Karakoram Highway: The Highest Paved International Road and Eighth Wonder of the World
The Karakoram Highway (known informally as the KKH) is said to be the highest paved international road in the world running between Western China and Pakistan. It's the road to paradise if you like exploring the mountains. It’s once in a lifetime road trip for adventure lovers.
How long is the Karakoram Highway?
The two-way road (known as Karakorum Highway and China-Pakistan Friendship Highway) is 1.300km (810 mi) long (Pakistan: 887 km (551 mi) and China: 413 km (257 mi), running through disputed Kashmir from Hassan Abdal (a small town near Rawalpindi and Islamabad) to Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, Western China.
Is the Karakoram Highway open?
The road is open all year except for the Khunjerab Pass, a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.693m (15,397ft) above the sea level, open only between 1 May and 31 December due to heavy snow. 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. Drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves and dangerous drop offs.
When was the Karakoram Highway built?
The road is one of the scariest and hair raising jeep trips in the world. Construction of the road started in 1959 and opened to the public in 1986 after 27 years of corded drilling and construction. 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway.
Is the Karakoram Highway being improved?
Traveling here isn't for the faint hearted, although transportation has improved significantly in the past decades. Some sections must be cleared and repaired regularly. Sometimes, they need to be rebuilt when parts of the road disappeared. According to China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the road is going to be improved the next years: 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. Owing largely to the extremely sensitive state of the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan, the Karakoram highway has strategic and military importance. In 2010, a part of the road was submerged due to a landslide in the Hunza Valley. In 2015, the damaged road was replaced with the construction of a masterpiece known as Attabad Lake tunnel. It is a series of 5 tunnels nestled at 2.500m above the sea level. The new built section is 24 km (15 mi) long and comprise two bridges, 78 culverts and five tunnels with a total length of 7km at the cost of $275 million.
Is the Karakoram Highway dangerous?
The highest paved international road on the planet doesn't come without its dangers. It is battered by stones, rockfall, floods and earthquakes. Use this stone calculator to estimate bulk material weight. Some say it is one of the scariest roads in the world. The drive is not easy. Not advisable to take cars, 4x4 is preferred. Do not attempt this road with a car that does not perform well in the elements. The road is extremely treacherous and requires a vehicle that can hold its own against some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world. Drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves and potential steep falls of hundreds of metres on the left side and a very unstable mountain with high risk of rockfalls, especially when raining, on the right side. With absolutely no barrier on one side, and shear rock wall on the other, the margin of driver error is fairly slim. To make matters worse, the area is prone to floods and landslides. You might want to take this into consideration to having a good winch rope if you have passengers that don't like heights. The road is so narrow in parts that only one vehicle can pass at a time, while the other waits on the very narrow edge of the road.
Is the Karakoram Highway worth it?
It is one of the ultimate travel destinations. The drive offers stunning views and serves as a popular tourist attraction. Tracing one of the many pathways of the ancient Silk Road, it’s a high mountain road running through the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush ranges. It’s best travelled in the spring or early autumn. While the incredible views of K2 you see along the way make it a popular tourist route, the 800-mile highway is a nightmare for people who are prone to altitude sickness. The drive can be an incredible journey, as long as you take the necessary precautions and heed weather warnings.
Is Karakoram Highway a wonder of the world?
As a marvel of civil engineering, it’s said to be 'Eighth Wonder of the World' due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed. The road features scary moments as well as awe inspiring scenery. Traveling the road proved a massive challenge and also a great adventure. The KKH runs through the highest concentration of soaring mountain peaks and raging rivers in the world, and is generally considered to be among the most spectacular areas on our planet. It’s the most famous road in the Himalayas and perfect for those who like adventure.
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