Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan ( High season: 2018)
TOUR DOSSIER: For anyone anticipating a Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan tour, 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 tour, 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.
Aside from the trip over the Pamir Highway this 7 days tour Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan holiday 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.
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 Sary Tash 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.
Day 1 – Dushanbe
Meeting from airport and 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 Hotel Vatan or similar.
Meals: (On your own arrangements)
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 – Kalaikhumb 360km 7/8hours altitude 1245 mh.
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 Breakfast, 1 Lunch,1 Dinner)
Day 3 – Kalaikhumb to Khorog 260 km, 7/8 hours altitude 2131 mh.
From Kalaikhumb we leave for Khorog along river Pianj, border of Afghanistan. We have reached the capital of Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Overnight in Home Stay.
Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch)
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)
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 Langar (110 km 6/7 hours altitude 2882mh)
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.
Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 6 – 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 7 Murghab via Kara kul to OSH (420 km, 7/8 hours altitude 4600 mh)
In the morning we will continue our trip to Osh via 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.
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 Guest House Biy Ordo
Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch)
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.
END OF THE TOUR SERVICE
From Osh you can continue your trip to explore Kyrgyzstan through Silk Road till Bishkek, otherwise we can book domestic flight tickets from Osh to Bishkek if required.
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