Gilgit-Baltistan Travel Guide

The Gilgit-Baltistan Travel Guide

Before traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan, you must know everything you need. We’ll provide you all the information in this travel guide to fly from Islamabad Pakistan to Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan is Pakistan’s spectacular and most fascinating region. Here the four famous mountain ranges of the world meet the Himalayas, the Karakorum’s, the Hindukush and the Pamir’s. The whole of Gilgit-Baltistan is a paradise for mountaineers, climbers, trekkers and hikers

How to get to Gilgit-Baltistan?

If you want to travel by road then take a bus to Gilgit or Skardu directly from Islamabad. NATCO (Northern Areas Transport Corporation), Silk Route, Mashabrum Travel and Tours, and several other transportation companies provide bus and jeep transport services from Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan and to several other popular destinations in the areas, including lakes, mountains and glaciers.

By road

By road, The Karakoram Highway(N-35) connects Gilgit-Baltistan to the north with China and to the south with Islamabad. The cost of Bus travel could vary between 2000 to 3000 PKR.

To those coming from Islamabad/Rawalpindi by bus, the journey will take about 17 to 19 hours to get there in Gilgit City with about 3-4 stops in the middle, and it takes 22-24 hours to Skardu City.
Visit Northern Areas Transport Corporation for the bus schedules:  Northern Areas Transport Corporation

By Car

Going to Skardu by Car sounds like an amazing adventure. It gives you independence and complete control of your journey. However, it is advised to proceed with a reliable 4×4 vehicle to avoid delays and risks. The distance to Skardu from Islamabad is calculated to be 637 Kms. It is a good idea to plan all your night stays and transits if going by car.

Remember! On the way, you won’t find a well-maintained bathroom so keep your own soaps and other items that are important for the way. If you’re traveling with a lot of people, it’s all about finding your own transportation like a bus/van/coaster so you don’t have to think about the transportation there. Since car rental can be costly over there.

By Plane

Pakistan International Airlines (the only Airline) provides daily flights to Gilgit from Islamabad. Also, Pakistan International Airlines operates regular Boeing 737 flights between Skardu City and Islamabad. Flight time is about 50 minutes.

The flight is one of the world’s most scenic flights, as its course passes over Nanga Parbat, and the mountain peak is higher than the cruising altitude of the aircraft. It’s assured, you will enjoy the journey if you manage to take the window seat as it gives you a beautiful aerial view during the ride.

Remember! All flights are subject to weather conditions. In winters, flights to Skardu and Gilgit are often delayed by several hours and days. A delay in flight usually means that it will fly out the next day. So, traveling by road is always quicker and more likely.

For flight schedule, visit Pakistan International Airlines 

Helicopter Ride

For many, the perfect trip would be through the chartered helicopter ride with a white-dressed aerial view of the mountains, the lakes resting in peace, and the rivers removing the water from melted glaciers.

For more information regarding the costs of taking a Heli ride.
Visit: Askari Aviation Services

Best Time To Visit Gilgit-Baltistan

For trekking and camping the best time to visit Gilgit-Baltistan is June to August, however, August can get quite crowded and a bit more expensive when Pakistani tourists visiting as well from all over the World. September is a month to visit with the beautiful fall colors underway. The recommend wear is Shalwar kameez when you arrive in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Visas and Invitation Letter for foreign tourists 

Most visitors to Pakistan will need a visa to visit. You must apply for your Pakistani visa from the embassy or consulates in your home country unless you are in a third country and have proof of residency.

Applying for a tourist visa you will most likely need to supply an invitation letter from a host or tour agency with your visa application.

Certain nationalities can only obtain an invitation letter after booking a tour with a licensed tour operator in the country, this includes USA, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Romania, many countries in the Middle East & Central Asia and more.

Gilgit-Baltistan Travel Budget

Travel costs can vary widely depending on your travel style. Here are some ideas of traveling costs in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Hotel Room: Expect prices to ring in around 3,500-100,000 PKR per night.
Guesthouse: You can find cheap rooms as little as 800 PKR per night. Most Local transport should cost between 500 and 1,500 PKR between destinations in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Jeep Hire: Expect to pay 6,000-7,000 PKR per day for a jeep and driver.
Meals: For simple Pakistani meals you can expect to pay 150-200 PKR per meal, more for fancier restaurants.
National Parks & Historic Sites: 500-800 PKR.
Guided Tours: Expect most guided tours to cost in the range of $150-200 per day. Of course, this typically would include guide, accommodation, meals, and transport.

Packing List

High-Quality Cameras, Solar charger, External battery pack, Backpack, Day-pack, Hiking Boots, Trekking Poles, Headlamp, Sunscreen, Mosquito Prescription & Over the counter medications.

Internet & Mobile connectivity in Gilgit Baltistan

Several hotels in the region offer WiFi, with pretty slow speeds. For cellular service, the recommended companies are  ZONG, TELENOR, and SCOM as they have the best coverage in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Health & Safety of Tourists

Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the safest parts of Pakistan to visit. Standard precautions are usually enough. Many treks are in remote areas, so do take caution to avoid injury. Tourists aren’t allowed near the line of control (LOC) where Gilgit-Baltistan borders Kashmir. Note: Bring tons of passport copies and visa copies for security checkpoints.

What To See In Gilgit-Baltistan?

For those, who love dramatic mountains, turquoise glacial lakes, fascinating culture, and great trekking, Gilgit-Baltistan is a true paradise. There are too many stunning places to visit.

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K2, Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat, for incredible trekking opportunities. Gilgit-Baltistan is famous for the highest and precipitous peaks in the world, boasting more than 700 peaks above 6000 m, and more than 160 peaks above 7000 m.

Eighteen of the fifty highest peaks in the world are located in Gilgit-Baltistan, they are below:

NoNameRankMeter
1K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen2nd8,611 m
2Nanga Parbat9th8,125 m
3Gasherbrum I11th8,080 m
4Broad Peak12th8,047 m
5Gasherbrum II13th8,035 m
6Gasherbrum III15th7,946 m
7Gasherbrum VI17th7,932 m
8Distaghil Sar19th7,884 m
9Khunyang Chhish21st7823 m
10Masherbrum22nd7,821 m
11Batura Sar25th7,795 m
12Kanjut Sar26th7,788 m
13Rakaposhi27th7,760 m
14Saltoro Kangri31st7,742 m
15Chogolisa36th7,498 m
16Shispare38th7,611 m
17Trivor39th7,577 m
18Skyang Kangri44th7,545 m

Glaciers in Gilgit Baltistan

Three of the world’s seven longest glaciers outside the polar regions are also in Gilgit-Baltistan: (The Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier).

The Siachin Glacier is 75 km. The Hispar (53 km) joins the Biafo at the Hispar La (5154.16 m (16,910 ft) to form an ice corridor 116.87 km (72 mi) long. The Batura is 58 km in length. The most outstanding of these rivers of ice is the 62 km Baltoro.

Beautiful Lakes in Gilgit Baltistan

Below are the high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Name Region
Kachura LakeSkardu City
Sheosar LakeDeosai: Skardu
Satpara LakeSkardu City
Borith LakeUpper Hunza
Attabad LakeHunza
Rama LakeAstore: Skardu
Rush LakeNear Nagar
Kromber LakeKromber Pass
Dagholy LakeKhaplu
Ganchhay LakeKhaplu
Rokhlong LakeKhaplu

Other Destinations to visit in Gilgit Baltistan

Deosai National Park in Astore, Skardu
Khunjerab National Park: is a park around the Khunjerab Pass where the Karakoram Highway crosses the Pakistan-China border
Punial valley in Gilgit Region: Sher Qillah is the main village of the picturesque Punial valley. One of the biggest villages by area is Hatoon.
Rock carvings in Skardu: Dating back to 8th century AD, a huge Buddha figure surrounded by small Buddhisatvas is carved on a rock, three kilometers from Skardu across Sadpara Naalah on Skardu-Sadpara Road. Pre-historic men and animal figures are carved on rocks along Kachura Lake.
Singal: This spot in the Punial valley in Gilgit offers ideal trout fishing opportunities.

What to Do in Gilgit Baltistan?

Rock Climbing:
For all you mountaineers out there, Gilgit Baltistan is the place for you. There are a variety of beautiful, interesting and challenging climbing peaks ranging from 6000 to 8611 meters including the world’s second-highest mountain K2. Gilgit Baltistan is also ideal for adventurers who love rock climbing, rappelling and other allied activities.

Trekking:
Gilgit Baltistan is the best place for people passionate about trekking. Here you will pass through amazing sights like thick forests of walnut, cherry, apricot, oak and pine trees and water streams. Trekking alongside rivers, lakes and across the beautiful snowy mountain can make your trekking experience unforgettable.

Fishing:
Gilgit Baltistan is famous for fishing as well. Here, lakes and rivers all offer fantastic opportunities to enjoy fishing at it is very best. Some of the finest destinations for trout fishing include Ghizer and Naltar. If you want to go fishing, you need a license. So, get the permit on the spot.

Biking:
Gilgit Baltistan is a great destination for mountain biking. Riding a bike or cycle across the highest snow-capped mountains, and along with beautiful valleys will make your ride worth remembering throughout your life.

Rafting:
The rivers Ghizer, Hunza, Shigar, Astore, and Hushe offer many stretches for both professionals as well as amateur rafters.

Paragliding:
Duikar valley in Hunza and Hushey valley in Skardu are main paragliding stations.

Camping:
The landscape here is so mesmeric that you never want to come back from the place. It offers clear views of gorgeous sunsets, galaxies, lakes, and snow-covered mountains.

Karakoram Air Safari: is the most scenic air journey starting from Islamabad by Pakistan International Airlines.

Mountaineering, trekking, and hiking:
The area is ideal for these. Permission for mountaineering and trekking in the restricted zone is issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Sports Complex, Kashmir Highway, Islamabad (Telephone: 92-51-9203509).

Fishing:
At Satpara Lake (8 km) and Kachura Lake 932 km) from Skardu abound in trout. Fishing permits are issued by the Fisheries Department.

Flora and fauna: Roses, lilies, pansies, willow, pine and fir trees are found in abundance. Apples, apricots, peaches, plums, mulberries, walnuts and grapes are available from June to October and almonds from October to March.

Traditional Foods of Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit Baltistan cuisine is as diverse as it is unique. Some of Gilgit Baltistan more famous traditional food dishes are below:
Chapshoro, Dawdoo, Chamus, Mamtoo, Sharbat, Harisa, Molida, Garma, Berikutz ,Harissa, Diram, Mull, Gooli, Suppra, Khamuloot, Azoq, Payo Cha, Balay, Hrxrab Khoor, Marzan, Prapoo, etc.

Well Known Hotels and Restaurants in Gilgit Baltistan

Cafe De Hunza is a small but cozy cafe located in Karimabad town in the Hunza Valley. It offers a wide range of local foods, coffee, and pancakes. The Cafe has its own small library filled with maps and travel-related books and magazines.

Hunza Cuisine is located at Karimabad Zero Point in the Hunza Valley. The restaurant offers Hunza traditional foods.

Baltit Fort Cafe is a new addition to the Baltit Fort in the Hunza Valley. A number of local, Pakistani and continental foods are prepared upon order.

Chalt Tourist Inn is located in Chalt Nagar. It offers a variety of snacks and cabin crew hospitality.
Haji Ramazan Hotel: is located in Gilgit city where fresh Pakistani foods are prepared on order.

Pagoda Restaurant offers a sumptuous Chinese cuisine. The Pagoda is on an island amidst the Honeymoon Lake linked to the Shangrila Resort by a short bridge.

The Lake View Restaurant gives a panoramic view of the Shangrila Resort and offers Pakistani and Continental cuisine.

Tandoori Village offers a taste of ancient old recipes, Chicken Tikka, Seekh Kababs, Mutton Tikkas, Grilled Fish with homemade tandoori roti. Enjoy the outdoor feast under the stars in a traditional atmosphere.

Cafe DC-3 This code name of original DC-3 Aircraft was Alph Alpha Foxtrot (AAF). This unique cafe is one of its kind. Situated in an airplane, which crash-landed on the riverbed and was brought to the present site in the 50s. It offers a variety of snacks and cabin crew hospitality.

Language and Communication:

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, spoken throughout Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan. The local languages are Shina, Balti, Khowar, Wakhi, and Burushaski. English is a widely spoken language among the educated classes and those involved in the tourism industry.

Tourist attraction Points in the Gilgit region

Gilgit City:

The main travel hub for Gilgit-Baltistan and largest town along the Pakistani KKH. Gilgit City is accessible by road and plane. 

Shimshal:

Shimshal Village in the north of Gilgit inhabited by Wakhi people. Several multi-day treks can be done from here including the most well known in the area to Shimshal Pass. Most trekking in the Shimshal area requires prior permission, contact a local tour agency to arrange them.

Hunza & Nagar Valleys:

Hunza and Nagar were formerly princely states until 1974. The Hunza Valley is a big draw for tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan. Nagar Valley is located just south of Hunza Valley as you make your way down the KKH. From the Nagar Valley, you will have amazing views of Rakaposhi- the 27th tallest mountain in the world from the highway.

Baltit & Altit Forts:

These 700-year-old and 1,000 years old (respectively) forts perched in the Hunza Valley were once the homes to the Mir (king) of Hunza. They have sweeping views of the peaks and glaciers nearby.

Passu Cones:

The Passu Cones can be seen as you traverse the Karakorum Highway in the Upper Hunza Valley near the village and glacier of the same name.

Hussaini Bridge:

Known as the most dangerous bridge in the world. This rickety suspension bridge crosses the Hunza River with views of the Passu Cones in the distance.

Attabad Lake:

This massive glacial lake was formed in 2010 by a landslide that blocked the flow of the Hunza River resulting in this turquoise lake. Attabad lake is 21 kilometers in length.

Ishkoman Valley:

Home to 20 villages that sit along the Ishkoman River at the bottom of the valley that lies between the Hindu Kush to the west and Karakorams to the east. There are several treks that can be done from Ishkoman Valley.

Yasin Valley:

Yasin Valley has been historically important because it allowed access to Broghil Pass into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and to Chitral in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Yasin Valley is reachable by road from the town of Gupis. There are several treks that connect Ishkoman and Yasin Valleys together.

Shandur Pass:

Shandur Pass is in the far western fringes of Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghizer District connecting it to Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Shandur Pass is famous as it is home to the Shandur Polo Festival each year held in July. Shandur Polo Festival is the highest polo festival in the world.

Fairy Meadows:

A beautiful grassland located near the basecamp for Nanga-Parbat’s Rakhiot Face. There are lodges available in Fairy Meadows, but you can pitch a tent as well.

Naltar Valley:

Naltar is dense pine forest valley with magnificent landscapes, green vegetation, wildlife, flowers, snow-covered mountains, lakes, streams and echoing with the chirping of numerous birds. Naltar is 40 km from Gilgit city and can be reached by jeeps and also famous for skiing activities in the winter.

Kargah Valley:

Kargah is at a distance of 10 km from the Gilgit city, a rock wall carved Buddha dating back to 8th century AD is over there. A river flows between mountains offer stunning views, if you like fishing then it is the right place.

Bagrote Valley:

A small valley surrounded by high mountains makes it the perfect place for trekking. It is a place less known compared to other destinations but surely will leave you with a much-enhanced nature treatment like the others.

Danyore Valley:

If you are an adventure junkie, then you should not miss out on the experience of Danyore suspension bridge. The bridge was constructed over a half-century ago and it enters a tunnel constructed by locals without any proper civil engineering equipment.

Duikar Valley:

If you are looking for the best place to view sunset and sunrise, Duikar village provides the best views anywhere in Pakistan. On a clear dark night, you can see once in a lifetime view of galaxies in the clear and pollution-free sky. it is a great photography spot with a magnificent view of the whole Hunza Nagar district.

Hopar Valley:

A small village with irrigated terraced fields known for fruit orchards and the production of potatoes. Hopar is one of the most recommended treks for those who want to have a first time trekking experience with lifelong excitement.

Passu Valley:

Passu lies between Batura & Passu Glaciers. The famous natural beauty of Passu is Tupopdan Peak, also known as “Passu Cones”, having picturesque shape is one of the most photographed peaks in the region.

Gulmit Valley:

Anybody who wants to take the experience of looking at the best landscapes must-visit Gulmit. A walk through the valley exposes you to over 100 varieties of flora and fauna all of which are pervasive through this region

Khalti Valley:

Khalti Lake is an artificial lake that was formed due to a stretch of river near the village of Khalti. The dark blue waters of a lake during summer look very charming. The lake usually freezes during winter, it becomes crystal-clear and villagers of Khalti use to walk on it.

Phandar Valley:

A twisting road passing through lush green fields & forests with a view of a flowing river and icy peaks will lead you to this Phandar valley. From springs of crystal clear waters to lakes & rivers of deep blue water, there are all colors of nature’s beauty.

Hundarap Valley:

Hundarap is a small beautiful village to the west of Phander. Hundarap Lake is famous for trout fishing and is a good campsite which has been selected as high altitude wetland by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Langar Valley:

A magnificently beautiful valley surrounded by mighty mountains and filled with numerous streams. The valley great spot for trout fishing and camping, especially during the summer season.

Tourist attraction Points in the Baltistan region:

Skardu Valley:

Skardu is the capital of Baltistan District and the jumping-off point for adventures into the Karakoram Mountains. Skardu is surrounded by dry rugged, snow-capped mountains and sand dunes. The place is famous for trekking and adventure spots. The nearby Satpara Lake and Shangrila resort and Deosai Plains are attraction spots for tourists.

Rama Valley:

Rama is a thickly forested valley with huge pine, cedar, fir and juniper trees. Rama lake is a peaceful and beautiful lake located near Rama village. The lake is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Gilgit Baltistan.

Minimarg Valley:

A scenic beautiful valley close to the Indian border. Minimarg river flows through the valley and the area is covered with the grass slopes, thick pine forests, fertile fields, blue water streams, lush green grasslands, and tiny colorful flowers.

Shigar Valley:

The gateway to K-2, G-I, G-II, G-III, G-IV, Broad Peak and more massive mountains in the Karakorum’s. Expeditions and base camp treks leave from the town of Askole. Reachable by road from Skardu.

Khaplu Valley:

Khaplu Valley is a base for trekking into the Hushe valley. The valley is attractive for mountaineers and trekkers as it is surrounded by several famous mountain peaks like Mashabrum, Sharpi Gangri, Sia Gangri, and Saltoro Kangri.

The jumping-off point for expeditions to Masherbrum Peak, K-7, K-6, Chogolisa and more peaks in the Karakoram. Located about 100 kilometers east of Skardu and accessible by road. There are several lakes to trek along the Khaplu Valley as well.

Kharmang Valley:

The Kharmang Valley is Located about 100 kilometers southeast of Skardu by road. Attractions here include: The Manthokha Waterfall, Khamosh Waterfall, Mehdiabad Valley, Mehdiabad Nala ( Union Council Katisho)

Read also: Energy and Water Resources of Gilgit Baltistan

 

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