Pamir Highway with Wakhan
Countries: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Duration: 9 days
Best season for the tour: April-October
The cost varies depending on the exact route you choose
Ethnology of the region: The most part of the tour goes through those tribal areas of Pamir where the actual borders between countries do not follow the logics of the settlements of the tribes. First we will drive through the area of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan where Kyrgyz live and then we will meet the Pamir tribes living both in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The Pamir people are close to Tajiks ethnically and by language but they have Ismailist Shia Islam, different to all the sunnis around
The route: In short, our route will go from Bishkek to South-West toward Kyrgyz-Tajik border at Osh town and then through wonderful landscapes of Pamirs at a very high altitude - where we cross the highest point of the mountains Ak-Baital 4655m, stay for one night at Karakul lake and in a few days through Murghab we reach Wakhan corridor shared between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. According to the itinerary below, we pass Wakhan from Tajik side of it along the border with Afghanistan and then drive up North-West. But by your request, we can cross the border at Ishkashim and spend few days on Afghan side of the corridor driving to the East till the end of the road stopping at local villages for night.
And the other more adventurous option is that we can arrange a horse expedition in Afghan Wakhan: from Ishkashim we move eastwards along the corridor beyond Chakmaktin and continue off-road, and with rising elevation we reach the bottom of the peaks covered by snow. This expedition can be organized as included part into the Pamir Highway tour or as a separate adventure with starting and ending point in Dushanbe (Tajikistan). Camping style, 10 days. Horse, tents, cook, food etc included. Horse riding skill is welcome but not required as we ride slow under the watch of experienced guide
Day 1. Arrival to Bishkek - the capital of Kyrgyzstan.Transfer to hotel. Sightseeing. Overnight at hotel.
Day 2. Osh – Sary Tash
Today we will drive through stunning mountain scenery to the Alai mountain valley and then to Achik Tash camp site, the foot of Lenin Peak (7134m). Our Pamir Highway starts at high pass in the Taldyk (3554m), and on the way it passes thru beautiful scenery of South Kyrgyzstan – valleys, mountain ranges, and alpine meadows of the Alay valley. Drive through stunning mountain scenery to the Alai mountain valley and then to Achik Tash camp site. Base camp is situated on a raised meadow between two steep river valleys. The ground is a carpet of wild garlic and alpine flowers. Drive back for overnight to Sary Tash village.
Overnight home stay. 1 Lunch,1 Dinner
Day 3 – Kara kul lake
Drive to Kara kul. This drive will see us enjoying some of the most dramatic scenery of the trip, with the lunar-like landscapes and bright blue lakes providing plenty of opportunities to take our breath away. We cross Kyzyl Art Pass (4282 meters), which essentially forms the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Border formalities take place shortly after crossing the pass, we have to cross 20kms of ‘no man’s land’. Be warned, even in August we could see sub-zero temperatures through the border areas, so make sure you have some extra layers to hand in case we are delayed by formalities. We descend to Karakul Lake, the highest lake in Central Asia, and at 3915 meters, too high to support any aquatic life. Overnight home stay. Meals: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, Dinner 1
Day 4 – Drive to Mughab visit to Rang Kul
We will again cross a high-altitude pass Ak-Baital Pass (4655 meters) which is the highest section of road in the former Soviet Union. On the road we wil visit to Rang Kul. The Eastern Pamirs have been populated by nomadic ethnic Kyrgyz since the 17th century. The traditional architecture is beautifully represented by yurts, mobile habitations made of felt on an ingenious wooden frame, with the interior decoration bearing witness to the wealth and skills of the owners. Felt and wool serve as the basis for handicrafts. Precise stones, including rubies and emeralds, are also found in the area, and these are sometimes used in local handicrafts.
We anticipate arriving in Murghab in Lunch time. Murghab (3670 m) itself has few attractions, but it will serve as our base for one night as we explore the area a little. The 7546 m – high Chinese peak of Mustag Ata is visible to the northeast of town. The Eastern Pamirs have been populated by nomadic ethnic Kyrgyz since the 17th century. The traditional architecture is beautifully represented buy yurts, mobile habitations made of felt on an ingenious wooden frame, with the interior decoration bearing witness to the wealth and skills of the owners. Felt and wool serve as the basis for handicrafts. Precise stones, including rubies and emeralds, are also found in the area, and these are sometimes used in local handicrafts. Arrival Murghab, Overnight in home stay. Meals: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Pamir Mountains
Spreading across Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China the Pamirs are situated at the junction of some of the world’s highest mountain ranges – the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush and the Tian Shan among others, and with peaks exceeding 7000m are known locally as ‘the Roof of the World’. With numerous glaciers and covered in snow throughout the year, the climate here is unforgiving with only a short summer season. Nevertheless the Pamirs are home to both people and wildlife – of the latter notable species include the Marco Polo sheep and snow leopard. Communities and villages in the Pamirs are isolated, separated from each other in valleys and with different villages often speaking different dialects, even though they may not be far from each other as the crow flies. It was in this region that the last stages of the ‘Great Game’ – the territorial rivalry between the empires of Russia and Britain – were played out in the late 19th century, with intrepid adventurers mapping the high passes and staking claims for king and country. The Pamir Highway, running from Dushanbe to Osh, is the second highest in the world (after the Khardung La Pass in the Ladakh region of India).
Day 5 – Langar
Departure to Langar. On this journey we drive to the lush valleys of the Wakhan Valley and enter a landscape that is rocky, mostly barren but nevertheless dramatic. Overnight in Homestay. Meals: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Day 6 – Langar – Khorog
A number of stops will be made throughout the day. Drive to Vrang a stroll through the village will bring you to a number of caves dug by Buddhists who inhabited the area at one time. In addition there the remains of a number of fire – worshipping platforms and Buddha stuper. At Yamg, visit a quirky museum of Sufi Muborak-Kadam, a local Sufi scholar. After short driving you will be to see the Kakhka kala Fortress which dates from the 3rd C. Yamchun fortress or Zulkumor Fort is located on ridge overlooking the valley and river below. Further up the hillside there are the hot springs at Bibi Fatima. The water at Bibi Fatima is crystal clear. It is possible to take a natural stream bath in a rocky cave.
Your next stop will be at the Abrashim Fortress. It was built to guard this branch of the Silk Road from Chinese and Afghan Invaders. Afternoon you will arrive to Ishkashim the center of Wakhan valley, which stands at the mouth of wakhan River valley. This is where the 19th C Great Game ended; When Britain and Russia signed a treaty adding a strip of the Wakhan valley to Afghanistan to create a neutral buffer zone between their two empires. As you enter the Wakhan, there are amazing views of the Pamirs to the right and the Hindu Kush to the left.
In this journey we will stop at Garmchasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the natural hot springs. We pass regional gem mines mentioned by Marco Polo in his descriptions of what he called the ‘Mt Shugnon region’. The most famous mine is Koh-i-Lal ruby mine which is visible from the road. Arrival to Khorog, we stay in relative Home stay (optional) having reached the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Overnight in home stay.
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Day 7 – Khorog
Khorog. The capital of Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Khorog is a small town that at various times has been under the control of the Russia, the Emirate of Bukhara and Afghanistan. The Russians built a fort here in the Soviet era, with Khorog being in a highly strategic location on the border with Afghanistan, but today it languishes and is one of the least developed parts of the country, with the Aga Khan Foundation contributing to the bulk of the local economy. It holds the distinction of being home the second highest botanical garden in the world, at 3900m.
Overnight in home stay.
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Day 8 – Khorog – Kalai Khumb
We set off west towards Dushanbe, with some 260kms to cover before we reach our destination of Kalaikhumb. Although have another long day on the road, we are quickly distracted by the beautiful scenery and interesting villages en route. This area is a little more conservative, and we see many men with beards, and women wearing traditional dress. More arrestingly, along the road we also see relics of Tajikistan’s bitter civil war of 1992-96, as tanks and armored vehicles lie decaying wherever they were left. Arriving in Kalaikhumb in the early evening. Overnight in Guest House /home stay.
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner.
Day 9 – Kalaikhumb to Dushanbe
After breakfast drive to Dushanbe the capital of Tajikistan. Until 1961 it was called Stalinabad. Autumn is considered by most to the best season of the year since there is warm, dry weather and a rich harvest of fruit, vegetables, cotton and other crops. The first impression of Dushanbe is of a relaxed, green and spacious city. The city centre retains the ambience intended by the original city planners in the 1920s – wide, tree-lined boulevards with elegant buildings painted in white and pastel colors. The tall trees (planted eighty years ago when the city was laid out) provide ample shade and make it cool and pleasant to walk around even during the hot summer. Overnight in Hotel Poitakht. 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch.