Tucked away among the precipitous peaks of northern Pakistan, the Hunza Valley’s natural splendor and position on the Central Asian Silk Route has attracted travelers, merchants, and mountaineers for centuries. Beyond its iconic glaciers, fertile apricot farms, and turquoise lakes, the region is also rich in cultural heritage.
In central Hunza, the thousand-year-old Altit fort and 700-year-old Baltit fort are some of the region’s oldest standing monuments and evidence of the valley’s feudal regime. Traditionally home to the Mir, or king, of Hunza, Altit Fort was eventually vacated in favor of Baltit Fort. The rectangular stronghold sits at the foot of the Ulter Glacier and commands a view of the Hunza Valley and its tributaries—a strategic position for controlling the trans-Karakoram trade route between South and Central Asia. The fort served as home to the Mir until 1945. (See more wild and beautiful places of Pakistan.)
In 2004, Baltit Fort was nominated for World Heritage status and recognized for excellence in conservation. “The fort’s restoration has fostered the local revival of traditional building trades while an associated handicrafts project provides improved livelihood opportunities in the area,” according to a UNESCO press release. “In its new use as a cultural center and museum, the Baltit Fort attracts thousands of visitors to the province and has contributed to reinvigorating the local community’s pride in their heritage.”