From its very name, Skardu seems a promising place to visit in Pakistan: the town’s appellation is derived from the Tibetan word for a “stone from the stars”-that is, a meteorite. Seated in the eponymous Skardu Valley, this is one of the highest-located towns in the country, based on elevation of the land. It sits at about 2,500 metres above sea level, which renders it among the coolest of Pakistan’s towns in winter and among the most clement in summer.
The region in which Skardu sits, Gilgit-Baltistan, is well-known to many repeat travellers to the country. This is largely due to its popularity with mountain-climbers and trekkers, as it includes several of the most famous peaks in the world in its ranges. This is prime mountain territory, as indeed one may see when visiting Skardu town itself, for the town’s valley location means that mountains are ever-present on the residents’ horizons. Beyond the very mountains bordering the town are some of the greatest, most beautiful, and deadliest mountains in the world. The notorious K2 or Savage Mountain, which has both the distinction of being the second-tallest of the world’s mountains as well as the second-deadliest in terms of fatality-to-summit records, is one of these.
Many of the people coming here thus do so on their way to or from a hiking or climbing expedition, basking in the soothing yet also vibrant culture of the local populace. There is more to the place than the mountains around it, after all. For one thing, there are at least two gorgeous lakes that may be accessed from the town that are known for having retained the purity of their waters even in today’s largely polluted world, and which are bounded by mountains in a sort of hermetic but appealingly picturesque enclosure. Some people refer to both of them as Kachura Lake, but the more popular, lower-located one is also called Shangri La Lake. There is also a primary lake of the district: Satpara.
Then there are the forts. The old rulers of these regions further strengthened their hold on this naturally-fortressed location by erecting such buildings as the centuries-old Karpachu Fort (also called Skardu Fort), and the complex of Shigar, which people have to pass on their way to K2. Both are fairly well preserved and are more or less intact, with the latter now being something of a rest house as well as repository of artefacts found in the area.
As with most other mountain and valley towns in this part of Pakistan, it is wise to take note of the changes in the seasons and the results they have on the land itself. The simple fact is that travelling to places like Skardu in winter may not be the best idea. Roads tend to be snowed in-and snow does come in heavy around these parts-and most of the tourist spots and establishments close up. Generally, the winter sets in around November to February, although it may on occasion linger up to March. Whatever the case, just be certain that you check your weather and travel advisories before heading here.