Skardu, situated on the eastern border of Gilgit-Baltistan, stands as a distinctive frontier town with unparalleled characteristics. Situated at an elevation of roughly 2,438 meters above sea level, the location has a plethora of natural beauty and diverse landscapes. Skardu has cultural and traditional characteristics that have resemble to those found in Tibet. Hence, the region is often referred to as Tibet-e-Khurd, denoting its designation as “Little Tibet”.
Skardu has several amazing places to visit. It’s a must-visit destination right after you enjoy a trip to Hunza Valley!
Places to Visit in Skardu
Hidden beneath the layers of dust in this charming town are treasures waiting to be discovered. Without further ado, let me unveil the secrets of Skardu – a destination that promises a wealth of experiences:
For an adrenaline rush, head to the Manthokha Waterfall. It’s a stunning cascade of water amid the rugged terrain, making it a fantastic spot for a short hike and a refreshing swim.
Why is it Popular: The Manthoka waterfall is situated inside the Kharmnag area of Gilgit Baltistan. The waterfall, standing at a height of 180 feet, is located around 75 kilometers from the central area of Skardu. This waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pakistan. The Manthoka waterfall, renowned for its pristine and transparent water, has emerged as a prominent tourist attraction within the Kharmang area of Gilgit Baltistan. It is especially famous for its captivating scenery, this natural wonder is widely regarded as one of the premier attractions in the region. The Manthoka village serves as the primary hub for roads leading to the Kharmang subdivision. The waterfall in question is situated near the confluence of the River Indus and is supplied by the Manthoka Nala.
History: The waterfall has both historical and geographical significance. The Indus River originates from this particular location. Nevertheless, this exceptional vantage point is located around 120 kilometers distant from the major area of Skardu city.
What to Expect: The Manthoka Waterfall is renowned for its impressive size and captivating melodic qualities, which contribute to its mystical allure. The waterfall is surrounded by verdant meadows, imposing granite peaks, and babbling streams with pristine, transparent water.
Price: The cost of round-trip transportation between Skardu to Manthoka Waterfall is 10,000 PKR ($33.33). An alternative strategy would include using public transportation, namely a bus, to go to Khaplu at a cost of 300 PKR ($1). Subsequently, one can choose to get a vehicle rental service for the return trip to Skardu, which would amount to 6,000 PKR ($20).
Other Important Information: In addition to the captivating waterfall, there exists a trout fish farm, which serves as a noteworthy attraction, rendering it an optimal destination for visitors and travelers. In addition, there are many little kiosks and a dining establishment that offers mouthwatering freshwater fish, which are equally alluring. I personally stayed here and believe me when I say, ONE OF THE BEST FRESHWATER FISH I EVER HAD!
Read our guide in case your ears get clogged while flying to Skardu!
Upper Kachura Lake
Upper Kachura Lake, also known as Shangrila Lake, is a mesmerizing natural wonder located near Skardu in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. It’s the sister lake to Lower Kachura Lake and is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and serene ambiance.
Why is it Popular: The lake is surrounded by dense, expansive woods and towering mountains of the Himalayan range. The distance between Upper Kachura Lake and Kachura or Shangrila Lake is about 2 kilometers.
The preferred mode of transportation for visiting the Upper Kachura Lake is a jeep, since the road conditions are not conducive for regular automobile use. While it is possible to drive a car on this route, it is not suggested due to its suboptimal quality. This location is often regarded as the optimal destination for engaging in boating activities.
History: In the native Balti language, it is named Foroq Tso. Upper Kachura Lake is one of the greatest spots to visit in Skardu. Due to its rugged terrain, there is not much infrastructure surrounding the Upper Kachura Lake, hence most visitors do not travel there.
What to Expect: When you visit this lake, it feels like you’ve stepped into a heavenly place. The beauty of the area is hard to put into words. You’ll find small cottages and hotels with a Chinese touch nearby, where you can go boating.
The lake is surrounded by tall trees and big mountains covered in snow. People love the resorts here, especially the ones higher up on the hills. At night, the area around Kachura Lake lights up, making it a stunning sight. It’s a magical place that you should definitely check out! I just relaxed here in serenity for almost an hour, without uttering a word. Truly magical!
Price: The cost of traveling by automobile from Skardu to Upper Kachura Lake is around 6,000 PKR ($20). The cost of a 15-minute boat trip at upper Kachura Lake is around 2,000 PKR ($6.66).
Extras: One can readily get pleasure from spending a few hours at Upper Kachura Lake. Boating is often recognized as one of the most renowned recreational activities to engage in on a lake. Both traditional boating and motor boating are available as options, despite the fact that high-jet boating has not yet been launched. While motor boating can seem enjoyable, traditional boating is often favored. This allows individuals to allocate more time to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of the stunning lake.
Deosai National Park and Plains
Deosai National Park is one of the prettiest places to visit in Skardu, also known as the “Land of Giants,” this park is home to unique wildlife and pristine landscapes, making it a fantastic spot for hiking and photography. Deosai is situated in close proximity to the confluence of the Karakoram and western Himalayan mountain ranges, and its elevation consistently exceeds 4,000 meters above sea level.
Why is it Popular: The area experiences a snow cover for 8 months. Throughout the remainder of the year, the plateau spanning an area of 3000 sq. km showcases a diverse array of vibrant blooms in all shades and colors. However, it is noteworthy that no trees are present inside this region. Situated at an elevation of 14,000 feet, this plateau ranks as the second highest in terms of altitude among all plateaus on the planet.
The Deosai Plains are renowned for being designated as the Deosai National Park. The establishment of the park was primarily motivated by the objective of conserving the brown bear population. Nevertheless, it has become more normal to partake in a safari expedition in Skardu. Furthermore, Deosai Plains represent the only habitat for brown bears within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan.
History: Deosai is derived from the fusion of two terms, namely ‘Deo’ denoting a colossal entity, and ‘Sai’ signifying a shade or shadow. Throughout the course of several ages, a prevailing belief has persisted about the presence of supernatural entities of immense proportions inside this particular location, hence giving rise to the appellation ‘The Land of the Giants‘. Deosai functioned as a significant commercial route between Kashmir and Gilgit, and during the pre-partition period, it played a pivotal role in the resolution of several tribal wars.
Military conflicts took place in the Deosai plains involving several factions, including the Dogras, indigenous people, and the Turks. The strategic significance of this area stems from its physical position in close proximity to the Line of Control (LoC) with India, situated inside the region of Indian-held Kashmir.
What to Expect: Deosai is a special place with many springs full of trout, which are like a buffet for both the people who live there and the bears. This area is incredibly beautiful with huge mountains that go up to 5000 meters, lots of animals living on those mountains, low-hanging clouds that feel almost touchable, and impressive Himalayan Golden eagles flying gracefully among the clouds.
There’s also a unique smell in the air. The best time to visit Deosai is from June to August when you have the best chance to see bears. It’s like a bear hotspot during these months!.
Price: The estimated cost for a two-day and one-night excursion from Skardu to Astore, including a stopover in Deosai for one night, ranges from around 12,000 PKR ($40) to 15,000 PKR ($50).
Other Important Information: It is advisable to be well prepared for there is a significant presence of mosquitoes throughout the summer season. Regardless of the circumstances, it is advisable to carry a very effective mosquito repellent spray. Deosai is recognized as one of the most frigid locations within the region of Gilgit-Baltistan.
During the summer season, it is possible for temperatures to drop below freezing at nighttime. It is advisable to bring both warm and lightweight attire for your convenience. The Deosai environment is characterized by its sensitivity and serves as a habitat for several endangered species. It is advisable to refrain from venturing into unexplored territories and instead prioritize adherence to established routes.
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Shigar Valley is a stunning destination that combines natural beauty, history, culture, and adventure. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of Pakistan’s northern region.
Why is it Popular: Shigar valley is popular because, in addition to its reputation as the access point to the renowned K2 Base Camp hike, it also offers an excellent opportunity for a short road excursion. Besides, Another gem in Skardu’s historical crown is Shigar Fort. It’s a beautiful blend of history and architecture, surrounded by lovely gardens. Don’t forget to explore its rich heritage.
The Khilangrong Mosque has significant value and is recommended for visitation inside the valley. For anyone interested in seeing the traditional lifestyle of a Balti hamlet, the Shigar Valley offers an ideal location for such an experience.
History: The whole Shigar valley embodies its legendary historical significance. The establishment of the Amachas dynasty is traced back to the 11th century, when its founder, Amachas, sought refuge from persecution by Ganesh in the Hunza Valley. Fort Khar-i-Dong was constructed upon the arrival of the individuals in Shigar, successfully overcoming adverse climatic conditions such as severe snowstorms and the formidable Hispar glacier. Several centuries later, the Mughals emerged and displaced the Amacha Dynasty, emerging victorious in a protracted conflict spanning several days.
The Mughals let the Amachas to retain their authority in the region, since they had willingly surrendered to Mughal rule. The Rajas of Shigar and the neighboring states saw a loss of their political position, when the Pakistani government amalgamated all states in the area into a unified administrative entity. Nevertheless, the successors of the royal families, known as the Rajas, continue to have significant local influence over the population.
What to Expect: Buckle up for an hour-long scenic road trip from Skardu city to Shigar Valley, where tourists can’t resist its charm. The Shigar River brings peace and tranquility to the scene. And as you approach Bab-e-Shigar, it’s like a warm hug from the valley itself. At first glance, the concrete doorway seems to lead to nothing but empty space. But keep moving forward, and you’ll enter a whole new world of wonder.
This valley is like a natural wonderland. It’s got everything from lush oases and ice-capped mountains to serene lakes and hot springs that’ll rejuvenate your soul. And when the sun sets, the night sky here is a celestial showstopper, with the Milky Way and a million stars. In Shigar Valley, nature pulls out all the stops, and you’ll be star-struck in more ways than one! Be sure to carry a scarf while traveling here to protect yourself.
Price: A six-day package to visit Deosai and Shigar valley costs around 39,000 PKR ($130).
Other Important Information: The Shigar valley is renowned for its culinary offerings, which serve as an additional draw for visitors. The culinary traditions of the Shigar region are quite appetizing. There are many establishments that provide a variety of continental and local cuisines in the Shigar region, including Serena Hotel at Shigar Fort, River View Hotel located in the main Bazar Shigar, and Space Hotel. Now, for some insider information! When you’re here, don’t forget to try “Bhaly” and “Plapu,” two local culinary gems that cater to the tastes of food enthusiasts in the area. These dishes are not just food; they’re a part of the Shigar experience.
Khaplu Valley is a slice of heaven on Earth. It’s a place where nature’s beauty meets history and adventure, all while being welcomed with open arms by the locals. It’s surrounded by majestic mountains, lush greenery, and glistening rivers. The scenery is so stunning that you’ll want to capture it in every frame.
Why is it Popular: This particular valley has significant popularity due to its historical origins as one of the oldest valleys of Baltistan, strategically located along the course of the Shyok River. It is the best honeymoon spot throughout the whole of Baltistan. The Karakoram Mountains possess a captivating allure, characterized by their majestic peaks and the presence of pristine, crystal-clear streams, which enhance their overall appeal.
Another notable attraction to consider seeing is the Khaplu Fort, which is often referred to as Yabgo Khar. Furthermore, the delectable cuisine offered in Balti serves as an additional incentive for tourists to explore this region. The seasons of Summer, Spring, and Autumn, known for their vibrant colors, are highly recommended for visiting this region.
History: Let’s travel back in time to the 14th century when a man named Syed Ali Hamdani came to Khaplu. It’s said that he played a big part in introducing Islam to the local people. Even today, you can find mosques and khanqahs (spiritual centers) that are connected to him in the area.
Now, let’s fast forward to a more recent history – before India and Pakistan were officially separated in 1947, Khaplu was ruled by a royal family known as the “Raja/Yabgo Family of Khaplu.” Over the years, there were changes in leadership due to various leaders and invasions, but the Yabgo Family held onto their authority for many centuries. This lasted until 1947 when India and Pakistan became two separate nations.
What to Expect: The Khaplu Valley is renowned for its embodiment of serenity and beauty. Located around 111.4 kilometers away from Skardu, the Khaplu Valley has garnered international attention as a popular destination for travellers seeking tranquility and relaxation. The valley is famous for its rich cultural heritage and longstanding customs and its abundance of historical landmarks.
The valley is renowned among enthusiasts of trekking. The region has a number of mountains and glaciers that are accessible for visitation and exploration. Moreover, the geographical location of this site is situated within the Karakoram mountain range, hence augmenting its aesthetic appeal.
Price: A one day and night standard tour to Khaplu valley costs around 15,000 PKR ($50). You can expect 6000 – 10,500 PKR ($20-35) as daily expenses per person including meals and hoteling.
Other Important Information: Khaplu valley serves as a primary access point for hiking treks. Khaplu attracts a substantial number of visitors who want to see the natural wonders of the Siachen Glacier and the renowned peaks of Masherbrum, K-6, K-7, among others. The Khaplu valley is situated in the central part of the Karakoram Mountain Ranges, which serves as a significant draw for both explorers and those with a deep appreciation for the environment.
Khaplu has several other historical monuments as well. Among them, the renowned Chaqchan Mosque is of notable significance. Khaplu can only be reached through road transportation. The accommodation rate for a stay at Khaplu Palace ranges from $200 to $250 a night.
In the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, Skardu and its neighboring valleys are an enchanting tapestry of natural beauty, history, adventure, and warm hospitality. From the cascading Manthoka Waterfall to the serenity of Upper Kachura Lake and the wild grandeur of Deosai National Park, each destination promises a unique experience. Shigar Valley, with its captivating history and celestial night skies, beckons travelers to explore its wonders. The rich history, diverse cultures, and mouthwatering cuisine make these destinations a treasure trove for those seeking the magic of Pakistan’s northern regions. My trip to Skardu was amazing.. and yours? Let me know in the comments.
Places to Visit in Skardu- FAQs
The ideal time to visit Skardu and its neighboring valleys is during the summer months, typically from June to August. This is when the weather is most pleasant for outdoor activities, and many attractions are accessible.
You can reach Skardu by air or road. The easiest way is by air from Islamabad. PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) and other airlines operate regular flights to Skardu. Alternatively, you can take a long but scenic road trip from Islamabad, which takes approximately 12-16 hours, including breaks.
Yes, you can explore these beautiful destinations on a budget. There are budget-friendly transportation options like buses, and you can find affordable guesthouses and hotels. Additionally, local eateries offer reasonably priced meals, allowing you to experience the charm of these places without breaking the bank.