Surrender in SKARDU

The mountains call offering refuge if you are tired and need an urban-detox. Surreal lakes glistening with the traces of gold, bringing meaning to an old fable about how there are gold mines underneath. Somewhere between high peaks towering above clouds and the cold winds of the mountains is every escape you could ask for. Take to the mountains and surrender in the calm of the rippling lakes, billowing leaves and the whiz of the wind in Skardu where the silence echoes and reverberates serenity and peace. For adventure seekers who aren’t afraid to sweat, most other tourist sites in the Skardu District and the Gilgit-Baltistan region are a trek or drive away and without a shadow of a doubt, worth seeing. Explore the most beautiful province on foot or on wheels but explore the nooks and crannies of villages and gushing rivers of valleys with the fervor that it demands.

Deosai National Park

The world’s second highest alpine plains are located in the Skardu District and it is every bit worth seeing. Be it for a day trip or take a day to camp in the park, we strongly recommend it. Lush greenery touching the horizons, go hopping from one body of water to another because it seems like Mother Nature was endlessly gracious to this part of the world. Bara Pani or also known as the Kala Pani, owing to its deep hue and Chota Pani accredited to the small fish in the water are snaking rivers through the plains. Leave all your worries and just find the sweet spot to listen to the music these calmly flowing rivers make, it’s otherworldly. And when you are done, if you can be, then guide the wanderer in you to Sheosar Lake and watch the sun as it sets in the background, the sky in the flaming colours of sunset.

Shangrila resorts

Every time one researches Skardu, the famous Shangrila resort shows up and for good reason. Having catered for multiple decades, the fine luxury resorts and their red roofed villas are an experience you must indulge in to make the most of Skardu. Meticulously arranged on the banks of the lake and nestled between the mountains, this resort offers the comfort of the modern world one would require minus the inconveniences that tag along with traveling. Get out of your slumber to a view of the sun painting the skies hues of orange and red when the dark of the night fades. Wouldn’t you want that view to greet you more than one morning? And the smell of breakfast brewing in-house is just another boost to your plans of never wanting to leave this place.

Dreamy lakes

Capital of the province Gilgit-Baltistan, Skardu has an overabundance of lakes and each one dreamier than the last. Be it the tranquil Sheosar lake, or the hypnotising Lower Kachura lake or the ever-so-gorgeous Satpara lake. Find a good spot at any when the sun is in the right place in the sky and here surrender finds you. Although you could take your time trekking, the roads are very much travel-able and you could just drive there. Spend a day at Shangrila resorts and in the peaceful ambience of the luxury villas or chase the adrenaline rush of trekking or tune out of the tech and worrisome world and tune into natural wonders. On the bank of Satpara lake would be a good start.

Cold desert Katpana

Remember the scenes from those movies featuring diamond-shaded cold deserts and you have this sweet longing of adding them to your travel bucket list then it’s time to check it off. A rare sight around the world, but the wonders Mother Nature has blessed Pakistan with, of course we have a cold desert of our own. Get light on your feet and take long strolls in the desert, feel the cold of the desert sand tickle your feet and pose for the most amazing portraits and don’t you worry, it’s hard to click images that aren’t Intagrammable enough.

Shigar Valley

The gateway to the mountains of Karakoram range, the Shigar valley and its raging Shigar River create symphonies that claims all thought processes at once with the surreal beauty. Take endless and aimless strolls in the plains that stretch as far as the eye can see in the company of the mountains and cattle in their natural habitat, undisturbed of human intervention. Hike to the famed Shigar Fort, locally called Fong Khar and its very unoriginal but striking translated name “the place on the rocks”. Take a stroll through history and photograph the ancient Balti structure standing tall in all its grace. Or, let the Snow Lake teleport you in a whimsical world with its utmost and unmatchable beauty. A word of caution, the Snow Lake is a hard place to reach, sitting on an altitude of 16,000 feet and not a lot of people get through but maybe if you hire an experienced tour guide and are careful enough, then you’d make it to the top. In case you need motivation for the climb, think about the view; there’s no space for disappointments there.

Food of the land

Because the essence of a vacation is experiencing the cuisine of your hosts. The Balti are a friendly people and chances are, you might earn yourself an invite or two from locals and you might not want to pass on that. The locals are very proud of their culture, their values and their homeland as they should be, and they don’t mind sharing any of it. Expect to be treated to Balay, a noodle soup with goat meat, delicacies that suit the climate up North. Thick goat meat broth that is deliciously flavoured and textured with noodles and bits of meat. Gyal is a buckwheat cake is a teatime delicacy that has a welcoming smoky flavour from being baked on a flat iron plate that pairs incredibly well with honey or apricot jam, another delicacy of the Balti. A recurring dish on a spread in a Balti household would be a potato stew; a thick curry that is heavily spiced and served with chunks of meat and potatoes. For those that live for chai, you must indulge in a cup of butter tea, one of the backbones of Balti cuisine. Cooked with pre-brewed green tea, salt, butter and milk, it is an experience you must try, even if you conclude its not for you. You can add wheat flour and apricot oil, in quantities as per your liking. Needless to say, it is best paired with a good view which in Skardu is not hard to find. •