The Lower Kachura Lake (Shangri-La/ Shangrila)
The Lower Kachura Lake is one of the most beautiful natural lakes in the world and is truly called Heaven on Earth i.e. Shangrila. This Lake belongs to the divine couplet of lakes situated in the small Northern town of Pakistan, Kachura, which itself is situated near Skardu.
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, rather than Skardu, 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. On top of them, a boat ride in the Lower Kachura Lake is a real bonus especially around the sunset.
The differentiating factor of this lake is the presence of an aeroplane, a Pakistan International Airline's (then Orient Airways) DC-3 Aircraft that crash-landed in early 1950s in the close viccinity of Kachura. The aircraft had been towed to the bank of the lake and is now used as a cafeteria for the surrounding Shangrila Resort. An experience unmatched to any other luxury of such type. This would be interesting to mention here James Hilton's book “LOST HORIZON” that narrates a fictions tale in which an aeroplane crash-lands near a riverbed. The surviving passengers come across Buddhist monks from a nearby temple and seek their help. They had been taken to a beautiful lamasery filled with a variety of fruits and flowers. The monks looked quite young, although they claimed to be hundreds of years old. Therefore, the idyllic place had been called Shangri-La, a Chinese word meaning “HEAVEN ON EARTH”.
Accomdation options at Lower Kachura Lake include Shangrila Resort (very expensive: USD 150 per person), Tibet Motel (moderately expensive: USD 25), Tents at under-construction Karakoram Towers (Cheapest: USD 5), and various Government Rest Houses (Police, Army, and Public Works Department, PWD).
If you are coming to Skardu by plane than you do not need to go to Skardu City as the airport is located between Skardu and Kachura. We did not sort out our logistics before landing into Skardu and instead negotiated, in PKR 500 (at that time 1 USD = 80 PKR) for two persons, with a Suzuki Hiroof driver who was locomoting luggage to Shangrila Resort. We did not regret as the driver was expert of his business and provided us with very useful information about logistics, accomodation, and site-seeing. Public Transport is not available at all at Skardu Airport and you will have to negotiate private taxis (cars/jeeps) for your logistics. Do negotiate and try to improvise for a better deal, there are minimal, if any, chances that you get ripped-off as far as you trust your commom instincts. Mostly, hotels arrange for Airport transfers should you pre-book, which is not neccessarily required.
And if you are coming by road from Gilgit, off Karakoram Highway, KKH, than you will find Kachura before Skardu. So, you can always ask the driver to drop you on the road-side, at Kachura stop, should you have sorted-out logistics from the road side to the Lake, or you can steer your luugage to the half-an-hour pleasant but a bit steep walk, to save your time and money. Due to bad weather, we opted for the road journey, from Skardu to Rawalpindi, for our way back; the hotel guy arranged the bus to pick us from the road side rather from Skardu.
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Fruit Picking: Apricots, Peaches, Red Berries
When around Skardu, or anywhere in the Northern Areas of Pakistan for that matter, you have the liberty to pick from abundantly availble seasonal fruits not only from stray trees but also from private farms, however, on request.
We always loved picking handfull of juicy apricots while trekking around from open-source treckside trees. Not only this, our attendant at Tibet Motel took us to a nearby farm of tasty Red Berries, owned by a local who generously allowed us to pick as many as we could.
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Boat Ride in Shangrila (Lower Kachura) Lake
Lower Kachura Lake, also known as Shangrila Lake, is famous for its out-of-the-world, or heaven-on-earth in the words of James Hilton, beauty. Serenity in the atmosphere, freshness in the air, and tranquility in the water are suggestive of an ideal romantic ambiance light-years away from worldly distractions. Should you like to absorb the harmony in the environment into your soul than a boat ride especially just before the sunset is a must…
We felt lucky when the attendant-cum-manager of the Tibet Hotel offered us free boat ride, hand driven, every day during our stay there. This forced me to cut short the negotiations on already-discounted room rent before he could take that offer back.
If you decide against staying besides the lake, due to any reasons, even then a boat ride is a must, for sane reasons. It is not expensive at all, less than PKR 300 per ride of 20-30 minutes, and you can also help yourself should you wish to. Otherwise, the attendant is always ready to give you a ride around the lake.
...Sun was climbing down hastily behind mountains, when we made resolutions about our newly started life in the middle of the lake. I still dream those pure moments…
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Buddha Carvings of 7th-8th Century
Carved on rocky stone, the huge Buddha carving along with surrounding Bodhisattvas is reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist roots of the region dating back to 7th and 8th century AD. The rock can be found just 3 km from Skardu off the Skardu-Sadpara-Deosai road. This historcial momument is literally unguarded and situated on a walkway; it is sheer luck that the rock is still mounted there not only against the rough weather but also in front of the religious believes of the inhabitants. There is not much to see there apart from the ancient artifact up the hill and some good views of the Skardu valley, so half an hour is just enough to appreciate the preserved history.
From the main road, it is a 15-20 rough and steep ride until you reach the ancient rock. Do not insist if your driver is hesitant and just walk your way from the point your driver gives up; a little strenuous but a lot safer. Taking some water and umbrella is wise, but not necessary, as the pathway is mostly shadeless. For directions, you can ask any passing-by locals, but not from children, who will guide you without any expectations.
For the sake of optimization, combine this trip with Deosai day trip along with the Satpara Lake, and leave it for the tail end if you are just making a day trip to Deosai.
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Around Skardu Town
Nothing much here in Skardu town either... I guess, like Gilgit, you won't see any women here (besides Female tourists, if any). I was told that they shop elsewhere, outside of town, where only women frequent.
Skardu town was my base to visiting the Khachura lakes, Khachura Buddha etc.
The 2nd photo shows one of the few the Liberation monuments dotted around Skardu town.
Skardu Baltistan lies in the heart of world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram. It presents a unique contrast of high peaks, deep gorges, straddling glaciers, vast deserts, sandy plains, blue lakes, colorful panorama, lush green oases and villages. It consist of following valleys like skardu, Rondu, Shiger, Khaplu, Kharmang, keris, Ghuari and Gultari.
Its area have been fluctuating over the course of history. It is currently smaller than ever before, with an area of 17,000 square km. and its estimated population is 4,00,000.
Baltistan is also known as the home of mountains because of the existence of Some of the highest and beautiful peaks of the world. Chogo-ri (K-2), Mashabrum (K-1) and Gashabrum group of peaks besides beautiful glaciers like Sia-chen, Baltoro, Biafo and Chogo-lungma are situated in this region.
Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 35*, while in winter it may reach to minus 30*C. So the best season for tourist who wants to travel this region is from April to October.
Being a resident of this area I traveled a lot. And I found this place heaven for tourist. You name a tourist attraction and expect a positive answer from me.
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Trek to K2 , Gondghoro la
K2 and Gondghoro la, very beautiful itineraries in the heart of Karakoram.
But you should be enough fit for the moraines of Baltoro glacier, because this trek's demanding.
From Askole to K2 base camp and back includes, 13,14 trekking days, there're 2 rest days because one's to approach 5200 m, the base camp and if you're going to Gondghoro la 5600 m pass, just to acclamatize yourself with the altituide, and it's for the professional trekkers.
There's another beautifl itinerary in little Pamir,wakhan corridor, begins from Matrumdam, Ishkoman valley, almost 12 days , trek across Karombar pass and lake and into Boroghil valley, then towards Yarkhoon lasht or back to Yasin valley across Darkhote pass.
Look at the pictures on flickr.
For tour operators please check the link
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Cell: 092 321 44 31 23 1
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Help out porters
If you make it to Skardu, check out the Khurpa Care office (Khurpa is the Balti word for porter). The manager is a guy called Raza. He used to be a trekking guide but now he's working to improve the conditions of moountaineering and trekking porters. The office is also a small research library if you're interested in learning about Baltistan...including really old articles from early explorers. They have an equipment loan program to provide porters with good gear, and take equipment doantions as well. If you've trekked or climbed in the KArakoram you know the condition of porters. Anyway, the office is a cool place to hang out and learn about the place. It's right across form the Comsats office...the best place in town to check your e-mail....
Its a very beautiful lake situated at quite some height. The water is just so clean here that you can clearly see wats beneath it. It is also famous for its rare trout fish.
Trek to K2 Base Camp
From Skardu drive to Kuburse to begin the trek to K2 base camp. It is an amazing journey and something you will always remember.
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