Karakoram Adventure – Kashgar to Kashmir
|BETWEEN||Kashgar and Delhi|
|COUNTRIES VISITED – 3||China, Pakistan and India|
|MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE||12|
|WHATS NOT INCLUDED||
China, Pakistan and India – This totally unique itinerary takes us on a wonderful journey along the southern branch of the Old Silk Road. Starting in Kashgar where we will witness the famous Yakshmbe Bazaar – otherwise known as the Sunday Market – we will continue through the stunning mountains of northern Pakistan to the tranquil foothills of the Indian Himalayas. On a journey that traders, warriors, poets and pilgrims have been taking for millennia we will drive the famous Karakoram Highway – the eighth wonder of the world – through Hunza and the beautiful Fairy Meadows and on to Lahore. From here we will cross the border to the Sikh’s holy city of Amritsar, visit the Golden Temple and then head to the mythical land of Kashmir to relax in the mellow forest-clad mountains and on the region’s tranquil lakes. All in all, this is an amazing adventure: a journey through a part of the world that will stay with you long after you have finished your travels…
Karakoram Adventure – Kashgar to Kashmir
Starting in Kashgar where we will witness the famous Yakshmbe Bazaar – otherwise known as the Sunday Market – we will continue through the stunning mountains of northern Pakistan to the tranquil foothills of the Indian Himalayas. On a journey that traders, warriors, poets and pilgrims have been taking for millennia we will drive the famous Karakoram Highway – the eighth wonder of the world – through Hunza and the beautiful Fairy Meadows and on to Lahore. From here we will cross the border to the Sikh’s holy city of Amritsar, visit the Golden Temple and then head to the mythical land of Kashmir to relax in the mellow forest-clad mountains and on the region’s tranquil lakes.
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• The Kashgar Sunday Market
• The Hunza Valley
• The old town of Lahore
• The Golden Temple at Amritsar
• Houseboats of Kashmir
Day 1: Tour starts in Kashgar (China)
The tour will start in Kashgar. Depending on your arrival time there may be an opportunity for an orientation walk around the city before dinner at a local restaurant.
QinibaghHotel or similar (D)
Day 2: Kashgar
We will spend the day exploring this wonderful town and the famous Yakshambe Bazaar, or the Sunday Market as it’s otherwise known. In the morning we will first visit the town’s famous mosque before going to the animal market. Here we will spend the morning watching the locals trade everything from woodwork and iron wear to sheep, donkeys, cattle, horses and camels, before having lunch at a traditional Uyghur restaurant. In the afternoon we move to the covered bazaar, believed to be the biggest in Central Asia. Tian Yuan Hotel or similar (B,L,D)
During the heyday of the Silk Road, Kashgar was a vitally important oasis town forming a sanctuary for travellers heading to or from the dangerous lands of the Taklamakan Desert that lie immediately to the east. But it wasn’t just from China and Europe that the travellers came. Kashgar sits at a natural junction with the ancient trade routes through the Karakoram Mountains to India and the southern seas. From here the traders also journeyed carrying fine cloth, cashmere, spices, jade, coral, pearls and precious gems. Hence a great market sprung up. The geography hasn’t changed and though Kashgar’s importance may have waned in recent times, the bazaars – especially the famous Yakshambe Bazaar or the Sunday Market – still thrive today. At the beginning of the third millennium, however, Kashgar is a tale of two cities: that of the modern Han and the ancient Uyghur. Wide, tree-lined streets, bordered by modern stores, hotels and supermarkets are peopled by Han migrants from the east, but if you cut down the narrow alleyways that lead into the old town you’ll soon find yourself in an exclusively Uyghur world, barely changed from the heady days of the old Silk Road, echoing that of the Arabian Nights.
Day 3: Kashgar
After a late breakfast we will visit some of Kashgar’s interesting sites, starting at the green-tiled Abak Hoja tomb and the small Silk Road museum. After lunch we head into the old town, a world that is changing fast but still holds hidden corners of the old Silk Road. We will end the day’s tour by having tea on the second floor balcony of one of the old chaikhanas (tea-houses) and watching the street market below us. Tian Yuan Hotel or similar (B,L,D)
Day 4: Kashgar – Tashkurgan
Like countless traders before us, today we will commence our journey on the southern branch of the Old Silk Road, passing Karakul Lake and the formidable 7000m high peak Muztagh Ata – the Ice Father – en route to Tashkurgan. This interesting frontier town is famed for its old fortress which we will take time to look around. Crown Hotel or similar (B,L,D)
Day 5: Tashkurgan – Sust - Gulmit (Pakistan)
Crossing the land border calls for an early morning departure, first checking through passport control before driving over the spectacular Khunjerab Pass and on to Sust in Pakistan. After clearing immigration we head for Gulmit. En route we take a photo stop at the Batura Glacier to view the Shisper Peak standing at 7600m. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6: Gulmit – Hunza
The town of Gulmit, the old summer capital of Hunza situated at approx. 2500m.The fertile plateau here boasts an abundance of crops such as maize, wheat and potatoes, along with apricots, peaches, apples and walnuts. This morning we will take a wander around and visit some of the local houses before continuing our journey down the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to Hunza. We cross the, spectacular 22km long lake at Attabad by boat. The lake journey will take approximately one hour and at the southern end we will transfer to our waiting vehicles and continue the final 30km to Hunza and the principal town of Karimabad. In the late afternoon we will drive up to our amazing hotel which is situated 2,850m above sea level, 800m above the valley floor with panoramic views of seven 7,000m peaks! Hotel (B,L,D)
The Karakoram Highway
The KKH is the greatest wonder of modern Pakistan. It is one of the most spectacular roads in the world connecting Pakistan to China. It twists through three great mountain ranges – the Himalayas, Karakoram and Pamir – following one of the ancient silk routes along the valleys of the Indus, Gilgit and Hunza rivers to the Chinese border at the Khunjerab Pass. It then crosses the high Central Asian plateau before winding down through the Pamirs to Kashgar, at the Western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. By this route, Chinese silks, ceramics, lacquer-work, bronze, iron, fur and spices travelled south and west, while the wool, linen, ivory, gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones, asbestos and glass of South Asia and the west travelled north and east.
Day 7: Hunza
Today we will be able to take a spectacular walk down into town – or go by jeep – where we will be able to visit Altit Fort and go for a water channel walk. Alternatively we can just chill-out in this fabulous location. It really is one of the most amazing places on earth and there are plenty of things to do. Hotel B,L,D)
Day 8: Hunza
Realising the last few days have been quite full-on, we have decided to indulge you, and give one more full day at this heavenly spot. Besides relaxing, there are numerous local walks to enjoy. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9: Hunza – Gilgit
After breakfast we will continue south down the Hunza Valley to Gilgit. Here we will have the chance to visit the famous Gandharan Buddha and the Christian cemetery before having a look around the bazaar. If a game of Polo is on, this is a great place to watch. From here we will transfer to our wonderful hotel, situated a little way out of town. Hotel (B,L,D)
Hunza and Gilgit
There is a saying in Hunza: A house without a view is like a house without a roof. All homes, and hotels, have sensational panoramas of this most majestic valley. Three hours north of Gilgit, on the famous Karakoram Highway, Hunza is quite simply one of the most impressive places you’re ever likely to see. In Spring when cherry and apple blossom soak the trees and in Autumn, when the colours turn from green to rich amber, ochre and gold, the scene is simply breath taking. With the local inhabitants often living to over a hundred years old, there’s little wonder Victorians regarded this spectacular valley as an earthly Shangri La.
Day 10: Gilgit – Fairy Meadows
After an early breakfast we will head down the KKH to Raikot Bridge, where we transfer to jeeps and turn off up into the hills. In the lee of the staggering Nanga Parbat – or Naked Mountain (the 8,100 peak and massif that marks the end of the Himalayas) we will stay at the Fairy Meadows. There are lovely (but basic) log cabins here, all of which have commanding views of the great mountain, but there is no road…so to get there we must walk about 2-3 hours. This is truly one of the most magical places on earth. On arrival we will check into the huts, relax and go on short walks around the area. Log Cabins (B,L,D)
Day 11: Fairy Meadows
Spending the day in Fairy Meadows there is plenty of time for a trek through the forested foothills of the massif to Bayel camp and back. This will not be too strenuous, as we will run along the contours rather than straight up, but it will be spectacular. Anyone wanting a more relaxed time can simply stay at the meadows. We may take a packed lunch with us or have lunch at one of the local camps, and then have dinner back at Fairy Meadows. Log Cabins (B,L,D)
Pakistan is blessed with areas of matchless beauty and Fairy Meadows can be considered as one of the most beautiful locations in the region. A visit to Fairy Meadows requires a hike of approximately three hours but the views of Nanga Parbat, the 8,000m plus Killer Mountain, are very rewarding. You will have the best views of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows, while sitting in your wonderful log cabin.
Day 12: Fairy Meadows – Naran
After breakfast we will walk back down to the road-head and from here re-join the KKH, swap the jeeps for our regular transport and crack on through to Chilas. Here we plan to take a new and more interesting route, over the Babusa Pass and into the Kaghan Valley and on to the town of Naran. Once here we will have a chance to go for a walk among the hills, hopefully meeting some of the Kutchi nomads that come this way, grazing their flocks, at this time of year. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 13: Naran –Taxila
This morning we’ll leave Naran and drive towards the capital of Islamabad. We will pass through the infamous Abbottabad, home to Osama Bin Laden in his final years. Our overnight stop tonight will be at Taxila, the fascinating Buddhist university town, dating back to the Gandaharan era of Alexander the Great. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 14: Taxila – Islamabad
We explore the ancient ruins of Taxila before taking the short drive to the capital Islamabad where we will spend the rest of the day visiting the Faisal Mosque and the Lok Virsa Museum. Dinner will be organised in Saidpur, a traditional local village area just outside the centre of Islamabad. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 15: Islamabad - Lahore
Today takes us further south to the country’s cultural and artistic capital of Lahore. It provides an evocative mixture of Moghul monuments and faded legacies to the Raj era along with a rambling old city. After lunch we will start our sightseeing by visiting the famous Ajeeb Ghar, or ‘wonder house’, as the locals refer to the Lahore Museum. This evening we will sample the delights of the local cuisine in one of the city’s many restaurants. Hotel (B,L,D)
Other than the many famous historical monuments, this city, the second largest in Pakistan, is also known for its beautiful gardens mostly laid out during the Moghal Empire and the British Raj. Its faded elegance, busy streets and bazaars, and wide variety of Islamic and British architecture make it a city full of atmosphere, contrast and surprise. The people of Lahore, when they want to emphasize the uniqueness of their town, say – “Lahore is Lahore”. The traditional capital of Punjab for a thousand years, it had been the cultural centre of Northern India extending from Peshawar to Delhi.
Day 16: Lahore – Amritsar (India)
Our final morning in Lahore allows us time to visit the magnificent fort and then take a wander through the old town and if time allows the Shalamar gardens. Bidding a fond farewell to Pakistan, we will cross the border at Wagah and enter India from where we will witness the closing of the gate ceremony, a colourful and unique affair. From here it is a short drive on to Amritsar where we stay for the next two nights. Ranjit Svaasa Hotel or similar (B,L,D)
Day 17: In Amritsar
We have a full day to enjoy the city of Amritsar founded in 1577 by the 4th Sikh Guru, Ram Das, and home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine – the Golden Temple. It is bound by 12 medieval gates and provides a warren of narrow streets hosting a myriad of bazaars to explore in the old city. We will also visit the Jallianwalla Barg – scene of the British massacre in 1919. After dinner we can take another look around the temple, which is at its most evocative when lit up at night. Ranjit Svaasa Hotel or similar (B,L,D)
Amritsar, literally a Pool of Nectar, derives its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the fabulous Golden Temple. First time visitors to Amritsar could be forgiven for the impression that Amritsar is like any other small town in northern India. But Amritsar stands head and shoulders above any other city, its status elevated and sanctified by the presence of the venerable Golden Temple. Located in the heart of Amritsar, the temple complex is surrounded by a maze of narrow lanes, or katras, that house one of the busiest markets in India. The gurudwara, as Sikh temples are called, is the holiest of Sikh shrines. It is not just Sikhs who travel to the Golden Temple to pay homage; Hindus and people of other faiths who, too, make the pilgrimage to offer prayers at Harmandir Sahib equally revere the sacred shrine. Another major attraction these days is the Indo-Pakistan border crossing at Wagah, just a short distance from Amritsar, with its elaborate change-of guards drill with a lot of strutting and intimidatory showing off by both sides.
Day 18: Amritsar – Srinagar
We have a lazy start this morning with time for a further visit to Golden Temple or wandering around the old city before catching our flight to Srinagar. On arrival we check into our houseboat this afternoon and relax and enjoy our wonderful surroundings.*Subject to flight schedules and availability it may be necessary to drive to Jammu to take a flight to Srinagar* Royal Houseboat or similar (B,L,D)
Day 19: Srinagar
Of course, staying for three nights there will be plenty of time to enjoy this unique place. There is the floating vegetable market, the beautiful Moghul Gardens, created by Empire Akbar, and the old city with its narrow streets and ancient mosques to explore. We may also take a stroll up to the imposing 18thcentury Hari Parbat Fort which is visible from virtually anywhere in Srinagar and built by Akbar in the 1590’s. Until recently this was closed off to the public but provides stunning views of the surrounding area. There is also the opportunity for some shopping, though in truth that doesn’t require much effort as the hawkers of flowers, jewellery, pashminas etc come to the houseboats. Or for the really energetic there is even a round of golf to consider on one of India’s best courses. Each day we will eat on the houseboat, sampling the delicious cuisine. Houseboat or similar (B,L,D)
Famed for centuries for its infinite natural beauty – its spectacular mountains, fertile valleys and tranquil lakes – Kashmir has long been regarded as a paradise on earth. It was to Srinagar that the Moghuls and British rulers travelled to escape the summer heat; in the sixties it was the turn of the hippies, and in the seventies and eighties so followed tourists and travellers for just the same reason. Shangri La…until at the end of 1989 when the region exploded in a violent struggle for independence that has continued with various levels of hostility for the past 15 years, claiming 60,000 lives. With Pakistan encouraging the militants on the one hand, and India suppressing, imprisoning and torturing the local population on the other, the situation has run and run, appearing like it has no end. Then, in early 2004, after regional elections, the governments of India and Pakistan began to ease the tension with a series of talks that are continuing to this day. As nominal, yet crucial, changes began to take place – from international cricket matches to the opening of ‘friendship’ bus routes across the line of control – so the peace process gathered momentum. Finding themselves isolated, with dwindling support in the Vale and diminishing assistance from Islamabad, the militants agreed to a ceasefire and though this has been breached on occasions, the general mood has swung towards peace. Though all sides are still a long way from a lasting solution, just as in Northern Ireland it seems the stomach for an impossible war has started to evaporate in all the crucial quarters. The last time a western tourist was attacked was over a decade ago. In fact, realising the importance of the tourist dollar to the region, Hebz-iMujahadeen, who represents the main militant groups, even came out with a statement announcing that under no circumstances were tourists to be harmed. As such, both domestic and international tourism has started to return. In 2004, 25,000 foreign travellers made their way to Kashmir, a number that almost doubled in 2005. There are still a huge number of Indian soldiers in Kashmir but on the whole their presence does not cast an oppressive ‘occupation’ vibe: the number of sandbag, machine gun posts has been reduced considerably as has the amount of police check points. On the lakes you would know nothing of the troubles and even in the countryside it has little effect. With the situation between Islamabad and New Delhi continuing to improve, the latter has even agreed to start reducing the numbers of troops in the region. Ask a Kashmiri and most will tell you that while they are not entirely content with domination from Delhi, they are under no illusions about the chances of independence and after years of unrest, they now want things to go back to normal so they can get on with their lives and start doing what they enjoy doing best…making money from tourists! Wild Frontiers believe that travellers face no greater risk here than they do in a number of other places where tourism is encouraged, and we are confident therefore that the time has come to return to Kashmir.
Day 20: Srinagar
Sitting at the heart of the Vale of Kashmir lies this extraordinary town, famed for centuries for its clean, clear air, its idyllic setting and, of course, its lakes. Framed by high-forested hills that rise up in the distance to the snowcapped Himalayas, it is simply one of the most picturesque places you’re ever likely to visit. To drift across Dal or Nagin Lake on the elegant shikaras is relaxation at its most exotic and peaceful. Today we will simply relax. Royal Houseboat or similar ( B,L,D)
Day 21:Srinagar – Delhi
This morning we will take a flight to Delhi where will have the rest of the day free for a look around India’s capital city, before heading out for our final dinner in town. The tour ends after dinner. Lemo Tree Hotel or similar – Day rooms only – (B,L,D)
Tour Dossier Notes
Climate – The weather conditions can be extremely varied on this tour. In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan you will often be travelling at heights in excess of 3000m and so even in the middle of summer it can turn bitter with snow falling; at the same time mercury in the thermometers of Bukhara can be nudging 40 degrees.
Is this trip for me? – It may sound obvious but these tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. The team at Diesel Adventures can provide the details and expertise you need to help you choose the right trip for you.
Airport transfers– Not included but can be arranged. If you’re booking flights yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.
Accommodation– As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this trip we will mostly be in small hotels and guesthouses while in Fairy Meadows we are in log cabins and in Kashmir we are in the unique houseboats. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability. For security reasons we do not provide details of the hotels used in Pakistan on this trip but if you would like more information please contact us.
Transport – On this tour transport in Pakistan, India & China will generally be in a large minibus coaster, but we will also use jeeps and have one short boat trip.
Guides – Full services of a Tour Leader with local guides and drivers.
Meals – In most cases a “Full Board” Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable. Plus bottled drinking water as required
Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, we can arrange if possible and these would be at your own expense.
Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then can request for this to be arranged for you. If you need any advice with visas just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as CIBT can assist.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, these are at your expense.
Please note that there is more detailed tour dossiers available specific to each departure date, contact our Sales team and we would be happy to send these to you