As a university student living in London, I am exposed to a much broader range of cultures than I was while growing up in Italy. Meeting people from Pakistan in my university years opened a wealth of curiosity and interest for a country I had been unfamiliar with. Visiting Hunza Valley first stemmed from the exciting prospect of road tripping around Pakistan with two Pakistani friends who would be able to show me the country in a light lik e no other: one of home and belonging.
I hadn’t considered visiting Pakistan before. In the West, our perception of what is worth seeing is very limited to the idealisation and distortion of the past. Roman and Greek civilization appear like timeless monol iths of value and sophistication. The reality is very different.
The reality of finding what is worth seeing begins internally, nourished by curiosity and the desire to learn. I hadn’t heard about life in Pakistan, and once I started hearing my friend’s s tories of the bustling streets of Karachi and the huge pot of mouth – watering chai left to brew for hours on end, I couldn’t help but want to dive into this country that appeared before me as if through a veil.
There is a magnetic pull to Pakistan, and the re is no place that I am more curious to visit than Gilgit – Baltistan. It is truly a shame that Hunza Valley is not a household name. Perhaps it was ignorance on my behalf, but when I looked up pictures of the valley I was stunned by the beauty of a scenery so unfamiliar to me and fascinated by a history stretching thousands of years back.
Hunza is a canvas of colour. I hope to see these colours come to life when I visit the startling blue of Attabad Lake, the bursting foliage of Hunza Valley itself and the white – topped peaks of the surroundings mountain range during my travels. It seems as if every tableaux of scenery that meets the eye is a fresh incentive to explore the area and to commune with nature, uninterrupted and unfiltered through the artificialit y and sensory overload of the modern metropolis. The only way to truly appreciate Hunza Valley is by staying in the heart of it, which I plan to do during my trip. Resorts such as Offto allow the individual a unique experience of the valley while maximisin g on comfort and hospitality.
Reading up on the history of the valley, I realise that visiting Hunza Valley entails taking a trip down the hallway of human history. On the Sacred Rocks of Hunza, one can find traces of rock carvings dating to thousands of years ago, almost like a gentle greeting from our ancestors in the past and a reminder that the valley has been home to a stream of people across time. Merchants, travellers, artisans, and wanderers made their way along the Ancient Silk Road, now the famou s Karakoram Highway. Gilgit, a mere 1h30 drive away from Hunza, was a locus of trade and cultural exchange. Even now, Northern Pakistan continues being a place of cultural exchange learning, as its shared borders with China and Afghanistan make it a small crossroad of the world. Karimabad (formerly Baltit) is the capital of Hunza District and the former seat of the leaders of the region, known as the Mir of Hunza. The Baltit Fort, now a museum, towers over the town as a marker of the power the Mir once yiel ded.
There is such a broad range of experiences to seek and cherish in Hunza Valley. From appreciating the richness of the nature on display to exploring the different mediums of history (archaeology, forts, museums, petroglyphs) in the area, Hunza Valley has something for everyone. Throughout the ages, visitors to Hunza Valley have remained united by wonder, and I, for one, cannot wait to explore it myself.