Many refer to the Karakoram Highway as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and while this claim might raise some eyebrows, it is easy to understand why. This highway is the highest paved international road in the whole world, connecting the exotic locales of China and Pakistan in the famed Karakoram mountain range. This highway is also perfect for the ultimate adventurer—imagine driving along what was once part of the Silk Road, in the shadow of the majestic Himalayas.
However, the Karakoram Highway is definitely not for the faint-hearted—although built in the modern times, the road can be extremely tricky because of its high elevation. The highway is closed for half the year, because driving conditions can be extremely dangerous. However, if you choose to go on the good months, you will be rewarded by unforgettable vistas you would not see anywhere else in the world.
Most mountaineers, cyclists, and motorists choose to start their Karakoram Highway adventure in Gilgit, Pakistan and end the journey in Kashgar, China. You can go either way, but make sure to leave a lot of time in your itinerary for hiking and exploring the breathtaking landscapes you will encounter along the way.
What to See
You can find the famed Shangri-La in this drive—the Hunza Valley was the original location that inspired both the popular novel and movie. This exquisite valley offers spectacular orchards and Himalayan scenery, which is complemented by the hospitality and friendliness of the locals.
The amount of mountain peaks and glaciers that you can see in the Karakoram Hghway are just staggering. The Nanga Parbat in Gilgit is one of the highest mountains in the world, and if you choose to begin your journey in Pakistan, you will be seeing a lot of it even in the first minutes of your drive. The Minapin, Ghulkin, Passu, and Khunjerab Glaciers are also natural wonders to watch out for.
Rivers and lakes also cut through the beautiful scenery that you will witness outside your window—the Hunza, Gilgit, Khunjerab, and Indus Rivers are ribbons of water cutting through the mountain landscape, and the Karakul Lake in Xinjiang is truly a wonder to behold.
Other sites to watch out for: the Channel Walk in Ultar Nala (best vantage point to see the majesty of the Hunza Valley), the forts of Altit and Baltit, the recently restored Ganish Village, the Ashoka Rocks, Fort Kharpochu, and the Khaplu Palace.
The Karakoram Highway is perhaps the best drive in Asia—just imagine the wonder that you will experience while driving in the shadows of the snow-capped Himalayas! This trip is perfect for those who love the great outdoors, but if you are not too keen on camping, there are plenty of inns in the Hunza Valley that will give you a good night’s rest and a chance to interact with the locals.
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|Start Point:||Gilgit, Pakistani or Kashgar, Chinese||Distance:||800 miles (1,300 kilometers)|
|End Point:||Kashgar, China or Hasan Abdal, Pakistan||Estimated Days:||14 or more|