Gilgit Baltistan was formerly known as Northern Areas primarily because of its location. It is situated in the northernmost territory of Pakistan, stretching over 72,971 km², bordering the state of Azad Kashmir to the south and china in the north east.
Gilgit Baltistan is undoubtedly, among the most spectacular region of Asia in terms of its geography and scenic beauty. It is the meeting points of the world’s three mightiest mountain ranges i.e. the Karakoram, the Handukush and the Himalayas. Five out of the fourteen mountain peaks with height of over 8000 meters including the K-2 and some of the largest glaciers outside Polar Regions are located in Gilgit Baltistan. It is also well known for its bio-diversity and is a heaven for herb and medical researchers.
History of Gilgit Balistan dates back to the construction of the Silk Route by Chinese empire.
It has always been at the crossroads of conquerors, raiders and travelers. Therefore, its history has been deeply influenced by the various incidences of history that is evident from the preserved carvings left by various invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the trade route.
There were number of small princely states in the region until the arrival of British in 19th century. It was then that GB was administered directly under the Kashmir Government as a part of District Laddakh. Due to its geo-strategic location the area always remained a flash point of political and military rivalries amongst the Russian, British and Chinese empires.
Being home to various communities makes GB a multi-cultural state.
The cultural diversity is so intense that a whole language may entirely change within a distance of few kilometers. Overall, the region has a thousand year old culture that has strong ties and ethical relations with Ladakh. The historical heritages like kharpocho fort and old inscriptions and pictures of Buddha carved in the mountains and rocks speak off the artistry and will power of its people. The best thing about GB is the way locals have preserved their culture and norms. Eric Lucas a Swedish backpacker who was overwhelmed by the cultural heritage said;
“In all my years of backpacking, I have seen many communities preserving and celebrating their culture, but I am stunned by the persistence of people of this valley. 1600ft hanging in the sky, the resilient inhabitants have guarded their tradition against the bizarre international happenings, making it a heaven on earth”.
There a number of ethnic communities living in the region.
Some of them are Gilgitis, Baltis, kashmiris, Tajiks, Hunzis etc. They speak different languages and have a stark contrast in lifestyles. GB is also home for non Muslim ethnic communities like Buddhists and Hindus.