Astore Valley | Pakistan

Home to multifarious natural resplendency, mesmerizing landscape, pristine lakes, world’s steepest mountain and endless trekking trails Astore is the climber’s utopia. This picturesque valley is situated at 2600m altitude on the south-east of Gilgit. Astore is spread over 5,092 square land comprising of more than 100 villages.

With a population of 71,666 residents, livestock and agriculture are the main sources of income for local people. Astore is majorly occupied by Sunni Muslims. All the fundamental essentialities, business and routine facilities are available in the valley.

Here is A Stimulating Guide To Why Astore Is Even Better Than The Peanut Butter On Pancakes

Astore Weather

In general, the climate of Astore is cold but temperate with heavy rainfall even during the driest month. The summers in the valley are quite amiable with the temperature ranging from 21°C to 8°C. However, winters are snowy and chilly as the temperature can drop down to as low as -4.5°C.

The average annual temperature in Astore is recorded to be 8.4°C. Furthermore, the average rainfall is 427 mm.

Language of Astore Valley

Astore has a rich lingual background.  Majority of the people in the region speak Shina, an Indo-Aryan language. Though, the official language of the Astore is Urdu. Shina has several dialects including Astori, Chilasi, Drasi, Gilgiti, Gurezi, Jalkoti, Palasi, Kohistani and Kolai. Until recently, there is no standard orthography for the language.

Aside from Urdu and Shina, many locals in Astore can speak English to some extent.

Culture of Astore Valley

1. Art, Music And Poetry

Generally, the residents of Astore appreciate art and music. Hence, the locals widely play music instruments such as Gabi (flute), Duff, Damal, Surnai, Dadang (drum), Rabab and Sitar during weddings, festivals and other such events.

Shina is a phonetic language, therefore, there is no record of poetry or literature of the valley from the past. Instead, the poetry is put out via folk songs and folklores that are narrated by the local singers as well as artisans.

2. Family System in Astore Valley

Local people value family’s solidarity, welfare and respect a lot. Therefore, the joint family system is prevalent in Astore. Majority of marriages are arranged and the life partners are usually selected within the family. The divorce rate is very low.

3. Traditional Dresses

The customs of Astore Valley are exclusive to the region of Gilgit Baltistan. Local people have profound respect for their religious and cultural values.

Men in Astore normally wear Shalwar Kameez with Gilgiti Cap. While the women wear traditionally embroidered Shalwar Kameez and pair it with silver jewelry decorated with antique stones. Some girls also wear loose Trousers or Phirwal with a tunic called Kurtani, Dupatta or Shawl and a traditional Iraghi Cap with Silver touch.

4. Dance

Classical dance, Sword dance, Cowboy dance, Sneopa and Gasho-Pa are popular in the Astore. Gasho-Pa is a sword dance performed during festive events. Meanwhile, Sneopa is a marriage-procession dance associated with weddings.

5. Festivals in Astore Valley

i) Navroz Festival

Navroz Festival is an annual event locally termed as a “New Day”. It begins on 21st March to mark the first day of the Spring season. Traditionally, the festival is celebrated for physical rejuvenation, spiritual renewal and to pay gratitude to God Almighty for timeless blessings. Originally an Agrarian custom, Navroz portrays an outlook of optimism and hope for the future.

ii) Shandur Polo Festival

Polo is the regional sport that is extensively popular in the districts of Gilgit Baltistan. Hence, Shandur (the second-highest polo ground in the world located at the elevation of 12,263 feet) hosts an annual Polo Festival. The event starts in July and commemorates the fierce rivalry between the region’s elite. A large number of tourists along with the local people from surrounding districts attend the festival with great zeal.

iii) Babusar Cup Polo Tournament

This tournament was organized for the first time in 2008 by the Tourism Department of Gilgit-Baltistan. It was held at Babusar which is the highest polo ground in the world situated at the altitude of 13,812 feet in Diamer District.

The Babusar Polo Tournament is commonly arranged to imply the tourism potential of Babusar. Therefore, activities like Camp Fire, Gemstone and Handicrafts Exhibition, Trekking, Horse Riding, Paragliding, Tent pegging and Photo Exhibition are also organized during this event.

Education & Literacy Rate in Astore Valley

People of Astore widely pursue primary education. However, some also trail higher education. Astore is placed at 32nd position out of the total 148 districts in Pakistan District Education Rankings released by Alif Ailaan in 2015.

Religion

Astore Valley has a total population of more than 70 thousand people majority of whom are Muslims of Kashmiri descend. The Sunni sect belonging to the Wahabi branch is prevalent in the region.

Different Activities you can enjoy in Asotore

i) Mountaineering

Mountaineers specifically visit Astore to endeavor Nanga Parbat. Renowned as the “Killer Mountain”, climbing Nanga Parbat is the ultimate dream of every hiker. Besides, the amazingly striking peaks of Rupal as well as Chongra are also tourist’s reverie.

ii) Trekking

Astore is a utopia for trekkers as it offers a wide range of trekking opportunities varying from facile, technical and strenuous treks to its visitors. The eminent routes for tourists include Tarishing to Fairy Meadows through Mazeeno Pass, Tarishing to Rupal and back, Minimarg to Domel and Chotta Deosai, Rama Lake and Pastures, Kamri to Taobutt in Neelam Valley, and Astore to Skardu by Banak Pass or Deosai Plateau.

iii) Jeep Safari

For peregrinate enthusiasts, the route from Astore to Neelam Valley in AJK offers a thrilling jeep ride experience. Also known as the Astore-Shounter Valley road, this track is less arduous but greatly adventurous.

Other Activities & Cost

Sr. No
Name of Activity
Charges Starting From
1.       ArcheryRs.500
2.       BoatingRs.500
3.       Jet SkiingRs.500
4.       ParaglidingRs.3,000
5.       RepellingRs.1,000
6.       River RaftingRs.850
7.       SkiingRs.1,000

 

Best Foods Of Astore Valley

The local food of Astore Valley is stunningly diverse and unique in texture as well as taste. The most popular dishes of Astore are as follows:

1. Chapshuro

Chapshuro is similar to a meat-filled Paratha in shape but it has an inimitable taste. Generally, Chapshuro is stuffed with chopped lamb or beef, peppers, coriander leaves, onion and tomato.

2. Mamtu

This dish is a local version of dumplings that are not cooked via steaming in a multiple-layered steamer. Mamtu is filled with chopped meat, chili, garlic and onion.

3. Harissa

Rich in proteins, Harissa is a well-known dish prepared from meat, butter, oil and wheat. It is usually served during festive events.

4. Sharadi

Garma or Sharadi is a raw wheat dough pitas that are cooked in Chinese cabbage.

5. Sharbat

Sharbat is gooey, dry buckwheat dough served with pure apricot oil. It is a sweet winter dish that is served on special occasions.

6. Bread

Gooli, Chupati and Diram are different types of bread available in Astore. Gooli is a flat-bread made from wholegrain flours and butter. It is rich in Vitamin B-17.

Chupati is prepared from wheat flour. It is baked during the night and served during breakfast along with salty tea. Diram Fitti is also made from wheat flour but is served with a mixture prepared from almonds, apricot oil and butter.

Expenses/ Travel Guide To Astore/routes

By Air

PIA operates two flights from Islamabad to Gilgit Baltistan daily that takes 45 minutes to reach the destination. From Gilgit, there is a 98.2km route to Astore that can be covered in approximately 4 to 5 hours.

By Road

From Rawalpindi, commuter vans and buses of various companies are operated to reach Astore on a daily basis. The distance is covered in 18-24 hours. Local buses from Gilgit to Astore usually requires 4 hours to cover the distance of 112km.

Astore can also be reached via other routes from Kaghan Valley, Naran Valley, Skardu, Kohistan and Dasu.

Condition of Roads

Heavy snowfall or land sliding can block the route from Gilgit to Astore. However, the road from Raikot Bridge to Astore Valley is a metalled road that is doable with good maintenance cars.

Places to Stay

There is a resplendent PTDC Motel in Rama that is the best place to stay for tourists because of the top-level facilities provided there. Other options include Kamran Hotel, Rama PWD Rest House and Madina Green Palace Hotel.

Best Time To Visit Astore

The real exquisiteness of Astore can be glimpsed only during the summer season from June to September. It is the ideal time to visit the valley. Since throughout the other seasons, weather is really harsh due to which it is risky to travel to Astore. Specifically, during winter heavy rainfall, snowfalls and land sliding are quite prevalent that can pose a hindrance in accessing this beautiful place.

Top Places In Astore

Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat is situated at the height of 8,126m above sea level in the Diamer District of Astore. It is ranked as the second-highest peak of Pakistan after K2 and the 8th highest in the world. Nanga Parbat serves as the western anchor of the Himalayan Mountains. Locally known as Diamer meaning a “huge mountain”, the mountain has a dramatically steep peak that rises above the surrounding summits. Nanga Parbat is notoriously difficult to hike, hence, it has been nicknamed as the “Killer Mountain”.

Domel

Domel is present at the altitude of 2845m in Minimarg Valley of Astore on the trade route between Gilgit and Srinagar. The region contains a thick pine forest, magnificent mountains covered with dense vegetation and a natural lake renowned as the “Crystal Lake”. This lake is linked with the Rainbow Lake. The water of Crystal Lake comes from the melting of winter ice on mountains.

Deosai Plateau

Deosai “The land of Giants” is the second highest plateau of the world as it is located at 4,114m altitude from sea level. It spreads over an area of 3,000km2 which is a picturesque beauty with the striking Shausar Lake and a home Ibex, wild horses, snow leopards, Tibetan blue bears and brown bears. Deosai plains can be accessed via jeep safari from Gorikot, Gudai, Chilum and a hiking track. They can also be reached from Skardu.

Rainbow Lake

En-route to Domel, there is a little village called Nagai comprising of small wooden cottages camouflaged by trees. The crown jewel of this village is an ineffably stunning Rainbow Lake. It is named so because its crystal-clear water takes on different colors at different times of the day.  Rainbow Lake is an artificial lake the water of which comes from springs and streams in the surrounding area.

Rama Valley

Rama is a splendid valley located at 3300m above sea level. Animals including Musk deer and Ibex, pristine Rama Lake and the trees of cedar, juniper, pine and fir, are some of the notable attributes of the region. The ideal time to travel to Rama Valley is during Spring and Summer.

Rama Lake

Rama Lake is an inimitably stunning lake located in Rama Valley at an approximate distance of 42km from Astore. It requires 2 to 3 hours to reach the lake from the Fairy Meadows via the Karakoram Highway. A wide variety of medicinal plants, ibex, rock partridge, musk deer and snow leopard are present surround the Rama Lake. The best time to visit the lake is during the summer season.

Minimarg

Situated at the altitude of 2,844.6m, Minimarg is a stunning village in Astore famous for its simple and hospitable people, scenic beauty, grass slopes, fertile fields, luminous streams, and a thick pine forest. The best time to visit is from July to August. Minimerg can be reached via Burzil Pass.