The Hunza Valley (Burushaski: ہُنزݳ دِش, romanized: Hunza Dish; Wakhi/Urdu: وادی ہنزہ) is a mountainous valley in the northern part of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish
The 7,788 metres (25,551 ft) tall Rakaposhi mountain towers over Hunza Valley
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish is located in Gilgit Baltistan
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish is located in Pakistan
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish
Hunza Valley/Hunza Dish
Area11,660 km2 (4,500 sq mi)
Native nameہُنزݳ دِش (Burushaski)
English translationHunza Dish
DistrictHunza District
Population centerHunza
Coordinates36°19′01″N 74°39′00″E / 36.316942°N 74.649900°E / 36.316942; 74.649900[1]
Baltit fort as seen from Ultar Hunza
Baltit fort as seen from Ultar Hunza



The valley lies along the Hunza River, and borders Ishkoman to the northwest, Shigar to the southeast, Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to the north, and the Xinjiang region of China to the northeast.[2] The Hunza Valley floor is at an elevation of 2,438 meters (7,999 feet). Geographically, the Hunza Valley consists of three regions: Upper Hunza (Gojal), Central Hunza, and Lower Hunza (Shinaki).


Baltit Fort, the former residence of the Mirs of Hunza

Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Bön were the primary religions in the area. The region holds several surviving Buddhist archaeological sites, such as the Sacred Rock of Hunza. Hunza Valley was central in the network of trading routes connecting Central Asia to the subcontinent. It also provided protection to Buddhist missionaries and monks visiting the subcontinent, and the region played a significant role in the transmission of Buddhism throughout Asia.[3]

Before the arrival of Islam, the majority of the region practiced Buddhism. Since then, most of the population has converted to Islam.[citation needed] The region has many works of graffiti in the ancient Brahmi script written on rocks, produced by Buddhist monks as a form of worship and culture.[4] With most locals converting to Islam, they had been mainly left ignored, destroyed, or forgotten, but are now being restored.[5]

"Hunza was formerly a princely state bordering Xinjiang (autonomous region of China) to the northeast and Pamir to the northwest, which survived until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The state bordered the Gilgit Agency to the south and the former princely state of Nagar to the east. The state capital was the town of Baltit (also known as Karimabad); another old settlement is Ganish Village which means 'Baba Ganesh village' (a Buddhist name).[6] Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years and then in the early 1800s, Hunza played a vital role in the British "Great Game". In 1891 Hunza was captured by the British Empire, and the ruler of Hunza, Mir Safdar Ali Khan, fled to Kashgar, China, and the British army installed his brother Mir Nazim Khan (1892-1938) as a puppet ruler of Hunza Valley, but all orders were passed by British officers who were appointed in the capital Gilgit."[7]


Attabad Lake in August 2020.

According to an account written by John Biddulph in his book Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh:

The ruling family of Hunza is called Ayesha "aya-sha" (heavenly). The two states of Hunza and Nagar were formerly one, ruled by a branch of the Shahreis, the ruling family of Gilgit, whose seat of government was Nagar. First [M]uslim came to Hunza-Nagar Valley some 1000 years (At the time of Imam Islām Shāh 30th Imam Ismaili Muslims). After the introduction of Islam to Gilgit, married a daughter of Trakhan of Gilgit, who bore him twin sons, named Moghlot and Girkis. From the former, the present ruling family of Nager is descended. The twins are said to have shown hostility to one another from birth. Thereupon their father, unable to settle the question of succession, divided his state between them, giving Girkis the north/west, and to Moghlot the south/east bank of the river.[8]

2010 landslide


On 4 January 2010, a landslide blocked the river and created Attabad Lake (also called Shishket Lake), resulting in 20 deaths and 8 injuries and effectively blocked about 26 kilometres (16 mi) of the Karakoram Highway.[9][10][11][12] The new lake extends 30 kilometres (19 mi) and rose to a depth of 400 feet (120 m) when it was formed as the Hunza River backed up.[13] The landslide completely covered sections of the Karakoram Highway.[10][13]


Hunza Valley in early spring
Hunza Valley in late autumn
itScenery of Borith Lake in summer

The Hunza Valley is home to several high peaks that rise above 7,000 m in its the surroundings. These include Rakaposhi, Distaghil Sar, Batura, Batura II, Batura III, Muchu Chhish, Kunyang Chhish, Shispare, Passu Sar, Kanjut Sar, Yukshin Gardan Sar, Pumari Chhish, and Momhil Sar.

The valley provides views of several mountains, including Ultar Sar 7,388 m (24,239 ft), Bojahagur Duanasir II 7,329 m (24,045 ft), Ghenta Peak 7,090 m (15,631 ft), Hunza Peak 6,270 m (20,571 ft), Darmyani Peak 6,090 m (19,980 ft), and Bublimating (Ladyfinger Peak) 6,000 m (19,685 ft).

Hunza Valley has a diverse religious history with it being home to several historic religious sites like the ancient watchtowers in Ganish village, Baltit Fort on top of karimabad which was built by the Mirs about 800 years ago , which is a historic landmark for hunza and Altit Fort (at the bottom of the valley). In the 8th century AD, a huge Buddha figure surrounded by small Buddhisatvas was discovered carved on a rock. Prehistoric men and animal figures are carved on rocks along the valley.

Hunza also houses several lakes in its vicinity including Attabad Lake, Borith Lake, Shimshal Lakes, Hassanabad Lake.

It is also home to the 57 km long Batura Glacier, the fifth-longest glacier in the world outside the polar region,[14] is surrounded by Shispare, Batura, and Kumpirdior peaks.

The largest mountain pass Khunjerab Pass which is 4,693-meter-high ,paved at more 15000ft above sea level ,is in a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan and on the southwest border of China and is connected through Gilgit Baltistan making it another significant landmark of hunza .[15]

Hiking treks include Ondra Poygah Gulmit and Leopard Trek Shiskhat.[16]

The valley is popularly believed to be one of the inspiration for the mythical valley of Shangri-La in James Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon.[17]

2018 rescue mission


On 1 July 2018, Pakistan Army pilots rescued 3 foreign mountaineers stuck in a snow avalanche at above the height of 19,000 feet (5,800 m) on Ultar Sar Peak near Hunza. The weather conditions had made it difficult for the Army helicopter to go forth with a rescue operation on the 7,388 metres (24,239 ft) high Ultar Sar. Nonetheless, they completed it. Bruce Normand and Timothy Miller from the UK were successfully rescued alive while their companion Christian Huber from Austria had succumbed to the avalanche.[18][19] Britain's High Commissioner Thomas Drew in Pakistan termed the mission "remarkable and dangerous".[20][21]


Local Hunzans in traditional dress.

The local languages spoken include Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina. The literacy rate of the Hunza valley is more than 95%.The establishment of community schools that provide high quality education ,and the influence of the Aga Khan Mirs , contributing towards building universities for higher education have directed towards the high literacy rate in Hunza Valley , especially for girls.[22] The historical area of Hunza and present northern Pakistan has had, over the centuries, mass migrations, conflicts and resettling of tribes and ethnicities, of which the Shina people are the most prominent in regional history. People of the region have recounted their historical traditions down the generations. The Hunza Valley is also home to some Wakhi, who migrated there from northeastern Afghanistan beginning in the nineteenth century onwards.[23] The majority of residents in Hunza belong to the Ismaili Shia sects of islam. They believe that Aga Khan IV is their religious figurehead and transcendent. He is also believed to be the biggest promotor and contributor towards the literacy success and overall well-being of the people of Hunza and the valley itself.[24]

The longevity of Hunza people has been noted by some,[25] but others refute this as a longevity myth promoted by the lack of birth records.[26] There is no evidence that Hunza life expectancy is significantly above the average of poor, isolated regions of Pakistan. Claims of health and long life were almost always based solely on the statements by the local mir (king). An author who had significant and sustained contact with Burusho people, John Clark, reported that they were overall unhealthy.[27]

However, whether or not their putative longevity is true, it is undoubtable that the Hunza people lead a healthy lifestyle along with a healthy diet. Many researchers have lived with the Hunza people to answer this mystery including Robert McCarrison who did not discover a single person with diseases such as cancer, stomach ulcers or appendicitis. The research shows that high levels of exercise due the landscape and geography allows for them to be active and agile which factors in with their longevity , along with consumption of apricot seeds and oils , and the glacier water which contains minerals.[28]

See also



  1. ^ "Rakaposhi Nagar on Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Mountainous Valley situated in the northern part of India". Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  3. ^ Behrendt, Kurt (2003). The Buddhist Architecture of Gandhāra. BRILL. p. 25. ISBN 978-90-474-1257-1.
  4. ^ Susan E. Alcock; John Bodel; Richard J. A. Talbert (15 May 2012). Highways, Byways, and Road Systems in the Pre-Modern World. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-470-67425-3.
  5. ^ Zara Khan, Vandalized Buddhist inscriptions in Gilgit-Baltistan are now being restored, Mashable Pakistan, 28 May 2020.
  6. ^ History of Hunza, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 2 October 2021
  7. ^ Valley, Hunza. "Hunza Valley". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  8. ^ Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh by John Biddulph page 26
  9. ^ Waheed, Abdul (4 January 2013). "The Attabad Landslide Disaster". Pamir Times. Archived from the original on 12 October 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b Ahmed, Kamran (23 May 2010). "Pakistan: The water bomb". ReliefWeb. Dawn. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  11. ^ "Annual Report 2011". Yumpu. National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan. pp. 40–41. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  12. ^ "SHISHKET LAKE CRISES – 2010 – CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS" (PDF). NDMA. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2019.[dead link]
  13. ^ a b Michael Bopp; Judie Bopp (May 2013). "Needed: a second green revolution in Hunza" (PDF). HiMaT. p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015. Karakorum Area Development Organization (KADO), Aliabad
  14. ^ "Earth from Space: Batura Glacier". Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  15. ^ shahid, ariba (20 October 2023). "Khunjerab Pass linking Pakistan, China to stay open all year round". Reuters.
  16. ^ admin (12 July 2021). "Amazing Views of Hunza Valley…". Trip Venture. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  17. ^ Craig, Tim (10 April 2023). "High up on a Pakistani mountain, a success story for moderate Islam". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  18. ^ "Pakistan Army Pilots rescued 3 foreign mountaineers". July 2018. Archived from the original on 7 July 2018. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Mountainers News on". Archived from the original on 7 July 2018. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  20. ^ Farmer, Ben (July 2018). "Britain's High Commissioner in Pakistan admired Pak Army Pilots for rescued the two British Climbers". The Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  21. ^ "Major General Asif Ghafoor also tweeted about it". 2 July 2018. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  22. ^ Siddiqui, Shahid. "Hunza disaster and schools". Dawn. Pakistan. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  23. ^ Frembgen Wasim, Jurgen (2017). The Arts and Crafts of the Hunza Valley in Pakistan: Living traditions in the Karakoram. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-19-940520-6.
  24. ^ Craig, Tim (10 April 2023). "High up on a Pakistani mountain, a success story for moderate Islam". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  25. ^ Wrench, Guy T., Dr. (2009) [1938]. The Wheel of Health: A study of the Hunza people and the keys to health (reprint ed.). Review Press. ISBN 978-0-9802976-6-9. Retrieved 12 August 2010.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Tierney, John (29 September 1996). "The optimists are right". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Clark, John. "Hunza – the truth, myths, and lies about the health and diet of the "long-lived" people of Hunza, Pakistan – Hunza bread and pie recipes". Archived from the original on 9 August 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  28. ^ Contributor, Samantha Shea (17 February 2024). "People in this remote valley live to 100—they follow 5 distinct diet and lifestyle habits for longevity". CNBC. Retrieved 24 March 2024. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)

Further reading

  • Kreutzmann, Hermann, Karakoram in Transition: Culture, Development, and Ecology in the Hunza Valley, Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-19-547210-3
  • Leitner, G. W. (1893): Dardistan in 1866, 1886 and 1893: Being An Account of the History, Religions, Customs, Legends, Fables and Songs of Gilgit, Chilas, Kandia (Gabrial) Yasin, Chitral, Hunza, Nagar and other parts of the Hindukush, as also a supplement to the second edition of The Hunza and Nagar Handbook. And An Epitome of Part III of the author's "The Languages and Races of Dardistan". First Reprint 1978. Manjusri Publishing House, New Delhi.
  • Lorimer, Lt. Col. D.L.R. Folk Tales of Hunza. 1st edition 1935, Oslo. Three volumes. Vol. II, republished by the Institute of Folk Heritage, Islamabad. 1981.
  • Sidkey, M. H. "Shamans and Mountain Spirits in Hunza." Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1994), pp. 67–96.
  • History of Ancient Era Hunza State By Haji Qudratullah Beg English Translation By Lt Col (Rtd) Saadullah Beg, TI(M)
  • Wrench, Dr Guy T (1938), The Wheel of Health: A Study of the Hunza People and the Keys to Health, 2009 reprint, Review Press, ISBN 978-0-9802976-6-9, retrieved 12 August 2010
  • Miller, Katherine, 'Schooling Virtue: Education for 'Spiritual Development' in Megan Adamson Sijapati and Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, eds., Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya (London: Routledge, 2016).