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-occupied 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.
Skardu is linked to the national capital, Islamabad by PIA, which operates one flight daily. The air journey is full of thrills and would 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. Enormous rock faces rise on either side or at times it seems as if the wing tips of the plane would almost scrape against them. They never do. Baltistan is known as the “Tibet-e-Khurd”, or Little Tibet since its lifestyle reflects that of the Roof of the World and the Land of Lamas.
It borders on the Chinese province of Xinjiang and Indian-occupied 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.
What to see in Sakardu?
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.
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.
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. There is the ex-Raja’s old Fort and Palace in the village.
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 Thorsikhar Fort.
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.
About 32 km (20 miles) from Skardu and 2 hours by jeep lies the shimmering peaceful deep 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.