Katpana Desert – The Famous Cold Desert in Pakistan

The world is full of surprises, and one such surprise awaits you in Pakistan. Imagine a desert that defies the typical expectations of scorching heat and sandy dunes. Welcome to the Katpana Desert, also known as the “desert of stars” and the cold desert. Brace yourself for a thrilling experience in this high-altitude wonderland, nestled near Skardu in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Let’s delve into the captivating world of the Katpana Desert with graana.com.


A Chilling Adventure

The Katpana Desert is your paradise for adventure enthusiasts. With its strong winds, clear blue skies, and white granules, this is one of the famous deserts in Pakistan. Imagine camping under a blanket of stars, serenaded by the whispering winds. The Katpana Desert offers an otherworldly experience that is bound to leave you awestruck.


Attractions, Timings & Locations


katpana desert


Located about 20 kilometres from the central city of Skardu, the Katpana Desert is a must-visit destination. The best time to explore this magical place is between June and September when the weather is pleasant and inviting.


Known by Many Names

The Katpana Desert is locally referred to as the “Cold Desert” due to its freezing temperatures. However, it is also known as the Katpana Desert, a name given to it by the Government of Pakistan. Another local name is “Biana Nakpo” or “Katpana Biana,” which means “black sand” in the local language. Each name encapsulates the unique beauty of this place.


The Perfect Time to Visit


katpana desert


While there’s no wrong time to experience this heaven-on-earth, many believe that the best time to witness the true beauty of the desert is during the summer, from June to September. During this season, the temperature remains around 8 degrees Celsius at night and rises to about 27 degrees during the day. Summers offer pleasant weather for exploring the desert, especially when you’re traversing the dunes. However, be sure to carry enough water and take breaks to stay hydrated.

On the other hand, winter paints the desert with an entirely different palette. The temperature plunges to a bone-chilling -25 degrees Celsius, making it a challenging season for tourists to explore this wonderland.


Unveiling the Weather


panoramic view of katpana desert


Just as the Katpana Desert is unique, so are its temperature and weather conditions. During the summer, the desert experiences slightly cold nights, perfect for exploring the vast expanse during the day. Temperatures usually range between 8-10 degrees Celsius.

However, in the winter months, the temperature plummets to a freezing -25 degrees Celsius. Exploring the desert in such low temperatures requires extra preparation and caution. This is why most tourists choose to visit during the summer season to enjoy the desert’s beauty comfortably.


The Pinnacle of Cold Deserts

Prepare to witness a natural marvel—the Katpana Desert holds the esteemed title of being the highest cold desert in the world. Situated at an average elevation of about 2226 metres above sea level, it surpasses other deserts in terms of height.

This distinction makes the Katpana Desert a favourite destination among the tourists. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore and relish the prestige of visiting the world’s highest cold desert.


Essential Gear for an Unforgettable Experience

To make the most of your journey to the Katpana Desert, ensure you pack the following gear:

  • Warm Clothes: Stay cosy and protected from the cold temperatures with layers of warm clothing.
  • Camping Essentials: If you’re planning to camp under the starry skies, bring along camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and cooking utensils.
  • Water Bottles: Stay hydrated during your desert adventure by carrying an ample supply of water.


Attractions at Katpana Desert

The Katpana Desert offers an array of attractions that will leave you awe-struck. Let’s explore the wonders that await you:

1. Large Sand Dunes

The Katpana Desert is renowned for its vast sand dunes. However, these dunes present a unique spectacle as they are adorned with white granules, unlike the typical yellow sand. These mesmerising dunes offer thrilling activities such as sandboarding and sledding. Alternatively, you can simply relax and marvel at the awe-inspiring views they provide.


2. Blackish Grey Giant Mountains


katpana desert with majestic mountains in the background


The majestic black and grey mountains that encircle the desert create an ethereal ambiance. They serve as a stunning backdrop, enhancing the beauty of the desert. Don’t miss the chance to trek up these mountains and immerse yourself in their awe-inspiring vistas. Capture these breathtaking moments with your camera and cherish them forever.


3. Water Stream


katpana desert lake


One of the Katpana Desert’s distinguishing features is the presence of a water stream called Katpana Lake. Katpana lake is one of the famous lakes in Pakistan. This stream provides fresh water to the desert and offers a cool respite during the scorching summer months.

Surrounded by snowy mountains, sandy dunes, and lush green grass, this lake is a significant tourist attraction in the northern region of Pakistan.  Take a moment to cool off and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of this oasis.


4. Green Meadows & Trees


trees at katpana desert


Contrary to typical desert landscapes, the Katpana Desert surprises visitors with its vibrant green meadows and lush trees. These picturesque areas provide the perfect spots to relax and soak in the desert’s beauty. The touch of green will soothe your eyes and create a refreshing ambiance in the cold desert, ensuring a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation.


5. Mesmerising View at Night

Prepare yourself for a surreal experience as night falls upon the desert. The sky becomes an enchanting canvas, adorned with a multitude of stars that seem tantalisingly close.

During the summer, when the skies are clear and the air is crisp, the Katpana Desert offers an unforgettable display of the night sky. Look up and witness the wonders of the Milky Way, immersing yourself in the vastness of the universe. These captivating moments will remain etched in your memory forever.


Things to Do at Katpana Desert

The Katpana Desert offers a plethora of exciting activities for you to enjoy during your visit. Prepare to embark on an adventure of a lifetime:


1. Walking on Sand

One of the most thrilling experiences in a desert is walking on the soft sand. To truly immerse yourself in the desert’s essence, take off your shoes and socks and feel the sand between your toes. Let the natural energy of the desert rejuvenate your spirit as you connect with the earth beneath your feet.


2. Camping




Experience the true essence of the Katpana Desert by camping amidst its majestic beauty. Embrace the glamping trend and set up your camp in this cold desert. Under the right weather conditions, illuminate your surroundings with lights or a cosy fire, adding a touch of elegance to your camping experience. Combine the luxuries of your daily life with the tranquillity of nature, creating a refuge that will rejuvenate your soul.

3. Star Gazing

The Katpana Desert is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Its high altitude and lack of light pollution provide the perfect conditions for witnessing the mesmerising night sky. Lie down on the soft sand, gaze upwards, and be captivated by the blanket of stars enveloping the desert. In the vastness of the universe, you’ll feel a sense of awe and wonder, reminding you of your place in the cosmos.


4. Cherry Picking


cherry tree with bunches of cherries


As you make your way to Skardu, you’ll encounter numerous cherry trees. If the cherries are ripe, seize the opportunity to have some fun picking these delicious fruits. Immerse yourself in the local experience, and if you’re travelling with a local, they’ll guide you in picking the cherries the right way. Enjoy the juicy sweetness of the cherries as you journey towards the desert, adding a flavorful touch to your adventure.


How to Reach the Katpana Desert

Reaching the Katpana Desert is relatively straightforward once you’ve arrived in Skardu. To begin your journey, you can either take a flight or use your own vehicle to reach Skardu. From the airport, it’s a short 30-minute drive to the desert, making it a convenient option.

If you prefer travelling by road, the route from Islamabad to Mansehra, Basham to Dasoo, and Chilas to Deosai will lead you to Skardu. From Skardu, it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the Katpana Desert. Sit back and enjoy the scenic drive, as you traverse beautiful mountain passes and soak in the natural splendour of the region.


Facilities at Katpana Desert

Katpana Desert offers a serene escape, it also provides essential facilities to make your stay comfortable. Here are some of the facilities available in the vicinity:


1. Restaurant

Near the Katpana Desert, you’ll find a restaurant named Katpana Hotel and Restaurant. Indulge in their delectable food, which is not only delicious but also reasonably priced. This is an excellent opportunity to savour the local cuisine of Skardu while enjoying the desert’s serene atmosphere. Other than this one you will find various other good restaurants and hotels in Skardu.


2. Glamp Pakistan

For those seeking a luxurious camping experience, Glamp Pakistan is the perfect choice. They offer a range of accommodations, including safari tents, wooden huts, and camps, providing all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. Immerse yourself in the lap of luxury while surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of the desert.


3. Wooden Hut

If you prefer an alternative to hotels and camps, Glamp Pakistan also offers cosy wooden huts for rent. These huts feature large windows, offering panoramic views of the desert at night. Enjoy the comfort and privacy of these huts while basking in the enchanting ambiance of the Katpana Desert.

Places to Visit Near Katpana Desert

While the Katpana Desert is a destination in itself, there are other remarkable places to explore in its surroundings. Here are a few notable attractions nearby:


1. Katpana Lake

Katpana Lake is a major tourist site in the vicinity of the Katpana Desert. This picturesque lake reflects the beauty of its surroundings, reminiscent of the nearby Satpara Lake. With its snowy mountains, dunes, and greenery, it offers a lively and vibrant scenery. Many visitors choose to set up camps near the lake during the daytime, immersing themselves in its natural splendour.


2. Shigar Fort


Shigar Fort


Located near the Katpana Desert in Skardu, the historical Shigar Fort is a must-visit attraction. This 400-year-old fort has been transformed into the luxurious Serena Shigar Fort Hotel, offering a unique blend of history and comfort. Immerse yourself in the Balti culture as you explore the fort’s 20 rooms, each a fine representation of traditional architecture. Indulge in the local Balti cuisine served here and create unforgettable memories.


3. Hashopi Garden


Hashopi Garden


Situated near Shigar Fort, Hashopi Garden covers an extensive area of approximately 100 acres. This renowned garden is known for its diverse flora and fauna, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. With its orchard-like ambiance, featuring plums, apricot, and apple trees, Hashopi Garden is a delightful attraction for visitors.


4. Sarfaranga Desert


a jeep rally at Sarfaranga Desert


The Sarfaranga Desert is a cold desert located a short 22-minute drive from the Katpana Desert. Situated at an elevation of 7500 feet, it is famous for hosting an annual jeep rally that attracts a large number of participants. Many travellers visit this desert as they make their way to Shigar. Take a detour and experience the unique allure of the Sarfaranga Desert.


5. Blind Lake/ Yarbatso Jheel


Blind Lake at shigar


On your journey towards Shigar valley, you’ll encounter the mesmerising Blind Lake, also known as Yarbatso, Zharba Tso, or Zharba Lake. This expansive lake is flanked by the Indus River on one side and the Shigar River on the other. It serves as a major water reservoir for the Shigar valley, showcasing the harmonious coexistence of water and desert landscapes.

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