The Karakoram Highway (often abbreviated to KKH and sometimes transliterated as Karakorum) runs between Western China and Pakistan (through disputed Kashmir). It is one of the very few routes that cross the Himalayas and the most westerly of them. Following the KKH is considered to be one of the classic journeys of the travel world, it is also the highest international road in the World.
Historically, this was a caravan trail, one branch of the ancient Silk Road. More recently, the Chinese and Pakistani governments have built a highway.
It is the highest border crossing in the world, over 4800 meters (roughly 16,000 feet) in the Khunjerab Pass at the border. For comparison, Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, is 4810 m and Mount Whitney, the highest point in the 48 contiguous United States, is 4421.
It may be the ultimate challenge for the devoted cyclist. There are organised bicycle tours, and several books about bicycling this route. Unfortunately the border is not open for cyclists. Everybody has to board the bus in either Tashkurgan (China) or Sost (Pakistan). From the Pakistani side you CAN cycle up to the pass, but not over it. You will have to return to Sost to take the bus.
Choose your time carefully. The highway is open around the year, though the tourist time is usually from May till November. Its a tough terrain and expect landslides during rainy season. Road condition is very good as the governments of Pakistan and China have reconstructed the highway. It is not advisable to take cars, 4x4 is preferred but a Van / coaster would serve the purpose. Besham is the start of Kohsitan which is famous for its ruggedness and stubbornness. It is highly advisable to limit your stay and keep going preferably during day time. Kohistan borders Baltistan which is relatively safe. Main town to stay overnight is Chillas.
The KKH section from Besham to Gilgit is dry and warm. In summers, the temperature may go as high as 40 Celcius (Chillas is known as Sibi of Baltistan). Keep yourself well hydrated.
As of July 2013, there are two police checkpoints along the highway in China; for those leaving Kashgar, the smaller one is before Karakol Lake, and a larger one before Tashkurgan. These may slow down your journey significantly if there are many cars and trucks.
The Pakistani section of the highway officially starts from Hasan Abdal, 60 kms from Islamabad. Chinese section starts from Kashgar, a major city in Xinjiang Autonomous Region , 1479 kms from Urumqi.
The highway passes the Hunza Valley The Hunza was the original Shangri La that inspired the novel (and later movie). Hunza is known for its orchards, moderate Islam, welcoming hospitality and beautiful scenery.
From Kashgar in China, the list of towns and travel time from previous town are:
- Kashgar - Tashkurgan - 8 hour
- Tashkurgan - Sost - 6 hours
- Sost to Passu - 1 hour
- Passu to Karimabad - unknown (need to cross lake by ferry)
- Karimabad to Gilgit - 2 to 3 hours
- Gilgit to Chillas - 4 - 5 hours
- Dasu - 3-4 hours
- Dasu to Besham - 3-4 hours
- Besham to Abbottabad - 4 hours
- Hassan Abdal - 2 - 3 hours
- Baltit & Altit Forts
- Uprising Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the people of Kashmir Valley who rose against Maharaja in 1947. It includes the graves of the local heroes, Mohammed Babar Khan and Safiullah Beg of the Gilgit Scouts, and Mirza Hassan Khan of the Kashmir Infantry.
- Ganish Village: The Village has been recenly restored and had already won a UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award. Located in Hunza, Ganish shows traditional Hunza life. It includes several richly carved wooden mosques, 100 to 200 years old. Near to Ganish Village is Gulmit which is popular for Hunza's Mir Palace, a Cultural Museum and Marco Polo cafe. Also see Sacred Rocks of Hunza.
- Channel Walk: A three- or four-hour walk along the main water channels from Ultar Nala is a good way to see Hunza at its best. Try to avoid the delicate side channels.
- Queen Victoria Monument: The Queen Victoria Monument at the top of the rock face behind Karimabad can be reached in an hour from Baltit.
- Ashoka Rocks: On the north side of town is Mansehra's tourist attraction, three granite boulders on which 14 edicts were engraved by order of the Mauryan king Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.
- Italian K2 Museum: Located at PTDC K2 Motel, the museum was setup in 2004 to commemorate Italian expedition of K2 in 1954.
- Kharpochu Fort
- Shigar Fort
- Khaplu Palace
- Hunza Baltit inn, Hunza_Valley, . edit
- PTDC Motel, Hunza, . edit
- Marco Polo inn, Gulmit Village in Hunza Valley (Along Karakoram Highway), . checkout: 12 noon. The Gulmit museum, full of traditional ethnic artifacts is part of the Marco Polo Inn. edit
- Gulmit Continental Hotel (hotel), Gulmit Jojap Upper Hunza (Hunza), . Gulmit Continental Hotel nestles in an Amphitheater of peaks, located in the heart of the beautiful Gulmit valley which is perched on 2500 meters high above sea level. Only 140 KM from Gilgit and 50 meters from the legendary Silk Route it is conveniently accessible edit
Hunza is one of the most peaceful region in Pakistan so the travellers do not need to worry about the security there, you are free to go anywhere, Just avoid drinking the tap water use mineral water, If you are in upper Hunza (Gojal)then you can drink the tap water, its clear and it comes directly from the spring!