Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – Along the Pamir Highway Tour – a 16 day Small Group Tour.
Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union travelling through Central Asia still carries ready reminders of another era when east and west stared at each other down the barrel of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Pre-dating this contemporary stand-off, the 19th century Great Game for influence between the Russian and British empires demarked borders still maintained to this day – the Wakhan Valley is an example. And centuries before, the Silk Road’s many trade routes criss-crossed the mountains and valleys enriching city states along the way.
History hasn’t stopped being made, which is as good a reason as any to visit and see for yourself.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are characterised by immense mountain ranges, high-altitude lakes, and tumbling rivers, all of which recur in epic historic tales of discovery, conflict and trade. This is not an easy place to comprehend. Today the combined influence of China and Russia, together with rediscovered national identities can come as a surprise to those from the west.
On this tour we travel through the mountainous heart of Central Asia, along the legendary Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Bishkek. Our group will explore ancient Silk Road forts and stay as guests in some of the most remote communities on our planet. Hike amidst stunning scenery, rub shoulders with local traders at village bazaars and cross high mountain passes with views that will take your breath away.
Drive along the Wakhan Corridor, explore ancient Osh and see the vast lake of Issyk Kul. This is a group tour in a wild and untamed land that will find its way into your soul and never leave.
Day 1 - Arrival in Dushanbe
Arrival in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan and transfer to your hotel, where a room will be available to check-in straight upon arrival for travellers arriving in the early hours of the day. The rest of the day is at leisure to either relax or start to explore this sublime city. Overnight Hotel Atlas or similar – Single room accommodation is available today and the accommodation has private bathrooms. (B)
Day 2 - Dushanbe – Excursion to Hissar Fort
(Approximate driving time today is 5 hours; 80km)
Drive to the nearby town of Hissar to visit the remains of the 18th century fort as well as two nearby madrassahs. Return to Dushanbe in the afternoon and visit the bazaar and the excellent Museum of National Antiquities. Overnight Hotel Atlas or similar – Single room accommodation is available and the accommodation has private bathrooms. (BL)
Day 3 - Dushanbe – Kalaikhumb
(Approximate driving time today is 8 to 9 hours; 360km)
This morning we will cross the Shurabad Pass (2,200m) and visit Hulbuk ancient fortress 8th Century which has been recently restored. We continue 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. Arriving in Kalaikhumb in the early evening. Overnight Hotel Karon Palace or similar – Single room is available and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Days 4-5 - Kalaikhumb – Rushan (Bartang Valley) - Hike in the Geisev valley – Khorog
(Approximate driving time today is 1.5 hours; 120km. Approximate trekking time (including stops) is 6 to 7 hours)
After breakfast, travel to Rushan, the administrative centre of the Bartang district. We may have some time to explore upon arrival but we will explore in more depth tomorrow. On Day 5 we drive to the Bartang valley and cross the river to embark on a trek that begins on the river Bartang, just beyond Bhagoo village and is mostly gentle uphill for about 14km to the upper of the three lakes. The first houses in Geisev are reached after about 7km. We stop in the Geisev village for lunch and then continue to explore the Geisev valley. The abundant vegetation, the gnarled trees, the lakes and the ever-changing river – sometimes frothing with energy, sometimes limpid and blue – create a very special peaceful atmosphere. Later we continue to Khorog alongside the River Panj which forms the border with Afghanistan. Day 4 overnight will be at a local homestay Rushan with shared facilities. Day 5 overnight at Lal Inn or similar where single rooms are available and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Note: If you do not wish to do the walk, you can stay with your driver and walk to the neighbouring village Reh instead. Your driver speaks a basic English but can assist you here with lunch and other requests.
Day 6 - Khorog
Today we have a full day to explore Khorog, the capital of the GBAO region, including the bazaar and the lovely Botanical Gardens which are perched high above the town, affording some great panoramic views. Overnight Lal Inn or similar – Single rooms are available and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 7 - Khorog – Garm Chashma – Ishkashim
(Approximate driving time today is 4 to 5 hours; 140km)
About 50kms along the road to our next stop, Ishkashim, we will stop at Garm Chasma hot springs for an (optional) dip in the waters. 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 being the Koh-i-Lal ruby mine. Ishkashim itself may be the regional centre, but it is essentially still a large village and we stay in a traditional style guesthouse here which has a handful of rooms but single rooms are available this evening. Overnight guesthouse Hanis – Shared basic bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 8 - Ishkashim – Khahkha Fortress – Yamchun – Langar
(Approximate driving time today is 7 to 8 hours; 140km)
Visit 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 in the lovely homestay Davlat where a few rooms are available and single accommodation can be possible depending on how busy is the place – Shared basic bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 9 - Langar - Murghab
(Approximate driving time today is 6 to 7 hours; 240km)
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. Today we can also see some Neolithic rock art dating back some 8000 years in Shakhty cave. It is anticipated to arrive in Murghab in the early evening. Overnight Hotel Pamir or similar – Single room is available but bathroom facilities may be shared. (BLD)
Day 10 - Murghab – Kara kul – Sary Tash
(Approximate driving time today is 7 to 8 hours; 240km)
After breakfast we head for Karakul (135km), one of our highlights on the way. We cross several high altitude passes, including Ak-Baital Pass (4,655 metres) which is the highest section of road in the former Soviet Union. We descend to Karakul Lake and then cross our final Pamir Highway high pass, the Kyzyl Art (4,282 metres), which essentially forms the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Karakul Lake is the highest lake in Central Asia, and at 3,915 metres, too high to support any aquatic life. Karakul means “black lake” but in spring, summer and autumn the water is almost always turquoise blue. At the northern end of the lake a track turns off west to geoglyphs and Saka graves (5000– 3000 BC), located about 500m from the turnoff. Continue to the following village of Sary Tash for the night. Overnight guesthouse Ethnic Kyrgyz House. Tonight, you will sleep on Asian style bedding on the mattresses and blankets on the floor in a few rooms of a Kyrgyz House with shared basic bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 11 - Sary Tash – Osh
(Approximate driving time is 3 to 4 hours; 185km)
We depart the high mountains of the Pamir Alay range, leaving behind us the crossroads of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. The drive offers a contrast as we encounter lush farmlands and small villages on this side of the mountains, instead of the stark high-altitude plateau of Tajikistan. En route we cross the Taldyk Pass (3554m) and enjoy some beautiful views – if we’re lucky we may even catch a glimpse of Peak Lenin, at 7134m the second highest mountain in Central Asia. We expect to arrive in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city in the afternoon, with time to explore. Overnight Hotel Sunrise or similar – Single rooms are available and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BL)
Day 12 - Osh – Chichkan
(Approximate driving time today is 7 to 8 hours; 400km)
Today we drive to the Suusamyr Valley along the picturesque mountain Osh highway to the Chichkan gorge. Time permitting, we take a walk in the area and meet the local shepherds who still adhere to age old traditions. Overnight Hotel Osmon or similar – Single rooms are not available (there are only twin rooms) and the accommodation have shared bathrooms. (BLD)
Day 13 - Chichkan - Song Kol Lake
(Approximate driving time today is 6 to 7 hours; 270 km)
Today takes us to stunning Song Kol Lake. The lake itself is 3,016m above sea level and is one of the highest alpine lakes in the world. Overnight yurt stay with 4 – 5 beds in one yurt and shared basic bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 14 - Song Kol – Cholpon Ata - Lake Issyk Kul
(Approximate driving time today is 6 to 7 hours; 240km)
Travel to Cholpon Ata on the north side of Issyk-Kul Lake to the largest and most beautiful lake in Central Asia. There is an optional opportunity to visit the open-air museum of Stone Inscriptions in Cholpon Ata. Most of the drawings date from several thousand years B.C. up until the 12th Century A.D. Overnight at the Hotel Altyn Bulak or similar – Single rooms are available this evening and the accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BLD)
Day 15 - Cholpon Ata – Bishkek
(Approximate driving time: 5 to 6 hours; 260km)
Drive to Bishkek, stopping en-route at the Burana Tower for a short and interesting visit. Upon arrival in the capital, Bishkek, we take a tour, visiting the enchanting Ala-Too Square and the History Museum among other sites. In the afternoon, time is at leisure for you to relax, visit further the city and do some shopping in the local workshops. Overnight Silk Road Lodge or similar – Single rooms are available tonight and accommodation has private bathroom facilities. (BL)
Day 16 - Departure from Bishkek
The tour ends today after breakfast with your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
Dates & Price.
Single Supplement from £285. This applies to the hotel accommodation only (8 nights) – single rooms are not possible for nights spent in homestay accommodation and cannot be guaranteed for the guest houses.
Flights from London into Dushanbe, returning from Bishkek, start from £800. Please contact us for a quotation.
Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.
Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour costs from £43 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £70 per person in a solo occupancy room.
Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.
Private and tailor-made tours
Kindly note that this tour can also be arranged as a private tour.
Tailor-made options are also available in Tajikistan and/or Kyrgyzstan. Extensions to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are also possible. Please contact Estelle to design your next outdoor adventure !
Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?
Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.
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+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
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1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA
- Arrival and departure transfers
- All accommodation (depending on availability sharing may be compulsory in some home-stays)
- Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
- Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- International flights
- Travel Insurance
- Visa and GBAO permit (e-visa is available for Tajikistan for most nationalities)
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips (discretionary)