I’ll start off by saying that words cannot do justice to the experience of traveling. Last summer, my family and I decided to explore an area of Pakistan we hadn’t been to before – Gilgit Baltistan. The 10-day trip took me to places with the most striking sights one can imagine. All the places I saw cannot be described at one time so I’ll talk about the ones I saw along the Karakoram Highway here.
The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is nothing short of a marvel of engineering. This highway starts in a town near Abbottabad called Hawelian and, after passing through some part of KPK, spans vertically across the entire Gilgit-Baltistan province. After passing through 806km of breathtaking views, it finally ends at Khunjerab pass.
Most of my journey was on this highway with some detours to see remote places. Here’s what I saw along the way:
Three Ranges Viewpoint
I like to think of myself as a mountain man. These massive hunks of Earth, that have elevated to sky-rocketing heights with enough land to hold entire cities, excite me. Pakistan has been blessed with the world’s highest three mountain ranges; the Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush range. And there’s a point where these three meet; the three ranges viewpoint on the Karakoram Highway.
Just look at that sight! Standing in the feet of these giants makes you feel tiny. In front is the Himalayan range, to the left is the Karakoram range and to the right is the Hindukush range.
This point also doubles as the confluence point of the Gilgit and Indus rivers. If you’re ever traveling on this route, make sure you stop at this point. It’s pretty hard to miss.
Moving further north on the Karakoram Highway, you reach the town of Altit in Hunza. This town is home to the oldest monument in the entire province – the Altit Fort (a world heritage site). At 1100 years old, this fort has withstood storms and havoc of nature.
I won’t go into the detailed history. Instead, I want to show you one of my most favorite views – River Hunza from atop the Altit Fort. The KKH curving around the mountains and snaking alongside the river Hunza produces a gem of a sight!
Formerly and more famously known as Baltit, Karimabad is the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan. It’s intoxicating views, remarkable cultural heritage and the night city sights are exquisite. My personal favorite moment was when I went out to the balcony of my hotel after sundown and saw this:
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t help but just stand there and take in everything. The bone-chilling winds of July (I know, sounds wrong), the city lights, the faint smell of wood burning in the air – oh what I wouldn’t give to go back there!
Nanga Parbat Viewpoint
Moving towards Khunjerab Pass on the Karakoram Highway, I experienced a sight, which I can only describe as glorious. This is a point from where you can see the killer mountain in all its majestic glory. With the sun setting down on one side of Nanga Parbat and the white snow reflecting the light, I saw this:
P.S: you might be wondering why it’s called the “Killer Mountain”. Well, let’s just say not many people have been able to climb this beast.
Rakaposhi Zero Point
By now you must be thinking that I love mountains too much. Well…that’s kinda exactly true. Next up on the way was a public viewpoint from where I saw the snow-covered Rakaposhi – the Mother of Mist. This mountain, although not as high as Nanga Parbat, has left an ever-lasting image in my mind.
The viewpoint is much closer to the mountain than the one of Nanga Parbat is. This gives you a much bigger and more clear view of the mighty mountain. With an extremely steep slope on one side and a massive glacier sitting at its feet, this gift of nature makes you want to stare at its might all day long.
The main highlight of the whole trip was this. Traveling on the Karakoram Highway leads you to Khunjerab Pass – the highest paved border crossing in the world. This is the border between Pakistan and China. Almost at 16,000 ft from sea level, this place is probably the highest I’ve ever been (literally). And the view is AMAZING! It was also pretty cold there. Cold enough that I had to wear a jacket in July (again, sounds wrong, I know).
This place is a four-hour drive from Hunza. Driving on the Karakoram Highway is an experience in its own. The newly built paved road, the absolutely stunning views all around, eating cherries freshly picked from the tree and a final destination like that one, I don’t think anything will ever match that.
Another thing Khunjerab Pass is famous for is the ATM. You read that right, an ATM. Say your mom told you to get some eggs and you live at Khunjerab Pass (bear with me). You realize that you don’t have enough cash on you. Fear not because:
Jokes aside, there’s actually an ATM there and it’s just like any other ATM but its the world’s highest ATM. Like someone actually thought it would be cool to build one there and well now it’s there and it is pretty darn cool.
That brings me to the end of this recollection.
Of all the trips I’ve been on in my entire life, this one has to be the best. Not because of the amazing sights but because I didn’t just see those places, I felt them.
If you want to read about the rest of my trips, let me know in the comments below. And feel free to share your experiences as well!
Cover image via Owais Bin Asad