ITINERARY & MAP
Welcome to Tajikistan! 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 a tour of 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Transfer to the airport and morning flight to Bishkek. In the afternoon we will have a city tour in Bishkek. The tour includes Osh Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Ala-Too Square with the and a monument to national hero Manas. Dinner in a nice local restaurant.
Asia Mountains Hotel or similar
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!