Danyore Rock inscriptions
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Danyore Rock Inscriptions

The Danyore Rock Inscriptions is a gigantic boulder bearing inscriptions from the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. The inscription is the most important discovery of Danyore and was seen for the first time by Karl Jettmar in 1958. The inscribed rock is situated in the premises of a private house in Danyore, across Gilgit city in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and is locally known as “Likhitu Giri”. The archaeological site is not very much popular and known only to a limited count of individuals/organizations related to archaeology and tourism.

The town of Danyore is located on the main Karakoram Highway towards Hunza, south of Gilgit and separated only by Gilgit River and Hunza River from two sides. Danyore is accessible by car in 10 minutes from Gilgit yet finding the exact location of the Danyore Rock Inscription can be a challenge as the signboard showing the direction to the exact location has been disappeared and the rock is located off the main Karakoram Highway leading through a narrow street to a private house in the settlement.  The family living in the house didn’t know much about the worth of the rock.

Measuring 13 x 7 feet, the gigantic rock bears the names of the Tibetan kings who ruled in Gilgit during the 7th and 8th centuries in a five-line Sanskrit inscription in the late Brahmi character. The inscriptions, as per the renowned Pakistani archaeologist Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani, were engraved by the prince Kumaramatya and belonged to the line of rulers mentioned in the Hatun inscription in the Ghizer Valley. It confers royal titles of Patola Shahi Shahanushahi and Parama-Bhattaraka to the ruler Jayamangala Vikramaditya Nandi of the Vikramaditya family.

According to Dr Dani, the purpose of this inscription appears to commemorate some conquest of a local ruler, probably the overthrow of a raid by Tibetans in the upper Indus valley. Moreover, the Kingdom of Great and Little Bolor merged under Tibetan suzerainty in 725. The rock, however, has deteriorated with the passage of time and the inscription faded badly. It shows that Sanskrit was once a part of this land and bears significant evidence of the past that needs to be preserved.

Phander Lake
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan Lakes

Phander Lake

Phander Lake is a striking Lake situated in the majestic Phander Valley of Ghizer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The Lake is an important source of fresh water and trout fish, fed by the Ghizer River and located on the Gilgit-Chitral Road.

Locally known as Nango Chatt, the 44 meters deep crystal clear water of the lake is filled with grass and plants easily visible from a distance. The lake is surrounded by poplar trees that further add to the entire beauty. The curvy lake is sandwiched between two ridges that create a scenic view of the entire valley and the lake itself. One end of the lake is closed and the other is the major source of water passage from the river that keeps the lake water fresh.

The lake showcases panoramic views in four distinct seasons and is a major source of tourists’ attraction in the region. The western ridge of the lake has a government rest house while the eastern ridge has a small unit of PTDC motels offering best views of the lake and the valleys downstream.

Both for day excursionists and for overnight staying visitors, the valley has much to offer. Besides scenic views, the food, particularly the local trout fish, and fruits or various kinds are some of the other attractions of the region.

The lake is situated on the crossroads between Gilgit and Chitral and can be easily accessed from both sides. From Gilgit, it is about 173 km taking around 5 hours.

Phander Valley
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Phander Valley

The Phander Valley is a scenic valley well-known for its ultimate grandeur and sheer beauty. The valley is famous particularly for its manifestation of diverse natural colors in four distinct seasons. The calmly flowing deep blue rivulet making way through the center of the valley makes the entire vista extremely striking. Nature has blessed the valley so uniquely that its landscape simply displays a panorama of a dreamland.

Geography

Phander is situated in the Gupis valley of Ghizer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Ghizer is one of the 10 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan bordering Gilgit District to the east, Hunza-Nagar to the northeast, Diamer to the south, and Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west.

Attractions

The entire gorge making up the Ghizer District, all the way to the Shandur Pass, is dotted with tiny valleys mostly nestled by the bank of Gilgit River. The landscape of Ghizer district is diverse; contracting and stretching from Gilgit to Lunger near Shandur. Each stretch before Lunger is adorned with a settlement of traditional houses surrounded by gardens, fruit orchards, and terraced fields.

There are numerous attractions on the way to the Phander Valley making the trip so enjoyable without causing a feeling of fatigue throughout the journey. The lush green fields, fruit orchards and gardens, beautiful lakes including the Khalti Lake and Phander Lake, gushing blue river running along the bases of valleys connected by suspension bridges, clear glacial waters, and numerous channels of natural springs along the way feast the eyes of travelers with a unique experience.

Like the diversity in landscape, there is also an absolute variation in cultures in the entire district which makes it even more alluring. People speak different languages including Shina, Khuwar, Burushaski, and Wakhi in different regions and practicing slightly diverse cultures. People are friendly and welcoming, living a simple lifestyle, eating rich food with agriculture as a source of living for most of the residents.

Although the entire district is scenic with striking beauty; the Phander valley, in particular, is heavenly blessed. The section of the gorge making Phander a bowl-shaped valley is because of the barricade at the eastern end crest perching the PTDC Motel and holding the Phander Lake. The government rest house built on a ridge poking in and separating the valley from the Phander lake provides a gorgeous view of both sides – the valley and the lake.

The valley poses a unique natural setting nowhere can be observed. Beautiful lush plain fields make up the entire base of the bowl-shaped valley separated by the deep quiet blue water flowing downstream. The water is full of trout fish which is an important source of food of the region and a great local dish every tourist would love to enjoy.

Access and Location

Phander is majestically located about 173 km west of Gilgit town. The access to the valley is easy, usually takes about 5 hours to reach yet depending on the speed. Most of the road section is asphalted while some sections are still under the process of construction. However, generally, the road condition is fine and recommended for all kinds of vehicles. Phander is also accessible from Chitral via the Shandur Pass.

 

Khalti Lake
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan Lakes

Khalti Lake

Named after the alluring village of Khalti, located on the bank of Ghizer River, the Khalti Lake in Ghizer District of Gilgit-Baltistan is a prominent lake at 2,217 m above sea level. The lake is a famous tourist attraction partly surrounded by lush green terraced fields and a tree line, and partly bordered by the Rocky Mountains.

The westernmost part of Gilgit-Baltistan makes up the Ghizer district and the road through Ghizer leads to the well-known Shandur polo ground and further to Chitral district of KPK. The Ghizer district is made up of tiny independent villages inhabited by people from different cultural backgrounds. Khuwar, Wakhi, and dialects of Burushaski and Shina are spoken in the region.

Access

Khalti Lake is located about 116 km from main Gilgit town taking about 3 to 4 hours by car. The lake is accessible by a tapered asphalt road running parallel to Ghizer River – almost half the way through a scenic gorge leading to Shandur Pass. Khalti Lake, Phander Lake and the Phunder valley are major hotspots also famous for a day excursion from Gilgit. The scenery along the road is simply amazing to feast eyes with.

Attractions

Khalti Lake was formed due to the stretch of river near the village of Khalti. It portrays picturesque views in all four seasons. During the spring season, the Khalti village, making the western bank of the lake, all magnificently blooms; summers, the lake and surroundings are a great retreat and awe-inspiring with lush green surroundings, fall is the most colorful and romantic season around the lake; and in winters the hard crest on the lake serves as a playground for local youth to play and celebrate cultural events.

The turquoise colored lake is an important source of fresh water. Khalti Lake is abundant in local trout fish and so is the entire Ghizer River. Originally, the trout was injected into the river near the westernmost Golaghmuli Village. It increases in numbers and reaches almost every part of Gupis Valley. Hence, fishing can be a great pastime for tourists visiting the area.

The lake has great potential for water sports. The local people and the tourism department of Gilgit-Baltistan organize different sports activities most of the year for the local community. Moreover, there is great potential for private investors to invest in water sports activities. There are some places for eating out and accommodation but there are still ample opportunities to invest in standard boarding and lodging in the region. PTDC has a limited accommodation facility near the lake.

Weather

Summers are quite pleasant to visit Ghizer district. Temperature remains reasonably good from May until October until the end of fall season. Winters, however, are harsh with the temperature plummeting 10 degrees below freezing point on average which freezes virtually everything in and surrounding the lake. It snows quite often in the region.

Rama Lake
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Rama Lake

At an altitude of 3800 meters, the ice melt Rama Lake is one of the famous and high altitude lakes situated right above Rama Meadows in Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks ye the immediate surroundings of the lake are treeless due to illegal logging but the Rama Meadows at 3300m are thickly forested with huge trees including pine, cedar, fir, and juniper.

Attractions

Rama Lake is one of the key attractions drawing a significant number of domestic and international tourists every season.  Located in the backdrop of the southern ridge of Nanga Parbat (the Killer Mountain – 8126 m, the 2nd highest in Pakistan after K2) in the westernmost Himalayas, the lake displays a beautiful inverted image as a reflection of the snow-crowned ridge of the killer mountain on a clear day.

From Rama Lake, one can trek to the east side of the Nanga Parbat. The surroundings of the lake are home to a variety of flora including the medicinal plants and fauna including the golden marmot, ibex, musk deer, snow leopard and rock partridge. On the way from Rama meadows to the lake, there are three small lakes called Sarot in local Shina language.

Rama valley/meadow and Rama Lake are the must-visit tourist attractions for the visitors travelling to or from Deosai. The lake can be visited as a day excursion from Gilgit. An ideal itinerary usually includes Fairy Meadows, Rama, Deosai and Skardu for a week-long tour. To make it even more tasteful, Gilgit and Hunza can be added in the program.

Weather

The meadow is snowbound during winters and turns lush green in summers making Rama an ideal camping spot. The lake, likewise, is frozen in winters and one can swim on a warm day in summers. Rama Lake makes up a perfect half-day hike from Rama Meadows.

Access

Rama is one of the several valleys and a key tourist destination of Astore in Gilgit-Baltistan. Astore itself is connected to Gilgit which is well linked by air with Islamabad( subject to weather) and by road with Islamabad/Rawalpindi via the Karakoram Highway (KKH) round the year and via the Kaghan valley in summers. One can take a flight to Gilgit from Islamabad and drive to Astore from Gilgit by road.

From Islamabad keep driving to Gilgit along the KKH all the way to Raikot Bridge and proceed for another 20 minutes from the exit to Fairy Meadows, take the right turn at the sign displaying the direction to Astore and the journey of another 45 km (about 2 hrs) will lead you to Astore Bazar. Another 9 km uphill drive will take you to Rama Lake through Rama Meadows where locates the main campsite.

chinese graveyard in danyore
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan Tombs

Chinese Graveyard

Locally known as China Yadgar, the Chinese graveyard (The memorial Park) is the final resting place of mighty Chinese engineers and workers who sacrificed their lives during construction of the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the 1960s and 1970s. The cemetery is located in Danyore, about 10 km across main Gilgit town – the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. To be exact, the graveyard can be accessed in the residential area on the KKH, adjacent to Sehat Foundation Hospital.

Historic Background

The 1300 km (Pakistan: 887 km & China: 413km) Karakoram highway was a joint venture of Pakistani and Chinese workers and Engineers. It cost lives of 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese during the period of its construction.  It was started in 1959 and the construction completed in 1977 while opened for public in 1979.  During construction on the Pakistani section of the KKH, the Chinese workers who laid down their lives were buried in what is called the Chinese graveyard today.

The cemetery was established in the early 70s – at a time when the construction of KKH was in progress. Several years after its construction, the Chinese government realized to carry out renovation of the cemetery. It was repaired in 2013 on a Chinese-funded project. The Consular of the Chinese Embassy Mr. Zhang Lianyou and the then Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly Speaker Mr. Wazir Baig laid the foundation stone for a new cemetery on April 05, 2013. The project was completed in October of the same year.

Access and location

The memorial park is accessible by a main gate and entry is totally free. A custodian designated by the government of China looks after the cemetery.  As soon as one enters the main gate of the graveyard, both sides of the pathway are adorned with a pictographic display. The pictures in display feature construction work on the KKH by the Chinese workers and engineers during harsh conditions. It also shows medical aid provided by the Chinese doctors to the local people during the time of construction of the Highway.

Moreover, there is also a set of pictures on display along with sufficient information. The display features a reconstruction of the KKH, formation of tunnels, erection of major bridges (in Shishkat over Attabad Lake and in Danyore over Gilgit River) and providing of emergency transportation services across Attabad Lake in hard environmental conditions. The adjoining concrete erection in brown glazing with black base comprises historical information on the KKH in Urdu, Chinese, and English languages.

Proceeding further, the elevated podium, accessible by staircases, has a lime-white memorial tower, with Chinese inscription on in red, is surrounded by beautiful evergreen trees.  The entire memorial park is decked with a variety of trees including the towering pine trees, and some are said to have imported from China. During summers the overall climate within the premises of graveyard remains fairly cool.

Graveyard Design

The Chinese graveyard has four equal size quarters surrounded by footpath. Each quarter contains three rows with nine tombs in each row which make 27 graves in each quarter. A tombstone is placed over each grave containing epitaph inscriptions in Chinese characters.  There are 108 tombs in four quarters of which 16 tombs are still empty in one of the quarters. The reason those graves are still blank was the bodies of the workers lost under debris in massive landslides or other incidents during the construction of KKH.

The graveyard is very well maintained and serves also as a tourist attraction. The Chinese cemetery is a reminder of the hard work that demanded precious lives. It is indeed a symbol of lasting friendship that has continued for years. Pak-China friendship will remain even stronger with the passage of time.

 

Passu Cathedral
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan Mountains

Passu Cathedral

Passu Cathedral or the Passu cones are the jagged spires rising from a set of mountain peaks located to the north of Passu Valley in the Karakoram mountain range of Pakistan. Located to the other side of the Hunza River, the cones present a majestic view from different points along Karakoram Highway passing through the Gulmit and Passu Valleys.

The sun-drenched mountain peaks are known by several names including Passu Cones, Cathedral Spires, and locally called Tupopdan but are still prominent among the tourists as Passu Cathedral. Passu Cathedral is the most photographed peak scaled for the first time by the British in 1987.

The origin of the name “Passu” is still ambiguous but there are several attractions associated with it. Notable among them are the stunning Passu Village, Passu Glacier, Passu Peak and of course the Passu Cathedral. All these attractions can be seen from the Karakoram Highway.

The Passu Cathedral is located near the Khunjerab border between Pakistan and China in upper Hunza, about 50kms from central Hunza valley, and some 150kms from Gilgit town. The elegant mountains can be seen from Attabad Lake while driving along the Karakoram Highway. The jagged rocky peaks thrusting skywards from the rest of the Karakoram Range present breathtaking views from Shishkat, Gulmit, and Passu.

A major reason the gorgeous Passu valley is famous for is the 6,106m (20,033 ft) pyramid shape Passu Cathedrals bearing a striking beauty. The Passu Valley is located at 2,400 metres, but from their base, the gleaming cones are almost four kilometres, straight up, and are inspired by its unique structural attributes.

The gorgeous mountain begins to glow when the first rays of sun shined over the jagged cones, particularly, it glitters when it has layers of snow on. And as the day’s last rays shimmer off the cones it turns golden-bronze – a panorama worth observing.

The Cathedral range is surrounded by renowned peaks including Passu Sar, Shishpar, and the 56km long Batura glacier which is the seventh longest non-polar glacier making edge near the KKH. The Passu valley itself serves as base and kick-off point for trekkers heading for diverse treks surrounding the valley.

For the people travelling along the Karakoram Highway in the upper part of Hunza, trekking up Batura glacier, visiting the remote Shimshal valley, or driving further to Khunjerab Pass, the Passu Valley is an ideal base to acclimatize, enjoy the breathtaking views, and taste some traditional organic food. Particularly, to feast the eyes with the early morning sun rays hitting the jagged peaks of glowing Passu Cathedral.

Baltit Fort Hunza
Posted in Forts Gilgit-Baltistan

Baltit Fort

Standing arrogantly on the moraine of Ultar glacier, with a commanding view of Hunza valley and its tributaries, the over 700 years old Baltit Fort featuring the Tibetan influenced architecture, is a glorious structure purposefully built for defense and definition of the then rulers of Hunza. The majestic fort now serves as a museum and a cultural center. Baltit Fort is the recipient of several international awards and holds a global recognition.

Historic Background

Until 1974, the mountain kingdoms of Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the northern areas of Pakistan) and Chitral constituted several small independent states ruled by the local Mirs (called Thumo in Hunza & Nager). Among them were the Hunza and Nagar states – two major principalities and traditional rivals – only separated by the Hunza (Kanjut) River. They often remained to engage in clashes and built strongholds as a display of their power.

Historical sources reveal that Hunza rulers first resided in Altit Fort but a conflict between two sons (Shah Abbas, also known as Shabos, and Ali Khan, also known as Aliqan) of the then Mir Sultan resulted in the separation of the two. Shabos, the elder son, had to move to Baltit Fort. The power struggle between the two brothers ended up in Ali Khan’s death and Baltit Fort eventually became the seat of power since then.

In the early 15th century Ayasho II (Mir of Hunza at that time) married a princess called Shah Khatoon from Baltistan (little Tibet). The princess was accompanied by numerous craftsmen as a dowry who carried out some significant modifications in Altit Fort and Baltit Fort. The modification resulted in merging of the architecture of both state cultures which reflects the Tibetan influenced architecture in Altit Fort and Baltit Fort today.

The fortified village of Baltit was called “Agaai Koot” (the Heavenly Fort) and the nearby Altit was named as Hunokushal (derived from the words “Huns”). When the Balti craftsmen used terms Elte` and Delte` to say “Here and There” and from the word Elte`, the name of the village of Altit and from the word Delte`, the name of the village of Baltit has established.

Later in the 19th century, attacks carried out by the Maharaja of Kashmir and the subsequent British invasion in 1891 lead to the partial devastation in the architecture of the fort and interference in the political system of Hunza. Mir Safdar Ali Khan and Wazir Dadu along with their families and fellows managed to escape to Kashghar to seek political asylum.

In 1891 the British reshaped the forts according to their own defense requirements by demolishing the fortified wall and watchtowers of the old Baltit village and watchtowers of the Baltit Fort. They also made some significant changes in the ruling system by appointing Mir Mohammad Nazim Khan as the ruler of Hunza state. The newly appointed Mir made subsequent alterations to the fort. He demolished several rooms on the third floor and added a few to give a new look to the fort defining British colonial style using lime wash and colour glass panel windows. No further changes were then made before its renovation.

Architecture

The Baltit Fort building is a basically very interesting wood pegged stone structure with mud plaster. The interior is decorated with prominent and eye-catching impressions of woodcarvings which became a norm and adopted in many new constructions now. The three-story building rests on a moraine overlooking the whole valley.

The basement of the fort has granaries and some stores with manmade narrow terraces for the stability of its ancient foundations. The first floor has the main kitchen, a winter guestroom, a large winter house, private meeting room, guardrooms, and stores which are all interconnected. Likewise, the second floor of the building has living rooms, a balcony with bay windows, and an impressive open terrace decked with a royal throne beneath a Moghul style wooden canopy having astonishing views of the Hunza & Nagar valleys and snowcapped mountains including Rakaposhi (7788 m), Diran Peak (7257 m), Golden Peak (7027 m), Ultar (7388 m), and the Lady Finger/ Bubulimoting (6000 m) high. The third floor of the fort has a tiny mosque and a shelter for guards in the corner.

 Restoration

The Fort was housed until 1945 by the local Mir family and then was abandoned for several years. Baltit fort started decaying and caused concern to authorities to consider a possible rehabilitation. Mir Gazanfar Ali Khan II, a descendant of the ruling Mirs of Hunza gifted the fort to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the charitable organization endorsed the restoration project through its historic support program in 1989. With the help of the Getty Grant Program (USA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation along with the French Authorities, the project was accomplished in 1996. The Baltit Heritage Trust runs the fort as a museum and opens for tourists throughout the year.

 The renovation was accomplished with such sophistication that its view and vigor looked exactly how it used to look during its peak time. The power of the Mir was abolished in 1974 when northern areas were politically conceded to Pakistan. Currently, the fort has been turned into a museum serving as a good example of culture preserved for future generations.

Access

Baltit Fort is situated in Karimabad (Baltit), once was capital of the state of District Hunza, is accessible by Karakoram Highway (KKH) about 100 km north of Gilgit, the capital of Northern Areas, Pakistan. The fort is located on the top of Karimabad (Baltit) overlooking the entire bowl making up Hunza-Nagar and can easily be spotted from the Karakoram Highway passing through the central Hunza valley.

 Timings:

Summer          09:00 to 17:30 hrs (April 1st to Oct 30th)

Winter             09:30 to 16:00 hrs (November 1st to March 31st)

 Dinner at Baltit Fort

By maintaining the legacy of former Hunza state rulers who used to serve dinners and music for their guests and courtiers at the Baltit Fort, a dinner with light music for a group of minimum eight guests can be arranged. The dinner so arranged comprises of traditional dishes using local organic products including dried apricots, apricot and almond oils.

Awards

  • Grand Award to Aga Khan Cultural Services (AKCSP) in 1997 for “Restoration and Re-use of the Baltit Fort” by PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association).
  • British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Global Award in 2000
  • Award of Excellence in the UNESCO 2004Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.
  • Time Magazine Asia published (2005) Baltit fort featured cover page and complemented with best-renovated landmark
  • The government of Pakistan issued RS:15 of Stamp as a tribute to its legacy at 10th Opening anniversary (2006) of Baltit Fort
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