Skardu, capital of Baltistan is perched 2,438 metres above sea level in the backdrop of the great peaks of the Karakorams. Balti people are a mixture of Tibetan and Caucasian stock and speak Balti, an ancient form of Tibetan. Due to the similarity of its culture, lifestyle and architecture with Tibet, Baltistan is also known as the "Tibet-e-Khurd" (Little Tibet).
It borders on the Chinese province of Xinjiang and Indian Kashmir. The tourist season is from April to October. The maximum temperature is 27 C and minimum (October) 8 C. Apart from its incomparable cluster of mountain peaks and glaciers Baltistan's five valleys, - Shigar, Skardu, Khaplu, Rondu and Kharmang are noted for their luscious peaches, apricots, apples and pears.
Pakistan International Airlines flies daily from Islamabad. However, since the pilots fly on mere sight (no computer navigation), the flight only goes on clear days. During the flight it's possible to catch a glimpse of Nanga Parbat (the 9th highest mountain in the world) and K2 (the 2nd highest mountain in the world.The air journey is full of thrills and could itself be regarded as the highlight of the visit. After following the same air route, which connects Gilgit to Islamabad/Rawalpindi, the plane turns right and flies over the gorge of the Indus River.
Skardu city center Be aware that the main road and adjacent roads are the "Purdah Bazaar", you will not see any woman except for foreign women. Dress modestly and be prepared to everyone staring at you.
K2 Museum located near K2 Motel, displays pictures
Sand dunes On the other side of the Indus, impressive sand dunes are visible. Hire a taxi to get there. It is on the way to Shigar valley, but around 2 km away from the road.
Kharpocho Fort: Skardu has an ancient Fort known as Kharpocho Fort (King of Forts) situated on a hill overlooking the town. It was constructed by Ali Sher Khan Anchan, who ruled over Baltistan till the end of the 16th century. The mighty Indus snaking along just a few yards beneath your feet among the silvery white sands is an awesome sight. Entrance fee for foreigners is 200 Rs (02/2015)
Satpara Lake About 8 km (5miles) north of Skardu and 20 minutes by jeep lays Sadpara Lake, surrounded by glacial mountains, which are mirrored in its crystal clear waters. The lake has a fairytale island in the middle, which can be reached by country boats that one can row. This lake also abounds in fish and is considered ideal for fishing.
Shangrila Lake About 32 km (20 miles) from Skardu and 2 hours by jeep lies the shimmering peaceful deep Shangrila lake also called Kachura Lake, teeming with brown trout. During spring many exotic and colourful flowers adorn its banks, while peach, apricot and apple trees are laden with blossoms in April. Later in the summer one can taste the apples, which are a particularly delicious variety. Also see Shangrila resort.
Shigar Valley: The gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakorams, Gasherbrum & K-2, is only 23 km away from Skardu via jeep road. Shigar valley’s gentle, irrigated slopes are filled with terraces of wheat, maize and barley. Its orchards of apricots, mulberries, peaches, plums, pears, apples and nuts are unique to Baltistan. The wooden mosque in the middle of the town was built by Kashmiri carpenters several hundred years ago.
Khaplu Valley: This beautiful valley of the Shyok River is 103 km east of Skardu. Khaplu is the starting point for most trekking and climbing expeditions. Many famous mountains such as Masherbrum, Saltoro, Sia Kangri, K-6, K-7 are located here. Chaqchan Mosque is one of the earliest mosques in Baltistan (1504 AD), attributed to Syed Ali Hamdani. There is a Palace of Raja of Khaplu and remains of Thors
Narsok village, here you will find a large pure spring flowing from the base of the monolith.
First Organic village
Buddha Rock Carvings: Dating back to 8th century AD, a huge Buddha figure surrounded by small Buddhisatvas is carved on a rock, three kilometres from Skardu across Sadpara Nullah on Skardu-Sadpara Road. Pre-historic men and animal figures are carved on rocks along Kachura Lake. Some rock carvings and diagram of a monastery near Perkuta (Mehdi Abad) Nalah are also found.
Mountaineering, Trekking and Hiking: The area is ideal for mountaineering, trekking and hiking. Permission for mountaineering and trekking for restricted zone is issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Sports Complex, Kashmir Highway, Aabpara, Islamabad (Telephone: 92-51-9203509). Fishing permits are issued by the Fisheries Department at Gilgit and Skardu.
Fishing: at Satpara Lake (8km) and Kachura Lake (32km) from Skardu abound in trout. Fishing permits are issued by the Fisheries Department.
Flora & Fauna: Roses, lilies, pansies, willow, pine and fir trees are found in abundance. Apples, apricots, peaches, plums mulberry, walnuts and grapes are available from June to October and almonds from October to March.
Wildlife: Baltistan boasts of wildlife like Markhors, ibexes, snow leopards and birds, namely Chakors, partridges and ducks. Most of the animals and birds are protected but limited shooting is allowed. Hunting permits are issued by the local administration.
Walking excursions: A stroll around the eastern end of the Skardu rock will take you to the nearby village of 'Narsok', where you will find a large pure spring flowing from the base of the monolith. To reach Narsok, walk to the far end of the Skardu Polo field and pick up a trail that skirts the rock slopes beneath Zowar Singh's fortress. The mighty Indus snaking along just a few yards beneath your feet among the silvery white sands is an awesome sight. on the west bank of the Satpura Nala is a tall rock with a vertical, beige-colored northern face. Carved here circa A.D 900 is a lovely image of a meditating Maitreya Buddha framed by Bodhisattvas.
Baltistan is known for its "Pattu" - hand woven woollen cloth for jackets, coats etc. You can also pick up colorful intricately embroidered "Chugas" (Baltistani gown) and wooden spoons at Skardu bazaar.
Naya Bazar, Old Bazar, Botto Bazar, Hussain Chowk, Alamdar Chowk, Kazmi Bazar, Gamba Bazar, Benazir Chowk, Yadgar Chowk etc.
Baltistan Gems, Jewelry and Antique(regd), cell 0092-344-620-10-60, email: email@example.com. Baltistan Gems is one of the big gem and jewelry exporters. Address: New Bazaar, Near Qatal Gah Chock.
Hotel & Restaurant Dewan-E-Khas, located near the SCO office, offers a wide variety of Pakistani, Western and Chinese food. Dewan-E-Khas is the first and only family restaurant (this means that it has a room for families/Women to eat in) in Skardu. It is strongly advised for women to eat here if you feel like today you cannot cope with discrimination - it is a real heaven. They also have superfast free wifi.
Pagoda Restaurant, part of Shangrilla resort, offers a sumptuous Chinese cuisine. The Pagoda is on an island amidst the Honeymoon Lake linked to the Shangrila Resort by a short bridge.
The Lake View Restaurant, part of Shangrilla resort gives a panoramic view of the Shangrila Resort and offers Pakistani and Continental cuisine.
Tandoori Village offers a taste of ancient old recipes, Chicken Tikka, Seekh Kababs, Mutton Tikkas, Grilled Fish with home made tandoori rooti. Enjoy the out door feast under the stars in a traditional atmosphere.
Cafe DC-3, part of Shangrilla resort This code name of orginal DC-3 Aircraft was Alph Alpha Foxtrot (AAF) . This unique cafe is one of its kind. Situated in an airplane, which crash landed on the riverbed and was brought to the present site in the 50's. It offers a variety of snacks and cabin crew hospitality
Karakoram Café, located near Benazir Chowk across from the Frozen Goods store, run by foreigners, offers a wide variety of real coffee, teas, chai, and freshly baked Western goods. It also offers WiFi for customers who bring their own laptop.
Hotel & Restaurant Dewan-E-Khas, is the only hotel that is open year round. Rooms feature western bathrooms (some with bathtub), 24 hour hot water, TV and Wireless internet. Single rooms are around 1200 Rs, but the price-quality-ratio is very good. Also, the restaurant downstairs has some of the best food in town.
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