Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan Pamir Tour

Pamir Highway Overland Tour

Experience the cultural and natural highlights of Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan on this trip through Pamirs.

Days

18

Price

€3140

Briefing

Comfort level:

Physical rating:

Group size: Max 12 persons

Countries: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan

Route:

  • Dushanbe
  • Wakhan Valley & Pamirs
  • Osh
  • Mountain Lakes
  • Bishkek

Themes: Active Adventures, Cultural Tours

Explore the stunning natural landscape of two of Central Asia’s most beautiful countries.  This trip will lead you from Dushanbe to Bishkek. Meet Kyrgyz nomads along the way and explore the traditional lifestyle of the sedentary Pamiri people living high up in the mountains.  Witness how people live hand in hand with nature continuing practices that have been passed down through the generations for centuries.

Little-visited Tajikistan is barely on the tourist radar but those that make the effort to visit will be rewarded with some of the most pristine and precious landscapes on the planet.  Not only will you gain an insight into the diversity of Central Asian culture, you’ll explore Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan’s rich heritage.

And of course, we must not forget the great outdoors – and this tour includes a plethora of opportunities to be amazed by some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet.

highlights

  • Go for a sightseeing tour in charming Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan
  • Enjoy the quaint charm and hospitable welcome in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
  • Hike in the scenic Jisew valley
  • Visit the ancient fortress Yamchun located at the heart of the Pamirs
  • Enjoy the view of Peak Lenin (7’134m) from Tulpar Kul Lake
  • Climb up sacred Suleiman Mountain in Osh
  • Experience the hustle and bustle of oriental bazaars
  • Drive through the majestic Pamir Mountains
  • Discover Bishkek, the greenest capital of Central Asia
  • Get acquainted with the Persian and nomad cultural heritage of Central Asia

ITINERARY & MAP

Dushanbe City Tour, Tajikistan Tour

Welcome to Central Asia! Arrive at the airport early in the morning. Transfer to the hotel and early check in. You can have a rest after your long flight, take a shower and have breakfast.

We start the city tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Tajikistan with the famous Buddha statue. Our next stop is the Navruz Palace. Initially this building was supposed to become the largest teahouse in the world. However, during construction, which involved hundreds of artisans from all over the country, the interior became so impressive that it was decided that it was going to become a palace instead of a teahouse. Most of its rooms are now used only for official government meetings with guests from abroad or for international conferences. Just one room is open for public use and usually weddings take place there. You get a chance to have tour inside this unique modern palace. After lunch, we visit the statue of Ismail Samani. The large monument commemorates the 1100th anniversary of the Samanid State, the heyday of the Tajik nation, when science and arts flourished. From there we walk up to Rudaki Park, dedicated to great Persian poet Rudaki, who also lived during Samanid time in the 9th century AD.

We will have welcome dinner in a nice Tajik restaurant. Your guide will outline the tour itinerary and give you plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

Hotel Sheraton or similar, 700m altitude

Pamir Highway Tour, Khalai Khum Tajikistan

Gently gaining altitude, we leave Dushanbe and begin our journey towards the Pamir Mountains, with our sights firmly set on Khalai Kum village.  The roads are rough enough to shake your bones and it’s going to be a long day, so don’t forget those snacks and charge up the batteries to make sure your chosen soundtrack lasts until evening.  Of course, we make plenty of stops to stretch our legs, first of all visiting Norak Reservoir.  In the city of Kulob in the southern region of Tajikistan we will have lunch before driving north-east and gaining slowly altitude again. The road will take us up and over the Shuraba Pass at 2267m.  This is the border region with Afghanistan and from here onwards we will be surrounded by the mountains that have spawned countless adventurers over the centuries. The wild Panj River forms both the natural and the political boundary between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and we will skirt along its banks. Tonight, our accommodation is a nice hotel in the small town of Khalai Kum.

Karon Palace Hotel, 1200m altitude

Pamir Highway Jisew Trekking Tour Tajikistan

Today morning we enjoy a shaky but very scenic ride along the bank of the Panj river. It is easy to spot the Afghan villages clinging to the hillsides and the pathways that snake between the rocks. We will keep within the Tajik territory, learning about the unique culture of the Pamirian people from our guide – their traditions, language and religion are all very different from the Tajik in other parts of the country.

Near the village of Rushan we take a turn and drive into the valley of Bartang, a tributary to the Panj river. Bartang Valley is one of the wildest and most memorable valleys in the western Pamirs. After just about one hour driving into the valley we will stop and start a gentle uphill 2-3 hours hike to Jisev valley. We will spend one night in a very simple family homestay amidst an idyllic landscape at about 2500m altitude.

Overnight in family homestay (multi-share, no beds, no shower, pit toilet), 2500m altitude

Pamir Highway Tour, trekking Jisev, Tajikistan

After breakfast we hike back down to Bartang river, where the car is waiting for us. We drive for about 3 hours further along the Panj river to reach Khorog, the biggest city and administrative capital of the Pamir Region of Tajikistan (GBAO). We will have lunch and a short city tour in Khorog. We will visit the bazaar and the botanical garden with a nice view of the city. You will notice the characteristic features that distinguish the Pamir people; unlike many Tajiks, a high percentage of those who live up here have blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes. After the rustic overnight at Jisev you will appreciate the nice hotel tonight.

Hotel Khorog Serena Inn, 2100m altitude

Khorog, Tajikistan

Our first stop today is the Garmchashma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the waters. From here starts the Wakhan Valley. This remote region is shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It became famous in the 19th Century when it was used as a buffer zone between the Russian and British Empires during a period known as the “Great Game”. But it has been an important region for thousands of years already. Ishkashim is the regional administrative center, but it feels more like a large village. We check in at the guesthouse and have some time to explore the village before dinner. In the evening we can enjoy a folklore show of a group of local Wakhi dancers and musicians.

Hanis Guesthouse (single rooms available, shared western toilet and shower), 2700m altitude

Picture of Yamchun fort, Tajikistan, Ruins of the wall

From Ishkashim this morning we will continue to Langar via Yamg. There are several places of interest where it is worth making a stop (in addition to photo stops).  We take a small detour to the village of Namadguti where we will find the Khahkha Fortress.  Dating from the 3rd century, it is one of several fortresses that remain in the area.  The most impressive of these is Yamchun Fort and we will visit this too.

Lunch will be a picnic at the Bibi Fatima Hot Springs, named after the Prophet Mohammed’s sister.  Local women believe that taking the waters here will increase their fertility.  We then stop to see the Sufi Muborakqadam Museum and also the solar calendar.  Further on, at Vrang, the 4th century Buddhist stupa reminds us that this was once a monastery.  Locals will tell you that there is a stone on top of the stupa which has an imprint of Buddha’s footprint.  No surprise, therefore, to learn that ancient pilgrims made a stop here as they passed through. In the afternoon we can hike and climb a bit to see the petroglyphs above Langar village.

Overnight in simple guesthouse in Langar Village (shared western toilet and shower), 2900m altitude

Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan

Today we leave behind the lush valleys and enter via Kargushi Pass (4300m) a landscape that is rocky, mostly barren, but very dramatic.  Now we are on the famous Pamir Highway or simply M-41. The route between Khorog and Osh was completed in 1931 on a high-altitude plateau on almost 4000m above sea.

On the way to the village of Alichur we will visit two beautiful high-altitude mountain lakes – Yashilkul and Bulunkul. We will also make a short stop at a geyser.

Overnight in simple guesthouse in Alichur Vilage (shared western toilet and shower), 3900m altitude

Murghab City Tour, Pamir, Tajikistan

The Eastern Pamirs are part of Tajikistan but inhabited primarily by ethnic Kyrgyz. Kyrgyz used to be nomads and many still today live a semi-nomadic life, living permanently in a village and during summer in a yurt on the summer pasture, where their cattle can graze. You will start to notice Kyrgyz yurts and herds of sheep, horses and yaks as we drive through this amazing lunar landscape towards Murghab, the center of Eastern Pamirs.

They have a saying in the Pamirs: “To arrive here and not see Murghab is akin to not visiting the Pamirs at all”.  After all, by the Roof of the World, we mean Murghab. Desolate Murghab lies at the center of a flat plateau surrounded by dozens of peaks with summits that top out at over 6000 meters above sea level. Life here is rough, with short, cool summers followed by severe winters characterized by sub-zero temperatures and biting winds.

We will have a short tour in the small town (4000 inhabitants), including visit to a handicrafts center and the local bazaar and white Lenin statue.

Overnight in guesthouse with private shower & western toilet, 3600m altitude

Karakul Lake, Tajikistan, Pamir Mountains

Today we cross the highest pass of the entire area of the former Soviet Union – Ak Baital Pass (4655m). After a descent we reach Karakul Lake (3800m altitude). The name of the lake translates as “Black Lake”, as it appears darker when the sun is not directly shining on it. Karakol is one of the highest navigable mountain lakes in the world. After the lake we start the ascend to Kyzyl Art Pass (4280m), which forms the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It is time to say farewell to Tajikistan and the Tajik guide and driver. You will cross the border on foot and be welcomed by the Kyrgyz guide and driver on the other side. By evening we reach the yurts for our overnight stay next to picturesque Tulpar Kol Lake at the foot of majestic Peak Lenin (7139m).

Overnight in yurt (2-4 people in one yurt, pit toilet outside, no shower), ca. 3000m altitude

Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Tour, UNESCO site - Sulaiman Too

After breakfast transfer to Osh. Until Sary Tash we take the same road as we came from. After Sary Tash village we leave the Pamir-Alay mountain range behind us and drive through a totally different landscape once again. We encounter lush farmlands, and small villages along the way and cross scenic Taldyk Pass (3500m). The road is in quite good condition for most part until Osh so we are planning to arrive in Kyrgyzstan’s second largest and 3000-year-old city around early afternoon.

We check in at the hotel and you have time to take a shower and have a short. In the evening when it is not so hot anymore, we will have a short city tour in Osh. The most important sight in Osh is the sacred Suleiman mountain. Nicknamed Kichik-Mecca (Little Mecca) this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a major place of Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage. It was said that prophet Suleiman was buried here, but even before it was a place of pilgrimage for local people. On top of the mountain is a stone shelter known as Babur’s House, named after the 15-16th century Muslim leader who founded the Mughal Dynasty in India and performed his 40 days fast for meditation here.

Sunrise 2 Hotel, 1000m altitude

Today we have another long driving day ahead, towards the Tien Shan (“celestial”) mountains of Kyrgyzstan. On the way we visit old minarets dating from 10-12th centuries in Uzgen, which used to be one of the capitals of the mighty Karakhanid empire. Further on the way we stop for picnic at a picturesque place and cross Kog Art Pass (3300m). In the evening we arrive at our guesthouse in the village of Kazarman. Dinner with the family and overnight in the guesthouse.

Family Guesthouse (shared western toilet and shower), 2000m altitude

Kyrgyzstan, Saimaluu Tash

After breakfast transfer to the start point of the trek (30km). Full day radial trek to Saimaluu-Tash – mountain field with ancient petroglyphs (stone inscriptions). It is a delightful hike and there are petroglyphs from different periods starting from antiquity (2nd millennium BC) to the Middle Ages (1st-8th centuries AD). Across the whole area a total of more than 10,000 stones with drawings can be found. At this site we will have picnic for lunch. We will walk the same way down and transfer back to Kazarman. (Altitudes above sea level during the day: start point of trek – 2200 m, highest point – 3100 m in Saimaluu-Tash, end of day – 2000 m in Kazarman).

Family Guesthouse (shared western toilet and shower), 2000m altitude

Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Tour, Song-Kul

Today we drive to mountain lake Song Kul through Moldo Ashuu Pass (3240m). Situated at an altitude of around 3000m the lake is only accessible in summer and surrounded by green meadows full of Edelweiss and mountains in the background. Shepherds from the region use these meadows as summer pastures, let their cattle graze and put up yurts. More than 200 families are spending their summers in yurts scattered around the lake. Locals call Song Kul Lake also “Nomad’s Paradise”. It is an ideal place to try out horse riding, meet shepherds and learn about their nomadic lives, and at the same time enjoy the tranquility of this idyllic landscape. Accommodation and dinner in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt.

Overnight in yurt – 4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)

Kyrgyzstan Tosor, Issyk Kul Lake

After breakfast, it is time to leave Song Kul and drive to Issyk Kul – the “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”. On the way, we stop in Kochkor to see a presentation of how traditional felt carpets are made and you can even try to make your own. Shortly after Kochkor we arrive at Issyk Kul and drive along the southern shore to the village of Kyzyl Tuu. Most people in this village are engaged in the manufacturing of yurts and it is the perfect place to learn more about the Kyrgyz yurt and how it is made. A bit further along the road we will stop near Bokonbaevo to meet an Eagle hunter, who will make a demonstration for us. By evening we arrive at Tosor. Upon arrival at the yurt camp there is some time to go swimming in the lake before dinner.

Overnight in yurt – 2-4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)

Karakol City Tour, Kyrgyzstan

After breakfast, first we drive to nearby “Skazka” or “Fairytale” canyon. The canyon derived its name from its bizarre landscape with fabulous formations from rocks. We have a short walk before driving further to the town of Karakol.

In Karakol, we will have lunch and have a short sightseeing tour of the town’s most interesting sights. The tour includes the Dungan Mosque, built in 1904 with no metal nails and the wooden Russian Orthodox Church which has been standing since 1869. We will also visit the small Historical Museum of Karakol with the photo exhibition of Ella Maillart, Swiss traveler, who embarked on an extensive journey through Central Asia in the 1930s. She wrote an interesting book about her travels called “Turkestan Solo”.

From Karakol, it is another 30km driving north to the village of Tepke where we will spend the night in a nice guesthouse of farmers who breed Kyrgyz horses. You can see their horses and learn how “Boorsok” (deep fried bread, typical for Kyrgyzstan) is made.

Overnight & dinner in guesthouse “Reina Kench” – Twin/ Single rooms with shower and toilet in the room

Kyrgyzstan Tour

After breakfast we drive along the northern shore of lake Issyk Kul to Bishkek. On the way we stop at open air museum of petrogylphs near Cholpon Ata, from where we also will have a beautiful view of the lake. Just an hour before Bishkek we make another stop at Burana Tower. The minaret was built in the 11th century in the medieval town of Balasagun, capital of the mighty Karakhanid empire. You can climb up the winding staircase to enjoy a nice view of the Chuy Valley. There is also an open-air museum featuring a collection of ancient balbals, carved stone figures used as monuments.

By evening we arrive in Bishkek, just in time for dinner.

Asia Mountains Hotel or similar

Bishkek City Tour, Kyrgyzstan

Transfer to Ala Archa National Park in the mountains, just 30km outside of Bishkek. We will have a walk in the park, enjoying the nice views and fresh air. Transfer back to Bishkek for lunch in the city center. In the afternoon we will have a city tour in Bishkek. The tour includes Osh Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Ala-Too Square with the National History Museum, and monuments to national hero Manas, writer Chingiz Aitmatov and another Kyrgyz hero Kozhomkul Baatyr. Dinner in a nice local restaurant.

Asia Mountains Hotel or similar

Kalpak Travel, Central Asia Adventure Company

Transfer to airport for departure flight back home. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Central Asia and will return soon to discover more places in this beautiful part of the world!

Inclusions

Transport
Foot, Minivan
Meals
18 Breakfasts,17 Lunches, 17 Dinners
Accommodation
Hotel (9 nights, incl. early check in on day 1), Guesthouse/ Homestay (6 nights), Yurt (3 nights)
Included Activities
  • Dushanbe – City Tour
  • Hike to Jisev Valley
  • Visit oriental bazaars
  • Folklore Show at Ishkashim
  • Climb Suleiman Mountain in Osh
  • Kazarman day hike to petroglyphs
  • Sleeping in yurts
  • Horse riding at Song Kul lake
  • Meeting eagle hunter & yurt maker
  • Swimming in Issyk Kul Lake
  • Hike in Skazka Canyon
  • Karakol – City Tour
  • Bishkek – City Tour & Ala Archa National Park

dates & price

Total trip price

€3140

Euro

18

Days

Single supplement available for €500

Deposit: €250

Departing
Finishing
Status
Booking
11 Aug 2018
28 Aug 2018
+ Available
Price includes
  • All transfers, pick – ups and drop-offs
  • Accommodation based on two people sharing a double/twin room; breakfasts included
  • Full board (all lunches & dinners)
  • English speaking local guide accompanying the group in each country
  • All entry fees as per itinerary
  • Visa support letters for tourist visa
Price does not include
  • International airfares to and from Central Asia
  • Hotel charges for additional services
  • E-visa & GBAO permit fee for Tajikistan (70 USD)
  • Travel insurance policy
  • Personal expenses (e.g. souvenirs etc)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tips for guides and drivers

Important notes

  • Travel insurance is required for this tour. Upon arrival, please provide your insurance details to the tour guide. Which insurance you choose is up to you. We recommend for example WorldNomads.
  • Be aware this trip includes long driving days on bad roads without real toilets along the way, high altitudes of up to 4655m, a few accommodations with pit toilets outside, mostly local food only, unreliable electricity supply and wifi is only available in larger cities. You are traveling in some areas which have, relatively speaking, seen few travelers and the infrastructure is basic at best.
  • Make sure to get your e-Visa and GBAO permit for Tajikistan here: https://www.evisa.tj/index.evisa.html. As a local address in Tajikistan you can enter “Sheraton Hotel, Ayni Street 48, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. +992 372 33 1411”. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask us. Most countries do not need a visa for Kyrgyzstan, if unsure you can check here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kyrgyzstan.
  • Departure for this tour is guaranteed

KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL INFORMATION

MONEY & COSTS:

The Kyrgyz currency is called the Som (KGS). In the capital Bishkek there are many ATMs that you can find in shopping centers, supermarkets or on the main streets. All of them accept Visa cards and some, like Kyrgyz Kommerts Bank, Demir Bank and Uni Credit accept other cards such as MasterCard or Maestro card. Outside of Bishkek, we don’t recommend relying on ATMs as there are so few of them. We also recommend that you bring some cash in new USD banknotes of denominations of at least 20 USD. There are many exchange offices, some working 24/7. Small and old-looking bank notes are harder to exchange. Paying directly with a credit card is still not possible at most places, except for high-end restaurants, hotels and a small number of international stores. An emergency fund of around 500 USD in cash is always good to have during guided trips to Central Asia.

SAFETY:

Kyrgyzstan is the most liberal and democratic country in the Central Asian region. For the last seven years, the political situation in the country has been calm and there is nothing to suggest that this situation might change. Guests and locals are treated with respect and the whole country can be regarded as very safe destination for travelers. That said, you are advised to wear a money belt, watch your belongings, avoid dark streets at night and only use official taxis. Your safety is our first priority at Kalpak Travel; we know and regularly assess all our Kyrgyz partners and we closely monitor political events.

ENTRY & EXIT:

Citizens of most Western countries do not need a visa for a stay of up to 60 days in Kyrgyzstan. To be sure whether you need a visa or not you can check on www.thevisamachine.com. Any special permits that you might need for access to places that will be visited during your tour, we will provide to you free of charge.
As soon as we receive your deposit payment, we will confirm your booking and send you an email with important pre-departure information. Please read it carefully as it contains important information on customs regulations for Kyrgyzstan.

BEST TIME TO GO:

The climate of Kyrgyzstan is continental and dry in the majority of the country, including the largest cities. In the Ferghana Valley in the south and in capital Bishkek, summers are very hot with day temperatures between 30° and 40° Celsius. However, most of the country is situated more than 1500 meters above the sea level, where temperatures are in the mid-20s during summer. At high altitudes of 3000 meters or more it may even snow overnight during the summer, so make sure you bring some warm clothes. The best season to visit for activity or jeep tours would be in summer and winter for skiing tours. Please note, weather in some mountain areas may be very changeable.

HEALTH:

Do not drink water, unless it is bottled, filtered or boiled. Do not use tap water for brushing teeth or making ice either. Do not eat ice cream. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. If you follow these basic rules, you are likely to avoid any health issues like traveler’s diarrhea. Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are recommended vaccinations for Kyrgyzstan. Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. Medical services in Kyrgyzstan are basic at best.

TAJIKISTAN TRAVEL INFORMATION

MONEY & COSTS:

The Tajik currency is called the Somoni (TJS). In the capital Dushanbe there are a few ATMs that you’ll find in shopping centres, supermarkets or on the main streets, but most of them accept only Visa cards. Outside of Dushanbe we don’t recommend relying on ATMs as there are only a few of them and they may run out of money.
We recommend bringing cash in new USD bank notes of denominations of at least 20 USD. There are many exchange offices, some working 24/7. Small and old-looking bank notes are harder to exchange. Paying directly with credit card is still not possible at most places, except for few high-end restaurants and hotels. An emergency fund of around 500 USD in cash is always good to have during guided trips to Central Asia.

SAFETY:

The political situation in the country has been calm in recent years and there are no indications of upcoming tensions. The border area with Afghanistan is safe as well, but we do not recommend crossing the border for a trip into Afghanistan. Guests and locals are treated with respect and Tajikistan can be regarded as safe destination for travelers. That being said, you are advised to wear a money belt, watch your belongings, avoid dark streets at night and only take official taxi rides. Your safety is our first priority at Kalpak Travel; we know and regularly assess all our Tajik partners and we closely monitor political events.

ENTRY & EXIT:

Citizens of almost every country can obtain an e-Visa online for stays of up to 45 days in Tajikistan. All you need to do is enter the requested information then pay a fee of 50 USD by credit card and you will receive almost immediately the eVisa by email. You can print it out and use it just like an ordinary visa to enter the country. Please note, if you are planning to visit Pamir region, you need a GBAO permit, which you can purchase online, together with the eVisa, for an additional fee of USD 20.
As soon as we receive the deposit payment for your tour, we will confirm your booking and send you an email with important pre-departure information. Please read it carefully as it contains important information on customs regulations for Tajikistan.

BEST TIME TO GO:

The climate of Tajikistan is continental and dry across most of the country, including the largest cities. In regions situated at relatively low altitude, such as the capital Dushanbe, the south of Tajikistan around Kulob and the Khujand region, summers are very hot with day temperatures between 30° and 40° Celsius. However, most of the country is situated at high altitudes, where temperatures are in the mid 20s or less during the summer. If you visit the Fann or Pamir Mountains, make sure to bring some warm clothes, as it can get very cold at night at elevations of more than 3000 metres. The best season to visit is during summer.

HEALTH:

Do not drink water, unless it is bottled, filtered or boiled. Do not use tap water for brushing teeth or making ice either. Do not eat ice cream. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. If you follow these basic rules, you are likely to avoid any health issues like traveler’s diarrhea. Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are recommended vaccinations for Tajikistan. Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. Medical services in Tajikistan are basic at best. Please note: there is a small risk of malaria in the south of Tajikistan by the borders with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. None of our tours visit this region.

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