Formerly known as the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, is the northernmost territory hosting some of the world’s highest mountains and longest glaciers outside the polar region. Besides housing an unmatched natural beauty and glorious manmade landmarks, the region populates a diverse range of ethnic groups proudly exercising respective cultures and speaking various languages and dialects. The land is worldly famous for its tourist attractions.
Geographically the territory stretches over an area of 72,971 km (28,174 sq miles) bordered by the Xinjiang province of China to the east and northeast, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, and Indian-administered state of Jammu & Kashmir to the south.
Geologically this region is considered unstable. The region is the meeting point of Indian and Eurasian plates and the 5 cm annual northward movement of Indian plate gives rise to Nanga Parbat an average of 7mm annually.
Gilgit-Baltistan comprises of three main divisions known as Gilgit, Baltistan, and Diamer. The three divisions further constitute ten districts. Gilgit division encompasses four districts including Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, and Ghizer; Diamer division has Diamer and Astor districts; and Baltistan division incorporates Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang and Ghanche districts.
Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan has been the crossroads of ancient trade routes and a melting pot of ancient civilizations. The region has for several centuries remained an important Buddhist centre of learning. The Silk Route, one of the routes making up networks of ancient Silk Routes, is now the Karakoram Highway (KKH) has more than 50,000 petroglyphs and inscriptions located between Hunza and Shatial. These carvings were left by travellers including invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the upper Indus. The earliest known carvings date back to between 5000 and 1000 BCE are the figures of triangular men, hunting scenes and single animals usually larger than hunters.
Gilgit-Baltistan has remained independent until British colonization in the 19th century. It was divided into many mountain principalities. During colonial period it remained under the dual control of the British Indian Government and Jammu & Kashmir state. After the partition of Indian subcontinent and creation of Pakistan, a local revolt overthrew Kashmir rule and claimed independence. Since then the area is administered by Pakistan and functioning directly under the federal government.
There are cultural festivals and religious festivals celebrated in Gilgit-Baltistan with zeal and zest. Major cultural festivals celebrated in the region are:
Naltar Ski Festival is an international Ski competition takes place at Naltar every year in February.
Navroz is celebrated on 21 to 23 March to welcome the new beginning of the year with blossom.
Ginani/Ganooni is celebrated from 21 to 25 June to offer gratitude for the wheat crop and is celebrated with fervour by making local dishes and villagers all meet in one place to celebrate.
Shandur Polo Festival is a legendary event takes place every year in July on the highest and historic polo ground between the two arc rivals of Gilgit and Chitral polo teams.
Eid ul Adha
Eid ul Fitr
Eid Milad un Nabi
Shab e Meraj
Shab e Qadar
Shab e Barat
Jashan e Ramadan
Youm e Ashura
Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the 14 world’s highest peaks more than 8000m above sea level, more than 50 peaks above 7,000 m, a countless number of peaks above 5000m and 4000m successively besides three longest glaciers outside the polar region.