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Hunza Valley, Northern Areas
Pakistani Kashmir
Central Valley, General Information

Other Hunza Pages: Altit | Duikar

KKH-Ascent | KKH-Kohistan | Gilgit | Hunza-Main | Hunza-Altit | Hunza-Duikar | Gojal-Gulmit | Gojal-Pasu

Diran/Minapin peak [7266m], looking south from Karimabad.

During the spring of 1996 I had the pleasure to visit the Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan for three weeks. This valley, set amidst the Karakoram Range, is renowned for the longevity of it's inhabitants, the beauty of it's people and vistas, and the delicious apricots, almonds, and dried fruit grown here. It is a wonderful, magical place whose memory has stayed in my heart since my visit. I would like to thank the kind hosts, warm friends, and hospitable inhabitants who made our journey spectacular.

This valley is composed of terraced ridges running from the high pastures down to the river, with extensive irrigation channels bringing meltwater from the glaciers to the terraced fields and villages. A wide variety of crops are grown here; including potatoes, barley, wheat, and vegetables - along with apricots, apples, cherries, almonds, and other fruit/nut crops. We hiked the valley during the apricot tree bloom, a beautiful time of spring of planting and blossoms.

View of Hunza Sacred Rock, a rock formation covered with petroglyphs, including the ibex motif used on this site for Northern Areas Pages.

This rock is located close to the river, behind which can be seen [vaguely] Altit fort many thousand feet up.

At an elevation of 2400 meters [8800 feet], the Hunza River drains this valley, connecting to the Gilgit Valley to the south. Settlement ranges a many thousand feet up the valley, with the high pastures used by shepherds and their flock in the summer.

This area has been easily accessible since in 1986 when the Karakoram Highway was completed, running through the Khunjerab Pass and into China. This has opened the valley to increasing tourist visits and the social transformation that occurs along with this. Evidence of this transformation is found throughout the central valley, though away from the highway you can pass what I would call `the Coke line' ... the area past which you can no longer get a coca cola. You cannot escape satellite TV, except for getting past power and the ability to run TVs.

Here is a young child who came to say hello as we hiked by. Note the picture of a man dressed in white around her throat. This picture is the Agha Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims.

One very striking thing about Hunza Valley is the amount of intelligent development work which has been done and is still going on. As this area is Ismaili Muslim, it has received a great deal of assistance from the Agha Khan. Much of this money has been used to build schools, hospitals, and essential infrastructure. One outcome of this is that over half the population is under age 25 due to increasing health care, another is that both sexes are educated. The Agha Khan came in 1987 to dedicate a Girls Academy, a rare institution in Pakistan. The respect and status given to women in Hunza made this area much more pleasant to travel [with a Western woman] than much of Pakistan.

This was evident even in Gilgit, where the only women in the bazaars were Hunza women, having traveled to market via bus for the day. Everywhere we went, women were evident and friendly, evidence of the higher freedom and status given them in Hunza society.

After a few days, we referred to Hunzakuts as `smiley ismailis', as their sunny disposition, warm hospitality, and `enlightened' Ismaili development made their beauty surpass their scenic home.

View of terraced fields, with canals prepared so that they can be watered from the irrigation canals which cover the entire settled area of the valley.

 

Diran and Minapin peak, south across the Hunza Valley
View of Ultar, click on this to see a full-screen version of this picture, my favorite from this trip.
While in Hunza, we stayed in Altit, to the west of the `central valley'. We also hiked up to Duikar, where the view of the peaks and valley were astounding.
KKH-Ascent | KKH-Kohistan | Gilgit | Hunza-Main | Hunza-Altit | Hunza-Duikar | Gojal-Gulmit | Gojal-Pasu
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All Material Copyright Mark Felten 1999 - All rights reserved.