Makran Coastal Highway Attractions
Posted in Balochistan City Breaks Roads & Highways

Makran Coastal Highway Attractions

The Makran Coastal Highway in Blochistan, also known as National Highway 10 (N-10), is a 653 km road connecting the western provinces of Sindh and Balochistan and running mostly along the Arabian Sea coast. The highway is decked with unique attractions becoming prominent to the world. Major Makran Coastal Highway Attractions are:

Princess of Hope

It was not discovered until the Hollywood actress Angelina Julie visited the area in 2002 and named the naturally carved rock formation as “Princess of Hope”. The standing lady is a fascinating natural mud structure in Hingol National Park that it appears to be a masterpiece of a skilled artisan. It is located about 275 km from Karachi and can easily be sighted while travelling on the Makran Coastal Highway. God knows for how long it has been standing there bearing all kind of weather conditions.

princess of hope
princess of hope

The Sphinx

About 150 km from the Zero Point of Makran Coastal Highway and about 280 km from Karachi, past Kund Malir beach, the Sphinx-like structure is another natural formation. The coast of Makran mostly constitutes of muddy hills with very fast winds blowing year round. These fast blowing winds cut through the muddy hills result in the formation of natural structures like the standing lady (Princess of Hope) or sphinx. The Sphinx is largely associated with Egypt, which were carved shapes as Egyptian goddesses. The Natural Sphinx is although not as sharply shaped as the Sphinx in Egypt, however, the structures are worth seeing.

The Sphinx
The Sphinx

Hingol National Park

Hingol National Park stretches over an area of 1,650 square km along the Makran coast in southwestern Balochistan contains a variety of topographic features. It is one of the largest national parks in Pakistan and was established in 1988. The park has some 250 plant species, 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles and 185 species of birds.

Hingol National Park
Hingol National Park

Hingol Mud Volcanoes

The Hingol mud volcanoes, also called Chandragup Mud Volcanoes, located about 200 km west of Karachi and about 8 kilometres off the main Coastal Highway leading from Lasbela to Gwadar. The unique construction of all of the muddy hills and statues in Hingol National Parks is an artwork of these mud volcanoes constantly erupting with clay. Only the locals may provide guidance to the exact location. A landmark, however, is an SSGC installation. The site has total 21 volcanoes including 3 major mud volcanoes. The site is also a sacred Hindu worship place.

Hingol Mud Volcanoes
Hingol Mud Volcanoes

Hinglaj Mandir

Hinglaj Mandir or Hinglaj Mata is a Hindu temple in Hinglaj town in the middle of the famous Hingol National Park on the Makran coast. It is also named as Hinglaj Devi or Nani Mandir considered to be one of the oldest temples in the world and an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindu population in Sindh. The Mandir is located in a narrow gorge on the west bank of Hingol River about 19 km inland from the Arabian Sea on the coastal highway, 250 km to the northwest of Karachi, at the end of Keerthar Hill range in the Makran Desert stretch. Unlike other shrines having manmade images, the Hinglaj Mandir has a small shapeless stone smeared with Sindoor (Vermilion) in a small natural cave which is worshipped as Hinglaj Mata.

Hinglaj Mata Mandir
Hinglaj Mata Mandir

Kund Malir Beach

Kund Malir is one of the serene beaches located in Hingol National Park, some 145 km from the Zero Point, around 270 km from Karachi. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in this world. However lacking the basic facilities like hotels, restaurants, fuel stations and no cell phone signals it still is worth visiting with a really calm peaceful and soothing environment. Apart from Kund Malir, there are long stretches of Arabian Sea beaches along the Coastal Highway which turns this long ride into a driving delight.

Kund Malir Beach
Kund Malir Beach

 

Ormara Beach

Ormara Beach is located on the midway between Karachi and Gwadar on the Makran Coastal Highway – about 360 km west of Karachi and 230 km east of Gwadar. Ormara basically was the name given to the town and then to the beach from one of the generals of Alexander the Great called “Ormoz” who died here when Alexander the Great and his army stayed there on their way back after conquering Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of modern-day Pakistan in 326 BC.

Ormada Beach
Ormara Beach

 Pasni

Pasni is an important small town at the Arabian Sea in Gwadar. Its significance relates to the discovery of rock formations including the ancient ruins of the Harappan era and the presence of antique Hindu temples, and proofs of Alexander’s passing the coastal belt.

Astola Island

About 25 km south of the nearest part of the coast and 39 km southeast of the fishing port of Pasni is a small uninhabited island called Astola Island or Jazira Haft Talar. It is known to be largest offshore Island measuring 6.7 km long and 2.3 km wide, and 246 ft above sea level. The Island is accessible by motorboat in about 5 hrs or by helicopter. It is a popular eco-tourism destination with no lodging facilities on the Island. Anyone planning for an overnight stay must carry a tent and food. The Island is famous for scuba diving, fishing, and to observe turtle breeding.

Astola Island
Astola Island

Gwadar

The term Gwadar is a combination of two Balochi words Gwat (meaning the wind) and Dar (meaning Gateway) thus Gwadar means “The gateway of wind”. There is a slightly different concept which suggests that the world Gwadar was derived from “Gedrosia” which was the ancient name of Balochistan given by the Greeks to the arid area making up the southern part of Balochistan.

Gwadar today is a port city on the southernmost coast of Balochistan at the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran located to the east of Persian Gulf and opposite Oman. However, historically, the city and environs were possessions of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman from 1783 until Prince Karim Aga Khan purchased it on September 8, 1958, and presented to Pakistan. Pakistan assumed the territory on December 8, 1958, and integrated into Balochistan Province on July 01, 1970 as Gwadar District. It used to be a medium-sized settlement of fishing community.

In 2015 Pakistan and China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of One Belt One Road.

Gwadar
Gwadar

Jiwani

Jiwani is a town and commercial port strategically located in the Gwadar District along the Gulf of Oman some 80 km west of Gwadar city and 34 km east of Iranian border. With an estimated population of 25000, the town making up the eastern end of Gwadar Bay duly shared between Pakistan and Iran and the area around the bay constitutes important mangrove forest which habitats a wide variety of wildlife. The town is also adjacent to the shipping lanes, has a small naval base and a 5500 ft runway. The town was used in WWII as an airfield and there is Victoria Hut built for Queen Victoria who planned to visit the area to watch the sunset. It is still not confirmed whether Queen Victoria visited or not but the Victoria Hut is still maintained.

Recommendations

The journey from Karachi to Gwadar is long enough without any proper shops, fuel stations, cellular connection or other provisions. Careful planning is very important before undertaking a journey along the Coastal Highway. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Start as early in the morning as possible to make it to Gwadar on time.
  2. Top up fuel tank in Karachi and refuel at Hub fuel station as there is no fuel station on the way.
  3. Keep basic tools and extra tires. Make sure the wheels are in good condition.
  4. Make necessary calls before Zero Point, mobile signals recede beyond Zero Point.
  5. Kund Malir Beach (Agor) and Ormara beach are major stopovers on the way.
  6. Keep enough water, cookies, dry/fresh fruit etc as reserve stock during travel.
  7. Make a hotel reservation in advance.
Shalimar Gardens
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Monuments Punjab

Shalimar Gardens

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. The Shalimar Gardens and the Lahore Fort together were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests yet the general public could enter to a specific section of the garden. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens was influenced by the older Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir built by Emperor Jahangir (Shah Jahan’s father) and Shah Jahan himself was involved in the construction of the old gardens in Kashmir.

Covering about 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) by crenelated walls of red sandstone, the rectangle garden is constructed in three terraces descending from south to north. Each terrace has been given a special meaningful name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

Inside the covered boundary wall, there are a number of buildings used for a variety of purposes. The names of the buildings are:

  • Sawan Bhadun pavilions
  • Naqar Khana and its buildings
  • Khwabgah or Sleeping chambers
  • Hammam or Royal bath
  • The Aiwan or Grand Hall
  • Aramgah or Resting place
  • Khawabgah of Begum Sahib or Dream place of the emperor’s wife
  • Baradaries or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Gardens’ fountains
  • Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam or Hall of the special and ordinary audience with the emperor
  • Two gateways and minarets in the corners of the Gardens

Besides the terraces, various buildings, fountains, marble pools, and pathways, there used to be a variety of trees in the garden named as Almond, Peach, Apple, Plum, Apricot, Poplar, Cherry, Quince Seedless, Gokcha, Mango, Mulberry, Sapling of Cypress, Shrubs and Sour and Sweet oranges.

Historically the project of Shalimar Garden was supervised by a noble of Shah Jahan’s court named as Khalilullah Khan. The site originally belonged to the Arian Mian Family and the title “Mian” was given to the family by the emperor for its services to the Empire. However, the land where the Shalimar Garden was built was acquired by Mughal engineers by placing pressure on the Mian family only because of its ideal position and soil quality. In return, the Arian Mian family was granted the governance of Shalimar Garden which lasted for 350 years. Later, General Ayub Kahn nationalized the Garden only because the Mian Family had opposed his imposition of Martial law.

 

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 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.

 

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.

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab World Heritage Sites

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden

The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden are two exceptional royal complexes from the Mughal era. Both monuments are in Lahore, the cultural hub of Pakistan, and boasting of their pride and prestige to date. The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Pakistan in 1981 for their “outstanding repertoire” of Mughal monuments dating from the era when the empire was at its artistic and aesthetic zenith.

The fort is located at the northwest corner of the walled city of Lahore while the Shalimar Gardens are situated along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometres northeast of the main Lahore city. The monuments are located at a distance 7 kilometres from each other.

Dating back to 1the 7th century, both masterpieces reflect the true artistic expression of the Mughals at its peak.  The fort is the only monument that represents the complete history of Mughal architecture in Pakistan. The Shalimar garden, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1642, still retain the glorious Persian and Islamic tradition is a fine example of Mughal gardens.

Lahore Fort

Irregular in design, the Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila is a worldly famous citadel spreading over an area greater than 20 hectares. The fort is located at the northern end of Lahore’s Walled City. It has 21 notable monuments, some of which date as far back as to the era of Emperor Akbar.

The Fort was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire enjoyed the height of its reign. According to records, it was said to be a mud-brick fort in the 11th century but the foundations of the modern Lahore Fort was laid in 1566 during the reign of Emperor Akbar.

The fort featured both Islamic and Hindu motifs in its architectural design. However subsequent amendments were carried out with the passage of time by the succeeding Mughal Emperors.  However, the facility was turned into the residence of Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, after the fall of Mughal Empire and later passed on to British who made some major changes in its design as per their own need.

Shalimar Garden

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. The garden has a unique collage of natural and architectural beauty. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule.  The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. Its construction was influenced by regions like Central Asia, Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Dehli Sultanate and reflects the affinity of Shah Jahan for nature and architecture.

The 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) rectangle garden by crenellated walls of red sandstone is arranged in three terraces descending from south to north with each terrace given a special name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests, yet the general public could enter a specific section of the garden. It is located close to Baghbanpura on the GT road 5km northeast of the city centre. The site of the garden belonged to the Arian Mian Family and Shah Jahan rewarded them with the Mian title for its services and contribution to the Mughal Empire.

Babusar Pass
Posted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Passes

Babusar Pass

Babusar Pass or Babusar Top is a mountain pass at an elevation of 4,170 m (13,690 ft) connecting the northernmost edge of the of the 160 km long scenic Kaghan Valley of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan with the southern limits of Chilas in Diamer District of Gilgit-Baltistan. A sharp descend along the 45 km downhill gorge called Thak Nallah strikes the Karakoram Highway (KKH) 5 km north of Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan.

History

Historically, Babusar Top, making the summit of Kaghan Valley, was the part of old summer route giving access to the Gilgit-Baltistan area before the advent of the all-weather Karakoram Highway. It was the prime route from 1947 to 1978; by the time the KKH was officially opened for conventional transportation. It was built by the British in 1890 to connect Gilgit-Baltistan with British India. Before the separation of the subcontinent, people would travel from India and Kashmir through Babusar Pass to Gilgit-Baltistan. Even before the invention of Babusar pass, Burzil Pass (4,100m) was the caravan route from Srinagar to Gilgit via Astore. Most of the Kaghan Valley runs parallel to the Neelum Valley of Azad Kashmir only separated by a mountain ridge.

Accessibility

The Kaghan road passing through Babusar Pass is the shorter and scenic passage to Gilgit-Baltistan as compared to the KKH. However, Babusar Pass only remains open for a short period every year between early June and early November (depending on the fluctuating weather patterns). The remainder of the year, it remains inaccessible due to extreme weather conditions, mostly due to heavy snowfall throughout the Kaghan valley. The entire Kaghan Valley is at its best during summer.

From Islamabad, the Kaghan area can be reached by road via the towns of Abbottabad, Mansehra, and Balakot, while one can also travel through Murree hills to Muzaffarabad and then to Balakot via Gari Habibullah, which is a comparatively a shorter route. Naran is the prime site people mostly prefer for an overnight stay. Naran is accessible in about 6 hours from Islamabad and more or less 5 hours from Gilgit. Please note that there are specified timings for traveling through Babusar Pass, prior verification before making the way through this road is advisable.

Tourism

The journey from Naran to the Babusar Top is just mesmerizing. There are a number of scenic views and sites including frozen peaks making the background of panoramic valleys, vibrant waterways, lush forests, picturesque pastures, and green terraced fields – all compelling tourists to make short stopovers on the way to the top. The silent Lulusar Lake is the prime location one must stop for a while.

The Babusar pass serves as one of the beautiful tourist attractions drawing thousands of tourists on a daily basis. For tourists traveling to Naran during summers, Babusar Top is a must-visit tourist attraction and a preferred day excursion located at about 70 km from Naran. The top always remains full of lively tourists and provide jaw-dropping views of surrounding mountains. It remains snowbound during summers and for tourists making an excursion from Naran or traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan, Babusar is a fun spot to make a stopover, eat, drink, and explore. It is one of the ideal sites for photography during summers. The whole panorama spreads out from the top with a splendid view. Walking slightly up the ridge and standing on the top, on a clear day, one can easily sight the summit of Nanga Parbat (the killer mountain), the second highest mountain after K-2. Moreover, one can also have the panoramic view of Malika Parbat, the highest peak (17,000 feet) of the KPK district and striking views of snow-covered peaks of Kashmir on a sunny day.

The melting waters from the mountains surrounding the Babusar Top actually originate to form the Kunhar River. There are several streams and creeks meeting the Kunhar River ultimately entering Jhelum River in Kashmir. Lulusar Lake near the top is the biggest lake in the region fed by the Kunhar River. The Kunhar River flowing through the length of Kaghan valley, all the way through famous tourist spot Naran, is an ideal place for rafting.

Although there are not very decent restaurants on the top yet new hotels/restaurants are underway. All these facilities add to draw tourists to Babusar Top making it more attractive and valuable.

Suggestions

For tourists traveling to or through the Babusar top, it is advisable to be well stocked with food, warm layers of clothing, necessary medicine, and with photography kit if you are really into it.

Precautions

  • Weather fluctuates unexpectedly and it is helpful to check the forecast before departure.
  • People with altitude sickness should not stay longer on the top.
  • Avoid traveling in the offseason
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good condition and fuel topped up.

 

 

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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