Killar to Kishtwar road journey has rightfully been named the most dangerous road in the world. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the faint-hearted and most definitely should not be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. With a frightening high mountain trail, the total length of journey is 114 km.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Officially becoming a district in 2007, Kishtwar, is known as the “Land of Sapphire and Saffron”. Virtually cut off from the rest of the world, Kishtwar is stunning and is situated 235 Kms from Jammu. One of the toughest roads in the world leads to this paradise.
This region has pretty much been closed off to mountaineers for political reasons since the early 1990s. However, with the construction of this extremely dangerous road – residents have rejoiced to the opening of their very isolated world to come commercial activity and tourism. A huge salute and shout-out to the Border Roads Organization and J&K PWD, who have done a brilliant job by constructing roads in the middle of nowhere. A record number of people have sacrificed their lives to make this road a reality. Respect the struggle and be grateful for your “adventures” and what all has been staked for you to achieve this!
About the Killar – Kishtwar Road
Part of the National Highway 26, this road runs right along the Chenab river. It’s extremely befuddling to peek over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. The vertical drop of hundreds of meters is insane – so it might be wise to skip this adventure on a windy day.
In terms of the road itself – it is made of gravel, stones and sand and it’s pretty much kissing the side of a cliff. Also, it is wise to warn you here of the rocks hanging down which end up obstructing your view of oncoming traffic.
This road is located at the eastern extremity of the Kishtwar District of the Jammu region in Jammu and Kashmir. Let me tell you that the road is narrow, windy and has no rails to secure your edging. Also, to add to the complexity – there is a steep gorge of 1000 ft. straight drop! Yes, the views of the valley are from another world – but, let me promise you – you DEFINITELY won’t be looking at them views. Not if you want to survive this epic journey of mammoth presence! This road gives access into Pangi Valley of Himachal Pradesh.
From Dalhousie onwards, you’d be crossing the Sach Pass to reach Killar – this journey in itself is tough and the pass will test your limits. However, after that – the journey keeps upping the ante! You’ll cover the Killar to Kishtwar journey on the toughest road there is!
The road is so narrow that only one vehicle can (barely) pass at a time. Also, there are scores of steep inclines and declines. The road is “constructed” of rocks, loose soil, etc. To add to the difficulty, on one side there is 1000 feet freefall into the river Chandrabhaga and deadly mountain cliff hanging on other. The road condition is never constant; as it sees many landslides. One mistake and it can turn out to be disaster. There is a reason why this road has been titled as “One of the most Dangerous Roads in the World” by many travel forums and gurus!
More details about the route
The 121 KM stretch from Killar to Kishtwar is the main gateway to the basecamp of Kishtwar Kailash, a 6,451m mountain. In order to get to the trail, you can take the journey from the west, i.e. take the road from Manali towards Rohtang Pass, entering the Chenab Valley and following the route towards Darlang Valley.
There is no sugar coating this – the ascend is terrible, exhausting and WILL take a toll on your body! Obviously, you’ll be experiencing extreme lack of oxygen and the high degrees of steepness will be challenging to say the least!
Things to keep in mind when starting Killar – Kishtwar journey
While being alert at all times is necessary, there are a few things to be aware of that will help you in embarking upon this 121 KM journey
The entire journey is tough and will test your nerves. But, I must warn you that the last 50km of road to the start of the ascent will prove to be a herculean task! Pictures won’t do justice and words can’t describe the fear you’ll experience. All your senses will be alert to the highest degree; you’ll be evaluating in real time each step you will be taken. Some tourists had dubbed the track the ‘Almost Killer’ Road.
A few of the sections are especially narrow and barely wide enough for two cars. At certain points, if two vehicles have to pass each other, one vehicle will have to reverse for some kilometres. Doing so in winding narrow roads to get to a place wide enough to pass required professional level skills. And, if you are not completely confident in your skills to reverse (while maintaining balance in extremely narrow spaces) – then DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE here!
The road has also been nicknamed “The Cliffhanger” thanks to the extremely narrow passage. So much so that cars rarely take this route; you can forget about the buses. Some of the turns are crazy with plenty of blind-spots.
The road can get especially slippery and muddy after rain. During and after a storm the road may be impenetrable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Another thing to keep in mind is this journey should only be made in daylight.
If you are prone to vertigo, or if you’re feeling the effects of AMS – avoid embarking on this journey. Also, if there are passengers in your vehicles who get road sick/ have mountain sickness – it will be better to wait it out and only start the journey on the best of health. You won’t be able to stop in the middle of your journey at many places. And, even if you plan on stopping – the scary cliff will make your nausea worse! This is not the journey for people who are scared of heights, are claustrophobic to test their limits! With a vertical drop of thousands of feet straight into the Chenab river, it is definitely for the brave hearts.
Last, but, most important advice is that – there is little room for error on this road. You should plan on sticking to the centre of the “road”. As the edges can sometimes simply crumble away, and there are huge rock formations which can jump out after turns and curves – this is in your best interest.
If you’re planning on visiting a paradise – Kishtwar definitely fits the bill. However, in true Himalayan style – the prettier the views, the tougher the journey. Be prepared for AMS, nausea, terrifying roads, true challenging route to get to this paradise.
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This is a road hacked across a vertical cliff face and driving it is a spine tingling mix of heady exhilaration and sheer fear. Traversing this road call caution, confidence and consideration towards oncoming traffic. Be prepared for the journey of a lifetime and a story to tell like no others!