Gigantic glaciers like Baltoro, Biafo, Hisper and Bilafound add to the importance of the region. The many lakes, such as Satpara, invite those interested in fishing as they are full of trout.
There is also Deosai, the world's second-highest plateau, with hundreds of beautiful wildflower varieties, and thousand-year-old palaces and forts like Kharphocho (the mighty fort built on a hill in the heart of Skardu city), Phong Khar Sghigar (the palace on the stone) and the palace of Raja Khaplu, and mosques and tombs featuring brilliant Kashmiri, Mughal and Iranian architectural structures.
The surrounding rocks embellished with monuments and carvings of 1,200-year-old Bonism and Buddhism religions lure those tourists who are interested in archaeology and ancient history.
The hotels in Gilgit-Baltistan exemplify the local tradition of hospitality and give wonderful care to guests to the area, where they set up special night-view points of the peaks, valleys and glaciers in the moonlight. The scene gives indescribable peace to the mind and soul.
A range of continental and traditional foods are offered to guests. Popular resorts in the area are the Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. motel, the Serena hotel and the Riviera Hotel and Hunza Inn.
A thriving tourism industry can become an engine of change in Gilgit-Baltistan, helping its people escape years of poverty and backwardness in an area that makes up part of the disputed Kashmir region.
The Pakistan government has also taken the right step by returning the Gilgit-Baltistan name the region, along with provincial status, instead of the "Northern Areas," as it had been called.
But more needs to be done to cash in on the potential the region has for tourism, local tourism operators believe. They want Skardu to have an international airport, but for that a heavy investment has to be made.
Currently, Pakistan International Airlines operates regular flights from Islamabad to Skardu and Gilgit to bring domestic and international tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Yaqoob Malik recently spent three weeks in Charleston as part of a U.S.-Pakistan partnership program arranged by the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C.