The Skardu Valley is located at the altitude of nearly 2500m above sea level in the Gilgit Baltistan province of Pakistan. Surrounded by exquisitely massive mountains, the valley is a gateway to four out of the eight world’s highest peaks including the Gasherbrum I/K5 (8080m), Gasherbrum II/K4 (8035m), Broad Peak (8051m) and the King of Mountains K2 (8611m). Consequently, Skardu Valley is a heaven for Mountaineering Expeditions among trekkers, hikers and mountaineers.
Skardu Valley has a cold semi-arid climate. The summer season in the region is quite pleasant with the temperature varying between 27°C and 8°C. Though, the winters are snowy and cold since the temperature can drop below −10°C during December and January.
Language of Skardu People
The Skardu Valley is an ethnically diverse and multi-lingual region with a population of nearly 214,848 people. The tribes of Baltis, Monpas, Kashmiris and Tibetans are predominant in the valley. These people speak more than six different languages including Balti, Wakhi, Shina, Ladakhi, Brushaski, Domaki and Khwar.
1. Art And Music
The residents of Skardu Valley appreciate art and music. Subsequently, music instruments such as; dhol, chang, karnai and surnai are widely played in the valley during festive celebrations, weddings and other such events.
Classical dance, sword dance, Broqchhos, Yakkha, Chhogho Prasul, Gasho-Pa and Sneopa are popular in the Skardu Valley. Chhogho Prasul commemorates victory during games. Sneopa is a marriage-procession dance performed at weddings. Furthermore, Gasho-Pa is a sword dance associated with festive events.
The Balti architecture in Skardu Valley is majorly influenced by Moghul and Tibetan architecture styles. Also, the monasteries situated in the region exhibit Buddhist carvings and art. The architecture of Amburik Mosque, Skardu/Kharpocho Fort, Shigar Fort, Khaplu Fort and Noorbakhshi khanqahs display the Tibetan and Buddhist imprints.
Polo is the most famous sport of the Skardu Valley. Ali Sher Khan Anchan Maqpoun familiarized this sport to the natives during his rule. Trophy hunting is another popular sport of the valley.
Lifestyle of Skardu Valley People
The lifestyle of people living in the Skardu Valley is quite traditional and simple. Although, they reside in small homes engraved in the mountains that are equipped with only the basic facilities but their hearts are wider than the oceans. The natives are well-known for their inimitable hospitality. They have a deep respect for their values. The customs of Skardu Valley are exclusive to the region of Gilgit Baltistan and are different than the other cities of Pakistan.
Men in the valley wear traditional Shalwar Kameez, while, the women wear long hand-woven Frocks along with Shalwar and Dupatta. During winters, people keep themselves warm by wearing traditional Shawls, Waistcoats, Sweaters and Jackets.
Education is not widespread in the region. Hence, only a few people pursue higher education.
Religion of Skardu People
Formerly, Bön and Tibetan Buddhism were prevalent in the Skardu Valley. With the advent of Islam during the 16th and 17th centuries, the majority of natives converted to Noorbakshia Islam. Nonetheless, some people follow Kubrawiya Sufi order. Nearly 30% residents of Skardu Valley belong to the Noorbakshia sect.
Best Time To Visit Skardu Valley
The Skardu Valley is accessible in all the four seasons but the ideal time to travel to the valley is between March and November.
Expenses/ Travel Guide To Skardu Valley/routes
PIA operates a flight from Islamabad to the Skardu Airport on daily basis. The journey itself is the highlight of the visit and is filled with extraordinary adventures. On your flight, you can catch a clear mesmerizing glimpse of Nanga Parbat as well as the K2.
The Skardu Airport is a domestic civil airport in Skardu Valley. It is connected to the provincial capital Gilgit besides the federal capital Islamabad. Surrounded by the mighty peaks, the airport also serves as Operating Base of the Pakistan Air Force
The NATCO (Northern Areas Transport Corporation) operates commuter buses from Islamabad to Skardu Valley via Gilgit. Initially, the bus reaches Gilgit through the Karakoram Highway. From Gilgit, the bus continues its 200km journey to the Skardu Valley that entails over 5 to 8 hours. NATCO also provide a shuttle service directly from Islamabad to the valley which covers the expanse in 30-36 hours depending upon the weather. The journey cost Rs.1500. Generally, these facilities are available in Islamabad.
In case, you want to travel from other any other city to the Skardu Valley then you must reach Islamabad first to avail of these travelling facilities. For bus schedules, please check www.natco.gov.pk
If you want to travel to Skardu Valley by yourself. Then, you must proceed to do so with a 4×4 vehicle that is safe to drive over the KKH. The distance between Islamabad and Skardu Valley is roughly 637km. It is better to pre-plan your whole visit to the valley or book a tour package suitable to your conveyance.
Best Foods Of Skardu
The cuisines of Skardu Valley are unique in taste and texture as they are entirely made from locally available ingredients. Many dishes are prepared from scratch by the locals who prefer foods consisting of meat or bread. The most eminent dishes of the Skardu Valley are as follows:
1. Balay (Noodle Soup with Goat Meat)
Balay is a thick, gravy-like soup made up of gummy homemade noodles mixed with bits of goat meat and immersed in a hearty goat meat broth. It is served at the beginning of a traditional Baltistan meal in Skardu Valley.
2. Prapu (Wheat Noodles with Walnut Paste)
Prapu is prepared with handmade wheat noodles, apricot oil, local herbs, fenugreek seeds, potatoes, walnuts and almonds that are ground to a fine powder form. The noodles are boiled until they become soft.
3. Gyal (Buckwheat Cakes)
Different varieties of Gyal are available in the Skardu Valley that is prepared by using Brown or Red Buckwheat. These cakes are concealed with honey and served with apricot oil, apricot jam, or almond and walnut spread.
4. Marzan (Buckwheat with Apricot Oil)
It is a sweet winter dish made from the flour of buckwheat grains. It is eaten on special occasions by the people of Skardu Valley. Marzan is gooey, dry wheat dough served with pure apricot oil.
5. Boiled Goat (skinless)
An entire goat is first seasoned with spices and salt. Consequently, it is boiled with vegetables including carrots and onions. The meat is served when it is still attached to the bone.
6. Potato Stew (with Goat Meat)
Potato stew is prepared with goat meat, cumin, turmeric powder, black pepper, dried ginger and potatoes. These ingredients are first fried to make a spiced sauce. Then the water is added and it is served as a thick curry.
Mamtu consists of glossy dumplings prepared from flour loaded up with lamb or beef and zesty fixings. These are made in a length cooking process in which steam is used instead of fire.
8. Butter Tea (served w/Buckwheat Flour)
Butter tea is prepared from pre-brewed green tea leaves, butter, salt and milk. It is served with freshly ground buckwheat flour, and pure apricot oil.
Top Places In Skardu Valley
There are lot of fun places in Skardu where you will find real mountain adventure!
You can consider visiting the other great destinations in Northern Areas of Pakistan, like Hunza Valley, Fairy Meadows, Chitral, Kalash Valley, Swat Valley, Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir, Murree and Astore Valley.
Shangrila Resort Skardu
Shangrila Resort located at the elevation of 2500m is nestled between the some of the world’s highest mountains in the area that is renowned as the “The Roof of The World”. Previously owned by Brigadier Muhammad Aslam (late), it encircles the heart-shaped Kachura Lake that is surrounded by striking gardens and beautiful orchards. Due to its serene yet breath-taking beauty, the Shangrila Resort is quite famous among the tourists.
Distance And Fare from Skardu
While traveling from the Skardu city, it takes 45 minutes to reach the Shangrila Resort. The local transport is not available in the area. Although a Suzuki is accessible which charges Rs.250 to Rs.350 to reach the destination. Moreover, a shuttle service is available to the Shangrila Resort from Skardu Airport that covers the distance in 15 minutes.
Best Time To Visit Shangrila Resort Skardu
The ideal time to travel to the resort is from March till November.
Facilities At Shangrila Resort
Pagoda Restaurant, DC- 3 Cafe, Snack Bar, Lakeview Restaurant, Conference and Banquet facilities, Rock Lounge Cafe, Mini Zoo, Lake Side cottages and Trout Hatchery etcetera are accessible at the Shangrila Resort. The resort offers an astonishing picnic area, outdoor sitting arrangements, on-site dining, BBQ facilities, free parking, Airport shuttle service, VIP room facilities, family rooms, free Wifi and room service.
Spoken anguage At Shangrila Resort
The officials at the resort can speak Urdu as well as Urdu so you do not need to worry about the language barrier.
The authorities of Shangrila Resort Skardu do not allow pets
The hotels built in the resort serve local as well as international cuisines. Pagoda Restaurant offers Chinese and international dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lakeview Restaurant serves international foods for breakfast. Special diet meals are available in the hotels upon request.
The Rents at Shangrila Resort are on per day basis, daily rents of guest rooms are listed below. Although expensive but worth a visit.
|Sr. No.||Available Rooms||Rent|
|2||Lake Side Cottage||Rs.20000-24000|
|3||Shangrila View Cottage||Rs.20000|
The tourists visiting the Shangrila Resort Skardu can enjoy once in a lifetime experience of boating in the Upper Kachura Lake, trekking and trailing in the mountains surrounding the resort.
1. Deosai National Park Skardu
Sited at 24.5 miles south of Skardu Valley, Deosai “The land of Giants” is the second highest plateau of the world as it is located at 4,114m altitude from sea level. It covers an area of 3,000km2 extending to Ladakh. The Deosai National Park is home to brown bear. Ibex, wild horses, snow leopards and Tibetan blue bears.
2. Kharpocho Fort
Skardu Valley is the center of Buddhist and Tibetan archeological sites in Gilgit Baltistan. One of the most popular of which is the Kharpocho Fort also known as the Skardu Fort. Built by Maqpon Bugha in 1490AD to 1515 AD on the eastern side of the Khardrong or Mindoq-Khar hill, the fort still stands tall as a seven-storey building above the magnificent Indus River. The Kharpocho Fort provides a panoramic view of the Skardu Valley. It contains an old mosque that dates back to the 16th century.
3. Shigar Fort
Situated on the route to K2, Shigar Fort or Fong-Khar is a 400 years old palace. It was built in the 17th century as a palace of the Raja of Shigar Valley. But for now, the fort has been renovated into a luxury guesthouse with an ostentatious hall that serves as a museum of Balti culture. Certain fine wood carvings along with the other historical objects have been displayed in this hall. The Shigar Fort is a perfect place to stay while visiting the Skardu Valley as it offers 20 rooms including suites.
4. Satpara Lake
Satpara Lake is a natural lake situated at an elevation of 2636.52m near Skardu Valley. The lake is filled with water from Satparan Stream which is then supplied to residents of Skardu Valley. The distance between Satpara Lake and the valley is 9.7km that can be travelled in 20 minutes. Tourists must visit the lake during the summer season.
5. Lower Kachura Lake
Lower Kachura Lake is also known as the Shangrila Lake due to the Shangrila Resort that was constructed on its bank, in 1983. It is located in the Kachura Village of Skardu Valley. The lake is listed second amongst the most beautiful lakes of Pakistan. It is accessible after 20 minutes’ drive from the Skardu town.
6. Upper Kachura Lake
Situated in the Skardu Valley the Upper Kachura Lake is a twin lake of Shangrila Lake. It is located at 2500m altitude in the Karakoram Mountain Range. The lake is accessible only during summer as its surface is frozen during winter.
Other must-visit places in the Skardu Valley include; the K2 base camp, Stak Nala Stak Valley, Braldo Valley, Khaplu Palace, Shigar Valley, Narok village, Manthokha Waterfall, Buddha Rock Carvings on Skardu-Sadpara Road, Mindoq Khar, Hilal Bagh and Chahar Bagh.
Things To Do In Skardu Valley