On January 4, 2010, a massive landslide thundered down the sides of the remote Hunza Valley in the Gilgit Baltistan Region of Northern Pakistan. The village of Attabad was buried, killing 20 people and destroying 26 homes.
The waters behind the newly formed natural dam soon rose to a depth of more than 300 feet, creating a lake that eventually measured 13 miles in length. As the lake grew, it displaced some 6,000 people from upstream villages and flooded a 12-mile stretch of the Karakoram Highway, leaving the region stranded.
Five months after the disaster, Attabad Lake grew to about 21 km in length. It snakes along the narrow valley like a massive blue serpent, complementing the spectacular beauty of the valleys of Gilgit and Hunza already dotted with dozens of beautiful turquoise mountain lakes. The lake has become a big draw for tourists. Various recreational activities take place on and around the lake, including boating, jet skiing, and fishing. And with the rise in tourism, an increasing number of hotels and guesthouses have sprung up around the lake, as well as a handful of campsites.
The lake’s chilly waters are a stunning turquoise in spring and early summer, when meltwater from the surrounding mountains deposits glacial silt into the lake. In winter, the lake typically freezes over.
Presumably, the influx of tourists has benefited many of the locals who were affected by the landslide. And now that the highway has been rebuilt with new tunnels, access is better than it was before. Still, if you take a boat out onto the calm surface of Attabad Lake, it’s strange to think that 300 meters below you sits a once-lively village.
Pakistan is blessed with areas of unparalleled beauty, and Hunza Valley is one of Pakistan’s most popular tourist, photographer and painter destinations. It is one of the most beautiful places with such a dynamic landscape; rivers, deserts, lakes, waterfalls, springs, glaciers we seem to have it all in great abundance. The much renowned Hunza valley is often referred to as heaven on earth, enveloped in the grand Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges, this place has been a great tourist attraction for many years.
Know Before You Go
Attabad Lake is about half an hour east of Karimabad, the capital of the Hunza District in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan. If you arrive independently, you can arrange trips on the lake with local guides or in Karimabad. Most boat trips tend to last at least an hour. Alternatively, you can organize five-day tours from Islamabad, which often include the Hunza Valley, Attabad Lake, and the Pakistan-China border region.