I dreamt about heaven only once in my lifetime and that was on the eve of death of a loved one. With a smile on her face, she told me about her chair made of gold wires and a tray full of fresh fruits lying on the table in front of her.
Little did I know that as much as it was about the fruits and the gold in the chair – it was more about her smiling face. And how could I? I was only 12 years old.
Her soul was at peace and I understood that dream only last week on our trip to Skardu.
While driving through the rocky edgy mountains, lush green plains, gushy flows of Indus River, serenity of the lakes, super windy cold desert and stillness during sunsets – I found little windows to heaven.
What I saw might differ from its reality; but what I felt was something real close to it.
Heaven is where your soul finds peace and nourishes itself with it.
Skardu is a beautiful land of little paradises here and there.
Airplane ride to the valley offers amazing views of Rakaposhi and Haramosh on the left and Nanga Parbat on the right side. Located in the center of Baltistan division of Gilgit- Baltistan, it has an approximate reach to other districts and tourist attractions.
Hotel Summit & Restaurant
Clearly we could not afford 15,000 to 20,000 per night for a room. Our budget was between 5,000 to 6,000 per night but the quality has to be good.
Homesickness hits really hard the moment you enter in a low quality living space.
Hotel Summit offers good quality spacious rooms in affordable rates and therefore we happily stayed there in newly constructed wooden huts. The airport is only 30 minutes away – which means if you have a morning flight back to Islamabad you can easily make it. Also, you can visit a few tourist attractions on the same day of arrival. The best part – it offers restaurant services and so you do not need to worry about food at all. Local families also visit their restaurant for dinner time.
Additionally, they also have Car / Jeep rental services – and a very amazing driver chacha Fida Hussain who took us to the following places:-
Upper & Lower Kachura Lakes
Located at one and half hour drive is the Upper Kachura Lake. There comes a bridge before it; which has moved from its original position due to the frequent tourists’ visits. So vehicles are not allowed to cross that bridge. Chacha arranged a car for us from other side of the bridge and we made it to Upper Kachura.
Walking through a green village, using the lake signs on the stones – you would reach a hotel which provides a passage to the other side. A small hike down and nature unfolds its magical wonder.
Lower Kachura is bounded by Shangrilla Resort. Buy a 500 rupees entry ticket per person and you are walking in the magical garden to the lake and the famous Shangrilla Hut.
Of all the places, if there is a heaven on earth, it is Lower Kachura Lake in Shangrilla.
The orange-yellow shades of setting sun on the lake water, the beautiful reflections of the Red Hut and the blue skies above – it is indeed a breathtaking sight.
You can also enjoy one of the most expensive “Tea bag” Chai here! We didn’t! I was craving for a doodhpatti instead. Someone please tell them to offer doodhpatti. It could have become my perfect bliss only if there was a Real Chai!
Shangrilla Resort Room Rates: 20,000 per night. It is located at 50 minutes drive from Airport and one hour and twenty minutes drive from main Skardu City. The following places are on the other side of the city. Therefore five hour drive to Deosai would become six and a half hours. And so on.
Located between and accessible from Kharmang district, Astore and Skardu district, Deosai is the world’s second highest plains.
Although it offers amazing views throughout, but the three main attractions are; Bara Pani (The largest water that travels through Deosai); Kala Pani (Even more beautiful) and Sheosar Lake (marking the end of Deosai plains).
We rested for an hour at Bara Pani after three and a half hour drive. Sheosar is an hour and a half from Bara Pani – but as soon as you cross Kala Pani; road becomes a little more difficult and bumpy. Travelling through Deosai to Sheosar is tiring but worthwhile.
On our way back, I wanted to get over with it. I was literally praying for the hotel to arrive soon. But that was the stretch – we were exploring ourselves meanwhile.
And I found another little window to heaven.
And I found another little window to heaven.
Satpara Lake & Dam
It is a natural lake on the road towards Deosai Plains and receives water from the melting snow of plains. Skardu Valley is being supplied with water from Satpara. Driver Chacha explained how the dam was built in Musharraf’s Era. However, it is not fully utilized.
We stopped here for pictures and met a family visiting from Karachi.
This is what happens when you have a camera on one shoulder and a baby on another
Meaning ‘The fort on the rock’ is the 17th century fort located in the Shigar District after crossing the beautiful Shigar Valley. Being restored by Aga Khan Cultural Services of Pakistan, it is now a museum and residential place under Serena Hotel.
According to the guide, hotel has 20 rooms ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 rate per night and all were booked.
Amacha Garden and Baradari Pavillion is the most beautiful site of the fort with blooming flowers in red, yellow and purple and brown colored artistic fort structure in the background. It is yet another beautiful window to heaven.
We sat for a while in the Fong Khar Restaurant and enjoyed our Mango Shakes while listening to the water flowing besides us. Mango Shakes? Yes, Skardu in July was hot during the day. Except for Deosai, I wished I should have had my lawn dresses with me.
Situated in the village nearby fort – this 14th century mosque is considered as the first monument of Islam in the valley. Built by the Irani Craftsmen who were travelling with Kashmiri preacher, Syed Ali Hamdani – the mosque is a small historical work of art.
We met some beautiful children near the mosque and Shazil was very happy to see them. Around ten kids gathered around us as soon as we stepped out of the car and escorted us to the mosque. Tehseen Fatima held Shazil while the rest of them played with him. Little Sakina was around 7 to 8 months old. The little girl in white frock was Nida who kept coming in the pictures while I was photographing the mosque. I loved sharing smiles with them. It was a refreshing experience.
Shazil waved them goodbye and everyone waved us back.
This 19th century fort and palace was built as a residence for the then Raja of Khaplu. It has a place for captivity – where prisoners were kept. There are multiple floors; specified for Raja’s sermon to his people, for Rani to watch ceremonies and polo.
According to the guide, the last Raja was not popular because of his cruelty. Besides, the Raja culture was abolished in the Era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. However, the last Rani still lives in Khaplu and does social work.
We sat on sofa chairs in the Garden of the Sarfa Khar Restaurant under a big old tree – had our moments of bliss in the dusty winds, closed eyes for a little while and took deep breath in peace – knowing that was our last day in Skardu before flying back to Islamabad.