At 4700 m the Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world. It is the meeting point of two sections of the Karakoram Highway connecting Gilgit-Baltistan area of northern Pakistan and Xinjiang province of western China. Out of the 1300 km highway, 887 km traverses through Pakistan while rest of the 413 km passes through the Chinese territory.
The area constituting the Khunjerab Pass (Or Khunzerav) is quite a fair stretch surrounded by the Karakoram mountains, mostly snow topped. During summers, the area around the Pak-China border pass is decked with a variety of wildflowers on green patches in the foothills of the glittering snow-covered mountains encompassing some of the most impressive sceneries in the world.
The Khunjerab Pass is the origin point of the Hunza River. The melting snow from the peaks around the border streams to form a creek that flows down and several of these waterways along the KKH meet to make up the Hunza River until it meets Gilgit River in Gilgit. The Gilgit River further flows along the Karakoram Highway and meets up the River Indus at the Junction point of three mountain ranges and continues all the way to Thakot.
Construction of the Khunjerab Pass
The Kilik and Mintaka Pass located to the north of Khunjerab served as primary passes on the Karakoram range before the construction of the KKH. The choice of Khunjerab Pass for Karakoram Highway was decided on the technical basis with the major reason being Kilik and Mintaka more susceptible to air strikes and Khunjerab was recommended in 1966 and created in 1978.
The Khunjerab Pass is a major tourist attraction drawing thousands of domestic and international tourists on a daily basis. The entire Karakoram Highway is crowned with natural and manmade attractions and scenic views at every turn. The panorama on the top is extraordinarily marvellous providing options for short hikes and for photography. A journey along the highway all the way to the border area simply provides with a lifetime experience.
The major portion of the Khunjerab Pass encompasses the Khunjerab National Park which was established in 1979 to preserve endangered species. The Khunjerab park is home to several rare animal species including the Marco Polo sheep and the Snow Leopard. The eastern stretch of the Khunjerab pass makes up the Chinese Xinjiang province territory which could be easily seen from the border area.
On the Pakistani side, the pass is 75 km from Sost customs and immigration check post while it is about 180 km from Hunza, 280 km from Gilgit airport and 890 km from the capital city Islamabad. On the Chinese side, it is 130 km from Tashkurgan, about 420 km from Kashgar, and 1890 km from Urumqui. There are helpful road-sign giving tourists information about the distances involved.
It must be noted that the Chinese side is right-hand drive and Pakistan side is left-hand drive. The border is the switching point.
Although the highway to the Pakistani side is very well paved yet the sudden altitude gain near the top again may slow down the journey. Likewise, there are checkpoints on both sides of the pass that may also lead to slow down the overall journey.
On the Pakistan side, there is a certain amount of fee charged to all local and international tourists. Currently, it is Rs. 40 from Pakistani tourists and $ 8 from international tourists. The entry fee may be revised every year and knowing the exact amount well in time will be a good idea to manage expenses particularly for large groups.
The pass remains opened from May till November for trade and tourism and in the remainder of the period remains closed and inaccessible due to heavy snowfall. During November it sometimes gets extremely cold and sometimes winds make it hard to stay on the top. However, in fine weather conditions, it is still a place must visit.
There is a daily bus service between Sost (the last human settlement along the KKH), Pakistan, and Tashkurghan, China. Both Pakistani and Chinese buses serve a drop service from their respective bus stations in the home country and return empty. One can hire private Cars/4WD from Sost to Tashkurghan for a drop-off and can proceed to Kashgar using a shared ride or simply hire a taxi.
Due to high altitude, it has been observed that some tourists may suffer altitude sickness. The symptoms including feeling dizziness, having headaches, or even experience shortness of breath. It is advisable to immediately return to low altitude and see a doctor or must carry altitude sickness medicine in advance.
During peak summers there are chances of flooding due to sudden snow melting near the top and a timely return is advisable. Moreover, sudden loose-gravel breaks, particularly in rainfall can also cause damages on the highway.
Whether you ride a motorbike or drive a car, and particularly if you are new to the refurbished KKH, be very careful to keep your cool on the accelerator and don’t ever be overconfident. After the renovation, the Karakoram Highway has cost many precious lives. For the tourists travelling from down cities, knowledge of the entire highway before planning to take up a self-drive tour is mandatory. Enjoy the trip and return home with beautiful memories.
Before you go
All Pakistani tourists must carry their CNIC and foreign tourists must have a Passport to prove their identification. Foreign tourists or Pakistani nationals crossing over to China must obviously carry a Chinese Visa (Pass for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who only wish to travel to the nearby city of Kashgar).
Buses from Sost leave for Tashkurghan in the morning (between 08:00 am and 09:00 am) and it is advisable that the ticket be purchased well in time. In case if you wish to hire a car, there are private Pakistani cars allowed to travel all the way to Kashgar. The fare is not fixed and is negotiable.
The junction point of three mountain ranges is situated near Jaglot on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), only 40 km southeast of Gilgit, Pakistan. It is here that the world’s three famous mountain ranges – the Karakoram (the black gravel), the Himalaya (home of snow), and the Hindukush (the killer of Hindus) – make a knot popularly known as the “Junction Point of the world’s three mountain ranges”. This exclusive site also serves as the junction of Gilgit and Indus Rivers and the Skardu road branches out from the KKH near this place.
The junction point is a venue of interest due to its unique geographic significance, not only in Pakistan but in the entire world. Pakistan is the only country where the world’s three renowned mountain ranges meet with their respective highest peaks recorded top of the list in their respective range and famous in the entire world as Nanga Parbat, K-2, and Terich Mir. These three major mountain ranges are the sub-ranges of the great Himalayas known as trans-Himalayas.
While standing at the junction point, it is easy to outline the direction of these mountain ranges. The Himalayan range is located to the south and east of Indus River. The Karakorum range stretches towards the northeast of Gilgit River. To the west of Gilgit / Indus River is the Hindu-Kush range.
Unique in many aspects, the Karakoram Range with a length of about 500km covers the borders between Pakistan, India, and China, in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan), Ladakh (India), and Xinjiang region, (China). It is home to the highest concentration of peaks in just a radius of 160 km which are higher than 5,500 m and more than 100 in numbers including the second highest peak in the world, K-2(at 8,611m). The Karakoram Range is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the Polar Regions including some of the longest glaciers in the world such as Siachen, Batura, Baltoro, Biafo, Hisper, Gondogoro, Chogolisa etc.
Likewise, the Himalayan range is home to the 2nd highest peak in Pakistan- Nanga Parbat (8,126m), notoriously known as the killer mountain. Pakistan makes up the western anchor of the Great Himalayas and covers the Astor District dominated by Nanga Parbat massif and parts of Kashmir. The Great Himalayan Range spreads over 2400 km across Pakistan, Nepal, and India. Mount Everest (8,848 m), the world’s highest mountain peak, is in Nepal.
The Hindu Kush Range covers nearly 9600km long looming with its own wonders. It is mostly hosting smaller peaks most of them less than 7,500 m high. This range encompasses the peaks of Ghizer, Yasin and Ishkoman valleys of Pakistan and reaches the Queen of Chitral, Terich Mir, at 7,708 meters in the district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The range further stretches from the Pamirs to Iran.
A brief stopover at this point is mandatory to get educated about this exclusive site. This unique venue also offers a magnificent panorama of the entire zone from the confluence of Gilgit & Indus Rivers to the stretch of the mountain ranges bowing here to make a junction.
There is local folklore attached to the junction point which is discussed even today that this site used to be the abode of Jinns and fairies. It was said that at the confluence of the rivers the water was used by these supernatural creatures for drinking and taking bath.
An elevated prominent platform accessible by stairs has been erected on the edge of the Karakoram Highway that gives a 360-degree view of the entire region and pictorial information on the coordinates of the mountain. There is enough parking space created for vehicles and informative signboards have been displayed providing important details on the venue.
Unfortunately, not so many – both from within the country and from abroad – seem aware about the significance of this fascinating piece of land. Many tourists (mostly domestic or those travelling by public transport or even those who pass this place in the odd hours/in darkness) just pass by without noticing it and miss the opportunity to see it. However, many international tourists make it a vital part of their itinerary well before getting to the venue.
Best Time to Visit
The Karakoram Highway remains opened year-round and one can visit or pass by this site any time of the year. However, the best time to visit Gilgit-Baltistan is from March till November as winters are quite freezing and hard to bear in the region.
Rakaposhi is a famous mountain peak in the Karakoram mountain range of Pakistan, to be exact, standing arrogantly in the Nagar valley of Gilgit-Baltistan with Bagrot and Danyore in the background. It is the 27th highest and most amazing mountain in the world and ranked as 12th highest in Pakistan. Rakaposhi means “Snow Covered” and is locally called Bilchhar Dumani (“Mother of Mist” or “Mother of Clouds”).
The first and most fabulous glimpse of Rakaposhi, while travelling from Gilgit to Hunza, is from the Karakoram Highway (KKH) opposite to Kino Kutto (“Black Knee” in local Shina language to denote the shape of the rocky mountain located between Chalt and Khizr Abad). This site is also called the view point of Rakaposhi but the major and famous view point is located in Ghulmet. The broader view of Rakaposhi, however, at this particular spot with Jaffarabad village in the backdrop is stunning and serves as a threshold to Hunza.
The scenic views of Rakaposhi from this point ahead along the whole course of KKH all the way to the Hunza valley are diverse. However, if travelling from the opposite side of the Hunza River, along with the valleys of lower Hunza or Shinaki (Khizr Abad, Hussainabad, Mayun, and Khanabad), one can have stunning faces of Rakaposhi in sight. From Khanabad, it is possible to make it again to the KKH in Ghulmet, almost 5 km short of the viewpoint. The view point in Ghulmet village is about 75 km from Gilgit and is a famous vacationer spot.
Rakaposhi is notable for its exceptional rise over a local terrain of 5900m in only 11.2 km horizontal distance from the Hunza-Nagar River. It is the only mountain peak in the world rises directly from the scenic cultivated fields. Rakaposhi is more prevalent for its excellence than its rank.
Rakaposhi was first ascended by Mike Banks and Tom Patey via the Southwest Spur/Ridge route in 1958. Both endured minor frostbite amid the climb. Another climber slipped and fell on the drop and died amid the night.
The people of Nagar have dedicated the Rakaposhi extend mountain region as a national park and was inaugurated by Minister for Northern Areas. The Rakaposhi mountain extend is the home of endangered species including Marco Polo sheep, Snow Leopard, wolves and several other different species.
Rakaposhi View Point or “the Zero Point of Rakaposhi” is a prominent viewpoint offering the closest view of Rakaposhi and the natural beauty lies in its scenery. This remarkable viewpoint is located right on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in Ghulmet village of Nagar Valley.
The Karakoram Highway is not merely an asphalt line connecting Pakistan and China at the Khunjerab Pass; it is rather a highway crowned with a series of tourist attractions. These attractions include natural beauty, archaeological sites, cultural heritage and architectural wonders that lure tourists to make short stopovers and overnight stays to further explore these attractions. Rakaposhi View Point is one of such places bearing utmost natural beauty.
While travelling between Gilgit and Hunza, tourists make a must stopover at the Rakaposhi View Point, to relax and to enjoy the natural scenery in the shadow of Rakaposhi – the world’s 27th highest peak at 7,788 m. Small terraces along the water flowing down from the glacier have been created for tourists to sit, eat, and enjoy. During summers tourists enjoy sitting by, dipping feet in cold glacier water, and taking pictures of scenic views.
The Rakaposhi View Point was developed dramatically over the course of several years. The gradual rise in tourist influx lead to a steady increase in its prominence that further spurred development of infrastructure at the site. Major natural attractions at the site include the mountain itself, the glacier surrounded by greenery and the melting stream flowing down the site permitting the visitors to enjoy the scenery and breeze.
In the beginning, the Rakaposhi viewpoint was nothing more than a gift shop and a local food outlet to serve mostly local travellers. Steadily, the development of local businesses including gift shops, handicraft shops, tuck shops, restaurants, campsite and now tourist class accommodation has turned this place a full-fledged tourist attraction. A new road has been constructed giving close access to the glacier coming down from Rakaposhi and development of other tourist attractions is underway. There are chances that this site will turn to be a major tourist destination.
For tourists travelling between Gilgit and Hunza, this place is a great choice to stop by for a late and lavish breakfast or for an open-air lunch with great views. Chap-shuro, a kind of local pizza is the speciality of this place. One can order any kind of fresh local food at an affordable price. You will always get delicious food with personalized services.
The collision point of continental plates is located near Chalt Valley on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), some 53 km north of Gilgit town. The Indian and the Eurasian continental plates collided along a line which passed through this point giving rise to the Himalayan mountain range and formed Tibetan plateau some 50 million years ago. The tremendous pressure forced the earth’s crust to produce the towering Karakoram Mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.
Historically, 225 million years ago India was a large island separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean. India started northward drift toward Asia when the super-continental Pangea began to break up some 200 million years ago. India was moving at a rate between 9 and 16 cm some 80 million years ago when it was 6,400 km south of the Asian continent. However, from 50 to 40 million years ago, the rate of northward drift slowed to around 4-6 cm per year. This pace is interpreted as the beginning of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian continental plates.
When the collision occurred, the Eurasian plate was partly crumpled and buckled up above the Indian plates causing the continental crust to thicken pushing up the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau. The continental crust here is twice the average thickness at around 75 km which marks the end of volcanic activity in the region. The Indian plate is still pushing north into the Eurasian landmass at about five centimeters a year causing the mountains to rise about seven millimeters annually.
Sadly, the geographic significance of the collision point of continental plates is a fact still even unknown to the general people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It simply failed to catch the tourist’s eye until the roadside signboards were displayed for tourist information most recently which may obviously help locals and tourists educate about its significance. However, there must be a platform for tourists to spend the time to educate themselves and enjoy the unique mountain formation in the surroundings. This site has the potential to be a prominent picnic spot.
The old silk route ran along the other side and some of the sections of the old Silk Route are still intact which can easily be seen from this point. The old Silk Route is only used by locals to take their herd to the pastures for grazing. It is in the news that the ancient Silk Route would be renovated to promote tourism.
Locally the collision point is termed as Bidru-Kha and sometimes Chalt Xhang (Threshold). This particular site has several local legends attached to it. For instance, locals offer sacrifices to spirits by slaughtering a chicken/goat or any other animal while passing through this point with a bride and groom on the marriage day.
Likewise, there is another notion local shamans believe that this place was a pathway to the three worlds – the world inhabited by the spirits or the upper world, the material human world, and the underworld of the souls and the dead.
And finally, this site acts as a buffer zone of climate – the weather in lower parts of Hunza can be forecasted using climatic conditions right above this particular point – an overcast sky may refer to chances of rain while blue patches in the clouds mean the sky is getting clear.
The 700 years old Victory Monument of Taj Mughal is a commemorative tower, measuring 21’-10” high and 14’-4” wide, located on a mountain lap in Gilgit town, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The monument was named after Taj-ud-Din Mughal, an Ismaili ruler from Badakhshan, who came to Gilgit -Baltistan during the 13th century AD. The monument was built by his soldiers to celebrate his victory.
Location and access:
The victory monument of Taj Mughal is sited on the backdrop of the southern mountains of Gilgit city, about 1000 feet above Gilgit town, overlooking the Gilgit and Danyore towns. The monument can be reached by foot from the southern end of Jutial by crossing the water channel followed by a rocky track in about 45 minutes hike. It is about another 10 km drive if you plan to visit from Gilgit town. There is an alternate route from Jutial Nalah, yet very perilous, and is hard to trace. It is perhaps only used either by shepherds or local people. This track leading from Jutial Nalah is not recommended for anyone including tourists.
The monument is erected on the ridge of the Rocky Mountains using local stone and clay. The tower is round in shape yet gradually losing its composition and may come down to disappear at some point. Although the base of the tower is given temporary support by mending some sections, however, the southern face has almost worn down and an immediate renovation is required.
The site offers a scenic view of the entire stretch of Gilgit town from Bagrot in the east to Baseen in the west with Gilgit River running across the length of the city. The tower is called “Shikaari” in local Shina language. One can enjoy the picturesque views of Gilgit and surrounding valleys covered by guarding mountain peaks.
Best time to visit:
The monument should be visited either in the early morning or in the afternoon if planned in peak summers (May to August). The best season to visit is between February and November. It is a half day rewarding excursion for tourists. Erected on the barren mountain, there is no water available; a bottle of water is must to carry.
At an elevation of 1454 meters, Gilgit, the district and provincial administrative headquarter of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a spectacular quaint little town gradually a modern city. The town is located amidst three mountain ranges – the Karakoram, Hindukush, and the Himalayas – and has for centuries been a prosperous trading center and a melting pot of ancient civilization.
Gilgit is surrounded by beautiful lakes, gushing rivers, longest glaciers and some of the world’s highest mountains such as Nanga Parbat (8,125 meters) and Rakaposhi (7,788 meters). It is one of the world’s multi-lingual regions where more than 10 languages and several dialects are spoken. The local dialect is Shina, however, Urdu and English are also spoken and understood widely.
Besides the Victory monument, there are a number of attractions in Gilgit including the 7th century Karga Buddha, Hal ga Naal, Hanzal Stupa, Gilgit Suspension Bridge, Chinar Bagh, Buddhist Rock Carvings near KIU, Danyore Suspension Bridge, Rock inscriptions in Danyore, and Chinese Graveyard Danyore.
Gilgit has an airport and flights are operated from Islamabad on a daily basis though subject to weather condition. Gilgit can be reached by road from Islamabad along the KKH, Chitral via Gilgit-Chitral road, and from Kashgar in China along the KKH. The best season to visit is from May to mid-October.
Things to carry:
- Water bottle
- Sunburn cream
- Shoes with good grip
- Glasses and cap/hat
- Camera/cell phone