Nestled within the rugged terrains of the Shigar district, at an elevation of 7,500 feet, lies a mesmerizing wonderland known as the Sarfaranga Cold Desert Skardu. Also referred to as the Skardu Cold Desert, this ethereal landscape stands as a testament to nature’s artistic prowess. With its vast expanse of sandy dunes, majestic mountains, and the tranquil Indus River, this hidden gem in Northern Pakistan offers an unforgettable experience for those seeking adventure and solace in equal measure.
When one thinks of a desert, images of scorching heat, endless sand dunes, and a severe lack of water immediately come to mind. Deserts are typically associated with arid, low-lying landscapes, and finding towering mountains amidst these desolate stretches seems like an unlikely dream. However, Pakistan’s Sarfaranga Cold Desert defies these desert stereotypes with a unique and captivating landscape that will leave you in awe.
Nestled within the Skardu Valley, the Sarfaranga Cold Desert offers a stark departure from the traditional desert setting. This extraordinary desert boasts a backdrop of imposing rocky mountains, a pristine freshwater lake within walking distance, and the grandeur of the Indus River, Pakistan’s largest river, meandering alongside. The majestic rocky mountains, adorned with glistening icy summits, reach an average height of around 6000 meters, creating a breathtaking contrast to the otherwise barren terrain.
Visiting Sarfaranga Cold Desert is an exclusive and unparalleled sightseeing experience that only the Skardu Valley can offer. Here are some activities that will allow you to fully embrace the wonder of this remarkable place.
A Symphony of Nature’s Finest Elements
Embarking on a journey to the Sarfaranga Cold Desert is like stepping into a canvas painted with the most vibrant hues of nature. As you approach the desert on your way to Shigar, the imposing mountains cradle the desert in their arms, creating a dramatic backdrop that enchants every visitor. The ever-flowing Indus River runs adjacent to the desert, its waters adding a touch of serenity to the stark landscape.
The sight of the sunset over the white sand dunes is a breathtaking spectacle. The sun’s golden rays cast a warm glow on the desert’s surface, igniting the sand in a fiery hue. As the sun descends behind the mountains, the sky transforms into a canvas of vivid oranges, pinks, and purples, creating a mesmerizing display of colors that leave an indelible mark on the soul.
A Playground for Adventure Seekers
The Sarfaranga Cold Desert beckons adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike with a myriad of activities that showcase its diverse terrain. For those with a penchant for luxury in the heart of the wilderness, glamping in the desert offers a unique experience. As night falls, the Milky Way graces the sky, unobstructed by the city lights, providing an unparalleled stargazing opportunity.
A visit to the Sarfaranga Cold Desert is incomplete without traversing its expansive sand dunes. Rising up to 30 meters in height, these dunes present the perfect playground for exploration and adventure. Whether you choose to wander on foot or opt for a camel ride, the undulating dunes offer a unique perspective of the landscape.
Things to Do
1. Glamping in the Cold Desert: Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Sarfaranga Cold Desert by opting for glamorous camping (glamping). Spend your nights under the starry sky, surrounded by the tranquility of the desert. Marvel at the multicolored trees reflected in the Indus River, witness mesmerizing sunsets over the white sand dunes, and indulge in some stargazing to spot the Milky Way at night.
2. Folklore and Bonfires: Many visitors traveling in groups cherish the opportunity to listen to folklores, gathered around a crackling bonfire. It’s a chance to share stories and create unforgettable memories in the heart of this unique desert landscape.
3. Dining Delights: Enjoy the local cuisine, with the chance to savor Trout and Yak for dinner. These unique dishes provide a taste of the region’s culinary traditions and add to the overall experience of the cold desert.
4. Motor Biking: For those seeking adventure, motor biking in the desert is a thrilling option. Sarfaranga Cold Desert is a renowned location for hosting prominent Jeep Rally events every year, attracting adrenaline junkies from far and wide.
Sarfaranga Cold Desert Skardu Rally
The desert’s charm isn’t limited to its natural beauty. The Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally, held annually in August, has garnered significant attention. Organized by the Gilgit Baltistan Government and PakWheels, this rally attracts participants and spectators from across Pakistan. With a track that challenges even the most skilled drivers, the rally showcases not only the region’s natural beauty but also its cultural diversity.
The rally is a celebration of adventure, skill, and unity. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes compete, navigating through terrains that include sandy stretches, rocky patches, and hilly paths. The rally not only provides a thrilling experience for participants but also serves as a platform to promote tourism and cultural exchange in the region.
The Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally has brought this hidden gem to the world’s attention. Conducted annually in the month of August, the rally draws nearly 80 to 85 vehicles, as well as bikers, who come to experience the thrill of racing through this extraordinary desert landscape. People from all over Pakistan, and particularly from Gilgit Baltistan, gather to enjoy the rally and support the development of such activities in the region.
The champion of the Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally is awarded a grand prize of 3.5 million, making it a prestigious and highly anticipated event. In addition to the rally, a marathon was introduced in 2019, further diversifying the range of activities. A temporary tent village is set up on the banks of the Indus River for participants, offering a unique and comfortable experience. Numerous food stalls serve local dishes, allowing visitors to savor the flavors of the region. During the rally, a freestyle polo match is also organized at the Shigar Polo ground, providing an exciting glimpse into the cultural diversity of Gilgit Baltistan.
The Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally is not just a thrilling competition; it’s a celebration of the region’s rich culture and a vital contributor to the growth of the tourism industry in this unique corner of Pakistan. With its captivating landscapes, diverse activities, and a dash of adventure, the Sarfaranga Cold Desert has truly earned its place as a hidden gem worth exploring. Come and experience the magic of this desert where cold and captivating beauty coexist in perfect harmony.
The Perfect Time to Immerse in Desert Magic
While the Sarfaranga Cold Desert’s beauty is timeless, the best time to visit is between June and September. During these months, the temperatures are milder, offering a comfortable environment for exploration. In contrast, the winter months bring biting cold and windy conditions, providing a more extreme experience for those seeking an adventurous escapade.
A Tranquil Haven for the Soul
Beyond the adrenaline-pumping activities and awe-inspiring vistas, the Sarfaranga Cold Desert holds a deeper allure. Its tranquil environment, far removed from the chaos of urban life, presents a unique opportunity for introspection and rejuvenation. The silence is almost palpable, allowing visitors to connect with themselves and their surroundings on a profound level.
As the sun dips below the horizon and paints the sky with hues of red and gold, the desert offers a space for quiet contemplation. The combination of the desert’s stillness and the spectacular sunset creates a moment of pure serenity—a moment that etches itself into memory.
A Must-Visit Destination
The Sarfaranga Cold Desert is not just a destination; it’s an experience that awakens the senses and rejuvenates the soul. From the majesty of its mountains to the tranquility of its dunes, from the thrill of adventure to the solace of solitude, this desert embodies the beauty and diversity of Pakistan’s natural and cultural treasures. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a soul in search of quietude, the Sarfaranga Cold Desert promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of enchantment.