Lowari Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.118 m (10,230 ft) above the sea level, located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The road over the pass, called N45, is one of the famous hairpinned roads in the world. It’s said to be the grand daddy of the passes.
The road over the pass links Dir and Chitral, and winds its way through the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The road is known among locals as Hell's Road. It was built by the British and is a road where even the slightest error can be fatal. The pass is closed by snow from late November to late May every year.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. The pass, also known as Lawari, Lawarai or Lowari Top is a relatively low pass, by far the lowest pass to enter Chitral, the rest all being 12,000 to 15,000 feet.
The road is winding, in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Despite being shown as being paved according to some maps, it turns to very rough dirt as soon as the steep incline begins, and stays that way until Dir (pronounced deer) around 40km later.
Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s a narrow road with plenty of hairpin bends all through the way. It’s an extreme road with many close turns on the road. The road wins up the cliffs of over 10,000 feet. There are plenty of dirt switchbacks.
Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. In winter, 4wd vehicles cannot cross the passso men must travel by foot. This is dangerous, as there are high mountains on each side of Lowari Top, and a deadly avalanche can come at any moment without warning. Every winter a few persons are killed by avalanches while crossing Lowari Top. Their bodies are buried under the snow and it is only when the summer comes and the snow melts that their bodies are found and their fate learned.
The most dangerous part of the road, a narrow stretch along the edge of cliffs was replaced by a tunnel called the Lowari Tunnel in 2009. But the tunnel was abandoned shortly thereafter and has since fallen into disrepair. It’s beautiful but it’s like in The beauty and the beast. You never really know what’s gonna happen. Truckers on the pass leave life on the edge, literally.
This twisting turning nightmare of a road is packed with heavily loaded trucks. Driving trucks across this pass is the only way these remote villagers can make a living. Steep, narrow and extremely dangerous. Some drivers turn to drugs to take the edge of the fear.
On July 2017, a tunnel was built to bypass the most dangerous sections of the drive. Construction started in September 1975. The tunnel is 8.75km (5.4 mi) + 2km (1.2 mi) long and facilitates all-weather transportation, as during the long winter season the pass is closed. All kinds of vehicular traffic can pass in the tunnels (with 24 feet width and 16 feet height). It can be open 24 hours, even in harsh winter season with a speed limit of 40 kilometers.