Deosai Plains – Average Height: 4,114m (13,500ft); Area: 3,000 sq. km; Population: Zero; Accessibility: April – October depending upon weather – are an abode to a variety of rare wildlife species especially to the Himalayan Bear and belong to the Tibetan Plateau. These plains provide with an excellent adventure opportunity due to their wilderness and remoteness. Trips can be arranged as per the appetite, budget, and other constraints of aspiring travelers; a full fledge trip can go upto 5 nights while a shorter trip of 2 nights and a day trip are also perfectly doable.
For a typical two nights trip, it is imperative to leave Skardu (while I prefer Lower Kachura as the base for Skardu + surroundings trip) really early in the morning, say 7’o clock. A trusted 4x4 jeep with equally, if not more, trusted driver are critical for the successful conclusion of the trip. The jeep can be hired from Skardu bazaar and will cost around PKR 25,000 – 30,000 (USD 300-400) all inclusive i.e. tents, food, cook, fuel, etc for a group of 1-4 people. Wise do not have heavy breakfast due to the bumpy and rough ride ahead. Keeping medicines, sun-blocks, insect repellants, chit-chats is also advisable.
If everything goes good, i.e. no land-sliding, no rain, no flat tyres, etc, then you will reach Deosai Top in 4-5 hours. Be ready to have some fantastic views from the Top as the setting will change all of a sudden, from rugged mountains to infinitely stretched green plains. Here, you will meet the rare and the last signatures of the civilization, i.e. cubical toilets made of fiber/wood, do take advantage of them as in your onward trip you would end up using open-air types.
It will take one more hour to reach to Barapani, famous for the hanging bridge on the snow-cold reverse-flowing river, where adventurers make camps and make sojourns to collect energy for the adventure to come. After staying for an hour or two, you will move to the blue lake – Sheoasr Lake as it is called – which is located at a staggering height of 4142m (13589 ft) for a heavenly night stay in your camps. Next day will be more of a driving adventure, when you cross Deosai Plains through Chackor Pass all the way to Astore, to resume to the civilization, via Chilam Chowki. Before spending the night in Astore, preferable in a hotel, a trip to Rama Lake can end your journey at a high note. While camping at Rama Lake is also possible. Next day you will be driven all the way back to Astore or you can continue to Gilgit and Hunza, as many travelers do.
Although Skardu has mostly been perceived as a base camp for adventure expeditions, Karakoram summits and Deosai Plains being the most popular ones, but the surroundings of Skardu are also abundantly gifted with some exquisite natural gifts. Out of those pearls, Kachura Lakes - the Lower Kachura Lake and the Upper Kachura Lake
- are a treat to visit.
The Upper Kachura Lake (35*25*40* N 75*27*16*E) is a natural spring-fed reservoir with cold and clear water, which is in fact turquoise-to-azure in colour because of the fauna and the surrounding greenery and perfectly healthy for swimming, but only in summers, as in winters, the surface of the lake gets frozen solid.
Situated at a height of nearly 2,500 meters, the 70 meters deep Lake is surrounded by fruit laden tress and forests in the foreground and the snow covered peaks and mountains in the background. With the shadow of neighboring snow mountains and the sparkling sunrays sneaking out of wild trees, the nestle-like-lake offers an experience that can enrich one's soul for the lifetime. The flickering sunlight produces artificial rainbows and light effects only to make the environment miraculous and magical so much so that one inevitably feels spellbound. The place is tremendously rich and unmatched in the natural scenic beauty and equally difficult to approach, that is why it is a perfect spot, free from all impurities, for nature lovers who can trade off ordinary facilities with natural splendor.
The lake is located about 3 km from the Lower Kachura Lake and can be approached either by a 2 hour pleasant trek, most of which is upwards except for the last few minutes of descending trail, or by a 15-20 minutes four-wheel ride plus 15-20 minutes of walk. The direction is simple; from Lower Kachura Lake first head towards the Kachura bazaar, then follow the trail, until you start seeing instructions and arrows on stones by locals, and then follow the instructions. You can always ask the direction from locals but avoid children as they may start following you and eventually will ask for money for the unsolicited services. Unlike majority of the lakes in Pakistan, the lake is not situated in an out-of-bound inhabitable area and easily areasapproachable, however, keep wet towels to cover your heads with you should the sun-heat starts scorching your body.
Taking a little food, drinks, and a water bottle with you, preferably from the Kachura bazaar, is highly recommended. And do not fill-up the water bottle before asking the locals for potable one.
There is a camping site also should you choose to stay for longer periods either to savour the ambiance fully or to avoid teh hussling and bussling Skardu. The site is a part of the small time Ghazi Hotel which has basic culinary facilities along with beds and bathrooms.
Natural setting, breathtaking views, freshness in the air, and most importantly the virginity of the place, make the lake a must-do for a tourist doing Northern Areas of Pakistan.
Kachura Village was stunning at the time of year we were there (June) as the fruit trees were all laden with fruit and the people in the village went about harvesting the fruit by stringing out sheets underneath the mulberry trees and shaking the trees to collect the berries.
The children all wanted to greet you and shake you hand (with the purplle-stained berry fingers). It was nice just to amuse the local children with 'hellos' and muddled Urdu phrases than have to put up with the ever-present "Hello, hello one pen one pen........" so please don't introduce pens to this part of Pakistan!
The houses were stunning and the backdrop of jagged peaks was just breathtaking.
Well, worth the stroll!
This is a far more beautiful and pristine lake as compared to Sadpara and Lower Kachura Lake... It's more peaceful as well as less accessible.
I had to trudge through muddy farmland and floodplains to get here but it was well worth it!!!
In the first picture, i had to climb on to a roof to get that shot.
There is a resthouse nearby, my driver/guide found the keeper of the resthouse and he opened it and invited us in for tea with a great view of the lake! Balti hospitality!
A visit to the Kachura Lakes (both Lower and Upper) are a must...
Shangri-La Skardu resort (in no way affiliated to the international chain) is situated at the Lower Kachura Lake... Costs PRP 200 just to enter, unless you're a guest.
To take pictures, you don't have to pay the PRP 200, you can ask your driver to drive you to a scenic lookout on the way to the Upper Kachura Lake.
In the stunning village of Kachura, nestled in the hills behind the Adventure Travel Campground (see accommodation tips) is the beautiful Upper Kachura Lake. We found it by asking the people in the villge and I couldn't for the life of me recall how we got there - we actually had a picture of it in the Shangrila Resort brochure (so maybe its handy to grab one when you are thrust them off the plane, even if you are staying at the campground!).
The lake is beautiful and clear, I think it was spring-fed since the water was so cold (welcome relief in the 30+ degree heat!).
Just remember, wear decent swimming attire and enjoy the swim!
A beautiful lake near Skardu.
Popular activities include boating and just chilling out by the lake... perfect in Spring or Summer!
Don't expect a huge statue of Buddha, it's just a carving of Buddha on a huge rock. It's within a short drive from the Sadpara Lake.