Thu. Oct 21st, 2021

The Altit Fort Residency: A Destination From The Past


By Munaza Kazmi


Hey reader! Your all must have heard about the tales of Princess and Prince living in the far away magical lands in their hilltop beautiful palaces from your ever-loving grandma, and obviously you have yearned for seeing it yourself, however with the time those all felt just as fables.

What if I may say those were not mere imaginations but a Reality!

Come with me to live a real episode of your childhood fairy tales.

In the northern territory of Gilgit Baltistan icy peaks stretch above the Hunza River. Situated on the riverbank and surrounded by glaciers and gorges, the town of Hunza traditionally served as a resting place for travelers descending the Hindu Kush mountains into the Valley of Kashmir. Hunza is home to snow leopards, markhors, ibexes, and red-striped foxes.

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 1,100 years old Altit fort is the region’s oldest standing monuments and evidence of the valley’s feudal regime. Traditionally home to the Mir, or king, of Hunza. The rectangular stronghold sits at the base 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.

Later the fort and it’s surrounding village namely Altit Khun have been restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture. However, the fort is now converted into heritage museum that showcase the world about the art, lifestyles and wisdom of then King, also it carries UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2011.

Serena Hotels that comes under the umbrella AKDN, enjoys have the philosophy of preserving the heritage along empowering the communities, have recently established another heritage hotel Serena Altit Fort Residence, that is a rare accommodation in the beautiful Hunza Valley which will surely transport you into the fairytales of your grandma.

The view of the majestic snow peeks, sounds of floating water, cheering of birds, exotic tastes of equally delicious looking local dishes with the feel of timeless medieval kingdom, all combining gives you a most enchanting experience of your lifetime.

Overlooking the clear water of Hunza River, Serena Altit Fort Residence located in the shadow of the Altit Fort adjoining the heritage village, where you would be finding the old grannies sitting in the alleys in their traditional attires.

In the hotel you can tailor your stay as per your needs, by choosing between the luxe mountain lodge Ameen House, or the Luxury Huts settled at the edge of the mesmerizing KhaBasi Garden, that was once the picnic spot of the royal Mirs of Hunza, with widespread views of the fascinating Hunza Valley.

The Ameen House, the former residence of the son of Mir Jamal Khan of Hunza, was built at the time of the restoration of the Altit Fort. Traditional construction techniques, including use of stone, wooden beams and limestone instead of concrete, were used to allow it to blend seamlessly with the surroundings. The furnishings in the rooms utilize indigenous wood and materials, hand-woven local textiles and traditional woodcarvings of the area. The common areas are appointed with heritage artefacts of the Mir’s family and offer serene views of the KhaBasi garden and surroundings. These original features create welcoming spaces, that will connect you to the culture of Hunza and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

AMEEN HOUSE EXECUTIVE ROOM

The splendidly appointed executive room features a king size bed, premium bedding, sizeable work desk, large windows offering gorgeous garden views, and a spacious balcony with seating. It has a roomy attached bathroom featuring a bathtub, and a walk-in closet.

AMEEN HOUSE STANDARD ROOM

Featuring double or twin beds, pleasant lobby and sitting rooms with natural light and mesmerizing garden views. The common areas feature heritage artefacts from the family of Mir Jamal Khan, the last ruling Mir of Hunza. Very important thing, all rooms are non-smoking, never forget this, otherwise you would be hearing alarms next second. With the feel of comfort and luxury there are spacious attached bathrooms with hot water, heating and cooling facilities, work desks, wooden floors, complimentary WiFi and flat-screen HDTV with cable and satellite programming.

The Luxury Huts you would find on the edge of the Royal Garden, that offers absolutely unique experience, stunning views of the valley amidst the comforting sounds of the gushing Hunza river below.

 

Each hut features luxury beds and bedding, heating and cooling facilities, minibar, free wireless Internet, flat-screen HDTV with cable and satellite programming and an attached luxury bathroom with running hot water.

Serena Altit Fort residence features 16 beautifully appointed rooms including 1 Executive room, 4 Standard Rooms and 11 Luxury Huts. However, all rooms and huts are equipped with modern amenities designed to provide the maximum comfort and luxury, ensuring a serene experience for you every time.

Moreover, in the hotel you can have an amazing view of the snow-capped Lady Finger, Ultar, Rakaposhi and Diran peaks, that can be seen from your chamber’s balcony as well. Still, however, I would be suggesting you not to miss a walk past the 25-acre wide Khabasi Garden and clear water pool, the garden is abundant in sweet apricots, pinkish peaches, red and crunchy apples, also sometimes where you would be finding white chubby sheep, however no need to run before.

I believe by having the booty from the Garden you won’t be feeling ravenous, but the only smell of the tasty food near the lovely KhaBasi café is enough to make you driven towards. Where you end up eating a lot of yummy local and continental cuisine. With delicious food the charming KhaBasi also offers panoramic view.

The café is run by local women, in the way having a contribution in the wellbeing of the society, however Serena works on the principle of hiring the workforce from the local community, hence it not even highlighting the top destinations of Pakistan but giving employment to the once neglected regions.

Altit Fort has been home to a flourishing women social enterprise named CIQAM; means ‘greenery’ in Brushaski and stands for growth and prosperity, since 2003 ever since restoration work began on the Altit Fort. The enterprise was created as a project developed under Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan, and co- funded by the Norwegian Embassy Trust for Culture and the World Bank.

Through this enterprise, skilled-based trainings of local women in carpentry, construction, masonry, topographic, along architectural surveys, hospitality, historical restoration and documentation have been imparted.

Serena Altit Fort Residence features furnishings like beds, cupboards and side tables constructed by the women of the CIQAM enterprise. At the same time there is a focus on eco-friendly and sustainable practices and environmentally conscious use of natural resources.

In the end, take a stroll along the winding pathways of the Altit Khun village is worth a lot since you would be experiencing a glimpse into the original way of life of the Hunzakuts.

The Serena Altit Fort Residence is your gateway to experience the heartwarming uniqueness of the Hunza Valley and an episode of your fairytale.

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