Shigar Fort History
Shigar Fort, conversationally referred to as Fong Khar, which translates to “the palace on the rocks” in the local Balti dialect, boasts a rich historical tapestry. Its genesis can be traced back to the early 17th century when Hassan Khan, the 20th ruler of the Amacha Dynasty, undertook its construction. The Amacha lineage, originating from the “Hamacha” tribe of Ganish, Hunza, has held sway over Shigar for a remarkable thirty-three generations. The Amacha Dynasty’s roots can be traced back to the 13th century, when a trivial group of survivors from the decimated Hamacha tribe sought refuge in Shigar, sooner or later establishing themselves as the ruling dynasty.
The Demise of Khar-e-Dong and the Genesis of Fong-Khar
Notably, Fong-Khar stands as the sole surviving testament to the Amacha rulers. The original structure in this lineage was Khar-e-Dong, the remnants of which still loom atop the cliffs, overseeing the current site. Historical records suggest that Mughal forces, dispatched by Shah Jehan to support Hassan Khan in reclaiming his seized throne, likely razed Khar-e-Dong to the ground. This historic event in Shigar’s history is believed to have catalyzed the construction of the present-day Fong-Khar.
The Artistry and Exclusive Architectural Grandeur of Fong Khar
Hassan Khan’s determined endeavor to erect his Fort Palace involved the recruitment of a diverse array of craftsmen, including goldsmiths, carpenters, stone sculptors, and textile weavers from Kashmir. This synthesis of talents gave rise to a structure characterized by a pleasant-sounding blend of Kashmiri-inspired ornamentation and indigenous Balti architecture, rendering Fong-Khar an invaluable historical and architectural relic.
Perched amidst a naturally resplendent backdrop, the Fort Palace seamlessly integrates with the dramatic terrain. The stark juxtaposition between rugged cliffs and meticulously cultivated terraces, the everlasting symphony of the rushing river against the serenity of the garden, and the steep rocky escarpment forming a magnificent backdrop all contribute to the site’s unique allure.
Shigar Fort: From Ruins to a Museological and Luxurious Haven
The Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P), the Pakistani arm of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program, spearheaded the scrupulous restoration of the fort. However, post-restoration, the Shigar Fort was ingeniously repurposed into a museum and a luxurious hotel, now managed by the famous group of Serena Hotels. Many travelers opt to stay in the hotel, which is on the way to the K-2 expedition. This transformative endeavor spanned from 1999 to 2004 and commanded an approximately US$1.4 million investment.
Strategic Location of the Fort
Nestled along the legendary route to the world’s second-highest peak K-2. The Shigar Fort is ensconced within an oasis-like setting, nourished by the glacier-fed waters of Baltistan. This region, set amidst the grandeur of the high Karakoram ranges, is famous for its unparalleled natural beauty and cultural opulence.
Navigating the Path to the Majestic Shigar Fort
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) operates a daily Boeing 737 flight from Islamabad to Skardu. This one-hour aerial voyage treats passengers to awe-inspiring vistas of the Karakoram, Himalayan, and Hindukush Mountain ranges. The mesmerizing air travel offers glimpses of five 8000+ meter peaks, including the illustrious K-2 and Nanga Parbat. Shigar is a mere 45-minute drive from Skardu airport. You may stay in any suitable hotel in Skradu city. For those arriving from Gilgit, a scenic five-hour car journey awaits. Helicopter travelers are greeted at the Shigar helipad and ushered to the residence with a flourish. You may explore, Safranga Cold Desert and Blind Lake (Andhi Jaheel) on the way to Shigar Fort.
Pleasures Abound: Experiences and Activities at Shigar Fort
While many sojourners are drawn to the Shigar Fort Residence for its aesthetic charm and serenity, an array of activities beckon in the vicinity. These encompass expeditions to the ancient Shigar Fort or trekking to the base camp of K-2, day hikes to remote valleys, and other points of interest, such as the Deosai plateau. Deosai National Park is the most famous plateau in Skradu.
Cultural enthusiasts can explore sites reflecting the unique amalgamation of Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic influences, including the captivating “Buddha Rocks” and the neighboring settlements of Khaplu, Kiris, and Kharmang. For a taste of the organic lifestyle, a short hike leads to the village of Nangasoq near Skardu.
Alternatively, unwind at the Chutron Hot Springs, a two-hour jaunt from Shigar. Polo aficionados can even partake in a match in the very birthplace of the sport, with assistance from the Residence’s attentive staff. Further, you can explore the Mantokha Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Pakistan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Shigar Fort
What is Shigar Fort? The Shigar Fort stands as a historical landmark and former palace nestled in the Shigar Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Constructed over four centuries ago by the Raja of Shigar, it has undergone recent refurbishment, now emerging as a luxurious hotel. Shigar valley is also called the land of K-2.
How can I access Shigar Fort? Shigar Fort is conveniently reachable by road from Skardu, which boasts the nearest airport. Public transportation and private vehicles offer alternative modes of arrival.
Is Shigar Fort open to the public? Indeed, Shigar Fort welcomes the public with open arms, serving as both a hotel and a tourist attraction. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the fort’s history, indulge in the opulent accommodations, and immerse themselves in the regional culture.
What amenities can one find at the Fort? Shigar Fort provide its guests with a plethora of amenities, including a restaurant that tantalizes taste buds with traditional and international fare, a rejuvenating spa, an enticing gift shop, and outdoor pursuits like hiking and trekking.
When is the best time to visit Shigar Fort? The most favorable time to experience Shigar Fort’s splendor is during the summer months, spanning from May to September, when the weather is temperate, and the environs are lush. However, the fort extends its welcome year-round, allowing visitors to savor its beauty in every season.
Can I arrange a tour of Shigar Fort? Indeed, it is possible to arrange a comprehensive tour of Shigar Fort through local tour operators or directly through the hotel. Guided tours offer deeper insights into the region’s history and culture.