Also known as the China-Pakistan friendship Highway, the N-35 and the National Highway 35, Karakoram highway stretches from Hassan Abdal in the Punjab province of Pakistan to the Khunjerab Pass in Gilgit Baltistan, from where it enters the Chinese Border and becomes China National Highway 314. It connects Pakistan’s Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan regions with China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Karakoram Highway is a popular tourist attraction, and it is famous as one of the highest paved roads in the world cutting through the Karakoram Mountain Ranges or the K2. Some even call it the 8th wonder of the world because of the breathtaking beauty that it is. If you are a camper looking for a thrilling adventure, Karakoram Highways and the K2 is the right place for your to start.
Recently, a website known as WikiCampers ranked the Karakoram Highway as one of the top 15 most beautiful roads in the world. This is a tourist website which provides its services in various parts of the world.
Why was the highway constructed and what is its strategic importance? Read on to find out all about the Karakoram National Highway.
The construction of the highway started in 1959, and it started functioning 1986 as a tourist spot in 1986. Many Pakistani and Chinese workers sacrificed their lives during the process of constructing the Karakoram Highway due to falls and landslides. The Karakoram Highway has a length of 1300 KM with 887 KM lying in Pakistan and 413 KM lying in China.
This highway stays open for the whole year. However, its Khunjerab Pass section remains open usually between the dates of May 1 to December 31, because of heavy snow and rainfalls.
This highway was a combined effort of Pakistan and China. It took around 24,000 workers to complete it. It was difficult to construct because of the harsh conditions in this region. This highway requires regular maintenance too due to these climatic situations. The basic purpose of this highway was to facilitate trade between Pakistan and China.
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The ancient silk road turned international highway has a breathtaking view. Here are a few packing tips if you are planning to visit the highway.
- Walking/Hiking Shoes: Shoes are the most important part for any trip. Invest in a comfortable pair or two so that your feet are protected from rains, rocks, and general damage.
- Breathable Shirts: Pack in multiple breathable shirts if you are visiting during the summer months, as the sun can be quite unforgiving.
- Shorts/Jeans: Invest in a good pair of jeans or shorts. They should be breathable and elastic for ease of movement. Walking is all you are going to do, so find a pair which fits perfectly.
- Fleece Jacket: A fleece jacket is a must when travelling up north, whether it is summer or winter for added layer of warmth.
- Outer Shell Jacket: An outer shell jacket helps protect against winds, rain and snow. So don’t forget it.
- Camera: This goes without saying but do pack a good quality camera with high resolution and memory to save up all your memories.
- Power Bank: Keep two fully charged power banks in your luggage so that when you can’t charge your electronics, you have ample backup.
- Water Bottle: Get an insulated water bottle to keep liquid warm/cold for longer periods of time.
- A Large Backpack: You would need a large backpack to put all your luggage in. Don’t go for trolly bags and shoulder held bags at all, as they are difficult to manage. Make sure your backpack is ergonomically viable.
The highway experiences frequent stones showers, floods, rockfalls,and earthquakes. People have gone to the lengths of calling it the scariest roads in the world. It is not advisable to take cars, and 4×4 jeeps are the advisable mode of transport here. The drive is absolutely not easy, but it is a treat for those who like to live on the edge.
The pathway of this road requires careful attention of the driver because it has some dangerous curves and steep falls. The road is based on an unstable mountainous region because of which there is risk of falling rocks, floods, rains and even landslides. The road also gets narrow in certain places, where only one car can pass through. This is why, only an expert driver should venture out to drive on this highway.
The Pakistan China Institute sheds light on the Karakoram Highway’s strategic importance that it has connected two communities together. The villages that live on both sides were isolated earlier but now they offer unique cultural perspectives to the onlooker. A traveler can see the life of the locals here. Moreover, the highway has provided economic opportunities to these areas through provision of employment, tourism and markets. The rural areas are being developed which surround this highway. Schools are being opened up. Agricultural productivity has enhanced here.
There are contradictory opinions to this statement too. For example, The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies published Berenice Guyot Rechard’s paper, which argued that the highway is strategic but it can be a potential route for drugs, threats and AIDS to develop. The critics recommend having stronger control, check and balance on this route. Nonetheless, the significance of this highway is undeniable and Pakistan has reaped immense benefits in terms of trade, tourism,and bilateral ties due to the construction of the Karakoram Highway. Do you plan on visiting this 8th wonder of the world? Let us know in the comments.