Valley and Batura Glacier. The Passu Inn, right beside the road, is the meeting place for mountaineers and guides.

The KKH passes through four more villages before reaching the immigration and customs post at Sost, 33 kilometres (21 miles) from Passu. Outgoing traffic must pass through Sost before 11 am. It is a four-or-five hour drive from here to Tashkurgan, and you must allow time for clearing Chinese customs and immigration to kilometres before Tashkurgan (moved down from Pirali). The time difference between China and Pakistan is three hours, so it will be around 7 to 8 PM Chinese times before you arrive in Tashkurgan. Incoming traffic is processed until 4 PM Pakistani time, 7-pm Chinese time.

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Hunza Valley
photo by: jaaf