A trip to Serena Shigar Fort in Skardu Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan. The trip covers Manthoka Waterfall, Kachura Lake & Shangrila Resort.
Travel Diaries: Shigar Fort, Upper Kachura Lake & Shangrila Resort
Shigar is about 45 minutes away from Skardu airport so if one is planning a trip to both Khaplu & Shigar, it is best to go to Shigar second. Considering how absolutely crazy our return journey was (and that requires a blog post on its own) I concur.
Leg 1 – Khaplu Palace to Shigar with a detour to Manthoka Waterfall
Our journey started at 9 am in the morning when we left Khaplu Palace for Shigar Fort. Shuttle service is complimentary and provided by Serena. The journey is about 2 – 2.5 hours. One thing we realized while travelling all of Skardu is that everytime the driver says it’s only 20 minutes away add another 10 minutes.
On the way, the driver told us about this waterfall (known as Manthoka) on the way to Shigar, which we could go to if we wanted. This particular detour cost us about 2 to 2.5 hours and PKR 4000. The extra cost was because the hotel only provided a service between Khaplu & Shigar. We also had another hotel guest in the same car so we decided to split the cost – win win situation for both of us!
Final Review – As a detour between Khaplu Palace & Shigar Fort with an extra cost of Rs.4000, the stopover at the waterfall was worth it.
Value for Money – As a detour yes but if one had to pay Rs.8000 to come here separately, they might feel underwhelmed.
Rating – 4/5
Leg 2 – Shigar Fort & Residency
We reached around 3 pm at Shigar Fort and just like at Khaplu Palace, we were greeted with welcome drinks. As our last room at Khaplu Palace had particularly no view, I told the receptionist to show me the potential rooms first after which we could decide.
We had two options available to us. The fort rooms were heritage rooms that were part of the original fort. One had to climb a set of stair(s) to reach them. The other option was garden suites which were part of the new wing and these overlooked the gardens. Both had modern bathrooms, but the garden suites had WiFi & Tv versus the fort rooms which didn’t have them. We found the fort rooms a bit small and of course we wanted WiFi so we choose the garden suites. One issue I did have with them was that since they overlooked the garden one could overhear conversations from outside and though people wouldn’t really peek inside but one could clearly see in our room. Considering I wear a hijab, I did find it a bit awkward as I had to keep the curtains down or my hijab on.
The dining area was divided into 4 parts. There is a ground floor (where breakfast is laid out in the morning) and an upstairs floor. Both have indoor & outdoor areas. We preferred the outdoor area in the morning but in dinner it became noisy as it overlooks the river. There are also two gardens with chairs & couches where one can sit, relax and order food. Just like Khaplu Palace we got two 500 ml mineral bottles everyday along with a tray of dry fruits (walnuts, almonds & dried apricot). The food here was good but we felt it was better at Khaplu Palace. Our favorites included the soups.
Just like Khaplu we loved the setting at Shigar – there’s history & culture & nature all around you. However, we preferred Khaplu because of it’s serenity. Considering its proximity to Skardu, Shigar is far more commercial & the dining area is generally crowded in the evening.
Final Review – On a personal level, we preferred Khaplu for it’s warmth, serenity and silence. However, Shigar is more happening and it offers more activities on a daily basis. One can walk to the nearby city, go on treks and go on day trips to nearby locations like Deosai, Shangrila, Satpara etc.
Value for Money – 4/5. At Rs.12,000/night this is on the pricier side but worth it for the ambiance, the cleanliness and the provision of modern amenities in a remote area.
Rating – 4/5
Leg 3: Day Trip to Kachura Lake & Shangrila Resort
The next day of our trip we decided to do a day trip to the famous Shangrila resort & Upper Kachura Lake. The Shangrila resort is built around the Lower Kachura Lake but if one keeps travelling on the same road ahead one will reach Upper Kachura Lake.
We decided to stop at Upper Kachura Lake first and then go down to Shangrila resort on the way back. In order to get to Upper Kachura Lake, one has to walk for about 5 – 10 minutes then climb down a pretty steep set of stairs. There is a restaurant upstairs and it is recommended that you order there first so that the food will be ready once you come back. We ordered trout fish (frozen not fresh) and French fries with tea.
The lake is stunning! It’s a natural lake and surrounded by trees and mountains on the top. One can take a boat ride around the entire lake (PKR 2000 for about 20 minutes), which we did! Definitely worth it.
It took us about 5 minutes to come but the climb back up took some time! The stairs are steep, slippery plus we are not used to the high altitude so we get out of breath. This is something we experienced throughout the trip – it did get better but initially it was a chore even climbing one set of stairs.We finally reached the restaurant upstairs during the time they had prepared our grilled trout and French fries with a hot cup of tea. It had started drizzling by then and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at this rustic dhabba. After lunch, we got in the car again and went to Shangrila Resort.
I was really excited to go to Shangrila – it’s one of the most talked about locations when one plans a trip to the Northern Areas and it’s the main shoot for countless postcards available across Pakistan. Unfortunately, our trip was not at all as exciting as we had imagined.The resort can be considered picturesque in its own way though we did find the artificiality of Chinese styled buildings reflecting off crystal clear water odd; especially in the midst of majestic mountains. That is a personal preference but what disappointed us was that this resort was not maintained.
The restaurant had nothing fresh or seasonal on the menu – the resort is full of apple trees to the point where they are scattered across the ground but there were no fresh apple items on the menu, not even apple juice. There was no grilled trout (a specialty in the region) available either and our order of tea & a cold drink took 45 minutes to prepare. One can still ignore the food – maybe the chef just had a bad day in the kitchen today but then I decided to go to the bathroom. The moment I opened the door, I came out and decided it’s better to wait. We have seen some awful washrooms during the trip but they were in the middle of nowhere not a tourist resort that charges an entry fee. People rave about it so I am sure it must be great at one point in time but it definitely needs maintenance to become as good as its previous standard.
Final Review – We loved Upper Kachura Lake but were disappointed with Shangrila Resort.
Value for Money – 2.5 / 5 Not worth it. The total experience cost us Rs. Rs.14,320 (Fuel + Rent for Rs.9590, Snacks at Shangrila for Rs.400, Shangrila Entry fee for Rs.600, Lunch at Upper Kachura Lake for Rs.1730 and Boat Ride for Rs.2000) which we found quite high for 2 people.
Rating – 3/5
This blog post is on Day 1 and 2 of the trip. Day 3 was a trip to Deosai plains and the last will be our adventurous journey back.
If you want to read up on my journey to Serena Khaplu Palace click HERE