Skardu is the main town of Baltistan along the wide bank of the river Indus. Skardu is the largest district of the Northern Areas. Baltistan is home to some of the highest peaks in the world, the Karakoram Range, Skardu is very popular with Mountaineering Expeditions. It is equally popular with high altitude trekkers, who treks to Baltoro Glacier, K2 Base Camp and Concordia. Skardu by road, lies approximately 5 hours away from Gilgit and 10 hours drive from Besham. A daily flight to and from Islamabad is also in operation. The flight is always subject to weather.
Skardu has a character of its own and has a very interesting scenery. The Indus becomes wide and still here. The town is surrounded by dry rugged mountains and sand dunes.
Skardu is famous for the many trekking and adventure spots around it. There are numerous treks starting from Skardu. The near by Satpara Lake and Shangri-la resort are very famous among the local travelers and is visited by people from all over the country during June & July.
Places to see
Amidst towering snow clad peaks with heights varying form 1,000 to 8,000 meters, the picturesque & panoramic Baltistan speak volumes about its unmatched beauty. Out of 14 highest peaks in the world (over 8,000 meters high) 4 mighty peaks are found in the Baltistan's Karakoram Range. These mighty guardians include K.2/ Mount Godowin Austin (8611m world's second highest), Gashabrum-I (8,068m), Broad Peak (8,047m) and Gashebrum-II(8,035m). For the climbers and adventures it is a dream come true as all the great challenges are found at the top of the world. A large number of climbers have so far attempted, but quite a few have succeeded in scaling the mighty K.2. standing at 8,611m and being the second highest peak in the world. The traditional route to K.2 base camp goes from Skardu via Shigar-Dassu-Askole up to Concordia over the Baltoro glacier a trek of 6 days. It is a wonderful trek that provides an awesome journey through the mighty riggers, peaks and glaciers leading to the base camp at K.2. Whether you want to trek to the base camp or attempt to subdue the amazing monster it is and experience worth remembering. For Trekking, Baltistan provides the most scenic and longest treks in the world. It offers a unique opportunity to get close to the longest glaciers outside Polar region,Siachan (72km),Biafo (60km),Baltoro (60km),and Batura (64km).Walking in fresh air during the day and lying under the stars at night makes trekking in Baltistan an unforgettable experience.
The nature has blessed Baltistan, with invaluable deposits of the quality minerals and over 25-30 types of precious and semi- precious gemstones alluring world wide attentions of the beauty queens. These include: Emerald, Ruby, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Quartz, Topaz, Kunzite, Granite, Jade, Fluoride, and Peridot etc. Baltistan enjoys the lion's share in the mineral deposits of the Northern Pakistan. These minerals and gemstones are being produced in the legendary mountain ranges of Karakoram, Himalayas, and Hindukush and have a fair demand in national and international markets.
Like some other parts in Northern Areas, Skardu is best for Trophy Hunting. This region provides a unique opportunity for those willing to brave the terrain and wait for the perfect kill.
In different valleys of Skardu like Basho, Shagarthang, Kachura,Skoyo, Karabathang, and Basingo are found Himalayan Ibex (Capra Ibex sibirica) and Astor Markhor (Capra falconen). For centuries trophy hunting in the valleys of Baltistan has been the past time of kings and now the same thrill and excitement is provided to the adventurous visitors who have the license for this game. In Baltistan some of the watersheds have great potential for sports Angling. Some renowned species like: exotic brown trout( salmo trutta fario)& rainbow trout (saimo linneaus) are common in Kachura, Sadpara,Basho & other rivers of Kharmang Nullahs. The local carp (caprinos) & shchizothraz species are found in different areas of Baltistan particularly in Deosai Plain & in Indus River. So if you wish to enjoy fishing in these beautiful valleys, just lay back on the bank of the great rivers of Baltistan & wait for the fantastic catch.This unique area offers short trekking, traditional foods, boating, mountain climbing and sight of the great Indus River.
Baltistan is said to be the birth center of "Polo". "The game of kings and the king of games" is played here even today in its original form. This royal sport is indigenous to the Karakoram Range. It was Ali Sher Khan Anchan the Maqpon ruler of Baltistan who introduced this game to other valleys upon his conquests that stretched beyond Gilgit and Chitral. If you are genuinely interested in adventurism, just come and witness the mighty sport or even you may learn to play the game from the grand masters of Polo.
Skardu is the heaven of archeological sites. One of the most famous sites is the Kharpocho Fort built by Maqpon Bugha (1490-1515 AD). But Moghal historians are of the view that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan( 1560-1625 AD). The fort stands above the mighty Indus river. The whole of Skardu can be seen from the fort. At night the fort is illuminated and story of great battles come to life. But Moghal historians are of the view that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan himself. This view is upheld by European writers such as Cunningham, Foso Marine, G.T. Vagne etc. Some observations about this fort have been made in the Imperial Gazetteer of British India. It states that one of the most famous of the Gralpos (Monarchs of Skardu), Ali Sher Khan, who ruled till the end of the 16th century, conquered Ladakh and built a fort at Skardu.
palace was built by Gul Khatoon or Mindoq Gialmo on the hill where now
stands the Kharfocho fort only. The palace was named after the queen as
'Mindoq Khar' meaning the 'Flower Palace'. The Palace was destroyed by
the troops of the Sikh ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Gulab Singh, when he
invaded Skardu in 1840 AD.
Hilal Bagh and Chahar Bagh:
Just below the Mindoq Khar or Flower Palace, there was a terraced garden with fountains built in marble. This royal garden covered the areas from Mindoq Khan to the present bazaar at Skardu where the newly constructed road crosses the channel. A palace built in marble with towers also stood in the middle of the garden, above the Polo Ground which is called Ghudi Changra. The palace was destroyed during the great floods in the area after the death of Ali Sher Khan Anchan and a marble Baradari was later constructed at this palace. This royal garden was named Hilal Bagh (Crescent Garden). Another garden was also laid which was named Chhar Bagh on the site where a Girls College stands now. The said garden was laid on the orders of the Queen while her husband was away to Gilgit and then to Chitral. As the mother tongue of the Queen was Persian, she gave Persian name to these gardens.
The legend of Shangri-La is alive in Skardu, located just 35 minutes from Skardu. The resort is built on a beautiful lake and is surrounded by the most spectacular scenery. One may spend a night or a day, take a boat ride or trek the legendary location which provide opportunity for all to enjoy the best in Skardu.
There is only one surviving Buddhist Rock with rock carvings in the Skardu Valley located on Satpara road. Probably the rock carvings and images of Buddha date back to the period of Great Tibetan Empire. When the Buddhist people of Gandhara migrated and passed through the present northern areas of Pakistan, they settled at some places temporarily and carved drawings of Stupas, scenes of their experiences and images of Buddha with texts in Kharoshti language. There were a number of such Buddhist rock carvings in the Skardu Valley. Probably those rocks were used either by Ali Sher Khan Anchan as building material or submerged in the Satpara lake. Scholars and researchers like Dr. A.H. Dani from Pakistan and some from other countries have done lot of research work on these rock carvings and have since deciphered the text of the carvings in Kharoshti language. The entire Northern Areas of Pakistan have greater influence of Buddha as indicated by various inscriptions and remnants in various regions. When the Buddhists from Gandhara migrated and passed through the present Northern Areas of Pakistan, they settled at some places temporarily and carved drawings of Stupas, scenes of their experience and images of Buddha with tests in Kharoshti language. Once of the historical rocks is situated between Skardu city and Sadpara Lake on the bank of Hargisa Stream. The 2000 years old sculpture shows the great Buddha surrounded by his disciples. It was a place of worship for Buddhists till the middle of 14th century A.D. There are also Buddha scripts and Rock carving at Shigar, Mehdi Abad and Chunda.
Nansoq village is located on the back side of the famous Kharpocho Fort and has been successfully developed into an organic village by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). The village was visited by personalities such as Prince of Wales Prince Charles and His Highness Aga Khan in 2006.
Lakes in Skardu City:
About 32 kms (20 miles) from Skardu, 2 hours by jeep, lie the shimmering waters of the Kachura Lake. In the springtime its banks are adorned by a multitude of colorful flowers, while the trees are laden with peach, apricot and apple blossoms. The lake offers great opportunities for trout fishing. The shimmering waters of the Kachura Lake present a unique look which is worth seeing and capturing. In spring, its banks are adorned by a multitude of colorful flowers, while the trees are laden with peach, apricot & apple blossoms. The lake offers great opportunities for trout fishing.
8 km (5 miles) south of Skardu, 20 minutes by jeep, lies the Satpara Lake. Surrounded by high glacial mountains, this lake has an island in the middle of its clear waters, which can be reached by boat. The lake is considered ideal for fishing. In the lap of gorgeous mountains and glaciers, a number of lakes can be found all over the District. These lakes offer opportunities for fishing, boating and sight seeing. Some of the lakes are very famous for trout fish while many of these are home to wild birds traveling from Siberia. One of the famous places in Skardu is Satpara Lake where Satpara dam is being constructed. Surrounded by high glaciers and mountains, this lake has an Island in the middle of its clear water, which can be reached by boat.
Upper Kachura Lake:
It is ten KM upward of Main Kachura Lake. It is jeep road but a car can also be drived on this path. It is a private lake and you can do boating in it. But be carefull while you are boating.
Naqposo and Jarbaso are other lakes of the region.
Out side Skardu:
Shigar is a beautiful village just a few miles North of Skardu its picturesque village with beautiful terraced fields growing all sorts of crops. Shigar was once a small kingdom and the Shigar fort was once residential fort of the local ruler. Recently the Aga Khan shown interest in the fort which has now been renovated and is open for tourists. The Shigar fort has been made to be a residential fort once again. The Shigar Valley, 32 kms (20 miles) from Skardu and 2 hours by jeep, is watered by the Shigar River. It forms the gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakoram, including Mount K-2. The valley has an extremely picturesque landscape, and abounds in fruit such as grapes, peaches, pears, walnuts and apricots.
Shigar Fort is at distance of 32 Km form Skardu. This meticulously restored 400 years old fort is an outstanding example of the wealth of architectural and cultural heritage in Baltistan. One may stay in the restored suites and experience what kings and queens experienced 400 years ago.
Located at a distance of 32 kms from Skardu, Deosai is one of the highest plateaus in the world standing at 4100m and is spread over 3000sq.km. The spectacular scenery that Deosai offers from mid June to mid September is highlighted by some 342 species of vegetation.
The landscape is covered with wild flowers that make Deosai radiant with bright colors through the summer. The diverse vegetation supports wildlife and an ecosystem that is a unique example of adaptation to high altitude.
In addition to the Himalayan brown Bear, Deosai and the surrounding valleys are home to the Himalayan Ibex, red Fox, golden Marmot, Wolf, the snow leopard & over 125 resident and migratory birds. This area is a place of attraction for those who are interested in Trophy Hunting.
Drive to Deosai and visit the remarkable Plateau at 4000m above sea level.The Deasai plain (4000 m), a vast high altitude plateau covering an area of over 400 square km, south and west of Skardu, borders on Indian Kashmir. In Balti, the region is known as “Bhear Sar” means place of flowers. Nowhere lower than 4000 m, this uninhabited alpine grassland has numerous clear streams with unusual snow trout, a large brown bear population and multitude of golden marmots.
Deosai is surprisingly rich in plants and animals, bursting into life during the brief spring and summer months. The plateau is home to the Himalayan Brown Bear, unique to this part of the world. Other mammals found on Deosai included Tibetan Wolf, Tibetan Red Fox, Himalayan Ibex etc. Deosai Plateau offers several opportunities for trekking and easily accessible from Skardu.
Main points in Deo sai are Barawai(Big Water Stream), Kala Pani(Black Water),Shatung Nulla and Sheosar Lake.
Sheosar mean Blind Lake. As there is no in and out of this lake. It is very near to chachur top. It can be reached through skardu via Ali Malik Pass as well as via Chilim,Astore using chachur top. This lake is an ideal picnic stop in this region.
Braldo is one of the isolated and scantly inhabited Valleys. About 40 km North of Shigar valley is the start of Braldo valley, the most isolated of all the trans-Karakoram valleys. Braldo is wrapped in snow-covered peaks and largest glaciers outside polar region. But there is nothing comparable to the wonderful view of the glaciers. Braldo has the distinction of being the least interfered with, of all settlements of Baltistan, and one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Baltistan. Virtually untouched by the winds of change and modernization till then, Braldo is now a favourite destination for trekkers and culture lovers.
Braldo Valley is heavily traveled in the summer mountaineering months.
Supplies, food, tea and sleep facilities are thus readily available. The
entire ridgeline from above Yuno northwest to the Braldo River has been
worked in places. Previously this area was known as Bangia Bridge, referring
to the bridge crossing the main channel of the Braldo River immediately
south of the new town. Today, the new village of Haiderabad sits very
close to many of the BangIa Bridge. The west side of Buspar Peak, directly
above the very small village of Baha near the outlet of the Braldu Valley
is currently being worked. To enter the Braldu Valley, one must follow
the Jeep trail as it gradually turns north. Nearing Baha, the road was
blasted out of a rock face. The road squeezes by the fast flowing river,
passing an exposed pegmatite so closely that it can be easily touched
from inside the vehicle.
Two to three kilometers past Baha, there is a military checkpoint at which foreigners are asked to register. Another couple of kilometers to the north, there is a 40 year-old bridge with a police checkpoint. The bridge spans the Braldo River leaving travelers on the northwest bank. :The village of Teston is roughly two kilometers north of the bridge and a bit up from the road.
The village of Dassu is actually about 5 I, kilometers Upriver around a sharp eastward bend. Near the east end of this small village are several small shops selling food, staples and basic supplies. Continuing eastward on the north side of the Braldu, travelers encounter a Jeep road that veers off to the left, climbing a very steep zig-zag trail that winds up on a small plateau-home to the village of Nyet. The sole Jeep trail leading further into the valley at one time clung to the north side of the river until the bridge crossing at Apo Ali Gun. A new road now crosses the Braldu River closer to Byansapi.
A walk across the Apo Ali Gun bridge and about5 kilometers north brings travelers to a deep gash known as the Hoh Nala. Just across the bridge that spans HohNala and a few minutes to the south is the village of Chhaqpou.
Braldo valley is an extension of Shigar Valley reachable via Skardu, which is accessible by 22 hour drive along the Karakoram Highway from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad; Or a 6 hours drive from Gilgit or alternatively by an easy 45 minutes plane flight from Islamabad to Skardu.
It is second last village of skardu. Jeep road ends at Thungal and one has to go on foot towards askole for trekking. This is last jeep accessible village of Skardu for K2,Snow Lake and many other treks.
Askole or Askoly is a small town located in the Braldu Valley in the most remote region of Karakoram mountains in Northern Areas, Pakistan. It is the last settlement before the wilderness of the Karakoram. Askole is the gateway to four of the world's fourteen highest peaks known as Eight-thousanders (above 8,000m).
This valley consist of small villages like kharmang and tolti.This valley is snow covered most of the season and is habitant of Brown bear in winter.
The Basho Valley, with its hot springs, is one of favorite places to visit. It receives very few foreign visitors each year, with a handful of trekkers and climbers crossing the Haramosh while traversing up the Chomo Lungma (glacier).
A 3 hour drive up from Skardu brings travelers to upper Shigar ValIey's, Basho Valley. At this point, the Shigar Valley is perhaps 10 or more kilometers across. In the fall, sometimes nomadic gold miners working the rivulets. They submerge their hands in the I-degree Celsius water and manually pan for gold. Traversing the valley, at the south bank of the Basha River is the extended village Tisar. There is a police check-point just before entering Tisar. Only very few foreigners travel up this valley. About 6 kilometers to the northwest and up the river is the small village of Chutran.
name literally means "hot water" in the local Balti tongue.
In Chutran, there is a medicinal hot springs. Over the decades, the spa
has become popular with the local people, who are even coming from beyond
Hunza (15 hours by road) to soak in the 40-plus degree Celsius water.
Nestled at the base of the northeast side of the Haramosh Range, Chutron
is partially shaded and thereby relatively cool. Its scalloped terraced
wheat fields are intercrossed by footpaths and stone field boundaries,
all of which conspire to provide beautifully pastoral views and retains
a primitive charm, seemingly stuck in in the 19th century.
The village of Hemaesil is about 35 to 45 minutes by Jeep up the Basha River, just across a gushing stream from Chutron. On the opposite side of the river is Dogoro. Just upriver from Niaslo is Doko, where an ancient bridge that is some times impassable.
After Doko, the road climbs steeply above the Basha River, providing superb views of the isolated villages of Zil and Sesko, on the north bank of the Braldu. These villages are hemmed in by the over 6,000 meter peaks that sit behind them. Zil and Sesko are so primitive that entering them seems like entering the Middle Ages. Both viIlages are accessible only by either riding a suspended cart on a cable or by crossing the woven vine bridge. The Jeep trail is often blocked above Doko. At its highest point, the trail clings tenaciously to a steep cliff. Driving down that trail is a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching ordeal. Continuing up the south bank of the Basha River, the river gradually veers southward. The village of Bisil sits on the opposite side of the river; a cable cart connects the village to the Jeep trail.
Bisil also has a hot spring, with the small pool emitting strong smells of sulfur. Locals rarely see foreigners and are quite welcoming. After Bisil, the trail moves into the base of the narrowing valley where swampy thickets of seabuck thorn bushes and numerous stream crossings make travel slow and tedious. Traveling is particularly difficult if there has been a heavy snowmelt. At about 3,000 meters, the trail ends at the village of Arindo.
Basho valley is an extension of Shigar Valley reachable via Skardu, which is accessible by 22 hour drive along the Karakoram Highway from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad; Or a 6 hours drive from Gilgit or alternatively by an easy 45 minutes plane flight from Islamabad to Skardu.
15 minutes drive away from the Shangrilla Resort. Lush green Sokh also has a stream, which is ideal for fishing trout. It is a trekker's paradise as you can walk for miles along the stream.
It is two and half hours drive from the Shangrilla resort and have many attractions like lush green villages. People riding yaks. Gem stone hunters could find an attraction here looking for gold, aquamarine and topaz.
Snow Lake :
situated at the junction of Biafo and Hisper Glacier. It is basically
a snow covered lake which is totally frozen through out the year. One
can access it via Askole.After one day trek from Askole towards K2 Base
camp,on the base of Biafo and Concordia glaciers,turn towards biafo glacier
and five days trek will lead you to Snow Lake. Very high mountains are
around this lake.