The route starts in southwestern China, in the rural town of Dali, just to west of Kunming, Yunnan. This area forms the eastern terminus of the great Himalayas, the start of the journey. From there it goes northwesterly into the eastern part of Tibet, locally known as Kham. The high forested mountains and valleys of Kham finally give way to the area of central Tibet and the capital city, Lhasa. Leaving Lhasa the road goes toward Mt. Everest and just before reaching the Nepal border a dirt track points the way to the holy Mt. Kailash of Western Tibet. From this most scared pilgrimage site, the main road goes northwesterly through Ali, then across one of the highest most desolate roads in the world, crossing the Askin Chin basin. After descending from this 16,500 foot basin, the Kunlan Shan Mountains are one of the last obstacles before reaching Kashgar in far western China. The Karakoram Highway connects this silk road town with Pakistan and is followed to the final ending point of Gilget, Pakistan. The entire route covers a distance of more than 3,300 miles (5,500 KM).
“They lived on old hard, dried raw meat, butter, sour milk and brick tea. They made boots and straps of the wild asses skin, and thread from the tendons of the wild beast. They and their women took care of the tame yaks, the sheep and the goats. Thus their lives passed monotonously, but healthily and actively, from year to year, on dizzy heights, in killing cold and storm and blizzards. They erected votive cairns to the mountain gods, and venerated and feared all the strange spirits that dwelt in the lakes, rivers and mountains. And in the end they died and were borne by their kin to a mountain, where they were left to the wolves and the vultures.”
– My Life As An Explorer, Sven Hedin, the first Westerner to circumambulate Mt. Kailash, 1907