In James Hilton’s lost horizons, a land of peace and plenty where people never aged.
Eric Shipton the famous explorers, described the views from Hunza Valley as.
"The ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur".
Places in Hunza
Hunza was formerly a princely state bordering China to the north-east and Pamir to its north-west, which continued to survive until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The state bordered the Gilgit Agency to the south, the former princely state of Nagar to the east. The state capital was the town of Baltit (also known as Karimabad) and its old settlement is Ganish Village.Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years. The British gained control of Hunza and the neighboring valley of Nagar between 1889 and 1892 followed by a military engagement of severe intensity. The then Thom (Prince) Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what can be called political asylum.
Geography of Hunza:
The Hunza is situated at an elevation of about 2,500 meters (8,200 ft). For many centuries, Hunza has provided the quickest access to Swat and Gandhara for a person travelling on foot. The route was impassable to baggage animals; only human porters could get through, and then only with permission from the locals.
Hunza was easily defended as the paths were often less than 0.5 meters (20 in) wide. The high mountain paths often crossed bare cliff faces on logs wedged into cracks in the cliff, with stones balanced on top. They were also constantly exposed to regular damage from weather and falling rocks. These were the much feared "hanging passageways" of the early Chinese histories that terrified all, including several famous Chinese Buddhist monks such as Xuanzang.
Climate of Hunza:
The temperature in May is a maximum of 27 °C (81 °F) and a minimum of 14 °C (57 °F); the October maximum is 10 °C (50 °F) and the minimum ?10 °C (14.0 °F). Hunza's tourist season is generally from May to October, because in winter the Karakoram Highway is often blocked by the snow.
The temperature in May is a maximum of 27 °C (81 °F) and a minimum of 14 °C (57 °F); the October maximum is 10 °C (50 °F) and the minimum ?10 °C (14.0 °F). Hunza's tourist season is generally from May to October.
People of Hunza:
As much as the valley is famous for its beauty, the people of Hunza are noted for their friendliness and hospitality. The local languages spoken are Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina, many people understand Urdu. The literacy rate of the Hunza valley is believed to be more than 90%. Virtually every child of the new generation studies up to at least high school level. Many pursue higher studies from prestigious colleges and Universities of Pakistan and abroad.
Most of the people of Hunza are Ismaili Shia Muslims, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, while in Ganish Village more than 90% are Shia Muslims.
The Hunza region is home to people of three ethnicities:
(i) The Lower Hunza area - (from Khizerabad to Nasirabad is mainly inhabited by the Shinaki people who are Shina speakers;
(ii) The Central Hunza area - (from Murtazaabad to Ahmedabad) is mainly inhabited by Burushaski speakers.
(iii) The Upper Hunza area, known as Gojal - (from Shiskat to Khunjerab is mainly populated by Wakhi speakers.
The Khunjerab National Park was established in 1975. It begins 30 km from Sost and covers an area of 2,271 square kilometres from the Khunjerab Pass to Shimshal area of Gojal on both sides of the Karakorum Highway including Shimshal Pamir and Ghuzherav. It was established on the recommendation of renowned wildlife biologist George Schaller to save the Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon poli) from extinction and to preserve the other wildlife in the area like snow leopard, ibex, Tibetan wild ass, bharal, wolf, red fox, brown bear, cape hare and alpine weasel.
The park is managed by the wild life department but the villagers are actively involved to protect the wildlife. At the end of the park is the famous Khunjerab pass leading into Sinkiang China.
Spectacular Scenery from Hunza:
Several high peaks rise above 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) in the surroundings of Hunza valley. The valley provides spectacular views of some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains of the world which include Rakaposhi 7,788 meters (25,551 ft), Ultar Sar 7,388 meters (24,239 ft), Bojahagur Duanasir II 7,329 meters (24,045 ft), Ghenta Sar 7,090 meters (23,261 ft), Hunza Peak 6,270 meters (20,571 ft), Darmyani Peak 6,090 meters (19,980 ft), and Bublimating (Ladyfinger Peak) 6,000 meters (19,685 ft). Hunza Valley is also host to the ancient watch towers in Ganish , Baltit Fort and Altit Fort. Watch towers are located in heart of Ganish Village; Baltit Fort stands on top of Karimabad whereas Altit Fort lies at the bottom of the valley.
The valley is popularly believed to be the inspiration for the mythical valley of Shangri-la in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon. As one travels up on the Karakoram Highway, the beautiful sceneries keep on revealing themselves. On the way one can witness the 65 kilometers (40 mi) long 'Batura' glacier, the second longest in Pakistan, surround by Shishper, Batura and Kumpirdior peaks. On reaching Sost one can continue the journey up to Khunzhrav or turn west to witness the mystic beauty of Chipursan (also Chapursan) valley. Chipursan valley has some of most exotic tourist spots in the area. In Yarzerech (also Yarzirich) you can have a look at the majestic Kundahill peak (6,000 meters (19,685 ft)), or trek along the Rishepzhurav to the Kundahill to experience the soothing sceneries. Beyond Yarzerech one can travel further to Lupghar, Raminj, Reshit, Yishkuk up to Baba Ghundi (Astan), the shrine of Baba-e-Ghund, a saint from Afghanistan near the border between Pakistan and Wakhan region of Afghanistan.
Drive early morning (Before Sunrise ) by jeep to Duikar (10000 ft altitude ) Watch the snowcapped mountains as sun lits all the snow capped peaks one by one, later have a breakfast in the wilderness return to the hotel in time for your other program.
Baltit Fort - Baltit Fort or Balti Fort is an ancient fort in the Hunza valley in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
In former times survival of the feudal regimes of Hunza was ensured by the impressive Baltit fort, that sit on top of Karimabad. The foundations of the fort are said to date back around 700 years, but there have been rebuilds and alterations over the centuries. In the 16th century the Thum married a princess from Baltistan who brought master Balti craftsmen to renovate the building as part of her dowry. The architectural style is a clear indication of Tibetan influence in Baltistan at the time. The Mirs of Hunza abandoned the fort in 1945, and moved to a new palace down the hill. The fort started to decay and there was concern that it might possibly fall into ruin. Following a survey by the Royal Geographical Society of London, a restoration programme was initiated and supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Programme. The programme was completed in 1996 and the fort is now a museum run by the Baltit Heritage Trust.
Baltit Fort In olden times a number of small independent states existed in the history of Northern Areas of Pakistan. Among them Hunza and Nager were the traditional rival states, situated on opposite sides of the Hunza (kanjut) river. The rulers of these two states, known as Thámo / Mirs (Thάm=S), built various strongholds to express their power. According to historical sources (Ref: Tarikh-e-Ehd Atiiq Riyasat Hunza by Haji Qudrarullah Baig, Pub: S.T.Printers Rawalpindi 1980 Pakistan), the Hunza rulers initially resided in the Altit Fort, but later as a result of a conflict between the two sons of the ruler Sultan, Shah Abbas (Shάboos) and Ali Khan (Aliqhάn), Shaboos shifted to the Baltit Fort, making it the capital seat of Hunza. The power struggle between the two brothers eventually resulted in the death of younger one, and so Baltit Fort further established itself as the prime seat of power in the Hunza state.
The rich beauty of Baltit Fort can be traced to over seven hundred 700 years ago. Ayasho II, Tham / Mir of Hunza in the early 15th fifteenth century married Princess Shah Khatoon (Sha Qhatun) from Baltistan (In Moghul history Baltistan is called Tibet Khurd mean, little Tibet), and was the first to modify the face of Altit and, subsequently Baltit Fort. Baltistan meaning land of Balti people had a very strong cultural and ethnical relation with the Ladakh territory of India then. Consequently, the structure of Baltit Fort was influenced by the Ladakhi / Tibetan architecture, with some resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Then additions, renovations and changes to the building were being made through the centuries by the long line of rulers of the Hunza that followed.
iew of the Hunza Valley from Baltit Fort A veritable treasure house for ancient forts, the Northern Areas of Pakistan lost most of its glorious built heritage around the 19th century as a result of the destructive attacks by the Maharaja of Kashmir. However, in this regard people of Hunza were exceptionally fortunate to successfully defend against the invasions of Maharaja Kashmir four times. One of the biggest changes in the structure of Baltit Fort came with the invasion of the British in December 1891. Tham Mir Safdarali Khan, ruler of Hunza his wazir Dadu (Thara Baig III), fled to Kashgar (China) for political asylum with their fellows and families. With the conquest of Hunza and Nager states by the British forces in December 1891, the fortified wall and watch towers of the old Baltit village and watch towers of the Baltit Fort on its north-western end were also demolished as desired by the British authorities. The British installed his younger brother Tham Mir Sir Muhammad Nazim Khan K.C.I.E, as the ruler of Hunza state in September 1892.
During his reign, Tham / Mir Nazeem Khan made several major alterations to the Baltit Fort. He demolished a number of rooms of third floor and added a few rooms in the British colonial style on the front elevation, using lime wash and colour glass panel windows. The Baltit Fort remained officially inhabited until 1945, when the last ruler of Hunza, Mir Muhammad Jmamal Khan, moved to a new palace further down the hill, where the present Mir of Hunza Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan (Current Chief Executive of Northern Areas) and his family are residing.
With no proper authority entrusted to care for it, the Fort was exposed to the ravages of time and over the years its structure weakened and began to deteriorate. His Highness Aga Khan IV initiated the restoration efforts for Baltit Fort in 1990, when Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan the son of last ruler of Hunza, Tham / Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan and his family generously donated the Fort to the Baltit Heritage Trust, a public charity formed for the explicit purpose of owning and maintaining the Fort. The restoration undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva in association with the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (Pakistan), took six years to complete. The project was supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture as the main donor through its Historic Cities Support Programme, as well as by the Getty Grant Program (USA), NORAD (Norway) and the French Government.
The restored Fort, resplendent in its regal glory was inaugurated on September 29, 1996 in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan IV and the president of Pakistan Farooq Ahmad Khan Laghari. It is now operated and maintained by the Baltit Heritage Trust and is open to visitors. Preservation at its best, the Baltit Fort serves as a perfect example of culture restored and preserved for the future generations of the mountain people.
Spring being the beginning of season usually from early April welcome you to the Northern Areas. Hunza & Nagar in Blossom present an aesthetic panorama. The lush green tarraced fields surrouded by blooming trees and the village itself guarded by snowbound sky kissing mountains displaying scene enough to overwhelms visiters. Moreover, besides the appealing vistas, the fragrance emanating in the villages add charm to the visual beauty. This breathtaking tour in beautiful spring in the north gives you the huge variety of natural splendors. This panorama can be seen throughout in the North along the KKH and off the road.
Start it from Gilgit, the capital of Northern Areas. When you arrive in Gilgit you will feel that you are somewhere you need to be in Spring. Bagrot valley in Gilgit is at around an hour drive famous for its panoramic outlook in spring and summer. Kargah Buddah in the tiny Kargah valley is about 30 min drive from the city. It is more famous for the carved Buddha in a rock about 12 meters from the pathway.
Proceed further to Hunza. Karimabad is about 95 km from Hunza and usually takes 3 hours but with repeated cessations on the viewpoints could prolong the journey double as longer up to Hunza. You will stay in Hunza even if you never liked to do that. Drive further to upper Hunza for added beauty, hit the Khunjarab Pass (The highest border linking China and Pakistan at an elevation of 4757m) and start the journey back. You can spare a day to visit Nagar valley off the KKH opposit Hunza valley. You can drive up to the Hoper Glacier flowing down by the valley with picturesque mountains in the surroundings.
The majestic historical Altit fort is center of attraction due to itsarchitectural design and strategic location. Altit is one of the oldest settlements of Hunza valley. During the time when Hunza was under the central government of Gilgit principality, Altit served as the capital and sitting place of Hunza. Altit is the birth place of the HunzaKingdom and Altit fort is the first fort of the region. During early period of former Hunza state Altit was the capital. The artisans from Baltistan who accompanied the wife of Mir Ayasho II constructed this fort during 1540s A.D.The fort has been constructed in six different stages by using various natural levels of the rock. The construction has been made right on the edge of a sheer rock cliff that drops 1000 feet straight down to the Hunza River.
In the beginning it was built as a palace, soon after the addition of the watch tower a defensive architectural element it transformed to a fort. There is great possibility that different stages of the fort have been constructed during different times because the actual age of the fort is said to be more than 800 years. However, the date of construction on the fort tower is written as 955 A.H/1548 A.D thus the age is calculated as 458 years. This fort is said to be around 50-100 years older than the Baltit Fort. When the state capital transferred to Altit it remained vacant and occasionally used as a guest house. The fort was in disposal of Raja Amin Khan who donated it to Aga Khan Cultural Services, Pakistan (AKCSP) in 2001. AKCSP after some emergency repairs is now working to preserve this historical heritage.
Architecture View :
"The fort is sited on a two rocks; the eastern rock is higher as compared to the western rock. The fort has been constructed in six different stages by using the various natural levels of the rock. The first level is located before the western side edge of the rock, which is containing a two floor building built in the first stage of theconstruction.The second level, contains a single floor building which was also constructed in the first stage of construction. These were built over 800 years ago. A three floor watch tower was constructed during the second and third stages ofconstruction while the storage space was constructed during the third stage ofconstruction. The mosque was constructed during the fourth stage of construction. A grain storage was constructed during the fifth stage of construction. In the sixth stage of construction the guest rooms were constructed after removing the grain storage located on the eastern side of the rock. Narrow corridors are used for accessing theconstruction at lower levels, while the mosque the storage area and the guest rooms can be easily accessed from the watch tower The Main entrance faces Ulter and opens into the ground floor narrow dark corridor which leads to a space with two small storage spaces inside it located on the east and western side. The main space contains a rectangular structure which physically seems a supporting structure made of rubble stone and cribbage frames has a story related to it. The story is of a prince who has been buried in standing position inside the structure; he was killed by his father after believing of his son's involvement in a plan against his kingdom. The ground floor corridor further leads westward to a stair made of rubble stone masonry which connects it to the first floor. The first floor contains the royal kitchen which has the richest carving patterns on the column and the capitals. This kitchen used to be full of activities during the cooking of food for the agricultural festivals.
On the eastern side of the Royal Kitchen there is a lobby with a skylight containing the main door of the corridor which is laid out north south. The space located at the northern edge of the corridor is the royal room which is a traditional house with the spaces for sleeping, sitting, cooking, and two small storage spaces, a toilet and storage space on the south side of the room. The space at the south edge is the Royal Rani's (Queen) Room, this has a fire place in the north wall and it has the traditional roof structure with the rotated square. From the north edge of the corridor further is the corridor which is laid out east west ward leads to stairs made of rubble stone masonry.
The most exiting season in the Hunza Valley in North Pakistan is the Autumn, at the end of the summer season in September the orchards start changing color like a bride Groom with colorful dress of her wedding day, this fantastic changes brings a glorious Trans fusion into human body, which gives happiness and pleasures. In October it offers a picture seek view among the high mountain peaks of 7000 to 7800m, and above from the snow line to the water channel lies the colorful rocks which has a sharp ridges Nallahs Maiza millet vegetable sunflowers, water falls, lakes, Duck shooting possibility, enjoy the landscape with the Natural beauty the God given Gift to human creatures. The drive through these valleys are fascinating for the tourist from all over the world.