The Karakoram Highway (known informally as the KKH) is said to be the highest paved international road in the world. It's the road to paradise – if you like exploring the mountains, that is. It's regarded as one of the world's hardest alpine climbs. Drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves and dangerous dropoffs. You might want to take this into consideration if you have passengers that don't like heights.
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. 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 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 corded drilling and construction.
The road is mostly asphalted. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice. The highest paved international road on the planet doesn't come without its dangers. The road is extremely treacherous and requires a vehicle that can hold its own against some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road. 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. 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.
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. Owing largely to the extremely sensitive state of the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan, the Karakoram highway has strategic and military importance.
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. Traveling the road proved a massive challenge and also a great adventure.
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.
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.
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. 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. Traveling here isn't for the faint hearted, although transportation has improved significantly in the past decades.