Mustansar Hussain Tarar’s travelogue “Hunza Dastan,” is a dazzling output about Pakistan’s Hunza Valley and was the first of its kind look into the ethereal landscape. The Valley, by other accounts, is a slice of paradise, tucked away in the big, jagged peaks of the Karakorum Range.
Geo Television’s Hussain Javed recently retraced Tarar’s steps. With a small backpack and a few friends, he took the twenty-four hours road-trip to Hunza.
Here, he provides an in-depth travel guide to the Valley, and explains how it is changing with the development of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route, to be revived under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
When to Go
Driving to the Hunza Valley takes nerves. The roads are often snow-covered and inaccessible. Between May and August is the best time to visit Gilgit-Baltistan, as the roads are clear and the weather predictable. Leave your over-stuffed jackets at home and instead travel with a light sweater or shawal.
Getting to Hunza
If you are travelling by car, there are two routes that lead to the Valley. One via Kaghan through the Babusar Pass and onto Chilas. But if it is adventure you seek, try the other option via the Silk Road. It takes you through Dassu and Pattan in Kohistan. The reason why this makes for a dangerous ride up is that its roads are dire need of repair and can often prove slippery.
Now, hiring a tour operation company would be a smart choice. They can arrange traveling and lodging within Rs. 20,000. Traveling alone, with your own car, could cost you more.
First Stop: Chilas
When making a pit stop at Chilas, a small town in Kohistan, the best place to rest for the night is the Shangrila Hotel, built along the River Indus. Locals says that if the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is constructed the hotel would not be able to survive the flooding.
From Chilas to Raikot is a two-hour very uncomfortable drive, through roads marked by potholes. Once at Raikot, take a right to Fairy Meadows and travel for another three hours towards Nanga Parbat’s snowy landscape.
As you move through the Raikot Bridge on the River Indus, you will see up close the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Work here is progressing at a rapid rate. The new roads built on either side are larger and grander than the Lahore-Islamabad motorway. Chinese workers in yellow hats and the staff of Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organization can be seen everywhere
Off to Karimabad
Once you reach Karimabad, the capital of the Hunza Valley, choose either the Hunza Embassy hotel or the Eagle’s Nest to stay. Both charge Rs.3, 000 per night.
Now that you are settled, plan your to-do list. Take a trip to the gorgeous Altit Fort, home to the former rulers of Hunza. Nearby is the Baltit Fort, considered to be 700 years old. It bears a striking resemblance to Tibet’s Lhasa Palace.
Karimabad is a small town dotted with handicrafts shops. But if you want to soak in the rural life of the Valley, take a trip to Gulmat, a village near the Khunjerab pass. The town next-door is Sost. This is the last settlement within the Pakistan border. From Sost to China, there are no further dwellings.
Khunjrab Pass is at a height of 16,000 feet. It isn’t usual to suffer from headaches and nausea when staring down from its peaks.
The Last Stop
Attabaad Lake, formed after a landslide in 2010, is a glimmering blue body of water. If you do not want to picnic on its edge, hire a boat for a short sail.
Hunza is inviting, relaxing and nature at its best. As a final note, please pick up your garbage after you. Let’s keep our environment clean.