Exploring the Marvels of Makran Coastal Highway: A Scenic Journey from Karachi to Gwadar
The 653-kilometer highway bearing Makran Coastal Highway attractions is also known as National Highway 10 (N-10). The highway seamlessly connects the western province of Sindh with the picturesque landscapes of southern Balochistan. As we delve into the charm of this coastal road that hugs the Arabian Sea, we’ll uncover its hidden treasures, making your trip an extraordinary adventure.
The Makran Coastal Highway: A Game-Changer
Before the construction of this splendid highway, the arduous unpaved road journey from Karachi to Gwadar would consume two grueling days. However, with the advent of the Makran Coastal Highway, this travel time has been dramatically slashed to a mere 6-7 hours. The key Makran Coastal Highway Attractions dotted along the Highway are unique in all respects on this game-changer highway. Major attractions include:
Zero Point: Where the Journey Begins
Located approximately 125 kilometers northwest of Karachi, Zero Point serves as the gateway to two significant routes: the RCD Highway leading north to Baluchistan mainland and the N10 Makran Coastal Highway leading westward to Gwadar. It’s a place where cellular networks cease to function, emphasizing the remote and untamed beauty of this region. At this juncture, you’ll encounter a replica of the “Princess of Hope” rock formation, a testament to the region’s unique geography. Local restaurants and tuck shops offer a taste of authentic cuisine, including tea and cookies. For travelers’ convenience, a mosque and outdoor bathroom facilities are available.
Hingol National Park: A Biodiversity Hotspot
Stretching across an impressive 1,650 square kilometers along the Makran coast in southwestern Balochistan, Hingol National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. Established in 1988, this national park boasts a rich biodiversity, with 250 plant species, 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 185 species of birds. It’s a must-visit destination for wildlife aficionados.
Hingol Mud Volcanoes: Nature’s Artistry
Approximately 200 kilometers west of Karachi and 8 kilometers off the main Coastal Highway, the Hingol mud volcanoes, also known as Chandragup Mud Volcanoes, showcase Mother Nature’s artistic prowess. The ever-erupting clay formations in Hingol National Park create a surreal landscape, making it a sacred site for Hindu worship. Local guides are your best bet for finding these hidden gems.
Hinglaj Mandir: An Ancient Pilgrimage Site
Situated in the heart of Hingol National Park, Hinglaj Mandir, also known as Hinglaj Mata, is an ancient Hindu temple and one of the world’s oldest. Nestled in a narrow gorge on the west bank of the Hingol River, this sacred site features a small, shapeless stone adorned with Sindoor (Vermilion) and worshipped as Hinglaj Mata. It’s a spiritual journey into the past.
Kund Malir Beach: A Slice of Paradise
Located around 145 kilometers from Zero Point and 270 kilometers from Karachi, Kund Malir Beach is a pristine coastal gem. Despite the lack of basic facilities like hotels and restaurants, it boasts a serene and soothing environment. The drive along the Coastal Highway becomes a delight as you soak in the breathtaking beauty of this world-renowned beach.
Golden Beach: Nature’s Abode
Situated just 2 kilometers from Kund Malir Beach, Golden Beach, also known as Malan Beach, is a less-explored paradise. Its limited facilities and steep gradient from the main Coastal Highway make it a quiet escape. Golden Beach is not only a haven for Green Turtles but also a wintering ground for over 50 species of migratory birds, making it a birdwatcher’s delight. Its golden sands and untouched beauty make it an eco-tourism hotspot.
Princess of Hope: Nature’s Masterpiece
The “Princess of Hope” remained hidden until Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie’s visit in 2002. This naturally carved rock formation, located around 275 kilometers from Karachi, stands tall as a testament to nature’s artistic abilities. Weathering the test of time, it adds a touch of mystery to your journey along the Makran Coastal Highway.
The Sphinx of Makran
Approximately 150 kilometers from the Zero Point of the Makran Coastal Highway and 280 kilometers from Karachi, you’ll encounter another natural wonder: the Sphinx-like structure. This formation, created by the relentless winds blowing through the region’s muddy hills, bears a resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx. Although not as sharply shaped, it’s a unique sight worth seeing.
Ormara Beach: A Historical Oasis
Located about 360 kilometers west of Karachi and 230 kilometers east of Gwadar, Ormara Beach offers a pristine coastline with spectacular sunrise and sunset views. Named after General Ormoz, who accompanied Alexander the Great during his conquests, it holds historical significance. The Haft Talar tourist resort, overlooking the beach, provides a range of outdoor activities, from concerts to bird-watching.
Pasni: A Historical Haven
Pasni is an important small town and a fishing port in the Arabian Sea. The beachside is off the main Coastal Highway, 40km to the coastal area about 100km short of Gwadar. Pasni is an important small town and a fishing port at the Arabian Sea, off the main Coastal Highway, 40km to the coastal area about 100km short of Gwadar. Its significance relates to the discovery of rock formations including the ancient ruins of the Harappan era the presence of antique Hindu temples, and proofs of Alexander’s passing the coastal belt.
About 25 km south of the nearest part of the coast and 39 km southeast of the fishing port of Pasni is a small uninhabited island called Astola Island or Jazira Haft Talar. It is known to be the largest offshore Island measuring 6.7 km long and 2.3 km wide, and 246 ft above sea level. The Island is accessible by motorboat in about 5 hours or by helicopter. It is a popular eco-tourism destination with no lodging facilities on the Island. Anyone planning for an overnight stay must carry a tent and food. The Island is famous for scuba diving, fishing, and observing turtle breeding.
Gwadar: The Gateway of Wind
The term Gwadar is a combination of two Balochi words Gwat (meaning the wind) and Dar (meaning Gateway) thus Gwadar means “The gateway of wind”. There is a slightly different concept that suggests that the word Gwadar was derived from “Gedrosia” which was the ancient name of Balochistan given by the Greeks to the arid area making up the southern part of Balochistan.
Gwadar today is a port city on the southernmost coast of Balochistan at the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran located to the east of the Persian Gulf and opposite Oman. However, historically, the city and environs were possessions of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman from 1783 until Prince Karim Aga Khan purchased it on September 8, 1958, and presented it to Pakistan. Pakistan assumed the territory on December 8, 1958, and integrated into Balochistan Province on July 01, 1970, as Gwadar District. It used to be a medium-sized settlement of a fishing community.
In 2015 Pakistan and China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of One Belt One Road.
Jiwani: A Hidden Gem
Jiwani is a town and commercial port strategically located in the Gwadar District along the Gulf of Oman. It is some 80 km west of Gwadar city and 34 km east of the Iranian border. With an estimated population of 25000, the town making up the eastern end of Gwadar Bay duly shared between Pakistan and Iran and the area around the bay constitutes an important mangrove forest that habitats a wide variety of wildlife. The town is also adjacent to the shipping lanes and has a small naval base and a 5500 ft runway. The town was used in WWII as an airfield and there is a Victoria Hut built for Queen Victoria who planned to visit the area to watch the sunset. It is still not confirmed whether Queen Victoria visited or not but the Victoria Hut is still maintained.
Recommendations for a Seamless Journey
The journey from Karachi to Gwadar is fairly long yet interesting. It lacks basic facilities including proper shops, fuel stations, repair/technician shops, cellular connections, or other provisions. Careful planning is very important before undertaking a journey along the Coastal Highway. Here are some recommendations.
- Start as early in the morning as possible to make it to Gwadar on time.
- Top up the fuel tank in Karachi and refuel at the Hub Fuel Station as there is no fuel station on the way.
- Keep basic tools and extra tires. Make sure the wheels are in good condition.
- Make necessary calls before Zero Point, mobile signals recede beyond Zero Point.
- Kund Malir Beach (Agor) and Ormara Beach are major stopovers on the way.
- Keep enough water, cookies, dry/fresh fruit, etc. as reserve stock during travel.
- Make a hotel reservation in advance.