Baltistan (Urdu: بلتستان), also known as بلتیول (Baltiyul) in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan, bordering Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains just to the south of K2, the world's second highest mountain. It is an extremely mountainous region, with an average altitude of over 3,350 m (11,000 ft). It is inhabited principally by Balti Shia Ithna Ashri, of Tibetan descent who converted from Tibetan Buddhism prior to the 16th century. There is a small minority of Bahais in Baltistan.
Baltistan consisted of small independent states who were connected to each other due to blood relationships of the rulers called rajas, trade, common beliefs and strong cultural and language bonds. These states were subjugated by force by the Dogra rulers of Kashmir in the nineteenth century. In 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence, Baltistan was still part of Kashmir. The people of Baltistan being predominantly Muslims revolted against the Dogra rulers and after a struggle lasting a year became independent. Along with Gilgit, it is now claimed by Pakistan as the region of Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas). Its links with Kashmir as a subjugated people today continues to be an impediment in granting its population citizenship of Pakistan. The Kargil district of this region is located in the north of Indian-administered Kashmir, while the districts of Skardu and Ganche, whose main town is Skardu, are located in the Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan region. The region has the highest peaks of the Karakoram, including K2.