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Friday, October 12, 2012

Baltistan - Off the beaten tracks

 

Shangrila

 

Shangrila_Blatistan_upper_kachura_skardu

Upper Kachura Lake in Baltistan, 30 minutes drive from Skardu airport, 1 hr from the city

 

Shangrila Resort, claimed “Heaven on Earth”, has a fantastic location, a treat for the eyes. The deep coloured lake set in a narrow valley between snow-covered peaks sets the scene for a perfect resort.

They have chosen a Tibetan name (Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia. Wikipedia) for their resort. However, apart from the location there is nothing to the resort. Accommodation is old, ill-kempt, unclean, with no necessary and/or complimentary facilities. It charges 5-star rates but offers a 2-star accommodation.

Worth the money? No. Good for a day trip to enjoy the location ad the lake.

 

Shangrila_Blatistan_upper_kachura_skardu

 Shangrilla_Blatistan_upper_kachura_skardu

 

Shangrila_Blatistan_upper_kachura_skardu

Birds eye view of the upper kachura lake

 

 

Satpara Lake

 

satpara_lake_Blatistan_skardu

 

One of the most picturesque lakes in Pakistan. It is located at 2,636 meters or 8,650 feet above the sea level, 30 minutes drive from the town of Skardu, enroute to Deosai Plains. Satpara Lake is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country offering trout fishing, and row boating.

 

satpara_lake_Blatistan_skardu

 

satpara_lake_Blatistan_skardu

 

satpara_lake_Blatistan_skardu

 

 

 

Deosai Plains

A must see place, at least once in life time.

deosai_bara_pani_Blatistan_skardu

Bara Pani

 

An average elevation of 4,114 metres (13,497 ft) above the sea level  makes Deosai Plains the highest plateau in the world. This big plataeu at such an altitude covers an area of 3,000 square kilometres (1,200 sq mi), no wonder sometimes referred locally as the 8th wonder of the world.

It is well known for its rich flora and fauna of the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine region. In August it is covered by wildflowers which carpet the whole pleatue and a wide variety of butterflies, a breathtaking view that gets imprinted in your memory for the years to come.

 

With the current road conditions, it takes 2 hour to reach the pleatue from Skardu, another 1 hour to get to the big stream in the middle, called “Bara Pani”, and then further 1 to 1.5 hours drive to the Sheosar lake. This lake, at an elevation of 4,142 metres (13,589 ft), is one of the highest lakes in the world.

 

deosai_Blatistan_skardu

Shepherds in mid-plateau, high altitude meadows

 

deosai_bara_pani_Blatistan_skardu

 

deosai_bara_pani_Blatistan_skardu

 

deosai_bara_pani_Blatistan_skardu

Old bridge of Bara Pani

 

 

Shigar

A remote and largely inaccessible valley in Baltistan along the banks of Shigar River. Stretching about 170 km from Skardu to Askole (the last settlement in the Valley) it is the gateway to the high mountains of the Karakoram and specifically known for the starting points for popular treks like Concordia (K2 base camp), Snow Lake, Gashabrum series of peaks, Torango Towers and and Broad Peak.

This area contains some of the world’s highest peaks and biggest glaciers, and is considered as a heaven for trekkers. Five of the 14 highest independent peaks in the world (the eight-thousanders) lye in this area and the surrounds, including K2, the second highest peak in the world after Mount Everest. Four of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions found in this area are the Biafo Glacier, Baltoro Glacier, Batura Glacier, and Hissper glacier.

The 400-year-old Fort and the former Palace of the Raja of Shigar recently restored by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P) is worth mentioning. The palace can also be used for accommodation under the administration of Serena group, and offers decent services.

 

almonds_shigar

Almond Trees

 

shigar_baltistan

Chased by cows

 

shigar_baltistan

 

 

 

Khaplu

Lying at 3 hours drive from Skardu town towards east, Khaplu was the largest kingdom in old Baltistan. Along the banks of Shyok River, it borders the area of Laddakh in India.


The town is a base for trekking into the Hushe valley which leads to Masherbrum and K2 mountains. The historical buildings include Chaqchan Mosque, a beautiful 700 years old mosque founded by Syed Ali Hamdani, the first Islam preacher in this area, and the Raja Palace, the last & best Tibetan style palace in Pakistan initially built with the help of architects specially brought from Kashmir for the project by Raja, now recently restored by the Agha Khan Foundation. At 2555 meters, Khaplu is cooler than Skardu, and with the friendly character of people and superb walks along irrigation channels, it is well worth a visit and one of the nicest place to stay in Baltistan.

 

khaplu_baltistan

 

khaplu_baltistan

 

khaplu_baltistan

khaplu_baltistan

 

khaplu_baltistan

Raja’s Palace

 

khaplu_baltistan

Polo

 

indus_baltistan

Sand storm

 

 

Lake Upper Kachura

 

upper_kachura_baltistan

 

The beauty of the Upper Kachura Lake remains absolutely unspoilt and extremely less travelled. It is located at 1.5 hours drive from Skardu town, or a further half an hour from Shangrila. It is a small isolated clear water lake which gets frozen in winters, and is surrounded by fruit laden trees and forests in the foreground and the snow covered peaks and mountains in the background.

 

upper_kachura_baltistan

 

upper_kachura_baltistan

 

 

 

skardu airport

Skardu Airport - c130

 

Click for more photos...

Click for Baltistan Gallery 


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