This 9 Days Tajikstan and Kyrgystan trip is one of the serious road trip, travelling along the famous Parmir Highway, the second highest highway in the world running between Osh in Kyrgyzstan to Khorog in Tajikistan and winding its way through the Parmir Mountains, their 7,000m peaks earning this artery the title ‘roof of the world’. As we travel through remote communities scattered along the Highway and beyond, we stay in welcoming homestays, immerse ourselves in a cacophony of cultures, with each village speaking in a unique dialect.
This journey through some of the most exquisite elevated landscapes in the world is more about following in the tracks of ancient traders and explorers than those of modern day tourists, with isolated communities that still see very few foreign visitors, and traditions that haven’t changed for generations.
The trip starts in Tajikstan’s capital city, Dushanbe, a more modern hub, but we very quickly enter a world of mountain passes and impressive peaks. As we continue through the historic and cultural landscapes of the Silk Road, a route that was both traded on and fought over for centuries, there are many fascinating sites to visit such as ancient forts, a ruby mine and an ancient Buddhist stupa.
Most interesting in our journey visit to Afghanistan Wakhan side and explore local cultural life, You will make your way slowly up the valley, visiting villages, taking some day walks and enjoying some traditional Afghan hospitality. You will stay in basic guesthouses throughout your time in Afghanistan as you discovering the delights of this famed region.
This is a trip right out there on the edge of civilisation, What you will experience here though takes you back to another century when people lived in a very different way – unlike so many you hear about, this trip is a true adventure of a life time.
Our trips are designed to offer a mix of active adventure, culture, wildlife, and sightseeing and there is also time to relax and explore for your self – the balance is just right. Tour ends in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Day 1 – Dushanbe meeting and drive to Kalaikhumb 360km 7/8hours altitude 1245 mh.
Arrival to Dushanbe, meeting at the airport and start the tour, ‘Dushanbe’ means Monday in Tajik, with the town named for the small weekly bazaar which was once all the town had to recommend it. Now it is a pleasant, if small, capital, with broad tree-lined avenues and pleasing architecture surrounded by mountain scenery.
Dushanbe is a relatively modern town that rose to prominence during the Soviet era, when it was made the capital of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and named Stalinabad. Its name means ‘Monday in the Tajik language, arising from the fact that this was the day that the market was held when Dushanbe was still a small and fairly insignificant village. The ousted Emir of Bukhara, fleeing from the Bolsheviks, stayed in Dushanbe and cooperated with Enver Pasha’s Basmachis until he had to leave the region. From Dushanbe, he fled to Afghanistan in 1921, the year the town was freed from the Basmachis as well.
We set off east towards the Pamirs and Kalaikhumb, driving through 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. We will cross the Shurabad Pass (2200m high) On the road we will visit to the ancient fortress Hulbuk dated by VIII century recently restored under the decree of the president. The local guide will talk interesting stories about the life in the fortress, shows outlines of the bases of rooms, halls and harems of the local governor’s palace. Arrive to Kalaikhumb in the early evening.
Overnight in Guest House. Meals included: (1 Lunch,1 Dinner)
Day 2 – Kalaikhumb to Rushan 206 km, 5/6 hours altitude 2131 mh.
From Kalaikhumb we leave for Rushan the administrative center of Rushan district with some 206kms of terrain ahead of us, and the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way. The road joins the river Pianj, which in turn forms the border with Afghanistan. The contrast across the river valley is telling, Tajikistan is undoubtedly a poor country, but in general the roads are sealed and buildings are connected with electricity. The situation barely 100m away is even starker, and it is as if the river represents not just a physical divide, but also a step back in time.
Overnight in Home stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 3 – Rushan to Gisev valley and trekking, after the trekking transfer to Khorog. (9/10km trekking 120km driving, altitude 2412mh) 9
From Rushan we leave for Geisev through Bartang valley with some 30 km of terrain ahead of us, and again the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way. Arrival in Baghoo village in Bartang valley. We will cross the river by the small bridge.
Our trek begins on the river Bartang just beyond Bhagoo village. The hike is mostly gently uphill, for about 8km to the upper of three lakes. The first house in Geisev are reached after about 5km. The abundant vegetation, the gnarled trees, the lakes and the ever-changing river – sometimes frothing with energy, sometimes limpid and blue – create a very special peaceful atmosphere, ideal for a short break without too much physical effort. This rout passing lakes, and the rivers traversing some of the most magnificent scenery in the Pamirs. We will again cross the river and drive to Khorog for overnight.
From Baghoo village, after the trekking we leave for Khorog along river Pianj, border of Afghanistan. We have reached the capital of Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Overnight in Hotel Lal In. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
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.
Day 4 – Khorog – Ishkashim (130 km 4/5 hours, altitude 2665mh) 10 August.
In the morning we will go to Afghan consulate in Khorog to obtain Afghan visas.
Please note: maybe it will take a time till 12-00 AM.
We have a little time to explore Khorog including the bazaar and the lovely Botanical Gardens which are perched high above the town, affording some great panoramic view. About 50kms along the road to our next stop, Ishkashim, we will stop at Garmchasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the waters. Visit detour to the nearby village of Namadguti to visit the Khahkha Fortress. From here, we enter the Tajik half of the Wakhan Valley (shared with Afghanistan) and pass regional gem mines mentioned by Marco Polo. The most famous mine is Koh-i-Lal ruby mine which is visible from the road. Ishkashim itself the regional centre, but it is essentially still a large village and we stay in
Guesthouse in Ishkashim. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
The Wakhan Valley (also pronounced Vakhan) is a majestic alpine valley in the Badakhshan region of Afghanistan and Tajikistan (the “Wakhan Corridor” refers to the part of the valley in Afghanistan). It is located in the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia. Its upper reaches consist of two wide, hilly plains surrounded by alpine peaks, beginning near the Chinese border in one of the most remote regions of the world. Further down, where the Pamir and Wakhan rivers join to form the Pyanj River, the valley narrows, finally becoming a severe canyon with roaring river rapids at its end in Ishkashem. Its muddy rivers are fed by water from huge glaciers on some of the highest mountains on the planet, fantastic views of which are visible throughout the area.
Day 5 – Ishkashim to Sultan Ishkashim (Afghanistan)
Enter to Afghanistan from Ishkashim transborder bridge, our partner will meet you from the border and transfer to you Sultan Ishkashim. Explore Afghanistan and overnight Guest House, Breakfast Lunch and Dinner.
Day 6 – Ishkashim to Sulton Ishkashim (Afghanistan)
You will make your way slowly up the valley, visiting villages, taking some day walks and enjoying some traditional Afghan hospitality. You will stay in basic guesthouses throughout your time in Afghanistan as you discovering the delights of this famed region.
This is a trip right out there on the edge of civilisation: you will not find mobile reception, internet access or even electricity for the most part! What you will experience here though takes you back to another century when people lived in a very different way – unlike so many you hear about, this trip is a true adventure of a life time.
Overnight Guest House, Breakfast Lunc and Dinner.
Day 7 – Ishkashim to Langar (110 km 6/7 hours altitude 2882mh)
In the morning our Afghan Patner will transfer you till the border, after your crossing you will continue trip through Tajikistan’s Wakhan valley.
Driving along the Wakhan valley and visit detour to the nearby village of Namadguti to visit the Khahkha Fortress. This impressive structure rises from a naturally formed platform of rock and dates back to the Kushan era of the 3rd Century. There are a number of these ancient fortresses in the area, and we also visit Yamchun fort, perhaps the most impressive of them. We take a break at the Bibi Fatima hot springs, named for the Prophet Mohammed’s sister and where local women believe they can increase their fertility. Continuing on we then stop at the 4th Century Buddhist stupas at Vrang, reminders of the ancient pilgrim caravans that passed through the region.
Overnight homestay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 8 – Langar to Murghab (240 km, 6/7 hours altitude 3500mh)
Today we get a chance to explore the amazing landscape of this area. We drive up to Murghab via the Kargushi Pass (4344 meters). On this journey we leave behind the lush valleys of the Wakhan Valley and enter a landscape that is rocky, mostly barren but nevertheless dramatic. This is the Pamir Highway we have anticipated, with the route between Khorog and Osh completed in 1931 across a Tibetan-plateau style high altitude terrain.
We leave for Murghab the center of East Pamir. The road up Murghab, however, is spectacular an, passing through again the settlement of Mamazair.
This small town bestrides the Murghab at an altitude of 3,500 m. Younghusband visited it in 1890 and wrote “It is a dreary, desolate spot… with a certain amount of grassy pasture and a few scrubby bushes by the river, but surrounded by barren hills, and bitterly cold. How these Russian soldiers can support existence there is a marvel…shut up in dreary quarters, with nothing whatever to do – week after week, month after month passing by in dull monotony….” Over a century later, nothing much has changed.
We anticipate arriving in Murghab in Lunch time. Murghab (3670 m) itself has few attractions, but it will serve as our base for a 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, 110 km away in a direct line.
Overnight in Home stay. Meals included: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Day 9 Murghab – Kara kul (135 km, 3/4 hours altitude 3900mh)
We depart today to Karakul. 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 will again cross a high-altitude pass Ak-Baital Pass (4655 meters) which is the highest section of road in the former Soviet Union. We descend to Karakul Lake, the highest lake in Central Asia, and at 3915 meters, too high to support any aquatic life.
Overnight in Home stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 10 – Karakul to Osh (285 km, 6/7 hours altitude 1077mh)
We depart today to Osh Kyrgyzstan. Our final Pamir Highway high pass is the Kyzyl Art Pass (4282 metres), which essentially forms the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Border formalities take place shortly after crossing the pass, with 20kms of ‘no man’s land’ to cross. Having crossed to Kyrgyzstan, we will keep our driver – although we are in a different country, the ethnic lines in this region are greatly blurred, and Russian, Tajik, Kyrygz and Uzbek are all spoken with interchangeable ease!
After Sary Tash village we depart the high mountains of the Pamir-Alay range, leaving behind us the crossroads of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. The drive offers a contrast as we encounter lush farmlands and small villages on this side of the mountains, instead of the stark high-altitude plateau we recently crossed in Tajikistan. En route we will cross the Taldyk Pass (3554m) and enjoy some beautiful views. We must travel about 185km from Sary Tash, and depending on road conditions and travel times we expect to arrive in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city early evening.
Overnight in Hotel Sun Rise. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Osh is ancient – various sources date it back around 2500 years, and legends abound over who founded it, including Alexander the Great and King Solomon. On the edge of the Ferghana Valley it is home to both Uzbek and Kyrgyz people, with its position on the border giving rise to an extremely lively market, one of the most interesting in Central Asia. The rock known as Solomon’s Throne is an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims, and a 15th century mosque on the top has now been reconstructed, with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Osh is also home to the largest mosque in Kyrgyzstan, and is one of the few places in the former Soviet Union still to have a statue of Lenin.
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