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A view of Masherbrum Mountain from Macholo village

Travel suitcaseNestled in the picturesque Khaplu Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, the sleepy village of Khaplu is slowly but surely emerging as a popular holiday destination. The best time to visit is between March and November when the weather is cool and the flowers in full bloom.

Getting there… The easiest way is to fly to Skardu from Islamabad (a 55-minute flight), and then drive to Khaplu, a spectacular, three-hour journey along the River Indus.

Historic attractions… The main attraction is Khaplu Palace, a UN heritage site, which has been recently restored. Built circa 1840, it is a fine example of a Tibetan-style royal residence, and stands amidst apricot orchards, affording spectacular views of the River Shyok. Other attractions include the astana (shrine) of the Sufi Saint Mir Muhammad, and the charming Chaqchan and Khaplu Khanqah mosques.

Breakfast

The breakfast balcony at The Serena Khaplu Residence Hotel

Where to stay… The Serena Khaplu Residence Hotel, constructed within the compound of the Khaplu Palace, is an expensive hotel; it is beautifully decorated with an architectural style reminiscent of the Palace. Affordable accommodation options include PTDC Motel and Khaplu Karakorum Lodge. They are also the most popular dining spots in Khaplu, offering desi food cooked in home-pressed apricot oil.

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The Raja’s Lounge in Khaplu Palace

Picnics, riding, trekking and more… Popular picnic spots are located within a 15-kilometre radius. Macholo village is located near a viewpoint from where one can see the imposing Masherbrum Mountain. Saling Lake – where one can go fishing – is surrounded by breathtaking gardens, dotted by historic Buddhist stone carvings. Trekking, hiking, rock climbing and horse riding are popular activities.

The real estate take… Residential property options include huts and houses. Commercial property options include guesthouses and small, standalone shops. As tourism activity peaks during summer, rental yields appreciate by approximately 30 to 40% between May and August. Due to increasing investment, property prices and rentals have increased by 30 and 25% respectively in the last five years.

In a nutshell… Most people who have been to Khaplu vow to go back again. So if you are planning a holiday this summer, make it to Khaplu!

– Nigar Jaffrey

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 25, 2014.

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