Home World The incredible 808-mile road that connects two of world's largest countries

The incredible 808-mile road that connects two of world's largest countries

Roads have been an essential piece of infrastructure for centuries – and some of them are truly colossal in scale.

They allow people and goods to travel across vast stretches of land and can cross even the most brutal terrain.

Amongst perhaps the most ambitious is the winding Karakoram Highway, which connects China and Pakistan.

The 808-mile road runs between Pakistan’s Punjab province and China’s Xinjiang province.

Construction took 16 years, between 1962 and 1978 and, given the vast efforts needed to build it, it has sometimes been called ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’.

The road is amongst the highest paved roads in the world due to the fact it passes, as the name suggests, through the Karakoram Mountains.

At one point on its route it reaches the height of 15,466ft above sea level – for context Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, only reaches the heights of 4,411ft.

In such a harsh climate, it is perhaps no surprise that the road can often become blocked for extended periods due to bad weather.

In winter heavy snow can shut the highway down, while the monsoon season in July and August can cause landslides that block the road.

These landslides also contributed to the considerable death toll – around 810 Pakistani workers and at least 200 Chinese workers were killed constructing the road.

These days the highway attracts adventurous tourists, but it also sits on faultlines both geological and geopolitical.

It cuts through the ‘collision zone’ where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, and also is considered very sensitive to Pakistan and China due to its proximity to Kashmir, which India and Pakistan dispute ownership of.


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