Northern Areas of Pakistan
The Northern Areas are the most spectacular and fascinating region of Pakistan. The three world’s famous mountain ranges meet here — the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hindukush.The historic Karakoram Pass (5,575 meters), an ancient trading route between the Northern Pakistan and Xinjiang, China, gives its name to the range, which forms the watershed between the Indus and the Central Asian deserts.
Skardu is the capital of Baltistan. The Balti people are a mixture of Tibetan and Caucasian stock and speak Balti, an ancient form of Tibetan. Due to the similarity of its culture, lifestyle and architecture with Tibet, Baltistan is also known as the «Tibet-e-Khurd» (Little Tibet).The tourist season in Baltistan lasts from April to October. The maximum temperature here is 27 °C and minimum — in October -8 °C.The five valleys of Baltistan — Shigar, Skardu, Khaplu, Rondu and Kharmang — are famous for their luscious peaches, apricots, apples, and pears.
What to see?
- Kharpocho Fort — is an ancient Fort in Skardu. It was constructed by Ali Sher Khan Anchan, who ruled over Baltistan till the end of the 16th century.
- Buddha Rock Carvings date back to the 8th century AD. It is a huge Buddha figure surrounded by small Buddhisatvas located three km from Skardu.
- Mountain lakes — Upper Kachura, Lower Kachura and Sadpara Lake — are very famous for fishing and boating.
- Shigar Valley is the gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakorams, Gasherbrum and K-2.
- Khaplu Valley is a beautiful valley of the Shyok River 103 km east of Skardu. Khaplu is the starting point for most of the trekking and climbing expeditions. Many famous mountains such as Masherbrum, Saltoro, SiaKangri, K-6, and K-7 are located here.
- Chaqchan Mosque is one of the earliest mosques in Baltistan (1504 AD), attributed to Syed Ali Hamdani. There is a Palace of Raja of Khaplu and remains of Thorsikhar Fort.
GILGIT BALTISTAN (Province Capital)
Situated at an elevation of 1,454 metres along the banks of Gilgit River, a quaint little town of Gilgit has spectacular scenic beauty. For centuries, it had been the capital of various dynasties. Its history goes well beyond the 6th century AD.
What to see?
- Gilgit Bridge is a bridge over the fast-flowing Gilgit River. This is one of the largest suspension bridges in South Asia (182 metres long and 2 metres wide) allowing enough space for one jeep at a time to cross.
- A beautiful standing Buddha figure (locally known as «Yashini») is carved on a rock near KargahNullah), 10 km from Gilgit town. It dates back to the 7th century AD.
- Remains of a Buddhist monastery and stupas of the 6th century AD were discovered in 1938 and 1956 near Nurpur. There are also ancient rock carvings of animals near the Karakorum University and inscriptions near Danyore.
- Built in 1962, Independence Monument is a tribute to the heroes of the liberation movement of 1947–48. A victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago, as a reminder of Taj-ud-Din Mughal, a ruler who came to Gilgit Baltistan during the 13th century, AD, is 30 km jeep drive from Gilgit town.
- Sher Qila (Lion’s Fort), situated 38 km west of Gilgit, was once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Punial. It has a polo ground, an old carved wooden mosque and a 150-year-old watchtower, crowned with a pair of Ibex horns.
- Gahkuch Headquarters of Ghizer District is an ideal place for trekking, fishing and duck shooting.
- Yasin, the main town of the Yasin Valley, 112 km west of Gilgit, is located at the altitude of 2,750 m above sea level. People of Yasin speak Brushisky and Khowar languages. Until the 20th century, Yasin was an important kingdom controlling the shortest and easiest route between the Oxus and the Indus rivers.
The visitors to Hunza are overwhelmed by the rugged charm, the fragrant breeze singing through graceful Poplar trees and the velvet-like green carpet of wheat fields, set against the background of snow-covered, mountains.
The majority of the Hunza people are Ismaili Muslims, followers of His Highness the Aga Khan. The local language is Brushiski, however, Urdu and English are also understood by most of the people.
What to see?
- The former capital of Hunza offers an awe-inspiring panorama of high peaks including Rakaposhi, Spantik, Diran, and Ultar.
- The fairy-tale castle of Baltit, above Karimabad, is a Hunza landmark built about 600 years ago. Originally, it was used as the residence of the Mirs (the title of the former rulers) of Hunza.
- The Altit Fort is an 800-year-old fort situated in the village of Altit. The Fort was built on a sheer rock-cliff over the Hunza River.
Situated at an average altitude of 1.128 m, Chitral valley is favourite among mountaineers, trekkers, anglers, hunters and anthropologists. Chitral district has Afghanistan on its north, south, and west. A narrow strip of Afghan territory, (Wakhan) separates it from Tajikistan.
What to see?
- Chitral Town lies by the Chitral River at an elevation of 1.518 m. The Shahi Masjid (Royal Mosque), the Mehtar’s Fort and the Khowar houses of the Chitralis are worth seeing.
- Garam Chashma (Hot Springs) valley offers scenic beauty, with orchards, fields and snow-clad peaks. The most interesting features, however, are its hot sulphur springs, famous for their healing effects. ‘Hammams’ (baths) have been constructed near the springs for the convenience of tourists.
- Kalash Valley is one of the major attractions of Chitral — the home of the Kalash people or «Wearers of the Black Robes», a pagan tribe. Legends say that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander the Great settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kalash.
- The Kalash women wear black gown of coarse cloth in summer and hand-spun wool dyed in black in winter. Their picturesque headgear is made of woollen black material decked out with cowries’ shells, buttons and crowned with large coloured feathers.
- The Kalash love music and dancing particularly on occasions of their religious festivals.
The lush green valley of Swat, with its rushing torrents, icy-cold lakes, fruit-laden orchards, and flower-decked slopes is ideal for holidaymakers.
It has a rich historical past, too. This is the land of enthralling beauty, where Alexander of Macedonia fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over to the delta of Indus River.
It was the home of the famous Gandhara School of Sculpture that was an expression of Greco-Roman form in the local Buddhist tradition.
Swat is was also the historical land, where the Muslim conquerors, Mahmud of Ghazni, Babur of Ferghana and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to the conquest of South Asia.
What to see?
- The Swat Museum located in Saidu Sharif contains one of the finest collections of Gandhara art in the world.
- Mingora, the twin city of Saidu Sharif, has yielded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas.
- Marghazar, 16 km from Saidu Sharif, is famous for its «Sufed Mahal» — the white marble palace of the former Wali (Ruler) of Swat.
AZAD JAMMU & KASHMIR
Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a land of fascinating people, languages & culture. Its population is composed of different races claiming their descent from Semitic, Mongoloid, Aryans, Persians, Turks & Arabs, speaking different languages like Kashmiri, Pahari, Gojri, Punjabi, and Pushto.
What to see?
Azad Jammu & Kashmir is famous for its snow-covered peaks, dense forests, winding rivers, and climate varying from arctic to tropical — all join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction.
Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir, is situated at the confluence of the Jhelum &Neelum Rivers. There are two forts, namely, Red & Black Fort, situated on the opposite sides of the river Neelum. Places of interest in and around Muzaffarabad are shrine Pir Chinnasi, located on the top of hills at an elevation of 2,900 metres from where one can get a great view of Muzaffarabad and rural areas around the hidden city