30 Aug The Ultimate Guide – Things to Remember while visiting Gilgit-Baltistan
If you are a backpacker and have the itching wanderlust to travel to southeast Asia and look at a variety of nature with some really tall mountains and lush green landscape than the northern parts of Pakistan, specifically the province of Gilgit Baltistan will be more your interest. With quite decent amounts of civilization present within this province, there is no shortage of snow-capped mountains or forest in this area as well plenty of activities present and the amazing and helpful people present in this who would help you no matter what race, creed or color you belong to, you are their guests and they will do everything to help you have a nice stay in their homeland.
This article hopefully serves as a guide to how I personally had a recent trip around in the end of March to Gilgit Baltistan where I went to a number of areas to ultimately reach Shandur (Somewhere in the north-west of Gilgit Baltistan) as my departure was from Lahore. I will try to explain in detail how one can plan their trip and the ways you can approach this trip in terms of driving to there, budget and the things you can come across, regardless of your destination.
Given you are an expat that is visiting Lahore or Islamabad (even closer to Gilgit Baltistan) and has plans to travel around Gilgit Baltistan, you need to first see how you want to go about this, first step, are you going to travel by yourself or would you rather go with a group, my trip was alongside other fellow university students (around 40 in strength) that was organized by a fellow student while working alongside ‘Traverse Pakistan’ who were responsible for the booking of a coaster that can fit 30 people and the booking of the hotels along with the whole itinerary we agreed to, it was a 9 day trip and majority of it was traveling and stopping at various places in Punjab and Gilgit Baltistan. You have more freedom if you plan it by yourself but there are agencies who have planned everything for you for a fixed fee, they also know the best way to go about that trip.
Most start their journey from any city of the Punjab. Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar etc. You can take a bus all the way up to Hunza or Murree and resume your journey from there, if you are in your own rental car, then using google maps will help a lot to cover most of the distance
Since you will be quite far away from civilization, it won’t hurt to keep accessories then can aid you when you lose your way or help you charge your electronics to take record of your travels, especially if you are photographer and happen to be making a vlog of your travels up north. Mi’s solar charger for your batteries, some 20000 Mah power banks, car chargers and a DIY car tire inflator you can get one of from Aliexpress. If you are going to camp rather than staying at a hotel (which is much more natural) then be sure to pick up Northface’s anti-cut windbreaker tents, more secure and really high quality. In my opinion, tents are the way to go, some hotels even let you camp by their hotel, like I said, very hospitable people.
If you are an expat, chances are you might be looking into travel insurance since the place you are going isn’t exactly safe and that is the reason that your insurance isn’t going to cover you when you go to Pakistan as some Areas, especially Gilgit-Baltistan which is in border with disputed Kashmir.
The real travel when you pass Murree and onto reach Besham where you can make your first stop for some refreshment, you can have lunch here, given you leave from Murree at around 8AM. Then you will head straight for Chillas where you will have to stay the night. One thing to keep in mind during all of this is to pass the borders as quick as you can, Chillas’s border closes at 9PM so if you reach well after that, you won’t be allowed to crossed and forced to go back to live in some hotel nearby if you can find one. So Keep the borders in mind, google them or ask a travel agent or a friend that has gone before who may know the precise timings. This should be done according to your itinerary and the places you want to visit and pass through. Try to manage it in a way with google maps to know how long you’ll travel, where you’ll stay and where you can have your lunch since breakfast and dinner can be done at the hotles you’ll stay or cooked near your tents.
Don’t forget to enjoy and keep on sightseeing
We may have covered but the last part is perhaps the most important one is to enjoy. Feel the fresh mountain breeze, the smell of the rain dew of the plants. The fresh smell of nature, all of these factors accentuate the experience as a whole. The behemoths of mountain such as Nanga Parbat, a very dangerous climb to summit and the Gasherbrum’s group and K2, the mountain of mountains. All 5 of these are above 8000M with K2 reaching 8850m which translates to 29500 feet, the elevation of which a Boeing 747 travels on. Such mystical natural bodies are to be appreciated and marveled at, so no matter how much you might be busy in working, photographing you experience, do take your time to appreciate these natural bodies, as they are extremely rare to be found in a world where nature is being converted into civilization at such a fats rate. Enjoy the local food, if you can, converse with the locals, or let them entertain you and let them show you around some of the important heritage or non-tourist spots that would make it worth your while. You may not get to see everything unless you plan to stay around the area for more than a month or two to, but do try to hit the most important spots if you can because for some, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to traverse this deep into the beautiful side of Pakistan.