For anyone anticipating a Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan tours, the Pamir Highway is certain to stand out in a series of dramatic landscapes and cultural encounters to leave travellers in no uncertain terms as to the adventures that are still to be had in two of Asia’s lesser visited locations.
Encapsulating the rugged mountain imagery and remote nature of a Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan tours, the Pamir Highway lets you travel across the “Roof of the world” on a stretch of road that promises spectacular views to leave a long lasting impression on first-time passengers and old hands alike.
Tajikistan cultural tours are the best way of meeting the country of mountains; exploring small, yet more than 2000 years old cities located among the snow-capped mountains.
Aside from the trip over the Pamir Highway this 14 day Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan tour also features many of the remote communities living within the Pamir Mountains as well as chances to spot the wildlife, including birds of prey, that call this eternally unchanged habitat, home.
Bartang Valley with a length of approximately 180 km (detour from the Pamir Highway) is linked with the valley Tanimas and Eastern Pamir, where Kyrgyz nomadic pastoralists live. The cultural identity and lifestyle of the population In Bartang is well preserved: their music is very attractive,dialect, way of life. Bartang valley can surprise its visitors with the fabulous hospitality,attractive nature and well preserved culture.
Following the course of the River Panj, along the Afghanistan border towards Khorog, takes travellers to the relics of the Silk Road where former fortresses and Buddhist temples still signal the strategic importance of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and the Pamir Highway.
The chance to stay with a host family in Kara Kul is a real highlight of this Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan holiday with visits to the ancient citadel of Osh to watch the traditional ceremonies surrounding Solomon’s Throne bound to stay long in the mind’s eye.
As you finally complete this 14 days Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan tour, the Pamir Highway experience will still live in the memory however, you still have time for cultural sightseeing in Bishkek from where this exciting, and often challenging, adventure ends the following day.
Day 1: Dushanbe
Arrive in Dushanbe, meeting at the airport transfer to hotel. ‘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. Overnight at the hotel “Vatan/similar”. Meals: (1 Lunch, Dinner)
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.
Day 2: Dushanbe to Kalaikhumb altitude 1345 mh (360 km 8/9 hours)
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 cross the Shurabod Pass (2200 metres), arriving in Kalaikhumb in the early evening. Overnight local guesthouse 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 3: Kalai Khum to Poi Mazar (180 km 4/5 hours)
From Kalaikhumb we leave for Poi Mazar through Vanj valley with some of terrain ahead of us, and the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way. The valley of the Vanj is wide and green. The road joins the river Panj, 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 local home stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 4: Poi Mazar to Rushan altitude 2412mh (175 km, 5/6 hours)
From Poi Mazar we leave for Rushan the administrative center of Rushan district with some 175 kms 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 5: Rushan to Gisev valley and trekking, after the trekking transfer to Khorog. (9/10km trekking 120km Drive) altitude 2780 mh
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 Emtz village in Bartang valley. We will cross the river by wagon hanging on the wire rope as the small bridge washed up. 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 houses 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 Gizev we leave for Khorog along river Pianj, border of Afghanistan. We stay in hotel tonight, having reached the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Overnight in Hotel Lal In. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and 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 6: Khorog to Ishkashim (130 km 4/5 hours) altitude 2665 mh
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 7: Ishkashim to Langar (110 km 6/7 hours) altitude 2882mh
Driving along 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 at the homestay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 8: Langar to Alichur visit to Bulunkul and Yashil Kul (192 km, 6/7 hours)
Today we get a chance to explore the amazing landscape of this area. We drive up to Bulung kul Lake 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.Arrival to Bulung kul. Visit to Yashil kul and drive to Alichur and short stop at geyser en route. Overnight in homestay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 9: Alichur to Murghab 105km 3650mh
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 River at an altitude of 3,650 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. Murghab (3650 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
This small town bestrides the Murghab River at an altitude of 3,650 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 Muztag Ata is visible to the northeast of town, 110 km away in a direct line.
Day 10: Murghab to Kara kul Lake 135km 3/4h
After breakfast drive to Kara Kul lake. Stay in Home stay. 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 11: Karakul to Osh 285km 6/7h
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 of Tajikistan. En route we cross the Taldyk Pass (3554m) and enjoy some beautiful views – if we’re lucky we may even catch a glimpse of Peak Lenin, at 7134m the second highest mountain in Central Asia. We expect to arrive in Osh (285km), Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city in the afternoon, with time to explore. Overnight Hotel Sunrise or similar Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 12: Osh to Chichkan 410km
Today we drive to the Suusamyr Valley along the picturesque mountain Osh highway to the Chichkan gorge. Time permitting we take a walk in the area and meet the local shepherds who still adhere to age old traditions.
Overnight Hotel Ak Ilbirs or Oson or similar (single rooms not available) Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
Day 13: Chichkan to Bishkek 270km
Today we set off north towards to Bishkek. We will cross the mountain passes the highest point of which lies at an altitude of over 3000 m. n.m. we cross the pass Too Ashu and charming Suusamyr valley. A good day for photography enthusiasts. Some of the best shots of this trip You are guaranteed.
Overnight at the Silk Road Hotel*** / similar Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
Kyrgyzstan’s capital is a modern city, originally founded in 1825 but developed extensively by the USSR and at that time named Frunze after a famous Bolshevik general. With over a million inhabitants it follows the typical Soviet city pattern of wide boulevards and drab apartment blocks, large squares and public parks and before Kyrgyz independence had a majority Russian population, although not now. Although not blessed with the interesting sights of other Central Asian cities, it does have a few things worth visiting – the impressive Ala-Too square, the History Museum and the Orthodox Church, a reminder that not all Russians left in 1991.
Day 14: Departure
Transfer to airport for your departure flight to home.
END OF THE SERVISE
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