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Introducing Shigar

One of two routes from Skardu into the High Karakoram (the other is the Shyok Valley), the lush and yawning Shigar Valley was once a separate kingdom. Shigar’s original settlers may have come over the Karakoram from Yarkand, in Xinjiang.

Shady Shigar village, where the Bauma Lungma empties into the Shigar River, is as far as most nontrekkers go. The main landmark here is Fong Khar, the former Raja of Shigar’s fort-palace, now a luxury hotel and museum (admission Rs 300, free for hotel guests) showcasing the impressive rustic architecture and fascinating lifestyle of Shigar’s rich and famous. The timber-and-stone palace has natural rock foundations and merges almost seamlessly into the mountainside, on top of which are the ruins of an earlier fort, Sinigma Khar. It’s a five-minute walk from the road, up the left side of the stream, and has a lovely restaurant worth investigating even if you’re not staying the night.

Visitors should find the time to stroll around the peaceful and attractive village to meet the locals and view the beautiful wooden mosques: Khilingrong beside Fong Khar, the larger Khanqa-e-Moallah and 14th-century Amburiq. Along the Shigar Valley wall, downriver of Bauma Lungma, are recently excavated Buddhist ruins, including monastery foundations and rock inscriptions from as early as the 5th century.

For views of the Shigar Valley, walk up Bauma Lungma for 20 minutes and double back up to the thumb of rock above the village.