Along the Silk Route – the Miracle of Karakoram

Besham 
I’ve travelled twice (2017 & 2018) with my family along the ancient silk route on Karakoram highway to visit Hunza. This miraculous road connects Pakistan and China through the most harrowing mountain ranges.  The almost 1300 kilometers stretch of road touches different ethnic groups and offers a beautiful diversity of landscape and culture.

While travelling to Hunza via KK, one thing that remains constant throughout is the Indus River that runs faithfully alongside the road, holding hands and winding through lush green valleys as well as stark barren landscapes.

After an eleven hours long drive from Lahore, you reach Besham – a small and beautiful town in KPK. Karakoram highway passes through the city and River Indus flows downstream, bisecting the city into two sides.

You will find many affordable accommodations to spend the night. It being a very small town, most hotels are small and basic, nothing luxurious, but okay to take a break from driving and freshen up for another day of long journey. I recommend PTDC Motel as the most suitable place. Preferably book rooms in advance – not because they might not have rooms but in the hope that they might clean up better before you arrive.

Springs and Waterfalls

Chilas
If you are traveling in summer on Karakoram Highway, the sun is merciless almost the entire way. Light cotton clothes and a good supply of water are the basic essentials you will need. Even in colder months, the road is totally exposed to sun and the rocky mountains reflect the heat on the road so while on KK, it would still be quite warm.

Before the long four hours of rugged, dry terrain begins, frequent fresh water springs which are a symbol of life and greenery in this area will help you and your car stay cool. We stopped at almost all springs to enjoy the view and to refresh ourselves from the severe heat in area. I can very well imagine how these springs, small but scenic, must have revived the traders, travelers and their animals on their long and tiring quests when there was no paved road.

The next big stopover is Chilas, and to reach there we had to cross a serious stretch of very hot and dry terrain, though the Indus quietly flowed along to keep us company.

Again you can break your journey in Chilas, where you’ll find hotels and restaurants to spend the night or just to use the facilities and have food.
We stayed a couple of hours at
Shangrila Chilas for lunch on our way to Hunza and a night on our way back. The rooms don’t have air conditioning but are cool enough making good use of the river breeze with air coolers. The food was fairly good, especially for those travelling with fussy kids – you’ll find Chinese food and French fries sort of stuff. Their trout fish was quite decent too. Tthough washrooms could use a little more cleaning and renovation.

Three Giants and a Rainbow

Gilgit
Still travelling to Hunza, parched, sun scorched and extremely tired we finally reached Gilgit-Baltistan, the northernmost administrative territory in Pakistan.

The moment we entered Jaglot, a small town in Gilgit district, the sky turned grey with thunder clouds and what a relief it was! Soon it was raining. The beauty of glistening Karakoram Highway in rain, winding through the mountains is indescribable.

A well defined plaque quided us to the junction where the three of world’s mightiest mountain ranges meet – Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush . Almost at the same point River Indus flows down from Sukurdu and joins with river Gilgit.

As if standing in the lap of three giants was not enough to overwhelm us with awe and respect for nature, we were also rewarded with the most bright and beautiful rainbow, arching exactly over the junction point of the three ranges. I think it was one of the most awesome moments of my life!

Hindukush 800 kilometers long. 
Highest peak – Tirch Mir – 
Elevation  7,708 m.
Himalayas highest peak in Pakistan is Nanga Parbat 8,126 metres
Karakoram , including the world’s second-highest peak, K2 8,611 m.

Not only the road leading to Gilgit is beautiful but also you’ll find plenty of options for all budgets to stay the night and dine out. Gilgit Serena is a little high end but the best place to stay – clean, comfortable with buffet dinning halls and dine in room options.

Tips

☆Always book rooms ahead of travel to save yourself last minute inconvenience.

☆Always check weather forecast and road conditions beforehand.

☆When staying in small town hotels and guesthouses, call a few hours ahead and inform them if you want them to prepare food for you on arrival. They are usually short on supplies and take their time getting things ready.

☆If you are not staying in 2 or 3 star hotels, I sincerely suggest that you travel with pillow covers, sheets, towels or wet tissues, toilet roll, hand sanitizer and basic medicines.

☆You’ll find bottled water, freshly cooked food (both vegetarian and non vegetarian) almost in every big and small town on the way.

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