15 The Best Places To Visit in Skardu-2024

Nestled amidst the grandeur of the towering Himalayas and Karakoram ranges, Skardu, a serene valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, offers a surreal landscape that seems almost untouched by time. Renowned for its breathtaking vistas, crystalline waters, and rugged terrain, Skardu serves as the gateway to some of the highest peaks in the world, including K2. For adventurers, nature lovers, and those seeking solace in the beauty of the mountains, Skardu is a destination like no other. The best places to visit in Skardu showcase its unparalleled beauty and offer a glimpse into the region’s rich culture.

Discovering the Hidden Gems of Skardu: Pakistan’s Untouched Paradise

Nestled among the towering peaks of the Karakoram Range, Skardu is a hidden gem in Pakistan’s crown, offering a breathtaking blend of untouched natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. This secluded paradise in Gilgit-Baltistan is more than just a gateway to some of the world’s highest mountains; it is a sanctuary of serene lakes, lush green valleys, and ancient fortresses.

Each corner of Skardu is imbued with spellbinding beauty, from the mystical allure of the cold deserts of Katpana to the enchanting waters of Sheosar Lake in the high-altitude Deosai National Park. The region remains relatively untouched by mainstream tourism, making it a pristine destination for adventurers and those seeking tranquility alike.

the best places to visit in skardu

Whether it’s the thrill of a trek to the majestic Baltoro Glacier or a peaceful afternoon by the serene Satpara Lake, Skardu offers a myriad of experiences that are as diverse as they are unique, inviting travelers to discover a paradise still unknown to many.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Skardu is from April to October when the weather is most favorable. The roads are clearer and the natural beauty of the region is at its peak following the spring thaw.

Getting There

Travelers can reach Skardu by air with daily flights from Islamabad, weather permitting. The more adventurous can opt for the road journey from Islamabad via the Karakoram Highway, known for its stunning scenery.

Skardu is not just a travel destination; it’s an experience. It offers a profound sense of peace and an opportunity to reconnect with nature in one of its most majestic forms. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Skardu promises an unforgettable journey with each visit revealing more of its enduring allure.

Cultural Immersion and Local Cuisine

Beyond its stunning landscapes, Skardu is rich in cultural experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the local traditions and lifestyle of the Balti people. Here are some cultural insights and culinary experiences not to be missed when visiting Skardu:

Balti Culture

The people of Skardu, known as Baltis, are known for their hospitality and rich cultural heritage that dates back centuries. Visitors can experience this warm hospitality firsthand by staying in traditional guesthouses and interacting with local families. Cultural festivals, which often feature folk dances, music performances, and traditional sporting events like polo, are great times to visit.


Skardu’s markets are vibrant with local artisans showcasing their skills. Handwoven carpets, embroidered shawls, wood carvings, and traditional jewellery are popular among tourists as souvenirs. These items not only reflect the intricate artistry of the locals but also help support the local economy.

Local Cuisine

The cuisine in Skardu is a delightful experience for food lovers, offering a unique blend of Tibetan, Central Asian, and South Asian influences. Dishes such as ‘Skardu Bread’, a thick, hearty bread, and ‘Tsampa’, roasted barley flour, are local staples. Don’t miss trying ‘Mamtu’, a type of dumpling steamed or boiled, filled with meat and vegetables, and the deliciously seasoned ‘Balti Yakhni’, a mutton broth.

people in skardu

Adventure Sports

For those looking for adrenaline-pumping activities, Skardu is a hub for adventure sports:

Trekking and Mountaineering

Skardu is the starting point for some of the world’s most famous treks leading to the base camps of towering peaks like K2, the Gasherbrums, and Broad Peak. These treks vary in difficulty and duration but are all guaranteed to be rewarding with their stunning views and challenging terrains.

Rock Climbing

The rugged landscapes of Skardu offer exciting opportunities for rock climbers. The Trango Towers, famous for their vertical climbs, draw climbers from across the globe looking to conquer some of the toughest rock faces.

Rafting and Kayaking

The Indus River provides thrilling white-water rafting and kayaking experiences. The river’s varying degrees of rapids can cater to beginners as well as experienced adventurers seeking a challenge.

Eco-Tourism and Conservation Efforts

Skardu is sensitive to the pressures of tourism on its environment. Visitors are encouraged to respect local customs and natural habitats. Participating in eco-tourism initiatives, such as trash cleanup treks and staying in eco-friendly lodges, can help preserve the natural beauty and cultural integrity of Skardu for future generations.

Skardu is a blend of natural beauty, adventure, and cultural richness that offers something for every traveller. From the silent, star-lit nights by serene lakes to the rugged beauty of its deserts and mountains, each aspect of Skardu is imbued with a charm that beckons travellers back, time and time again.

As this remote haven becomes more accessible to the world, it remains a place where the rhythms of nature dictate life and where the spirit of the mountains can be felt in the breeze and seen in the welcoming smiles of the local people. Skardu’s appeal is timeless, offering a deep connection to the Earth and a refreshing respite from the pace of modern life.

The 15 Best Places to Visit in Skardu, Pakistan

Nestled in the mountainous landscapes of Gilgit-Baltistan, Skardu serves as a gateway to the mighty peaks of the Karakoram Range. This town not only boasts breathtaking natural beauty but also offers a unique cultural heritage, making it a prime destination for both adventurers and culture enthusiasts. Here are the 15 best places to visit in Skardu:

skardu beauty

1. Skardu Fort

Overlooking the town from its hilltop position, Skardu Fort, also known as Kharpocho Fort, offers panoramic views of the Indus Valley. The fort’s origins trace back to the 16th century and provide a glimpse into the region’s rich history.

Perched high on a ridge above the Indus River, Skardu Fort offers a commanding view of the entire valley. Historically, it was a strategic point for defending against invasions. The fort houses an ancient mosque and remains a testament to the rich history of the region, with architectural elements that speak to Tibetan influence.

2. Deosai National Park

Known as the Land of Giants, Deosai National Park is one of the highest plateaus in the world. This vast, open wilderness is home to unique wildlife, including the Himalayan brown bear, and is blanketed with wildflowers during the spring.

Known for its ecological uniqueness, Deosai National Park stands over 4,000 meters above sea level and spans an area of about 3,000 square kilometres. It is a place of extraordinary biodiversity, supporting a range of flora and fauna adapted to the alpine environment. The park is also a critical habitat for the endangered Himalayan brown bear.

3. Sheosar Lake

Located within Deosai National Park, Sheosar Lake is known for its stunning beauty, crystal-clear waters, and the dramatic mountain backdrop. It is a perfect spot for photography and relaxation.

This high-altitude lake in Deosai National Park reflects the sky and surrounding peaks in its mirror-like waters. Sheosar Lake is accessible via a two-hour jeep ride from Skardu and provides spectacular views, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light plays dramatically over the landscapes.

4. Shangrila Resort

Famously known as “Heaven on Earth,” Shangrila Resort surrounds a heart-shaped lake against a backdrop of lush greenery and rugged mountains. The resort is a popular spot for families and honeymooners.

Originally a hotel set up amidst what was once a fruit orchard, Shangrila Resort is named after the mythical land of Shangri-La, denoting a place of harmony, tranquility, and eternal youth. The resort is famous for its picturesque setting and the lovely, quaint architecture of its buildings, which circle the centrally located lake.

children in skardu

5. Satpara Lake

A natural lake near Skardu, Satpara Lake is an ideal location for boating and fishing. The lake also helps irrigate the Skardu Valley and is crucial for local agriculture.

A crucial source of fresh water for Skardu, Satpara Lake is equipped with facilities for boating and trout fishing. Its crystal-clear waters and the surrounding scenic vistas make it a perfect place for leisure activities and to enjoy the peaceful mountain atmosphere.

6. Upper Kachura Lake

Another serene lake located near Shangrila Resort, Upper Kachura Lake offers tranquillity and picturesque views. It is less commercialized compared to other areas and is perfect for a quiet getaway.

About 20 kilometres from Skardu, Upper Kachura Lake is a serene, deep blue lake surrounded by fruit-laden orchards and towering mountains. It remains relatively untouched by tourism compared to other lakes in the region, offering a more secluded and intimate experience with nature.

river in skardu

7. Basho Valley

Basho Valley, known for its lush green meadows and dense forests, is a wonderful place for camping and hiking. The valley transforms into a white wonderland in the winter, making it a year-round destination.

A favorite among hikers, Basho Valley features flowing streams and meadows that are vibrant with wildflowers during summer. In winter, the valley is a quiet, snow-covered escape, ideal for those who find solace in the stillness of snowy landscapes.

8. Buddha Rock Carvings

Skardu has several Buddha rock carvings that date back to the 8th century. These carvings are a testament to the region’s historical significance on the ancient trade routes.

These ancient carvings near Skardu are a significant archaeological find, providing evidence of the influence of Buddhism in the region. Located mainly along the road between Skardu and Sadpara Lake, these engravings are an important cultural heritage and an interesting stop for history buffs.

9. Khaplu Palace

This 19th-century palace is an architectural marvel that has been restored and converted into a museum and a luxury hotel managed by the Serena Group. It provides insights into the royal residence and local history.

Khaplu Palace offers a fascinating look into the history and architecture of the region. Visitors can explore the beautifully restored rooms and learn about the Yabgo dynasty that once ruled the area. The palace also serves as a luxurious place to stay, offering guests a taste of royal life amidst modern amenities.

10. Katpana Desert

Also known as the Cold Desert, the Katpana Desert features unique dunes that are surrounded by snow-capped peaks. It’s one of the highest deserts in the world, offering surreal landscapes, especially during sunrise and sunset.

The Katpana Desert, also known as the Skardu Desert, offers a unique desert experience at high altitudes. The stark contrast between the cold desert landscape and the snowy peaks in the distance is a unique phenomenon and offers extraordinary photo opportunities.

11. Mantokha Waterfall

An enchanting natural waterfall, Mantokha Waterfall cascades beautifully into a clear pool below. It’s a refreshing sight and a great picnic spot for families and nature lovers.

Mantokha Waterfall, with its thunderous waters plunging down rocky cliffs into a serene pool below, is a refreshing natural site. The area around the waterfall is perfect for picnics and relaxation, with its sound providing a natural symphony.

beauty of mountain in skardu

12. Kharfaq Lake

Situated in the Ghanche District near Skardu, Kharfaq Lake is a newly discovered gem that is gaining popularity for its untouched beauty and the peaceful environment around it.

Still off the beaten path, Kharfaq Lake is an ideal destination for those looking to explore untouched natural beauty. The lake is surrounded by traditional villages, offering a glimpse into the rural lifestyle of the local inhabitants.

13. Hushe Valley

Hushe Valley serves as the gateway to some of the highest peaks in the Karakoram Range, including Masherbrum. It is popular among trekkers and climbers for its scenic trails and challenging routes.

For those interested in mountaineering, Hushe Valley provides access to some of the world’s tallest peaks, including Masherbrum and the Gasherbrums. The valley is also the starting point for several trekking routes, each offering staggering views and challenging terrains.

14. Shigar Fort

Restored to its former glory, Shigar Fort is another historical site that now operates as a heritage hotel. The fort’s museum displays artefacts and tells the history of the region.

Restored by the Aga Khan Cultural Service, which converted it into a museum and a heritage hotel, Shigar Fort combines history with luxury. The fort is an ideal base for exploring the nearby landscapes while enjoying the comforts and hospitality typical of the region.

15. Baltoro Glacier

For the more adventurous, the Baltoro Glacier is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions. It is a trekker’s paradise, offering access to several high peaks, including K2.

A journey to the Baltoro Glacier is for the true adventurer. This sprawling glacier, one of the largest in the world, is lined with some of the highest peaks, including the famous K2, Broad Peak, and the Gasherbrums. Treks here are challenging but rewarding with unparalleled views of towering mountains and a sense of accomplishment.

best places to visit in skardu

Each of these locations in Skardu not only offers natural beauty but also provides insights into the cultural and historical tapestry of the region. A visit to Skardu can be transformative, combining adventure with moments of peace and cultural enrichment. Whether you’re an avid trekker, a history enthusiast, or someone looking to immerse themselves in nature, Skardu has something to offer everyone.

Skardu provides visitors with unique experiences, from adventure and exploration to relaxation and cultural enrichment. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of mountaineering or the tranquillity of serene lakes, Skardu has something to offer every traveller.

Expanding Horizons in Skardu: Continued Opportunities for Exploration and Connection

Skardu’s ongoing appeal as a top destination for travelers looking for varied experiences makes it a continually evolving place, where each visit can offer new insights and adventures. With such diversity in activities, the region can cater to enthusiasts of all kinds, further broadening its charm and attraction.

Sustainable Travel

As Skardu continues to gain popularity among global tourists, sustainable travel practices are more important than ever. Visitors are encouraged to:

  • Minimize Environmental Impact: Travel with minimal waste, use biodegradable products and avoid single-use plastics. Staying on marked trails and campsites helps preserve the natural flora and prevent soil erosion in sensitive areas.
  • Support Local Economies: Opting for locally-owned lodges, guides, and eateries benefits the community directly and enriches the travel experience. Local guides not only provide insight into the culture and history but also ensure that tourism benefits are distributed within the community.
  • Respect Cultural Traditions: Understanding and respecting local customs and traditions is crucial. This includes dressing modestly, asking permission before taking photographs of people and participating in local customs with sensitivity.

Educational and Spiritual Enrichment

Visitors to Skardu often find that the journey offers more than just physical adventure; it can also be a path to personal insight and spiritual growth. The tranquility of the landscape, combined with the challenge of navigating it, provides a unique opportunity for introspection and self-discovery.

Retreats and Meditation

The peace of the mountainous terrain makes Skardu an ideal location for meditation retreats. Several monasteries and retreat centers offer programs in meditation, yoga, and spiritual healing, drawing on the region’s Buddhist roots and the natural serenity of its environment.


The clear skies of Skardu are perfect for stargazing. The lack of light pollution offers an unobstructed view of the Milky Way and celestial events. Nighttime treks and campsites often include sessions of astronomy, adding another layer of wonder to the adventure.

scenery in skardu

Adventure Tourism

Skardu continues to expand its offerings in adventure tourism, catering to thrill-seekers from around the globe. Paragliding over the lush green valleys, mountain biking on rugged trails, and ice-climbing on frozen waterfalls are just a few of the activities that adventurers can indulge in.

Annual Festivals

Finally, Skardu’s annual festivals are a celebration of its natural abundance and cultural heritage. These include:

  • The Silk Route Festival: This event celebrates the history of the Silk Route with music, dance, and traditional crafts. It provides a vibrant, colorful insight into the historical trade paths that once connected Skardu to the world.
  • Baltistan Festival: Focusing on local traditions, the Baltistan Festival showcases folk music, dance, traditional sports, and handicrafts, offering a deep dive into the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

Skardu remains a gem nestled in Pakistan’s northern peaks, a place where adventure meets serenity, culture meets nature, and the past meets the present. For those willing to make the journey, it promises a transformative experience that resonates long after the return trip home. Whether you are a climber, a cultural enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or simply a lover of natural beauty, Skardu beckons with the promise of something truly extraordinary.

greenery in skardu

Wildlife and Natural Reserves

The biodiversity in Skardu and the surrounding areas, such as the nearby Deosai National Park, is significant. Conservation efforts aim to protect endemic species and the fragile ecosystems. Eco-conscious tourists have the opportunity to participate in wildlife observation tours that respect animal habitats while providing educational insights into the importance of conservation.

  • Bird Watching: Skardu is a haven for birdwatchers, with numerous species of high-altitude and migratory birds making their home here. The Siberian ibex, golden eagle, and the snow leopard are just a few of the species that wildlife enthusiasts hope to catch a glimpse of.

Photography Workshops

The breathtaking landscapes of Skardu are a dream for any photographer, amateur or professional. Many photography enthusiasts arrange workshops and expeditions that focus on capturing the natural beauty of the region—from the sprawling, star-filled skies to the dramatic sunrise over rugged peaks.

  • Seasonal Workshops: These workshops are often scheduled during the autumn and spring months when the changing foliage and light conditions create a magical environment for landscape photography.
autumn in skardu

Community and Cultural Integration

Engaging with the local community is a rewarding experience for many visitors. Several programs allow tourists to live with local families, participate in their daily routines, and understand their customs and lifestyle. This form of tourism supports the local economy directly and fosters a greater appreciation of the cultural diversity within Pakistan.

  • Cultural Exchange Programs: These initiatives are not only beneficial for visitors but also for host communities, promoting cultural exchange and mutual respect.

Adventure Clinics

Given Skardu’s reputation as a base for high-altitude trekking and climbing, it also serves as an excellent venue for adventure clinics and training sessions. These programs are designed to teach skills necessary for safe and responsible trekking and mountaineering, which include survival skills, environmental ethics, and first aid.

  • Mountaineering Schools: Such schools offer courses ranging from beginner to advanced levels, providing essential knowledge and skills to safely navigate the challenging terrain of the Himalayas and Karakoram.

Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

Recognizing the impact of tourism on its pristine environments, Skardu has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable practices. These include:

  • Green Lodging: Many lodges and hotels in Skardu are adopting eco-friendly practices, such as using renewable energy sources, implementing waste reduction programs, and using locally sourced materials and labor.
  • Community-based Tourism: This initiative focuses on developing tourism in such a way that it benefits the community directly, ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism are widely distributed.

The Future of Skardu Tourism

As Skardu continues to develop its infrastructure and expand its offerings, the balance between growth and sustainability remains a priority. The local government and international conservation organizations are working together to ensure that development projects, including road expansions and hotel constructions, are carried out responsibly.

Closing Thought

The magic of Skardu lies in its ability to remain unspoiled despite its growing popularity. It offers a sanctuary for those looking to escape the fast pace of modern life and an adventure playground for those seeking excitement in the wild terrains of Pakistan. Skardu is more than just a travel destination; it is a journey into the heart of nature and a deep dive into the soul of one of the most breathtaking regions on Earth. Whether you come for the serene landscapes, the rich culture, or the thrilling adventures, Skardu welcomes all with open arms and endless possibilities.

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