I am a Pakistani by nationality but I have barely spent any time of my life in the country. Earlier this year, I got this sudden urge to ditch all my other travel plans and explore my lesser-visited homeland, which is striving hard to make a place on the world tourism map!
A little research into which place to visit in Pakistan, I came across a group tour on witnessing cherry blossom in Hunza Valley of northern Pakistan. Initially, I was surprised to learn that Pakistan has its own cherry blossom, which sadly no one knows about. Then and there I decided to book that tour anticipating an eye-opener journey in my beautiful yet underrated home country.
The Hunza Valley in Pakistan is situated in the independently administrated state of Gilgit Baltistan bordering with China. The valley sits in the laps of the Karakorum giants and it is famous for its scenic landscape and adventure activities. The cherry blossom season in Hunza Valley runs from the end of March to mid-April. I started off with a small group of seven strangers from Islamabad at midnight towards the town of Chillas in Gilgit Baltistan, which was supposed to be the first pit stop for a night over. It took me 19 hours on the somewhat bumpy but extremely scenic Karakorum highway to reach Chillas.
The next morning, I started my journey with the group towards Hunza Valley, which was another five hours drive. However, the roads this time were very forgiving. As soon as I approached near Hunza Valley, the entire scenery of brown and dry mountains changed in snowcapped mountains and glaciers with white and pink cherry blossom trees everywhere my eyes could see. It was truly a sight to behold!
I had my lunch at the foothills of Mt. Rakaposhi, which is home to the Ghulmit glacier that happens to be the highest unbroken slope on earth. The lunch area was all surrounded by white cherry blossom trees, which were absolutely loved by all the local and foreign tourists present there. However, unlike any other cherry blossom site in the world, it wasn’t crowded at all and I did not have to wait or queue up to get a picture with the beautiful blossoms. Clearly, this is one of the perks of spending the cherry blossom season in Pakistan.
Of all the places I visited in the Hunza Valley, the colorful cherry blossom trees were present everywhere to make the stunning landscape even better! Some of the best places for great photo opportunities of cherry blossom in Hunza include Mt. Rakaposhi foothill, Altit Fort, Karimabad, Gulmit and the old settlement of Ganesh.
For someone like me, who have stayed mostly in the metropolitan cities, seeing a place surrounded by giant mountains with locals hanging around outside of their houses and watering their cherry trees was a unique experience. Cherry is the biggest export in the region and also the main ingredient of the Hunza local food. I drank some of the best cherry drinks during my stay in Hunza. Moreover, I also bought a lot of dried cherries with me from there as a gift for my family.
For tourists like me, the cherry blossom trees were just an attraction and a great backdrop for my Instagram pictures. However, seeing the cherry blossom season in Hunza made me realize that the trees are more of an essential food source as well as a mean of trade for the locals on Hunza Valley, which they take care of very dearly.
Follow Rahma on her road trip tour of the Hunza Valley at:
Written by: Rahma Khan
Rahma Khan is the blogger behind ‘The Sane Adventurer’, a blog aimed at safe travels and adventures in off beaten tracks around the world. An engineer by profession and a traveler by passion, Rahma is currently just eleven countries old. However, her love for traveling across all the continents is slowly but passionately taking her to new places. She loves nature, adventure, and animals and that’s what she seeks on all of her travels around the globe. Juggling between a full-time job and traveling, she also reserves some time for writing. Her travel writing has been published in Ozy Digital Magazine, Wanderlusting, and many travel blogs. Read more on her blog at www.thesaneadventurer.com/
For more ITKT travel stories about Pakistan
For more ITKT travel stories about Asia