Where are the Karakoram Mountains?

The Karakoram Highway cuts across the mountain range and is regarded as the highest paved road in the world.

The Karakoram, also written as Karakorum, is a mountain range that extends across the borders of China, India, and Pakistan with the northwestern edge extending into Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Karakoram is the second highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalayas. It is part of the large chain of mountain ranges which include the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, and Pamir mountains. The Karakoram is home to some of the highest peaks on earth. The Karakoram has a length of about 311 miles

Boundaries of the Karakoram Range

The range starts at the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan with the northwestern extremity extending into Tajikistan before stretches across the Gilgit–Baltistan administrative territory in Pakistan, the Ladakh region in India, and the Aksai Chin region of China.  The Karakoram mountain range borders the Aksai Chin plateau to the east, the Tibetan Plateau to the northeast, the valleys of the Karakash and Yarkand Rivers to the north, and the Pamir Mountains to the northwest. The Indus, Shyok, and Gilgit Rivers form the entire southern boundary of the mountain range. These three rivers also form the point at which the Karakoram separates from the northwestern end of the Himalayas.

Exploration and Settlement

Given its ruggedness and high altitude, the Karakoram is less inhabited compared to eastern parts of the Himalayas. Europeans first explored the region in the early 19th century, followed by British surveyors in 1856 to demarcate boundaries and take measurements of the peaks. An expedition led by British Colonel Francis Younghusband was the first to cross the Muztagh Pass in 1887, while General Sir George K. Cockerill explored the rivers of the region in 1892.


The Karakoram is located in one of the world's most geologically active regions, at the boundary of the Eurasian and Indo Australian continental plates. About 28% of the mountain range remains densely glaciated the entire year, and this figure increases to 50% during the winter. However, the Karakoram's glaciers are retreating slowly, which is an indicator of climate change. The rate of glacier loss is lower than the Himalayas due to the presence of a layer of rubble that provides insulation from the sun.

Interesting Facts About the Karakoram

The Karakoram Range is home to the K2 mountain peak, which has an elevation of 28,251 ft and is the second tallest in the world, after Mount Everest.

The warmest temperature in the mountain range is 32°F, which is the freezing point of water. Finding snow hummocks up to three feet is not uncommon.

The 800-mile long Karakoram Highway cuts across the mountain range and is regarded as the highest paved road in the world. The road connects China to Pakistan.

The mountain range acts as the natural boundary between India, Pakistan, and China.

Given a layer of rubble that provides insulation from the warmth of the sun, the entire mountain remains white throughout the year.

Karakoram is the most glaciated region on the planet outside of the North and South Poles. Additionally, two glaciers in the Karakoram, the Biafo Glacier (39 mi) and the Siachen Glacier (47 mi), are the two longest glaciers in the world.


More in Environment