Hunza Valley is a mountainous valley in Gilgit in the Gilgit-Baltistan autonomous region, an area under the control of the government of Pakistan. The Hunza valley is situated to the north of the Hunza River, at an elevation of around 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). The territory of Hunza is about 7,900 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi). Karimabad (formerly called Baltit) is the main town, which is also a very popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains like Ultar Sar, Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Hunza Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimating (Ladyfinger Peak), all 6,000 metres (19,685 ft) or higher.
Hunza was formerly a princely state bordering China to the north-east and Pamir to its north-west, which continued to survive until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The state bordered the Gilgit Agency to the south, the former princely state of Nagar to the east. The state capital was the town of Baltit (also known as Karimabad) and its old settlement is Ganish Village.
Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years. The British gained control of Hunza and the neighboring valley of Nagar between 1889 and 1892 followed by a military engagement of severe intensity. The then Thom (Prince) Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what can be called political asylum. The ruling family of Hunza is called Ayeshe (heavenly), from the following circumstance. 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 Nager. Tradition relates that Mayroo Khan, apparently the first Muslim Thum of Nagar some 200 years after the introduction of the religion 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. Their father seeing this and unable to settle the question of succession, divided his state between them, giving to Girkis the north, and to Moghlot the south, bank of the river.
The Hunza is situated at an elevation of about 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). For many centuries, Hunza has provided the quickest access to Swat and Gandhara for a person travelling on foot. The route was impassable to baggage animals; only human porters could get through, and then only with permission from the locals.
Hunza was easily defended as the paths were often less than 0.5 metres (20 in) wide. The high mountain paths often crossed bare cliff faces on logs wedged into cracks in the cliff, with stones balanced on top. They were also constantly exposed to regular damage from weather and falling rocks.
These were the much feared "hanging passageways" of the early Chinese histories that terrified all, including several famous Chinese Buddhist monks such as Xuanzang.
As much as the valley is famous for its beauty, the people of Hunza are noted for their friendliness and hospitality. The local languages spoken are Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina, many people understand Urdu. The literacy rate of the Hunza valley is believed to be more than 90%. Virtually every child of the new generation studies up to at least high school level. Many pursue higher studies from prestigious colleges and Universities of Pakistan and abroad.
Most of the people of Hunza are Ismaili Shia Muslims, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, while in Ganish Village more than 90% are Shia Muslims.
The Hunza region is home to people of three ethnicities:
§ The Lower Hunza area - (from Khizerabad to Nasirabad is mainly inhabited by the Shinaki people who are Shina speakers;
§ The Central Hunza area - (from Murtazaabad to Ahmedabad) is mainly inhabited by Burushaski speakers.
§ The Upper Hunza area, known as Gojal - (from Shiskat to Khunjerab is mainly populated by Wakhi speakers;
The majority of the people are Ismaili Shia Muslims who are followers of the Aga Khan. The present Aga Khan has provided a lot of funding for the area to help with agriculture and the local economy through the Aga Khan Development Network.