The Ultimate Guide To Skardu 2 Adventure & solo female travel blog

A Complete Travel Guide To Skardu, Pakistan

If you’ve been planning to travel to the northern areas of Pakistan, you’ve likely stumbled across the name Skardu. This important city in Gilgit-Baltistan may be slightly less popular than the Hunza Valley to the north or Fairy Meadows to the west but is nonetheless one of Pakistan’s biggest tourist destinations thanks to the unique natural sites in its vicinity. If you’ve been dreaming of visiting a cold desert or an alpine plateau, Skardu is the perfect destination in Pakistan. And if you’re dying to sample some delicious Balti cuisine as well, it’s certainly time to pack your bags and plan a getaway to Skardu.

Here’s everything you need to know before traveling to Skardu.

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Traveling to Pakistan anytime soon? Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Pakistan in 2022!

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Where Is Skardu?

In the east of Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region at around 2,230 meters altitude lies Skardu, one of the region’s most important cities, It’s situated right along the Shigar River and the Indus River, which separates the Karakoram Range from the Himalaya Mountain Range, This location blesses the region with a unique landscape and ecosystem, which can be found in few other places in the world.

Weather In Skardu

Girl enjoying the sun at Deosai National Park in October.
Chasing the golden October sun at Deosai National Park.

Skardu’s climate is relatively mild compared to other places in northern Pakistan. The warmest months are June to September, when temperatures can get as high as 30°C, and the coldest months are December to February, when temperatures frequently drop in the minus degrees. Expect temperatures around 10°C during the months in between. Rainfall is highest from December through May.

Best Time To Visit Skardu

The best time to visit Skardu is summer from June to September. It’s the optimal time to enjoy lush green landscapes at comfortable temperatures without much rainfall and escape from the suffocating heat in other parts of Pakistan. October is another great time to visit Skardu in order to experience the region in golden autumn colors. Winter turns the region around Skardu into a beautiful white wonderland but it will be more difficult to access the city during this season.

How To Get To Skardu

Beautiful views of mountains and a river on the road from Gilgit to Skardu.
Our bus got stuck in this beautiful spot for over five hours due to a landslide.

Getting to Skardu is both a blessing and a curse. Luckily, you have more options than with most other places in northern Pakistan since Skardu actually has its own airport.

Here’s how to get to Skardu:

By Air

There are daily direct flights from Islamabad and Karachi to Skardu airport. The flights are operated by national airline PIA with small aircrafts. Despite their relatively short durations, flights to Skardu tend to be quite expensive, ranging around $80 – $200 per one-way flight. The (very scenic) approach to the mountainous region is extremely difficult for pilots but flying into Skardu is still significantly safer than reaching the city by road.

By Road

Getting to Skardu by road is a lot cheaper than flying but good luck! I thought I traveled on the world’s most dangerous road near Naran but that was before I experienced the scariest drive of my life from Gilgit to Skardu. The road that connects Skardu with Gilgit (a.k.a the rest of the world) is in such abysmal condition that near-death experiences are almost guaranteed on the way. I’m sparing you from some horrendous details here but it’s no wonder that terrible accidents do happen. In addition, frequent landslides will almost certainly delay your journey by a couple of hours. Our bus got stuck in a small village for over five hours because of this and our six-hour journey turned into a 16-hour journey.

That being said, if you’re broke like me and still decide to visit Skardu by road, there are a couple of options. You can take a public bus from other cities in Pakistan, join a group tour, or hire an experienced private driver. Please don’t attempt to drive on these roads yourself.

Hotels In Skardu

Foreign girl sitting in front of an airplane wreck at Shangrila Resort in Skardu, Pakistan.
Would you fancy waking up to the view of an old airplane wreck? Then check out Shangrila Resort!

There are many hotels in and around Skardu. If you’re looking for a high-end experience, you might want to consider staying at one of the famous hotels near Skardu. This includes the Serena Shigar Hotel inside Shigar Fort and the Shangrila Resort around the Lower Kachura Lake.

If you’re looking for something on the lower end and still desire a central location, I suggest staying near the actual city. I had a great experience staying at Graceland Resort near Skardu city.

How To Get Around Skardu

The best way to get around Skardu is with a private driver or a tour guide. I personally had a wonderful experience with Kamil Tours. You can also ask your hotel for help.

Best Places To Visit Near Skardu

The region around Skardu is full of amazing tourist destinations.

Here are some suggestions of places to visit near Skardu, arranged in an optimal order:

Skardu City

Foreign girl wearing traditional Pakistani clothing in front of Upper Kachura Lake near Skardu, Pakistan.
A beautiful outfit made in Skardu.

Starting off with the city itself. Despite its regional importance, Skardu is a relatively small city, meaning it can easily be explored in a couple of hours. Visit Skardu Fort and shop for local crafts and textiles at the city’s souvenir market. Don’t forget to haggle!

Deosai National Park

Barapani stream at Deosai National Park, Pakistan
A closeup of the gurgling Barapani stream in Deosai National Park.

Ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 meters altitude, the Deosai Plains near Skardu are the second-highest alpine plateau in the world. Deosai National Park was first established to protect the Himalayan Brown Bear and other endangered species and is currently on UNESCO’s tentative World Heritage list. Visit Deosai National Park to enjoy incredible wide and empty landscapes as well as the waters of Kalapani, Barapani, and Sheosar Lake, The drive south from Skardu to Deosai National Park takes one to two hours up a mountain pass.

Manthoka Waterfall

Girl trying to catch droplets in front of Manthoka Waterfall and a rainbow near Skardu, Pakistan.
Chasing water and rainbows at Manthoka Waterfall.

Manthoka Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall about an hour southeast of Skardu. Surrounded by a serene green valley, Manthoka Waterfall emerges from the mountains so tall and majestically that it’s hard to believe the waterfall is actually manmade! Shower yourself in the waterfall’s pristine water, take photos of silky streams and rainbows, and enjoy a relaxing picnic in one of the most beautiful places near Skardu.

Shigar Valley

A beautiful autumn sunset in Shigar Valley, Pakistan.
Admiring an incredible sunset on the road to Shigar Valley.

About one hour northeast of Skardu along the Shigar River lies the beautiful Shigar Valley. Follow the scenic road down to the beautiful village of Shigar, where you can not only witness local architectural gems like Shigar Fort or the ancient wooden Khilangrong Mosque but also traditional Balti village life.

Sarfarangah Desert

Girl lying down in the sand at Sarfarangah Cold Desert near Skardu, Pakistan.
Trying hard to not get sand in my eyes .

Sarfarangah Desert is one of the two famous cold deserts around Skardu. It’s located in the Shigar Valley along the Shigar River is therefore the perfect conclusion for a visit to Shigar. Leave behind your shoes to enjoy the smooth sand and enjoy jumping into the tall dunes with a bunch of friends. But beware, there might be thorns hidden under the sand in some parts!

Katpana Desert

Foreign girl with a Pakistani flag at Katpana Cold Desert near Skardu, Pakistan.
Chasing the wind at Katpana Desert.

Significantly closer to the city lies the Katpana Desert, Skardu’s other cold desert. Surrounded by tall mountains and with a beautiful lake in the center, the Katpana Desert is especially stunning in winter when its sand is overed by a smooth blanket of snow. In addition, its proximity to Skardu Airport makes the Katpana Desert easily accessible in all seasons.

Upper Kachura Lake

A view of the Upper Kachura Lake, Skardu, in autumn.
Paddle your own boat or jump inside a motorboat if you’re lazy.

Kachura is a settlement about one hour northwest of Skardu and famous for its two lakes: the Upper Kachura Lake and the Lower Kachura Lake. The former one is accessible through a 15-minute trek through a small forest. Popular activities at the Lower Kachura Lake include swimming, fishing, and motorboating.

(NOTE: Swimming is not recommended for ladies, unless you have a modest swimsuit with you)

Shangri-La Resort

Foreign girl sitting in a boat at Shangrila Resort, Lower Kachura Lake, Pakistan.
Truly feels like I’m in Heaven,

The Lower Kachura Lake is located within the majestic Shangrila Resort, which is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan, if not the world. Spend a relaxing afternoon surrounded by the greenest garden in this literal Heaven on earth and make sure to enjoy some organic apple juice in front of the heart-shaped lake. And if you feel extra fancy, consider staying a night at the resort.

Bonus: Manthal Buddha Rock

Just a short drive south of Skardu lies Manthal, home to an ancient Buddhist monument known as the Manthal Buddha Rock. The rock is believed to be around 1200 years old and contains depictions of Buddha. Although I didn’t have the chance to visit Manthal myself, it’s a great addition to your Skardu itinerary if you have some time on your hands.

Intrigued by Buddhism in Pakistan? Make sure to pay a visit to Taxila!

Food In Skardu

Papu, a traditional Balti dish consisting of flat buckwheat pasta in a creamy pesto-like sauce
My beloved papu, where have you been all this time?

Balti cuisine is perhaps the most under-appreciated cuisine in all of Pakistan. Balti flavors and seasonings are very different from what you might be used to from other parts of Pakistan, featuring a lot more carby comfort foods than spices. Because it’s so hard to find Balti food in other parts of Pakistan, you should try to eat as much as possible when you’re in Skardu.

Some popular Balti dishes include:

  • Papu: flat buckwheat pasta resembling Korean tteok in a creamy pesto-like sauce
  • Mamtu: steamed wheat dumplings filled with beef, mutton, or yak meat
  • Balti lentil soup: a thick and mild lentil and vegetable stew that closely resembles German lentil soup
  • Namkeen chai: spiced milk tea with a small dash of salt creating a mindblowing taste

Safety In Skardu

Repairing a broken bus on the road to Shigar, Shigar Valley, Pakistan.
Our bus broke down on the way to Shigar – not the worst place to get stuck for a couple of hours!

Generally speaking, Skardu is a very safe travel destination. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth trip.

Road Safety

As mentioned earlier, the road connecting Skardu with Gilgit is THE WORST. If you decide to travel by land, make sure to:

  • Hire a very experienced driver
  • Only use vehicles that are in good condition and avoid big buses
  • Avoid traveling in the dark and during landslide season
  • Budget A LOT of time for this drive


Usually, this is not too much of a concern in the city but avoid getting too far from your vehicle when you’re out in Deosai National Park in the unlikely event that you run into a Himalayan Brown Bear.

Health Concerns

As everywhere in Pakistan, food safety is your biggest health concern, which is why you should avoid tap water and sketchy food.

In addition, it’s a good idea to carry some altitude sickness drops with you in case the height is getting to you.

-> Check out my full Pakistan Packing List to find out what exactly you’ll need for trekking in the mountains + product recommendations!

Female Safety

Female safety is a major concern in all parts of Pakistan. To stay safe as a woman in Skardu, it’s advised to not travel alone, avoid dark areas, keep a distance from strangers, and only go with trusted guides. Unfortunately in places like Skardu, every other man calls himself a ‘tourist guide’ but not all of them have certifications and reviews. And if you happen to watch a traditional dance performance, ALWAYS decline if a performer is asking you to join their dance. (This only applies to women. For men, it’s usually no problem.)

Read more: Is Pakistan Safe For Women Travelers? Here’s What It’s REALLY Like

Where To Go Next

Beautiful view of the Nanga Parbat peak at Beyal Camp, Fairy Meadows.
Where should you visit next? Perhaps Fairy Meadows is a good idea!

Enjoyed your trip to Skardu? Here’s some suggestions of places to visit next:

  • K2: Skardu is the gateway to the mighty K2 peak, the second-tallest mountain in the world, and other eight-thousanders. While the summit is reserved for the world’s top mountaineers, you can do the K2 base camp trek individually or with a tour.
  • Fairy Meadows: Fairy Meadows is the beautiful mountain paradise surrounding the Nanga Parbat peak. The trek to this remote piece of heaven begins near Chilas, meaning you’ll pass the region when exiting Gilgit-Baltistan by road.
  • Hunza Valley: Hunza Valley, Pakistan’s most iconic tourist destination, is a place you mustn’t miss when traveling through Pakistan. The beautiful mountain valley is located north of Skardu on the Karakoram Highway.
  • Islamabad: If you travel to Skardu by plane, this will likely be the beginning and ending point of your journey, so it definitely wouldn’t harm to spend a day or two exploring Pakistan’s capital city.

More of Pakistan:


Skardu is one of the best places to visit in Pakistan thanks to its unique landscape and beautiful Balti culture. The city has its own airport, making the region significantly more accessible than other places in northern Pakistan. Spend a couple of days exploring all of Skardu’s natural and cultural sites and don’t forget to try all the delicious Balti food that you can find.

Have you been to Skardu yet? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments below!


    1. Papo is best dish in Skardu , on the other hand mutton sope chicken karahi is best but skrdu is tourist place for having best Pakistani food you can visit Punjab like Faisalabad Lahore and Gujranwala in theses cities you can find best foood of the world

  1. Skardu is safe and peaceful city of Pakistan. For your information the best picnic point Khamoosh Waterfalls is missing in your list. Khamoosh waterfall is located in Kharmang and it is the best ever places for tourists. Most tourists don’t know about this beautiful waterfall. So must visit this point and enjoy 😊

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