Type of Attraction: Sightseeing, Landmarks, Adventure, Nature
Activities: Bonfire, Camping, Stargazing, Jeep ride, Hiking, and Boating
Check-ins: Astore City, Deosai Plains, Rama Meadows, Astore Chowk, Jaglot, Astore River, Eidgah, Rupal, Tarishing Valley, Chilam Chowki, Rama Lake, Sheosar Lake, Sadpara Village, Skardu Bazaar, Sadpara Lake, Barra Pani
Location: The Astore Valley has an area of 5,092 km and is at an altitude of 2,600 meters (8,500 ft). The valley has approximately 250 square kilometers (97 sq mi) of glacier cover. The nearest glacier after entering the valley is the Harcho Glacier, and the most accessible glacier is the Siachen Glacier.
Importance: In Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan has six (6) districts, and Astore is one of them. The district contains the Astore Valley and is bounded to the west by Diamer District, Astore was separated from Diamer in 2004, to the north by Gilgit District, to the east by Skardu District, and to the south by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Neelum District of Azad Kashmir. According to the 1998 census of Pakistan, the population of Astore was 71,666 habitants.
The best time to visit is May to October. The valley, adjoining the eastern side of Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), is about 120 km long and 5,092 km² in area. The entrance of the valley is located about 60 km southeast of Gilgit with four side valleys. The valley has more than 100 villages. Some of them are Challam, Bubin, Gorikot, Eid Gah, Fina, Bulen, Chongra and Tari Shing. At the beginning of the valley, arid plains, from which sharp, Rocky Mountains appear on both sides, define the landscape. A short trek leads to fertile, green meadows, where you can see the 8,125-meter-high Nanga Parbat. The valley becomes more alpine along the river, the temperature drops, and you will reach the end of the trail where you can see glaciers. Astore has a wild and aggressive nature, as everything is made on a massive scale. The majority of people practice subsistence agriculture and livestock is the main source of livelihood. Due to its diverse landscape and climatic conditions, the valley provides excellent habitat for a variety of commercially important medicinal plants.
The main language spoken in the valley is Shina. Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan, is the second most frequently spoken language. Shina has many sub-dialects especially significant in Bunji, Dashkin, Doyan, Praishing, and Gorikot, across the Burzil and Rattu regions. Shina is mild phonetically and uses the Arabic script. Astore, a corridor to Dardistan, has a rich linguistic background due to its century old connections with the rest of the Indian subcontinent. British officers visiting and surveying led to an admixture of foreign words in the local language.
Astore Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Road condition from Astore to Deosai Plain is not good and not recommended for cars. Only 4 by 4 jeeps can go through from Astore to Deosai Plain to Skardu. This area is outstandingly beautiful and highly diverse and contradictory in geography, climate, and topography. It is an excellent destination for adventurous travelers. Offers endless options for trekking and exposure to a culture that has not been widely accessible until now.
Moreover, as a result of tons of snow covering the roads, Astore becomes isolated from the world during winter, which lasts from October to March. Yet despite this remote location, Astore is home to over 70,000 inhabitants who live in more than 100 villages around the province. The famous hospitality for Pakistan gets multiplied a hundredfold because many of these villagers have never seen or spoken to a foreigner. The host may also invite you to stay with them in their home to sleep on top of the food they will serve you (tea and lentils). Simple people who live off of self-sufficiency in the remotest parts of Astore are far more likely to starve for pride than not serve you a meal. So here is the truth, the absolute truth.
Climate: Astore Valley has a moderate climate during summer. In winter it can snow up to 6 ft in the main valleys and up to 2 to 3 ft in the mountains.
Distance: The distance between Islamabad Airport to Astore Valley is around 534 Km via N15 by road and it takes about 13hrs to 14hrs to reach.
Location: Deosai is located on the boundary of the Karakoram and the western Himalayas, and at no point, it is less than 4000 meters above sea level.
Importance: Deosai is the combination of two words ‘Deo’ (giant) and ‘Sai’ (shadow). For centuries, it is believed that this place is haunted by giants, thus the name ‘The Land of the Giants’ came into being. This area remained uncrossable for ages due to the abundance of a variety of wildlife here. Icy winds, thunderstorms, and the presence of wildlife make it impossible to dwell here even at this age, that’s why Deosai is mostly uninhabited. It remains covered with snow for 8 months. The rest of the year hosts a range of beautiful flowers of all hues and colors, but not a single tree is found in this plateau spread over 3000 sq. Km.
There are several springs in Deosai, brimming with trout fish serving as food for locals and bears alike. 5000-meter-high mountains in the backdrop, wildlife dwelling in these mountains, clouds so low that one can almost touch them, Himalayan Golden eagles flying between the clouds, and a strange fragrance in the atmosphere which probably is a mixture of brown bears, red foxes, white tigers, and naughty marmots
Climate: The weather is quite unpredictable here, sometimes it starts snowing in summer. Sunlight and clouds seem to play hide and seek here, with the sun shining one minute, and overcast the next.
A road from Skardu Bazaar turns to the Sadpara village. From this curvy road, Sadpara Lake seems so beautiful that the onlookers forget to blink. Soon comes the Sadpara village, where the local children have conspired with nature to stop the vehicles.
A spring flowing through the road has broken it, slowing down the cars, and as soon as a vehicle slows down, local children stop them to sell cherries and other local fruits.
When the village is left behind, the road becomes uneven, and increasing height puts pressure on the ears. High mountains on one side, and depths on the other side — it is enough to disrupt the heartbeat of first-time visitors. But when you are done with the journey, such a scene awaits you, which can neither be described in words nor can it be entirely captured in photographs.
Sheosar Lake, also called Shausar Lake, is another jewel of Deosai in Skardu, Gilgit Baltistan region. It is towards Chilam Chowki, on the western far end of Deosai National Park, where you find this amazing natural attraction. Sheosar Lake means Blind Lake, as “Sheo” in Shina Language means “blind” and “Sar” means “Lake”.
Sheosar Lake is reported to be 2.3 km long, 1.8 km wide, and has an average depth of 40 meters, which gives it a unique significance in terms of size, altitude, and depth. Sheosar Lake, in the western part of Deosai National Park, is an enchanting lake, the best place to visit as you explore Deosai.
At 4250 meters above sea level, Sheosar is a deep lake with marshy littoral land that makes its crystal-clear waters rarely approachable from a few sides. During winters, Deosai Plains are snowbound, and the lake remains frozen from November to May. During spring, the blossoming flowers of a wide variety and butterflies make Sheosar Lake exceptionally beautiful. Even in summer, as soon as the sun sets, icy winds make the weather chilly.
The renowned Chilam Chowki is the entry point for Minimarg. Chilam at 3800M is also the entry point for DeoSai National Park and a famous staying point due to the availability of small hotels and food.
Minimarg Valley is a gateway to Kashmir from Gilgit-Baltistan and vice versa. Due to its proximity to the LOC (border with India in Kashmir) and being a strategic hub for the Pakistan Army, it is not open for general tourism. Although it is a bit tricky to get there, it is certainly not impossible. You must have a reference of any ARmy person and that Army officer must call the unit 80 Brigade and register the Names and CNIC of all the people visiting Minimarg.