Skardu is located in the 10 km wide by 40km long Skardu Valley, at the confluence of the Indus river (flowing from near Kailash in Tibet and through neighbouring Ladakh before reaching Baltistan) and the Shigar River. Skardu is situated at an altitude of nearly 2,500 m (8,200 feet). The town is surrounded by grey-brown coloured mountains, which hide the 8,000 metre peaks of the nearby Karakoram range.
Skardu, along with Gilgit, are the two major tourism, trekking and expedition hubs in the Northern Areas. The mountainous terrain of the region, including four of the world's fourteen Eight-thousander peaks (8,000m and above), attracts the attention of tourists, trekkers and mountaineers from around the world. The main tourist season is from April to October; outside this time, the area can be cut off for extended periods by the snowy, freezing winter weather.
Accessible from Skardu by road, the nearby Askole and Hushe Valleys are the main gateways to the snow covered 8,000 m peaks including K2, the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak and the Trango Towers, and also to the huge glaciers of Baltoro, Biafo and Trango. This makes Skardu the main tourist and mountaineering base in the area, which has led to the development of a reasonably extensive tourist infrastructure including shops and hotels. However, the popularity of the region results in high prices, especially during the main trekking season.
Treks to the Deosai Plains, the second highest in the world (at 4,100 m or 13,500 feet) after the Chang Tang in Tibet, either start from or end at Skardu. In local Balti language, Deosai is called Byarsa, meaning 'summer place'. With an area of approximately 3,000 square kilometres, the plains extend all the way to Ladakh and provide habitat for snow leopards, ibex, Tibetan brown bears and wild horses.
SATPARA DAM PROJECT:- is a project inagaurated in 2002 and to be completed by december 2010. It is 7 kms away from skardu city and its altitude is 8,700 feet moreover it will also pond the water about 90,000 acre feet. The main source of water is melting ice of DEOSAI PLANES during summer season. It is multipurpose project, which produce 13 Megawatt hydel generation, irrigate 15,000 acre land and also provide 13 cusecis drinking water daily to skardu cilty.
Client of SATPARA DAM PROJECT is WATER AND POWER DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (WAPDA), Engineer is PAKISTAN ENGINEERING SERVICES (PES), 90 percent project is completed under the supervision of Chief Residential Engineer (CRE) S.TAHIR.HUSSAIN of SHAHU KHEL. The major contractor of civil work DESCON and irrigation work contractor is CENTRAL CHINA POWER GROUP (CCPG) of China.
Residence of Engineers consulting the DAM is in MAARFIE FOUNDATION TOWN
The town has developed along the main road passing through it and to either side of this road is situated the New Bazaar (Naya Bazaar), with hundreds of shops offer almost everything (trekking supplies, souvenirs, local goods, etc.). To the west one finds Yadgar Chowk (with local monument) and from there, the quarter behind Naya Bazaar, to the right hand side is the older Purana Bazaar. Travelling west from Naya Bazaar is a polo ground and next to that, Kazmi Bazaar.
Skardu appears remote, dusty town at first glance, but the mixture of people here make it colourful and ethnically diverse. The crowded streets are mainly populated by Balti Tibetans and many of the local neighbourhoods (mohallahs) have names that reflect this too (i.e. Khache-drong, Khar-drong, Olding, Kushu-bagh, Pakora, Thsethang, Sher-thang, Nagholi-spang etc.). Due to this strong presence, Skardu has sometimes been referred to as the little Tibet of Pakistan.
However, many other ethnic groups are present in Skardu including Shins, Pashtuns, Punjabis, Hunzakuts and even Uyghur, due to the close proximity of Baltistan to the respective regions. Since the creation of Pakistan people of various ethnicities from various regions of Pakistan have emigrated here.
All the above ethnic groups are devout Muslims. This includes the Balti-Tibetans, who converted from Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century (the only sizeable group of Tibetans to have undergone such a conversion). Shia Islam has a strong presence in Skardu.
Famous personalities of Skardu valley. S.Mehdi Shah, present chief minister of Baltistan Province. Sheikh Nisar of Gamba. Fida Mohamad Nashad of Hussain Abad. Wazir Shakeel Agha of Ali Abad. Syed Ahmad Ali Shah of Gamba.
The climate of Skardu during the summer is moderated by its mountain setting and the intense heat of lowland Pakistan does not reach here. The mountains also block out the summer monsoon and summer rainfall is thus quite low. However, these mountains result in very severe winter weather. During the April to October tourist season, temperatures vary between a maximum of 27°C and a minimum (in October) 8°C. However, temperatures can drop to below -10°C in the December-to-January midwinter period. The lowest temperature of the year can reach -25°C
Skardu is accessible by two methods, road or air. The normal road route into Skardu is via the Karakorum Highway and a linkroad into the Skardu Valley from it. There are also four or five other road links to Kashmir and Ladakh. Alternatively, there are normally one or two flights daily between Skardu Airport and Islamabad. The high cost of air travel means that road travel via the Karakorum Highway and the link road onward to the Skardu Valley is often the preferred option of locals and tourists alike.
The climate can have adverse affects on transport in and out of the Skardu Valley, as Skardu becomes snowbound during the winter months. Often the roads in and out of Skardu (and other Northern Areas locations) can be blocked for weeks at a time depending on conditions (though two to five days is more normal), sometimes leaving air travel as the only feasible alternative. However, air travel in winter is also subject to disruption due to the unreliable Skardu weather and flights can occasionally be delayed by several days.
Skardu Fort or Kharphocho Fort lies on the eastern face of the Khardrong or Mindoq-Khar ("Castle of Queen Mindoq") hill 15 metres or 40 feet above Skardu town. The fort dates from the 8th Century CE and contains an old mosque probably dating back to the arrival of Islam in the 16th Century CE. The fort provides a panoramic view of Skardu town, the Skardu valley and the Indus River. The fort was built by Rmakpon dynasty rulers of Baltistan and it was a seven storey building. It was burnt down by Sikhs in the 18th Century CE.
Kharphocho (Skardu) fort was built on a design similar to that of Leh Palace and the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The name Kharpochhe means the great fort — Khar in Tibetan means castle or fort and Chhe means great.
There are three lakes in the vicinity of Skardu. In local Balti-Tibetan language, a lake is a thso or tso.
There are two Kachura Lakes—the less well known Upper Kachura lake and the more famous Lower Kachura Lake, better known as Shangrila Lake. Lower Katsura lake is home to the Shangrila Resort hotel complex (possibly the reason for the lake's alternative name), built in a Chinese style and another popular destination for tourists in Pakistan. The resort has a unique style of restaurant, set up inside the fuselage of an aircraft that crashed nearby. Kachura lake 18m from Skardu. Kachura Lake is famous for its deep blue waters. There are numerous places to visit and things to do near Kachura Lake, situated near Skardu in the northern area.
Sadpara Lake is Skardu Valley's main lake, supplying water for Skardu town, and reputedly one of the most picturesque lakes in Pakistan. In 2002, the Government of Pakistan decided to build a dam on the Satpara Lake  allocating Rs. 600 million ($10 million) to the Satpara Dam project, two years later in 2004.  Progress on the project has, however, been slow.  Satpara Lake is 6m from Skardu. Satpara Lake is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country offering trout fishing, and row boating.
Latitude: 35º 20' 10" N, Longitude: 75º 32' 52" E
Skardu, capital of Baltistan is perched 2,438 metres above sea level in the backdrop of the great peaks of the Karakorams. Balti people are a mixture of Tibetan and Caucasian stock and speak Balti, an ancient form of Tibetan. Due to the similarity of its culture, lifestyle and architecture with Tibet, Baltistan is also known as the "Tibet-e-Khurd" (Little Tibet).
It borders on the Chinese province of Xinjiang and Indian-occupied Kashmir. The tourist season is from April to October. The maximum temperature is 27 C and minimum (October) 8 C. Apart from its incomparable cluster of mountain peaks and glaciers Baltistan's five valleys, - Shigar, Skardu, Khaplu, Rondu and Kharmang are noted for their luscious peaches, apricots, apples and pears.
Skardu can be reached by plane. Pakistan International Airlines fly daily from Islamabad (Pakistans capital city). The air journey is full of thrills and would itself be regarded as the highlight of the visit. After following the same air route, which connects Gilgit to Islamabad/Rawalpindi, the plane turns right and flies over the gorge of the Indus River. Enormous rock faces rise on either side or at times it seems as if the wing tips of the plane would almost scrape against them. They never do.
Skardu can be reached using daily bus services offered by Nothern Area Transport Company from Islamabad. Its very hilly drive. 20 hours from Islamabad.
Another big city of Gilgit is four to five hours drive away from Skardu. You can go to Pakistan - China border via Gilgit. You may visit most famous Khunjrab Pass, K-2 Mountain base camp etc.
Baltistan is known for its "Pattu" - hand woven woollen cloth for jackets, coats etc. You can also pick up colorful intricately embroidered "Chugas" (Baltistani gown) and wooden spoons at Skardu bazaar.
Naya Bazar, Old Bazar, Botto Bazar, Hussain Chowk, Alamdar Chowk, Kazmi Bazar, Gamba Bazar, Benazir Chowk, Yadgar Chowk etc.
Besides other reasonably priced private hotels, PTDC Motels at Skardu, Sadpara Lake and Khaplu offer comfortable accommodation. There are government rest houses at Skardu, Sadpara, Shigar Valley, Khaplu and Kachura.
Thrice-weekly bus service was scheduled to begin crossing the border from Gilgit, Northern Areas, to Kashgar, China, and road widening work was scheduled for 600 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway. There were also plans for one daily bus in each direction between Sust and Taxkorgan in the border areas of the two countries.
Via the Karakoram Highway, popularly known as the Silk Road.
Via the Karakoram Highway, popularly known as the Silk Road.
PIA offers regular flights on Boeing 737s between Skardu and Islamabad. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and in winters, flights are often delayed by several days.
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