The Karakoram Highway (known informally as the KKH) is said to be the highest paved international road in the world, but at its peak at the China-Pakistan border it is only paved on the Chinese side. The road has a length of 1,300 km (800 mi): Pakistan: 887 km (551 mi) and China: 413 km (257 mi). it was started in 1959 and was completed in 1986 after 27 years of construction.
The Karakorum Highway connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an elevation of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft) above the sea level. The road is one of the scariest and hair raising jeep trip in the world.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. A quick glance at the map, at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. The drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera! 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway. The route of the KKH traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road.
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection; large stretches should be taken at a snail's pace and a lookout kept for vehicles coming from the opposite direction! Owing largely to the extremely sensitive state of the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan, the Karakoram highway has strategic and military importance.
Portions of the road may be temporarily closed due to road work or inclement weather. Heavy or prolonged rain can cause local flash floods that cover the road with water or wash out culverts or bridges. According to China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the width of the highway will be expanded from 10 metres to 30 metres, and its transport capacity will be increased three times. As well, the upgraded road will be constructed to particularly accommodate heavy-laden vehicles and extreme weather conditions.
Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trop on this road. Due to the remoteness of the area, take special care to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the trip: inspect all tires and make sure they are properly inflated, check all vehicle fluids, replace worn hoses and belts, empty your RV's holding tank and fill the water tank, purchase groceries and supplies. For the vehicle, bring at least two full-sized spare tires mounted on rims, tire jack and tools for flat tires, emergency flares, extra gasoline, motor oil, and wiper fluid and a radio.
Due its climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and pass through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. Check weather forecasts before leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more prone to storms at higher elevations. The KKH is best travelled in the spring or early autumn. Heavy snow during harsh winters can shut the highway down for extended periods. Heavy monsoon rains, around July and August, cause occasional landslides that can block the road for hours or more. Be prepared with jackets, water, and emergency kit in your car.
The border crossing between China and Pakistan at Khunjerab Pass is open only between May 1 and December 31 of every year. But it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area.
There are some important rules for these kind of roads: big trucks have the right of way, always drive with your headlights on so others can see you, keep your headlights and taillights clean so they are visible, stay on the right side of the road, don't stop on bridges or hills, check your rear-view mirror regularly, especially before stopping, if you spot wildlife, pull over to a safe spot to park and slow down when passing other vehicles (especially bicyclists and motorcyclists) to lessen the chances of hitting them with mud or flying rocks from your tires.
It’s a very steep mountain road climbing up one side of the mountain of a very deep gorge. The road connects China's Xinjiang region with Pakistan's Gilgit–Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions and serves as a popular tourist attraction and is very narrow, enough only for one jeep. When another jeep is coming from the other direction, the drivers need to find a wide enough area where the two jeeps can fit at the same time. And one jeep is going to be really close to the edge of the road. The road is built only with stones, they haven’t used any concrete and it’s open only during the summer time. On the left side there is a very steep fall of some hundreds meters. On the right side there is very an unstable mountain with high risk of rockfalls, especially when raining.
The unpaved sections of the road can be impassable when wet. In any case, driving 4WD is recommended due to uneven surface. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and can easily get muddy if it rains making it challenging to get through. The road bad conditions, with extremely large pot holes could potentially pop a tire, crack a rim, or screw up your cars allignment.
Although it can be a reasonably easy drive in favourable conditions it also has the potential to be a very difficult track and at times impassable after wet weather. It is very important to check rainfall in this area before setting off and make sure you are well prepared for the trip.