khunjerab pass

Khunjerab Pass Pakistan Attabad Lake Gilgit in Winters

Khunjerab Pass Border Crossing in Pakistan is the main mountain pass the connects Pakistan with China.

khunjerab pass
Road to Khunjerab Pass

Which is the highest border crossing in the World?

The Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing of the world, lies between Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan on the South and China’s Xinjiang province on the North. At 4733 meters (16,200 ft), it is the highest point on the Karakorum Highway and the highest paved international border crossing in the world.

Heavy Trucks including 18 wheeler ply on this route and the turns are wide enough to accommodate them.

Best time to Visit Khunjerab Pass?

The best time to go to Khunjerab border crossing is between 15 June and 15 August.

Weather at Khunjerab Pass

Reason for visiting Khunjerab Pass Karakorum Highway between 15 june to 15 August is that the snow melts on Babusar top leading up to Khunjerab in the first week of June and then it starts raining heavily in the last week of August and weather become unstable.

Why we went to Khunjerab in December winters?

Because we like to PARTY!

Our trip to Khunjarab pass in winters was a memorable one. It was a little scary, considering there was two-inch snow on the road, with more falling down and the tires barely gripping. Our 4×4 vehicle was a good choice for the journey, but any vehicle can reach there in good weather.

Attabad lake
Attabad lake Gojal Hunza

Distance from Gilgit to Khunjerab

Gilgit to Hunza 

Gilgit to Hunza is 94 Km and it takes 2 hours on any sort of vehicle.

Gilgit to Hunza Route
Gilgit to Hunza Route

Hunza to Attabad Lake

Town of Hunza to Attabad Lake in Nagar is 24 Km and it takes 36 minutes on a paved road fit for all sorts of vehicles.

Attabad Lake to Khunjerab

Attabad to Khunjerab Pass is 125 Km and it takes 2 hours to get there in perfect road conditions. When it snows, you’d have to double the time to 4 hours, and that too if you have All Terrain Tyres installed with metal chains.

Hunza to Khunjerab Pass, Pakistan China Border
Hunza to Khunjerab Pass, Pakistan China Border Post

The best thing about driving from Gilgit to Khunjerab is the view of massive Rakaposhi mountain on your right side.

Karakorum Highway (KKH) in perfect condition
Karakorum Highway (KKH) in perfect condition

Early morning drive Hunza to Attabad Lake 

 We started early from Hunza, when the Sunlight was still yellow hue, and reached Attabad Lake (Gojal Lake) in less than 30 minutes.

Attabad lake

Attabad Lake Gojal

Attabad lake is 21 km long, encircled by towering mountains on all sides. Karakorum Highway (KKH) passes through a series of road tunnels (24 km long) on the bank of Attabad lake.

Height of Attabad Lake

Attabad Lake is 2590m 8400 ft height from Sea Level

History of Attabad Lake

This magnificent blue lake was formed in the earthquake of 2010 when a landslide destroyed the Attabad village (20 people died).

Boat Ride and Jet Skis of Attabad Lake

A boat ride and Jet Ski ride on Attabad Lake is a must but as our destination was Khunjerab, we had to skip it.

Best hotel at Attabad Lake

It is better to stay at Hunza than Attabad Lake. At Hunza, I’d recommend

  1. Eagles’s Nest +923000512996
  2. Serena Hunza (058134) 57660
  3. Luxus Hunza +92343 5151913
Attabad Lake Tunnels
Attabad Lake Tunnels

The Gorgeous Passu Village, Gojal, Upper Hunza

Going further 15 km from the Attabad lake Gojal comes to a small village called Passu, alongside the Hunza River.

passu glacier

Passu is not really a town, but because it links so many important high altitude tracks to other villages far into the valleys, it is a favorite for Hikers and Climbers.

Just a few years back, you’d not even get bread to eat here, it was so isolated.

Batura glacier

Things to see at Passu

  1. Passu Glacier
  2. Bathura Glacier (7th longest non-polar glacier; 56 km long) 
  3. Passu Cone mountain Peaks
  4. Crossing towards Shimshal Pass
  5. Tupopdan peak (6,101 m, sun-drenched mountains)

Passu Glacier is visible from the highway but to reach Bathura glacier a hike is required. The effects of global warming are evident here as two decades back KKH used to pass over the frozen Bathura glacier.

passu cones
Passu Cones or Passu Cathedral

The main attraction here is the series of high-rise mountain peaks covered with snow and piercing through clouds, called the Passu Cathedral.

Gorgeous Pass Peaks
Gorgeous Pass Peaks

They are also called the Tupopdan peak (6,101 m, sun-drenched mountains), they lie in the north of the valley. These majestic mountains just appear right in front of you out of nowhere while moving towards Khunjarab pass.

It was a cloudy that day so clouds added more beauty to it. From Passu you can trek to Shimshal valley and another beautiful lake called Borith.

passu cones or Passu Cathedral Peaks along the way to Khunjerab Pass
passu cones or Passu Cathedral Peaks along the way to Khunjerab Pass

Sost Trading Post

Next, we stopped in Sost, which is the last town inside Pakistan before the Chinese border. This is the last place to rest before Khunjrab. Any vehicle maintenance like brake check, tire puncture can be performed here.

Pakistan customs and immigration department are based here. I was expecting a thriving bazaar but there was not much to see. There was hardly any place to stay here.

Initially, we had plans of staying in one of these hotels after returning from Khunjarab pass, but in the end, we decided against it and traveled two hours more to stay in hotels we knew about; that is in Karim Abad, Hunza.

River along the Khunjerab Pass Karakorum Highway
River along the Khunjerab Pass Karakorum Highway

Where there is any trade, there is a checkpost to fleece traders, so…

Dhee Check Post of Sost on Karakorum Highway
Dhee Check Post of Sost on Karakorum Highway

Dhee Check Post

Dhee was the last scout’s check post. Beyond this, the whole area is designated as Khunjarab National Park. You have to buy tickets, which are nominal, and also get yourself registered.

dhee

Visitors to Khunjerab Pass

The in-charge person said that in summers, during tourist season on the average 8000 people go to Khunjarab Pass every day.

Is Hunting allowed at Karakorum Highway?

In hunting season people can hunt ibex, blue sheep at a certain rate, which runs into millions of rupees.

Beyond Dhee, everything was covered with snow.

on the way to khunjerab pass

We were lucky as it was the first snow of the season.

When Does Khunjerab Pass Close in Winters?

Usually, the pass is closed from November to May. The pass was opened and one of the scouts accompanied us all the way to the pass. The distance from Dhee was just around 40 km, but it took us more than two hours to reach there because of the snow. The whole journey was full of spectacular views.

on the way to khunjerab pass

Karakorum Highway from Dhee to Khunjerab Pass

  1. Frozen waterfalls and frozen streams.
  2. Yaks 
  3. Blue Sheep
  4. Markhor
  5. Mountain Cats (Snow Leopards)

We saw yaks (locally known as Zhou), usually, one person takes care of yaks for the whole village and that person is changed after every few days.

A Yak herder enjoying with his flock in the freezing blizzard. They are acclimatized to this weather. We also saw blue sheep and markhor from a distance. There are mountain cats in these mountains but we couldn’t locate them.

Yak on khunjerab pass
Yak on khunjerab pass

The distance from Attabad lake to Khunjerab Pass is around 150 km.

An ATM at Khunjerab National Park on the Karakorum Highway: The Greatest Eyesore of the World
An ATM at Khunjerab National Park on the Karakorum Highway: The Greatest Eyesore of the World!

It took us around five hours to reach there because of the steep incline and snow.

Sost to Khunjerab

Khunjerab pass is 75 km from Sost and 270 km from Gilgit. It was snowing when we reached the pass; it was very cold and beautiful. We got to see the famous landmark at the border. There is no barbed wire nothing of that sort in this border.

ATM Machine at Khunjerab Border Crossing

Eye Sore EXTREME –  at Nature Preserve Khunjerab Pass Karakorum Highway. Am I the only one missing a point here?

We saw the world’s highest ATM machine there as well. We didn’t stay very long there because of the high altitude and low oxygen levels. It was all so serene.

CAUTION

Some people develop altitude sickness at this spot if they climb too quickly to the Khunjerab Pass and the only way remedy it by driving back immediately, which is a kill joy for the remaining people. So drive up slowly

Also, Our transport didn’t start due to technical problems here. I recommend not to switch off the vehicle the whole time you are at the border post.

Food at Khunjerab Pass

Bring your own meals, there is nothing to eat at the Pakistan China Border Crossing Khunjerab Pass. Going to Khunjarab pass is a whole day activity and it is better to take your own food. Just to be on the safe side.

It is better to use a hired transport to go there as there is no place to recover your personal vehicle in case it breaks down.

Sunset at Karakorum Highway (KKH)
Sunset at Karakorum Highway (KKH)

Khunjerab Pass and Back

We came back using the same road, the sun was setting by that time and the same place was giving us a very different view, in the backdrop of the setting sun.

Attabad lake at sunset Karakorum Highway
Attabad lake at sunset Karakorum Highway

How many mountain Passes Connect Pakistan with China?

A total of Four mountain passes on the Karakorum Range connect Pakistan with China :-

  1. Khunjerab (Khunjirap) – The only one with wide highways
  2. Mintaka Pass – Only Mule track
  3. Kilik Pass – Only Mule Track
  4. Karakorum Pass – This 18000 ft pass at the North East Edge of Pakistan’s Siachen Glacier Belt connects Ladakh with Leh. It is currently Under dispute between Pakistan – India and China (I wish I could go there and settle the dispute)

Don’t do it – I know how adventure seekers think – don’t go to these mule Passes without a proper guide.

Can I fly international directly to Hunza and Gilgit?

Presently, you can fly in directly to Skardu in Gilgit Baltistan which is 432 km and 8 hours from Khunjerab Pass. You’d probably have to spend the night at Hunza or Gilgit.

Conclusion

Khunjerab Pass is an essential destination for people who want to see the world beyond their desk and their bills. If you haven’t driven all the way from Gilgit to Khunjerab, probably you haven’t lived enough.

If you want me to arrange your visit, do let me know

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17 Comments

    1. Do that you will love every moment of it

  1. Ali Raza Qureshi says:

    Amazing. I am posted to Gilgit so will see all this IA.

  2. Good one, nicely narrated and backed up with hard to capture clicks.

    1. ali raza qureshi says:

      such a great asset iam lucky that i am posted there.ill explore each corner.Well done for picturesque blog

  3. Noreen Akhtar says:

    Wonderful journey summarised with beautiful visuals.

  4. Spectacular
    Another great article

  5. Informative post
    Loved the pictures

  6. Khadeejah says:

    Looks like a lovely place to visit

  7. Lots of interesting pictures, detail view of the place. Love to go there.Thanks

  8. So want to go there after reading this, thanks

  9. Wonderful and beautiful pictures
    Loved it

  10. very informative thanks

  11. Very detailed and informative with lot of beautiful pics.super work author

  12. Dr Ghazala Inam Ul Haq says:

    Great write up
    Think should go there

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