Nestled high in the Baltistan province of Pakistan is the city of Skardu. There, tourists on vacation find many attractions, as well as a gateway to mount expeditions into Kashmir. It is a mountain-climber paradise, with access to 14 peaks of 8,000 meters and above. One of the main attractions in Skardu is a pair of forts, Kharphocho and Shigar. The latter happens to lie on the route that takes you to the world’s second-highest mountain, K-2. Also known as Palace of the Rock, the complex contains a fort/palace over 400 years old, plus two newer buildings, the Garden House and the Old House. The Shigar Fort Residence guesthouse was converted from the former palace of the Raja of Shigar, and contains 20 rooms and a museum. The museum features artifacts of Balti culture, including wood carvings.
The Residence opened in 2005 following six years of careful restoration and adaptation by the Aga Khan Cultural Service in Pakistan. The result is a stunning combination of original architecture from the 1600′s and the modern amenities you would expect from a luxury hotel. Shigar Fort Residence is the perfect spot to plan a cultural trip to the Shigar valley in the northern area of Pakistan. Known as the meeting place of two famous mountain ranges, the Himalayan and Karakoram, the area boasts of the most extensive glacial high mountain terrain in the world.
Cultural tourists make the Residence their “base camp” for exploring surrounding Baltistan, an area of 400,000 people with a history stretching back to Tibetan Buddhists. These influences can still be seen today in the language, architecture and traditions of the area. Shigar Fort Residence has been carefully planned so that it conserves its long heritage, thus serving as a driver of economic development and socially responsible tourism in the Shigar Valley. Tourists can explore many local points of interest, including:
- The historic villages of Chinpa, Shigar, and Halpapa
- Ancient mosques, including the 14th century Amburiq Mosque located in Shigar Village, and the nearby Khilingrong Mosque
- Shigar Rock, a hiking destination that sits on the ruins of a fort dating back to the 11th century, Kari Dong;
- The intricate carvings at the Khanqa-e-Moallah and Buddist ruins that includes the foundation of a monastery and rock inscriptions over 1500 years old.
- Organized walks with English-speaking guides that explore the various economic and social development initiatives undertaken by development agencies such as the Aga Khan Cultural Service
- Day excursions to Chutron Shigar Hot Springs, the Deosai Plateau, the Skardu Bazaar, Kachura Lake, and the Khaplu region, including the Thaley and Hushey Valleys and the Khaplu Fort, currently undergoing restoration