The Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway (KKH), often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” is one of the highest paved international roads in the world, connecting Pakistan and China through the Karakoram mountain range.

It stretches approximately 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) from Hasan Abdal in Pakistan’s Punjab province to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

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Historical and Construction Background

  1. Construction Timeline
    • The construction of the Karakoram Highway began in 1959 and was completed in 1979. It was a joint effort between Pakistan and China, involving over 24,000 workers, many of whom lost their lives due to the harsh working conditions and natural disasters like landslides and avalanches .
  2. Engineering Marvel
    • The highway is considered an engineering marvel due to its construction through some of the most challenging and rugged terrain in the world. It traverses the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Himalayas mountain ranges .

Route and Significance

  1. Geographical Significance
    • The KKH passes through the Khunjerab Pass at an altitude of 4,693 meters (15,397 feet), making it one of the highest paved roads in the world. The pass marks the border between Pakistan and China .
  2. Economic Importance
    • The highway serves as a critical trade route between Pakistan and China, facilitating economic and cultural exchange. It is also a key component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to enhance trade and infrastructure development between the two nations .

Tourism and Attractions

  1. Scenic Beauty
    • The Karakoram Highway offers stunning views of some of the highest peaks in the world, including K2, Nanga Parbat, and Rakaposhi. The route also passes by several glaciers, rivers, and picturesque valleys .
  2. Historical and Cultural Sites
    • Along the highway, travelers can explore various historical and cultural sites, such as the ancient Silk Road trading posts, Buddhist rock carvings, and the Hunza Valley, known for its unique culture and hospitality .
  3. Adventure Tourism
    • The KKH is popular among adventure tourists and motorcyclists who seek to experience the thrill of traveling on one of the world’s highest roads. The route is also a gateway to several trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Karakoram range .

Challenges and Maintenance

  1. Natural Hazards
    • The highway is prone to natural hazards such as landslides, rockfalls, and avalanches due to its location in a seismically active and mountainous region. These hazards pose significant challenges to the maintenance and safety of the road .
  2. Ongoing Upgrades
    • Continuous efforts are made to upgrade and maintain the Karakoram Highway. Both Pakistan and China have invested in widening and improving the road to accommodate increasing traffic and enhance safety .


The Karakoram Highway is not only a vital trade route but also a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance. Its construction and maintenance through some of the harshest terrains on Earth highlight the collaborative spirit between Pakistan and China. For travelers, it offers unparalleled scenic beauty, cultural richness, and a gateway to adventure.

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