Day 1 – Dushanbe
Arrive to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight Hotel Vatan or similar. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 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 – Kalaikhumb, (360 km, 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 Shurabot Pass (2200 metres), arriving in Kalaikhumb in the early evening.
Overnight in local guest house. Meals included: 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).
Days 3- 4 – Geisev Valley,Trekking (320 km 6/7 hours per day.)
Drive to Geisev village, in Bartang valley. Arriving in the afternoon to Rushan district stay in guest house.
Day 4. Exploration the local people and environment. Next day we will drive to Gisev valley and cross Bartang River by footbridge. Although we should have some time to explore upon arrival, we will explore in more depth on. The trek begins on the river Bartang just beyond Bhagoo village and 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 route passing lakes and rivers traverses some of the most magnificent scenery in the Pamirs
After the trekking drive to Khorog. 90 km 1,5 hour
Drive through more superb scenery, alongside the river Panj which forms the border with Afghanistan. We are in the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). We have a little time to explore local people and Khorog including the bazaar and the lovely Botanical Gardens which are perched high above the town, affording some great panoramic views.
One the 3t night stay in Guest House at the Rushan district,
At the Day 4th after the trekking drive to Khorog and stay in Hotel Lal INN. 3* Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 dinners 1, Picnic
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 5 – Ishkashim, (140 km 5/6 hours)
About 50kms along the road to our next stop, Ishkashim, we will stop at Garmchasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the waters. 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 may be the regional centre, but it is essentially still a large village and we stay in a traditional style guesthouse here. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 dinner
Day 6 — Langar, (135 km 7/8h)
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. You will have time to talk with local people and explore local farming and way of living. Overnight in home stay. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 dinner
Day 7 — Langar to Keng Shiber,, (240 km 7/8 hours)
Today we get a chance to explore the amazing landscape of this area. Short stop and walking to Petroglyphs. We drive up to Keng Shiber via the Khargush 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.
An excellent and adventures trip will take us on the unspoiled lunar landscape of high mountains and wide plateau to Keng Shiber herders camp. Short stops at the “Ak Balyk” Lake and Mouseleum of Alimbek datka at Bashgumbez en route. 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. You will have time to explore semi nomadic pastoral life, talk with herders’ family and take. Overnight as nomads in herders’ yurt. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 dinner
Day 8 – Trekking to Keng Shiber jailoo crossing Bel Airyk pass
Drive to Zorkul Lake after short walking near by the Lake an excellent and adventures trip is hike up the Bel Airyk pass (4835m) which is a migration route of Marco Polo sheep, starts from the foot of the mountain. Ascending up the pass in four/five hours walk you can see the majestic northern wall of Afghanistan Hindikush and fantastic Zor Kul Lake. Along the western half of the Zorkul Lake runs Afghan – Tajik border. The lake’s eastern half lied in Tajikistan. In 1842, Lieutenant Woods of the British India Navy Explored the Pyanj and Pamir rivers as far as the latter’s source in Zorkul. Zorkul itself is 20 km long – the road runs along its northern shore.
Wildlife observation will be undertaken during the trek. The famous and endangered Marco Polo sheep (ovisammonpoli) world’s largest-horned argali sheep, Snow leopard endangered and fully protected species, ibexes, marmot and Brown bear, fox, hare are not full list of representatives of wild life of the area. From birds one can find the mountain goose (ular) pigeons, eagles, vulture, and etc. Good eyes and a sporting scope or more powerful binoculars are essential tools and a field guide for wildlife viewing. These areas are all unique in their own way, and trips to these places are always fascinating. Overnight in nomadic yurt stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 9: Keng Shiber to Murghab. (128km 4/5 hours)
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 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 10 — Murghab trekking to Pyshart,
From Murghab we will drive about (35km) to Pyshart valley Gumbezdykul nomadic village. After lunch hike up the pass (4731 meter) and down to Madian valley, the car will meet on the road drive back to Murgab for overnight. Overnight Home stay. Meals: (BLD)
Day 11 — Murghab via Kara kul to Osh, (420km 8/9 hours)
We depart today to Osh via Karakul lake. 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. Continue our trip to Osh 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. 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. 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. Our first night in Kyrgyzstan is spent at a hotel Pekin near crowded market, and we have free time to explore this sleepy town or simply relax. Overnight in Hotel Sunrise. 3* Meals included: 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.
Day 12 — Osh to Khujand (415 km, 8/9 hours)
Today we continue our adventure as we drive from Osh, crossing Kyrgyz-Tajik border and continuing on to the Tajik town of Khujand. Khujand is a further 110 kilometres from the border, the second largest city in the country and capital of Soghd Province. We will arrive to this ancient city early evening and our sightseeing here for today and next day will include the local museum and the ancient citadel that dates from the 10th century and which fell to the Mongol invaders who swept through this region in the 13th century, Mosque-medresse of Sheykh Muslihiddin of XVI century). Overnight in Hotel Grand. 3* Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Khujand is the capital of northern Tajikistan and the second largest city in the country. Khujand, continuously occupied for 2500 years, was founded by Alexander the Great. The city became one of most important places in Central Asia. It was a key junction of the Silk Road. The beautiful city was razed by Gengiz Khan. Through history it remained a center of considerable power. Prior to the Russian invasion in the nineteenth century it was one of the main emirates in Central Asia. Khujand stands at the entrance to the fertile Fergana Valley. Owing to this it was one of the main centers of the Great Silk way and enjoyed prosperity and richness. One of the ancient cities of the Central Asia Khujand has been known since the 7th century.
Day 13 — Khujand to Iskandarkul (285km 8/9 hours)
We continue the 95kms to Istaravshan, with its hilltop citadel guarding the beautifully preserved town. En route short stop will be in Istaravshan, which is a museum city, the ancient center of trade and crafts, one of the most ancient cities of the Central Asia. In 2002 Istaravshan turned 2,500 years old. Exploring the old town we visit the blue-domed mosque and medressa complex of Kok-Gumbaz, dating back to the 15th century.
Today we drive to Iskandarkul. A good asphalt road winds up the valley to the lake which has its name derived from Alexander the Great – in Persian called “Iskander”. He camped at Iskanderkul’s shore during one of his campaigns en route to India. According to one of the many legends originating from this time, Alexander’s famous battle horse Bucephalus drowned in the lake – and to this day may be seen racing over its surface at full moon.
Arrival to Iskandar Kul Lake the rout is along the Fan darya valley and Iskandar Darya. The Lake is surrounded by mountains, and is about four km across. The views across the lake are impressive in all directions. At 2000 m, it is pleasantly cool in summer. “Iskandar Kul or Lake Alexander is indeed a beautiful spot”, there are many waterfowl and it is possible to fish in this tranquil and beautiful spot. We will walk to the impressive waterfall of 40m height. A platform allows spectators to stand right above the thunderous torrent.
Overnight at the cottage Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
Day 14. Iskandar Kul to Dushanbe (150km 4/5h)
Our final destination today is the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, we have a tough drive ahead of us as a picturesque serpentine road goes through the huge gorge along Zarafshan River, and then climbs to Anzob Pass (3372m). A wonderful panorama of high mountains reveals from the pass. Coming down to Varzob Gorge and further arriving in Dushanbe we take a short rest at our comfortable hotel before heading out for an evening stroll. ‘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 Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
Day 15 – Dushanbe
Transfer to the airport
Tour style: Traveller
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