Hunza was formerly a princely state bordering Xinjiang (autonomous region of China) to the northeast and Pamir to the northwest, which survived until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The state bordered the Gilgit Agency to the south and the former princely state of Nagar to the east. The state capital was the town of Baltit (also known as Karimabad); another old settlement is Ganish Village which means “ancient gold” village. Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years, until the British gained control of it and the neighbouring valley of Nagar between 1889 and 1891 through a military conquest. The then Mir/Tham (ruler) Safdar Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what would now be called political asylum.

In 2010, a landslide blocked the river and created Attabad Lake (also called Gojal Lake), which threatened 15,000 people in the valley below and has effectively blocked 27 km of the Karakoram Highway. The new lake extends 30 kilometres (19 mi) and rose to a depth of 400 feet (120 m) when it was formed as the Hunza River backed up. The landslide completely covered sections of the Karakoram Highway.