Gilgit is a very sparsely populated high-mountain area in the north of Pakistan. Its natural environment is usually described with superlatives – the longest glaciers outside of the polar region, home of the world’s second highest peak (K2) and four more eight-thousands. Gilgit is largely a high-mountain desert; geologically, it spreads over three high mountain systems: Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindukush. The society of Gilgit is diverse in terms of language, religion and ethnicity.
The city is located in a broad valley near the confluence of the Gilgit River and Hunza River, and is a major tourist destination in Pakistan, serving as a hub for trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Karakoram mountain range.
Gilgit was once a major centre for Buddhism; it was an important stop on the ancient Silk Road, and today serves as a major junction along the Karakoram Highway with road connections to China as well as the Pakistani cities of Skardu, Chitral, Peshawar, and Islamabad. Currently, it serves as a frontier station for the local tribal areas. The city’s economic activity is mainly focused on agriculture, with wheat, maize, and barley as the mainly-produced crops.
Gilgit experiences a cold desert climate (Koppen climate classification BWk). Weather conditions for Gilgit are dominated by its geographical location, a valley in a mountainous area, southwest of Karakoram range. The prevalent season of Gilgit is winter, occupying the valley eight to nine months a year.
It lacks significant rainfall, averaging in 120 to 240 mm (4.7 to 9.4 in) annually, as monsoon breaks against the southern range of Himalayas. Irrigation for land cultivation is obtained from the rivers, abundant with melting snow water from higher altitudes.
The summer season is brief and hot, with daily high temperatures occasionally peaking at over 40 °C (104 °F). As a result of this extremity in the weather, landslides and avalanches are frequent in the area.
It is not served by any rail connections. Long-term plans for the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor call for construction of the 682 km (424 mi) long Khunjerab Railway, which is expected to be completed in 2030, that would also serve Gilgit.