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Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of over 72,971 km² (28,174 sq mi) and is highly mountainous. It had an estimated population of 1,800,000 in 2015. Its capital city is Gilgit (population 216,760 est). Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan. The main tourism activities are trekking and mountaineering, and this industry is growing in importance.
Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into three divisions which, in turn, are divided into ten districts, consisting of the four Baltistan districts of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, and Ghanche, and the four Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Hunza and Nagar and two districts of Diamer and Astore are part of Diamer Division. The principal administrative centers are the town is Gilgit.
Gilgit-Baltistan is a multilingual region where Urdu being a national and official language serves as the lingua franca for inter ethnic communications. English is co-official and also used in education, while Arabic is used for religious purposes. Below is a breakup of Gilgit-Baltistan first-language speakers.
1. Shina: It is a Dardic language spoken by the majority in six tehsils (Gilgit, Diamir/Chilas, Darel/Tangir, Astore, Puniyal/Gahkuch and Rondu).
2. Balti: It is spoken by the majority in five tehsils (Skardu/Shigar, Kharmang, Gultari, Khaplu and Mashabrum). It is from the Tibetan language family and has Urdu borrowings.
3. Burushaski: It is spoken by the majority in four tehsils (Nagar 1, Lower and Central Hunza, Nagar II, and Yasin). It is a language isolate that has borrowed considerable Urdu vocabulary.
4. Khowar: It is spoken by the majority in two tehsils (Gupis and Ishkomen) but also spoken in Yasin and Puniyal/Gahkuch Tehsils. Like Shina, it is a Dardic language.
5. Wakhi: It is spoken by the majority of people in Gojal Tehsil of Hunza. But it is also spoken in Ishkomen and Yasin Tehsils of District Ghizer. It is classified as eastern Iranian/ Pamiri language.
Others Pashto, Kashmiri, Domaaki (spoken by musician clans in the region) and Gojri languages are also spoken by a significant population of the region.
The cultural heritage of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan is rich, beautiful and unique and it manifests in local traditions, music and local dress. The dress plays a central role in identity of a person. Traditional clothing of the region is influenced by local culture, geography and weather. The traditional cap of Gilgit Baltistan has played a major role to define the identity of people of Gilgit Baltistan. The cap has different names in the major local languages. In Shina and Khowar languages the cap is called Khoi, in brushaski it is called Phartsun or Pharsen and in Wakhi it is called Sekeed. The design of cap is slightly different in Baltistan and it is called Nating in Balti.
Traditional cap is soft round toped woolen hat. It is made by local artisan and is available in various colors. White caps are most popular in the region and considered as a part of formal local dress. In many areas people, specially the older generation still wear their traditional cap all the time with pride. They consider it a sign of honor.
The most striking feature of the cap is the peacock plume and the feather stuck in front or on the side of the cap. It gives a very elegant look to the cap. It is considered a part of formal dress cap and used in groom’s dress.
In many parts of Gilgit Baltistan a small fresh flower is stuck in front and side of the the cap. Flower is a symbol of freshness, fragrance and livelihood. When the spring season starts sometimes the farmers and shepherds stuck a pine tree leave to symbolize life. One of the custom of many regions in Gilgit Baltistan is to stuck money into the cap while someone is dancing. This symbolizes the love and respect to the dancer from his friend’s relatives and fans. The dancer gives this money to the musicians once the dance is finished.
A variety of cultural festivals held in Gilgit Baltistan throughout the year present an exclusive facet of its cultural assortment and different forms of expressions. These festivals represent a number of important recurring merriment, cultural events and religious festival brings value additions to the surroundings. The folk music instruments commonly used in Gilgit Baltistan are Dadang (drum) Damal (percussion) Duff (a circle framed drum) Suranaye (a kind of flute) Ghajak (spiked fiddle) Sitar, Rubab and Gabi (flute).
A majority of the people in Gilgit Baltistan prefer to live in a joint family, which could comprise anywhere between a group of two or more, even over 20 members sometimes. The commanding position in a family is held by the eldest earning male member. He consults other adult members on important issues, but it is his decision that ultimately prevails. However, a lot of importance is also given to the advice of the eldest retired members of the family.
Depends on your arrival time
In this trip we will drive on 8th wonder of the world “Karakorum Highway” along the Indus river and visit all the villages of Gilgit-Baltistan (Formerly Northern Areas of Pakistan) to experience the culture and for sightseeing. You will have chance to do some short treks in the Karakoram mountain range of Pakistan.