Gilgit District is home to the capital of Gilgit Balistan, the eponymous Gilgit. Strategically located in the center of Gilgit Baltistan, and on the way to some of the most popular destinations in the north, Gilgit has well developed tourism infrastructure. Most people traveling to the north will stop in Gilgit one way or another. In high season, it pays to book accommodation ahead of time. Below you can find all the information you need about Gilgit in our Gilgit District travel guide.
Best time visit Gilgit District
Gilgit lays at 1,500 meters above sea level. Summers can be very hot. However, most people visit Gilgit for its surroundings, so spring and summer are usually the best time to go.
Best things to do in Gilgit District
As the capital of the district and of the area, Gilgit warrants a short stopover. The town has a lively bazar and it’s a good place to stock up on supplies if you go camping and hiking. But besides this it’s a rather unremarkable town, and doesn’t warrant a long stay.
Kragah Buddha and Hanzal Stupa
Roughly 10 km outside Gilgit you can find Kragah Buddha, fine Buddha carvings dating back to the 7th century. The carvings are reminiscent of a time where Gilgit was an import stop on the Silk Route. A bit further way from Gilgit there is the Hanzal Stupa, another landmark harking back to the days of Buddhism in these regions. The stupa is mostly in ruins, and it requires some imagination to see what it must have been like, but it makes for a great half-day trip from Gilgit.
40 km away from Gilgit, Naltar offers a great glimpse into the splendor of Gilgit Baltistan. Home to a pine forest, lakes, and even ski slopes, Naltar offers a great escape from the dry heat of Gilgit. The area is under the supervision of the army, so make sure to bring your ID when visiting. Naltar is accessible by Jeeps from Gilgit.
A small valley about 25 km north of Gilgit city. This valley is nice for short walks and offers great scenery around harvest seasons. There are many ethnic tribes here, and people are kind and welcoming. The valley is connected to the Karakorum Highway through a bridge.
About half an hour away from Gilgit town, this small valley offers spectacular scenery, with good views of Rakaposhi and Diran mountains. In seasons it’s lush with fruit treas and it’s a pleasure to explore by foot.
Best places to stay in Gilgit District
The main town of Gilgit has the best accommodation of the region. Some villages offer guest houses and Nalter has facilities available as well.
- Budget: Pak China Gateway Hotel – Next to Gilgit South/East Bus station, this place is good for if you need to catch an early morning bus or if you’re on a tight budget.
- Budget: Xama Stores and Serene Guesthouse – Owned by amicable Qayum, who works at the jewelry shop by Park Hotel on airport road, this place offer basic dorms and private rooms. Qayum, who can usually be found in his store, traveled in Europe and has lots of great stories.
- Mid-range: Madina Hotel 1 & 2 – These two hotels decent value at reasonable rates. They are conveniently located near the main bazar, and the manager is helpful.
- Mid-range: PTDC Motel Gilgit – The building this PTDC Motel is housed in is less nice than other PTDC Motels, but it offers the same level of service and comfort.
- Luxury: Gilgit Serena Hotel – A bit removed from the town, this luxurious place offers the levels of service and comfort you can expect from a Serena branded hotel.
- Mid-range: The Dream Jungle Inn – In a more remote part of the Naltar Valley, this place has a bit of a wild feel, with big rooms and plenty to explore around the hotel.
- Mid-range: Naltar Palace Hotel – Basic but peaceful and cozy, this friendly place offers good service in a beautiful setting.
Best places to eat in Gilgit
Most hotels and guest houses can arrange food, and there are several types of restaurants in Gilgit.
- Budget: Sha Bul Hayat Restaurant – Conveniently located in the city center, around the corner from the post office, this local place is great for a small bite and drink.
- Budget: Rehmat Chicken Tikka Center – On the corner of Airport Rd and Link Road, this place does great chicken barbecue. The main restaurants in men only, but there is a small family room across the street.
- Mid-range: Paradise Grill – On River View Rd, just beyond the airport, this clean place does great kabab and other barbecue items.
- Mid-range: Sahil Restaurant – Relatively new restaurant on the banks of the Indus River. Offers good vibes and tasty food.
How to get to and from Gilgit
Gilgit is on the KKH, and a major stopping point for anyone traveling north. Gilgit is roughly 520 km away from Islamabad, and 850 km away from Lahore. Due to the difference in driving conditions between the north and the rest of the country, we advise people to drive carefully and takes several days to reach Gilgit. Driving at high altitudes and on narrow roads is very different from driving on multi-lane highways.
Gilgit is well connected by bus. NATCO. NATCO operates buses from several cities and towns in Pakistan. Check out the NATCO website for more information.
PIA operates daily flights from Islamabad to Gilgit. These flights billed as air safaris, offer an amazing opportunity to see the northern mountain ranges from the sky. It’s supposed to be an amazing experience. Flights sell out quickly and can be canceled without much of a notice. Check out the PIA website for more info.
Gilgit is the starting or ending point for many multi-day hikes. It’s also possible to string several hikes together and walk to for instance Chitral. If you plan on doing hiking of this nature, make sure to connect with reliable local contacts.