Autumn Tour 24 DAYS NOTE :- Although, we try to adhere to the schedule listed below, this itinerary is subject to change due to numerous reasons beyond our control such as bad weather, canceled or delayed flights, road washouts, vehicle breakdowns, sickness, accidents, government restrictions & all other unforeseen exigencies for which we cannot […]
NOTE :- Although, we try to adhere to the schedule listed below, this itinerary is subject to change due to numerous reasons beyond our control such as bad weather, canceled or delayed flights, road washouts, vehicle breakdowns, sickness, accidents, government restrictions & all other unforeseen exigencies for which we cannot make provisions.
After an early breakfast visit the Taxila Meseum and its sites.
Taxila is an archaeologist’s paradise. It contains a well maintained museum whose 8 mile circumference contains 8 archaeological sites. Among the best preserved are Sirkap, Julian, Mohra Muradu & Bhirmond.
Overnight hotel. All meals included.
RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD TO PESHAWAR
After an early breakfast leave Rawalpindi/Islamabad for Peshawar. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel in Peshawar. After check-in visit to the Old part of Peshawar visit Kissa Khani Bazaar, Mohabat Khan’s Mosque. Overnight Green’s hotel.
Peshawar, proceed for city tour which includes visits to Kissa Khani Bazaar – (story teller’s bazaar) a historical transit for the weary traders from all directions; Copper-Smith’s Bazaar – presenting very unusual oriental bronze & copper wares; the legendary Mohabat Khan’s Mosque – built in 1670 by a Mughal Governor; Potters’ Street – excellent pottery made with primitive tools and passing by Bala Hisar Fort – built by Baber in 1526 AD. (entrance not allowed as it is unfortunately occupied by a military office)
Visit the Peshawar Museum – Formally the Victoria Memorial Hall, was built in 1905. The museum has one of the best collections of Gandhara Art in Pakistan. Sculptures illustrating the life of Buddha are laid out in chronological order. The fasting Buddha is the only of its kind in the entire world. It also contains a well maintained Ethnological section, Hall of Tribes and a Muslim Gallery. Overnight at Green’s Hotel.
PESHAWAR – SWAT
Swat The Greeks fought for its beauty, the Buddhists inhabited it because of its eternal beauty and peace, the Moghals envied its lush green valleys and fast flowing rivers and today it is coveted by the Pathans, the Kohistanis and the Gujars.
Over two thousand years ago, the prosperous valley of Swat – originally known as Udyan – was the home of well-settled people, living within magnificently planned towns. In 327 B.C., Alexander of Macedonia invaded this region, defeated the Hindu king, then continued on destroying guerrilla resistance by attacking the supposedly impregnable fortress at Ora or Aornos, now known as Udegram. Apparently, this was to teach them a lesson and convince other kingdoms along the way that capitulation was the best policy, a hint which Chandargupta of Taxila heeded.
Between 324 and 185 BC Buddhism spread widely throughout Swat and reached its peak during the Kushan era in the 2nd century AD. A great number of colleges and monasteries with innumerable stupas were built in the valley and a great quantity of Gandhara sculptural work was produced. It became – like Taxila – a sacred place for pilgrims from China and Tibet, the most famous being Xuan Zhang who, in the 7th century AD, recorded 1400 monasteries, with Ming Chili or Mingora having the largest. By this time the area was already in decline and much of it in ruins.
Following the successive invasions by barbarian hordes from the 5th century AD onward it fell into a ‘dark age’ from which it was never to emerge. Buddhism gave way to Hinduism which in turn fell to the onslaught of Islam in the 10th century and the whole region lapsed into barbarism. Baber unsuccessfully attempted to subjugate it, and the Sikhs who succeeded Baber, only managed to exert a tenuous hold on the land. It was with the British that peace was finally restored. As a reward for his co-operation the Akhund of Swat was given the upper half of the valley, Kohistan, for his administration. It remained an autonomous political agency right through until 28 July 1969.
On arrival transfer to Swat Continental Hotel or PTDC Swat.
PM : Sightseeing of Butkara Stupa Excursions – Built in 2nd century B.C by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka to house some of the ashes of Buddha. In subsequent centuries it was enlarged five times by adding new shells around the original stupa, each stupa completely enclosing the old one inside. Later 215 Votive stupas were built around the main stupa, all decorated with schist columns, lions with curly manes, eagles, lilies, cupids and lotus flowers. Some of the best stone carvings have been removed to the museums around the world.
Mingora Bazaar is 1030 meters above sea level, and is a largish town with paved streets, rows of bazaars and shops and facilities such as banks, hotels, restaurants and an airport. It is the commercial and business center. Mingora is known for hunting handicrafts like gems stones, jewelry, waist coats, belts, embroideries and weapons.
SWAT – Madyan and Bahrain excursion
Drive towards KALAM – As you continue along the Swat River the valley narrows and the terraced grainfields disappear and there’s nothing to see but the granite walls of mountains and thickly wooded stands of large trees. The road is not particularly rough and you can still see
traces of former attempts to seal it. The women in the area are generally not in purdah, but in buses they prefer to travel at the rear while the men go up front.
Upper swat was previously known as Kohistan. There are numerous different tribes in this region including the peoples of Utrot, Ushu and Kalam who are Bushkaris, and the Torwalis who live further south. The latter are adept in the use of slings.
The Bushkaris had no forts, but their villages were made in a peculiar fashion for security and defence. Usually built on steep hillsides in succession, one above the other, the buildings had flat rooftops built on the same level as the floor of the one above it, and the whole being interconnected by an outer wall. Inside the villages are a maze of passages, through which runs a stream. All the early houses were made of wood and any built outside the enclosed village were built without parapets – probably for protection.
The Bushkaris and Torwalis hold a similar belief to the ancient Persians and the Minions of Crete – that the world rests on the horns of a cow, which causes earthquakes when it shakes its head from time to time at the sins of the inhabitants. They still believe in fairies who supposedly confer the power of prophecy on certain mortals, a theory which is also held in the upper northern highland.
In medieval times this region was known as the Land of Fugitives. In spring and early summer, Gujar nomads trudge north, loaded with pots and pans, herds of cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and horses. Children, while the women tote large baskets on their heads and carry their babies in their arms. They dress in flamboyant printed fabrics; wear heavy, metal jewellery and are of sturdy build and ample proportions.
Along the way, a road forks off west to Kabal, where there is an 18 – hole golf course at 870 meters which is open all year round. Further on another road cuts east to Malam Jaba, 2600 meters above sea level. The Austrian government had agreed to assist in setting up a ski resort here, but the rather grandiose scheme was abandoned recently, a Malam Jaba is now being turned into a hill station for tourists, diplomats and vacationing government officials. Experts considered that it was not only too small for a ski resort, but that the mountain was not high enough, nor was there enough snow to make it really viable.
The first town of importance is Khwazakhela, 26 km away, a busy, smallish intersection. From Khwazakhela there is a road to Beshum, a small village to the east. The main road continues to Madian 26 km away, but before reaching the latter there is anotherr road branching east to Miandam, 10 km off the main road. At 1800 meters, Miandam is another scenic, little village. This is considered to most beautiful valley in Swat. There are some superb hikes up the mountains and along the stream here.
The valley becomes slightly claustrophobic at Madian, but it’s very picturesque. At an elevation of 1320 meters, Madian is a popular town, both because of its beauty and the variety of accommodation available in the valley, along the streams, on slopes and ridges and high up into the mountains, Be careful to boil or purity drinking water from here to Bahrain and Kalam or you could find yourself in trouble.
Only 10 km away at 1400 meters Bahrain is more developed, but not as attractive. From here the road is rougher and starts to climb steply. The bare mountains close in on the road, which drops away precipitously to the river. This is still an interesting area for explorers, who could stumble on important archaeological finds. Thirteen km out of Bahrain and about three km before Madian, there’s a trail that cuts off to the left then loops north to Jahanabad. High up on a cliff here, is a rock carving of the Buddha. It will take you about half an hour to climb up to see it. Beyond Bahrain is Kohistan where the Pushto tribe gives way to the Torwalis and Bushkaris.
The road levels off as the valley widens close to Kalam, 26 km from Bahrain. Kalam is at 2100 meters and is designed in two sections. The higher one consists of administrative offices and the police station and has more expensive accommodation. It slopes down gradually, terminating in a sharp drop to the main roadway and river.
Upper Swat or Kohistan belongs culturally to the northern region as the architecture of the old mosque and the carvings of wooden pillars, window frames and door jambs indicate. Although there is no road from here to Chitral or Gilgit, the upper northern cultural influence must have filtered in along the food trails. This region is the boundary marking cultural changes from south to north.
Kalam has a tranquil air and a pleasant climate during the day, though nights tend to be cold. On a clear day you can see the 5918-meter – high Mt Falaksair from the upper section of the town. In the north-east of the valley its snow-clad upper slopes and peak rise above dense, lush forests. The river rushes through the town, right across from the old mosque.
Beyond Kalam where the Swat River splits, the road also forks, west to Utrot at 2225 meters and east to Ushu. To the north-west in the valley of Utrot is Gabral Valley which is excellent for fishing, while to the north-east is the valley of Ushu, which at 2286 meters also has great fishing streams. On the way up to Ushu there is a magnificent view of Mt. Falaksair.
Trekking trails start from here to Dir, Chitral and Gilgit, but they’re not recommended by the police and other authorities unless you’re accompanied by a guide. There are regular bus services to these villages, which depart at 8am and 2 pm. There are hotels here, but many still lack facilities. However, it’s quite safe to rough it out here. Unless you’re on a guided trek this is a dead end and you have no alternative except to retrace your steps, either to Khwazakhela or Mingora. Overnight at PTDC Miandam Hotel.
SWAT -TO- DIR
Proceed to DIR, The independent Kingdom of Dir was absorbed into Pakistan only in 1962. Since one of the main trade routes from Eastern Afghanistan passed through lower Dir, there are several places of historical interest to be seen along the road among which Talash Valley, Kat Kala Fort and Timargarha are quite rich in their archaeological heritage left by the Aryans , Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. None of these remains has been excavated, but they date from the second to the ninth century. Dir has a well wooded countryside with fine views. This beautiful town is inhabited by the upright, fierce yet very hospitable Pathans whose prestige is earned, maintained and avenged by a bullet.
PM : On arrival, transfer to Hotel Almanzer. Lunch & dinner included.
DIR TO CHITRAL
AM : After breakfast, resume the thrilling jeep ride to Chitral via Lowari Pass 3208 M. The road zig-zags up through pine forests to the summit. From the top you see lower Chitral spread below you with row upon row of barren mountains and at distance the snow capped Hindu Kush. The decent is steep, dropping 2000 m from the top to the river bank. Cruising along the Yarkhun River,we bypass Mirkhani & Drosh to reach Chitral. This isolated valley among the Hindukush mountains was once in the domain of Alexander the Great, who marched through Chitral in 327 B.C. Chitral forms the North-Western roof of the Indian Sub Continent. The rugged Hindukush range comprises Chitral’s Northern and Westerly borders while the imposing Hindu Raj mountains isolate it
from the South. The Adamzada, the old ruling clan, proudly traces the linekage to the 14th century Tartar Emperor, Tamerlane. These governors called Mehatars dominated the state for 350 years until about 1960 when Chitral’s statehood ended. Now Chitral is directly governed by Pakistan. The highest mountains of the Hindukush, Tirich Mir (25,264 ft) over shadows Chitral town.
PM : On arrival transfer to PTDC Motel. All meals included.
CHITRAL TO BOMBORET
AM : After a brief walk tour of Chitral, we take a short ride to Bomboret, one of the Kalash Valleys. These valleys are inhabited by a primitive race known as Kafir Kalash, which means the wearers of the black robes. Their origin is cloaked in controversy. Since the sign of the Macedonian period are still to be found among these people. They are said to be the decedents of the Greek soldiers who entered this valley in 327 B.C. The villages of Bomboret are built on a steep mountain slope along the bank of a stream. The cluster of small multi-storied houses look like bee-hives. The odd rituals, primitive customs and peculiar habits of friendly and peaceful Kalash bewitch and enthrall the tourists from all over the world. Kalash women still wear black woolen homespun garments, red beaded necklaces by the dozens and exceptional headpiece that flows down their backs embroided with cowrie shells, beads and trinkets.
PM : Walk tour of Kalash Valleys.
Overnight in hotel. All meals included.
BOMBORET TO MASTUJ
AM : After an early breakfast, we will resume the exciting jeep journey to Mastuj, a beautiful village 76 miles to the North-East of Chitral. The jeep track carves its way through the stark and rugged mountains. This traditional route has been used for centuries by the traders for trade between Chitral and Gilgit. The perilous jeep road connects to a wide plateau with a lake and Polo field. Seasonal polo matches are played between the Chitralis and the Gilgitis.
PM : Tents will be pitched in an orchard for overnight. All meals included.
Distance: 122 km, Altitude: 2351 m, Time: 6-7 hours
MASTUJ TO PHANDER
AM : Continue our thrilling journey through various hairpin turns, before arriving at Shandur Pass (12250 ft) and finally reached at Phander lake via Teru, a small beautiful village. Phander’s other name is “Angler’s Paradise”. This trout laden serene lake allows one forget the bumpy and trying jeep journey.
PM : Our staff will pitch the tents for overnight and serve hot meals.
Distance: 97 kms, Altitude: 2850 m, Time: 5-6 hours.
PHANDER TO GILGIT VIA PUNIAL
AM : The thrilling jeep ride continues high above the valley floor on a winding road cut into cliffs. The arid landscape on the way to Gupis and is often broken by lush green pastures and swirling mountain streams. The rocky jeep track turns into a sandy path on the way to Punial, a cluster of 12 small villages located 40 kms north west of Gilgit. Until recently, Punial was a semi-autonomous kingdom. The inhabitants believe beyond their doubts that Punial is a place where Heaven and Earth meet. The capital of Punial is dominated by Sher Qila, (Lion’s Fort), so called because it proved so difficult to conquer. Sher Qila domains an impressive girls school, a redundant polo ground & a 150 year old watchtower crowned with a pair of ibex horns.
PM : Continue jeep drive to Gilgit. The Capital of Northern Pakistan is a thriving frontier town that has expanded rapidly to include over 40,000 inhabitants since the Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978. It sits in a wide irrigated bowl 1500 M above sea level at the Eastern end of the Gilgit Valley. The quaint little town of Gilgit has a cluster of interesting places in it short radius, including a beautiful rock carving of Buddha, a victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago and the longest suspension bridge in Asia ( 600 ft long ) The favorite sport in Gilgit is Polo, which the locals claim originated here. It is a more rugged style than the sedate variety known in the plains. The polo tournament held in the 1st two weeks of November is a festive occasion and attracts a large number of spectators.
GILGIT -TO- FAIRY MEADOWS
AM : After an early breakfast, embark by Van to Riakot Bridge and further drive by jeeps towards Yaal/Tato Village. Up arrival at Tato Village easy walk for about 2 hours to Fairy Meadows. Overnight camping. All meals served by our camping staff.
When the sun shines, it smokes up there. The demons blow their horns and fairies cook their bread. (Local Legend). The “Naked Mountain” as interpreted in the local language, is the “Ninth” in height but the “First” in “Actual Climb” challenge & dignity in the world. Standing at the extreme western end of 24,000 Km Himalayan Range – just beyond the deep Indus Valley, culminates in an ice crest, 8125 M high. No other peak within 100 Km comes anywhere near it’s size. It’s incomparable Rupal Face (southern side) is one of the greatest precipices in the world – a sheer drop of 5000 M. Also notorious as the “Killer Mountain”, it has so far taken the biggest toll of human lives in the anal of mountaineering. Influenced by the centuries old legends, the locals believe beyond their doubts that Nanga Parbat is an eternal abode of Fairies & Demons who frequently curse their fury over the undesirable “intruders” in shape of roaring avalanches. The locals thus alarmingly warn mountaineers to keep their feet off this dangerous mountain. The first visual record of this mountain was a canvas painted by Rudolf Schlagintweit – a German traveller, who beheld this mighty peak in 1852.
Our jeep journey will soon end at the end of the road under construction somewhere near Tato. Our guide will hire the porters, distribute the loads and begin the trek to Fairy Meadows a lush green plateau presenting some of the most spectacular sights with a backdrop of the massive chunks of Nanga Parbat Peaks. The locals strongly believe this place is abode of fairies and demons. Picturesque views of the Jillipur Peak, 5206 M, Buldar Peak 5602 M, Raikot Peak 7070 M, and Nanga Parbat 8125 M, the ninth highest in the world. Overnight in tents. All meals served by camp staff.
Walk : 02 Hrs Grade : easy Altitude : 3300 M
FAIRY MEADOWS –TO-BEYAL CAMP
Trek to Beyal Camp for about 2 hours.
Full day at the disposal of the group to relax, explore the surroundings or make easy optional climbs to the Jillipur Peak, 5206 M or Buldar Peak 5602 M, higher than all the peaks in Europe. If you are a fit trekker and know the basics of walking on ice and snow but have so far not climbed any peak yet if you wish to be a summiteers, our staff will provide you all possible assistance and escort all the way to the summit and make your dream come true (check for additional cost) Overnight in tents. All meals served by camp staff. Walk : optional Grade : moderate Altitude : __________Meters
BEYAL-TO- NANGA PARBAT BASE AND BACK TO BEYAL
After an early breakfast trek to the base of Nanga Parbat with pack lunch. Further trek to the advance base camp of Nanga Parbat marked with the Memorial of the unfortunate expedition members, who were killed by the massive avalanches between 1895 & 1990 on the peak. Splendid views of Nanga Parbat and its neighboring Peaks. Overnight in tents. All meals served by camp staff. Walk : 06-08 Hrs Grade : moderate Altitude : _______Meters
BEYAL AND RETURN TO FAIRY MEADOWS TO KARIMABAD
AM : After a early breakfast, proceed to Karimabad – the capital of Hunza. Shipton declared it as the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur Yes ! the Legendary Hunza – whose very name is overwhelming ! is known for its towering snow covered peaks, creeping glaciers, fragrant apricot orchards & the longevity of its people. Lord Curson noted that “The little State of Hunza contains more summits of over 20,000 ft than there are of over 10,000 ft in the entire Alps”. This magical land of contrasting geology abounds in glaciers too, including the 58 Km (world’s 5th longest ) Batura Glacier. The Nubra, Braldu, Hushe and Saltoro Rivers are born in the Karakoram glacial vastness: the Shyok River encircles the entire flanks of the range: but only the Hunza river literally cuts through the width of the Karakoram Range. Hunza’s extreme isolation thus imposed by the unbelievably steep gorges of the Karakoram, rise to a long standing, wholly indigenous & pure diet consisting almost entirely of apricots, wheat and “Hunza Water”, a locally brewed wine, & hence the long living inhabitants. The hardy people of Hunza are thought to be the descendants of the Alexander’s lost column of army. Until 1974, Hunza remained a semi – autonomous princely state presided over by a benevolent “MIR” who personally held a daily court & the subjects paid taxes in goods rather than money. Nestled under the shadows of Rakaposhi 7788 m, perches its capital Karimabad – guarded with centuries old sentinel of Altit & Baltit. Our approach to Hunza is by jeep on the Karakoram Highway, a thin ribbon of pavement carved into the walls of the stupendous Karakoram. This road completed in 1978 , now links the ancient trails of the Silk Route from Gilgit to Kashgar. Hunza’s 35000 inhabitants have been ruled by the same family since the 11th century. A legend relates that the Hunzakuts, (as the people of Hunza are known) are the descendants of the 05 lost soldiers of the Alexander’s Army. Brushuski, an aboriginal language is spoken in the central Hunza & Wakhi, related to Chinese Turkistan is spoken in the upper 2Gojal. Hunzakuts lived off the fruits of caravan- raiding, slave trading & attacking their neighbors. The kingdom retained independence until the British took over in 1891 and became part of Pakistan in 1974. The society is co-operative rather than competitive. Each family grows enough food for its own use. As the Hunzakuts lived aloof from the outer world, each citizen was self sufficient in making his own shoes, clothes & bowls, until, the Karakoram Highway linked them with the world. The people are cheerful & friendly. Almost the entire population belongs to the Ismaili Shias sect headed by the Prince Karim Agha Khan. The women wear bright clothes, long shirts over baggy trousers and little embroided pillbox hats over which they drape their shawls.
PM : Walk tour of Kaimabad including Baltit fort. Overnight at Hunza Inn. All meals included.
Distance : 120 kms, Drive : 3-4 hrs, Altitude : 2400 m.
KARIMABAD – KHUNJERAB PASS – GULMIT
AM : Full day Excursion to Khunjerab Pass. Bypassing Gulmit, a fertile plateau with irrigated fields on either side of the KKH, we drive to Passu, a setting off point for climbers for the Batura, Passu, Kuk & Lupghar Groups. Located under the shadows of Shispar & Passu Cones, the fabulous trek to the legendary Shimshal too begins from Passu. From the outskirts of Passu, 30 Kms before Sust, (immigration check post) begins the Khunjerab National Park, the natural habitat of the endangered Marco Polo Sheep & Snow Leopard. The last stretch of the road winds up round 12 wide, well engineered hairpin bends to the top. Khunjerab Pass 4703 M, is the highest border crossing on a paved road in the world. The Khunjerab Pass is the continental watershed, on the Pakistan side flowing down to the Indian Ocean and that on the Chinese side being swallowed by the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin. Taklamakan literally means, “IF YOU GO IN YOU WON”T COME OUT“. The scenery is remarkably different on either side of the pass. The Pakistani side is marked with barren deserted gorges with no sign of human life for the last 40 Kms before border, the Chinese side, however, is wide, open, grassy, high altitude plateau, with herds of yaks, sheep & low humped Bactrian camels tended by the smiling colorful TAJIKS.
PM : Return to Gulmit for overnight at Hotel Marco Polo with Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included.
Distance : 320 kms, Drive 7-8 hrs, Altitude : 4703 m
GULMIT – SKARDU
Drive to Skardu enroute stop at Shangrila for little rest, if the guests feel’s this is a good spot for lunch.
Baltistan lies north of Indian-held Kashmir along the Indus River between the Karakoram Mountains and the uninhabited Deosai Plateau. Skardu, its capital, is the starting-point for some of the best trekking and mountaineering in the world.
When the Indus River enters Baltistan from Ladakh, it has already travelled 700 kilometers (435 miles) from its source in Tibet. It comes in through a gorge so deep and narrow that no path can follow it. On the northern bank a solid block of mountains, 60 of them over 7,000 meters (21,000 feet) high, from a wall 100 kilometers (60 miles) thick between Baltistan and China. In no other part of the world is there such a large number of high mountains in such a confined space. ON the southern bank, the Himalayas and the Deosai Plateau from the barrier with India.
It is only from the west that you can enter the isolated valleys of Baltistan. A new road hugging the bank of the Indus leads from the KKH for 170 kilometers (110 miles) to Skardu. Like the rest of Pakistan’s Northern Areas, Baltistan is a high-altitude desert. It rises from 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level to 8.616 meters (28.268 feet) at the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. The average rainfall here is less than 100 millimeters (four inches) a year, but wherever possible the steep mountainside is cut into tiny terraces and irrigated by a network of small water channels from the glacier streams. In summer the melting snows swell the Indus to a raging torrent sweeps away everything in its path, so only the gentler side streams can be used for irrigation. Every inch of irrigable land is manured and cultivated: startling green oases stand out against the grey sand and rock of the barren mountains, like emeralds in massive settings of tarnished silver.
Stacked up the hillsides near the fields are mazes of multistory wood-and-stone cottages honeycombed with narrow unlit alleyways and rough, dark stairwells. Clustered round the houses are apricot, peach, mulberry and apples trees, all festooned with grape vines. Rows of poplar and willow trees line the irrigation channels and terrace walls, holding the soil in place and providing wind breaks. The trees are also vital for firewood and house building.
The quarter million people living in these villages are almost all Shia Muslims, the strictest sect of Islam. They speak Balti, an archaic Tibetan dialect. With its rolling sand dunes and barren mountains, the area round Skardu looks very like Tibet and is, in fact, often called Little Tibet.
The valleys are perhaps steeper and deeper than further east; and they are separated not by rolling plateaux but by lofty spurs. Yet there is the same overall impression of rock and sand, harsh white light and biting dry Natural vegetation is a rare and transitory phenomenon; cultivation is just an artificial patchwork of fields suspended from a contour-clinging irrigation duct, or huddled on the triangular surface of a fan of alluvial soil washed down from the mountains.
John Keay, When Men and Mountains Meet (1977)
In comparison to the gentler, greener valleys of Chitral and Hunza, Baltistan appears bleak and forbidding, and is not to everyone’s taste. Yet the people, for centuries almost entirely cut off from their neighbors, are charming and hospitable. Until the airstrip was built at Skardu, they were virtually self-sufficient, growing grain and storing rancid butter (a great delicacy) in the ground for the long snow-bound winter. In the summer they ate fruit, reputedly the best in the Northern Areas.
As in so many of Pakistan’s northern valleys, there is a vague tradition here that the town of Skardu was founded by Alexander the Great. Although the fort at Skardu is sometimes called Askandria (not unlike Iskander, Alexander’s Indian name), neither Alexander nor his followers travelled this far east.
The area’s early history is linked to Gilgit’s. Baltistan was known as Great Bolor, Gilgit and upper Chitral as Little Bolor, Baltistan comprised four main kingdoms, of which Skardu was the most important. Of the other three, Khaplu controlled the route along the Shyok Valley; Shigar held the Shigar River and its tributaries; and Rondu guarded the Indus Gorge to the west of Skardu. There were also four lesser principalities: Kiris on the Shyok, and Parkutta, Tolti and Kharmang, which were on the Indus and controlled the path to Leh.
From 1846 Baltistan was ruled by the maharajah of Kashmir, whose cruel Hindu soldiers were hated by the Baltis. The British were only minimally interested in the area, as they considered it of little strategic value. At Independence in 1947, the Balti people, aided by a small number of freedom fighters, including the Gilgit Scouts, rebelled against their Kashmiri rulers became part of Pakistan. The Kashmiris were for a time isolated within the Askandria Fort.
SKARDU – SHIGAR VALLEY EXCURSION
The Shigar Valley, is the easiest valley to reach from Skardu. Its gentle, irrigated slopes with terraces of wheat, maize and barley, and orchards of apricot, mulberry, peach, plum pear, apples and nets (reputedly the best in the world) are unique in Baltistan. The valley is surrounded by snow-clad peaks and Baraldu River runs down from the north to join the Indus just above Skardu. Shigar town, once the capital of the relatively prosperous, independent kingdom of Shigar, sports the most impressive carved wooden houses and mosques in Baltistan. The chief mosque with its pyramidal three-tiered roof was built by Kashmiri carpenters several hundred years ago. Guarding the town is the four-storey ex-raja’s palace. Shigar is also known for the starting point to mighty mountains of Karakoram and some of the world best trekking areas.
SKARDU – SADPARA LAKE AND BAZAAR EXCURSION
After breakfast, sightseeing excursion to Sadpara lake – the lake of hundred lights, Khorpocho Fort – a 16th century fort constructed by Queen Mandiq on a steep ridge and Skardu Bazaar – a single lane village bazaar displaying rich and coloful Balti culture.
SKARDU -TO- ASTORE VIA – DEOSAI
AM : Full day drive via Deosai National Park to Astore
Geography: Deosai National Park is at an average elevation of 4,114 metres (13,497 ft) above the sea level, making the Deosai Plains the highest plateau in the world. The park protects an area of 3,000 square kilometres (1,200 sq mi). It is well known for its rich flora and fauna of the Karakoram – West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe ecoregion. In the spring season it is covered by sweeps wildflowers and a wide variety of butterflies.
Deosai – Sheosar Lake: Deosai Lake or Sheosar Lake from the Shina language meaning “Blind Lake” is in the park. The lake, at an elevation of 4,142 metres (13,589 ft), is one of the highest lakes in the world. Its length is 2.3 kilometres (7,500 ft), width 1.8 kilometres (5,900 ft) and average depth 40 metres (130 ft). It is located near the Chilim Valley on the Deosai Plains.
Wildlife: The Deosai National Park was established in 1993 to protect the survival of th e Himalayan Brown Bear, Pakistan’s largest omnivore, and its habitat. Having long been a prize kill for poachers and hunters, the bear now has a hope for survival in Deosai where its number has increased from only 19 in 1993 to 40 in 2005.
The Deosai Plains are also home to the Himalayan Ibex, Red Fox, Golden Marmot, Gray Wolf, the Ladakh Urial, and Snow Leopard and over 124 resident and migratory birds. Birds in the park include the Golden Eagle, Lammergeir, Griffon Vulture, Laggar Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Snowcock.
Access: Location of Deosai National Park in Gilgit Baltistan
The Deosai Plains and Deosai National Park can be accessed via two routes. One is through Skardu City and the second through Astore District .The road from Astore starts from Chilum, continues through the plains and is asphalt road till the main lake before climbing to Deosai. The route from Skardu is via an unpaved road which can be hiked in two days. By jeep it is only a matter of hours. Deosai Lake is located in Gilgit-Baltistan. The beauty of Himalayas is visible everywhere around Deosai.
ASTORE -TO- NARAN VIA CHILASAND BABUSAR PASS
AM : Early in the morning leave Astore for Naran. Stop at Chilas a major town on the upper course of the Indus & a gateway to Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu, Nanga Parbat & Kaghan Valleys. It’s ancient name was “Silvata”, a Sunsikrit word which meant Rock or Stone. The name went in vogue because of the 06th & 08th centuries carvings & paintings on the nearby boulders at the banks of the Indus.
Continue drive for the lush green village of Babusar. Leaving the Karakoram Highway we drive on to a jeep track which leads to the Babusar Pass and further to Kaghan valley. After an exciting jeep drive we reach Babusar village situated at the foot of the Babusar Pass 4145 meters high and surrounded by pine plantations.
Bypassing Gittidas, Lalusar, Besal, Burawai and Lalazar, we reach Naran, a fisherman’s dream surrounded by lush green meadows and rushing icy Kunhar River. Naran happens to be the center of Kaghan’s Tourism.
NARAN TO SHOGRAM VIA LAKE SAFUL-MALUK
AM : This morning drive up to the fairy tale lake of “Saiful Maluk” 3212 meters high, which Shimmers under the guardianship of “Malika Parbat Peak” 5292 meters high. Today’s trek offers excellent scenic views of lush green mountain slopes studded by pine trees. After sightseeing the Lake, proceed to Shogran, a beautiful hill station at 2400 m offering excellent views of Musa-Ka-Mussalah, Makra & Malika Parbat.
PM : Overnight in tent. All meals included.
Distance : 55 Km, Drive : 3-4 hrs, Altitude : 2400 m.
SHOGRAM TO BALAKOT
AM : Driving down from Shogran to Balakot, the gateway to Kaghan Valley, we conclude the last segment of our jeep drive to Balakot. Only Breakfast & Lunch is included.
SHOGRAM TO RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD
After breakfast proceed for Rawalpindi/Islamabad on arrival transfer to Akbar International hotel.
After a breif rest proceed for a sightseeing excursion of Islamabad. This includes visits to Faisal Mosque – the biggest in the world; Damen-e-Koh – a scenic hill view point presenting the bird eye’s view of Islamabad.
After lunch proceed to Rawalpindi for a sightseeing excursion. Beginning with some of the most exotic spots of the town including Kasai Galli – The 100 year old Whore-House still thriving ; Raja Bazaar – The multicolored “king” of bazaars ; Sarafa Bazaar – Where gold smiths still use primitive tools ; Moti Bazaar – Exclusively for ladies. Return to your Akbar Hotel for overnight.
RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD –YOUR HOME LAND
Drive to airport for your return flight back home on arrival transfer to airport for your home bond flight.
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