Budha's rock carving (Top) - Gilgit Monument (Below - Photo courtesy Karrar Haidri )
Located on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), the Eighth Wonder of the World, Gilgit is the most important city in the Northern Area of Pakistan. Gilgit provides the jump pad to some of the loftiest and mightiest pinnacles of the world and lush green valleys. It is also the biggest city after one crosses into Pakistan from China on KKH. It provides an insight into the so called Virgin Beauty of unexplored world.
Gilgit is the administrative capital of Northern Area Pakistan, consisted of six districts namely Ghezir, Gilgit, Diamar, Astore, Baltistan (Skardu) and Ghanche. Its ancient name was Sargin, later to be known as Gilit, and it is still called Gilit or Sargin-Gilit by local people, in the Burushaski language, it is named Geelt. Ghallata is considered its name in ancient Sanskrit literature. Gilgit city is one of the two major hubs on the Northern Areas for all mountaineering expeditions of Karakoram to the peaks of the Himalayas, the other hub being Skardu.
It is accessible by road and air from Islamabad. It has an area of 14,680 mi (38,021 km ). Gilgit lies about 10 km off the Karakoram Highway. The KKH connects it to Chilas, Dasu, Besham, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Islamabad in the south. In the North it is connected to Karimabad (Hunza) and Sust in the Northern Areas and to the Chinese cities of Tashkurgan, Upal and Kashgar in Xinjiang.
The maximum temperature in May is 33 C and minimum 16 C In September. Gilgit is the gateway to China and Central Asia. Gilgit is also the hub of various valleys to the North Hunza and China. To the South, Diamar, Kohistan and Swat. To the East Skardu and Kashmir, and to the West Ghezir and Chitral. Shina is the language mainly spoken and understood in Gilgit Northern Area of Pakistan. Beside Shina people can speak and understand Urdu and English. Gilgit is well connected by air with Islamabad. You can take a flight to Gilgit from the capital of the country and reach Gilgit. The airport at Gilgit is just a mile away from the main bazaar and you can take mini-vans or some other vehicle to reach Gilgit town. Many tourists choose to travel Gilgit by air since the road travel between Islamabad and Gilgit by Karakoram Highway takes nearly 18 hours, whereas the air travel takes a mere 45-50 minutes. There are various transports companies i.e. Silk Route Transport Pvt, Mashabrum Transport Pvt and Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO). But NATCO has vast coverage faciality. It offers passenger road service between Islamabad, Gilgit, Sust and Tashkurgan, and road service between Kashgar and Gilgit (via Tashkurgan and Sust) started in the summer of 2006. However, the border crossing between China and Pakistan at Khunjerab Pass (the highest border of the world) is open only between May 1 and October 15 of every year. During winter, the roads are blocked by snow. Even during the monsoon season in summer, the roads are often blocked due to landslides. The best time to travel on Karakoram Highway is spring or early summer.
The region is significantly mountainous, lying on the foothills of the Karakoram mountains, and has an average altitude of 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Gilgit city is one of the two major hubs for all mountaineering expeditions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. For the sportive, one of the most interesting excursions is to Rakaposhi base camp. Rakaposhi is a 8-km giant. The peak tourist season is from May to mid-October though the tourist season is round the year.
Gilgit was an important city on the Silk Road through which Buddhism was spread from South Asia to the rest of Asia. A large number of Buddhist Sanskrit texts, included the long version of the Heart Sutra have been unearthed in Gilgit. The Dards and Cizinas also appear in many of the old Pauranic lists of peoples, with the former finding mention in Ptolemy's accounts of the region. Two famous travelers, Faxian, and Xuanzang are known to have traversed Gilgit as per their accounts.“
Two miles out of town there are a pair of Buddha's carved in to a high rock. They go back to the 5-th century. It's a nice hike, the scenery on your way is gorgeous. Then there is a monument to commemorate the fact that the boy scouts of Gilgit were the spark that set the flame in the battle between Pakistan and India for supremacy over Kashmir. The beautiful valley of Naltar in the south eastern side of Gilgit is 35 km away from the main town. It's lush green pastures and green carpeted ground make it a jewel of the Gilgit. It is a forested (pine) village known for its wildlife and magnificent mountain scenery.