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Gilgit, Northern Areas, Pakistan

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Northern Areas Photos:
KKH-Ascent | KKH-Kohistan | Gilgit | Hunza-Main | Hunza-Altit | Hunza-Duikar | Gojal-Gulmit | Gojal-Pasu

Enjoying needed rest in hotel courtyard

At the end of the 20 hour bus ride, we got to Gilgit, a major transit and trade hub for the Northern Areas. It is situated in the middle of a large valley, with passes to the west to Chitral and Afghanistan, north to China and Central Asia, east to Skardu, Tibet, and Indian Kashmir. People from everywhere are in the markets, a very culturally diverse city. The main population of the valley speaks Shina, thankfully Urdu and English got us along ok.

Slingshot and other strange stuff shop

The Northern Areas are the Pakistani-held portion of Kashmir, a `Federally Administered Area' due to the unresolved conflict there. The Northern Areas are highly mountainous; with the Hindu Kush to the west, Himalaya to the south and east, and Karakoram in this state, and Pamirs to the north. These mountains divide this area into a number of valleys, with the inhabitants [roughly 850,000] varied ethnically, linguistically, religiously, and socially. While highly isolated due to the extreme terrain, this area has been at the center of important trade and interaction networks since pre-Silk Road times.

Until 1982 travel to this area was nearly impossible; the completion of the Karakoram Highway in 1986 opened this area to tourists and backpackers eager to explore the high valleys, climb the peaks [K2 included], and enjoy the hospitality of the inhabitants.

I would like to thank the people of the Northern Areas for their kind hospitality, generous nature, warm welcomes, and beautiful spirit. Their labors transformed a rocky, desolate land into an endless terraced garden, their soul managed to transform our hearts into blooming gardens in our short visit.

Once past the long bus ride, this area blossoms into many gardens and orchards in each little valley. Each has a unique history and culture which are worth exploring, sadly we had time to only visit a few.

Gilgit was a beautiful place, very green and restful. The wide valley gave great views, so walks around town were interspersed with breaks to enjoy the nice spring weather and view. Altitude adjustment was easy, with nice views and good food.

Here is a picture of fields just east of the center of town, along the walk in.

I got quite a lesson in automatic weapons here from the nice military men. The were eager to have their picture taken, as they seemed to have little to do. Throughout the Northern Areas, every hour or so the bus stops and all foreigners sign in with the military. Once you realize it is a place to ask questions and check out guns, it tends to be a friendly time.

This area was part of the Kushan Empire in the 1st to 3rd centuries, and was occupied by Tibet, areas of China, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan. Buddhist and animist, this area has converted almost entirely to Islam starting in the 12th century.

Naan shop, hot fresh bread wrapped in a newspaper, sometimes foreign
Gilgit river

After a few days of rest and exploration, we went further north to the Hunza Valley

KKH-Ascent | KKH-Kohistan | Gilgit | Hunza-Main | Hunza-Altit | Hunza-Duikar | Gojal-Gulmit | Gojal-Pasu

All Material Copyright Mark Felten 1999 - All rights reserved.