2017 Summer Destination: Hunza!
Do you dream of soaring above hills and valleys, through the cerulean blues of a sky so clear it sometimes hurts to look at? Do you wish to breathe in air so fresh, so fragrant that your senses transport you to a realm you thought couldn’t possibly exist in this world? Do you want to leave the world behind and just surround yourself with the raw splendour of a bygone era?
Team MyFashionFix recently shot a fashion editorial in the Hunza region in northern Pakistan, with model Zara Abid, UK-based photographer Mara Mann, and of course, our COO Andleeb Rana helming the shoot as stylist and visual director. Sana Naeem of MFF lent her skills as coordinator and visual director, and Naveed Khan of HunzaOnFoot led the team through this adventurous project, made so much prettier with absolutely gorgeous capsule collections by some of MyFashionFix designers.
Stop dreaming. Here’s an extensive travelogue by the MFF team so that you can finally book that ticket and spend some time in a dreamland where the mountains meet the clouds...
Karimabad, capital town of Hunza Valley, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan
How to get there:
- By Air: PIA has early morning daily flights from Islamabad to Gilgit. However all flights are subject to weather. Book early, as seats are limited. A round-trip costs approximately PKR 12,000/- ($120)
Karimabad, the capital town of Hunza is a two-hour drive from the Gilgit Airport. Taxis and rental cars are easily available at the airport. Hotel pick-n-drop is also available.
- By Road: Regular buses and vans run between Gilgit and Central Hunza as well as Gilgit and Sost Gojal. PTDC Gilgit, Sost and Islamabad also arrange tours and transport for visitors. NATCO (Northern Area's Transport Co) runs a daily bus from Rawalpindi to Hunza.
When to go:
April to October
What to pack:
Comfortable shoes, your favourite pair of jeans, a down or fleece jacket (in case you go in April, May or October) and light layering with sweater cover-ups and shawls for the rest of the months. If you are traveling with small kids, make sure you pack everything that they might need as shops can run out of stock for specific things.
What to expect:
Karimabad, set amidst the beautiful snow-clad Rakaposhi Mountain, is a quaint little town with narrow streets, going up and down various hills. People are friendly and with a literacy rate of 90%, most of them are well versed in Urdu and English. Expect people to smile and wave a hello at you!
Where to stay:
- Hunza Serena Inn: Situated on a picturesque hill in Karimabad, Hunza Serena Inn has 20 rooms, with laundry, childcare, and room services.
Approximate daily rates: PKR 15,000/-
- Hunza Eagles Nest Hotel: High up in the mountains, the Eagles Nest offers great food and comfy beds, and a hike up to Eagle’s Nest Hill where you can view Lady’s Finger Peak and the Rakaposhi.
Approximate daily rates: Starting from PKR 7,500/-
What to eat:
- Cafe De Hunza: The greatest coffee and the famous Hunza Walnut Cake! Of course, there are delicious meals on offer too, and you can purchase a variety of items like apricot kernel oil and indigenous honey from the café shop as well.
- Altit Fort Café: Women take your order, they cook and they serve it too! And they give you a fabulous customer service! Was absolutely lovely to chat with them and talk about the shopping available in the region!
- Street Food: There are loads of little shops in the main baaar street, serving the local desi version of pizza (Roti with different stuffing) and Bar-B-Q items.
What to see:
- Altit Fort: The oldest monument in Gilgit-Baltistan, the 900-year old Altit Fort was the original seat of the Mirs of Hunza. The area surrounding the fort is loosely understood to be inhabited by descendants of the white Huns. The restoration of Altit Fort in Pakistan, an Aga Khan Trust for Culture project undertaken by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan was completed in 2010. It received an Award of Distinction at the 2011 UNESCO Asian-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
- Baltit Fort: The 700-year old sprawling Baltit Fort overlooks Karimabad from lofty heights, and used to be home to the Mirs until 1945. The restoration of Baltit Fort undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in association with the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, took six years to complete and was formally inaugurated in 1996. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list since 2004 and has won a number of awards, including the 2004 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award for Excellence. The restoration of Baltit Fort was also a catalyst for economic development of the area.
- Sacred Rock of Hunza: This 30-feet high rock dates back to One Millennium AD and bears inscriptions in various languages as well as depictions of the ibex, and horned, human deities, as well as a Chinese King. Though the inscriptions are becoming illegible, this one is still worth a look.
Nearby places to visit:
- Attabad Lake: Formed by a landslide in Attabad village in 2010, Attabad Lake may have a tragic history of inception, but is gorgeous to look at, and offers a view of Passu Cathedral from its shore. The newly built Chinese-funded tunnel cuts through the mountains and now transports you from one end to another within a 10 minute drive, compared to the hour long boat-ride that one had to take, since there weren’t any roads left after the landslide that drowned the villages.
- Passu Cathedral: The most photographed peak in the region, Passu Cathedral lies north of Passu Village.
- Passu Glacier: If you have ‘see-a-glacier’ on your bucket list, check out Passu Glacier, located in Passu Village, with Passu Peak at its back.
- Khunjerab Pass: The highest border crossing in the world, Khunjerab Pass literally means ‘home of the creek’. It is located on the southwest border of the Xinjiang region of China, and is home to Khunjerab National Park.
- HunzaOnFoot: Founded by Naveed Khan, Hunza on Foot offers customized tours of Hunza, with guided hikes and activities for all levels. (www.hunzaonfoot.com )
What to buy:
- Gems: Hunza is famous for its red and pink ruby crystals.
- Dry-fruit: One word: apricots!
- Wooden music instruments: Drums, trumpets, and other stringed beauties for the musician [or decorator] in you.
- Embroidery patches: Hunzai embroidery is striking; pick a patch or two to pop up your denim jacket!
- Warm round hats: One of the best souvenir for anyone who wants something Hunzai from the region!
Once a princely state, Hunza acceded to Pakistan in 1947. The Mirs that ruled Hunza took on the title of ‘Thum’. Allied with China, Hunzans cultivated and grazed towards the north. The beauty of the region draws tourists from all over the world.
Hunza is far more developed than many of its geographical counterparts. Paved roads keep the area well connected and schools ensure that the literacy rate in the area stays on the rise. Most of this is thanks to the Aga Khan Development Network, which has undertaken several development projects in the region, including drives to introduce potable water and sanitation! Great news for tourists as well!
Coordination: Sana Naeem | Styling: Andleeb Rana | Photography: Mara Mann | Model: Zara Abid | Hospitality: Naveed Khan of HunzaonFoot