The collision point of continental plates is located near Chalt Valley on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), some 53 km north of Gilgit town. The Indian and the Eurasian continental plates collided along a line which passed through this point giving rise to the Himalayan mountain range and formed Tibetan plateau some 50 million years ago. The tremendous pressure forced the earth’s crust to produce the towering Karakoram Mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.
Historically, 225 million years ago India was a large island separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean. India started northward drift toward Asia when the super-continental Pangea began to break up some 200 million years ago. India was moving at a rate between 9 and 16 cm some 80 million years ago when it was 6,400 km south of the Asian continent. However, from 50 to 40 million years ago, the rate of northward drift slowed to around 4-6 cm per year. This pace is interpreted as the beginning of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian continental plates.
When the collision occurred, the Eurasian plate was partly crumpled and buckled up above the Indian plates causing the continental crust to thicken pushing up the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau. The continental crust here is twice the average thickness at around 75 km which marks the end of volcanic activity in the region. The Indian plate is still pushing north into the Eurasian landmass at about five centimeters a year causing the mountains to rise about seven millimeters annually.
Sadly, the geographic significance of the collision point of continental plates is a fact still even unknown to the general people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It simply failed to catch the tourist’s eye until the roadside signboards were displayed for tourist information most recently which may obviously help locals and tourists educate about its significance. However, there must be a platform for tourists to spend the time to educate themselves and enjoy the unique mountain formation in the surroundings. This site has the potential to be a prominent picnic spot.
The old silk route ran along the other side and some of the sections of the old Silk Route are still intact which can easily be seen from this point. The old Silk Route is only used by locals to take their herd to the pastures for grazing. It is in the news that the ancient Silk Route would be renovated to promote tourism.
Locally the collision point is termed as Bidru-Kha and sometimes Chalt Xhang (Threshold). This particular site has several local legends attached to it. For instance, locals offer sacrifices to spirits by slaughtering a chicken/goat or any other animal while passing through this point with a bride and groom on the marriage day.
Likewise, there is another notion local shamans believe that this place was a pathway to the three worlds – the world inhabited by the spirits or the upper world, the material human world, and the underworld of the souls and the dead.
And finally, this site acts as a buffer zone of climate – the weather in lower parts of Hunza can be forecasted using climatic conditions right above this particular point – an overcast sky may refer to chances of rain while blue patches in the clouds mean the sky is getting clear.
Nestled in the lap of mountains, at an elevation of about 15000 ft., the scenic Naltar valley near Gilgit town in Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan is a striking pine pasture and a prominent tourist destination. The highland is a perfect summer retreat and a world-famous winter ski resort in Pakistan drawing national and international skiers every year for ski competitions. The lush green valley is heavily wooded with pine, spruces, birch, rowan, and juniper, the entire valley is guarded by green hills and snow-topped mountains. It is home to the local Gujjar tribe who grow potatoes famous for their taste and size.
Geography and access
The hill station is located about 19 km uphill barren gorge from Nomal Valley which serves as a base and located at the mouth of the gorge. The Nomal valley itself is located at 20 km from Gilgit via the west bank of the Hunza River and about 70 km from Hunza valley along the Karakoram Highway across Rahimabad and accessible by a concrete bridge over the Hunza River.
From Nomal Lower Naltar (Naltar Payeen or Khirini Naltar in local Shina Language) is about 7 km and then it is another 6 km to Upper Naltar (Naltar Bala or Ajeeni Naltar in local Shina language). Altogether, from Gilgit, it takes about 2.5 hrs while from Hunza it takes about 4 hrs to drive to upper Naltar.
The Naltar valley is highly recommended for a day excursion from Gilgit for anyone looking to spend a day out of hustle and bustle or to enjoy the absolute serenity. One can also plan an overnight stay or two. There are accommodation facilities in the valley and one can go camping. Major attractions in the valley are:
Naltar has now established itself as a prime winter sports destination and now international ski competitions held here. Being at a fair elevation, Naltar receives a good spell of snow every year. There are ski lifts operational under the ‘Ski Federation of Pakistan’. The annual ski competition draws national and international sportsmen every year in February.
The valley also serves as a base for two medium category beautiful treks; one across the Naltar Pass (about 4,600 meters) eastward to Ishkoman valley and the other across the Daintar Pass (4,636 meters) westward to Chalt. Naltar is a two-hour drive and about 47 kilometers from Gilgit via the west bank of the Hunza River to Nomal Village.
From Upper Naltar to the Lakes is about 13 km jeep-able road. However, it also serves as a beautiful walking trail particularly when the road is blocked or washed away. By foot, it takes 2-3 hours while the downhill walk is less than 2 hrs. The rough jeep track runs along the rivulet all the way to the lakes. The colorful lakes are named as Bashkiri Lake – I, Bashkiri Lake – II, and Bashkiri Lake – III, located fairly close to each other at the end of the gorge. Naltar Lakes are also locally known as “Chimo Bari (fish Lake)”, ” Chakar Bari (Multi Ends Lake)’ & “Bodolok Bari (Turbid Lake)
The lakes are surrounded by dense pine forests. Winters are harsh and the lakes are hard to reach because of the snow that usually piles up to 10 to 15 feet. Summers attract a huge number of local and international tourists and trekkers.
The glacial waters originating from the end bordering the Wakhan Corridor collect to make a rivulet which flows through the center of the gorge till it meets the Hunza River. Camping, cooking, and other fun activities along the water is an added beauty for the visitors.
Camping and outdoor activities
There are plenty of camping sites and one can plan overnight/weekend camping. The valley is safe and one can find fresh veggies at a reasonable price. There are hiking trails leading to scenic points. The valley is well known for its flora and fauna and splendid medium range mountains.
Weather in Naltar Valley
The weather in Naltar is always romantic. Even during peak summers, the Lakeside at Naltar receives light spells of rain several times a day. The fluctuating romantic weather and scenery in the surrounding make the trip worth of it.
Light refreshment (tea and cookies) for tourists can be had at the Lakeside, however, tourists willing to spend the whole day at Naltar are recommended to make personal arrangements.
Naltar valley is only accessible by 4WD Jeeps being the road nonmetallic, narrow, rough and tough. Transport can be arranged from Gilgit. There is a camping facility and one can stay overnight in tents.