The Karakoram Highway, also dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, is one of the most famous roads to travel in Pakistan if you’re an adventure lover looking for a thrill
The Karakoram Highway in Pakistan is one of the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century. The highway officially starts from Abbottabad, a city that is famous for anything but the Karakoram Highway in recent years.
As you start your journey towards Gilgit from Abbottabad (it is the transportation hub on the Karakoram Highway), you would first be greeted by military checkpoints and then by potholes, loose gravel, mud, water, broken pavement and wobbly rocks. However, once you reach Gilgit you are guaranteed to stop for at least one night. It’s from Gilgit that you will have to arrange transportation to go ahead. Moreover, Gilgit is also the only place in Northern Pakistan with ATMs.
The road from Gilgit to Hunza Valley is nice and smooth with great mountain view all the time. While on the way, you will first cross Aliabad, the main town in Hunza Valley, and then reach Karimabad, after another 15-20 minutes drive. Karimabad, often referred to as the last Shangrila, offers one of the best views in the world, which includes 360-degree view of mountains, two Unesco sites and extremely welcoming people.
Once in Hunza Valley, the best thing to do is to climb some of the hills surrounding the valley, meet the locals and hike up to the Eagle Nest restaurant and hotel. Located on one of the high hill overlooking the valley, it’s a tiring two hour walk to the restaurant. Enjoy the sunset while you’re having a nice dinner.
While waking up among the fresh air of the hills sounds healthy, this should not stop you from moving ahead. Your next stop is Attabad Lake, which is just about an hour north of Karimabad. This lake, formed in 2010 when a landslide buried a stretch of about 20 km in the Karakoram Highway, is about 21 km long and more than 100 m deep. So the only way to cross it is with small boats that shuttle across the lake. It’s absolutely freezing cold, so do not forget to carry an extra pair of clothes. Once you cross the lake, the next stop on the Karakoram Highway is the tiny village of Passu. For hikers this is a paradise as the Cathedral Ridge offers high-class hiking experience. Passu has a few guesthouses too, and the locals here are very welcoming. While roaming in the village, you will often be invited by the villagers for a cup of tea.
Then next and the final stop on the Karakoram Highway is the sleepy town of Sost. It is a typical border town, with traders from both China and Pakistan, typical Chinese merchandises.