For anyone anticipating Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Cultural, Adventure tour, along the Pamir Highway.
Pamir Highway is certain to stand out in a series of dramatic landscapes and cultural encounters to leave travelers 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 tours, 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. Next day of our arrival to Tajikistan we drive to explore Istaravshan, which is a museum city, the ancient center of trade and crafts, one of the most ancient cities of the Central Asia. In 2002 Istaravshan turned 2,500 years old. Exploring the old town we visit the blue-domed mosque and medressa complex of KokGumbaz, dating back to the 15th century. Tajikistan cultural tours are the best way of meeting the country of mountains; exploring small, yet more than 2000 years old cities located among the snowcapped mountains.Aside from the trip over the Pamir Highway this 19 days Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstantour 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 callthis eternally unchanged habitat, home. Following the course of the River Panj, along the Afghanistan border towards Khorog, takes travelers 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 and Kyrgyzstan 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. Travel deeper into Kyrgyzstan and you’ll catch a glimpse of the huge alpine lakes, Son Kul and Issyk Kul, where herding families and nomadic tribes hunt prey with eagles, and chances to explore the area on foot is certain to be a really unique and special moment. As you finally complete this 19 days Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan adventure tour, The Pamir Highway experience will still live in the memory however, you still have time for cultural sightseeing in Bishkek.
Tour style: Traveller (Exploring cultural, adventures & hiking tour)
Departure dates scheduled:
Day 1: Dushanbe
Arrive in Dushanbe, meeting at the airport 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 treelined avenues and pleasing architecture surrounded by mountain scenery.
Overnight at the hotel “Vatan/similar”. Meals: (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
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 to Istaravshan (275 km 5/6 hours)
The first part of the journey from Dushanbe to the North of Tajikistan follows the Varzob valley. The road to the Zarafshan valley, and on to Khujand, The road rises through two high passes, at Anzob (3,373 m) and Shahristan (3,378 m). Our Journey today will be Istaravshan. Istaravshan, which is a museum city, the ancient center of trade and crafts, one of the most ancient cities of the Central Asia. In 2002 Istaravshan turned 2,500 years old. Exploring the old town we visit the blue domed mosque and medressa complex of Kok-Gumbaz, On arrival exploring the city and overnight. Overnight local guesthouse Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 3: Istaravshan to Dushanbe visit Iskandar Kul lake and Hissar fortress. (318 km 7/8 hours)
Arrival to Iskandar Kul Lake the route is along the Fan darya valley and Iskandar Darya. The Lake is surrounded by mountains, and is about four km across. The views across the lake are impressive in all directions. At 2000 m, it is pleasantly cool in summer. “Iskandar Kul or Lake Alexander is indeed a beautiful spot”, there are many waterfowl and it is possible to fish in this tranquil and beautiful spot. We will walk to the impressive waterfall of 40m height. A platform allows spectators to stand right above the thunderous torrent. Our final destination today is back to Dushanbe the Tajik capital Tajikistan, We have a tough drive ahead of us as a picturesque serpentine road goes through the huge gorge along Zarafshan River, and then climbs to Anzob Pass (3372m). A wonderful panorama of high mountains reveals from the pass. Coming down to Varzob Gorge and before arriving to Dushanbe we visit to Hissor fortress. You will see the ruins of the Fortress Tower know the “Hissar Fortress” that was the country estate of the Emir of Bukhara in the XIX century. Inside the fortress there was a pool and a garden, in outside there was a market, a shelter for caravans and a lot of small shops. The gate of the fortress with portal and one-storied building of new madrasa of XVIIIXIX centuries are only lasted out up to now. Not far the fortress there is History Museum. After exploring Hissar fort drive to Dushanbe and we take a rest at our comfortable hotel.
Overnight in hotel “Vatan or similar”. Meals: (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4: Dushanbe to Kalaikhumb (360 km 8/9 hours)
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 cross the Shurabod Pass (2200 metres), arriving in Kalaikhumb in the early evening.
Overnight local guesthouse Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 5: Kalaikhumb to Rushan (235 km, 6/7 hours)
From Kalaikhumb we leave for Rushan the administrative center of Rushan district with some 175 kms of terrain ahead of us, and the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way. The road joins the river Pianj, 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 100m away is even starker, and it is as if the river represents not just a physical divide, but also a step back in time.
Overnight in Home stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 6: Rushan to Gisev valley and trekking, after the trekking transfer to Khorog. (9/10km trekking 120km Drive)
From Rushan we leave for Geisev through Bartang valley with some 30 km of terrain ahead of us, and again the promise of some spectacular scenery along the way. Arrival in Emtz village in Bartang valley. We will cross the river by small bridge, Our trek begins on the river Bartang just beyond Bhagoo village. The hike is mostly gently uphill, for about 8km to the upper of three lakes. The first houses in Geisev are reached after about 5km. The abundant vegetation, the gnarled trees, the lakes and the everchanging river – sometimes frothing with energy, sometimes limpid and blue – create a very special peaceful atmosphere, ideal for a short break without too much physical effort. This rout passing lakes, and the rivers traversing some of the most magnificent scenery in the Pamirs. We will again cross the river and drive to Khorog for overnight.From Gizev we leave for Khorog along river Pianj, border of Afghanistan. We stay in hotel tonight, having reached the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Overnight in Hotel Lal In. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
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 7: Khorog to Ishkashim (130 km 5/6 hours)
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 8: Ishkashim to Langar (110 km 6/7 hours)
Driving along 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.
Overnight at the homestay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 9: Langar to Alichur visit to Bulunkul and Yashil Kul (192 km, 6/7 hours)
Today we get a chance to explore the amazing landscape of this area. We drive up to Bulung kul Lake 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.Arrival to Bulung kul. Visit to Yashil kul and drive to Alichur and short stop at geyser en route. Overnight in homestay.
Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 10: Alichur to Kengshiber (138 km, 3/4 hours)
After breakfast we drive up to Keng Shiber. Continuing our trip via the Pamir Highway, with the route between Khorog and Osh completed in 1931 across a Tibetan-plateau style high altitude terrain. An excellent and adventures trip will take us on the unspoiled lunar landscape of high mountains and wide plateau to Keng Shiber herders camp. Short stops at the “Ak Balyk” Lake and Mouseleum of Alimbek datka at Bashgumbez en route. The Eastern Pamirs have been populated by nomadic ethnic Kyrgyz since the 17th century. The traditional architecture is
beautifully represented by yurts, mobile habitations made of felt on an ingenious wooden frame, with the interior decoration bearing witness to the wealth and skills of the owners. Felt and wool serve as the basis for handicrafts. Precise stones, including rubies and emeralds, are also found in the area, and these are sometimes used in local handicrafts. You will have time to explore semi nomadic pastoral life, talk with herders’ family.
Overnight in Yurt stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 11: Kengshiber trekking to Bel Ayric Zor Kul then drive to Murghab (148 km, 8/9 hours trekking 5/6 hours)
Today we take hike up to the Bel Airyk pass (4835m) which is a migration route of
Marco Polo sheep, starts from the foot of the mountain. Ascending up the pass in
four/five hours walk you can see the majestic northern wall of Afghanistan Hindikush and fantastic Zor Kul Lake. Along the western half of the Zorkul Lake runs Afghan – Tajik border. The lake’s eastern half lied in Tajikistan. In 1842, Lieutenant Woods of the British India Navy Explored the Pyanj and Pamir rivers as far as the latter’s source in Zorkul. Zorkul itself is 20 km long – the road runs along its northern shore. Wildlife observation will be undertaken during the trek. The famous and endangered Marco Polo sheep (ovisammonpoli) world’s largest-horned argali sheep, Snow leopard endangered and fully protected species, ibexes, marmot and Brown bear, fox, hare are not full list of representatives of wild life of the area. From birds one can find the mountain goose (ular) pigeons, eagles, vulture, and etc. Good eyes and a sporting scope or more powerful binoculars are essential tools and a field guide for wildlife viewing. These areas are all unique in their own way, and trips to these places are always fascinating. Trekking recommends for experienced trekkers the difficulty is moderate. After the trekking we drive 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 River at an altitude of 3,650 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. Murghab (3650 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.
This small town bestrides the Murghab River at an altitude of 3,650 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 Muztag Ata is visible to the northeast of town, 110 km away in a direct line. Overnight in Home Stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 12: Murghab to Kara kul Lake (135 km, 2/3 hours)
We depart today to Karakul lake.
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 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. Upon arrival to near the lake, picnic lunch will be organized by our staff, after picnic lunch walking around the lake and drive to Kara Kul village for overnight. Overnight in Home stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 13: Kara kul to Lenin Peak Tulpar Kul Lake (185 km, 5/6 hours)
We depart today to Sary Mogol Kyrgyzstan. 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!
We drive via beautiful Alay ranges. Once we pass the village of Sary Tash, the natural scenery of Pamir Alay range is spectacular. You could even see, we will arrive Kyrgyz nomadic village near the lake Tulpar Kul,the village is close to see Lenin Peak (7134m).
Overnight in Nomadic yurt stay. Meals: (1 Breakfast 1 Lunch and Dinner)
Day 14: Lenin Peak to Osh (260 km, 5/6 hours)
We depart today to Osh. En route we will cross the Taldyk Pass (3554m) and enjoy some beautiful views. We must travel about 260 km from Sary Mogol, and depending on road conditions and travel times we expect to arrive in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city early evening. Overnight Hotel Sunrise or similar Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 15: Osh to Song Kul lake (670km 9/10 hours)
Today we drive to the Suusamyr Valley along the picturesque mountain Osh highway to the Song Kul Lake. This tour takes us to stunning Song Kol Lake. The lake itself is at 3916 meters above sea level and at 270 square kilometers, is one of largest high alpine lakes in the world. In the whole of beautiful Kyrgyzstan, Son kul is one of the most beautiful places, and this tour is one of the best ways to approach it. Upon arrival at late afternoon overnight in nomadic Yurt camp.
Overnight Yurt stay Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 16: Song Kul lake Jety Oguz to Karakol (340km 7/8 hours)
After the breakfast, drive to Karakol, on the southern shores of Lake Issyk Kul and set amidst glorious scenery. Lush valley with some striking red sandstone rock formations, arrive Jeti-Oguz the “Seven Bulls” from which the valley takes its name. After sightseeing, there is a ride to Karakol. Arrival to Karakol visit beautiful Russian Church made entirely of wood (built without nails), Dungan Mosque (Dungan’s are ethnic minority of Muslim Chinese, moved from the West of China) and overnight.
Overnight Guest House Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 17: Karakol to Cholpon Ata (142km 4/5 hours)
In the morning transfer to Issyk-Kul lake along the North coast. Arrival you can visit the historical Museum of Cholpon-ATA. Cholpon-Ata tours is travel to the small city located in Issyk-Kul, the well-known Kyrgyz resort. The signature sight of Cholpon-Ata is the “Stone garden”, where many millennia old petro glyphs are collected under an open sky. Thanks to underground springs and mineral waters, health recreational tourism is developing in Cholpon-Ata. Afternoon will be possibility to spend some free time at the beach (sunbathing, swimming). Dinner and overnight at the hotel
Overnight Hotel Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner)
Day 18: Cholpon Ata to Bishkek (285km 6/7 hours)
After breakfast, we drive to Bishkek. We pass through “Boom Gorge”, which lies at the eastern end of the Kyrgyz Range and provides the only corridor between two Chui and Issyk Kul regions. Converging together through this narrow canyon are a highway, a railway (rising high above the road apparently it was built by German prisoners of war, the first train to travel along the 189km track to Balykchi was in 1948)., and the Chu River (so bellowed by white-water rafters). The name “Boom” means “evil spirit” – and the gorge acquired this name in recognition of the trials and tribulations it presented to anyone who tried to pass through. We will stop to explore Burana tower en route.
Overnight at the hotel “Rich or similar” Meals: (1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch and Dinner)
BURANA TOWER – THE RUINS OF ANCIENT BALASAGYN
75 km east from the city is a 25m-high tower, which dates from the 11th century and is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagyn. The name “Burana” most probably comes from wrongly pronounced word “Monara” which means Minaret. Minaret is an obligated part of any mosque, it is a tower from which the Muslims were called up for the next praying. Some centuries ago the tower was 44 metres high, but after an earthquake in early 1900, the upper part fell down. We will stop to explore Burana tower en route.The tower and a mosque were located in the city centre of Balasagyn town – one of the centres of Karahanid state. The large area around the town was enclosed with 2 rows of fence, that still visible from the top of the tower. Nowadays there is a small museum of Burana, represented with the tower, the remains of three tombmausoleums, and other exhibits, such us: stone sculpture – Balbals, petrogliphes, coins and other things founded during scientific explorations. Balasagyn city originally was covering the territory of 25 sq. kilomiters and was an important trade of the Great Silk Road. It was a birth place of Yusuf Balasaguni- a famous turkic philosophist of XI century. Karahanids (Qarakhanids) who built this city were the ones who brought Islam to the region along with new technologies. They had a strong statehood until Chingiz Khans troops destroyed their capitals in XIII century.
Kyrgyzstan’s capital is a modern city, originally founded in 1825 but developed extensively by the USSR and at that time named Frunze after a famous Bolshevik general. With over a million inhabitants it follows the typical Soviet city pattern of wideboulevards and drab apartment blocks, large squares and public parks and before Kyrgyz independence had a majority Russian population, although not now. Although not blessed with the interesting sights of other Central Asian cities, it does have a few things worth visiting – the impressive Ala-Too square, the History Museum and the Orthodox Church, a reminder that not all Russians left in 1991.
Day 19: Departure
Transfer to the International Airport MANAS.
KYRGYZSTAN | Osh | Murghab | Kengshiber | Kara Jylga | Kok Jigit | Langar | Ishkashim | Khorog | Gizev village to Basid Bartang valley | Rushan |Kalaikhumb | Dushanbe | KYRGYZSTAN |
KYRGYZSTAN Osh|Sary Mogul|Horse ridig in Lenin Peak|Kara kul| Murghab| Langar |Ishkashim | Khorog | Gizev valley trekking Rushan | Kalaikhumb| Dushanbe KYRGYZSTAN |
TAJIKISTAN | Dushanbe | Kalaikhumb | Khorog | Ishkashim | Langar, Murghab | Kara Kul | Osh | KYRGYZSTAN
TADJIKISAN | Dushanbe | Kalaikhumb| Poi Mazar| Rushan | Gizev valley trekking | Khorog – Ishkashim | Langar | Alichur | Kara-Jylga| Keng Shiber| Murghab | Kara kul| Base camp of Lenin Peak| Osh| Toktogul| Song Kol Lake| Bishkek | KYRGYZSTAN |