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Skardu – an ideal destination for your Grad Trip

Skardu – an ideal destination for your Grad Trip

By Noor Tariq

With the new roads developed by FWO, the way from Islamabad to Skardu is a lot less dangerous compared to what it was before. The total travel time is almost 13.5 hours.

 

We set out to experience these new roads ourselves for our grad trip.

 

The journey begins from Islamabad, getting onto the Srinagar Highway, then M-1 and then Hazara Motorway/N-15.

 

After travelling for 5 hours, we made a stop at Besham Ramada Hotel for breakfast. Here, you can see the Indus River passing right across the hotel. The area is not very populated, so it’s a good place to relax. The food was okay- but the tea, it was fantastic! We only made a stop for breakfast but the hotel offers rooms as well. They, too, were decent.

 

After breakfast, we continued our journey for Chillas, which is where we were going to stay overnight. This is about 9 hours from Islamabad, and 5.5 hours from Besham.

 

We made two stops during our expedition to Chilas; one at the rainbow waterfall and the other at the newly built Diamer-Basha Dam.

 

Leaving early around 7 am was a good decision because the unexpected land-sliding on the way consumed much of our time, as did the much needed stops we had to take in between, to stretch a bit and of course, give the driver a break.

 

We reached Chilas around 7-8 pm. This place is known to be unsafe for the locals, due to the Shia-Sunni conflicts that take place here. However, we faced no such trouble.

 

We checked in at the Grace Continental Hotel & Restaurant for the night. The food here was great. The rooms were decent. They even had wifi available, was not the fastest, but we made do with what we got.

Tip: take your own towels and bedsheets if you’re very picky about hygiene.

The hotel also offered a nice outdoor area with chairs and tables to sit and enjoy the cold weather.

 

After a good nights sleep, we left for Skardu early morning after having breakfast at the hotel. Everyone was pretty tired from the travel yesterday, but we were also super excited to finally reach Skardu.

 

Our initial route that had to pass through Babusar top was closed due to snowfall. This made our journey longer than it was meant to be. We travelled through the Karakoram Highway as well. The route wasn’t dangerous at all, which was a huge sigh of relief.

 

We had lunch at a small restaurant (dhaba) next to Astak Nala, which was 3 hours from Grace Continental Hotel. There were small tuck shops here as well, if anybody wanted to buy snacks for the remaining journey.

 

From here on, throughout the journey we made small stops at roadside cafes for tea. The breeze got colder and colder as we neared our destination.

 

On our way, we also stopped at TattaPani, famous for hot spring water that comes from the side of Sukari River.

 

NangaParbat View Point was another place we stopped at to admire the unreal beauty that was standing before us.

 

From here, we decided to travel towards Gilgit where we took a 2.5 hour stop. We visited The Cherry Tree Cafe for lunch. It’s a beautiful, very cozy little setup run by a couple from Lahore. The food here was close to what you get at restaurants in Islamabad. Everything tasted divine – exactly what we needed after a very long and tiring journey.

 

Finally, around 7 pm we reached Skardu. The temperature dropped below 0 degrees here. The windows were all fogged up. It was hard to see outside but we reached our destination, Skardu View Point Hotel, safe and sound.

 

This hotel offers single rooms that can easily be shared by 3 people each. It also offers 4 huts, which have 2 rooms, a lounge and a kitchen each – ideal for students on a grad trip or families staying together.

 

However, the food and hygiene here was slightly below average. Despite there being instant geysers in all bathrooms, hot water was unavailable. The hotel staff was accommodating enough to get water from the boiler in buckets for us though. The internet barely worked here. Electricity was also supplied through generators for the most part, so our nights were spent without any electricity and the days weren’t spent in the hotel anyways.

No proper heating was available either. A cylinder with an attachment on top was our only source of heating inside the huts. We were charged 500 per day for these.

 

However, despite all these issues we faced, the stay at the hotel was worth it because of the company we had.

 

As they say, humans, not places, make memories.