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How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad

Gilgit-Baltistan is a dream destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. It greets travelers with its dramatic landscapes, towering mountains, and rich cultural heritage. Often referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world,” this region boasts some of the highest peaks on Earth, including K2, glaciers that snake down valleys, and crystal-clear lakes reflecting the majesty of the surroundings. Here’s a complete guide about how to travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad.

How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad By Air

Whether you crave the thrill of scaling K2, seek a challenging trek, are a nature enthusiast yearning for breathtaking scenery, simply lose yourself in the serenity of Shangri-La, or are a culture vulture captivated by ancient traditions, Gilgit-Baltistan has something for everyone. Let’s have a look!

Table of Contents

Travelling to Gilgit Baltistan

But how do you get to this paradise located within the Himalayas? This guide will walk you through all the options for traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan from Islamabad, Pakistan’s bustling capital. We’ll explore the pros and cons of flying, taking a bus, hiring a taxi, or even driving yourself, allowing you to choose the mode of transportation that best suits your budget, time constraints, and travel style. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready to enjoy an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the Himalayas. 

Are you ready to discover the magic of Gilgit-Baltistan? Let’s hangout into the different ways to get there!

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Travel Options

1. How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad By Airline

Flying is the ideal option for those seeking a quick and comfortable journey. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is the main carrier operating this route, offering several flights daily between Islamabad and Gilgit. The flight duration is a breeze, clocking in at around 1.5 hours. While flight prices vary depending on the season and booking time, expect them to range from a budget-friendly option to a more premium cost.

Pros: Fastest travel time, convenient and comfortable.

Cons: Potentially the most expensive option.

Read More: Best things to do in Skardu Gilgit Baltistan

2. How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad By Bus

The National Carrier (NATCO) operates a reliable bus service connecting Islamabad to Gilgit. This is a great choice for budget-conscious travelers who want to experience the scenic beauty of the journey firsthand. The travel time takes considerably longer than flying, ranging around 18 hours. Tickets are affordable, and the buses offer basic amenities like reclining seats and air conditioning.

Pros: Most affordable option, scenic journey.

Cons: Longest travel time, potentially crowded.

3. How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad by a taxi

 Travel to Gilgit Baltistan by a taxi

If you prefer a more personalized travel experience, hiring a taxi from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan offers convenience and flexibility. This option allows you to customize your itinerary and stop at scenic spots. Taxis can complete the journey in 6-7 hours, depending on road conditions and breaks. Negotiate the fare beforehand, and expect it to be more expensive than other options.

Pros: Flexible travel option, comfortable journey, customizable itinerary.

Cons: Potentially the most expensive option compared to flights and buses.

Read More: Mountain Climbing in Gilgit Baltistan and Rakaposhi Basecamp Trek

4. How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad by Driving Yourself

How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad by Driving Yourself

For the adventurous spirit seeking a truly immersive experience, consider driving from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan. The journey offers breathtaking scenery and a sense of accomplishment. The estimated travel time can vary depending on your driving speed and stops but generally falls between 18 and 24 hours.

Important Considerations:

  • Road Conditions: Road conditions in Pakistan can vary, with some stretches being well-maintained highways and others featuring mountain passes and unpaved sections. Research the specific route beforehand and ensure your vehicle suits the terrain.
  • Weather: Check weather forecasts meticulously before embarking on your road trip. Mountain weather can change quickly; snow or landslides can significantly impact travel time or even close roads.
  • Experience: Driving in unfamiliar territory with potentially challenging roads requires experience and confidence.

Pros: Scenic journey, control over your itinerary, sense of adventure.

Cons: Requires experience, awareness of road conditions, and potentially long travel time.

5. How To Travel to Gilgit Baltistan from Islamabad By Train 

Unfortunately, there is currently no direct train service connecting Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan. The railway network in Pakistan has yet to extend that far north.

More Reading Suggestions: Best Places to Visit in Skardu Gilgit Baltistan

Ticket Prices from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan

While providing specific ticket prices can be challenging due to fluctuations based on season, booking time, and promotions, here’s a general idea for each travel option:

  • Flights: Expect prices to range from a budget-friendly option (around PKR 10,000) to a more premium cost (around PKR 25,000), depending on the airline and booking window.
  • Bus: NATCO bus tickets are affordable, typically costing between PKR 3,000 to PKR 5,000.
  • Taxis: Negotiating taxi fares is common. Expect the cost to be significantly higher than flights and buses, potentially ranging from PKR 30,000 to PKR 50,000 depending on the vehicle type, distance covered, and negotiation skills.

Note: These are just estimates. It’s always best to research and compare prices from different airlines, bus companies, and taxi services to find the best deal for your travel needs and budget.

Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan Distance

Now that you know the various travel options, let’s discuss the distance between Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan. The exact distance can vary slightly depending on your specific route, but as a general estimate, it’s roughly 851 kilometres (529 miles).

Knowing this distance helps you understand the travel time associated with each option. For example, a quick flight takes around 1.5 hours to cover this distance, whereas a scenic bus ride takes significantly longer, around 18 hours.

Understanding the distance also lets you make informed decisions about your travel style and budget. Are you willing to spend more for a faster flight, or do you prefer a slower and more affordable option like the bus that allows you to soak in the scenery?

 Travel to Gilgit Baltistan By Road

Traveling to Gilgit-Baltistan from Islamabad by Road

The road trip from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan is an epic journey, offering a stunning panorama of mountains, valleys, and glaciers. Here’s what you need to know to know about this unforgettable adventure:

The Route

The most common route follows the legendary Karakoram Highway (KKH), the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway. This magnificent road winds through valleys, mountains, and glaciers, offering breathtaking views at every turn. 

Essential Preparations

  • Vehicle: Ensure your car is in top condition for the journey. Have it serviced beforehand, and ensure it’s equipped to handle potentially challenging mountain terrain. Consider a four-wheel drive vehicle for better handling.
  • Permits: Depending on your destination within Gilgit-Baltistan, you might require special permits for restricted areas. Research permit requirements beforehand and obtain them before your trip.
  • Supplies: Pack essentials like extra water, snacks, warm clothing (even in summer, temperatures can drop at higher altitudes), sunscreen, and a first-aid kit. Consider bringing a portable car charger and a spare tyre.
  • Maps and Navigation: Download offline maps or invest in a reliable GPS device, as mobile phone reception can be patchy in certain stretches.

The Journey

The Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan road trip can be broken down into several stages, each offering unique experiences:

  • Islamabad to Naran: This initial leg takes you through lush green valleys and provides a glimpse of the Himalayas. Naran is a popular tourist destination, so consider stopping for a night to explore the beauty.
  • Naran to Babusar Top: Brace yourself for breathtaking scenery as you ascend to Babusar Top, the highest point on the KKH. The panoramic views of snow-capped peaks are truly awe-inspiring.
  • Babusar Top to Gilgit: The descent from Babusar Top leads through valleys carved by glaciers and rivers. Along the way, look for local villages and historical sites. Gilgit, the main town in the region, serves as a hub for exploring further into Gilgit-Baltistan.

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Important Tips To Travell from Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan

  • Weather: Mountain weather is unpredictable. Check forecasts regularly and be prepared for sudden changes. Snowfall can block roads, so consider travelling during the summer (June to September) for the most reliable conditions.
  • Fuel Stations: Gas stations are less frequent in remote areas. Fill up your tank whenever possible to avoid running low on fuel.
  • Respectful Driving: The KKH can be a busy road with many vehicles. Drive cautiously, follow traffic rules, and be courteous to other drivers.
Important Tips To Travell from Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan

Additional Resources

  • Check the National Highway Authority (NHA) official website of Pakistan for real-time traffic updates and road closure information: https://mail.nha.gov.pk/.
  • Consider joining online forums or communities for travellers venturing on the KKH. These communities can offer valuable insights and advice based on recent experiences.

Enjoy the Ride!

The road trip from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan is more than a means to reach your destination. It’s an adventure in itself. Embrace the stunning scenery, savour the local culture, and be prepared for an unforgettable experience.

Final Thoughts

Gilgit-Baltistan awaits, a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. This guide has equipped you with the knowledge to choose your ideal travel method from Islamabad:

  • A speedy flight
  • A budget-friendly bus ride
  • A personalized taxi journeys
  • An epic road trip on the legendary Karakoram Highway

Remember, the travel option you choose is just the beginning. Gilgit-Baltistan offers a treasure trove of experiences, from scaling majestic peaks to exploring ancient cultures and soaking in breathtaking scenery. So, pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and get ready to discover the magic that awaits in Pakistan’s crown jewel.

Travel Beautiful Gilgit Baltistan By Road


1. What’s the fastest way to get from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Flying is the quickest option, taking around 1.5 hours. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) offers several daily flights.

2. What’s the most affordable way to travel from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Taking the National Carrier (NATCO) bus is the most budget-friendly option, costing between PKR 3,000 to PKR 5,000.

3. Is it safe to drive from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Yes, but be prepared. The Karakoram Highway offers stunning scenery, but road conditions can vary. Ensure your vehicle is in top condition, check weather forecasts, and drive cautiously.

4. Do I need a special permit to travel to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Depending on your specific destination within Gilgit-Baltistan, you might require travel permits. Research permit requirements beforehand and obtain them if necessary.

5. What are some must-see stops along the Karakoram Highway?

Consider including Natangli viewpoint, Abbottabad, Naran & Kaghan valleys, Babusar Pass, and Hunza Valley in your itinerary.

6. Where can I find up-to-date information on road closures or traffic conditions?

The National Highway Authority (NHA) website (https://mail.nha.gov.pk/) provides real-time traffic updates and road closure information.

7. What’s the best time to travel to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) offer pleasant weather with stunning mountain views. However, consider your planned activities and research weather conditions for your chosen dates.

8. What currency is used in Gilgit-Baltistan?

The Pakistani Rupee (PKR) is the official currency.

9. What should I pack for my trip to Gilgit-Baltistan?

Pack for all weather conditions, including layers of clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, comfortable shoes, and plenty of snacks and water.

10. Is it better to book flights or buses in advance, especially during peak season?

Yes, especially during peak season (spring and autumn), booking flights and buses in advance is recommended to secure your spot and get better deals.

11. What is the Best Time to Travel?

  • Spring (April-May) and Autumn (September-October) offer pleasant weather and stunning mountain views. Consider the shoulder seasons (April and October) for better deals.
  • Summer (June-August): Lush green valleys and wildflowers, but be prepared for potential monsoon rains in some areas.
  • Winter (November-March): Snow-capped peaks and fewer crowds, but some high-altitude passes might be closed due to snow.

12. What are the Accommodation Options in Gilgit-Baltistan?

  • Hotels and guesthouses catering to various budgets are available in Gilgit, Skardu, and other major towns.
  • Homestays offer a unique cultural experience and a chance to interact with locals.
  • Camping is an option for adventurous travellers in designated areas.

13. What are the common Things to Do in Gilgit-Baltistan?

  • Trekking and mountaineering for all skill levels.
  • Explore historical forts and ancient settlements.
  • Jeep safaris through valleys and national parks.
  • White water rafting on the Indus River.
  • Cultural immersion in unique ethnic communities.

14. Are Visas and Permits required to visit Gilgit Baltistan?

  • Foreign nationals might require visas to enter Pakistan—research visa requirements well before your trip.
  • Specific travel permits might be needed for certain destinations within Gilgit-Baltistan. Research and obtain permits if necessary.

15. Does Currency Exchange options are available there?

  • The Pakistani Rupee (PKR) is the official currency.
  • Currency exchange facilities are available at airports and major cities. Consider exchanging some currency before reaching Gilgit-Baltistan, as options might be limited in remote areas.

16. What are some Safety Tips to travel from Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan?

  • Be aware of altitude sickness, especially if planning to trek or visit high-altitude locations.
  • Dress modestly, especially in religious and cultural areas.
  • Respect local customs and traditions.
  • Always inform locals about your route, especially if venturing off the beaten path.

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