The region making the land of Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost mountainous territory formerly known as the Northern Areas. Gilgit-Baltistan is abundant in natural resources and manmade marvels and has worldwide recognition as a leading tourist destination. For its natural splendour and cultural diversity, it is recalled as “Jewel of Pakistan”.
Geographically the territory is 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 west. The people of this isolated region were liberated from the Dogra regime of the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir on November 01, 1947 without any external assistance. The mountain region was divided into several princely states ruled by local Mirs/Rajas and was merged into Pakistan in 1974.
The territory of Gilgit-Baltistan has three divisions which together constitute ten districts. The Gilgit division has four districts known as Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, and Ghizer; Diamer division has two districts called Astor and Diamer; and Baltistan division has four districts called Skardu, Ghanche, Shigar, and Kharmang.
The entire region is stretched over an area of over 72,971 km (28,174 sq miles). 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 6000m, 5000m, and 4000m besides three longest glaciers outside the polar region.
Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan has been the crossroads of ancient trade routes and a melting pot of ancient civilizations. The area has for several centuries remained an important Buddhist centre of learning. The Silk Route, one of the routes making up networks of ancient silk route, 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 this route. 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 is accessible by land via Karakoram Highway through out the year. There is an alternate and scenic route via the Kaghan valley remains open between mid-June and mid-November. There are daily flights operate from Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu yet all flights are subject to clear weather. From China, Gilgit-Baltistan can be reached via the Khunjerab Pass between April and November while the road remains closed during winters.