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5 Things That Make Bicycling the Karakorum Highway an Amazing Experience
Get The Experience of a Lifetime
Dubbed as the eighth wonder of the world, the Karakorum Highway (KKH) has turned into a hot spot for bicycling lovers over the last couple of decades.
Traversing through the Karakorum Mountain Range, the KKH is one of the highest paved international highways in the world, connecting China’s Xinjiang province with the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan through the Khunjerab Pass at 4,693 meters above sea level.
Here are 5 things that make riding a bicycle along the Karakorum Highway from Khunjerab (descending down towards the south of Pakistan) an amazing experience.
1. Breathtaking Sceneries and Landscapes
Bicycling the KKH is an incredibly thrilling, daring and adventurous experience for the passionate bicyclist. The KKH, which was built in the 70s, recently got a facelift, thanks to both China and Pakistan for improving and expanding the highway. The KKH is a marvel of engineering and riding it on a cycle is an unparalleled experience.
The landscapes and sceneries you’ll get to see along the highway are absolutely spectacular, ranging from snow capped mountains and dry, rocky peaks to the Hunza River, glaciers, lush green valleys and beautiful, small villages. The people are very hospitable, friendly and welcoming. The cycling comes with both challenges and rewards, making it the experience of a lifetime for the passionate cyclist.
Starting from the highest point at Khunjerab Pass, you’ll find yourself navigating through the beautiful Gojal Valley in Upper Hunza, paddling past towering mountains and meeting culturally rich people along the way.
2. Unique Experiences
While cycling the Karakorum Highway, you’ll come across some firsthand experiences with the local foods, fruits and beverages. Having a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, stopping by the waters gushing down from the glaciers to enjoy some cool breeze, mingling with the local people and tasting fruits like cherries and apricots can be a truly mesmerizing experience. In Karimabad, Hunza, you’ll get a chance to visit the ancient Altit and Baltit forts that have wonderfully preserved the history and heritage of the region.
Adventures are incomplete without challenges, and if you want to taste the genuine savor of a cycling adventure, you’ll find it on the Karakoram Highway. Even though the KKH has been improved and cycling along it is now a smooth ride, the road is still subject to occasional landslides, blockages, especially during and after rainfalls.
In Gojal Valley, you’ll also cycle through the Attabad Tunnels, also called Pak-China Friendship Tunnels, that were built to connect Gojal Valley with the Hunza Valley via land route after the Attabad landslide disaster disconnected the two regions by destroying and blocking 24 kilo meters of the KKH in 2010. Cycling through the tunnels, which were opened for the public a few months ago, is a challenging and thrilling experience in itself.
4. Camping and Accommodation Facilities
If you want to spend the night in a tent after a tiresome day of paddling, you’ll find several locations for camping in Passu, Gulmit and Hunza. It is important, however, to ask the local hotels for arrangement of a camping site and the required facilities. It is also recommended that you take your own tent along because sometimes tents are in short supply at the hotels.
There are also many good hotels along the KKH. They are reasonably priced, have basic facilities and offer good value to their customers. If you want to stay in Gojal Valley, you’ll find hotels in Sost, Passu and Gulmit villages. In Hunza Valley, Karimabad and Aliabad have good hotels.
5. Availability of Food, Water and Other Supplies Along the Route
Bottled water and foods like biscuits, noodles, fresh breads and packed foods are available at shops along the KKH. You'll also find small, roadside restaurants where you may want to stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner. However, I recommend you to eat at the hotels where you spend the night. In Hunza and Gilgit, you may find some good restaurants. People in the small villages along the highway mostly drink spring water, which you may want to taste because it is rich in minerals and amazing in taste.
Cycling the Karakorum Highway can be the best experience of your life. The highway is smooth, with intermittent challenges, and the people you meet along the highway are very friendly and hospitable. The areas you'll get to see along the KKH are simply beautiful, with high mountains, snow capped peaks, lush green villages and what not. If you are planning to bicycle the Karakorum Highway, do it with an open mind and heart.