Why photographers keep going back to Hunza

The promise of seeing the lush green valley transformed by colours was the reason I returned. Hunza never disappoints.
Published June 11, 2015

As professionals, we often get distracted by things which do not necessarily inspire us.

However, the season of autumn in Hunza serves as a reminder for myself that it’s always great to go back to my photographic roots — where my inspiration was born.

Documenting fall in Hunza has always been a tricky subject for me. The months of October/November were always the time for college or university submissions as an architecture major; and I would inevitably miss the exquisite season every year.

Hence, it remained an elusive dream for a very long time.

The promise of seeing the lush green valley in colours which would completely transform its face was the biggest reason behind my return. Hunza, as always, did not disappoint.

Arriving in Hunza, after a gap of seven years — during which I left architecture school, started a photography company, got married — it was almost surreal how the landscape unfolded in front of my eyes as if it was my first time here.

Almost everything had changed; where once there was green, now wondrous shades of orange stroked the valley.

The poplar trees swaying under the breeze that gently took its yellow leaves to the ground below and up again, into the air.

Standing amid such vivid colours, I became intrinsically aware of my appreciation for fall.

Some days, when the sun comes out, these same leaves appear to be painted in gold. The river that roars in the summer is now only a timid whisper, coming from somewhere far behind the mountains.

I recall unpacking my bag upon arrival, when I caught a glimpse out of our hotel window of a view of orange, red and yellow trees that only animated Japanese films can best describe.

But the thing that struck me the most in the valley was the silence, and how every so often it was broken by the song of the breeze. At that exact moment, the leaves too would begin to fall, like rain

A large group of Koreans had booked the entire hotel out. To my surprise, I discovered that they had come here to worship this event, the heralding of fall. This sight was for them powerful and healing.

My own senses were in for a treat on a short walk down one of the easy treks in the valley. I was still overwhelmed by the colours, when I stopped to pluck the juiciest of apples, probably the best I've ever had.

As a person from the city it was hard to imagine anything so good as the apples of Hunza to be free of cost! But, they were. One could eat these delicious apples all day and no one would be bothered. That’s what Hunza had to offer; that’s what it always has in store for you.

We had the good fortune of visiting a lot of nearby places and also met another group of photographers and travel enthusiasts from Karachi, who we joined on their official tour of the Passu Village.

The points we touched this time around were the largely favourite ones: Hopper Village for the leaves, Eagle’s Nest for the view. We also crossed Attabad Lake to get to Passu and stayed overnight in a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps our most memorable moments of the journey were spent at the Borit Lake, which hidden behind three major glaciers, is a beautiful olive green in the month of November.

—Photographs by Ali Khurshid and Noorulain Ali. You can follow them on Instagram @alikhurshid1 and @noorulainali.