Biking Pakistan's Karakoram Highway

Day 1 Arrive in Islamabad/Rawalpindi

You will be met at the airport for a 30-minute transfer to our hotel in Rawalpindi. The city of Rawalpindi is a garrison town established under the British Raj, and it is still the headquarters of the Pakistani Army. The city is rather sprawling with enormous and complicated bazaars where you can easily get lost, but they are great fun to explore and everyone is extremely friendly. We meet up in the evening for a trip briefing and then have dinner.

Hotel de Papáe
Dinner

Day 2 Skardu - Khaplu

After breakfast, we head to the airport for our flight to Skardu. This short, but spectacular, one-hour flight skirts past the breath-taking Rupal and Dia-mir faces of Nanga Parbat. It is even possible to catch a fleeting glimpse of K2 and the other high peaks of the Baltoro in the distance. After lunch in town, we continue our journey, which will take 2 to 3 hours by jeep on a spectacular road beside the Indus to the village of Khaplu. At 2600 m, we will begin our acclimation in this village of stone houses. We check into our hotel located high above the village with magnificent views over the rock spires and towers that mark the entrance to the Hushe Valley.

Karakoram Lodge Khaplu
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 Khaplu - Thalley Brok - Khaplu

As part of our acclimation, we will spend our day at the lovely settlement of Khaplu, with its stunning views across the broad valley of the Shyok to the Batura Spires. Depending on how we feel, we will either take a short cycle, 16 km, on a part-finished jeep road up to a lake where the views of the Karakoram peaks are superb. If we are acclimating well, we'll go for a longer cycle, 50 km, up the Thalley Valley, where the landscape varies from the sands of the Indus Valley to high snow-capped peaks. Returning to our ho-tel in Khaplu, there will be time to explore the old polo field and the beautiful, 600-year-old Rajah's Palace.

Karakoram Lodge Khaplu
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 50km

Day 4 Khaplu - Hushe - Khaplu

Testing out our lungs, we will have an undulating ride as we cross a number of nullahs, or small river valleys, until we reach the beginning of the Hushe River Valley. Here the road gradually ascends to Hushe Village on a rough jeep track. Hushe is the highest village in the area at 3,100 m (10,200 ft) and is the last permanent habitation in this area, with the huge bulk of Masher-brum (also known as K1) at 7,821 m (25,659 ft) dominating the valley to the north. After lunch, it is nearly all downhill, as we ride back to our hotel in Khaplu.

Karakoram Lodge Khaplu
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 60km

Day 5 Khaplu - Skardu

Following the eastern banks of the Shyok River to Kiris, the once wild jeep track has now been tarred, resulting in an excellent biking road. With hardly any traffic but passing through a succession of small, lush villages set against a backdrop of dramatic mountains, this road is perfect for riding. Beyond Kiris and the confluence of the Shyok and Indus Rivers, the landscape becomes more barren but unforgettable. It is a full day's ride to our hotel in Skardu, although there will be time to explore this wild west bazaar town, which is the gateway for all expeditions to K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

Summit Hotel Skardu
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 100km

Day 6 Skardu - Deosai Plateau

It is a relatively decent tarmac road out of Skardu, which climbs steeply to the beautiful Satpara Lake and continues up on to the Deosai Plateau. It’s a hard slog of around 35 km with a 2,000-m climb to reach the start of the plateau, where the terrain levels out. Our aim is to reach the start of the national park and set up our camp (4,100 m) close to a lake.

Tented Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 50km

Day 7 Across the Deosai Plateau

Now on the Deosai Plateau proper, it’s only a short climb up to the Chachur Pass (4,200 m / 13,780 ft). There is only a rough dirt jeep track to follow now, with the occasional small river crossing. Beyond Sheosar Lake, our route turns into a downhill blast. We aim for a side jeep road, which has a short climb up to the village of Tarashing. Here, we camp (4,200 m) in the shadow of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world.

Tented Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 60km

Day 8 Deosai Plateau - Astor - Muskin

We have time for a short exploration in the morning before we leave the Deosai with a fantastic descent to the small bazaar town of Astor. We then enter a narrow gorge that descends to the mighty Indus River. Depending on our progress, we will look for a camp somewhere in the shade around Muskin.

Tented Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 60km

Day 9 Muskin - Gilgit

More downhill biking into the roaring Indus Valley, where we eventually cross the river and climb onto its western bank to reach the Karakoram Highway. It's then a rolling route that winds its way to Gilgit. Here, we check in to a comfortable inn that has a relaxing garden shaded by poplars and chinar, or plane tree. Gilgit is another fascinating town, and our first chance to take in the sights and sounds of the Hunza at the bazaar, as well as enjoy our first shower for a few days.

Chinar Inn
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 50km

Day 10 Gilgit - Karimabad

Today is our first day off the bikes in seven days! We load our bikes onto the support vehicles for a drive up the Karakoram Highway to the Hunza Valley, a journey of about 4 hours. On the way, we stop off at a café below Rakaposhi, which at 7,788 m (25,552 ft) is the 29th highest mountain on earth. Rakaposhi was first climbed in 1958 by a British expedition that included George Banks and Tom Patey. The glacier spilling down from its flanks reaches almost to the road. Once we arrive in Karimbad, we explore this old capital city and the dramatic Balti and Alti Forts. These 700-year-old forts were occupied by the former Mirs of Hunza and were inhabited until 1945. Once in a state of disrepair, these Tibetan-influenced forts have since been restored and provide a perfect window into the lives of the Mirs.

Hunza View Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11 Karimbad - Hopar - Karimbad

We explore Hunza's once rival state of Nagar. We bike down to the Karakoram Highway and cross it for a stunning ride through the Nagar Valley. We cycle on an old jeep road that follows the Hispar River to the village of Nagar and climb gradually upwards for 800 m to a spectacular viewpoint above the village of Hopar, which lies at the end of the jeep road and the start of the jagged Bualtar Glacier. There we have a well-earned lunch at the “Hopar Hilton”, and if you have the energy, it is worth taking a short walk above Hopar for a magnificent view of the Bualtar Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Karakoram. Retracing our tracks to Karimabad, it is downhill all the way, well nearly. From the highway there is a last short climb to Karimabad, which should finish you off nicely!

Hunza View Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 30km

Day 12 Karimabad - Chalt

Back on the Karakoram Highway, we drop down to the Shia village of Chalt. This first hour is one of the most relaxed and beautiful sections of our trip, being a constant downhill, cycling through small villages shaded by poplar trees and all overshadowed by the huge white bulk of Rakaposhi. Just past Minapin, we again leave the main road and cross the river to join part of the original Silk Road caravan route. Home to various fruit trees, you should try the local specialty of nuts from the inside of apricot kernels. We celebrate our last night’s camping within the gardens of the Mir’s house at Chalt.

Tented Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 40km

Day 13 Chalt - Gilgit

From Chalt, we again join the Karakoram Highway, but only for a short while, as we soon re-cross the river on a wild foot bridge and join the old road to Gilgit from Naltar. We follow the river to Gilgit, arriving in time for a late lunch at our hotel. There will be plenty of time in the afternoon to do some shopping or simply to relax. Gilgit has an interesting bazaar, full of trade goods from China and Afghanistan.

PTDC Gilgit
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 60km

Day 14 Gilgit - Rawalpindi

After an early breakfast, we go to Gilgit Airport and catch the flight to Islamabad. It is a short transfer to our hotel in Rawalpindi from Islamabad Airport. The afternoon is free to explore the bustling Raja Bazaar.

Hotel de Papáe
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15 Depart Islamabad/Rawalpindi

After breakfast, we'll transfer you to the airport for onward travel.

Breakfast