Gilgit Baltistan holds valleys of wonders for its visitors and many tourists, including a large proportion of international ones, come here to see the wonderous landscapes for themselves. Gilgit Baltistan borders Kashmir to the south, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, Xinjiang County of China to the east, and the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north. For a long time, Gilgit Baltistan has wanted to become the fifth province of Pakistan but it has been integrated with Kashmir despite their wish. Gilgit Baltistan used to be called the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Its capital city is Gilgit and Balti is the widely spoken language. Apart from Balti, people in Gilgit, Chilas, Astore, and Diamir speak Shina. Whilst in Hunza and the upper regions, people widely speak Khowar and Burushaski.
Gilgit Baltistan is a totally mountainous area covering over 72, 970km squared. It is home to a whopping five of the world’s “eight-thousanders”, mountains over 8,000 metres high, and has over fifty peaks over 7,000 metres high. What’s more, is that three of the world’s longest glaciers outside of the polar region are all found here. It’s truly majestic and is one of the best places to visit in Pakistan.
The history of Gilgit Baltistan is rich with the earliest inhabitants found from 2000 BC. The region was inhabited by Tibetans before the Balti people. There is also a vast Buddhist era history to learn about these Northern Areas. You can find more than 50,000 pieces of ancient art, petroglyphs, carved into rocks all along the Karakoram Highway; most petroglyphs are concentrated between Hunza and Shatial. Many of these inscriptions will sadly be destroyed with the construction of Basha Dam and the renovation of Karakoram Highway, so you should visit to see these in person whilst they last! The highway holds some of the most beautiful places to see in Gilgit Baltistan.
The weather of Gilgit Baltistan is generally cold compared to the rest of Pakistan though it is one of the lucky destinations to receive all four seasons and is very pleasant in the summers. Some valleys are very hot in the daytime yet very cold at night. Whatever season, one thing is inevitable, and that is being blown away by the beauty of the landscapes found here.
The people of Baltistan are extremely hospitable and famous for being very amicable. They love to host locals and foreigners and to help in any way possible. You’ll also find many enthusiastic adventurers on your trip to Gilgit Baltistan. The food is very unique compared to the rest of Pakistan; it is not very spicy and uses unique local ingredients. One of the most unique dishes is Parapu. This is handmade pasta with a tantalizing vegetarian sauce consisting of almond oil, coriander, mint, and crushed walnuts. Another is mamtu, delicious dumplings filled with fatty meat. They also have an extremely wide variety of breads from sweet to sour and baked to deep-fried. The uniqueness of the food is just like nowhere else. The land is famed for its variety of fruits, especially dry fruits, so don’t forget to take some home with you.
There are so many places to explore and it’s hard to decide which one is the best between them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top destinations in Gilgit Baltistan. If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Gilgit Baltistan then look no further.
Gilgit Baltistan- A Complete Guide to Finding Your Paradise on Earth
Resting in the middle of Nagar and Bagrote Valley and just 100km from Gilgit city, Rakaposhi is the 27th highest mountain of the world which was very first ascended by members of a British expedition, Mike Banks and Tom Patey. Since, it has gained popularity as a marvellous mountain range turned community park to hike. The climate is very temperate on this mountain. In July, August, and September, the Rakaposhi range is just minimally affected by the monsoon season and is thought of as the best time to climb. It is home to many endangered species such as Snow Leopards, the Brown Bear, and Marco Polo Sheep. For the pros who are interested in knowing the most successful summit routes, the least difficult route, though long, is from the Southwest Spur. It is also relatively easy to go from the East Side and is a short route. The North West and North ridge are, though shorter, much more difficult routes. What makes this mountain really special is that it rises 19360ft over just 11km horizontally from the Hunza Nagar River, giving it an exceptional rise. It is the only mountain in the world that rises straight from endearingly cultured fields to a height of 25,550 ft.
Deosai Plains National Park
The Deosai Plains are without doubt one of the most mystifying places even the most veteran of travellers have set foot in. There is nothing ordinary about this place that is often nicknamed Shadow of the Giant. The flora of this land is intensely beautiful with wildflowers draped over the endless plains like a thick carpet. Amongst them, it’s very common to see the extremely sociable and hilarious Himalayan Marmots popping their heads out of the ground like out of a flowery Whack-a-Mole game table surrounded by beautiful butterflies. The protected park, stretching over 843km, was established to safeguard the Himalayan Brown Bear. Just some of the other countless wildlife you may see here is the Golden Eagle, Kashmir Musk Deer, or Siberian Ibexes. The optimum time to visit Deosai plains is from July, when the snow starts melting, to November. Other than that, the area is entirely covered in a duvet of Snow. It is a very easy journey to the plateaus in a 4×4 vehicle either via Astore Valley or Skardu. The Astore Valley route is taken from the Karakoram Highway with the magical Chilam village being the last stop. It’s a great idea to pack a picnic from Astore Bazar as the plains are unlittered by commercialisation. It’s an unsaid fact that you’ll be wanting to spend endless hours just sitting there and taking in the wonders of Deosai. There are several lakes in the park with the most beautiful one being Sheosar Lake. With the backdrop of the famous Nanga Parbat mountains, the lake that is laden with marine life gushes through blazing green grass and wildflowers. For trout fishing, the Bara Pani Lake is the best water to fish in after acquiring a permit from the park authorities for a fee. You would be crossing this lake on your journey via a wooden bridge. To truly make your trip complete, you should camp near these lakes where it’s the greenest. At night, you can view the Milky Way galaxy spread across the sky in rich purple, green, and blue colours sitting atop the world’s second-highest alpine plains.
Located in the Astore district, Astore Valley is at the eastern face of Nanga Parbat, one of the most dangerous mountains to climb. The valley’s colossal landscape consists of warm meadows surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The grazing cows and horses are a charm to the eye. The boundless valley is so large that it offers you limitless options to hike and trek to your heart’s content. Rama Lake is one of the most-worth it lakes shadowed by majestic snowy mountains whilst the valley retains its fertile climate leaving you with green-blue water full of life. Another one that’s extremely attractive is the Rainbow Lake resting in Minimarg, a landscape bursting with colorful flowers. Rupal base camp is a popular place to camp though if you’d rather look for guest houses then you’ll find them pretty much in all the spots. That being said, the valley is so enormous that you could go anywhere and all of it would be equally wonderful if you’re wanting to relax with no other tourists around. A great direction is following the flow of the Astore River. The landscapes change dramatically from arid, rocky rapids to lush meadows.
K2 is the second-highest mountain (8,611 metres) on Earth after Mount Everest (8,849 metres). This enormous mountain lies in the Karakoram range of Gilgit Baltistan. The mountain was actually declared the tallest mountain in the world in 1986 but it turned out to be an inaccurate measurement, making it just slightly smaller than Everest, though by then the news had been spread in many reports and journals. The mountain consists of beautiful metamorphic rocks and glaciers around it. The mountain is known as the savage mountain as it is the most difficult to summit out of the world’s five highest mountains. The mountain is draped in snow which gets thicker the higher you go. It is very cold in the winters and the optimum time to go is during summer from July until October, especially for those interesting in climbing it with tour guides. The sight of this mountain is truly mesmerising as is the scenery around it. Sitting at the base of a mountain just metres smaller than the world’s biggest is very satisfying. You definitely shouldn’t miss out on seeing the K2 at least once in your lifetime.
The Karakoram Highway can be said to be a highway leading to many paradises on earth. It is also the gateway from China to Pakistan, nicknamed the China-Pakistan friendship highway. This highway is one of the highest in the world as the road is paved into the mountains. It is very commonly referred to as the eighth wonder of the world due to the difficulties that came along with making this achievement a reality, many lives were lost in the making of this wonder but not in vain. The Guardian deemed the road as the third best tourist destination in Pakistan. The road cuts right through the collosion point of the Eurasian and Indian Plates. The Nanga Parbat, Rakaposhi, Diran, and more mountains can be seen travelling through the highway. The Minapin, Khunjerab, and Passu glaciers can also be marvelled at. As for lakes, many are accessible from the highway. The Hunza, Indus, and Gilgit River can all be viewed on your trip. You can even see the Karakul Lake in Xinjiang, China! One of the very interesting things to observe on your passage through the Karakoram Highway is the abundance of petroglyphs and rock art, more than 50,000 works of art can be seen. The areas where you’ll see most of them are between Hunza and Shatial as well as near Chilas. The earliest carving dates back to between 1000 and 5000 BC. It shows mysterious triangular men hunting down animals bigger than their own size. It’s best to travel here in the spring or early autumn as in other seasons the highway is either blocked by snow or facing road blocks due to land sliding in the monsoon season. The journey is just incredulous, with so many beautiful landscapes to view from tribal villages, lakes, and rivers, to intensely beautiful mountains and kilometres of fertile pastures. There is a multitude of places to stop on your way to to have some delicious food or even spend the night. The best way to explore this highway is to stay overnight so you have time in the day to stop at the striking destinations it offers.
In the westernmost part of Gilgit Baltistan, Ghizer Valley is a crossroad between Gilgit and Chitral. It is maybe the most beautiful place in all of Gilgit Baltistan. The special thing about this place is that it is not seasonal and can be enjoyed in the summers and winters. In summers the valley is just unbelievably graceful. The waters and cold and clean, full of trout fish that can be fished and devoured with the help of locals and restaurants. The landscape is just endlessly green and vibrant boasting delicious fruit trees. The valley is very culturally diverse with many different languages spoken such as Shina, and Khowar. In the winters, the Khalti lake is frozen over and is open to tourists for the world-famous 3 days games festival. People can participate in playing Ice Hockey, Skating, Ice football, Ice running and so much more. It’s a wonderful spectacle. There is also a Polo festival held in the three days. In the Yaseen Valley, you can experience thousands of years old Sowing Rituals as well as the annual Nawruz Celebrations. The people are extremely amicable and love to host foreigners. Relatives and neighbours meet each other to exchange greetings and offerings such as dry fruits. Phandar is one of the true paradises on earth. The lakes are full of trout and surrounded by lush meadows and mountains that end above the cloud. Guesthouses and hotels are easily found as many visitors just do not want to leave so soon once stepping foot here.
One of the most highly recommended destinations in Gilgit Baltistan is the Hunza Valley. It is believed that the Hunza Valley was the fabled paradise of Shang-Ri-La in James Hilton’s classic novel “The Horizon”. International and local tourists, as well as some very famous travellers and writers, flock to this place in the search of paradise on earth. The locals are extremely friendly and will offer you their local food such as the Hunzai soup or dry fruits. Many even insist you stay at their place! You can find an abundance of apricot, peach, and apple trees here too with the most delicious produce you may have ever tasted. Mulberry, grapes, and walnuts grow here too in abundance. From spring to autumn, you can see flocks of Japanese cherry blossom (Sakura) trees or blazing orange trees respectively with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains such as the Nanga Parbat. The experience is exotic. Constructed over 700 years ago, the Baltit Fort is interesting to visit in the Hunza Valleys. The grandeur of the fort amongst the majestic mountains is something you don’t want to miss out on. You can visit the fort to get a true sense of the culture of Hunza. You’ll be able to find many hotels wherever you go in Hunza Valley. Some more wonders to see are the glaciers such as Biafo and Hisper. The most amazing thing is that you view these glaciers whilst standing stop vibrant green meadows. Khunjerab pass is another glorious area with mountainous views and wildlife, as is Lady Finger Peak where paragliding can be done amidst snowy peaks. You can reach the Hunza Valley easily via the Silk Road aka Karakoram Highway to venture into the world of magic.
Skardu Valley, a town cradled by the Karakoram range mountains that surround it, is a hidden gem that has recently gained huge popularity amongst tourists, especially international ones. The town is very well known for its welcoming and kind-hearted inhabitants. It is the main town in Baltistan, 5 hours from Gilgit, and along it flows the water of the Indus River. The town is extremely popular with mountaineering expeditions and high-altitude trekkers. Many trek to the Baltoro Glacier, a white wonderland that can be safely explored and is glorious in the summer to picnic around. Another popular place to trek to is the K2 Mountain base camp, home to the second-highest mountain on earth after Mount Everest. The Shangrila is a beautiful resort in Skardu Valley where one can enjoy the view of the marvellous Lower Kachura lake and China-inspired huts. The restaurant offers mouth-watering salads, curries and freshly caught fish from the lake barbequed to perfection on the spot. The Upper Kachura lake can be explored from there on. The Sadpara Lake is another scenic location surrounded by sandy mountains. If you’re looking to have real fun without straying too far from the main Skardu town, visit Thorgu. It is a well-known place amongst locals but yet to be truly discovered by the outside world. There you’ll find a sandy plain that’s great for playing games such as volleyball. There is a lot of quicksand and whilst some of it can be dangerous, such as the deep edges of the sea, the areas at the shore are actually extremely fun to sink your feet into and play around in as long as you’re supervised with a group. For a heavy dose of the Balti culture, be sure to visit the two forts. One is in the Shigar Valley, Shigar Fort, and is the most beautiful one where you can tour the inside and even spend a night inside one of the rooms that have been restored for tourists as a luxury hotel. The landscapes of Shigar Valley are marvellous. Secondly, the Kharpocho fort that can be clearly seen from anywhere in Skardu town is another fort that actually sits on top of a mountain.
Located in Kharmang Valley, this waterfall is 180 feet high from the ground and can be reached at an 80km distance from Skardu. The waterfall itself is magical and the surroundings only make it all the more worth it. Lush green pastures, gurgling streams of water, stunning mountains covered with orange wildflowers are all something you’ll find here. You can even fish for trout here in the waters or if you’d rather get straight to business then restaurants with their fresh barbequed trout await you. You can also travel ahead to view some trout fish farms that are made for tourist viewing. The Manthokha Waterfall is the perfect place for a picnic. The waters are also very suitable for swimming when it’s warm to refresh your body and soul.
These are just some of the most beautiful places to see in Gilgit Baltistan but this list doesn’t do the entire land justice. There are endless places to explore in Gilgit Baltistan, some more honourable mentions are Hushe Valley, Naltar Valley, Attabad Lake, and many more. You’ll find many adventurous trekkers here from around the world who come to experience the beauty of the landscapes and the people themselves. From wonderful culture to the serenity of nature, and fabled lands of paradise, you’ll find everything good here. Gilgit Baltistan is really one of the most beautiful destinations in Pakistan and the world. Make sure you don’t miss out.