Journey From Rawalpindi to Kashgar.
The last great high road to adventure.
Tours in May and September
It just might be that a trip along the Karakoram Highway is the most spectacular journey along any road in the world. Built by a joint effort between Pakistan and China, the KKH twists for 1200 km through an incredible host of geology, history, politics and cultures.
It's all there--the muezzin chanting his call to prayer, the soaring mountains, tribes of nomads making their way through great bowl-shaped valleys, the thin reedy music, shaggy yaks, and woolly bactrian camels carrying goods to noisy markets.
As a boy I loved to study the maps of northern Pakistan with its jumble of mountains and their strange names--Rakaposhi, Nanga Parbat, K2. Later I was fortunate to travel to those places, then recently I worked with tour people in Pakistan and China to fashion a journey along the Karakoram Highway.
Since many travelers on the Karakoram Highway will arrive and depart to places of their own choosing, I have not included airfare in this itinerary. The exception is the flight from Kashgar to Urumqi which is included in the package.
Fly to Pakistan and transfer late in the evening to our hotel in Islamabad
Today we'll spend a day of easy sightseeing trying to work through our jet-lag. I enjoy the Raj Bazaar in Rawalpindi, a good place to start seeing mid-east culture.
I'm sure our Pakistani guests will want to show us the sights of their modern capitol of Islamabad and we'll insist on getting a bird's-eye view of the city from the Margalla hills. Islamabad is a good place to talk to Pakistanis about their world and their place in the future. That evening we'll return to our Hotel Akbar International.
Islamabad to Besham
After an early breakfast, we'll drive to Besham, a major town on the upper course of the Indus River. The journey will proceed along the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan to China. Twisting through the three mighty ranges of the world-the Karakoram, the Himalayas & the Pamirs - it follows the ancient Silk Route along the Indus, Gilgit & Hunza Rivers up through the Khunjerab Pass and into China. We'll stay at the PTDC Motel at Besham.
Besham to Gilgit
Resume our road journey to Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway via Chilas. At Chilas, we'll explore the Indus River then lunch at the nearby Panorama Hotel. The Capital of Northern Pakistan, Gilgit is a thriving frontier town that has expanded rapidly to include over 40,000 inhabitants since the Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978. The favorite sport in Gilgit is polo, which the locals claim originated here. We'll overnight at the Mir's Lodge or PTDC Motel.
Gilgit to Hunza
After breakfast we'll enjoy a brief tour of the rock carvings at Kargah Nulla then visit the Gilgit bazaar famous for its handicrafts such as woolen gowns known as chughas, musical instruments, silver jewelry, woolen rugs, and embroideries. After lunch, we'll drive to Gulmit, and the magnificent valley of Hunza. with its towering snow covered peaks, creeping glaciers, and fragrant apricot orchards.
Lord Curson noted that "The little State of Hunza contains more summits over 20,000 ft than there are of over 10,000 ft in the entire Alps." The Hunza Valley was the inspiration for Shangra-la, Joseph Hilton's mythical valley in his 1933 novel Lost Horizons. Our approach to Hunza will be by jeep on the Karakoram Highway, a thin ribbon of pavement carved into the walls of the Karakoram Mountains. We'll stay overnight at the Hunza View, Hill Top.
Hunza to Gulmit
We'll explore the Hunza valley then drive to Gulmit, a fertile plateau with irrigated fields along the KKH. Upon arrival we'll transfer to the Silk Route Lodge, In the evening we'll explore Gulmit village.
Gulmit to Sust
Drive from Gulmit to Passu where I'll spend some time visiting friends at the Tadjik village and photographing the spectacular Passu Cones nearby.
Later we'll drive to Sust, and go through formalities at the immigration check post at the Khunjerab National Park. Subject to permission, we'll pay a brief visit to Raja Bahadur Khan, one of the Mirs of the royal family and view his personal collection of antique weapons, musical instruments, rugs, pots & jewelry. We'll stay Overnight at the PTDC Hotel.
Sust to Tashkurghan
From Sust we'll journey through the Khunjerab Pass at 4703 M the highest border crossing on a paved road in the world. The Pakistani side is marked with barren deserted gorges with no sign of human life. The Chinese side, however, is an open, grassy, high altitude plateau, with herds of yaks, sheep & low-humped bactrian camels tended by the Tadjik people. That evening we'll meet our Chinese hosts and overnight at the Pamir Hotel in Tashkurghan.
Tashkurghan to Karakuli Lake.
We are now truly in central Asia tucked away in the far north-west corner of China. We'll photograph the great rolling grasslands and the mountains beyond. We'll visit with the local nomadic people and spend the night in a yurt, the round tent-like homes common to central Asia.
We'll trek around the Kirkiz summer camp for about 6 hours then drive back to Karakuli lake and again stay in our yurt.
We set out to Kashgar the ancient trading center along the Silk Road. We'll skirt Mt. Kongur, the dominant feature along our route.. As we stop at the villages along we way, we begin to meet the Uyghur people common to the area. As we approach Kashgar, we notice farmers moving their produce alone the road to tomorrow's Sunday market. That evening in Kashgar, we'll stay at the Qinibahk Hotel site of the old British consulate.
Kashgar Sunday market
Kashgar has one of the great markets of central Asia. We'll spend most of the day there immersing ourselves in the activities. It's a photographers paradise as food, animals, cloth goods, and metalwork are bought and sold in this vast open-air market. Through our interpreters, we'll learn about the Uyghur people and bargain with them for their handiwork.
Explore Kashgar and the surrounding countryside then take an evening flight to Urumqi Where we'll transfer to the Holiday Inn. Urumqi is the capitol of Xinjiang Province. Here you'll see how modern China is making itself felt in this old city populated mostly by the Uyghur people.
Drive to Lake Tianchi nestled in the Tian Shan Mountains. These mountains differ than those we've seen earlier. The Tian Shan are more alpine in nature, with evergreen forests and glacier-fed lakes. I'll want to seek out some old friends in a nearby Kazakh village. These Kazakh people are great horsemen and we'll go trail riding with them. Others in our party may want to go boating, birding, or trekking for the day. That evening we'll return to Urumqi and our hotel.
Today weŽll depart Urumqi for flights back to Pakistan or further into China.
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