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Kargah (Buddha)
Gilgit Bazaar
Chinar Bagh (Garden)
Ghizer Valley
Ishkoman Valley
Naltar Valley
Punial (SherQila)
Gupis & Yasin
Phander Lake
Shandur Pass
Wild Life & Parks of Gilgit
Trophy Hunting in Gilgit
Altit Fort & Village
Baltit Fort & Village
Duikar Hill
Eagle's Nest
Ultar Base Camp
Day Hikes in Hunza
Wild Life & Parks of Hunza
Trophy Hunting in Hunza
Nagar Valley & Hispar
Glaciers of Nagar Valley
Day Hikes in Nagar
Gulmit Village
Carpet Weaving Center
Day Hikes From Gulmit
Borit Lake
Passu Village
Shimshal Valley
Sust (Pak China Border)
Khunjerab Pass / Park
Wild Life & Parks of Gojal
Trophy Hunting in Gojal
Rondu Gorge
Kachura Lake
Kachura Resort
Skardu Town
Khorpocho (Mindoq) Fort
Sadpara Lake
Deosai Plateau
Shigar Valley
Shigar Fort
Khaplu Valley
Hushay Valley
Day Hikes In Baltistan
Popular Treks in Baltistan
Wild Life & Parks of Baltistan
Trophy Hunting in Baltistan


Northwest Frontier Province

Siri & Paya Meadows
Naran (Town)
Lake Saif-ul-Maluk
Lalazar Meadows
Babusar Pass
Day Hikes in Kaghan
Popular Treks in Kaghan
Trout Fishing in Kaghan
Saidu Shareef
Swat Museum
Marghazar Valley
Gabral Valley
Ushu Valley
Mahodand Lake
Day Hikes in Swat
Popular Treks in Swat
Trout Fishing in Swat
Qissa Khani Bazaar
Peshawar Museum
Peshawar University
Khybar Pass
Torkham Afghan Border
Landi Kotal
Darra Adam Khail
Khybar Steam Safari
Dir Town & Panakot
Lowari Parr
Kafir Kalash
Bomboret Valley
Rambur Valley
Berir Valley
Day Hikes in Chitral
Popular Treks in Chitral
Wild Life & Parks of Chitral
Trophy Hunting in Chitral
Garram Chashma
Shandur Polo Match
Ghizer Valley
Murree Hills
Bhurban Resort
Patriata Resort
Day Hikes in Galliat


Neelam Valley
Banjosa Valley
Kuttan & Pir Chinasi


 Walled City of Lahore
Lahore Museum
Shalimar Gardens
Lahore Fort & Hazuri Bagh
The Dancing Girls of Lahore
Uch Sharif
Lal Suhanra National Park
Cholistan Desert
Wild Life & Parks of Punjab
Trophy Hunting in Punjab
Karachi & Outskirts
Karachi Museum
Clifton & Beaches
Manora Beach
Chaukhandi Tombs
Makli Hill Necropolis
Thatta & Keenjhar Lake
Moenjodaro Ruins
Moenjodaro Museum
Bhit Shah


Quetta & Outskirts
Suggested Reading


KARAKORUM HIGHWAY : Also known as the "eight wonder" of the world, this grand highway connects Pakistan to China, twisting through the three mighty ranges of the world, the Karakorams, the Himalayas & the Pamirs - & follows the ancient Silk Route along the Indus, Gilgit & Hunza Rivers up the Chinese border at the Khunjerab Pass where it concludes in the Taklamakan Desert after winding through the Pamirs & Kashgar districts.

For much of the 1284 kms, the KKH crosses a high altitude desert with less than 04 inch rainfall per year. Passing through stupendous gorges, the road cuts along shelves on the cliff faces as much as 500 M above the river. The highway is an incredible feast of modern engineering & an enduring monument to the 810 Pakistanis & 82 Chinese who died forcing a road through what has a reasonable claim to be the world's most difficult & unstable terrain.  
The Karakorums & Himalayas began to form some 55 million years ago when the indian subcontinent drifted northwards & collided with the Asian land mass. India is still trundling northwards at the geologically reckless rate of 05 cm a year, pushing the mountains up by 07 mm (1/4 of an inch) per year. The KKH runs through the middle of this collision belt where there is an average of one Earth Quake every 03 minutes. The Indus River separates the Himalayas from the Karakorams and the KKH hugs the banks of the Indus for 310 Kms on its journey North. It winds round foot of Nanga Parbat 8125 M, the 09th highest in the world & the last in the Himalayan Range & Rakaposhi 7788 M near Nilt in Hunza.  
It leaves the Indus & cuts through the Karakoram Range, with 12 out of the world's 30 highest mountains. At 4733 meters, the Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved border crossing on a surfaced road in the world. The highway was a joint Pakistan-China project. Completed in 1978, it took 20 years to build and employed 15000 Pakistanis & 30,000 Chinese. The Pakistanis concentrated on the road & the Chinese on the bridges.  
The glaciers, brittle rock structures, strong winds, extremes of temperatures from 48°C/118°F in summers to -30°C/-22°F in winters and the seismic activity all combined to make the construction and today the maintenance of the highway a continual battle. The Pakistani army, today, has deployed 1000 soldiers to keep the road open.
THAKOT BRIDGE :  The first evidence of Chinese influence on the  KKH is Thakot Bridge, 123 kilometers and about two and a half hours from Abbotabad. Like other bridges on the KKH, it is a graceful arch of white cement, its balustrade decorated with carved lions and lanterns and its side walls with pastel butterflies and flowers. For the next 310 kilometers the highway follows the Indus. The Alai Valley, east of Thakot, is reached on a spectacular road that rises over 1000 feet to give bird’s eye views back down to the Indus.

BESHAM is a  major village cut into the hillside above the Indus along the Karakoram Highway. Half way between Islamabad and Gilgit, Besham has become a hub of travellers due to its strategic cross-roads joining the Swat, Gilgit and Hazara divisions. Though it is mainly populated with the upright Kohistanis, one finds a blend of faces from various parts of the Northern Country. 

CHILAS is a major town on the upper course of the Indus & a gateway to Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu, Nanga Parbat & Kaghan Valleys. It's ancient name was "Silvata", a Sunsikrit word which meant Rock or Stone. The name went in vogue because of the 06th & 08th centuries carvings & paintings on the nearby boulders at the banks of the Indus.  

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GILGIT is the Capital of Northern Pakistan and a thriving frontier town that has expanded rapidly to include over 40,000 inhabitants since the Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978. It sits in a wide irrigated bowl 1500 meters above sea level at the Eastern end of the Gilgit Valley. The quaint little town of Gilgit has a cluster of interesting places in it short radius, including a beautiful rock carving of Buddha, a victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago and the longest suspension bridge in Asia ( 600 ft long ) The favorite sport in Gilgit is Polo, which the locals claim originated here. It is a more rugged style than the sedate variety known in the plains. The polo tournament held in the 1st two weeks of November is a festive occasion and attracts a large number of spectators.


KARGAH : is famous for its huge rock carving of Lord Buddha. This sculpture was carved in seventh century. A monastery, 03 stupas and Gilgit manuscripts were also found in the vicinity between 1931-39. They are now housed in London, Delhi, Rome and Karachi. The interesting legend behind this sculpture narrates - the villagers asked a passing saint to help them get rid of a man- eater ogress called Yakhshini who lived at Kargah. The saint succeeded in pinning her to the rock and declared she won,t bother them for as long as he was alive, however, if they buried him at the foot of the rock, she would never be free. So the villagers killed the saint and buried him below the rock. The Yakhshini is still slave and villagers are now safe.


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GILGIT BAZAAR is famous for its handicrafts such as woolen gowns known as chughas, waist coats, shoes, musical instruments, silver jewelry, caps, woolen rugs and embroideries. The Gilgit town has also become a major dry port for trade between Pakistan and China through Khunjerab Pass. Due to this dramatic reform one can easily purchase China wares, paintings, silk clothes, glass and various other Chinese products of excellent quality. Gilgit town also house the Asia's longest suspension bridge (600 ft long 6 ft wide).

CHINAR BAGH (garden) : where trees as much as 300 years old haughtily overlook the Gilgit river. This beautiful park is adorned with a bronze ibex mounted on a tall marble pillar. The monument was built to pay tribute to the local soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of their motherland.

GHIZER VALLEY : The 210 kms long road to Shandur Pass via Ghizer Valley is slightly more than a dirt track cut into cliff face on the south bank of the river. Passing through the former kingdoms of Punial and Gupis, with Ishkoman and Yasin up side valleys to the North, it connects all tiny village oasis with Gilgit town. 


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ISHKOMAN VALLEY : The Ishkoman valley runs north to south to join the Gilgit river at Gakuch, and divides the Karakoram Range from the Hindu Kush. Incorporated in to Pakistan in 1972, Ishkoman was another of the little principalities of the Northern Areas; a vassal of Chitral for the past few centuries. The ex-raja still lives at the capital, Chatorkhand. The population is mostly Ismaili and is the home of an important religious leader. Most people speak Khowar, Shina and Wakhi.  
It is about 100 kilometers to Chatorkhand, and takes about six hours. The Iskhoman Valley turn-off is at Khanchi Bridge across the Gilgit River, 68 kilometers from Gilgit, just before Gakuch. One can raft from Chatorkhand down to Punial in two days. From Ishkoman one can trek east to Naltar. There are also more difficult treks north to Hunza or Boroghil.

NALTAR : An area of alpine meadows and forests 3000 meters above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is the loveliest full-day outing from Gilgit. It is 43 kilometers – about two hours drive from Gilgit. Hidden in the mountains, up a dramatic barren gorge 19 kilometers long, Naltar valley is surprisingly green and lush, and heavily wooded with pine, spruce, birch, rowan and juniper. Some quirk in the climatic conditions gives Naltar about 410 millimeters or 16 inches of rainfall a year, more than three times that of Gilgit.

It is the perfect base for gentle walks through the forest, or you can follow the jeep track up to Naltar Lake, where the fishing is excellent. Naltar is also the starting point for more energetic treks across the passes about 4,600 meters or 15,100 ft. This beautiful meadow also has two ski-lifts operated by Pakistan Army & Air Force and ski courses are conducted from December to March. There are several summer nomadic settlements near Naltar birch poles covered with mud and juniper branches; some are round like a tepree, others oblong with a ridge pole. The entire family comes here for the summer bringing their dogs and chickens. The Gujars also collect birch bark which is used as wrapping paper. Butter is wrapped in the bark and stored in holes in the ground.

PUNIAL : The fist kingdom to the west of Gilgit is Punial, which encompasses 12 villages and has a population of about 18,000. Its inhabitants call it ‘the place where heaven and earth meet’. Its capital is Sher Qila, 35 kilometers from Gilgit, on the north bank of the Gilgit River. Sher Qila means Lion’s Fort, so cold in winter, so is best visited in spring and autumn.


A 150-year old watchtower, crowned with a pair of ibex horns, stands guard at the end of the ground – a reminder of past wars. The villagers took refuge in the tower whenever attacked. The next important village in Punial is Singal, 16 kilometers further west. Punial is marked with blooming orchards and small terraced fields, traditional blacksmith forges and primitive pitlooms.

PHANDER LAKE is connected by a perilous jeep track via Shandur Pass & Gilgit Valley. At an altitude of  3734 meters, the historic Shandur Pass has been used by the traders for centuries for trading silk between China, Gilgit, Afghanistan and Persia. The perilous jeep road connects to a wide plateau adorned with two serene lakes and the highest Polo Field in the world. The annual Polo tournament played between the Gilgitis and Chitralis in summer is a festive occasion and attracts spectators from all over the world. Also called the "Angler's Paradise", the serene turquoise colored Phander Lake is full of rainbow and snow trouts. The lake is surrounded by lush green meadows and plantations.  This serene lake allows one forget the bumpy and trying jeep journey. 
SHANDUR PASS : This picturesque lush green plateau is located at an altitude of 3,734 meters above sea level and it is 12 hours from Gilgit. It is locked by snow from November to May. The first European traveler across the pass, colonel William Lockhart, referred to it as a plateau. This was the route taken by British soldiers on the march from Gilgit to relieve the Siege of Chitral in April 1895. The pass presented considerable difficulties, according to Lieutenant W Benyon, quoted by John Keay in The Gilgit Game.  
Over the recent years, this pass has gained international popularity due to Mountain Polo Matches held every year from 7th to 10th of July between the centuries old rivalry teams of Gilgit and chitral. The game of polo was invented in this region and it is still played in its original form which is more rugged and rough. Unlike the sedate variety played in the civilized world, there is only one rule of the game : and this is – To Win The Match !

HUNZA : Eric Shipton's "The ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur" the Legendary Hunza - whose very name is overwhelming is known for its towering snow covered peaks, creeping glaciers, fragrant apricot orchards & the longevity of its people. Lord Curson noted that "The little State of Hunza contains more summits of over 20,000 ft than there are of over 10,000 ft in the entire Alps".

This magical land of contrasting geology abounds in glaciers too, including the 58 Km (world's 5th longest ) Batura Glacier. The Nubra, Braldu, Hushe and Saltoro Rivers are born in the Karakoram glacial vastness: the Shayok River encircles the entire flanks of the range: but only the Hunza river literally cuts through the width of the Karakoram Range. Hunza's extreme isolation thus imposed by the unbelievably steep gorges of the Karakoram, rise to a long standing, wholly indigenous & pure diet consisting almost entirely of apricots, wheat and "Hunza Water", a locally brewed wine, & hence the long living inhabitants.

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 Until 1974, Hunza remained a semi - autonomous princely state presided over by a benevolent "MIR" who personally held a daily court & the subjects paid taxes in goods rather than money. Nestled under the shadows of Rakaposhi 7788 m, perches its capital Karimabad - guarded with centuries old sentinel of Altit & Baltit. Our approach to Hunza is by jeep on the Karakoram Highway, a thin ribbon of pavement  carved into the walls of the stupendous Karakoram. This road completed in 1978 , now links the ancient trails of the Silk Route from Gilgit to Kashgar.    
Hunza's 35000 inhabitants have been ruled by the same family since the 11th century. A legend relates that the Hunzakuts, (as the people of Hunza are known) are the descendants of the 05 lost soldiers of the Alexander's Army. Brushuski, an aboriginal language is spoken in the central Hunza & Wakhi, related to Chinese Turkistan is spoken in the upper Gojal. Hunzakuts lived off the fruits of caravan- raiding, slave trading & attacking their neighbors. The kingdom retained independence until the British took over in 1891 & became part of Pakistan in 1974. The society is co-operative rather than competitive. Each family grows enough food for its own use.    
As the Hunzakuts lived aloof from the outer world, each citizen was self sufficient in making his own shoes, clothes & bowls, until, the Karakoram Highway linked them with the world. The people are cheerful & friendly. Almost entire population belongs to the Ismaili Shias sect headed by Prince Karim Agha Khan. The women wear bright clothes, long shirts over baggy trousers & embroided pillbox hats over which they drape their shawls.
ALTIT FORT : Perched on a sheer rocky cliff of 1000 ft, it overlooks the Hunza River & renders a picturesque view of the entire valley. This fort is approximately 900 years old and was made by the artisans from Baltistan.The fort has just been renovated and houses a wonderful museum rich in local artifacts and preserved history.
BALTIT FORT is over 450 years old. This was built by a princess who married to the reigning MIR & brought with her from Baltistan, a few masons, carpenters & craftsmen to build this fort as part of her Dowry. It stands on a steep cliff edge; behind the fort is the deep ravine of the Ultar stream. Its a curious rambling old palace with 53 rooms scattered on three stories. It contains guest rooms, prisons, storerooms, kitchens & Queen's apartments. The museum room has a collection of weapons & drums. This fort also has a magnificient museum which houses priceless artifacts of this historic region.

DUIKAR is the highest point in Karimabad where one can take a four wheel driven jeep. This spot presents an awe inspiring bird eye view of the whole Karimabad with magnificent view of Rakaposhi, Diran & Golden Peak. The sunset & sun rise are the most spectacular to be seen from this point. This towering view point also houses a unique stone jungle  with natural figures of many birds & mammals. One such rock presents a perfect statue of an Eagle.

NAGAR VALLEY : Another "princely state" across Hunza. Inhabited by the colorful & peaceful Shia Muslims, this spectacular valley domains blossoming fruit orchards & multi terraced fields irrigated by the rich mineral laden waters of the Hispar, Trivor, Barpu, Bualtar & the Silkiang Glaciers. The jeep road ends at Hopar, a magnificent bowl, terraced and fertile, with excellent views of Miar Peak, Golden Peak and Malubiting. The Bualtar Glacier snouts here and is one of the two valley glaciers of the world racing forward. Its speed is incredibly fast @ 20 centimeters (8 inch) per day.  

GULMIT : The capital of Gojal, 8 km past Shishkut Bridge is a fertile plateau 2500 M high, with irrigated fields on either side of the road. Gulmit is also reckoned as the prettiest town of Hunza. Sightseeing in & around Gulmit may include visits to the Gulmit Village, the Old House and the Carpet Weaving Center. Other places in the vicinity are the Borit Lake & Ghulkin Glacier.


SHIMSHAL VALLEY : Also known as the epitome of remote inhabited areas in the Karakorams. The domain of the Largest Glaciated region on Earth, with the greatest geological upheavals steeped in the Myths of Spiritualism seems no way of this world. Named after the famous Muslim Saint, Shah Shamse of Tabrez, who migrated through this valley from China to Multan, was declared as the Epitome of remote inhabitance by the local Rulers and remained a maroon for the local outlaws for over centuries.

PASSU : A fascinating land with an amazing diversity of places, people and customs, Passu is the mixing bowl of ancient civilization and dream of nature lovers, is well known about its extraordinary contrast of landscapes of the world. Passu is one of the most beautiful village of Pakistan . From times, immemorial the village has been promising Mountainous resort. Situated in the spectacular karakoram Mountains on the old silk route 150 km from Gilgit in the west banks of Hunza River and border on China.
It has a unique place on the World map. With a rich history and deep rooted culture .It invites to its breath taking surrounding many adventurers, eco-tourist, historians and nature lovers. This famous village, its towering peaks ever flowing streams its fascinating heritage and above all its hospitable People make it a place worth visiting. Passu is considered the worlds heights landmass, where there is nothing below 2500 matters ,Passu is surrounded by some of the world most famous peaks, glaciers and lakes, such as Passu peak 7284, Shispar peak 7611, Batura, 7785, and the most remarkable is Passu cathedral peak 6500, in the shadow of lofty mountains are the Passu glacier with white skin and Batura glacier with both at the length of 56km, which is the fifth largest glacier of the world.  
Human’s era passes generation to generation. Passu village is devastated four times in the past. Its first era of human generation is included 3000bc to 5000bc. we saw many arts of ibex and zebra in different rocks. It shows that people are started to live here so early. After a few decades this village had destroyed by flood, sliding and erodes of rivers. That’s why this village had been empty for a long time. Its second era was pretty historical coz Chinese people lived here, who followed Buddha. Buddha religion came through Gandhara, Swat, Gilgit, Passu and reached China . Its great memory is at Kargah Gilgit and Khuram Abed Passu.  
Its third era is called Islamic coz there is Qurani Ayat written on the mountain. Islam came here in 9th century through Arabs soldiers when Buddha left. Its fourth era also called Islamic, which had been started from 18th century at the time there were 315 families. During sliding the river was blocked and again this village was destroyed by natural disaster. This time only few families were safe. Later on, again this village was destroyed by natural disaster in 1964.  
Now the population is around 1000, most of their economy depends on agriculture, tourism and cattle breading. this village is famous for its high literacy rate in the region. Where you can find hundred percent educated. In this village every one wants to be educated because the environment can change the peoples. Now a day’s people are doing their  education in different cities of Pakistan.  
Located not far from the Chinese border on the northern edge of the range, the inhabitants of this mystic valley still retain many of their traditional customs which are fast disappearing elsewhere in the region. Being the remotest and the most isolated regions, the criminals sentenced to rigorous punishment by the "Mirs" of the state used to be "MAROOONED" in Shimshal - only the fittest survived. The descendants, however , are unbelievably friendly, honest and hospitable. Their disciplined life and cultured civilization bewitch and enthrall the visitors (fewer) from the outer world.  
Geologically, Shimshal reveals, great upheavals in its natural history. With a collection of towering snow capped peaks, massive lakostrine deposits, gigantic scree eroding mountains, elevated greens meadows, fertile alluvial farms and stark rigid gorges; Shimshal domains the largest glaciated region on Earth outside the polar regions. The walk to Shimshal, however, is not a task to be undertaken lightly. Its a hard trek up and down the gorges, across rushing icy torrents, along steep narrow trail, through broken rocks, over wire-rope bridges and through crevassed glaciers. The incentive for this strenuous walk is undoubtedly equally rewarding.  
KHUNJERAB PASS : Bypassing Gulmit, a fertile plateau with irrigated fields on either side of the KKH, we drive to Passu, a setting off point for climbers for the Batura, Passu, Kuk & Lupghar Groups. Located  under the shadows of Shispar & Passu Cones, the fabulous trek to the legendary Shimshal too begins from Passu. From the outskirts of Passu, 30 Kms before Sust, (immigration check post) begins the Khunjerab National Park, the natural habitat of the endangered Marco Polo Sheep & Snow Leopard.  
The last stretch of the road winds up round 12 wide, well engineered hairpin bends to the top. Khunjerab Pass 4733 M, is the highest border crossing on a paved road in the world. The Khunjerab Pass is the continental watershed, on the Pakistan side flowing down to the Indian Ocean and that on the Chinese side being swallowed by the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin. Taklamakan literally means, "IF YOU GO IN YOU WON"T COME OUT".  
The scenery is remarkably different on either side of the pass. The Pakistani side is marked with barren deserted gorges with no sign of human life for the last 40 Kms before border, the Chinese side, however, is wide, open, grassy, high altitude plateau, with herds of yaks, sheep & low humped Bactrian camels tended by the smiling colorful TAJIKS.  



BALTISTAN lies north of Indian-held Kashmir along the Indus River between the Karakoram Mountains and the uninhabited Deosai Plateau. Skardu, its capital, is the starting-point for some of the best trekking and mountaineering in the world. When the Indus River enters Baltistan from Ladakh, it has already travelled 700 kilometers (435 miles) from its source in Tibet. It comes in through a gorge so deep and narrow that no path can follow it. On the northern bank a solid block of mountains, 60 of them over 7,000 meters (21,000 feet) high, from a wall 100 kilometers (60 miles) thick between Baltistan and China. In no other part of the world is there such a large number of high mountains in such a confined space.

On the southern bank, the Himalayas and the Deosai Plateau from the barrier with India. It is only from the west that you can enter the isolated valleys of Baltistan. A new road hugging the bank of the Indus leads from the KKH for 170 kilometers (110 miles) to Skardu. Like the rest of Pakistan's Northern Areas, Baltistan is a high-altitude desert. It rises from 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level to 8.616 meters (28.268 feet) at the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world.  
The average rainfall here is less than 100 millimeters (four inches) a year, but wherever possible the steep mountainside is cut into tiny terraces and irrigated by a network of small water channels from the glacier streams. In summer the melting snows swell the Indus to a raging torrent sweeps away everything in its path, so only the gentler side streams can be used for irrigation.  
Every inch of irrigable land is manured and cultivated: startling green oases stand out against the grey sand and rock of the barren mountains, like emeralds in massive settings of tarnished silver. Stacked up the hillsides near the fields are mazes of multistory wood-and-stone cottages honeycombed with narrow unlit alleyways and rough, dark stairwells. Clustered round the houses are apricot, peach, mulberry and apples trees, all festooned with grape vines. Rows of poplar and willow trees line the irrigation channels and terrace walls, holding the soil in place and providing wind breaks. The trees are also vital for firewood and house building. The quarter million people living in these villages are almost all Shia Muslims, the strictest sect of Islam. They speak Balti, an archaic Tibetan dialect.  
With its rolling sand dunes and barren mountains, the area round Skardu looks very like Tibet and is, in fact, often called Little Tibet. The valleys are perhaps steeper and deeper than further east; and they are separated not by rolling plateaux but by lofty spurs. Yet there is the same overall impression of rock and sand, harsh white light and biting dry  Natural vegetation is a rare and transitory phenomenon; cultivation is just an artificial patchwork of fieldssuspended from a contour-clinging irrigation duct, or huddled on the triangular surface of a fan of alluvial soil washed down from the mountains. John Keay, When Men and Mountains Meet (1977).  
In comparison to the gentler, greener valleys of Chitral and Hunza, Baltistan appears bleak and forbidding, and is not to everyone's taste. Yet the people, for centuries almost entirely cut off from their neighbors, are charming and hospitable. Until the airstrip was built at Skardu, they were virtually self-sufficient, growing grain and storing rancid butter (a great delicacy) in the ground for the long snow-bound winter. In the summer they ate fruit, reputedly the best in the Northern Areas.  
As in so many of Pakistan's northern valleys, there is a vague tradition here that the town of Skardu was founded by Alexander the Great. Although the fort at Skardu is sometimes called Askandria (not unlike Skander, Alexander's Indian name), neither Alexander nor his followers travelled this far east. The area's early history is linked to Gilgit's. Baltistan was known as Great Bolor, Gilgit and upper Chitral as Little Bolor, Baltistan comprised four main kingdoms, of which Skardu was the most important. Of the other three, Khaplu controlled the route along the Shyok Valley; Shigar held the Shigar River and its tributaries; and Rondu guarded the Indus Gorge to the west of Skardu. There were also four lesser principalities: Kiris on the Shyok, and Parkutta, Tolti and Kharmang, which were on the Indus and controlled the path to Leh.  
  From 1846 Baltistan was ruled by the maharajah of Kashmir, whose cruel Hindu soldiers were hated by the Baltis. The British were only minimally interested in the area, as they considered it of little strategic value. At Independence in 1947, the Balti people, aided by a small number of freedom fighters, including the Gilgit Scouts, rebelled against their Kashmiri rulers became part of Pakistan. The Kashmiris were for a time isolated within the Askandria Fort.
SKARDU : Perched at a height of 7500 Ft, Skardu is located amidst an impressive landscape, towering mountains, deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, creeping glaciers and quiet lakes. Skardu is in the heart of a towering frontier land. To its north lies the Sinkiang province of China, to the south Kashmir, to the West Gilgit and to the east the district of Ladakh in India. Skardu is the trekker and mountain climbers paradise. Nowhere can you find such a collection of lofty peaks and glaciers .The Baltoro Glacier, the best known, is that spectacular conjunction of Godwin Austen and Baltoro glaciers called Concordia, lying in the heart of the most heavily glaciated region outside the polar areas. Within a radius of 12 miles rise six peaks over 20,000 Ft.  This is the center of the densest concentration of lofty peaks on earth. Some of these magnificent mountains in the Karakoram range are Masherbrum (25,600 Ft), Mustagh tower (23,690 Ft), K-2 (28,741 Ft), Broad Peak (26,400 Ft), Gasherbrum IV (26,810 Ft), Sia Kangri (24,350 Ft) Golden Throne (23,989 Ft), Mitre Peak (19,718 Ft), Chogolisa (25,110 Ft) and Hidden Peak (26,470 Ft) and many others. 

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AYUBIA : 24 kms beyond Murree lies the enchanting hill resort of Ayubia, named after Field Marshall Ayub Khan. A cluster of 4 different villages and chair lift to a hill park greet the visitors. Nathiagali, at an elevation of 2500 meters (8200 ft) is the highest and most majestic of all the Gallis. Clouds trapped amidst pine forest are a common site; pink maple chestnuts blossoms add an unforgettable fragrance to the air. Majestic oaks complete this idyllic picture - truly an exhilarating experience.

BAHRIAN : At 1400 meters Bahrain is another tourist attraction of Swat located at the picturesque junction of the roaring Swat River and the rushing Bahrain Nulla. The one lane bazaar offers colorful embroideries, handicrafts and local antiques. There are dozens of small hotels and restaurants with their balconies overlooking the rivers. This is an interesting area for explorers, who could stumble on important archaeological findings. From here the road starts to climb steeply towards Kalam.  The bare mountains close in on the road, which drops away precipitously to the river. Beyond Bahrain is Kohistan where the Pushto tribe gives way to the Torwalis and Bushkaris.   

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BALAKOT : The gateway to the Kaghan Valley, is a little way up the Kunhar River, 72 kms (45 miles) from Abbotabad. The small bustling town with its colorful bazaar and the old wooden bridge over the rushing Kunhar river are set up with a picturesque backdrop of pine covered slopes. The huge boulders on these slopes dotted with countless bullet holes tell the story of the battle between the Muslims and the Sikhs fought in the mid 19th century. Its main road connects the town with Shogran and Naran the main tourist attractions of the Kaghan Valley. 
BUTKARA temple was built in the 2nd century B.C by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka to house some of the ashes of Buddha. In subsequent centuries it was enlarged five times by adding new shells around the original stupa, each stupa completely enclosing the old one inside.  Later 215 Votive Stupas were built around the main stupa, all decorated with schist columns, lions with curly manes, eagles, lilies, cupids and lotus flowers. Some of the best stone carvings have been removed to the museums around the world.  

CHITRAL: Chitral forms the North-Western roof of the Indian Sub Continent. The rugged Hindukush range comprises Chitral's Northern and Westerly borders while the imposing Hindu Raj mountains isolate it from the South. This isolated valley was once in the domain of Alexander who marched through Chitral in 327 B.C. The Adamzada, the old ruling clan, proudly traces the linkage to the 14th century Tartar Emperor, Tamerlane. These governors called Mehatars dominated the state for 350 years until about 1960 when Chitral's statehood ended. Now Chitral is directly governed by Pakistan. The highest mountains of the Hindukush, Tirich Mir (25,264 ft) over shadows the Chitral town.  

The best way to see the petite town of Chitral is on foot. The walk tour may begin by visiting the Shahi Mosque, built by the Mehatars, overlooking the Chitral river. The highest mountain of the Hindukush, Tirich Mir (7788 meters) solemnly overlooks the entire town. Chitral Fort, a grim imposing building that tells the tales of the days of the siege of Chitral in 1895. The guns of Cols Kelly and Roberts, Gen Low and Captain Ross are well maintained in the fort. Chitral Bazaar is known for hunting semi precious stones & handicrafts; such as waist coasts, belts, caps, woolen rugs, silver jewelry, embroideries, shoes, musical instruments and baskets.
DEOSAI PLATEAU : Known for the rolling grasslands studded with multicolored flowers, sporadic windstorms, haunting desolation and enthralling wildlife, the seldom visited Deosai Plateau (now a national park & protected area) is located in the southwest-northwest of Skardu, at 4,300 meters (14,000 feet) and is the natural habitat of the Great Himalayan Brown Bear (equal to size of the American Grizzly) & Himalayan Marmots. The undulating slopes of Deosai Plateau domain several summer swamps and a unique replica of Arctic Tundra with many interesting alpine and Arctic plant forms. Most species bloom at the same time - during the brief summer of July and August when, addition to sedges, grasses and dwarf willows, many plants grow in tufts and some form compact cushions.
 KHALPLU : Guarding the trade route to Ladakh along the Shayok River, Khaplu was the largest kingdom in Baltistan. It is located 103 Kilometers (64 Miles) in the South East of Skardu. A dramatic jeep ride of 5 hours proceeds along the meandering Shayok River on a bumpy trail carving its way through the spectacular Oasis of  Gol, Kiris, Bara, Ugo and Ghawari all terraced along the steep cliffs and rigid mountain scape. The Shayok River flows into the Indus about 35 Kms (22 miles) from Skardu and the Khaplu road continues on the South bank round the foot of dark grey mountains, their slopes deeply scored by rockfall and landslides. Below the road the sand dunes, curved and fluted by the wind, are reminiscent of Tibet. Khaplu stretches in a wide fan from the base of a semicircular wall of mountain, dropping some 300 meters to river level. The scattered houses set amid terraced fields are connected by paths and irrigation channels. The friendly open villagers always welcome the visitors.  The people of Khaplu belong to the Noor-Bakhsh sect of Shia Muslims but are more liberal and tolerant as compared to the Shias. The women are unveiled, like the Ismailis in Hunza. Dominating the valley from the top of the alluvial fan, the imposing palace of the ex-ruler overlooks the village. Its whitewashed facade, punctuated by irregularly placed little windows, support an extravagant four-tier carved wooden balcony up its center. Built 200 years ago, it has a faintly Tibetan air.  At 2600 meters (8400 feet) Khaplu is cooler than Skardu, which when combined with the friendly character of the people and the superb walks along the irrigation channels makes Khaplu the nicest place to stay in Baltistan.
DIR (DEER) : The independent Kingdom of Dir was absorbed into Pakistan only in 1962. Since one of the main trade routes from Eastern Afghanistan passed through lower Dir, there are several places of historical interest to be seen along the road  among which Talash Valley, Kat Kala Fort and Timargarha are quite rich in their archaeological heritage left by the Aryans , Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. None of these remains has been excavated, but they date from the second to the ninth century. Dir has a well wooded countryside with fine views. This beautiful town is inhabited by the upright, fierce yet very hospitable Pathans whose prestige is earned, maintained and avenged by a bullet.  

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GARAM CHASHMA : "Garam" means "Hot" and "Chashma" means "Spring". 45 kms north-west of Chitral, these Hot Sulphur Springs are known around the world for curing skin diseases, gout, rheumatism and headaches. The paved road follows the south bank of Lutkho river through a steep-sided gorge and emerges into the green and wooded valley guarded by a mud walled fort. This is the picturesque Lutkho valley which arcs north-west from Chitral to the Afghan frontier.  It is a scenic, stark chasm of barren red rock walls and precipitous scree slopes, punctuated by incredibly green oases in occasional spots of bottom land.  Rice and corn crops are watered by intricate irrigation systems, on terraces walled off by generations.  A hard land fitting to the large Afghan refugee population which now shares living space with their native brothers. 

KAGHAN VALLEY : Terraced from river to hilltop and covered in forests of huge Himalayan pine, the Kaghan Valley is one of the most beautiful in Pakistan and is reminiscent of the alpine scenery of Europe. Kaghan is just on the edge of the monsoon belt, so there is no need for irrigation here. The slopes are steep, and villages cling precariously to the sides of the hills, the tops of which are often hidden by clouds. Kaghan is not on the normal tourist route: it is for the lover of nature, hiking, fishing and other outdoor pleasures.

  Most confusingly, there is no Kaghan River, rather, the Kunhar River flows through the Kaghan Valley, down from high in the Indus Kohistan to join the Jehlum at Muzaffarabad. The valley is over 160 kilometers (100 miles) long and climbs from about 900 meters (3,000 feet) at Balakot to 4,173 meters (13,690 feet) at the Babusar Pass. The road through the valley and up over the Babusar Pass to Chilas on the Indus opened in 1898; it was the main route to the Northern Areas and Gilgit before the Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978. Closed for most of the year by heavy snow, the Babusar Pass is only jeepable for the short summer months.  

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KALAM : Kalam is at 2100 meters, it slopes down gradually, terminating in a sharp drop to the main roadway and river. Upper Swat or Kohistan belongs culturally to the northern region as the architecture of the old mosque and the carvings of wooden pillars, window frames and door jambs indicate.  Although there is no road from here to Chitral or Gilgit, the upper northern cultural influence must have filtered in along the food trails.  This region is the boundary marking cultural changes from south to north.  Kalam has a tranquil air and a pleasant climate during the day, though nights tend to be cold.  On a clear day you can see the 5918 meter high Mt Falaksair from the upper section of the town.  In the north-east of the valley its snow-clad upper slopes and peak rise above dense, lush forests.  The river rushes through the town, right across from the old mosque. The wooden mosque of Kalam is the highlight of the whole valley & worth paying a visit.   

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