The Foreign Office has lifted advice against travelling to the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, opening up some of the world’s most dramatic mountain scenery to Britons
The region of northern Pakistan in which the Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges meet had been deemed unsuitable for travellers since June 2013, when a group of climbers was killed at a remote base camp at the foot of Nanga Parbat mountain.
The lifting of the advice means that the area, renowned for some of the world’s best scenery, trekking and walking opportunities, will become more accessible to foreigners.
Visitors are drawn by superb opportunities for treks and walks, including the so-called “Throne Room of the Mountain Gods” at Concordia K2 basecamp, where the glacial floor is surrounded by seven of the world’s 25 highest peaks.
The Hunza Peak may be seen from the now accessible region (Photo: Scott Bennett)
Jonny Bealby, founder of adventure tour operator Wild Frontiers, said that the revised travel advice was “great news” for the area.
He added: “Gilgit-Baltistan is very close to my heart, as the beauty of the area and the hospitality of the local people inspired me to start Wild Frontiers, in order to allow others to discover this fantastic region.”
As well as offering splendid scenery and numerous walking opportunities, Gilgit-Baltistan is famed as the setting for Shangri La, a fictional place described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. The region offers memorable panoramas of some of the world’s best peaks, including K2, the world’s second highest mountain.
The belly of the Hunza valley changes colour throughout the year, surrouded by dramatic peaks (Photo: Wild Frontiers)
The Hunza Valley, at 2,438 metres, is one of the highlights, blushing different hues throughout the year, as cherry blossom in the spring cedes to brilliant scarlet and yellow leaves in autumn.
Cherry blossom in the Hunza Valley (Photo: AP)
The idiosyncratic Baltit wooden fort sits above the regional capital, Karimabad, while the valley’s fauna and flora are rich and varied, including the elusive snow leopard, impressively-horned Marco Polo sheep, and eagles. Crops include apricots, cherries and grapes, while visitors can look forward to food including “pizza” made from folded chapattis.
Apricots dry in the sun in the Hunza Valley (Photo: Wild Frontiers)
While a lack of roads meant the area was cut off from the rest of Pakistan and the world before the 1970s, the Karakoram Highway, the world’s highest paved road, now passes through the region, providing access to the border with China at Sust. Crossing the 22km lake at Attabad requires putting jeep transport on the back of a boat.
The colours are particularly bright in autumn (Photo: AP)
Jonny Bealby added that the introduction next month of five new aircraft manufactured by French-Italian aviation company ATR to Gilgit and Skardu airports would make access to the region “a lot more reliable in the future.”
Hotel facilities in Gilgit-Baltistan are limited, though the Eagle’s Nest Hotel is well reputed.
An aerial view of the Eagle’s Nest Hotel (Photo: Eagle’s Nest Hotel)
Wild Frontiers offers two trips into Gilgit-Baltistan, including a 21-day itinerary that offers four days in the region. It ran the trip while the Foreign Office advised against travel to the area, after a brief suspension following the 2013 attack by the Pakistani Taliban at Nanga Parbat. Jonny Bealby said that the safety of clients was “paramount”, and Wild Frontiers decided to resume trips to northern Pakistan in 2014 following a thorough review of operations in the area using the company’s local contacts, finding that both departures passed without incident.
“We are delighted to see that the Foreign Office now agrees with our assessment of the situation and hope this will encourage others to start running trips to this most beautiful part of the world,” Jonny Bealby added.
Nanga Parbat peak. (Photo: Wild Frontiers
Other companies have stopped trips into Pakistan in recent years, due to security concerns. The Mountain Company is not currently offering trips to Pakistan, while World Expeditions has a Pakistan section on its website but no tours currently on offer.
The Foreign Office still advises against “all but essential” travel to other parts of Pakistan, including the Kalesh Valley, the Bamoboret Valley and Arandu district to the south and west of the town of Chitral, and Quetta and Nawabshah further south. It advises against “all travel” to many other cities and districts, including Peshawar, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and northern and western Balochistan in the south of the country.
Approximately 270,000 Britons visit Pakistan every year, and the Foreign Office says that most trips are “trouble free”. Check the latest advice before planning a trip to Pakistan: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/pakistan
Original source. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/