16 Days Kyrgystan and Tajikistan Along The Pamir Highway
This 16 Days Kyrgystan and Tajikstan trip is one of the adventure road trip, This trip starts in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek but quickly leaves the modern world behind as you wind your way along difficult mountain roads and high passes, in the shadow of some of the highest mountains on our planet. We will have time to explore Bishkek, and leave to visit Issyk Kul, the largest lake in Central Asia, and then head to Song Kul and Chichkan where we can meet local shepherds or hike in the surrounding countryside. Continue our trip, exploring ancient city of Osh then From Kyrgyzstan we cross into Tajikistan Traversing the legendary Pamir Highway, The Pamir Mountains have long been known as ‘the roof of the world’, a region of utterly breathtaking scenery and home to a fascinating melange of cultures. Follow in the footsteps of ancient traders and pilgrims, and Victorian explorers in discovering a region largely isolated from the world beyond, a land where each village speaks its own different dialect and local traditions have been maintained for centuries. Traversing the legendary Pamir Highway, We visit ruined forts from the days of the old Silk Road, and pass gem mines mentioned by Marco Polo. Spending some nights in homestays in small communities, we are able to gain a great insight into what it means to live in this harsh but majestic region. This trip ventures to a remote and enchanting land that has remained hidden to the rest of the world, a land of towering peaks, turbulent rivers and fascinating people. Travel with us on one of the most amazing journeys you are ever likely to make.
Day 1 – Bishkek (40km 30min)
Arrive in Bishkek in the early hours of the morning and your room will be available to check in straight away. After some rest this afternoon we explore the capital, visiting Ala-Too Square and the History Museum among other sites. Overnight Silk Road Lodge Hotel or similar. Single rooms are available tonight and accomodation will have private bathroom facilities (BL)
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 2 – Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata and Lake Issyk Kul (260km 4/5h)
Travel to Cholpon-Ata on the north side of Issyk-Kul Lake to the largest and most beautiful lake in Central Asia. En route we visit the Burana tower which marks the original site of Karakhanid town. There is an optional opportunity to visit the open air museum of Stone Inscriptions in Cholpon Ata. Most of the drawings date from several thousand years B.C. up until the 12th Century A.D. Overnight at the Hotel Amin or similar. Single rooms are available this evening and the accomodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
At 170km long and with a maximum depth of 695 metres, Issyk Kul is the tenth largest lake in the world and with its high levels of salinity never freezes, even in the harshest of winters here. Fed by many rivers, none flow from it contributing to a salt content of around 0.6%. In Soviet times it was a popular spa resort, and ongoing excavations show that there has been settlement around here for 2500 years or so. It is home to a number of different species of fish, many of which can only be found here.
Day 3 – Cholpon Ata – Song Kol Lake (240km 6/7h)
Today takes us to stunning Song Kol Lake (240km). The lake itself is 3016m above sea level and is one of the highest alpine lakes in the world. Overnight yurt stay with 4 – 5 beds in one yurt and shared basic bathroom facilities (BLD)
Song Kol Lake
Song-Kul is the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan with an area of 278sq. km. It is situated in a valley between two mountain ranges at an altitude of 3016m above sea level. The lake is inhabited by 10 species of fish and around the shores some 70 species of birds are present. The lake is famous for its changing appearance in terms of the colour of the water depending on the weather conditions. The landscape around the lake is devoid of trees, with spacious meadows used by shepherds for their cattle during the summer months.
Day 4 – Chichkan ( 260km 6/7h)
Today we drive to the Suusamyr valley along the picturesque mountain Osh highway to the Chichkan gorge. On the way we can see local shepherds who still adhere to age old traditions. Overnight Hotel Oson or Ak-ilbirs where single room not available and shared bathrooms (BLD)
Day 5 – Osh ( 430km 7/8h )
We depart early this morning for the journey to Osh. Before arriving in Osh we visit the ancient minaret and mausoleums in Uzghen around 60km from Osh. Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city. Overnight Hotel Sunrise or similar, Single rooms are available this evening and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
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 6 – Osh – Sary Tash (185km 3/4h)
Today we will visit Sulayman Mountain and local Bazaar. Afternoon we start to Sary-Tash, our first step towards the High Pamir. We depart the mountains of the Pamir-Alay range. En route we cross the Taldyk Pass (3554m) where we will enjoy the spectacular views and if we’re lucky we may even catch a glimpse of Peak Lenin, at 7134m the second highest mountain in Central Asia. On arrival recommended little walking around the village for acclimatization, next day you will rise to the height in Pamirs altitude.
Overnight in Guest House, tonight you will sleep on Asian style bedding on the mattresses and blankets on the floor in a few rooms of Ethnic Kyrgyz House with shared basic bathroom facilities (BLD)
Day 7 – Sary Tash via Kara Kul – Murghab (240km 6/7h)
This drive will see us enjoy some of the most dramatic scenery of the trip with the lunar like landscapes and bright turquoise lakes providing stunning backdrops. We also cross the Kyzyl Art pass (4282 metres), which essentially forms the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan before arriving at Lake Karakul.
After lunch or Picnic around the lake we head for Murghab anticipating an arrival time in the late afternoon. En route we shall cross more high passed including the highest point on the tour the Ak-Baital Pass (4655 metres). Murghab itself situated at 3670m has few attractions but we will explore the area a little and if we are lucky to have clear conditions we may be able to view the distant Chinese peak of Muztag Ata (7546m). Overnight Pamir Hotel or similar, where single rooms are available, but shared bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Karakul Lake is the highest lake in Central Asia, and at 3915 metres, too high to support any aquatic life. Surrounded by high mountains which block the humid air masses, Karakul receives less than 30mm of precipitation a year. Karakul means “black lake” but in spring, summer and autumn the water is almost always a spectacular turquoise blue.
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 8 – Murghab – Langar (240km 6/7h)
Today we journey to Langar via the Kargushi Pass (4344m). It is today that we enter the rocky and barren but nevertheless dramatic landscapes of the Wakhan Valley. Overnight local homestay where single room not available and with basic shared facilities (BLD)
Day 9 – Langar – Ishkashim (135km 5/6h)
Today we drive along the fabled Wakhan Valley. We stop at the village of Vrang to visit at the 4th Century Buddhist stupas. In Yammg we stop for visit Sufy museum and lunch.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 daughter and where local women believe they can increase their fertility. Before arriving in Ishkashim we shall stop at Namadgut 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. Overnight local guesthouse where single room not available and shared bathroom facilities (BLD)
The Wakhan Valley (also pronounced Vakhan) is a majestic alpine valley in the Badakhshan region of Tajikistan and Afghanistan (the Wakhan Corridor refers to the part of the valley in Afghanistan). It is located in the Pamir Mountains and 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 Panj River, the valley narrows and becomes essentially a canyon with roaring river rapids fed by glaciers from some of the highest mountains on the planet.
Day 10 – Ishkashim – Khorog (138km 4/5h)
After breakfast we continue our drive through the Wakhan Valley stopping at Garmchasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the waters. On arrival in Khorog we will take relax, overnight at the Hotel Lal Inn or similar where single rooms are available but bathroom facilities are shared. (BLD)
Day 11 – Exploring the Khorog
After the breakfast we will start to explore the town including the bazaar and the lovely Botanical Gardens which are perched high above the town, affording some great panoramic views. Overnight at the Hotel Lal Inn or similar where single rooms are available but bathroom facilities are shared. (BLD)
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.
Day 12 – Khorog – Bartang valley back to Rushan (120km 1/2h (trekking time 6/7h)
Travel to Rushan the administrative centre of the Bartang district. From Khorog to Rushan 60km away, we continue drive to the Bartang valley and cross the river to embark on a trek that begins on the river Bartang,mostly gentle uphill for about 14km to the upper of the three lakes. The first houses in Geisev are reached after about 8km. We will stop in the Gizev village for lunch, after lunch we will continue to explore the Geisev valley. 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. This route passing lakes and rivers traverses some of the most magnificent scenery in the Pamir region. After the trekking we will drive back to Rushan for overnight. Overnight at the local home stay or similar where single room not available and with shared bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 13 – Rushan – Kalaikhumb (200km 5/6h)
Today we drive through magnificent scenery and interesting villages. The areas we pass through today are a little more conservative and we shall see more men with beards and women wearing traditional dress. We may also see some relics of the civil war of the early to mid-1990’s. Overnight Hotel Karon or similar, at the hotel single rooms are available and with private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 14 – Kalaikhumb to Dushanbe (360km 7/8h)
After breakfast we start the journey to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. We cross the Shurabad Pass (2200m). We visit the recently restored Hulbuk fortress dating back to the 8th Century. Later we arrive in Dushanbe and if time allows we can start to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Vatan or similar, at the hotel single rooms are available and with private bathroom facilities (BLD)
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 15 – Hissar (60km 1/2h)
Drive to the nearby town of Hissar to visit the remains of the 18th century fort as well as two nearby madrassahs. Return to Dushanbe in the afternoon and visit the bazaar and the excellent Museum of National Antiquities. Overnight Hotel Vatan or similar. Single room accomodation is available and the accomodation has private bathrooms (BLD)
The history of Hissar fort is colourful, with the fortress the stronghold of local basmachi forces resisting the might of Russia. Through the 1920s a power struggle was played out in the region between Bolshevik forces and Pan-Turkic would-be occupiers under the Ottoman Enver Pasha, who was eventually killed in Tajikistan. Today the fort is largely in ruins although the impressive main gate has been reconstructed. Opposite sit two madrassahs dating back to the 16th century, one of which has a small museum in it.
Day 16 – Dushanbe
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight
- Overland transportation by 4WD (Lexus 470 / Toyota Land Cruiser for whole trip )
- Arrival and departure transfers
- All accommodations
- Services of English speaking guide
- Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- 1/2L Mineral water per day per person
- FOC+1 (Free of charge for tour guide)
- International flights
- Travel Insurance
- Visa and GBAO permit
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips (discretionary)
TOUR ROUTE MAP: (Click to image to see full map)