Gilgit-Baltistan is the area where we have mostly traveled in Pakistan so far and Skardu is the capital of Baltistan. During the painful nine-hour ride to Skardu, we thought that the place must be prettttty amazing to compensate the trouble getting there. Luckily it was.
The Little Tibet of Pakistan
We learned quickly that the culture and people in Skardu were a bit different from the other areas we had visited. So it was worth taking the time to see this part of Gilgit-Baltistan, too. Most of the people are Balti people, descendants of Tibetans. Their language, Balti, is an ancient form of Tibetan. Thus, the city’s nickname, Little Tibet of Pakistan. We wouldn’t say that the city otherwise has much of Tibetan flare, though. The Balti-Tibetans converted to Islam many centuries ago and the main religion nowadays is Islam. So, you won’t see anything Buddhist there.
The wonderful nature surrounding the city is another thing that makes Skardu so special. It’s also a hub for many treks in the mountains, the most notable of them being the world’s second tallest mountain, K2. We didn’t do any trekking there, though. It would be already cold and snowy on the mountains (and we were lazy).
The fort, the views and some road tripping
We got our first glimpse of the area’s nature by climbing up to the Kharpocho fort. After walking all the way up, we were quite disappointed to see that the door was closed. Luckily, we stayed by the door, admiring the view for some time. Soon we saw a cute grandpa, carrying a heavy water canister on his back, getting up the stony path. He let us crawl in through a tiny door on the actual door.
The fort was built in the 16th century and partly destroyed a few centuries later. The crumbled walls of what is left of the fort nowadays were charming in a way. And the view from the top was marvelous. We could see the city, the mountains, the river and the Cold Desert, which is an unique attraction of this area.
The next day we explored the surrounding areas more on a motorbike. During our roadtrip we visited the Cold Desert and a nearby valley named Shigar. Here’s the story about our roadtrip to Shigar Valley.
Lovely people in a busy city
Otherwise we spent some time walking around in the city. It turned out pretty fast though, that the city itself is busy and dusty and walking on the streets full of horn blazing cars and reckless motorbike drivers and cows and goats and people was not too pleasant.
Even though, it’s always nice to see animals and the people here were as lovely as they have been anywhere else in Pakistan. Just to give you an example: A guy was trying to lure us into his gift shop. We didn’t want to buy anything but because he didn’t give up, we decided to have a look, just for fun. It turned out that he didn’t even want to sell us anything. He just wanted to give us small gemstones as a present.
Also, in a restaurant we visited, one of the workers asked to be photographed with us and seemed very excited about it. The other worker, who took the photo, could speak English and told us that the guy had never seen a white person before.
Local treats of Skardu
We were also happy to taste some local specialties besides the daals and naans that are always tasty. The local soup, that consists of beans and barley was really good and had a hint of mint in it. Also, Skardu was the place where we got finally hooked on Pakistani sweets. We found a great sweets store and visited so many times that we probably gained a few kilos already during our short stay. So maybe it was good that we only stayed for three nights…