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Skardu, being the largest district in the Northern Area, attracts travelers through its various breathtaking features. For a tourist, it may not be possible to explore this huge district from each and every aspect due to the race between perfect weather conditions and time. However, the capital town Skardu and the nature’s precious gifts surrounding the town are worth risking your schedule for, or better yet, keeping a relatively bigger quota of your exploratory holidays for.
Getting to Skardu
The perfect trip, for many, would be through the chartered helicopter ride having an aerial view of the mountains dressed in white, the lakes resting peacefully and the rivers taking away the water from melted glaciers. For more information regarding the costs and benefits of taking a Heli ride, visit www.askariaviation.com
Some may trust the national airliner with their commutation up north. It is guaranteed that if you manage to take the window seat, you won’t be able to blink your eye for a second due to the fear of missing a thing. It gives you an amazing aerial view with affordability. It is approximately a 75 minutes journey from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (Islamabad). For flight schedule, visit www.piac.com.pk
Northern Areas Transport Co. (NATCO) operates their commuter buses daily from Islamabad to Gilgit (tourists prefer spending a night or two at Gilgit, due to the tiring journey, before proceeding towards Skardu). From Gilgit, it is a 5 hours journey to Skardu. NATCO provides shuttle service from Islamabad to Skardu directly too. It is said to be a 25-30 hours journey (depending on traffic and weather conditions), but it usually takes more time. However, the whole tour is worth making an effort for. For bus schedules, visit www.natco.com.pk
Going to Skardu by Car sounds like an amazing adventure. It gives you independence and complete control of your journey. However, it is advised to proceed with a reliable 4×4 vehicle to avoid delays and risk. The distance to Skardu from Islamabad is calculated to be 637 KMs. It is a good idea to pre plan all your night stays and transits if going by road (especially if with family).
Hotels and Guesthouses
Karakoram Inn (+92-5831-55483)
Concordia – II (+92-5815-452582)
Hunza Inn (+254-20-2842-000)
Baltistan Tourist Cottage (+92-5831-52707)
Baltoro Rest House (+92-0575-2707)
Northern Areas PWD Rest House (+92-0575-2707)
Yak n Yurt Sarai (+92-0575-2856)
Hotel & Restaurant Dewan-E-Khas (www.dewanekhas.com.pk)
Shangrila Resort (Shangrila Kachura) (www.shangrilaresorts.com.pk)
Shigar Fort Residence (www.Shigarfort.com)
Deosai National Park
Deosai, in its literal translation, means “The land of Giants”. Lying 24.5 Miles south of Skardu, (approachable by rental 4×4) This park if not only famous due to its natural beauty and for being up-north but the pride of this plain is its second position amongst the highest plateaus in the world. Deosai has more to offer than just the geographical location and the scenery. This place is home for the Himalayan Brown Bear which was on the verge of being extinct in 1993, but due to the proper environment and care by the government, the Brown Bear family in Deosai was recorded to have increased to 40 in number as of 2005. Deosai is decorated by rich and colorful flowers with a touch of lush green grass and a distant view of snow-capped mountains which combines to be the perfect spring season combo. Its geographic location, the boundary of Karakorum and Western Himalayas, is what makes it even more exciting for tourists who wish to relax under the warm sun and observe the details of the Creator. For the lot who might think of Deosai National Park as a dry place, the aqua admirers may pay attention to the Deosai (Sheosar) Lake inside the park which is counted amongst the highest lakes in the world.
Or Skardu Fort, in its literal translation, means The King of Forts. This fort belongs to the 16th Century. The credits for this magnificent fort go to Ali Sher Khan Anchan, a Famous ruler of Gilgit Baltistan. This fort consists of an ancient mosque as well. The Fort itself is situated 1400ft above the city of Skardu on a hill providing the stunning view of the whole city. Once you climb up to the top, it makes you feel like an eagle overlooking its territory, which in this case is the whole valley, the Indus River and the natural beauty of the Skardu City. This Fort gets even more interesting if you ask the natives about its made up story.
There are two Kachura lakes located in the district of Skardu, Gilgit Baltistan named as the Upper Kachura Lake and the Lower Kachura Lake. The lakes are at an elevation of 2500 meters and the distance between the two lakes is 8 km.
Upper Kachura Lake: The Upper Kachura lake is located at a distance of 27.7 km from Skardu City and is approx an half hour drive. It is easily accessible on cars. It is a beautiful lake fresh clear blue water surrounded by huge mountains and wild trees covered with fruits mainly apricots. The temperature in summers can reach upto 20 C and in winters the lake is frozen. The main attractions of the Upper Kachura lake include its breathtaking scenery, trouting and mountain trekking.
Lower Kachura Lake:
The Lower Kachura or most commonly known as the Shangrila which means “Heaven on Earth” is a one of a kind resort located at about 20 mins drive from Skardu. The Resort was established by the late Brig Muhammad Aslam Khan who was the first Commander of the Northern Scouts Army. The Resort is famous for attracting a huge variety of local and international tourists. The lower Kachura lake is surrounded by the Shangrila Resort with almost 70 swiss cottages facing the lake makes the place totally mesmerizing. The resort offers variety of services to accommodate the tourists e.g pick n drop to airports, sports facilities etc. The Resort offers variety of food choices:
- Pagoda Restaurant: The Pagoda restaurant offers Chinese cuisine with chefs specially called in from China.
- Lake View Restaurant: The lake view restaurant holds a broad view of the resort.It offers continental and Pakistani cuisines.
- DC-3 Coffee Shop: is a one of a kind coffee place which is situated in an abandoned aircraft structure which once crashed in the river bed and was refurbished in 50s.It has a similar theme then that of a cabin crew.
- Tandoori Village: has a traditional theme with ancient old recipes and traditional food e.g chicken tikka , seekh kababs, fish etc. The restaurant has an impressive ambiance with food served outdoors under the starsStak Nala (Stak Valley):
Stak Nala or Stak Valley is located in the middle of Gilgit-Skardu road and takes approximately 2.5 hours from Skardu. Stak Valley is a magnificent breathtaking valley which has all the features collectively to amaze a nature enthusiast. There is a place called “Broq of Stak Nala” which means high altitude in local language which provides an ecstatic eye gazing pananormic view of high altitude waterfalls, lush green trees, lush green plains and a huge area covered with glacier known as “Kutia Lungma”.The place is 3 to 4 hours away from Tookla village. If someone feels that they didn’t get enough of this place so there is also a PTDC hotel which could accommodate the travelers.
Moreover Stak valley is strategically important with the recent discovery of mines of precious gemstones has gained international attention. The gemstones are only half n hour away from the tookla village and in the future Stak valley could emerge as an exploration site.
There is a huge Buddha rock stature surrounded by miniature rock carvings. The rocks are located on the sadpara road 3 km away from the sadpara nullah. The rock carving could be dated back to 8th century AD. The carvings have attracted a number of researchers who say that it dates back to the great Tibetan empire. The researchers say that the drawings are of stupas and the experiences of the people. Moreover the language written in the texts is the kharoshti language of Buddhist people of khandara. Due to all these factors it is a major attraction for history enthusiasts.
Khaplu palce located in the upper region of khaplu gilgit baltistan which 101 km from Skardu airport and takes about 2 hours to reach there by car. The Khaplu palace is an old fort which was constructed by Yabgo Ali Khan in 1840. The palace was in disastrous conditions from 2005 to 2011 but was restored by Agha Khan Trust for Culture. Now the fort is a cultural heritage accommodation provider operated by Serena. The khaplu palace is now an exquisite place to
both enjoy the historical cultural heritage and the services of a luxury hotel. They offer guided tours to all the historical places in and around Khaplu in Gilgit Baltistan. They also offer pick n drop services from the airport. Moreover, Khaplu Palace offers a variety of ecstatic Balti and Pakistani cuisines in their restaurants. A highly recommended place to
K2 Base Camp:
The K2 is the worlds second highest peak with an elevation of 8116m.Locally in balti language K2 is known as “chogori” which means the king of mountains. The k2 is located in the karakoram mountains and on the border of pak-china. K2 is rocky mountain uptill 6000m but the track transforms into a mountain of snow as you progress. In 1887 first time the k2 and various glaciers were discovered by a bristish surveyor Goodwin Austin. K2 gained international attention when a number of expeditions were failed because of the harsh weather conditions and strenous track.Finally the Lino lacedelli and Achilles Compagni climbed K2 and laid the foundation for other to follow.
Local people who are not professional climbers choose to go upto the K2 base camp which is also a 21 day extremely difficult trekking route and one of the famous trekking routes in the world. The journey starts off with Skardu which is the capital of gilgit baltistan on jeeps and drive as far as the askore a beautiful valley covered with fruits and lush green trees. The trekking starts off at the Baltoro glacier through which is surrounded by monstrous mountains. After an almost trekking of seven days we could reach at the famous Concordia which is the junction between Baltoro and Godwin Austin a place which serves at the base for four major mountain Gasherbrum II ( 8035m ), Broad Peak ( 8047m ) and Hidden Peak or Gasherbrum I ( 8068m ) dominated by the king of the mountains, K-2 ( 8611m ). This place is far most one of the beautiful places of the world and the view of K2 on a clear day can be severely mesmerizing. The return is possible through the same route.
Satpara Lake is 8 kilometers which makes almost 20 mines drive north of Skardu. The lake is situated in the middle of the mountains, which are covered with Snow, and the water is crystal clear which makes it even more beautiful when the Icy Mountains are mirrored in clear blue water. Satpara lake supplies water to almost all parts of Skardu and is situated at 8650 feet. The height where this lake is situated makes it even more breathtaking and is considered to be one of the most scenic lakes in Pakistan. Furthermore, there is a wonderful story which is attached with the lake is that the local people believe that there is a gold mine in the bottom of the lake that is why the water seems shining all day long.
The Shigar Valley is situated in Baltistan which is watered by Shigar river. The valleys stretch about 165kms from Askole to Skardu. The tropical terrain of the valley makes it enjoyable for people who are interested in Jeep Safari. People visiting Shigar valley can enjoy Horse Safari and Camel Safari.
Certain tours of Horse Safari are available in Shigar valley where tourists can visit all the important attractions of the place on horse.
Ambrique Mosque is situated in the heart of Shigar valley. It is a small mosque made up of wood and the mosque was built in the 18th century.
The terraces of the valley are filled with Maize, Wheat and Barley and the Orchards, which are known as the identity of Baltistan, are filled with Apricots, Peaches, Plums and Apples.
Shigar Fort :
It is located on the route to the world’s second highest mountain K-2 and it is known as Fong-Khar, which means “The Palace on the Rock” in local language. The Fort was built in the 17th century and it is now transformed into a luxury guesthouse owned by Serena, which enables tourist o experience the restored original architecture of the 17th century Raja Fort Palace along with the modern amenities. The Fort is a perfect place to live and the fort has 20 rooms including suites. The Shigar Complex comprises of the 400 year old Fort and two new buildings have been built which are known as “Old House” and “The Garden House”.
Things to do in Skardu:
- Mountaineering, Trekking and Hiking
- Flora & Fauna
- Skardu Wildlife
- Walking tours to Narsok (Pure Spring)