Unveiling the Beauty of Naltar Valley: A Hidden Gem in Gilgit-Baltistan
Nestled majestically amidst towering mountains at an astonishing elevation of approximately 15,000 feet lies the picturesque Naltar Valley, a true jewel near the town of Gilgit in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. This idyllic highland boasts the dual distinction of being a perfect summer escape and a world-renowned winter ski resort, attracting both national and international skiing enthusiasts year after year. Enveloped in lush greenery, adorned with pine, spruce, birch, rowan, and juniper trees, and cradled by emerald hills and snow-capped peaks, Naltar Valley is not only a natural wonder but also home to the Gujjar tribe, renowned for cultivating delectable and oversized potatoes.
Exploring Naltar Valley: Geography and Accessibility
Located approximately 19 kilometers uphill from the Nomal Valley, which serves as a base and is situated at the mouth of the gorge, Naltar Valley is easily accessible. The Nomal Valley itself is a mere 20-kilometer drive from Gilgit via the western bank of the Hunza River and about 70 kilometers from Hunza Valley, accessible via the Karakoram Highway, passing through Rahimabad and crossing a sturdy concrete bridge over the Hunza River.
To reach Upper Naltar (Naltar Bala or Ajeeni Naltar in the local Shina language) from Gilgit takes approximately 2.5 hours, while the journey from Hunza extends to around 4 hours.
A Haven for Travelers: Tourist Attractions in Naltar Valley
Naltar Valley is a haven for those seeking respite from the urban hustle and bustle or yearning for unadulterated serenity. Whether you plan a day trip or opt for an overnight stay, the valley offers various accommodation options, including the possibility of camping. Key attractions in the area include:
Naltar has firmly established itself as a premier winter sports destination, hosting international ski competitions. Due to its elevated location, Naltar receives a substantial amount of snow each year, making it perfect for skiing. The Ski Federation of Pakistan operates ski lifts, and every February, the valley becomes a magnet for national and international athletes.
2. Trekking Routes
Naltar Valley serves as the starting point for two enchanting medium-level treks: one leading to the Naltar Pass (approximately 4,600 meters) towards the east, connecting to the Ishkoman Valley, and the other traversing the Daintar Pass (4,636 meters) westward to Chalt. A two-hour drive spanning approximately 47 kilometers from Gilgit along the western bank of the Hunza River brings you to Nomal Village, your gateway to these exciting treks.
The journey from Upper Naltar to the lakes covers about 13 kilometers of jeep-able road. However, when the road is impassable or washed away, a scenic walking trail opens up. These hikes take several hours on foot depending on the condition. This rugged jeep track runs alongside a rivulet, leading you to the captivating Bashkiri Lake – I, Bashkiri Lake – II, and Bashkiri Lake – III, nestled closely together at the gorge’s end. Locally, these lakes are known as “Chimo Bari (Fish Lake),” “Chakar Bari (Multi Ends Lake),” and “Bodolok Bari (Turbid Lake).”
These lakes are ensconced within dense pine forests. Winters bring harsh conditions and sometimes pile up to 10 to 15 feet of snow. Summers attract hordes of local and international tourists and trekkers eager to explore this natural wonder.
Glacial waters originating near the Wakhan Corridor’s border converge to form a rivulet that meanders through the gorge’s heart until it meets the Hunza River. This natural watercourse provides opportunities for activities like camping, cooking, and irrigation. These various enjoyable activities along its pristine banks, enhance the overall visitor experience.
5. Camping and Outdoor Activities
Naltar Valley boasts numerous camping sites, making it ideal for overnight or weekend camping adventures. The valley’s safety and availability of fresh vegetables at reasonable prices ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay. The hiking trails leading to breathtaking viewpoints along with its magnificent medium-range mountains, provide ample opportunities for exploration. Naltar is also famous for its diverse flora and fauna.
The Weather in Naltar Valley
Naltar Valley enjoys perpetually romantic weather. Even during the peak of summer, the lakeside at Naltar experiences frequent light showers, adding to the area’s allure. The ever-changing romantic weather, combined with the stunning natural scenery, makes a visit to Naltar Valley an unforgettable experience.
Light refreshments like tea and cookies are available for tourists at the lakeside. However, visitors planning to spend an entire day at Naltar are advised to make personal meal arrangements.
Accessing Naltar Valley
Please note that the new road to the Naltar Valley is under construction and accessible solely by 4WD Jeeps. Transport and camping arrangements for overnight in tents, are available for your convenience.