A friend, Jacob and I cycled the Deosai National Park in late September 2018 from Astore through to Skardu. We both highly recommend that you visit the National Park. Though before you add the Deosai National Park to your cycle touring plans, note the following:
– The roads are extremely rough in sections
– You will be forced to push your bike at times but be patient, the whole experience is worth it
– Depending on the time of year there may be small streams to cross
– Deosai National Park is situated at an altitude exceeding 4000m. Ensure that you are well acclimatised and are familiar with altitude sickness symptoms and treatment.
– Weather patterns are unpredictable. The weather can change from glorious sunshine and blue skies to high winds and snow in minutes. Be sure to take sufficient clothing.
– Temperatures dropped to -8°C during the night
Telichi, KKH to Astore – 1 tough day
Astore to Chilim/Chilum – 1 day
Chilim/Chilum to Kala Pani – 4-5 Hours
Kala Pani to Bara Pani – 2 Hours
Bara Pani to Shatung – 2 Hours
Sharing to Skardu – 1 day
The approach from the Karakoram Highway to Astore was extremely tough. The road was relentlessly steep and in a poor condition. Small sections are under construction. There was two restaurants along the way but we didn’t spot anywhere to stay or anywhere worthy of camping. The roads in Astore are also very steep, we had to push our bikes through the village to reach our hotel.
We stayed at the Dreamland Hotel in Astore for 1500 RPs per night for two persons. This included Wi-Fi, a private bathroom and a warm shower.
Dreamland Hotel GPS: 35.355354, 74.860635
We explored the Rama Lake and surrounding area for a few days whilst staying in the Astore Valley. The road from Astore to Rama is not worth cycling. We hiked this road in 3 hours and later got a taxi ride to drop ourselves, bikes and equipment at the Rama campsite, located just past the PTDC Hotel for 1000 RPs.
Accommodation at Rama is a choice of camping for 500 RPs for two persons or we stayed with Ali and his family in the only building on the left, they have three guest rooms at 1000 RPs per night for two persons and can provide meals if requested.
Rama Campsite/Hotel GPS: 35.35199, 74.803797
Astore to Chilim
Astore to Chilim was a tough days ride but we were fatigued after hiking trails around the Rama Valley.
Chilim is a small, truck stop style village with a few restaurants who have rooms available, though these rooms were often nothing more than a mattress on the floor. We stayed in the Guest House on the left just before the entry point to the Deosai National Park, they asked for 3000 RPs per night for a triple room, we negotiated to 2500. We later learned that there was a more basic room with two mattresses on the floor for 1000 RPs per night. The National Park wardens run this guest house and allowed us to use their rudimentary kitchen facilities for free.
Deosai National Park Entry Point
GPS: 35.038178, 75.105274
Entry into the Deosai National Park is 1000RPs or 8 USD for foreigners. The road is tarmac for the first 12 km but there is a series of steep switch backs right from the start. The road climbs continuously to the official National Park welcome sign just before the Sheosar Lake, approximately 16 km from the entry. It then took approximately 90 minutes to reach Kala Pani.
GPS: 35.00428, 75.332613
Kala Pani has a ‘Camping Hotel’, you can rent a tent for between 2000 RPs to 3000 RPs, otherwise you can pitch your tent in a designated camping spot for free. Meals, drinks and snacks are available from the kitchen and there is a small mess tent with a table and chairs. Water bottled cam be filled from a tap near the kitchen. We used purification tablets just in case. Two squat toilets are located around the back of the stone building.
We also hiked to the top of the hill to the East of camp for great view over the Deosai plateau.
Note: A brown near was spotted across the river from the camp site during the night of our stay.
GPS: 35.0196, 75.414616
The ride to Bara Pani is uphill for the first 4 km and took just under 2 hours in total. This section of road was the worst and we were forced to push our bikes for sections. Bara Pani offers the same accommodation and facilities as Kala Pani. Apparently there is a higher chance of seeing Brown bears at Bara Pani.
Note: A brown bear was spotted close to the camp of the night we spent there.
GPS: 35.055635, 75.464658
The ride to Shatung was relatively easy going with a few sections where cycling wasn’t possible and we had to push. If you decide to spend the night at Shatung, you will need to pitch your own tent and provide your own food and water, the o ky place to refill is the river. There was no accommodation, however there was a vacant tent with mattress. This might be reserved for VIP tours. Though there is a toilet and because it was extremely windy the National Park wardens allowed us to shelter in the kitchen.
The ride from Shatung to Ali Malik took approximately 2 hours. Here there is a convenience store and a restaurant. The road conditions weren’t too bad however, soon after Ali Malik you hit a series of steep descending switch backs. It is quite impressive though the road isnpoor and mainly loose rock. 9 km after Ali Malik the road becomes tarmac though this is interspersed with gravel and loose rock for the next 6 km or so.
There is one hotel in Sadpara, Gateway Hotel on your right as you pass through the Police Check Post. We stayed here for one night 1000 RPs for two persons. They provided a bucket of hot water to wash and run a restaurant at the hotel.
Gateway Hotel GPS: 35.192102, 75.624651
In Skardu there is plenty of choice for acommodation at the bazaar and an excellent, good value restaurant called the City Inn Restaurant that I highly recommend. It is located on the main road through the bazaar above the MCB Bank. They serve large portions and unlimited roti. Typically daal and mixed vegetables were 150 RPs each, tea is 20 RPs.
City Inn Restaurant GPS: 35.299713, 75.634197