Passu – Our first stop along Pakistan‘s Karakoram Highway

Our first two nights in Pakistan we spent in the village of Passu. If it wasn’t that cold, we probably would have gotten “stuck” there for much longer. Even though the village is small, the area offers a lot to do for a nature-lover. Or one could just do nothing and enjoy the peace and calmness of the beautiful Hunza Valley.

From Sost to Passu

Sost is the first town on the Pakistani side of the Karakorum Highway, and the place where the immigration happens. Even though Sost didn’t seem that uninviting place either, we wanted to continue to Passu. We had heard that this village, 36 kilometers from Sost, would be a nicer place to stay. Our funny Pakistani friends from Tashkurgan were heading to South and offered us a ride.

Before leaving Sost, we had to get some Pakistani Rupees. There are a few ATMs in town. We managed to get some money out of the first machine, but only with Visa credit card. It was the third card we tried, so it is important to carry more than just one card with you.

It’s crazy how you can get amazed by the surrounding views over and over again. Just when you think it can’t get any better, there is another snowy peak, surrounded by bright autumn colors, coming to your sight. That’s how our way from Sost to Passu went – just admiring the views along the road, again.

We said our fair wells to our first ever Pakistani friends as they dropped us off at Passu. We promised to visit them at their home city near Lahore when we had made our way that South. 

Our stay in the beautiful but cold Passu

As soon as we arrived in Passu, we learned that it is a tiny village, consisting mostly of stone houses. Anyway, the reason why most travelers stop here is the nature and the mountains behind the town, known as “Passu Cones” or “Passu Cathedral” because of their shape. 

The Passu Cones behind the Hunza River
The Passu Cones behind the Hunza River

Mid-October is already at the end of the tourist season and most guesthouses had closed their doors. After looking around in the village first, we decided to hitch a ride a few kilometers back on the Karakoram Highway to the Passu Peak Inn. Already now it came clear to us how easy it is to hitch-hike in Pakistan.

The Passu Peak Inn along the Karakoram Highway
The Passu Peak Inn along the Karakoram Highway

Passu Peak Inn is a very basic guesthouse run by energetic and talkative 81-years-old Mr. Akbar. We really enjoyed our stay there and the conversations with this ex-army man. He also cooked us some nice vegetarian curries and milk chai. We are happy to be in a country where vegetarian food is available and it’s also tasting really yummy!

Wonderful Mr. Akbar
Wonderful Mr. Akbar
We could pick as many apples as we could eat from the trees of the guesthouse
We could pick as many apples as we could eat from the trees of the guesthouse

But it is cold in the Karakoram mountains at this time of the year! The night temperatures were a few minus degrees and the guesthouse doesn’t have any heating. We got an electric heating rod to warm a bucket of water for washing. But it works only when the electricity is on. And the electricity was off 80% of the day. As we both come from countries with cold winters, cold in general is not a problem for us. But still we don’t enjoy feeling cold constantly, night and day. Therefore, we only stayed for two nights.

Skating the Karakorum Highway and visiting the Passu Glacier

When we were thinking about this journey back home, we were dreaming about skateboarding on the Karakorum Highway but didn’t know if it would be possible. As there was not a lot of traffic and the road is in a good shape, it was possible, indeed. Skateboarding on the Karakorum Highway was like living our dream!

Skateboarding on the Karakoram Highway!
Skateboarding on the Karakoram Highway!
In the distance you can see the Passu Glacier
In the distance you can see the Passu Glacier

We skated the 3 kilometers from our guesthouse to a restaurant called Glacier Breeze. There we could leave our skateboards while we hiked to the Passu Glacier. We promised to come for a cake later – the place is famous for its juicy apricot cake.

Glazier Breeze‘s apricot cake
Glazier Breeze‘s apricot cake

Passu Glacier is visible from the highway, but we wanted to get closer. The trail towards the glacier is starting from the Glazier Breeze Restaurant. The trail followed the river and the path was getting stonier and sandier on the way.

View over Passu from the trail
View over Passu from the trail
Here the path was still easy to walk
Here the path was still easy to walk

After 1,5 hours of walking we came to a place with nothing but huge piles of loose stones left from the landslides. We saw and heard more stones falling from the steep mountain walls all the time. We couldn’t find a good path and it started to feel quite dangerous. Johanna refused to walk any further but Seri insisted.

This is where the stone piles started
This is where the stone piles started

We were already really near to the glacier, but at some point, we just had to give up and turn back – we didn’t want to get smashed by a falling stone. When we had climbed the huge stone piles a few meters down, we realized that we had reached the glacier already. We just didn’t see it because it was under us, covered with stones. So at least we could see the point where the glacier starts and admire it from below, but there was no way to get all the way to the top.

The beginning of the glacier
The beginning of the glacier

Later we heard that there would have been another trail leading to the top from the other side of the river. But the much easier way to get on top of the glacier is to approach it from the next village, Hussaini. Anyway, it was a nice day hike, even though Johanna might have gotten a little bit traumatized.

The thrilling suspension bridges

The Hussaini Suspension Bridge

The next day, before leaving Passu, we (Seri) wanted to visit some suspension bridges nearby. We hitched a ride from another nice local man and visited the Hussaini bridge first.

One of the first psychedelic Pakistani trucks we saw
One of the first psychedelic Pakistani trucks we saw
The houses in Hussaini were very similar to the ones in Passu
The houses in Hussaini were very similar to the ones in Passu
The Hussaini Suspension Bridge
The Hussaini Suspension Bridge

There was some 20 cm gap between every step, but the bridge still felt relatively stable. Johanna was fine waiting and taking pictures, while Seri crossed it. The only potential danger was when a group of Thai tourists showed up. They all wanted to get on the bridge, but it was written on the signs that the bridge can only take 7 persons at a time.

Seri crossing the Hussaini Bridge
Seri crossing the Hussaini Bridge

The Passu Suspension Bridge

The Hussaini Bridge has been dubbed as one of the most dangerous bridges in the world, but the one in Passu was a lot scarier. The gaps between the steps were bigger, the steps were more unstable and the bridge itself, hanging in the wind, several meters over a flowing river, was longer.

The looong Passu Suspension Bridge
The looong Passu Suspension Bridge
Breath-taking views on the way to the bridge
Breath-taking views on the way to the bridge

Like when visiting the glacier, also this time we ended up taking the more difficult path. It started from the road, going steep down towards the bridge. We met two Italian guys there and they joined us for the way down. At the point where we needed to climb, instead of walking, some meters along a steep cliff, Johanna got too scared again. So, she stayed and waited while Seri and the Italians went to the bridge and crossed it.

The Passu Suspension Bridge
The Passu Suspension Bridge

Even though crossing the bridge was very impressive – hanging in the air, over the big river, feeling the wind blowing and shaking the bridge, it didn’t feel scary or unsafe to Seri at all. Instead he felt calm and free in some way. It is coming more and more clear to us, that our fear factors are the complete opposite.

Happy Seri on the other side
Happy Seri on the other side

Leaving Passu

Next we were headed to Karimabad. First, we had to go back to our guesthouse to get our backpacks. The Italians took us there with their motorbikes. It was a lot of fun to sit in the back while we went up and down the steep curves of the Karakorum Highway. The winter wind felt a bit cold on the face, though, as we didn’t have any helmets. We said goodbye to Mr. Akbar, took our things and got back on the road to wait for a car to Karimabad’s direction. 

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Johanna & Seri

We are Johanna and Seri and this is our travel diary. At the moment we are on our way overland from Finland to India and beyond. Read more about us here.

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