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Karakoram Highway Travel Guide 2022-23

Everything you need to know before start traveling along the Karakoram Highway, transportation, accommodation, safety, visas, and anything else that you will need. We have includes a detailed two-week trip itinerary along the Karakoram Highway from Islamabad Pakistan to Kashgar China.

Stretching over 1300 kilometers between Pakistan and China and topping out at 4733 meters above sea level the Karakoram Highway is the highest paved road in the world and a once-in-a-lifetime road trip for adventure lovers.

The Karakoram Highway is one of our favorite trip itineraries in Pakistan along the Karakoram highway you get to see massive 7000 meters above peaks, beautiful blue lakes and meet some of the most hospitable people on our planet.

The Karakoram Highway travel guide will explain everything you need to know to plan your Karakoram Highway trip. Let’s get right into it.

What is the Karakoram Highway:

While there has been trading between Pakistan and China through the Silk Road for centuries construction of the modern-day Karakoram Highway wasn’t completed until 1979 and the highway wasn’t opened to the public until 1985.

The highway begins in Abbottabad Pakistan and travels 1300 kilometers through the Karakoram highway to Kashgar in China. Its highest point is the Khunjerab Pass which also happens to be the international border crossing between Pakistan and China.

Karakoram Highway is a marvel of civil engineering the Karakoram Highway is often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

When to travel the Karakoram Highway:

Karakoram Highway trip in the winter season is more adventurous the Karakoram Highway is fully covered with snow throughout the whole winter season. The Khunjerab Pass remains completely closed to all traffic between November till March of every year due to snow accumulation.

You could visit the Pakistan side of the Karakoram Highway in the winter it will be pretty cold and traveling might be difficult if there’s bad weather.

Spring and Autumn Fall are the perfect times to travel the Karakoram Highway – temperatures at lower elevations aren’t too hot in the mountains it won’t be too cold. In the spring you will get to see a ton of cherry blossom trees in Northern Pakistan, and in autumn fall the entire trip will be through beautiful golden-colored trees.

Summer is also a good time to travel the Karakoram Highway although it will be a bit busier with domestic tourists trying to escape the summer heat by heading to the mountains.

Things to Know before you start the Karakoram Highway Trip:

Internet access isn’t great staying connected with your family and friends. Along the Karakoram Highway is a bit of a challenge. You will need a Scom Sim card which you can purchase and use the 4G internet throughout the Karakoram Highway. The hotels along the Karakoram Highway offer wifi. In China, you will get reception everywhere but you won’t be able to purchase a Sim card in Xinjiang as a foreign tourist, so you will need to rely on the wifi at your accommodation.

Be aware of the High Altitude:

Due to the extreme altitudes along the kkh developing acute mountain sickness is possible if you travel too quickly. Our trip itinerary will take things slow enough to allow you to acclimatize properly so don’t worry about this too much. Stay hydrated and get proper rest during your trip.

  • How long does it Take:

You can easily travel the Karakoram Highway in just a couple of days you wouldn’t get to see much along the way. We will suggest that a minimum of 10 days is required for an enjoyable trip but we will recommend 14 days to make the best of this bucket-list destination.

  • Plan your visas in Advance:

You will likely need a visa for both Pakistan and China be sure to sort those out ahead of time. Pakistan now has an e-visa system making things a lot easier than they used to be and the Chinese visa process is pretty well documented elsewhere on the internet.

  •  ATMs are not always available:

We will recommend withdrawing as much cash as you think you will need in Islamabad (and a bit extra to be safe). It’s not easy to use international cards to withdraw cash in the Northern Areas of Pakistan some ATM only accepts International cards but most of them not.  In Tashkurgan and Kashgar there are ATM machines. You can carry some USD as it is exchangeable almost everywhere.

Two Week Karakoram Highway Itinerary:

  • Islamabad:

Start off your Karakoram Highway adventure in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad.

When you are in Islamabad be sure to pay a visit to the incredible Faisal Mosque, Pakistan Monument, Saidpur village, and Damen Koh.

  • Fairy Meadows:

Fairy Meadows is certainly one of the must-see sights in Pakistan. It’s a stunning alpine meadow located at the base of Nanga Parbat the world’s 9th highest peak (8,126 m) in World and the second highest peak in Pakistan.

It’s easy to get to Fairy Meadows from Chilas and with two nights there you will be able to catch some awesome views of Nanga Parbat and enjoy the crisp mountain air.

  • Gilgit:

After taking in the mountains at Fairy Meadows, it’s back down to Gilgit to rest for a night before heading further up the Karakoram Highway.

  • Minapin and Rakaposhi Base Camp:

Minapin is a quaint little town located at the base of Rakaposhi (7,788 m). The visit to Minapin is to embark on the awesome day hike to Rakaposhi base camp. Start early on your second day in town and you will be up at base camp by lunch. This is one of our favorite hikes you start in a leafy town and are surrounded by massive glaciers in just a few hours.

  • Karimabad:

Karimabad is the most popular town to visit in Hunza Valley. Along the Karakoram Highway till Khunjerab Pass can be considered part of Hunza Valley. Karimabad is referred to as Lower Hunza, and the next stop on this itinerary is part of the Upper Hunza Valley. Karimabad offers some of the most beautiful views you will ever view of Rakaposhi, Diran, Ultar Peak, and Ladyfinger.

  • Attabad Lake:

During your trip from Karimabad to Gulmit, you will stop off at Attabad Lake for boating and photography. It’s a beautiful blue lake located on the Karakoram Highway.

The Karakoram Highway was re-routed around the lake using a series of tunnels and locals offer boat rides to tourists in Attabad Lake.

  • Gulmit Upper Hunza Valley:

Gulmit is one of the most stunning places Gulmit is a town located directly on the Karakoram Highway and is surrounded by some of the most unique mountains in the world.

The Passu Cathedral ut is a massive collection of jagged peaks topping out at 6,106 meters above sea level. It looks absolutely unreal at sunset.

There are quite a few day hikes that are possible from Gulmit such as the one to the Borith Lake or to the Hussaini bridges. We will recommend doing the Hussaini to Passu bridge hike it takes about three hours and isn’t too difficult except for the scary bridge crossings.

  • Tashkurgan China:

Tashkurgan is an interesting place to spend a night. It’s a small city by Chinese standards but will be the largest town you have been in since you left Gilgit.

  • Kashgar China:

Kashgar was once upon a time one of the most important cities along the Silk Road. Nowadays, few of its historical sights remain. Kashgar is an interesting city for a couple of days to mark the end of your Karakoram Highway journey.

In Kashgar, you can visit Id Kah Mosque and wander around its recently ‘restored’ old town. When you will be there on a Sunday you can visit the famous Kashgar Sunday livestock market.




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