Trip done in June 2001

Route: Islamabad - Nowshera - Mardan - Malakand pass - Chakdara -Timargarha - Dir
Distance: 340 Km
Driving Time: 6 Hr
Islamabad - Takht-I-Bahi: 2 Hr
Takht-I-Bahi - Dir: 4 Hr
Highlights: Takht-I-Bahi


Route: Dir - Lowari pass (3118 m) - Drosh - Gahirat - Ayun -Chitral
Distance: 116 Km
Driving Time: 5 Hr
Lodging: Mountain Inn  (Possible alternative Hindu Kush Heights Hotel (outside town) or PTDC)
Highlights: Chitral Valley - Naghar
Comment: we wanted to bring a short visit to the Kalash valley, but to enter the valley a registration document was needed from the Deputy Commissioner in Chitral. As we arrived in Chitral we were not any more in the mood to drive down again to Ayun.


Route: Chitral - Singur - Maroi - Rashu - Mastuj - Laspur - Shandur pass (3734 m) - Teru - Phundar
Distance: 190 Km
Driving Time: 11 Hr 30
Chitral - Mastuj = 4 Hr
Mastuj - Teru = 5 Hr 45
Teru - Phundar = 1 Hr 45
Lodging: NAPWD rest house
Highlights: Shandur Pass - Phundar & Ghizer Valley
Comments: Although mentioned in the brochures from PTDC “Visit Pakistan 2001” year the hotel was not open. The structure is completely finished, but probably there was no furniture available. The PTDC is said to open in 2002. The motel is nicely located at the Phundar Lake. The only alternative was the NAPWD guesthouse. The sheets were a little smelly. The rooms have a “bathroom” with squatting toilet and you have to help yourself with water buckets. It’s a bit camping. Dinner was “chapatti and dal” styled. So bring your own. Opposite the guesthouse is the infamous “Over the Lake” hotel. If you are punished you can overnight here for 250 PKR (watch out for the creepy things).


Distance: Phundar - Dahimal - Gupis - Roshan - Gakuch - Singal - Sher Qila - Bargu Pain - Henzal – Gilgit
Distance: 165 Km
Driving Time: 9 Hr 30
Phundar - Gupis = 5 Hr
Gupis - Singal = 2 Hr 30
Singal - Gilgit = 2 Hr
Highlights: Punial valley & Gilgit: Buddha in Kargah Valley - Suspension bridge - China shopping Centre
Comments: 10 Km before GUPIS at KALTHI there is a newly build PTDC (it is mentioned in PDTC folder as being in GUPIS – take care!). The motel will open in 2002. The area is just beautiful.


Driving Time: 5 Hrs
Distance: 240 Km
Highlights: Hunza Valley, Baltit & Altit fort


Route: Gilgit - Sassi - Shangus - Strongling - Kachura Lake - Skardu
Distance: 212 Km
Driving Time: 6 Hr 30
Highlights: Kachura Lake – Kharpocho Fort


Route: Skardu - Ghoro - Xuru -Yugu - Khapalu - Skardu
Distance: 206 Km
Driving Time: 4 Hr
Highlight: Khaplu Valley


Route: Skardu - Satpara - Chachhor pass - Chilam - Gudai - Astore
Distance: 147 Km
Driving Time: 9 Hr
Chilam – Astore = 90 Min
Astore – PDTC Rama Lake = 75 Min up (bad road conditions – only jeepable), 45 Min down.
Lodging: NAPWD rest house
Highlight: Buddhist Rock - Sadpara lake - Deosai plains – Rama Lake
Comment: We wanted to overnight at the PDTC RAMA LAKE, but there were only four rooms furnished, unfortunately all occupied by local tourists. The only alternative was the NAPWD rest house in the immediate vicinity.


Route: Astore - Raikot Bridge - Chilas - Dassu - Pattan - Besham
Distance: 120 Km
Driving Time: 4 Hr
Astore – Raikot Bridge = 105 Min
Raikot Bridge – Chilas = 90 Min
Chilas – Dassu = 90 Min
Lodging: PTDC Besham
Highlight: Chilas Rock inscriptions
Comment: We had the intention to go to Islamabad via NARAN through the BABUSAR Pass. Unfortunately construction works on the bridge after the Babusar, made us to call off this initiative, as it was impossible to cross over with the vehicle.


Distance: 262 Km
Driving Time: 9 Hr
Highlight: Taxila


The small town of Thakt-I-Bai is famous for its nearby Gandharan Buddhist monastery. The monastery is perched strikingly on the side of a bare ridge of rock rising abruptly up from the surrounding plains and is certainly the best-preserved and most impressive piece of Gandharan architecture in Pakistan. The sophistication and quality of the building work is clear from the beautiful fashioned walls and well-preserved brickwork. Thakt-I-Bahi is 14 Km northwest of Mardan on the road to Swat. The monastery is 3 Km to the east of the main bazaar, with the turning in the centre of the town and well signposted. The monastery ‘literally ‘spring on a flat terrace’ was probably the largest of more than 1.400 monasteries which thrived in lower Swat and the plains of Peshawar during the Gandharan Buddhist period. The earliest settlement was founded around 40 AD; the main peak of activity was during the Kushana period of the first to fourth centuries AD and the last stages dates from the fifth and sixth centuries. A path climbs steeply up the monastery, passing a 2-storey block with monks’ cells, before entering the central Court of Stupas, enclosed by eight metres high walls and surrounded by small alcoves, each of which would have contained a plaster Buddha, the largest possibly 10 metres high. The bases of some 38 votive stupas are scattered around the centre of the court, built as offerings by pilgrims. The walls were originally lime plastered and decorated with paintings. To the left is the Court of the Main Stupa, housing the monastery’s original stupa, which was about 10 metres high. To the right is the Monastery Court lined on three sides by monks’ cells. An upper storey once housed more cells. There is an ancient water tank and to the left through a doorway the remains of the kitchen and the refectory area. Straight ahead is the Open Court, beneath which are 10 vaulted chambers probably used either for meditation or as granaries. To the right of the open court, enclosed by high walls is the Assembly Court where the monks would meet. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)


From DARGAI the road climbs steadily up to the Malakand Pass (1500 m). On the way up there are good views south on the Peshawar valley. The upper Swat Canal, which carries water from the Swat River on the other side of the pass by way of a tunnel, can be seen snaking its way down towards the plains in a series of rapids. A fort, built by the British following the Malakand campaign in 1897, tops the pass itself. A small village has grown up around it, and there are simple restaurants serving tea, cold drinks and food. The road descends gently from the pas arriving at the town of BAT KHELA. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)


About 10 Km after DIR the road becomes a rough track and begins it long climb up to the Lowari pass, passing first through the village of QALANDAR. At 3.118 m – a sign on the location indicates 10.500 Ft / 3500 m – the Lowari pass is generally open from late May/early June till October, becoming blocked by snow in winter. A tunnel, visible from the road near the foot of the pass, marks the start of an unfinished project, which originally aimed to make the route a year-round one. The rough track climbs up to the pass in a long series of switchbacks.  At the top is a post of the Frontier Police. The descent on the other side is even more tortuous. Foreign tourists have to register at ZIARAT check post on the way to MIRKHANI. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)


The Old Fort Tourist Resort is located on the road between MIRKHANI and DROSH. The old Fort is accessible through a bridge across the Chitral River. The fort was built in 1919 by Shuja ul-Mulk, the then Methar (ruler) of Chitral for one of his sons, Jhazi ul-Mulk. Today it is still occupied by one of the descendants of the royal family – Prince Salahuddin, who has opened a small hotel. The fort is an almost magically idyllic place to stop for a night and is even worth contriving to do so just spend an evening enjoying the setting and hospitality. The hotel has a small delightful garden and the rooms overlook the wide swirling waters of the Chitral River, which sweep round the outcrop of Naghar in a huge U-bend. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)

Old Fort Tourist Resort
P.O. Drosh Chitral
Tel: 0933-482007
Rates: 1000 PKR double – 800 PKR single


The road to MASTUJ is undergoing steady improvement and is now metalled as far as BUNI. Beyond BUNI it reverts to a jeep track, rough in places but easily passable. The journey to Mastuj village can now be made in around 4 Hrs. Mastuj was once the seat of power of the independent Kishwaqt principality, which in heyday reached across into Gilgit River valley. Mastuj Fort is still occupied by a descendant of the Mehtar of Chitral. The setting is beautiful. In Mastuj is a PDTC Motel. There is also the last petrol pump until you reach Gakuch. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)


From Mastuj village, the jeep track to the Shandur Pass heads along the east bank of the Laspur River, passing through the village of Harchin. Further on, at Sor Laspur, the jeep tracks bears east and begins the climb to the Shandur Pass, the highest polo ground in the world a 3.734 m. Every summer the best polo players from Gilgit and Chitral participate in a three or four day polo festival. This 1250 feet long pass connects Gilgit to Chitral. The pass remains snow-bound during winters. The pass is broad and has a lake.


The trip from Chitral to Pundhar is partly metalled for the first 2 Hrs and a half drive. After BUNI the road is only jeepable. Pundhar is reached via 1250 feet long Shandur Pass. Pundhar is a picturesque area with a lake.


10 Km east of Gupis is Kalthi lake, a natural dammed-up spot on the Ghizar River. It is one of the most scenic spots along the Chitral – Gilgit route and one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan. This large natural lake was formed about a decade ago following a major flood.


The trip from Pundhar to Gilgit leads us through the Punial valley at Singal a place ideal for trout fishing opportunities.


At an elevation of 1453.90 meter lies the Gilgit valley, offers spectacular scenic beauty. Lakes, rivers, glaciers and high mountains ranges surround it. Some of them world's largest peaks, such as Nanga Parbat, 8125 meter and Raka Poshi, 7788 meter are located here. In Gilgit we reach the Karakoram Highway - The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the greatest wonder of modern Pakistan and one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Connecting Pakistan to China, it twists through three great mountain ranges - the Himalaya, Karakoram and Pamir - following one of the ancient silk routes along the valleys of the Indus, Gilgit and Hunza rivers to the Chinese border at the Khunjerab Pass. It then crosses the high Central Asian plateau before winding down through the Pamirs to Kashgar, at the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. By this route, Chinese silks, ceramics, lacquer-work, bronze, iron, furs and spices travelled West, while the wool, linen, ivory, gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones, asbestos and glass of South Asia and the West travelled East. For much of its 1,284 Km, the Karakoram Highway is overshadowed by towering, barren mountains, a high altitude desert enjoying less than 100 millimetres of rain a year. In many of the gorges through which it passes, it rides a shelf cut into a sheer cliff face as high as 500 meters above the river. The KKH has opened up remote villages where little has changed in hundreds of years, where farmers irrigate tiny terraces to grow small patches of wheat, barely or maize that stand out like emeralds against the grey, stony mountains. The highway is an incredible feat of engineering and an enduring monument to the 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese who died forcing it through what is probably the world's most difficult and unstable terrain. (The unofficial death toll is somewhat higher, coming to nearly one life for each kilometre of road).


Six Km from Gilgit town (track start behind the Bazaar) is a beautiful rock engraving of Buddha carved out of the rugged mountainside at the mouth of the Kargah nullah. It probably dates from the 7th century AD.  Following the left side of the nullah you will arrive in Napur village with the ruins of a monastery, a stupa and a cave were the Gilgit manuscripts were found.


By Chinar Bagh, the municipal park, is a memorial to those who rose against the Maharajah in 1947, and the graves of the local heroes: Mohammed Babar Khan & Safiullah Beg of the Gilgit Scouts and Mirza Hassan Khan of the Kashmir Infantry. (Credit to Lonely Planet)


In lower Bank Rd is an overgrown old graveyard, surrounded by barbed wire. Among those buried here is Captain George Hayward (read “The Great Game”), a British explorer murdered in Yasin by a son of Gohar Aman. Ask the key of the cemetery in the shop across. (Credit to Lonely Planet)


The bridge over the fast-flowing Gilgit River is the largest suspension bridge in Asia (182 m long and 2 m wide permitting enough room for one jeep at a time to cross).


The only valley that cuts across the spine of the Karakoram is that of the Hunza River, snaking down from the Khunjerab Pass on the Chinese border. It's easy to get carried away about this valley, easily accessible, unabashedly friendly and too beautiful for its own good. 'Hunza' is commonly and inaccurately used for the whole valley. The two former princely states of Hunza and Nagar face each other across the lower valley. Hunza is more media famous, more developed and more traveller friendly. Smaller Nagar actually has more people and more riverbank- all of the south side and some of the north side at Chalt. Gojal refers to the upper basin; though in recent times considered a satellite of Hunza, its people and language are quite different. Baltit is Hunza's ancient capital, and its magnificent fort has always been the kingdom's focal point. The fort served as the royal palace for over 750 years until this century, when sounder quarters were built below in what came to be called Karimabad. The name is now used for Baltit too. Since the arrival of KKH tourism and overseas aid, Karimabad has prospered and the bazaar has filled with hotels, restaurants, and a growing number of travel agencies, handicraft shops and under-qualified 'guides' in pursuit of customers. The old village has lost much of its charm; for that you must explore the surrounding countryside. (Credit to Lonely Planet)


About 32 Km from Skardu, 2 hours by jeep lay the shimmering waters of the Kachura Lake. In the springtime, its banks are adorned by a multitude of colourful flowers, while the trees are laden with peach, apricot and apple blossoms. The lake offers great opportunities for trout fishing.


Amidst a landscape of towering mountains, deep gorges, crashing waterfalls and quiet lakes, Skardu, the district headquarters of Baltistan, is situated on the banks of the mighty river Indus, just 8 km (5 miles) above its confluence with the river Shigar. Perched at a height of 2286 metres, Skardu offers a cool and bracing climate. During the summer, Skardu attracts a large number of trekkers and mountaineers from all parts of the world. In fact, the entire region is known as a mountaineers' paradise. Nowhere in the world does one find such a large collection of lofty peaks, including K-2 the world’s second highest peak, and huge glaciers like Baltoro, Biafo and Siachen, some of the largest in the world outside the Polar region, as in this 16,283 square Km of wonderland. There are five main valleys in the district Skardu, Shigar, Khaplu, Rondu and Kharmang. All of them produce apricots, peaches, pears and apples in such profusion that this region is known as the land of apricots and apples.


The construction of Kharpocho fort of the King of forts at Skardu has been attributed to the famous ruler of Skardu - Maqpon Bugha (1490 - 1515 AD), the great grand father of Ali Sher Khan Anchan (1560 - 1625 AD) by Hishatullah. However, Moghal historians are of the view that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan himself. This view is upheld by European writers such as Cunningham, Foso Marine, GT. Vagne etc. Some observations about this fort have been made in the Imperial Gazetteer of British India. It states that one of the most famous of the Gralpos (Monarchs of Skardu), Ali Sher Khan, who ruled till the end of the 16th century, conquered Ladakh and built a fort at Skardu. It is a twenty-minute climb to the partly reconstructed fort. Entry is 50 PKR.


There is only one surviving Buddhist Rock with rock carvings in the Skardu Valley located on Satpara Road. Probably the rock carvings and images of Buddha date back to the period of Great Tibetan Scholars Empire. When the Buddhist people of Gandhara migrated and passed through the present northern areas of Pakistan, they settled at some places temporarily and carved drawings of Stupas, scenes of their Experiences and images of Buddha with texts in Kharoshti language. There were a number of such Buddhist rock carvings in the Skardu Valley. Probably those rocks were used either by Ali Sher Khan Anchan as building material or submerged in the Satpara lake. Researchers like Dr. A.H. Dani from Pakistan and some from other countries have done a lot of research work on these rock carvings and have since deciphered the text of the carvings in Kharoshti language.


8 Km south of Skardu, 20 minutes by jeep, lays the Sadpara Lake. Surrounded by high glacial mountains, this lake has an island in the middle of its clear waters, which can be reached by boat. The lake is considered ideal for fishing. A license costs 110 PKR/Pers. There is possibility to find accommodation at the lake. There is the Sadpara Lake inn (PTDC has 2 rooms here) and the Lake view Motel. PDTC has built also a motel at the lake. Opening in 2002.


From Skardu the jeep track climbs up past SADPARA Lake and further on to SADPARA village. Above the village on the jeep track is Sadpara check post, marking the start of the National Park area. The check post is recommended as an overnight acclimatization stop. Tourists have to register here. There is a spare tent able to accommodate 4 persons. Above the check post there is an area of cultivated land up on the hillside, strewn with several enormous boulders covered in rock inscriptions from pre-historic, Buddhist and Islamic times. Beyond the check post the jeep track climbs steeply up the Sadpara nullah. After the rack crosses to the west bank of the stream, the course of the old jeep track which continued along the east bank can still be seen in places. At the top is Ali Malik Mar (4080 m), the pass marking the start of the Deosai proper. From here the track descends for a short way to a designated camping site (Deosai Top Hotel – 2 Hr from Skardu). After about 30 minutes the jeep track forks. The right fork is the main route to Astore via Chilam. There is first a river crossing followed a few Km further by the Bara Pani bridge crossing (1 Hr from Deosai Top Hotel). The bridge is every year flooded away and repaired in June/July. River crossing is possible about 500 m north of the bridge. By the bridge is another designated camping site with a couple of tents. Around 500 m south of the bridge is the main/summer camp/research station of the Himalayan Wildlife project. After crossing the river, the track climbs gently and steadily over a watershed and down to the Kalapani River. The track crosses the river and then forks further on. The right fork is the Chilam/Astore route and continues to the Sheosar lake (1 Hr from Bara Pani). Immediately after is the CHAHHOR pass (4230 m) after which he track begins to descend to Sherkuli check post being the entrance to the Deosai National park from the Astor side. Soon after is the Chilam village situated near the top of the Das Khirim valley. It takes a further two to three hours to reach Astore. The Deosai plateau is home to many plants and animals. Large numbers of gold orange coloured long-tailed marmots are seen on the plains. (Credit to “Footprint Pakistan Handbook”)


This beautiful valley of the Shyok River is 103 Km from Skardu and 2 hours by jeep. There is a sprawling village perched on the slopes of the steep mountains that hem in the river. Many famous mountains, such as Masherbrum, K-6, K-7, Sherpi Kangh, Sia Kangri, Saltoro Kangri etc. are located here. Khapalu, a handsome village of timber-and-stone houses and precision-made stone dry walls climbs up a wide alluvial fan beneath an arc of sheer granite walls. Painstaking irrigation has made it a shady, fertile oasis. As you climb its twisting track, the icy peaks of the Masherbrum Range rise on the other side of the valley. It's hard to imagine a more majestic setting near a public road anywhere in Pakistan. The main attractions are the 2600m-high village itself, the old royal palace and even older mosque above it at Chakhchun, and the heart-stopping views. A stony track climbs to the lower bazaar, a five minute walk. Half an hour up at a fork in the road is an elegant but run down traditional-style house, where royal kin still live. Twenty minutes up the left fork is the polo ground, and uphill from that is the old royal palace, with a four-storey balcony. If you get lost the local word for it is Kar, or try 'Raja-house' .To look inside, ask at the houses nearby. Twenty minutes further up is Chakhchun village, with a mosque whose foundations were supposedly laid in the 16th century when the people embraced Islam. Non-Muslims may not enter this or other mosques. There are several more villages in Ganse Lungma above Chakhchun. (credit to Lonely Planet)


The Shigar River waters the Shigar Valley, 32 Km from Skardu and 2 Hours by jeep. It forms the gateway to the great mountain peaks of the Karakoram, including Mount K-2. The valley has an extremely picturesque landscape, and abounds in fruit such as grapes, peaches, pears, walnuts and apricots.


Above Astor village is the steep and very beautiful Rama Gah, with scattered hamlets and thick pine and birch forest. A track starts from Astor Bazaar. In a big meadow two hours up, take the left hand track and walk for an hour past the three line to Rama Lake, about 1 Km higher than Astor village and considerably cooler in all seasons. From here you can see Rama Ridge, a minor shoulder of Nanga Parbat and the Sachen Glacier (not Siachen!). It takes 1 Hr 30 to walk up to the lake from the PDTC and 1 Hr to get back again. It is also possible to reach the lake by jeep, not by cruiser. (Credit to Lonely Planet)


The ancient routes through the Karakoram are dotted with places where travellers pecked graffiti into the rocks: names, pictures or prayers for safe passage, merit in the afterlife or good luck on the next hunting trip. The desolation around Chilas must have moved many to special fervour, and several sites by the highway are rich with inscriptions on the 'desert-varnished' stones. There is a sign to the 'Chilas II' site near the KKH checkpoint. Just less than a kilometre down a jeep track there is a huge rock covered with hunting and battle scenes and Buddhist stupas. A common image is the long-horned ibex, ancient symbol of fertility and abundance, and an elusive trophy animal even now. On a rocky knoll facing the river are the oldest inscriptions, from the 1st century AD: scenes of conquest and stories of the Buddha's life. Four kilometres east beside the jeep bridge to Thalpan is the 'Chilas I' site, on both sides of the highway and the river. The most striking pictures are a large stupa with banners flying, close to the highway, and mythical animals, battle scenes, royal lineages and Buddhist tales across the river on dozens of rocks west of the track. The serene, 2000 year old Buddha figures seem incongruous at this goatherds' crossing in the middle of nowhere. (Credit to Lonely Planet)


Taxila has been the cradle of the world’s greatest civilization. It was here that Ghandhara civilization and sculpture took root and flourished. There are excavated ruins of three prominent cities, Bhir Mound, Sirkap and Sirsukh. There are also many important monasteries, stupas and palaces excavated all along the Taxila valley. The archaeological Museum at Taxila houses some unique and rare collection of coins, jewellery, relics, gold and silver caskets.



#13, 86 South Wali Centre
Jinnah Avenue
Blue Area
Tel: 051/2270262, 99220699
Fax: 051/2277815
E-mail: Sattar56@isb.paknet.com.pk

Type: PAJERO (1991) with AC
2000 PKR/day + 8 PKR/Km
Total: 2250 Km over 10 day
Total cost: 38.000 PKR




Single at 800 PKR, Double at 1000 PKR
Situated North of DIR this motel has clean and comfortable rooms with attached bathroom. Warm water for shower was available. The service was kind and friendly. Nice terrace with beautiful view.

Single at 1550, Double at 2000 PKR
(10 % reduction possible for UNMOGIP on request)
Situated just South of the village the motel lays at the Indus River. Clean rooms with attached bathroom.

Tel: 0572/2562, 4267
Fax: 0572/2650
Single at 1050 PKR, Double at 1400 PKR
Single deluxe at 1370 PKR, Double deluxe at 1650 PKR
Situated just opposite Chinar Bagh and the uprising memorial close to the river. Clean rooms with attached bathroom. Deluxe rooms have TV. Nice garden en good service.

Tel: 0575/2946, 0575/2500
Single at 1100 PKR, Double 1480 PKR
Single deluxe at 1480 PKR, Double deluxe at 1980 PKR
Located at the Indus River. Beautiful view over the Skardu valley. Clean rooms with attached bathrooms. Hotel used by many tour operators. Nice garden en balconies.

Tel: 0933/412581, 412781, 412800
Fax: 0933/412663, 412668
Single at 800 PKR, Double at 1000 PKR
The oldest hotel in Chitral. The hotel has a courtyard with a very beautiful garden. Rooms are looking a bit like a scouts barrack. Service was all right. One room block has hot water; the other not. It gives you a “camping”-feeling. “Suite” rooms were at 1500 PKR. If we would come back we would take the PTDC.

The building has three sleeping rooms with each a “bathroom” attached. Although sheets and blankets are provided, it could be healthier to take your sleeping bag. Basic (Pakistani) dinner and breakfast were provided by the “chowkidar” (no big expectations!). Bathroom is “bucket-assisted”. 300 PKR for the basic room, 400 PKR for the VIP room (which is basically the same)

The rest house has two sleeping rooms with attached “bathroom”. You have to ask sheets and blankets (they were not smelly), but here again it could be healthier to take your sleeping bag. Meals can be taken at the PTDC (bring a torch in the evening). The “chowkidar” is sleeping in the rest house. It can be rather cool (even in June), so bring something warm. Bathroom is “bucket-assisted”. The PDTC is not yet finished. So there was no electricity, nor running water (The hotel staff cleaned cups and dishes with paper napkins!). 400 PKR for the basic room, 500 PKR for the VIP room.