The area it covers is about 73,000 square Km, having population of more than one million, and Gilgit is its Capital city. The area is located at high elevation in the mountains shrouded with the aura of nature. Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into two divisions administratively. These divisions are further subdivided into four Baltistan districts and five Gilgit districts.
The official language of this region is Urdu. Other languages commonly spoken are; Balti Tibetan, Shina,
Burkishaski, Wakhi, Khowar and Kohistani.
Administratively, Baltistan and Gilgit districts are controlled by Pakistan. To Empower Gilgit and Baltistan, Pakistani Cabinet passed a self governance order 2009, which was later approved by the President. The order enables the people to create their own Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Council. In the same year the Prime Minister also declared a multi-billion-rupee package for the development of the country and for the socioeconomic growth of the people. Education, Health, agriculture, and tourism were the principal areas to be concentrated.
Gilgit-Baltistan is a mountainous region consisting of more than 108 peaks, of which fifty peaks are above 7000 meters above sea level, and none of the peaks are less than 4000 meters. The mountain K2 can easily be viewed from the Satpara Lake in Skardu. There are fourteen mountain peaks exist on the earth, which stands higher than 8000 meters above sea levels. These fourteen mountains are called the eight-thousanders. Out of fourteen peaks, eight peaks are located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia. Out of those eight peaks – five peaks exist in the territory of Pakistan. Gilgit and Skardu are two locations to explore the main range i.e The Karakoram - The Himalayas - The Pamir mountains - The Hindu Kush - The highest peak K2 and the most dangerous range Nanga Parbat.
Glaciers and Lakes:
Gilgit-Baltistan is also a home of three biggest glaciers that includes; The Biafo Glaciers, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier. Eye-catching Natural lakes are also present at the high altitude of Gilgit-Baltistan. The lakes include;
- Sheosar Lake in the Deosai Plains, skardu.
- Satpara Tso Lake in Skardu, Baltistan.
- Katzura Tso Lake in Skardu, Baltistan.
- Zharba Tso Lake in Shigar, Baltistan.
- Phoroq Tso Lake in Skardu, Baltistan.
- Lake Kharfak in Gangche, Baltistan.
- Byarsa Tso Lake in Gultari, Astore.
- Borith Lake in Gojal, upper Hunza, Gilgit.
- Rama Lake near Astore.
- Rush Lake near Nagar, Gilgit.
- Camber Lake in Kromber Pass Ishkoman Valley, Ghizer District.
- Barodaroksh lake in Bar Valley, Nagar.
- Ghorashi lake in Ghandus Valley, Kharmang.
The climate of Gilgit-Baltistan differs accordingly, depending on the locations.of the region. The climate in the western Himalayan zone is moist, where as the Karakoram and Hindu Kush zones possess dry climate. It is recorded that Gilgit and Chilas are very hot in summer during the daytime, but cold at night. The areas like Astore, Khaplu, Yasin, Hunza and Nagar are cold all the year around.
People Source of Income:
The income of the people living in this region largely depends on agriculture and tourism. People are capable of harvesting Wheat, corns, barley and fruits. The tourists come here to experience the wonders of nature, weather, scenery, culture and landscape. Trekking and mountaineering is the main tourist attraction. Further, the historic “silk Road” is also a source of barter trade between the people of China and Pakistan. The efforts are being taken to enhance the trade in order to improve the economy and the living standard of the common people. With respect to the economic growth a chamber of commerce and a dry port in Hunza was established.
In 2009 China promised to help Pakistan in building a dam for the storage of water, and the generation of 7000 megawatt electricity for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. An agreement was also signed between the two countries, but the project is still pending.
FESTIVALS OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN
Spring Celebration Festival (February): The festival is also called Kardet/Kitzit. It is celebrated as the winter starts. The festival is celebrated mostly in the valley of upper Hunza, as well in other parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. People clean their houses and conduct various religious ceremonies. Later then all gather in their place of worship, i.e. Jamat Khana and pray for the well being of the villagers and all the humans of the world.
Cleaning of Irrigation Channels: In the last week of February, the authorities decide the date of the festival after analyzing the weather. Usually this is the time when snow starts to melt and the water gathers in the canals. Mostly, in the first week of March people gather to clean the drains/channels for irrigation. After job is done special prayers are offered by the people to call for blessings, prosperity, productivity, lots of water and happiness in the village. At night all gather and enjoy traditional feast.
Seed Sowing Festival: It is the two day ceremony held in the middle of March. Thus the opening ceremony of farming season. The first day, seeds are collected from respective place and transported to the destination. Prayers are also offered for future better crops. On the second day the seeds are sown into the grounds to obtain crops.
Navroz Festival: In Persian Navroz means “the new day/daylight”. It is the first day Iranian Calender. It is celebrated on 21st March of every year with religious enthusiasm. This is the time when winter is leaving and the days enters the Spring season. People enjoy dancing, polo tournament, other sports, traditional music and folk dancing. It is the time for tourists to experience the customs of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Graukus Festival (April): It is celebrated by the people of the Hunza valley. It is the ceremony to welcome Spring season. Animals are slaughtered and the meals are enjoyed.
Harvesting Festival: It is celebrated when the crops are ready to harvest. A small amount of the crop is harvested in the beginning and taken at home. Before entering the home prayer is offered and religious ceremony is performed. Later the crops are harvested and stocked at home or sold in the market. The time for harvesting is between 21st June and 12th July.
The Shandur Polo Festival: It is highest sports field of the world. Every year, three days polo tournament is organized and played here. Teams from remote areas participate in this tournament. The people who love to watch real polo are suggested to visit this festival. Beside polo, traditional dance, music and food can also be enjoyed. Here handicrafts are also exhibited.
Babusar Cup Polo Tournament: This tournament is held in August every year. The venue is Babusar Pass, turned up in the Diamer District of Gilgit-Baltistan. The ground is at the altitude of 14000 ft above sea level. It is the biggest polo tournament held in Pakistan in which polo teams come from all over the world to participate. The festival also includes tug of War; tent pegging, Paragliding and horse riding. Gemstone and handicrafts are also exhibited at the festival. The people from all over the world are welcomed to visit the festival.
Independence Day of Pakistan: People of Gilgit-Baltistan also celebrates the independence day of Pakistan on 14th August of every year, in the same way it is celebrated in other parts of the country.
Independence day Gilgit-Baltistan: The 1St November 1947 was the end of Dogra regime. The day is celebrated throughout the Gilgit-Baltistan with joy and happiness.
Thumshalling Festival: The day of 21St December is celebrated as the death ceremony of the Buddhist King of Gilgit. His name was Shri Badat and about him it was famous that the children were his favorite food.
By Road: Karakoram Highway is the only route which connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, the main point for exploring the mountains by the mountaineers or the hikers. It takes approximately twenty to twenty two hours to reach Gilgit by road. Driving in these mountains is not an easy task,only experienced drivers should take the risks of driving on these roads. The Karakoram highway connects Gilgit to Taxkorgan, Kaxgar in China.
Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) also offers bus and jeep transport service with experienced drivers. They make full arrangements for tourism and guide the tourists to the main sights that includes; Gilgit, Skardu, lakes and Glaciers.
By Air: It takes fifty minutes to reach the Gilgit Airport from Islamabad. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) offer their latest Aircraft (model ATR42-500), with trained and experiences staffs to fly from Islamabad to Gilgit Airport. PIA also offers daily flights to Skardu from Islamabd, here Boeing 737 is used. As new plans are being used to carry passengers, there are less chances for cancellation of flight, but still the flights are subject to weather clearance.