Khaplu town near Skardu Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan, is the 700 years old kingdom, in the heart of Ganche valley.
This town is an ideal summer retreat for city people. Lots of fresh water, pleasant weather and cool temperatures , even in winters. Tall green trees line up alongside the road – as if to welcome us.
The map of Khaplu Skardu route
Khaplu city in Ghanche valley is at a 26 hours’ drive from Islamabad. That’s why it is more advisable to stop over at Chilas to get there in one piece.
Islamabad – Hazara Motorway – Babusar – Raikot – Chilas (Stop over) – Jaglot – Skardu – Khaplu
The road to Chilas, over Babusar top is metaled and well made. There is plenty of accommodation and hotels in Chilas, but it does get hot in summers there.
Don’t trust Google maps route to Khaplu, as the vehicle travels slow and you get tired.
Skardu to Khaplu Distance
Khaplu is 3 hours from Skardu 111 km.
Drive to Khaplu
You can only drive to Khaplu city, the last airport is Skardu international Airport.
The city appears suddenly on the right bank of Shyok River, the moment you cross the last turn on the road, while driving from Skardu. The river bed opens up here and the water slows down, just to salute the town folk.
Khaplu is a terraced town that climbs several kilometers into the mountain behind the town. This town’s extensive farm land, trees and vegetation appears in different hues of green, yellows and orange.
Khaplu Skardu Map
Pictures and images Khaplu
Ganche Khaplu is unique
The first thing you notice is the Tibetan and mongoloid look of the locals there. Their women folk still carry braided baskets on their back, while tending to their crops — just like their ancestors.
10 must see things in Khaplu Gilgit Baltistan
Start off early from Skardu and to see
- Khaplu Raja Palace
- Khaplu Serena hotel
- Khaplu museum
- Palace guard post on top of the mountain
- Khaplu Buddhist cave markings
- The Khaplu chaqchan mosque,
- khaplu khanqah
- Cliff jumping
- Fish hatchery
- Famous Eucalyptus tree lined road
Manthoka Waterfall Kharmang
On the way back from Khaplu towards Skardu, turn towards Kharmang.
At a short distance from the main road is
- Manthoka water fall (1.5 hours drive from the main road)
- Second waterfall higher in the mountains (only hired jeeps go there)
Siachen Glacier comes after Khaplu
Ganche means ‘snow covered’ and Khaplu is its crowning jewel.
It is the last stop before Siachen Glacier and Turtuk town on the Line of Control. Pakistan Army has opened Siachen Glacier for people. The madding crowd has not discovered the place yet — so this summer is the time to go there.
Chaqchan Mosque brought Islam to Ganche Valley
Khaplu has various historic sites to see like the 14-century Chaqchen Mosque which was once a Buddhist monastery (it still has the Buddhist monolith stone in its foundation).
Star of David Markings on chaqchan mosque
Religion of Khaplu
It was built by Sufi preachers who came from Iran and Iraq to spread Islamic ways. Their message was so powerful that their Noor Bakshi Sufi order now has a massive following in the Baltistan region, even across the LOC.
The wood carvings of the mosque reflect symbols of interfaith harmony—exactly what the Sufis’ preached.
Khaplu Raja Palace and Fort
Khaplu also has the royal palace that was built in the 1800s by their royal family — who trace their lineage from Central Asian Turkistan.
The Fort was used to keep an eye on the people of Khaplu. It had its own armory, food silos and jails.
Palace on the Mountain
The real deal is hiking to the top of a mountain to the rear of Khaplu to the fort of the royal family – which they kept stocked and ready — to be used during times of siege by raiders from Skardu.
This fort also has an open graveyard, with remains of long-forgotten royals / holy men. Khaplu even has the tombs of the original artisans from Kashmir valley and China, who built the city.
The ancient rock inscription
Then there is an intelligible ancient script inscribed on a rock face, short walking distance from chaqchan mosque, that hasn’t been deciphered yet.
Then we have the Khaplu Khanqah, which doubled as a worship place and a resting place for weary travelers. Here all sects and even women are permitted to worship.
Who said these people were ignorant, right? A holyman’s astana (tomb) adjacent to the Khanqah is a woodcraft marvel in itself.
Buddhist Rock carving
A two-hour track from a fish farm takes you to the ancient Buddhist rock carving site deep in the mountains, with Lord Buddha’s image. I couldn’t get there because I didn’t have time.
I did take pictures of the Buddhist Rock writings, that I couldn’t decipher. For adrenaline junkies, there is cliff jumping too. In the Khaplu Bazar, the antique shop has wonderful pieces of old arts and crafts— even better than the ones in the museums.
Khaplu Climate and Weather
Temperatures at Khaplu range from 80 Deg F (27 Deg C) to 55 Deg F(13 Deg C). Hottest months are June and July. In January, the temperature drops below freezing for a week or two, but since the global warming too effect, it does not get too cold for too long.
Perfect camping place
Pitching a tent beneath walnut trees, on perfectly leveled terraces with clear water streams around you is just magical. The people there are very accommodating and friendly. It’s a good place to catch up on reading and writing.
You can get all the food essentials from the local Bazar. June-September is a good window for campers.
Facilities at Khaplu
Khaplu has an ATM, mobile connectivity (Mobil ink), and WIFI — essentials for modern-day living. The hospital is ok too. In any case, CM Hospital Skardu is not too far away.
When to go to Khaplu?
From what I’ve gathered, the tourist volumes have picked up this season, so I suggest you go there when there are no public holidays.
Can ladies go to Khaplu?
It is a religious but tolerant society. The Tibetan influence from across the LOC has made these people very peace-loving. You’d find ladies tending to shops as saleswomen. I guess Khaplu public school and college are doing a great job grooming their people.
Best hotels of Khaplu Skardu
- Khaplu Palace Serena Hotel +92 3468101033 (5 plus 5 Stars) Room Charges starting from Rs 25000
- Khaplu Karakorum Lodge +92 3445520003
- PTDC hotel Khaplu+92 3115994279
Trip to Line of Control
There was another royal fort of the same family in Turtuk- a trading post right on the Line of Control- on the Khaplu-Leh road. Unfortunately, it was stolen from Pakistan by the Indian army in 1971, when our chips were down. Pakistan had to ratify this humiliation in the Shimla agreement.
I hope our government builds roads right up to the LOC and permits tourism like the Indians’ have— to support the locals. I pray one day the roads are good enough for an adventure drive alone the LOC, from Turtuk to Neelum valley.
Anyways we still have a lot of Paradise to us still— so go there now!
Khaplu Sailing and Kondus Gorges
If you can stay the night at Khaplu, there is an even prettier valley just 50 kilometers from Khaplu, called the Khaplu Sailing and Khaplu Kondus valleys.