Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan: Skardu - the Cold Desert

One hears of cold arctic desert covered with thick layers of ice or the Gobi Desert of Mongolia - the hottest desert of the world. But you may be surprised to know that there is one 'cold' desert located almost at the height of 8,000 feet, above mean sea level, surrounded by snow clad mountains in Pakistan near the city of Skardu - the road way to world’s highest mountains that includes K2, K3, and Gasherbrum. 

Since the temperature falls below freezing point in winters, the desert is rightly called the cold desert - or may I say the coldest highest desert in the world - or better name it a desert above the clouds!!
The beautiful sand dunes of Katpana Desert at Skardu, the main city of the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan, are one the favourite tourist destinations. Owing to its location at this high altitude, it is rightly known as the cold desert. 
A spectacular view of the sand dunes
A rare phenomenon: desert at foothills of snow clad mountains

These vast stretches of sand dune exits along the course of mighty River Indus, which start from the Khaplu Valley to Nubra Ladakh and Shigar Skardu valley. However its largest area can be seen in the Skardu and Shigar valley.

I first saw this beautiful natural phenomenon when I visited Skardu many years ago. I could see these sand dunes from the airplane window as these are very close to the Skardu airport. I took a few shots, but lost these over a period of time. Strong winds shift the dunes as quickly as nomads. At this high altitude and cold region, this desert holds strange a attraction. 

An awesome view of Skardu desert near Shiger
Now watch a beautiful drone video capturing the vast stretches of cold desert in Skardu Valley:
(The second part of the video shows the beautiful road to the Shigar valley of mighty K2. An amazing road looks very beautiful through the lens of this drone.)

There are many other spectacular sightseeing places in and around Skardu. Some of these are:

  • World’s second highest plains, Deosai
  • Sadpara Lake - one a monumental lake now being consumed by making of  a dam (photo below)
  • The 600 years old Kharpocho Fort - built by Balti ruler Ali Sher Khan Anchan.
  • Shangrila Resorts built on cold icy waters of Skardu Lake. There is no better place in Skardu than to lodge at the Shangrila Resorts to enjoy the pure natural beauty of Skardu.
If you wish to visit Skardu and its sand dunes, beside its many other attractions, do plan a visit in summers as the winters are very severe. You may take a flight from Islamabad to Skardu. But due to weather turbulences, the flights are often disrupted. One can also opt to take the land route on the Karakorum Highway, the KKH. After Jaglot on the Karakorum Highway, an almost seven hours narrow road leads towards Skardu. So do keep Skardu as of your travel destination next time you plan to visit an adventurous journey to Fascinating Pakistan.

Photos: Northern Areas of Pakistan
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