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 can be reached by bus from Islamabad. The drive takes you all the way over the KKH (Karakoram Highway).
Since the KKH is still under construction and the Skardu road still has to be repaired, the road can take min 36 hours by public transport
It’s also possible to get to Skardu from Gilgit. Though it’s less than 200km the journey will take you close to 8 hours (by public transportation.
See 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. Shigar Fort 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 is one of its kind village where farmers produce fruits and vegetables without any pesticide or chemicals. Manthokha Waterfall, is a 180 feet high waterfall in the background of lush green pastures, fresh gurgling streams towering rocky mountains just 78 kilometres (48 mi) away from downtown Skardu. It’s also famous for the fishing of Trout Fish.
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.