The Ultimate Pamir Highway Tour

9
Days
Dushanbe, Kulob, Kalaikhumb, Khorog, Ishkashim, Langar, Murghab, Karakul

The Pamir Highway twists and turns through the remote Pamir Mountains, whose splendor and mystique have beckoned daredevil explorers for centuries. From its western gateway near Kulob and Kalaikhumb to the long-abandoned fortresses of Ishkashim and Langar, footprints of past civilizations mingle with present-day villages and mind-blowing scenery to create a surreal atmosphere known to leave even the most seasoned travelers speechless.
The Ultimate Pamir Highway Tour is a 9-day dream journey through the splendid Pamir Mountains, a once-in-a-lifetime trip chock full of adventure. Traveling in a 4WD vehicle with a qualified driver, you’ll start at Dushanbe and visit the full range of Pamir sites including well-developed Khorog, dizzyingly high Murghab and quiet, remote Karakul, with stops at citadels, petroglyphs, lakes, natural hot springs and the famed Ak-Baital Pass along the way.

Arrive in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. A driver will take you to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Free time to rest after your travels. Overnight in Dushanbe.
Meals Provided: none
After breakfast, your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception for a city tour of Dushanbe, beginning with a drive to the sites at Hissar Historical and Cultural Reserve (30km, 50min):
  • Hissar Fortress (17th-19th centuries), where the impressive gates of a castle, once the home of a Bukharin emir, still amaze with their stateliness;
  • Kukhna Madrasah (17th century), a spacious religious school that functioned until the early 20th century, it now contains a small history museum;
  • Khistin Caravanserai (19th century), an unusual caravanserai constructed of burnt brick.
Drive back to Dushanbe to continue your tour to the following:
  • National Museum of Tajikistan, holding more than 40,000 expositions on Tajikistan’s history, nature and art, including a 12-meter statue of Buddha discovered on Tajikistan territory;
  • Haji Yaqub Mosque (19th century), Dushanbe’s landmark mosque that can hold up to 3,000 people;
  • Rudaki Park, a beautifully manicured park filled with fountains, flowers and foliage, with a tasteful monument of Rudaki in the center;
  • Gurminj Musical Instruments Museum, dedicated to celebrating the musical heritage of the Tajiks and Pamiris through a collection of national instruments, music lessons and periodic concerts;
  • Ayni Opera and Ballet Theatre (1940s), whose gorgeous outer décor is accentuated by the pristine lawns that surround it;
  • Statue of Ismail Somoni, a classy tribute to the founder of the Tajik people which towers 25 meters high in the city center;
  • Mehrgon Market, one of Dushanbe’s newest attractions, this large indoor bazaar is housed in an ornately designed and decorated atrium.
Overnight in the Dushanbe hotel.
Tour Duration: approximately 5 hours
Meals Provided: Breakfast
After breakfast, depart Dushanbe to begin your journey through the Pamir Mountains. Drive 370 kilometers in 8 hours, reaching altitudes up to 1300 meters. This path winds through several well-known road markers, including Khatlon Tunnel at Chormazak Pass (4.5km long) and Ozodi Tunnel at Shar Shar Pass (2.2km long), which leads to one of the tallest dams in the world, Nurek Dam (300m tall).
Along the way you’ll visit these notable sites:
  • Hulbuk Fortress (9th century), a bastion of the once powerful city of Hulbuk that served to safeguard the nearby entrance to the Pamir Highway;
  • Vose District Museum, which displays artifacts, replicas and information on Hulbuk Fortress;
  • Mir Sayyid Aliya Hamadoni Mausoleum (14th century), burial site of the man credited with bringing Islam to the region that quietly impresses with beautiful outer tilework, gold domes and well-kept premises.
After lunch in Kulob, complete your drive to Kalaikhum along the Pyanj River through the Pamir Mountains. Arrive in Kalaikhum, a small town founded at 1400 meters above sea level. Enjoy free time to walk about the town and interact with the friendly local people, most of whom still wear traditional clothes.
Overnight at a hotel in Kalaikhum.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Depart Kalaikhum in the morning and drive along the Panj River to Khorog (250km, 6-7hrs), a drive that provides views of Afghanistan across the river.
Khorog, a small mountain town that lies in a valley over 2000 meters above sea level, is the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Upon arrival have a small tour of Khorog’s main attractions:
  • Pamir Botanical Gardens, which at 2,320 meters is considered one of the highest botanical gardens in the world. The park contains many examples of local foliage and a great panoramic view of Khorog.
  • Khorog Regional Museum, filled with presentations of the history and culture of Khorog from ancient times through the Soviet era.
Free time in evening. Overnight in a Khorog hotel.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
In the morning visit a small local bazaar and Garm Chashma, a famous mineral hot spring cloaked in gorgeous white calcified deposits.
Depart to Ishkashim (130km, 4-5hrs), a small town at the mouth of the Wakhan Corridor where the 19th century Great Game ended. Continue up the north side of the river, relishing amazing views of the Pamirs to the left and the Hindu Kush to the right.
The Wakhan Valley (also pronounced Vakhan) is a majestic alpine valley in the Badakhshan region of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Visit the Khakha Fortress (c. 2nd century BC). Located near the village of Namadguti, it’s one of the oldest fortresses in Wakhan Valley and perfectly captures the wild, remote atmosphere of this region.
Arrive in Ishkashim. Visit the famous Ishkashim Market, a bazaar situated just across the river between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Overnight in the Ishkashim guesthouse.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
In the morning, drive from Ishkashim to Langar (140km, 6hrs). Stop to visit the following sites:
  • Museum of Sufi Muborak-Kadami Vakhani, a 19th century Sufi scholar and poet;
  • Buddhist Stupa in Vrang (c. 4th century), which along with a nearby monastery have mysterious origins;
  • Bibi Fatima Zahra Sacred Hot Springs, whose warm, clear waters provide natural refreshment in this rugged region;
  • Yamchun Fortress (4th-3rd centuries BC), one of the most spectacular and well-preserved sights in the whole Wakhan Valley, it stands alone and determined atop a rocky hill.
Overnight at a homestay in Langar.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After breakfast, scramble up the hill above Langar to view an amazing collection of over 6000 petroglyphs, many still untouched and in mint condition. Visit Langar’s Jamoat Khana (Prayer House), adorned with colorful murals, before departing for Murghab (240km, 7hrs).
Relax on the road as you skirt the Pamir River and driving through the Khargush Pass (4300m) and Nayzatash Pass (4100m), from which you’ll have indescribable views of Afghanistan and the surrounding ranges.
Arrive in Murghab and overnight in a guesthouse. (Note that at a height of 3600 meters, it might be difficult to sleep due to the dry air and lack of oxygen).
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
In the morning, begin your drive to Karakul Lake (130km, 2hrs) via the Ak Baytal Pass (White Horse Pass, 4655m), the highest point in the former Soviet Union. Stop to enjoy the view of Karakul Lake, which at an elevation of almost 4000 meters is one of the highest lakes in the world.
Spend the remainder of the day relaxing at the lake, wandering the area and mingling with the residents of the small mountain village. Overnight at a homestay in Karakul Lake.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Depart Karakul Lake for Osh, Kyrgyzstan (50km, 1hr) via the Kyzylart Pass (4250m) and the Taldyk Pass (3600m).
Arrive at the Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border crossing known as Kyzylart and pass through border formalities. Upon crossing into Kyrgyzstan, a Kyrgyz driver will meet you and complete the drive to Osh (230km, 3-4hrs).
Transfer to your hotel. End of The Ultimate Pamir Highway Tour.
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch

Notes:

  • Internet access will be limited while touring the Pamir Highway.
  • Traveling the Pamir Highway may cause altitude sickness manifested in headaches, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, lethargy, etc.
  • We highly recommended bringing entertainment items with you (music, books, board games etc.) in addition to sunglasses, a first aid kit, water bottle, portable charger, flashlight, warm clothes and sturdy shoes.
  • Road conditions are poor in certain areas, with dirt roads and poorly maintained pavement.
  • There are few to no ATMs in the Pamirs, so bring enough cash with you in both USD and Tajik Somoni. Guesthouses and restaurants accept both currencies.
  • Altitudes on the Pamir Highway: Dushanbe: 800 meters / Kalai-Khumb: 1400 meters / Khorog: 2100 meters / Ishkashim: 2600 meters / Langar: 2900 meters / Murghab: 3600 meters / Karakul: 3900 meters / Sarytash: 3100 meters / Osh: 1000 meters.