A map of the disputed Kashmir region showing the Pakistani administered region of Baltistan, a part of Pakistani-administered Gilgit-Baltistan
A map of the disputed Kashmir region showing the Pakistani administered region of Baltistan, a part of Pakistani-administered Gilgit-Baltistan
Coordinates: 35°18′N 75°37′E / 35.300°N 75.617°E / 35.300; 75.617
Administering CountryPakistan
 • TypeDivisional Administration
 • CommissionerShuja Alam (PAS)
 • Deputy Inspector General (DIG)Cap. (R) Liaquat Ali Malik (PSP)
 • Total31,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi)
 • Total303,214

Baltistan (Urdu: بلتستان; Balti: སྦལ་ཏི་སྟཱན་།) also known as Baltiyul or Little Tibet (Balti: སྦལ་ཏི་ཡུལ་།), is a mountainous region in the Pakistani-administered territory of Gilgit–Baltistan. It is located near the Karakoram (south of K2) and borders Gilgit to the west, China's Xinjiang to the north, Indian-administered Ladakh to the southeast, and the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley to the southwest.[3][4] The average altitude of the region is over 3,350 metres (10,990 ft). Baltistan is largely administered under the Baltistan Division.

Prior to the partition of British India in 1947, Baltistan was part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, having been conquered by Gulab Singh's armies in 1840.[5] Baltistan and Ladakh were administered jointly under one wazarat (district) of the state. The region retained its identity in this setup as the Skardu tehsil, with Kargil and Leh being the other two tehsils of the district.[6] After Hari Singh, the last maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, acceded to the Dominion of India in 1947, his local governor in Gilgit was overthrown by the Gilgit Scouts, who then took the entire region for Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948; the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan have since been under Pakistani governance[7] while the Kashmir Valley and the Kargil and Leh tehsils remain under Indian governance. However, four mountainous communities, including the village of Turtuk in the Nubra Valley, have been under Indian control since 1971, when they were all incorporated into the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (now in Ladakh) after being captured by India during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[8][9]

The region is inhabited primarily by the Balti people, a largely Muslim ethnic group of Tibetan descent. Baltistan is strategically significant to both Pakistan and India; the Siachen conflict and the Kargil War took place in this region alongside others.


Like other Islamic regions near the Indian subcontinent, the name Baltistan is likely created by adding the Persian suffix -istan to the name of the Balti people, who lived here before the Islamic conquests.[citation needed]


Baltistan division, in dark green, Gilgit Baltistan
Valley town seen from above
Skardu, capital of Baltistan

The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica characterises Baltistan as the western extremity of Tibet,[10] whose natural limits are the Indus River from its abrupt southward bend around the map point 35°52′N 74°43′E / 35.86°N 74.72°E / 35.86; 74.72 (Bend in the Indus course) and the mountains to the north and west. These features separate a comparatively peaceful Tibetan population from the Indo-Aryan tribes to the west. Muslim writers around the 16th century speak of Baltistan as the "Little Tibet", and of Ladakh as the "Great Tibet", emphasising their ethnological similarity.[10] According to Ahmad Hassan Dani, Baltistan spreads upwards from the Indus river and is separated from Ladakh by the Siachen Glacier.[11] It includes the Indus valley and the lower valley of the Shyok river.[12]

Baltistan is a rocky mass of lofty mountains, the prevailing formation being gneiss. In the north is the Baltoro Glacier, one of the longest glaciers outside of the polar regions, 56 kilometres (35 mi) long, contained between two ridges whose highest peaks to the south are 7,600 m (25,000 ft) and to the north 8,615 m (28,265 ft).[10]

The Indus river runs in a narrow gorge, widening after receiving the Shyok river at 35°14′N 75°55′E / 35.23°N 75.92°E / 35.23; 75.92 (Shyok joins Indus). It then forms a 32-kilometre (20 mi) crescent-shaped plain varying between 2 and 8 kilometres (1 and 5 mi) in width.[13] The main inhabitable valleys of Kharmang, Khaplu, Skardu and Roundu are along the routes of these rivers.

Map this section's coordinates using: OpenStreetMap Download coordinates as: KML GPX (all coordinates) GPX (primary coordinates) GPX (secondary coordinates)


The Baltistan is one of three divisions of Gilgit-Baltistan. The Division of Baltistan is administrative under a Commissioner of BPS-20 belonging to Pakistan Administrative Service group of Central Superior Services of Pakistan. The Current Commissioner Baltistan Division is Mr Shula Alam (PAS).

Valleys and districts

Valley District Area (km2) Population (1998) Capital
Ghanche 9,400 88,366 Khaplu
Skardu 18,000 219,209 Skardu
Shigar 6,450 60,295 Center Shigar
Kharmang 5,520 62,522 Tolti
Skardu 80,000 Thowar
Leh, India 4,000 (2011) Turtuk

°Although under Indian control since 1971, geographically, the Turtuk part of Shyok Valley, is part of Baltistan region.



Tibetan Khampa entered in Khaplu through Chorbat Valley and Dardic tribes came to Baltistan through Roundu Valley from Gilgit prior to civilization, and these groups eventually settled down, creating the Balti people.[14]

Drawing of lakes surrounded by mountains
Skardu in 1800

Today, the people of Kharmang and Western Khaplu have Tibetan features and those in Skardu, Shigar and the eastern villages of Khaplu are Dards.[15] It was believed that the Balti people were in the sphere of influence of Zhangzhung. Baltistan was controlled by the Tibetan king in 686. Culturally influenced by Tibet, the Bon and animist Baltis began to adopt Tibetan Buddhism. Religious artifacts such as gompas and stupas were built, and lamas played an important role in Balti life.[16][17][18]

Drawing of a bearded man holding a rifle
Ahmed Shah, the last Maqpon king before the 1840 Dogra invasion

For centuries, Baltistan consisted of small, independent valley states connected by the blood relationships of its rulers (rajas), trade, common beliefs and cultural and linguistic bonds.[19] Baltistan was known as Little Tibet, and the name was extended to include Ladakh.[10] Ladakh later became known as Great Tibet. Locally, Baltistan is known as Baltiyul and Ladakh and Baltistan are known as Maryul ("red country").[20]

In 1190, Maqpon dynasty of Skardu was founded by Ibrahim Shah (1190-1220), who was born in Skardu. This royal family ruled over Baltistan for approximately 700 years.[21] The kings of the Maqpon dynasty extended the frontiers of Baltistan to Gilgit Agency,[22] Chitral, and Ladakh.[23]

During the 14th century, Muslim scholars from Kashmir crossed Baltistan's mountainous terrain to spread Islam.[24] The Noorbakshia Sufi order further propagated the faith in Baltistan and Islam became dominant by the end of the 17th century. With the passage of time a large number also converted to Shia Islam and a few converted to Sunni Islam.[25]

Village nestled in a mountain valley
Typical Balti village

The Kharmang came under the control of the Namgyal royal family and developed a close relationship with Ladakh when the raja of Ladakh, Jamyang Mangyal, attacked the principalities in Kargil. Mangyal annihilated the Skardu garrison at Kharbu and put to the sword a number of petty Muslim rulers in the principalities of Purik (Kargil). Ali Sher Khan Anchan, raja of Khaplu and Shigar, left with a strong army via Marol. Passing the Laddakhi army, he occupied Leh (the capital of Ladakh) and the raja of Ladakh was taken prisoner.[26][27][28]

Ali Sher Khan Anchan included Gilgit and Chitral in his kingdom of Baltistan,[29] reportedly a flourishing country. The valley from Khepchne to Kachura was flat and fertile, with abundant fruit trees; the sandy desert now extending from Sundus to Skardu Airport was a prosperous town. Skardu had hardly recovered from the shock of the death of Anchan when it was flooded.

In 1840, the region was subjugated by the Dogra rulers of Jammu under the suzerainty of the Sikh Empire.[30][31] On 29 August 2009 the government of Pakistan announced the creation of Gilgit–Baltistan, a provincial autonomous region with Gilgit as its capital and Skardu its largest city.[citation needed]


Glacier surrounded by mountains, seen from the air
Baltoro Glacier; at 62 km (39 mi) in length, it is one of the longest Alpine glaciers on earth.[citation needed]

Skardu has several tourist resorts and many natural features, including plains, mountains and mountain-valley lakes. The Deosai plain, Satpara Lake and Basho also host tourists. North of Skardu, the Shigar Valley offers plains, hiking tracks, peaks and campsites. Other valleys in Baltistan region are Khaplu, Rondu, Kachura Lake and Kharmang.


Baltistan is a rocky wilderness of around 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 sq mi),[32] with the largest cluster of mountains in the world and the biggest glaciers outside the polar regions. The Himalayas advance into this region from India, Tibet and Nepal, and north of them are the Karakoram range. Both ranges run northwest, separated by the Indus River. Along the Indus and its tributaries are many valleys. Glaciers include Baltoro Glacier, Biafo Glacier, Siachen Glacier, Trango Glacier and Godwin-Austen Glacier.


Jagged peak
Laila Peak, in the Hushe Valley

Baltistan is home to more than 20 peaks of over 6,100 metres (20,000 ft), including K2 (the second-highest mountain on earth.[16] Other well-known peaks include Masherbrum (also known as K1), Broad Peak, Hidden Peak, Gasherbrum II, Gasherbrum IV and Chogolisa (in the Khaplu Valley). The following peaks have been scaled:

Name Height Date climbed Location
K2 8,610 m
(28,250 ft)
31 July 1954 Shigar District
Gasherbrum I 8,030 m
(26,360 ft)
7 July 1956 Ghanche District
Broad Peak 8,090 m
(26,550 ft)
9 June 1957 Ghanche District
Muztagh Tower 7,300 m
(23,800 ft)
6 August 1956 Ghanche District
Gasherbrum II 7,960 m
(26,120 ft)
4 July 1958 Ghanche District
Hidden Peak 8,070 m
(26,470 ft)
4 July 1957 Ghanche District
Khunyang Chhish 7,852 m
(25,761 ft)
4 July 1971 Skardu District
Masherbrum 7,821 m
(25,659 ft)
4 August 1960 Ghanche District
Saltoro Kangri 7,700 m
(25,400 ft)
4 June 1962 Ghanche District
Chogolisa 7,665 m
(25,148 ft)
4 August 1963 Ghanche District
Lake with low mountains in the background
Panoramic view of Sheosar Lake


The region has a population of about 303,214 as of 2017.[1] It is a blend of ethnic groups, predominantly Baltis,[33] and Tibetans. A few Kashmiris settled in Skardu, practicing agriculture and woodcraft.


Before the arrival of Islam, Tibetan Buddhism and Bön (to a lesser extent) were the main religions in Baltistan. Buddhism can be traced back to before the formation of the Tibetan Empire in the region during the seventh century. The region has a number of surviving Buddhist archaeological sites. These include the Manthal Buddha Rock, a rock relief of the Buddha at the edge of the village (near Skardu) and the Sacred Rock of Hunza. Nearby are former sites of Buddhist shelters.

Islam was brought to Baltistan by Sufi missionaries during the 16th and 17th centuries, and most of the population converted to Noorbakshia Islam. The scholars were followers of the Kubrawiya Sufi order.[34] Most Noorbakhshi Muslims live in Ghanche.[35]


Two large, furry rodents resting on the ground
Golden marmots in Deosai National Park

Baltistan has been called a living museum for wildlife.[36] Deosai National Park, in the southern part of the region, is habitat for predators since it has an abundant prey population. Domestic animals include yaks (including hybrid yaks), cattle, sheep, goats, horses and donkeys. Wild animals include ibex, markhor, musk deer, snow leopards, brown and black bears, jackals, foxes, wolves and marmots.


Balti music and art

Three smiling young boys, with trees and a mountain in the background
Balti children from the Shigar Valley

According to Balti folklore, Mughal princess Gul Khatoon (known in Baltistan as Mindoq Gialmo—Flower Queen) brought musicians and artisans with her into the region and they propagated Mughal music and art under her patronage.[37] Musical instruments such as the surnai, karnai, dhol and chang were introduced into Baltistan.


Classical and other dances are classified as sword dances, broqchhos and Yakkha and ghazal dances.[38] Chhogho Prasul commemorates a victory by the Maqpon rajas. As a mark of respect, the musician who plays the drum (dang) plays for a long time. A Maqpon princess would occasionally dance to this tune. Gasho-Pa, also known as Ghbus-La-Khorba, is a sword dance associated with the Gasho Dynasty of Purik (Kargil). Sneopa, the marriage-procession dance by pachones (twelve wazirs who accompany the bride), is performed at the marriage of a raja.


Chinese-style mosque with enclosed porch and speakers
Chaqchan Mosque in Khaplu

Balti architecture has Tibetan and Mughul[39] influences, and its monastic architecture reflects the Buddhist imprint left on the region. Buddhist-style wall paintings can be seen in forts and Noorbakhshi khanqahs, including Chaqchan Mosque in Khaplu, Amburik Mosque in Shigar, Khanqah e Muallah Shigar, Khaplu Fort, Shigar Fort and Skardu Fort.


Drawing of polo ponies galloping
Polo match in Skardu around 1820, from Godfrey Vigne's Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo, the countries adjoining the mountain-course of the Indus, and the Himalaya, north of the Panjab

Polo is popular in Baltistan, and indigenous to the Karakoram region, having been played there since at least the 15th–16th century.[40] The Maqpon ruler Ali Sher Khan Anchan introduced the game to other valleys during his conquests beyond Gilgit and Chitral.[41] The English word polo derives from the Balti word polo, meaning "the ball used in the game of polo".[42] The game of polo itself is called Hrthapolo means horse riding game in Balti.[43]


The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation[44] has radio and television stations in Khaplu that broadcast local programs, and there are a handful of private news outlets. The Daily K2[45] is an Urdu newspaper published in Skardu serving Gilgit-Baltistan for long time, and it is the pioneer of print media in Gilgit Baltisatn. Bad-e-Shimal claims the largest daily circulation in Gilgit and Baltistan.[46] Nawa-e-Sufia is a monthly magazine covering Baltistan's Nurbakshi sect.[47] 5cntv urdu news web magazine covering Baltistan's.[48]


  1. ^ a b Gilgit-Baltistan, City Population web site, retrieved 12 May 2022.
  2. ^ "How Many Languages Are Spoken In Pakistan". 6 September 2021. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  3. ^ Schofield, Victoria (2003) [First published in 2000], Kashmir in Conflict, London and New York: I. B. Taurus & Co, p. 8, ISBN 1860648983
  4. ^ Cheema, Brig Amar (2015), The Crimson Chinar: The Kashmir Conflict: A Politico Military Perspective, Lancer Publishers, p. 30, ISBN 978-81-7062-301-4
  5. ^ Proceedings - Punjab History Conference. Punjabi University. 1968.
  6. ^ Kaul, H. N. (1998), Rediscovery of Ladakh, Indus Publishing, p. 88, ISBN 978-81-7387-086-6
  7. ^ Schofield, Victoria (2003) [First published in 2000], Kashmir in Conflict, London and New York: I. B. Taurus & Co, pp. 65–66, ISBN 1860648983
  8. ^ Atul Aneja, A 'battle' in the snowy heights[dead link], The Hindu, 11 January 2001.
  9. ^ "In pictures: Life in Baltistan". July 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ladakh and Baltistan" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 57–59.
  11. ^ Dani 1998, p. 219.
  12. ^ Pirumshoev & Dani 2003, p. 243.
  13. ^ Karim 2009, p. 62.
  14. ^ Tarar, Mustansar Hussain (1991), Nanga Parbat (in Urdu)
  15. ^ Where Indus is Young
  16. ^ a b Afridi, Banat Gul (1988). Baltistan in history. Peshawar, Pakistan: Emjay Books International.
  17. ^ Tarekh e jammu, molvi hashmatullah
  18. ^ Hussainabadi, Muhammad Yousuf: Baltistan per Aik Nazar 1984
  19. ^ "A Socio-Political Study of Gilgit Baltistan Province" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ Yousaf Hussain Abadi, A view on Baltistan
  21. ^ Tareekh e Baltistan.
  22. ^ "Baltis". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ Tikoo, Tej K. (30 June 2012). Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus. Amber Books Limited. ISBN 9781935501343.
  24. ^ "Baltistan - North Pakistan". Archived from the original on 15 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Little Tibet: Renaissance and Resistance in Baltistan". Himal Southasian. 30 April 1998. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  26. ^ Hussainabadi, Muhammad Yousuf: Tareekh-e-Baltistan 2003
  27. ^ Tikoo, Tej K. (2012). Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus. Lancer International Incorporated. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-935501-34-3.
  28. ^ Stobdan, P.; Chandran, D. Suba (April 2008). The last colony: Muzaffarabad-Gilgit-Baltistan. India Research Press with Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu. ISBN 9788183860673.
  29. ^ Ramble, Charles; Brauen, Martin (1993). Proceedings of the International Seminar on the Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya: September 21-28 1990 at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich. ISBN 978-3-909105-24-3.
  30. ^ Ali, Manzoom (12 June 2004). Archaeology of Dardistan.
  31. ^ Gertel, Jörg; Richard Le Heron (2011). Economic Spaces of Pastoral Production and Commodity Systems. Ashgate. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-4094-2531-1.
  32. ^ "ABOUT GILGIT-BALTISTAN". Archived from the original on 14 July 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  33. ^ Hussain, Ejaz. "Geography and Demography of Gilgit Baltistan". Gilgit Baltistan Scouts. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  34. ^ "NYF". Archived from the original on 7 March 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  35. ^ "Sofia Imamia Noorbakhshia". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015.
  36. ^ "Beautiful Gilgit Baltistan". Archived from the original on 18 October 2012.
  37. ^ "BALTI MUSIC AND ART". Archived from the original on 10 February 2020. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  38. ^ Hussainabadi, Muhammad Yousuf: Balti Zaban 1990
  39. ^ Wallace, Paul (1996) . A History of Western Himalayas . Penguin Books, London.
  40. ^ Malcolm D. Whitman, Tennis: Origins and Mysteries, Published by Courier Dover Publications, 2004, ISBN 0-486-43357-9, p. 98.
  41. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hassan: History of Northern Areas of Pakistan, National Institute of Historical Research, Islamabad, 1991.
  42. ^ Skeat, Walter William (1898). A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Harper. p. 629.
  43. ^ Afridi, Banat Gul (1988). Baltistan in history. Peshawar, Pakistan: Emjay Books International. p. 135.
  44. ^ "Radio Pakistan".
  45. ^ "dailyk2".
  46. ^ "Daily Bad e Shimal".
  47. ^ "Nuwa-e-Sufia".
  48. ^ "5cntv urdu news web".


35°18′N 75°37′E / 35.300°N 75.617°E / 35.300; 75.617