From the moment we arrived in Serena Shigar Fort Residence, we loved it. It is 400 years old and was the palace of the raja of Shigar in 17th century. The fort itself needs no words, but the service from Serena Hotel was cherry on the top. Though, all hotels we stayed in were amazing in terms of cleanliness, comfort and service. This was an absolute highlight of our trip and the best stay of this trip as well. The Shigar Fort is open for tourists during the day. You can see some of the images here.
We started off day 6 with a lovely breakfast buffet at the Serena Shigar fort. The terrace of their restaurant is such a calm and relaxing place.
Later, we went to visit Kharpocho Fort in Skardu city. It is 25/30 minutes hike to the fort top. But it was so warm due to peak sun that we discontinued after first 10 minutes as we could not bear the heat.
We then drove to find the Manthal Buddha Rock in Skardu. This rock with Buddha carvings is a sign of the Golden Era of Buddhism in the Upper Indus Valley between the eighth and tenth centuries.
TIP: You actually can also stop by quickly at the Buddha stone when you are entering Skardu right after Sadpara Lake (if you are coming from Deosai National Park).
After that, we went for a tea at the restaurant of the Mountain Lodge Hotel. The hotel is very close to the Buddha stone. The views from this hotel of the whole Skardu city are amazing. Skardu city is actually surrounded by a desert, called cold desert, so occasionally, there are sandstorms. As we were a bit high up at this hotel, we could see a sandstorm covering the city while we were there. We waited for the storm to calm down a bit before we headed back to our hotel at the Shigar Fort and rest of the evening was spent chilling at the gardens of the fort. We were still quite tired from the journey through Deosai the day before.
After breakfast, we decided to go for a small hike to go to the older fort at the Shigar Valley that we could spot from our hotel. The hotel told us that it is around 45 minutes hike one way. Even though they insisted to send someone with us for the hike, my husband and me decided otherwise as we wanted to do it on our own and not bother another person for it. It was a bad idea. Because, 20 minutes after the initial path, we could not find the right path to go further up and hike slowly started to look like climbing. We were not well-equipped and did not want to take the risk to continue so we took the way back and walked down to the valley.
You can then visit the Khilingrong Mosque (400 years old) a short walk away from the Shigar Fort. And you can also visit the Katpanah Lake in the Shigar Valley.
In the evening, we visited the Sarfaranga Cold Desert’s sand dunes. We were there 45 minutes before the sunset which was absolutely gorgeous and serene. The sand dunes are halfway to your way to Skardu city from the Shigar valley.
This was sadly our day for the checkout from Serena Shigar Fort. We started the day with a 20 minutes guided tour of the Shigar Fort before driving further to the Khaplu Valley.
TIP: Do carry few photocopies of your passport/ID with you as there are some security checks in this area. Nothing to worry about, they do check IDs for foreigners and also Pakistanis. It is just to ensure the safety of people visiting as government is trying to boost tourism in this area.
Khaplu Valley is about 3 hours away from the Shigar fort. We arrived there at around 3pm and checked in straight to our hotel (Serena Khaplu Palace). The hotel is inside a 300 years old palace which is one of the main tourist attractions in Khaplu. The building is very impressive. It is a magnificent blend of Tibetan, Mughal and Persian architecture.
We had only one evening in Khaplu valley so we headed straight to the famous Saling Fish Farm to catch fresh fish, which they grill for you and you can enjoy it with naan and tea. Another attraction to visit this farm is crossing one of the oldest hanging car bridge (Saling Bridge)
TIP: If you are staying in different Serena Hotels for more nights, do check the cost for their membership card (Prestige Club). You can get the card for one year and if you have the card, you get 50% off the basic room rate. And also 50% off any food and drinks if you are 2 people, and 25% off for more than 3.
We had a 3.5 hours journey ahead of us, so we did a quick tour of the fort museum, then drove to make a short stop at the oldest mosque (Chaqchan Mosque, dating 1370) in the area, and then left for Shangrila.
On our way, we stopped in the Skardu bazaar for some handicrafts shopping. We were at our hotel after 3.5 hours drive. We chose Tibet Hotel at the Lower Kachura Lake (aka Shangrila Lake). The hotel was nice, clean and with a beautiful view of the famous Shangrila Resort.
We had lunch at the hotel and then drove to the Upper Kachura Lake. To get to the lake, you need to do a 10-15 minutes hike and also climb some steps. It is fairly easy, but if you have any mobility issues, would be better to avoid.
Later we visited the Shangrila Resort and also had the dinner at their famous restaurant on the lake. I would recommend calling them and reserve for the dinner.
We also said goodbye to our amazing car and the driver here as next day we were headed to the airport, and for that we had shuttle arranged from the hotel.
After dinner, Shangrila resort was kind enough to drop us to our hotel (Tibet) via their boat. It was 5 minutes short boat trip 🙂
After the morning breakfast at the hotel’s lakeside garden, we packed our bags and were on our way to the Skardu airport. It took us 30 minutes till the airport, but as the road was under construction between Skardu and Shangrila when we visited, we left a bit early just in case we have any roadblocks.
Skardu Airport is famous for being one of the most dangerous airports for plane landings and take offs as it is sandwiched between the mountains. PIA has Airbus flying to this airport as this is also the most used airport for all the trekkers to the K2. The take-off was indeed very thrilling. The plane takes 180 degrees turn in the valley to fly out to the direction of Islamabad. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day for this flight which helped in no delays. I also met a group of British tourists on the flight, returning from K2 base camp trek (14 days).
The flight was absolutely breathtaking with view of the ninth highest mountain in the world – Nanga Parbat (8126 m). The flight was almost 50 minutes long and we were back in Islamabad, safe and sound.
- Serena Shigar Fort
- Kharpocho Fort
- Manthal Buddha Rock
- Khilingrong Mosque
- Katpanah Lake (we did not do)
- Sarfaranga Cold Desert Sand Dunes
- Shigar Fort Tour
- Drive to Khaplu Valley
- Khaplu Palace (overnight stay)
- Saling Bridge
- Saling Fish Farm
- Chaqchan Mosque
- Lower Kachura Lake (ake Shangrila Lake)
- Tibet Hotel (overnight stay)
- Upper Kachura Lake
- Shangrila Resort
- Boat ride on Lower Kachura Lake
- Flight from Skardu to Islamabad
Gilgit-Baltistan region was definitely one of the most amazing trips for all of us. I was happy that I could show this side of Pakistan to my husband. Northern Areas of Pakistan have so much to offer and I look forward to coming back to explore more.
I really hope this will help you plan your perfect vacation to Gilgit-Baltistan. Do let me know in comments how you liked the post and if you would suggest something more in the itinerary.
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