Northern Areas, Pakistan
Deosai Plains are among the highest plateaus in the world, with an average height of 4,114 meters (13,500 ft), and belong to the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe. With its unique qualities, the 3,000 sq. km difficult-to-approach and uninhabited Plateau remains on the top of the local adventurers wish-list.
The unending plains at a literally breathtaking height unveils their beauty only in the springs when the snow melts down and life comes back to the “Land of Giants” in the shape of lush green plains carpeted with a variety of soothing flora and smiling butterflies. Though its harsh weather in Winters (November to April) keep human beings away from the terrain but tougher creatures take this as an opportunity to dodge extinction. Deosai serves as a natural abode to a variety of rare and diminishing species, both animals and birds, including Himalayan Brown Bear, country’s largest omnivore, Himalayan Ibex, Golden Marmot, Snow Leopard, Golden Eagle, Snowcock, and a few types of Falcons.
A full-fledged trip to Deosai is a complete adventure in all aspects. The plains are dead natural, i.e. no human beings and hence no pollution, which we call facilities for the sake of convenience. A 4x4 with a trusted, and preferably local, driver; camps with all the required accessories; food stuff with a cook-cum-guide; warm clothing, altitude specific medicines, insect repellents, sun blocks and moisturizing creams, etc; salt as per your requirement (read camera, fishing equipment, and other stuff as per your choices); and most importantly high spirited companions are a must for this expedition. Typically the journey starts form Skardu, where one can easily find and bargain a jeep from with all the required equipments. Hiring a jeep from Skardu bazaar is highly recommended, but after negotiations and bargain hunting, while making sure that price should be all inclusive; the jeep, the fuel; the driver, the guide; the food; and the camp. A five nights trip will cost at-least PKR 50,000 – 60,000 (USD 750) for a troupe of 1 to 4 all inclusive.
Starting the trip early in the morning will allow you to do enroute Buddha carvings – dating back to 7th and 8th century – and Sadpara Lake – a beautiful natural lake with an island in the middle – before heading to Deosai top; hence it is prudent to lock your jeep a night earlier. Both will take 3-4 hours or more depending upon your interest.
The road-cum-jeep track to Deosai is bumpy and steep, so be prepared for a temporary nausea until you reach Deosai Top for the moment you will cherish for whole of your life. The setting will change all of a sudden, from a rough mountainous terrain you would have left behind to an endless green treeless wilderness and that too at the height of surrounding peaks. The facility of Wooden-boxed toilet at the top should be availed as a luxury since walls and roofs are a rarity onwards. This would take around two to three hours to the top from Sadpara and one more hour to reach to Barapani (also known as Kalapani), where the famous hanging bridge on an inversely flowing river is located. The place is a favorite among adventurers for camping and also serves as a sojourn for meals and refreshments for travelers who choose to just pass by the place.
Next stop is Sheosar Lake (also know as Shausar Lake) at a height of 4142 m (13589 ft). The blue lake is a famous camping spot and an easy ride from Barapani. Be prepared for a difficult journey the next day through Chackor Pass all the way to Astore, to resume to the civilization, via Chilam Chowki. In Astore, you can find hotels for night stay only to head for Rama Lake the next day to end your adventure on a high note beside a beautiful lake surrounded with oak trees. You can add Tarashing Valley and Rupal valley, Nanaga Parbat base camp, at the tail end of the itinerary should you have appetite for trekking and hiking.
Foreigners are advised to keep their passports with valid visas and permits with them while visiting Deosai Mountains. I understand that foreigners require permits from Ministry of Tourism, Islamabad for this journey which you can obtain through prior arrangements with your guide or any travel agent.
Finally a request: while planning, please do take into account proper trash disposal in order to save this place from spoiling.
Bonjour from Peshawar,
It is feasible from Chitral, across Shandur pass 3800 m, some 14 to 16 hrs drive from Chitral to Gilgit, stay overnight
At Medina Guest house
Lost Horizon guest house
2 hrs drive from Gilgit to Raikit bridge on KKH, towards Islamabad, the local jeeps are operated to Jehl, some 3500 to 4000 Pkrs, an hour drive.
Jhel, the moderate trek, hike begins, 2, 3 hrs to Fairy Meadows 3300 m, pretty feasible in May.
with Rehmat Nabi.
Enjoy the marvels of Pakistan.
Photos of my adventures in Pakistan
Skardu is one of the famous tourist hubs of the Northern Areas of Pakistan, and the gateway to K2 - the world's second highest peak after Mount Everest. Karakoram Highway, KKH, joins other parts of Pakistan to Northern Areas including Skardu. In summers, Pakistan International Airlines, PIA, also operates subsidized flights from Islamabad to Skardu. One Boeing 737 flies daily, subject to weather conditions, from Islamabad and this flight is truly considered as one of the most dangerous commercial flights in the world.
As soon as the plane takes off, one can feel the chill of the thrill to come, it takes no time during this one hour journey that the plane enters into the Himalaya Range of mountains with the plane cruising between snow covered peaks. Subject to clear weather, one can see the Naked Mountain "Nanga Parbat", the ninth highest mountain on Earth which is commonly known as Killer Mountain for obvious reasons, from inside of the plane enjoying a hot cup of coffee on a comfortable economy plus seat. The plane frequently goes in and out of heavy clouds creating a hustle and bustle throughout the plane. In order to have better views, sitting on right hand side seats is highly recommended, and fortunate ones like me get the window seat!
Climax of this adventure starts as the captain announces the arrival of Skardu and requests passengers to fasten their seat belts for landing. And then the plane starts descending without giving a slightest clue to those who start looking down, in panic, from the window in search of the landing strip, or the runway, as it is called in other parts of the world! Even smaller rocks can be seen with details as the plane tilts to either side in order to descend so much so that people who were not looking downward initially start making strange sounds, may be out of excitement. A river bed appears as the plane approaches the landing strip only to make the outside view more heavenly. And finally the wheels touch the ground with an eruption of clapping out of mixed emotions of being lucky to survive and the appreciation of undoubted proficiency of PIA pilots from the passengers who were holding their breaths tight for last several minutes.
Getting a seat on this flight is not less an adventure than the experience itself because of its virtually inelastic demand curve. Purchasing process is the same as of any other flight booking process but the voyage starts when one comes to know that the ticket needs to be reconfirmed otherwise it may end up as a useless piece of paper. It is not to mention that this painstaking job is more than worth it, provided the plane lands successfully. At times, the captain, upon arriving to the Skardu Valley, refuses to land because of host of reasons, such as lack of visibility, strong winds, thick cloud cover, etc and takes the plane back to Islamabad Airport. However, passengers are always given a choice to get 100% refund, if they do not wish to give it a second try, only the succeeding day. This 100% refund is applicable whenever one wishes to withdraw from their booking, but obviously before reconfirmation.
Now coming back to the Reconfirmation Ordeal; all the passengers are expected to reconfirm their ticket from Northern Areas Counter of PIA Rawalpindi Office, located at Mall, a 20 minutes drive from Isalmabad Airport. This reconfirmation needs to be done 24 hours in advance and this is not as simple as it sounds. The "ticket" needs to go there physically to get stamped, and without this stamp the staff at airport may refuse to even recognize this harmless piece of paper, unless one has special reasons and resources. To make things less simple, if not complicated, reconfirmation can only be done if the preceding flight would have landed successful at Skardu Airport. Otherwise, the passengers of the failed flight will get priority over next day's flight. Usually, the flight lands no earlier than 12 noon at Skardu, so going to Rawalpindi Office early may be futile and requires one more visit or one has to wait until the flight lands and the staff is done with their lunch and prayers. It is also recommended to confirm, via phone, if the preceding flight has been landed at Skardu Airport to avoid futile visits. There is no standard procedures at Northern Areas Counter and has to be continuously on the look for the right person and proactive.
There is only one plane allocated for this route, so the plane that had landed the day before at Skardu must have come back in order to take you to Skardu. Keeping in view the vagaries of weather, this kind of permutation can only tilt in favour of lucky ones, and I was one of them! On the day of flight, at airport, passengers are not given with the boarding cards, until the plane has come back from Skardu, and the pilot is convinced of flight-able and land-able weather conditions. Keep your calm once you get the boarding card until they announce that the flight is ready for boarding. And once you board-in and the flight takes-off you are not required to keep your calm at all!!!
This flight is a trip in its own capacity and in my humble opinion, it should be recognized by VT as a tourist destination!
As the names suggest, both of these lakes - i.e. Lower Kachura Lake and Upper Kachura Lake - are situated in Kachura, a small town near Skardu, half an hour drive (16 km) from Skardu Airport and one hour drive (33 km) from Skardu city. This couplet is a true gift of nature, which is away from easy approach, and therefore still provides their visitors with a lovely natural touch. If you are in a need to heal your soul after a period of endless pursuit of commercial happiness than this is a perfect place to have a break and explore some of the -out-of-the-world natural treasures.
Lower Kachura Lake: Lower Kachura Lake is just one example of the splendor my country has to offer. The lake is surrounded with fruit laden trees, forests, and 'high-rise' snow-covered mountains. In summers, it provides with an excellent opportunity to have a break and refresh one's body and soul with some magnificient natural scenery all around and the refreshing innate air to inhale. It is a perfect place to make a base for a trip of week or so with day trips to places like Upper Kachura Lake and Khush Nala, Deaosai Mountains, Satpara Lake and Buddha, etc. Walks, trails, and treks around the lake are quite refreshing, during which one can also enjoy fresh and seasonal fruit picking such as Apricots and Cherries.
Management of a local hotel cum resort - Shangrial Resort - has bought most of the land surrounding the lake with few exceptions and has made this beautiful natural lake virtually a private property. Room charges in this resort are exorbitant, specially in summers, ranging from PKR 8,000 to PKR 12,000 (approximately USD 150) per night. If one is not staying at Shangrila and just want to visit and see the lake from Shangrila premises then they have to pay an entrance fee of PKR 200. Having said that, I must admit that Shangrila management is doing hard to maintain the landscape of this natural beauty, they have made cottages around the lake which are well spread out so that the essence of the place somewhat remains intact.
Apart from Shangrila, there is another small time hotel - Tibet Motel - located opposite to Shangrila Resort with some stunning views. This hotel is relatively less expensive (PKR 2,000: USD 25) and also provides for camping facilities (PKR 400: USD 5). One can enjoy their lake side lawn without any fee and order something to drink or eat. The management of Tibet Motel is building a multistory hotel - Karakoram Towers - to attract tourists. Structure of this hotel has been built, however, completion is pending as the sponsor is out of funds and tourism outlook is not that bright in the short run. Importantly, this structure has disturbed the natural landscape of the place.
Apart from these two commercial accommodations, there are located rest houses of various government departments, which can only be availed through advanced booking, which is not possible without direct links in these departments, namely Police, Army, and Public Works Department (PWD).
Upper Kachura Lake: Upper Kachura Lake is an approx 2 hours, mostly upward, trek from Lower Kachura Lake. This is also a beautiful natural lake without the menace of commercialization. A road also links Lower Kachura Lake from the Upper one.
There are not much accomodation options available at Upper Kachura Lake except for a very ordinary Ghazi Hotel (PKR 400: USD 5) with room and camping options. This lake is more natural than the lower one and a delight to spend one full day, the water is comparitively warm and one can see locals swimming overthere. We ordered the famous Trout Fish (PKR 800: USD 10 for two persons) at Ghazi Hotel on way to the lake and enjoyed the sumptous meal on our way back. The guy also offered us with fresh Apricots but on our demand.
For travelling options from Rawalpindi/ Islamabad to Skardu/ Gilgit, visist my Pakistan Page or copy following links on your browser:
Chainless -- I had this blog saved in my "favorites" and it is not really a travel blog, but interesting info. I haven't read it in awhile so I just looked through it again & found a bit about taking the tunnel. Check it out!
Many travellers dream of the past when Afghanistan was a hippie hot spot and when Goa was 'untouched'. If you really want to experience a place that is intense in every sense of the word then Peshawar is the place for you. You will see burqas everywhere and you will get the feeling like you are in Kabul but minus the violence. Peshawar is a place for the intrepid and if you do decide to go, please take respect the culture ( ie cover up). I was born, raised and educated in Canada so I knew it would be a different experience but after arriving from Oman (which is off the charts) it blew me away with its conservatism and traditional way of life. Travel with an open mind and you will have a fantastic experience ! You may even be invited to a locals home where women will sit and talk to you like they have known you for 10 years :) (even though in public the women dont exist) incredible.
Most people who pass through Baltistan do it enroute to the trekking areas, but if I was to return to Pakistan I would love to spend some time hiring jeeps (and drivers) and travelling through the villages around Skardu - places such as Khapalu, Kande, Machulu, Hushe, Shigar looked stunning but went by all too quickly as we passed them by. Baltistan is an amazing area with a mix of ancient Tibetan heritage fused with the Pakistani way. Using a village such as Hushe as a base you could then do a series of stunning day-walks to places like Masherbrum base camp using local guides! There is even a PTDC Motel now built at Khapalu which looked really pretty and would also serve as a great base for exploring this region. PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Develepment Corporation) is the government tourism promotion agency and they have an established network of motels around Pakistan - Northern Pakistan's coverage was a bit spartan but Khapalu is a step in the right direction.
Nanga Parbat, whose name means Naked Mountain, is the ninth highest mountain in the world, and the westernmost mountain of the Himalayas. Its vast snowy face is a powerful spectacle when seen from the arid Indus Valley, approaching the mountain from the west. Here the mountain towers in isolation over 22,000 feet from the valley floor.
The mountain is easy to reach (China's Karakoram Highway approaches the base of the mountain from the north), but is not so easy to climb. Unstable glaciers and frequent storms and avalanches have proved hazardous, most notably to the German party who first attempted the peak. Herman Buhl successfully reached the summit, but this was only after having lost eleven climbers and fifteen porters during the ascent. Many other climbers have subsequently been killed on this mountain.
Although tourists usually visit Northern Areas of Pakistan but they only go to well known areas like Hunza,Gilgit,Skardu etc.There are some places which are more beautiful than these areas and this is the picture of one them.
This is the image of the Latok Mountains.A must see...
The Kargah BuddhaFew kilometres west of Gilgit, the standing Buddha carved on a cliff face. You can hike to the village of Kargah Nala, or hire a “Suzuki” for a few hours trip. Then local kids will guide you to see the Buddha and the ruins of a monastery and a stupa. The stupa is not very “interesting” (just lots of stones … if it was “the stupa”…) , but, again, good valley views, villages and people.
Awesome flight from Islamabad to Skardu. Just take the flight if you have little time to do a lot of trekking on the mountains up north.
I was waiting for next taxi or truck come for a while. These men were passing by throwing me smiles.