Dushanbe – Hissar fortress – Kialai-Khumb – Khorog – Ishkashim – village Langar – Murghab – Gumbezdu kol jailoo – Kara-Kul lake – Sary-Tash village – Osh
10 days and 9 nights.
The program of day after day:
1 Day. Dushanbe.
Arrival in Dushanbe, meeting at the airport, transfer to hotel “Matlubot”, accommodation. Excursion on city, visiting of square Aini, a monument to writer S.Ajni, a sculptural complex of the writer. Visiting of a museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan, visiting of an ethnographic museum. A lunch in chaikhana Rokhat. After a lunch a transfer to settlement Gissar (35 km), visiting: the square Registan, to Gissar fortress ( XVI century), madrassah Kuhna а (XII – XVI c.c.), a museum of history Gissar of the historical reserve located in old madrassah, survey of mosque Nav (XVIII century). A trip to t o mausoleum Khoja Makhdumi Asam (X – XVI c.c.), visiting of the mausoleum. Returning in Dushanbe. For our local team, today is also a day of preparation as we organize the vehicles and supplies necessary for our trip into the Pamirs and the Wakhan region of the country. A dinner at local restaurant. Overnight in the hotel.
2 Day. Kalai-Khumb.
Breakfast. Transfer: we set off east towards the Pamirs, with some to cover before we reach our destination of Kalaikhumb (360 km). Although this is a long day on the road, we are quickly distracted by the 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. More arrestingly, along the road we also see relics of Tajikistan’s bitter civil war of 1992 – 19996, as tanks and armored vehicles lie decaying wherever they were left. Lunch on the way. We cross the Khaburabot Pass (H-3252), arriving in Kalai-Khumb in the early evening. Accommodation in the guest house. Dinner and overnight.
4 Day. Kalai-Khumb – Khorog.
Breakfast. Transfer: from Kalaikhumb we leave for for Khorog with some of terrain ahead of us, and the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way (250 km). The road joins the river Pyanj, which in turn forms the border with Afghanistan. The contrast across the river valley is telling, Tajikistan is undoubtedly a poor country, but in general the roads are sealed and buildings are connected with electricity. The situation barely 100 m away is even starker, and it is as if the river represents not just a physical divide, but also a step back in time. Lunch on the way. We stay in relative luxury tonight, having reached the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) – this is a restricted part of the country and we have obtained permits to travel here. Nevertheless, be prepared for the possibility of some additional paperwork. Arrival in Khorog, accommodation in the guest house “Parine Inn” is set in lovely riverside gardens and looking out to the bridge across the river into Afghanistan itself. Dinner and overnight.
5 Day. Khorog – Ishkashim.
Breakfast. This morning 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 views. About 50 kms along the road to our next stop, Ishkashim, we will stop at Garmchasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the natural hot springs. From here, we enter the Tajik half of the Wakhan Valley (shared with Afghanistan) and have a further 100kms to cover. We pass regional gem mines mentioned by Marco Polo in his descriptions of what he called the ‘Mt Shugnon region’. The most famous mine is Koh-i-Lal ruby mine which is visible from the road. Lunch on the way. Ishkashim itself may be the regional centre, but it is essentially still a large village and we stay in a traditional style guesthouse here. Arrival in Ishkashim, transfer to guest house “Zulfiya”, accommodation. Dinner and overnight.
6 Day. Ishkashim – Lyangar.
Breakfast. There is little to see or do in Ishkashim itself, so we 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 III Century. Please note that the fort is sometimes still used by local Tajik military forces so the excursion will be dependent on permission from the local authorities. If we are able to visit whilst the military are in place, please be extremely careful about taking photographs only with permission. 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. Men and women will have separate bathing times, however facilities are basic. Continuing our sightseeing today, we then stop at the IV Century Buddhist stupas at Vrang reminders of the ancient pilgrim caravans that passed through the region. There are traces of this Buddhist history to be found throughout Central Asia, despite the dominance of Islam in recent centuries. Lucn on the way. Arrival in Lyangar kishlak, transfer to home stay, accommodation. Dinner and overnight.
7 Day. Murghab.
Breakfast. Today we get a chance to explore the amazing landscape of this area. Moving on, we cross a second high-altitude pass, Naziatash Pass (H-4137). 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 have a total of 240 km. to cover today, and we anticipate arriving in Murghab early evening the center of the East Pamir, where majority of the population is Kyrgyz. Murghab itself has few attractions, but it will serve as our base for a couple of nights as we explore the area a little. Lunch on the way. Arrival in Murgab, transfer to guest house “Taalai”, accommodation. Today includes an excursion to see the bazaar in Murghab itself. Dinner and overnight.
8 Day. Gumbezdu-Kol.
Breakfast. Enter the Pyshart valley until the upper jailoo (summer pasture camp), first sight of the nomadic pastoral life style. After lunch short walking around jailoo, nomadic Kyrgyz family where we shall stay and enjoy their local hospitality. We will visit with local herders their flocks of yaks and sheep. This is a region of dramatic landscapes – of snow-capped mountains, turquoise rivers, beautiful lakes in the high mountain desert meadow of Pyshart Valley, where few foreigners venture. Lunch in the yurt of nomads. Arrival on Gumbezdu-Kol, accommodation in the y urts. Dinner and overnight in the yurts.
9 Day. Kara-Kul lake.
Breakfast. Transfer to Kara-Kul lake (H-3915), we will again cross a high-altitude pass Ak-Baital Pass (H-4655) which is the highest section of road in the former Soviet Union. 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 descend to Karakul Lake, the highest lake in Central Asia, too high to support any aquatic life. Lunch on the way. We will stop for walking around the shore of the Lake. Kara Kul village (facilities very basic in Pamirs: shared room for 2 – 3 people, you can take a bucket shower, toilets are not en suite and are typical Asian squat-style). Arrival in the Kara-Kul village, transfer to home stay, accommodation.
10 Day. Sary-Tash village – Gulcha village – Osh town.
Breakfast. We embark on the final leg of our Tajik journey today. Our destination is Osh (Kyrgyzstan), some 300 km. away. Our Pamir Highway goes on high pass in the Kyzyl-Art Pass (H-4282), which essentially forms the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Border formalities take place shortly after crossing the pass, with 20 km. 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 drivers and guide – 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. En route we will cross the Taldyk Pass (H-3554) and enjoy some beautiful views – if we’re lucky we may even catch a glimpse of Peak Lenin (H-7134) the second highest mountain in Central Asia. Lunch on the way. We must travel about 185 km from the pass, and depending on road conditions and travel times we expect to arrive in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city in the evening. Accommodation in the hotel. Dinner and overnight.