Situated between Central and Southern Asia, Pakistan stretches from the golden beaches of the Arabian Sea to the formidably high mountains of Central Asia. With a population of nearly 130 million people, it is three times the size of Great Britain (covering an area of 891,940 sq. km) and is bordered by China, Iran, Afghanistan and India. Pakistan is divided into four Provinces: Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which populated by ethnically diverse people who speak a variety of languages.
Pakistan is a land of diversity and has been blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and awe-inspiring outdoor areas. From the unspoilt golden beaches of the Makran Coast, across the desolate deserts of Baluchistan and Sindh and through the fertile plains of the Punjab onto the mighty snow capped peaks of the Karakorum, Pakistan is a land of many lands. The vast contrasts in the landscape are matched only by the diverse cultures of all the people who have chosen to settle here: at the crossroads of Asia. There are few areas in the world where mountains rise in such awesome splendor as they do in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Here, 4 of the world’s greatest mountain ranges (Himalayas, Karakorum, Hindukush and Pamir) converge. It is one of the most isolated and rugged places on earth and it have the greatest concentration of high peaks in the world. Almost 37 of the worlds 100 highest peaks repose in these ranges; 5 of them over 8000 meters and about 108 over 7000 meters. It has also the highest concentration of glaciers outside the Polar Regions with 7 of them being over 40 kilometers long.
Hidden amid this network of snow-capped peaks and striated glaciers are beautiful mountain valleys (Chitral, Ghizar, Yasin, Ishkomen, Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu and Khaplu) populated by resilient but hospitable peoples. These valleys were almost inaccessible until recently but are now being connected with the outside world by jeep-tracks & roads that enable the spirited to explore their mysteries. The Silk Route, connecting Pakistan with China, passes through this area. Having been built upon one of the world’s most difficult and unstable terrain; it is a miracle of engineering. 1284 kilometers long, the latter took 20 years to be built. Pakistan’s vast deserts and plains, and its rugged hills and towering mountains, have conspired with the legacies of the region’s rich past to provide a fascinating land in which to travel. On one hand is the brutally stark yet splendid isolation of the Northern Areas and of Baluchistan wild deserts while on the other is a remarkably sophisticated and complex cultural heritage which provides Pakistan with the right to claim to have been a veritable cradle of ancient civilization.
Writer: Laraib Shah