Skardu is the capital town of Baltistan, Pakistan. It is situated at a height of about 2500 metres from the sea level. As there are many similarities in the culture, lifestyle and architecture of Baltistan with Tibet, it is popularly known as Tibet-e-Khurd meaning Little Tibet. It is a major tourist spot of Baltistan as it is very famous for its scenic beauty and its major trekking and expedition hubs. The people living in Skardu are known as Balti people who are a mixture of Tibetan and Caucasian stock. The language widely spoken in Skardu is Balti which is an ancient form of Tibetan. Skardu is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, beautiful valleys and enchanting lakes.
HOW TO GET THERE?
There are daily flights from Islamabad to reach Skardu. Pakistan International Airlines has one flight daily from Islamabad. However, the flight operates only on clear days as the pilots fly on mere sight. The air journey is really thrilling and is considered as the highlight of the visit. During the air journey you can get a glimpse of K2 which is the second highest mountain in the world and Nanga Parbat being the ninth highest mountain in the world. You can also get a glimpse of the Indus valley as the plane passes from above it too.
You can take a bus from Islamabad to reach Skardu. This route takes you via the Karakoram Highway. But the Karakoram Highway is under construction so the journey can be a little slow which could take up to 24 hours by a public transport. There is another way to reach Skardu too from Gilgit. The journey is of about 200 km which will take 8 hours by taking a public transport.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best season to visit Skardu is during summer that is from the month of April to October. During winter months it is not possible to visit this place due to its extreme cold weather. The temperature falls down to -10 degrees and below in the month of December and January. However, during the summer months it remains at 27 degrees being the maximum and 8 degrees minimum.
PLACES TO VISIT
1. Kharphocho Fort
Kharphocho fort also known as the Skardu Fort is an ancient fort situated on a hill. It was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan the ruler of Baltistan in the 16th century. You can spot the panoramic view of the Skardu town, Indus River and Skardu Valley. This view is indeed beautiful.
2. Satpara Lake
It is situated about 8 km from the north of Skardu and takes about 20 minutes to reach by a jeep. The lake is surrounded by glacial mountains on all sides which are mirrored in the crystal clear water of this lake. The lake also has a small island in the middle which can be reached to by taking a boat. The lake has abundant fishes and is thus regarded as an ideal place for fishing.
3. Buddha Rock Carvings
This place is three kilometres away from Skardu across Satpara Nullah on Skardu Satpara Road. It dates back to the 8th century having a huge Buddha figure which is surrounded by small Buddhisatvas carved on a rock. There are also some pre historic men and animal figures carved on the rocks along the Kachura Lake.
4. Shigar Valley
Shigar valley is stretched along 170 km from Skardu to Askole and is the gateway to the hugh mountain peaks of the Karakoram. The gentle, irrigated slopes of the valley are filled with terraces of wheat, maize and barley. It also has orchards of apricots, peaches, apples, pears, nuts, etc. There is also a wooden mosque in the middle of the town which was built hundreds of years ago. There is an old fort and a Palace too in the village.
5. Shigar Fort
Shigar Fort is situated on the route to the world’s second highest mountain K2. It is also known as Fong Khar which in the Tibetan Language means ‘Palace on the Rock’. This fort is almost 400 years old and there are two more newly built buildings namely, the Old House and the Garden House. The former palace of the king has now been transformed into a heritage guesthouse with 20 rooms and a hall which serves as a museum of Balti culture and has some of the wooden carvings and a few heritage objects.
There are many more lakes that one can visit like the Shangrila Lake and Khachura Lake. The lakes have crystal clear blue water and are enchanting. Apart from the scenic sightseeing, Skardu is famous for trekking too. This is an ideal place for trekking, hiking and mountaineering as there are some of the highest mountain peaks in the world situated in Skardu like K2 and Nanga Parbat. You can also go fishing as there are abundant fishes found in the Satpara Lake and Kachura Lake. However, you need to get a permit from the Fisheries department for the same. There are also some walking excursions which take you to the nearby village of Narsok. Thus, Skardu has many beautiful sights which makes it a must go.