The Karakoram Highway is known as the Ninth Wonder of the World. Although built primarily to connect China and Pakistan, the structure is also attracting adventurers and tourists.
The highway links Pakistan and China by way of the Karakoram mountain range through the Khunjerab Pass. It links the Gilgit-Baltistan of Kashmir to the Silk Road. It goes from Kashgar, Xinjiang in China to Abbottabad, Pakistan.
What to See
The highway provides access to many lakes, glaciers and mountains in the region. From there you can go to Skardu and Gilgit via Islamabad.
The road serves as the pathway for explorations of the Gilgit-Baltistan and Xinjiang peaks. The Baltoro Glacier is accessible from here. Other glaciers that can be accessed are the Khunjerab, Ghulkin, Passu and Minapin glaciers.
Several mountains higher than 8,000 meters in Pakistan can be viewed from the Karakoram Highway. Some of the mountains you can access are Nanga Parbat, Rakaposhi, Diran and Ultar Peak.
There are 50,000 pieces of petroglyph and rock art by the highway. Most are between Shatial and Hunza. These have been left behind by locals, pilgrims and traders.
The oldest are from 5000 BC and 1000 BC. These showcase hunting scenes, animals and men. Stone tools were used to etch the carvings into the rock. The patina covering helps in determining their age.
Also referred to as the Friendship Highway, the structure was constructed by the Pakistani and Chinese governments beginning in 1959. It was finished in 1986.
The Pakistani part was constructed by the Frontier Works Organisation. There is an extension of the road southwest off Abbottabad. Called the N-35, it joins the Grand Trunk Road in Hassanabdal.
Bus fares are dependent on the distance to be traveled. Short trips will cost about 150 Rs. Long distance trips will often require advance bookings. Depending on the bus company, the rate can be from 180 Rs up to 700 Rs.
The length of the highway is 1,300 km (800 mi). The length is 494 km (307 mi) in China and 806 km (501 mi) in Pakistan. At the Khunjerab Pass, the height is 4,693 m/15,397 ft.
The Karakoram Highway is also the gateway to some lakes and rivers. These include the rivers of Khunjerab, Gilgit, Hunza and Indus. Lake Karakul in Xinjiang can also be accessed from the highway. The best time to visit the place is early fall or spring.