Skardu Valley

Kachura Lake - Skardu

Skardu Valley is part of the Baltistan, Baltistan is spread over an area of 26,000 square kilometres - just right below the jagged and glaciated ramparts of the Karakoram. Once part of Laddakh, it was known as Tibet-i-Khurd - Little Tibet. Archaeological exploration has proven that it was encompassed by the Silk Trade Route. Rock carvings have been discovered along the road between Gol and Khapulu, and Skardu and Satpara Lake. the trade routes here split in Skardu with one leading to Satpara over the Deosai and Burzil Pass (5000 meters high) into Kashmir and another leading to Gol. At Gol it forks again with one trail leading to Khapulu, the other to Kharmang into Leh.




One hears of deserts in plains but never at the foothills of 18,000 feet high snow covered mountains. Skardu Valley is one such place which is carpeted in fine ash white sand through which greenish blue in winter; grey as tarnished silver in summer, the Indus snakes lazily between wind-ribbed sand dunes.


Skardu: Amidst a landscape of stark mountains, deep and steep gorges, crashing waterfalls and quiet lakes, Skardu, the district headquarters of Baltistan valley, is situated on the banks of the mighty river Indus, joined by the river Shigar just about 5 8 km further up. Perched at a height of 8,000 feet/2438 metres, Skardu offers cool and bracing climate. To the east is Laddakh, in the south Indian-occupied Kashmir and to the north is the Chinese province of Sinkiang. Skardu is strategically situated at the foot of an enormous rock, which is crowned by a historic fort. 


There are three lakes, Satpara about 8 km, lower Kachoora about 35 kilometres and upper Kachoora about 40 kilometres. The Lake Resort Shangri-La (above - left) is a picturesque place to rest and admire the beauty of Lake Kachura and Skardu Valley. To the southwest of the town is the sprawling Deosai Plateau which can be reached via the beautiful Sadpara/ Satpara lake just about 8 kilometres from Skardu. Deosai Plateau is unique in many ways. About 70 kilometres across and averaging 3,500 metres / 11,660 feet in height, Deosai connects Baltistan with the Astore Valley. It is to the north and east of Skardu that the Karakoram mountains assume their most impressive and unyielding character. it takes just two hours, by jeep to reach the gateway to the dreamland, the ancient village of Shigar tucked up in a lush green valley having abundance of fruit trees including apples and apricots for which the whole region is renowned. Of the world's fifteen highest peaks, five are located in this region, including K-2. Most of the longest and the most dreadful glaciers of the world are also located in this greatest geo-drama of the nature having no parallel on earth. Summers attract a large number of mountaineers and trekkers from all parts of the world to this valley. In fact, the entire region is known as the mountaineer's/trekker's paradise.

The Kharfocho Fort or the King of forts at Skardu attracts tourists in large numbers. The fort is attributed to the famous ruler of Skardu, Maqpon Bugha (1490 - 1515 AD), the great grand father of Ali Sher Khan Anchan (1560 - 1625 AD). However this claim is contradicted by the Moghal historians, who are of the view that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan himself. This view is upheld by European writers such as Cunningham, Foso Marine, G.T. Vagne etc. Some observations about this fort have been made in the Imperial Gazetteer of British India. It states that one of the most famous of the Gralpos (Monarchs of Skardu), Ali Sher Khan, who ruled till the end of the 16th century, conquered Ladakh and built a fort at Skardu. Another palace, Mindoq Khar, was built by Gul Khatoon or Mindoq Gialmo on the hill where now stands the Kharfocho fort only.  The palace was named after the queen as 'Mindoq Khar' meaning the 'Flower Palace'. The Palace was destroyed by the troops of the Sikh ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Gulab Singh, when he invaded Skardu in 1840 AD. Just below the Mindoq Khar or Flower Palace, there was a terraced garden with fountains built in marble. This royal garden covered the areas from Mindoq Khan to the present bazaar at Skardu where the newly constructed road crosses the channel. A palace built in marble with towers also stood in the middle of the garden, above the Polo Ground which is called Ghudi Changra. The palace was destroyed during the great floods in the area after the death of Ali Sher Khan Anchan and a marble Baradari was later constructed at this palace. This royal garden was named Hilal Bagh (Crescent Garden). Another garden was also laid which was named Chhar Bagh (four gardens) on the site where a Girls College stands now. The said garden was laid on the orders of the Queen while her husband was away to Gilgit and then to Chitral. As the mother tongue of the Queen was Persian, she gave Persian name to these gardens.

Shigar Valley (Photograph courtesy Henk Bos)

The Shigar Valley, 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Skardu and 2 hours by jeep, is watered by the Shigar River. It forms the gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakoram, including Mount K-2. The valley has an extremely picturesque landscape, and abounds in fruit such as grapes, peaches, pears, walnuts and apricots.

Shigar Fort (Photographs Courtesy Peter Langer)

Khaplu Valley of the Shyok River is 103 kilometres (64 miles) from Skardu and 6 hours by jeep. There is a sprawling village perched on the slopes of the steep mountains that hem in the river. Many famous mountains, such as Masherbrum, K-6, K-7, Sherpi Kangh, Sia Kangri, Saltoro Kangri etc are located here.

Masherbrum (7,821 M) - 22nd highest mountain in the world and the 11th highest in Pakistan

A Buddhist Rock with rock carvings in the Skardu Valley can be found on Satpara Road, dating back to the period of Great Tibat Scholars Empire. When the Buddhist of Gandhara migrated and passed through the present northern areas of Pakistan, they settled at some places temporarily and carved drawings of Stupas, scenes of their Experiences and images of Buddha with texts in Kharoshti language. There were a number of such Buddhist rock carvings in the Skardu Valley.

Related Links: | Forecast for Skardu | Skardu | Skardu valley & Sadpara Lake | Photo Gallery of Skardu and Baltistan |

 | Masherbrum expedition 99 | Masherbrum Peak | Our Baltistan Adventure |

This page was created on 28 February 2007 10 March 2007

Copyright©JalalsPages 2007