Beginning of international flight operations to Skardu will be a game changer for tourism sector

By Muzaffar Rizvi

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Beautiful Vistas of Kachura Lake From Shangrila Hotel, Skardu Pakistan
Beautiful Vistas of Kachura Lake From Shangrila Hotel, Skardu Pakistan

Published: Mon 14 Aug 2023, 2:03 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Aug 2023, 2:06 PM

Pakistan’s northern areas will emerge as one of the popular tourist hotspots with the launch of international flight operations to Skardu on August 14, 2023 — the country’s 77th Independence Day.

The national flag carrier — Pakistan International Airline (PIA) — is scheduled to debut Skardu Airport’s first international flight from Dubai that is expected to attract tourists, mountain climbers and trekkers to explore the region, which is known for its natural beauty, history, mountains, lakes, waterfalls and delicious local food.

Dr Hadi Shahid,Partner at Alliott Hadi Shahid,Chartered Accountants
Dr Hadi Shahid,Partner at Alliott Hadi Shahid,Chartered Accountants
Yasir Wisal Muhammad,Al Masah Tours LLC
Yasir Wisal Muhammad,Al Masah Tours LLC

People hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan settled in different parts of the world can now also avail the direct international flight for the nearest airport to their hometown.

The Dubai-based flydubai will be the first international airline, which is also expected to start its flight operations for Skardu in the near future. It is also expected that international flights will also be operated from London, New York, Toronto, Tokyo, Doha, Saudi Arabia and China.

Skardu Airport — the only airport on earth at 7,500 feet high above sea level. It is the only airport in northern Pakistan that can accommodate large airplanes, as the runways at Gilgit and Chitral airports are too short for long-distance flights.


Passengers onboard the Skardu flight will also be treated to views of the world’s highest peaks and picturesque lakes during the airjourney. According to the experts, flights will promote international tourism, trekking and expedition in the Baltistan region.

Skardu, a popular tourist site in Gilgit-Baltistan, is a gateway to four peaks, towering 8,000 metres high, attracting mountaineers and trekkers from all over the world. These are Karakorum 2, popularly known as K2 — the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum and Nanga Parbat — which is called the killer mountain for its high number of climber fatalities. With its three immense and complex faces exposed to avalanches, Nanga Parbat presents a real challenge in terms of route. Contrary to most other peaks over 8,000 metres, there is no obvious route to the summit of the world’s ninth highest mountain at 8,126 metres (26,660 ft) above sea level.


In addition to snow-capped mountains, the Gilgit-Baltistan has many tourist attractions such as iconic Shigar Fort, ancient Manthal Budha Rock, and Katpana Desert — also known as Cold Desert as the temperature drops to -25-degree Celcious (-13-degree F) in winter.

Sadpara Lake, a beautiful serene natural body of water located at a 2,600 metre altitude and spread over an area of 2.5km, is another popular attraction for tourists. Upper Kachora Lake, which is also called Shangrila Lake or ‘Roof of the world’, should also be part of the tourist’s wishlist as the surface is frozen sold in winter.

Pakistan remains a travel-lovers dream, with the most diverse natural attractions, a cradle of ancient civilisations, a heaven for mountain climbers and a region brimming with diverse religion and cultures.

Dr Hadi Shahid, partner at Alliott Hadi Shahid Chartered Accountants, said Pakistan is blessed with wonderful places which attracts tourists of all kinds and all ages. “From prehistoric places in Sindh, Punjab and North to history of conquerors, Arabs, Arians, Central Asians and Mughals, we have highly respected places of attraction for Budhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Museums of Texila and Lahore to Badshahi Masjid and so many other places that can attract those who love art and culture. And there is no need to talk about mountains and rivers in the country,” Dr Hadi told Khaleej Times.

Faisal Awan, CEO of Al Ghazi Travel and Tourism, said Pakistan’s tourism sector is experiencing significant growth and development, attracting attention from travellers around the world.

“With its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and historical sites, Pakistan has immense potential to become a thriving tourism destination,” he said.

Awan said Pakistan’s tourism industry has witnessed an upward trend in recent years, attracting domestic and international tourists alike. The successive governments have taken various initiatives to revive and promote tourism, recognising its potential as a key driver of economic growth, he said.

“The country’s breathtaking landscapes, including the awe-inspiring Northern Areas, serene beaches along the Arabian Sea, and historical sites such as the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Taxila, have become popular attractions for tourists. The diverse range of activities, including trekking, mountaineering, paragliding, and cultural festivals, further add to the appeal of Pakistan as a tourism destination,” according to an analyst.

The outlook for Pakistan’s tourism sector looks promising, with immense potential for further growth and development. The increasing global interest in sustainable and off-the-beaten-path tourism plays to Pakistan’s advantage, as it offers unspoiled landscapes and authentic cultural experiences.

Yasir Wisal Muhammad, a Sharjah-based travel agent and tour operator, said Pakistan’s participation in international tourism forums and exhibitions enables country to showcase its tourism potential and attract foreign investment.

“By focusing on niche markets, such as adventure tourism, religious tourism, and cultural heritage tourism, Pakistan can differentiate itself and tap into untapped segments of the global travel market,” he said. “Pakistan has the opportunity to become a sought-after destination for travellers worldwide. The country’s tourism sector holds immense potential for economic growth and development, and we must realise it,” he added.

While the growth prospects for Pakistan’s tourism sector are promising, several challenges need to be addressed to ensure sustainable development and capitalise on its immense potential.

Experts said infrastructure development is crucial to support the growing tourism industry. Many tourist destinations in Pakistan lack adequate transportation facilities, quality accommodation options, and basic amenities.

“Improvement in road networks, expansion of airports, and increased investment in tourism-related infrastructure are necessary to provide a seamless and comfortable experience for tourists,” according to a tour operator.


Promoting Pakistan’s tourism potential internationally requires a comprehensive marketing strategy, according to Dr Hadi.

“Branding and marketing campaigns should highlight the country’s unique offerings and dispel any negative perceptions. Collaborations with international travel agencies, influencers, and media can help create positive narratives and generate greater interest in Pakistan as a travel destination. We need to encourage tourist organising companies in the private sector to realise true potential of the sector,” he said.

He said Pakistan requires to work and keep working regularly through various channels. “We need aggressive marketing and better transport arrangements to attract international tourists. In addition, there is a need to have public facilities at tourist places and develop more hotels and motels,” he said.

“I guess these will benefit our tourism as more and more people in the world are realising the charm of this growing sector. We are on the world map, but we must know how to sell,” Dr Hadi concluded.

Lake Katora — The Most Popular Tourist Spots In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

June to September is the best time to visit bowl-like lake

There are around 60 famous lakes in Pakistan, all known for their distinctive location and natural beauty, but Lake Katora has gained traction among the visitors and tourists alike because of its natural beauty and memorizing scenes.

Katora, which means bowl-like in shape in Pashto, is named after its appearance. It is an alpine glacial lake located in the upper reaches of Jahaz Banda, Kumrat valley in Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. At the height of 11,500 feet/3,500 metres from sea level, it is a high-frosty lake in the area and fed by the surrounding melting glacier waters.

Kumrat Valley is situated at a distance of 370km from Islamabad at an approximate travel time of 8 hours and 30 minutes. It is located about 45 minutes away from the town of Thal on the banks of the Panjkora River, and is among the most popular tourist spots in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Lake Katora is one of the most beautiful lakes in the region, which is visited by adventure tourists every year in the summer season. The best time to visit the Katora Lake trek is from June to September because the weather will be at its warmest and the visitors will have the best chance of sunny, clear days. Then heavy snowfall covered the entire lake trek from November to May.

The lake is surrounded by snow clad high mountains and pristine flowers of diverse species have covered its margins. The trail to this lake is a memorable, as one comes across lush green forests, fragrant flowers and crystal-clear springs and gushing waterfalls.

To one side, the face of the lake is open, and the shimmering water of the lake spills out, in the form of an attractive foamy waterfall which creates an amazing scenario.

— muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com

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