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Karakoram Highway to Kyrgyzstan

Itinerary


Beyond the Himalayas lies the greatest concentration of mountain ranges in the world. Riding the Karakoram Highway to Kyrgyzstan with redspokes is a unique opportunity to experience astounding natural beauty and ancient cultures whilst enjoying some of the best cycling in the world.


Day 1: Islamabad - Gilgit

redspokes KKH to Kyrgyzstan cycling tour begins in Islamabad. You need to arrive into Islamabad on the Monday no later than 05.00 am. If you wish to get accommodation in Islamabad for the night before, then we can arrange this for you at cost price. We will try to take the early morning flight to Gilgit (not inlcuded in trip cost); this is one of the most dramatic flight routes in the world. A small turboprop lane flies around Nanga Parba at 8,125m; the sharp triangle of K-2, the second highest mountain in the world, is clearly visible on the horizon. The pilot sometimes invites passengers into the cockpit to see some of Pakistan's 82 peaks that are higher than 7,000m and stretch, range after range, as far as the eye can see.

The flight is 'weather dependent' with about one third of flights cancelled, some at the last moment. In this case, we will travel by coach to Gilgit. On arrival in Gilgit we will be transferred to our hotel.

You have the option of visiting the incredible seventh century Kargah Buddha; a three metre high statute carved half way up a cliff-face. A 10-minute walk from here is Shuko Gah, a small village where a Buddhist birchbark text (the Gilgit manuscripts) was found in 1931. The manuscripts are now divided among museums in London, Rome, Delhi and Karachi.

Gilgit Altitude: 1,500m (4,921ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (L,D)


Day 2: Gilgit - Chhirah

Today we transfer by vehicle to the beautiful and remote Bagrote Valley which spans a distance of 25km and is a 36km from Gilgit. Located at the heart of the Karakorum Mountains, it is surrounded by four Mountain Peaks: Rakapushi to the West, Dirn to the North, Popurash to the East and Dubani to the South East. The Bagrote river flows through the steep valley and merges with the Gilgit river. The lower region of the valley has been likened to a lunar landscape and is in strong contrast to the upper valley.

We travel up the narrow road to the summer pastures passing beautiful terraced fields and meadows. The crops and orchards are irrigated by water channels from the Barchi and Hinarchi glaciers and mountain snow. Ice from the glacier is transported to Gilgit as the town has no ice factory. Chhirah is the final village along the track, with a view of Hinarche Glacier and a series of ridges culminating in the Diran Peak (7270m). Nagyr is on the other side. We visit a community project that redspokes supports as part of a community initiative. The sewing centre in Chiraah trains local women giving them a skill with which to earn an income. They sell the textiles locally at market. We have a chance to meet families from the community. There is time to walk around and enjoy the view of the prominent Dobani peak and the Hinarche.

Cycle Distance: 18 km (11 miles)
Gilgit Altitude: 1,500m (4,921ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)


Day 3:  Chhirah - Gilgit 

 

Our ride back to Gilgit is mainly downhill and a gentle cycle. We ride back down along narrow road to the summer pastures passing beautiful terraced fields and meadows. The crops and orchards are irrigated by water channels from the Barchi and Hinarchi glaciers and mountain snow. Ice from the glacier is transported to Gilgit as the town has no ice factory. Back in Gilgit you will have time to look around, visit a tea shop or pick up some of the handicrafts for sale in the town.

Cycling Distance: 36km (22 miles)
Total Climb: 1,377m (4,518ft)
Total Descent: 372m (1,220ft)
Chirah Altitude: 2,600m (8,530ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 4: Gilgit - Minapin

Setting off from Gilgit, we will make a short off road detour from the KKH riding to visit the home village of our guide Arman; we stop here for lunch. This afternoon as we cycle back to rejoin the KKH the road climbs gradually and we pass a few small villages. Beyond here we will catch sight of the huge spiral of Rakaposhi mountain looming in the distance. The road goes so close to its base that it is hidden most of the way. It is only when we arrive at our small family guesthouse at Minapin that we really witness the true beauty of Rakaposhi. Our accommodation for the night is situated in a beautiful tranquil orchard with incredible views of the sunset across the valley. There is a lovely view point above the village that we can cycle up to.

Cycling Distance: 79km (49 miles)
Total Climb: 1,323m (4,340ft)
Total Descent: 752m (2,467ft)
Manipin Altitude: 2,030m (6,660ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)


Day 5: Minapin - Karimabad

The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is at its most spectacular between Ghulmit and Gulmit. The road rides high on the eastern side of the river, twisting and turning around the barren foot of the Hispar Range, which boasts six peaks over 7,000 metres. On the opposite bank, villages cling implausibly to the side of the 7,388m Ultar Mountain.

Above the jagged teeth of the mountain ridge, the highest snow-covered peaks are hidden from view. Our ride leads us to Karimabad, the capital of Hunza. A short but spectacular day.

Cycling Distance: 33km (20.5 miles)
Total Climb: 702m (2,303ft)
Total Descent: 341m (1,118ft)
Karimabad Altitude: 2,400m (7,874ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 6: Karimabad

A rest day, but with so much to see in this enchanting village, it is unlikely that you will get much rest. Highlights include the 13th Century Baltit Fort and the Sacred Rocks of Hunza. For the really adventurous amongst you, trek up the Hon Pass for incredible views across the whole of the Nagar valley.

Karimabad Altitude: 2,400m (7,874ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 7: Karimabad - Passu

As we leave Karimabad we cycle along road that drops down to the village of Ganesh before begining a fairly hard 15 km climb. Remember that if at any time you have had enough, just wait around for the back-up vehicle. Due to the floods of 2010 and a landslide, a section of the KKH between the village of Gulmit and Gulkin was impassable for a number of years. A series of newly completed tunnels (the shortest only tens of metres long, the longest 4km) takes us through the mountains with occasional views of the stunning blue Attabad lake. Emerging from the tunnels, this afternoon we cycle on a further 16 km to Passu. The road climbs with intermittent glimpses of glaciers, precipices and gleaming white peaks, before we ride a 10km descent to Passu, which brings us directly to the incredible Passu Glacier where we will stop for the night. About 8km before Passu we will pass the world famous Hussaini suspension bridge.

Cycling Distance: 48km (30 miles)
Total Climb: 902m (2,959ft)
Total Descent: 612m (,2008ft)
Passu Altitude: 2,480m (8,136ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)


Day 8: Passu - Shimshal

On our KKH to Kyrgyzstan tour today we will transfer by vehicle up to the village of Shimshall. For the first 6km we travel along the KKH.  Just beyond the Batura Glacier we turn off to cross a suspension bridge over the Hunza river and follow a jeep track up to Shimshal. The road has been described as a miracle of engineering by some. On our approach to Shimshal we pass rocky fields partitioned by dry stone walls and houses built of mud and stone. In the distance we may catch a glimpse of Odver Sar (6,303m). The village herdsmen pasture their sheep, yak and goats on the seasonal mountain grasslands, located several days walk away from the village. The people of Shimshal are Wakhi.

Cycling Distance: 59km (37 miles)
Total Climb: 524m (1,719ft)
Total Descent: 1,128m (3701ft)
Shimshal Altitude: 3,002m (9,849ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)


Day 09: Shimshal- Passu

Today we cycle down through the valley passing the Mulungutti Glacier as we travel through a stunning scenery. The valley is home to herds of sheep, goats and yaks that are moved up and down the valley with the seasons. But we see little evidence of settlement apart from the few shepherds' huts on the precipitous single track road. We cross the Hunza River over a suspension bridge before re-joining the KKH about 6km north of Passu.

Cycling Distance: 59km (37 miles)
Total Climb: 524m (1,719ft)
Total Descent: 1,128m (3,701ft)
Passu Altitude: 2,480m (8,136ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 10: Passu - Sust

We can make a late start this morning. When we depart our beautiful surroundings we have a picturesque 39 km cycle ride to the quiet and unremarkable border village of Sust. We can pick up any supplies we need here, before we cross over the border.

Cycling Distance: 38km (24 miles)
Total Climb: 601m (1,972ft)
Total Descent: 265m  (869ft)
Sust Altitude: 3,668m (12,064ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)


Day 11 Sust - Chapoorsun Valley - Sust

From Sust we will cycle up and then back down part of the remote and tranquil Chaporsun Valley. here you will experience the renowned Wakhi hospitality and culture as we journey through small villages. Our route follows the Gilgit river for most of the day. 

Cycling Distance: 60km - 30 up and 30 back (37 miles)
Total Climb: 
Total Descent: 
Sust Altitude: 3,668m (12,064ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)


Day 12: Sust - Tashkurgan

We transfer today into China. There are a number of border formalities we will need to pass through during the day. We set off by vehicle driving up to the Khunjerab Pass, taking a brief break at the top to marvel that it was possible to build a road in such an inhospitable environment, before crossing the border and entering a different world, both culturally and geologically.

A 1400 year old stone fortress gives the town its name:  stone (tash) fortifications (kurgan). Tashkurgan is home to an ethnic Tajik community and marks the halfway point between Europe and China and the town museum. There is also the opportunity to change money and do laundry.

Tashkurgan Altitude: 3,085m (10,212ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
 


Day 13: Tashkurgan - Kala Kule - Kashgar

Another fantastic day as we cycle to Kala Kule. This is a long and challenging ride with some amazing views in probably the most spectacular part of western China. For the first 40 km there is a gentle incline as the road winds its way through the Tagharma basin, where you get the first views of the stunning north side of the Muztagh Ata Massif (Father of Ice Mountains at 7,546m). The wind can be strong up here but usually it's a tail wind. The road gets steeper for the last 32km to the top of the 4,200 m pass. Then it's an exhilarating 30km blast downhill, providing the wind is blowing in the right direction!!! We finish the day with a 20km flat ride to the lake. If we can arrange it we will stay in a Kyrgyz yurt otherwise we will tranfser to Kashgar.

Cycling Distance: 97km (60 miles)
Total Climb: 1,114m (3,655ft)
Total Descent: 567m (1,860ft)
Kara Kul Altitude: 3,668m (12,034ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
  


Day 14: Kashgar

Kashgar was an important hub on the Old Silk Road; a vibrant Islamic centre positioned at the foot of the Pamir Mountains and commanding access to the high glacial passes of the Silk Road routes into Central Asia, India and Persia. On Sundays, Kashgar hosts the most famous market in Central Asia, so we will have chance to enjoy a lively, busy scene that defies its geographical remoteness with crowds flocking in to trade knives, hats, carpets, pots and pans, fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes and boots and every kind of domestic and agricultural appliance - often handmade. Colourful and exotic headgear is one of the features of the market. A short distance away is the Ulagh Bazaar, where traders sell their livestock, including horses, camels, cattle and sheep. Be sure to try the street food in the ‘old’ town which bursts into life in the evening. 

Kashgar Altitude: 1,282m (4,206ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 15: Kashgar - Tash Rabat

An early start as we transfer across the dramatic Torugart Pass (3,752m) into Kyrgyzstan. A short distance along the road after the visa formalities, we will see the frozen lake Chatyr Kul before reaching Tash - Rabat. This small cluster of yurts is part of a well-developed network of Community Based Tourism (CBT) initiatives which have helped the local economy and gives travellers a great insight into a traditional way of life, unchanged over the centuries. We will be staying tonight in communal yurts.

Tash Rabat Altitude: 2,850m (9,350ft)
Accommodation: Yurt (B,L,D)


Day 16: Tash Rabat - At Bashy

Before we leave Tash Rabat we will have a chance to visit the 15th century stone caravanserai. It's believed to be originally a Nestorian or Buddhist monastery dating back to the tenth century. Setting off on the bikes the lush green pastures and snow-capped mountains of the Tian Shan range are a pleasant change from the red desert on the Chinese side of the border. Our cycling today is over 1000m of descent to reach our destination At Bashy.

Cycling Distance: 73km (45 miles)
Total Climb: 183m (600ft)
Total Descent: 1,236m (4,055ft)
Al Bashy Altitude: 2,085m (6,840ft)

Accommodation: Homestay (B,L,D)


Day 17: At Bashy - Naryn

A long day's cycling. We begin with a relatively easy 27km climb up the Kyzyl Bel Pass (The Red Pass) at 2,625m. Kyrgyzstan is probably the most beautiful of all the Central Asian countries. This is very much in evidence today as we cycle past small farming communities and nomadic shepherds. The road winds between red hills and eroded landscapes, the occasional vehicle will pass by during the 16 km descent towards the town of Naryn our stop for the night. The surface progressively deteriorates to a rutted, bumpy; gravely track making this a thriller ride. 

Cycling Distance: 46.5km (29 miles)
Total Climb: 710m (2,329ft)
Total Descent: 705m (2,312ft)
Sleeping Altitude: 2,075m (6,807ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 18: Naryn - Kochkor

This is another challenging day as we cycle over the Dolon Pass which at 3,035m is the highest pass we encounter in Kyrgyzstan. The riding begins with an inevitable long climb. Over the peak we will enjoy a long downhill ride through a wide fertile valley that takes us to Kochkor, our stop for the night.

Cycling Distance: 119km (74 miles)
Total Climb: 1,240m (4,068ft)
Total Descent: 1,469m (4,819ft)
Sleeping Altitude: 1,846m (6,056ft)
Accommodation: Homestay (B,L,D)


Day 19: Kochkor - Bishkek

Our last day's cycle on the KKH to Kyrgyzstan tour takes us to Issyk Kul, the world's second largest alpine lake.  Surrounded by the snowcapped Tian Shan Mountains the turquoise waters of the lake never freeze over. A fantastic location to finish a wonderful ride. After lunch we will transfer to Bishkek, pack up our bikes and then spend time exploring this laid-back picturesque city.

Cycling Distance: 62km (38.5 miles)
Total Climb: 163m (535ft)
Total Descent: 356m (1,168ft)
Bishkek Altitude: 724m (2,375ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 20: Bishkek - Home

redspokes KKH - Kyrgyzstan tour ends today. We will arrange your transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Bishkek Altitude: 724m (2,375ft)

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Kyrgyz Kyzyl Bel Pass Passu, Gilgit Baltistan Cycling Shimshal cycling the Karakorum Highway Rakaposhi mountain Cycling KKH to Kashgar