Karakoram Highway Travel Tips

The total distance of Karakoram Highway is 1300km which links to Hasan Abdal, just beyond Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, to Kashgar, China’s Xinjiang Province second biggest city. As it’s one of the planets highest motor able roads, many people call the Karakoram Highway the “8th Wonder of the World”. It has stunning mountainous scenery, boasting peaks that are rarely smaller than 7,000mt; mind-boggling high-altitude desert scenery; and some of the friendliest people found in Pakistan. 

It is the world's greatest road and one of the highest in the world with the highest point (Khunjerab Pass) at 4,880 m above sea level. Along both sides of the road, you will constantly be bombarded with unobstructed views of the stunning valleys and colossal mountains such as Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi throughout the 800+ km stretch.


Best time to Karakoram Highway

Karakoram Highway is one of the highest international highways in the world with the highest point of 4,880m and some parts of this highway are often closed off during winter due to snow. Planning on when to go is essential if you want to travel the entire highway and so I would recommend visiting during the months of May to October.


Securities, Checkpoint and Police

Karakoram highway is very safe regarding security. Travelers on the Karakoram Highway and in Gilgit-Baltistan in general used to draw the attention of ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) and there were apparently a lot of checkpoints, and you could end up traveling with an armed escort in some areas. This doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore and foreigners can roam around freely. We needed about 8 copies of our passports and visas for the long bus trip from Gilgit down to Islamabad, but that was it – we didn’t even have to get out of the bus at the checkpoints. Also, the route the bus runs from Gilgit down has been changed and now avoids a couple of areas where there were known to be some problems in the past.

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There is tourist infrastructure in many areas in Pakistan, but it’s definitely not like that which you find in neighboring countries (not as built-up, comfortable, backpacker-oriented, etc – so much the better, honestly). There is not exactly tons of tourism in Pakistan and most of what there is seems to be concentrated in the mountains. Do not expect a travelers’ scene: there isn’t really one. The hostel-concept doesn’t really exist, apart from maybe Lahore Backpackers, but there are lots of nice friendly guesthouses.

Keep in mind that electricity goes on and off consistently. Have a flashlight handy at night. Many hotels and guesthouses in the main towns on the highway have Wi-Fi. But have patience, because the Wi-Fi will probably not be fast or reliable, or in many cases usable at all. You can of course buy a local SIM card and use data on the road.


An Epic View of K2

Northern Pakistan has the most beautiful and mightiest mountains on earth. From the forbidding heights of the five peaks which are over 8000m, to the dozens that are over 7000m high, all have one thing in common, they are majestic, mystical and magical, and K-2 the king of the Karakorum is the second highest peak in the world at 8611m. The undistinguished name of K-2 gives no indication of the majestic and difficult nature of the peak. Reinhold Messner, the first climber to ascend all 14 of the 8000m (260000 ft) summits, gave it the undoubtful accolade of being more difficult than peak. The facts undoubtedly bear this out in the years since its first ascent, K-2 has a fascinating history, perhaps even more so then Everest. He name K-2 arose when, in 1856, Captain T.G Montgomeric of the British survey of India saw this peak and the surrounding once from a distance of 180km (120 miles). He named the peaks according to their apparent height. K-1 (K for Karakoram), k-2 and so on. (Masherbrum was accorded the name K-1, as it seemed to be higher than chogori, or K-2.

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