No visit to Tajikistan is complete without a trip along the Pamir Highway. And that’s where we headed mid-October. What an incredible journey, and one of the highlights of our travel through Central Asia so far.

Pamir Highway Adventure

Traveling the M41, the official name of the Pamir Highway, is an adventure in itself. One of the ancient Silk Road trade routes, the M41 Pamir Highway passes through the beautiful Pamir Mountains linking Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Moreover, the M41 is the second highest road in the world after the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. As such, the Pamir Highway is often referred to as the “roof of the world,” and driving through the scenic road, that’s how we felt!

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Driving between Kyrgyzstan - Tajikistan Borders

Driving between Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan Borders

Independent, Self-Drive or with a Pamir Travel Agency?

While it is possible to travel Tajikistan and the Pamir independently using private or shared taxis, this mode of transportation doesn’t usually give you many opportunities to enjoy the fantastic scenery of the Pamir Mountain range. They will get you from Point A to Point B, but forget stopping for photos. So if you ever have to take a tour or organize private transport, the Pamir is the place to do so. A Pamir travel agency will be able to help you out and get you a car with a driver that will allow you to stop any time you want.

Though we usually prefer to travel independently, we also know how and when to appreciate an organized tour, and we decided to splurge on an 8-day Pamir Highway tour (well, 10 days in total, with the side trip to Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan, and a day hiking around Langar in the Wakhan Corridor).

We partnered with Destination Pamir for our Pamir Highway tour, and we could not have been happier!

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Ahmed Ali, our Jeep driver from Destination Pamir

Ahmed Ali, our Jeep driver from Destination Pamir

Pamir Highway Itinerary

On our way from Osh to Khorog, we included a side trip to Lenin Peak before crossing the border from Kyrgyzstan into Tajikistan. We highly recommend these two extra days as the scenery is truly stunning. Plus, the elevation around Sary Mogul, and then Lenin Peak Yurt Camp will help to acclimate towards the high passes on the Pamir Highway.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Fall Colors in the Wakhan Corridor

Fall Colors in the Wakhan Corridor

  • Day 1: Lenin Peak, Kyrgyzstan
  • Day 2 to 10: Driving the Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor on a 7-Day Itinerary, including
    • a day hiking between the Pshart to Madyan Valley
    • a day walking around Bulunkul Lakes
    • a day hiking towards Engels Peak Meadows from Langar

More coming soon with full day by day details of our Pamir tour, including photos and a trip video of our Tajikistan travel!




Day 1: Osh to Lenin Peak Yurt Camp

Our driver Ahmet Ali from Destination Pamir picked us up directly at our hostel in Osh. 

The road from Osh to Sary-Mogul, and then to Lenin Peak, is stunning. The elevation gain takes you over snow-covered passes, the benefit of traveling in the Fall season.

We arrived mid-afternoon at the Lenin Peak Yurt Camp, where we had time for a short hike around the Tulpar Kol where yaks and horses roamed freely.

The stay in the yurt was the perfect way to appreciate the remoteness of the camp, and the constant feeding of the wood stove and the heavy blankets kept us warm at night.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Lenin Peak and Tulpar Kol Lake

Lenin Peak and Tulpar Kol Lake

Traveling from Osh to Sary-Mogul and Lenin Peak:

  • Distance: around 125 miles (220 km)
  • Road Conditions: Good paved road
  • Duration: 6 hours
    • Including 1-hour lunch break at Sary Tash
    • And a 45-minute pause in Sary-Mogul for organizing our yurt stay
  • Elevation
    • Osh (3,159 ft / 963 m)
    • Lenin Peak Yurt Camp ( 11,483 ft / 3,500 m)
  • Lunch: Sary-Tash
  • Lodging:
    • Osh: We recommend the Konok Center Hostel – very clean, hot shower, nice breakfast, and very friendly staff. Close to restaurants and supermarkets. The best budget option in town! Check the latest prices here.
    • Lenin Peak CBT Yurt Camp
      • Cost: 1,000 KGS (Kyrgyz сом) per person, covering dinner, yurt stay, and breakfast
  • Highlights: Lenin Peak (23,406 ft / 7,134 m), Hiking Opportunities (Tulpar Kol, Lakes Viewpoint, Lenin Peak Base Camp), Yurt Camp

Day 2: Lenin Peak Yurt Camp to Karakul Lake

We spent the morning on a 3-hour hike to a nearby viewpoint hill, where we could admire some of the 42 lakes that can be found around Lenin Peak. From there, we had sweeping views of the Lenin Peak, Lenin Peak Base Camp, and the Alay Valley.

In the afternoon, we crossed the Kyrgyz border, drove through the unmaintained dirt road covered in snow towards the 14,042 ft (4,280 m) Kyzyl Art Pass that leads to the Pamir Plateau. We then passed the Tajikistan border and made our way on the Pamir Highway, one of the most epic road trips in the world.

We reached Karakul Lake in the afternoon, enjoying the incredible landscape of the turquoise water contrasting against the white mountains.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Border Crossing Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan

Border Crossing Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan

Traveling from to Lenin Peak Yur Camp, Kyrgyzstan, to Karakul Lake, Tajikistan:

  • Road Conditions: Some paved road, mostly dirt road
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Elevation:
    • Lenin Peak Yurt Camp (11,483 ft / 3,500 m
    • Karakul Lake (12,990 ft / 3,960 m)
    • with the highest point at Kyzyl Art Pass (14,042 ft / 4,280 m)
  • Lunch: Sary-Tash
  • Lodging in Karakul Lake: Aygerjm homestay
    • Cost:1,000 KGS (140 TJS / US$15) per person, includes dinner, yurt stay, et breakfast
  • Highlights: Sunrise around Lenin Peak, Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan Border Crossing, Kyzyl Art Pass

Interesting in more Central Asia travel? Check out our posts:
Pakistan | Kyrgyzstan | Xinjiang, China | Uzbekistan | Mongolia

Day 3: Karakul Lake to Murghab

Bruno decided to get up early and faced the cold to capture the sunrise. I joined him for a morning stroll around the lake, appreciating the stunning scenery.

After a quick lunch in our guesthouse, we left in the early afternoon towards Murghab.

We passed the 15,272 ft (4,655 m) Ak-Baital Pass and started to see a few more Kyrgyz villages along the road.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Karakul Lake

Karakul Lake

Traveling in Tajikistan: From Karakul Lake to Murghab:

  • Road Conditions: Mostly paved road
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation:
    • Karakul Lake (12,990 ft / 3,960 m)
    • Murghab (11,869 ft / 3,650 m)
  • Lunch:
    • Karakul Lake
    • 2 US$ for two persons
  • Murghab Lodging: Erali Guesthouse
    • Cost:1,000 KGS (140 TJS / US$15) per night per person (dinner, night stay, breakfast)
  • Highlights: Sunrise around Karakul Lake, Kyrgyz Village Life, Ak-Baital Pass, Pamir Mountains




Day 4: Pshart to Madyan Valley Day Hike

This side trip was a day hike from Murghab, crossing from the Pshart Valley to the Madyan Valley. The hike goes through yet again fantastic landscape, but should not be done in cold conditions if not properly equipped.

Bruno and his fellow hikers encountered a strong wind and snow storm conditions. The other two companions felt sick, and though they all returned safely, the hike could have taken a dangerous given the freezing temperatures and their lack of warm winter gear.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Hiking the Pshart Valley

Hiking the Pshart Valley

Pshart to Madyan Valley Hike:

  • Distance: 11 mi/17 km (4 mi/7 km to the pass, 7 mi/10 km to the main road)
  • Duration:
    • A 1-hour drive up/from each valley
    • A 4-hour hike in Summer conditions, 6 hours in Winter
  • Elevation: Trail starts at 11,745 ft (3,580 m), with the summit at 15,577 ft (4,748 m)
  • Season: May to September. Watch for snow falls from October.

Day 5: Murghab to Alishur

We initially planned to reach a remote village in the mountains, but a snowstorm forced us to retrieve our way and head to Alichur for the night.

The whiteout was so thick we could not see much further than the edge of the jeep, and without any paved road helping with the direction, the driving conditions were unsafe.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Snowstorm Alichur

Snowstorm Alichur

Traveling from Murghab to Alishur:

  • Road Conditions: Mostly paved road
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Lunch: Alichur 36 TJS for 2 Langman and tea
  • Alichur Lodging:
    • Cost:1,000 KGS / 14 Somoni / US$15 per night per person for dinner, night stay, and breakfast
  • Highlights: Drive to Kurteke Mountains, Observatory, Ibex Goats

Day 6: Alichur – Bulunkul Lakes

The next morning had clearer weather though still with incredibly strong winds. The drive from Alichur to Bulunkul was short, which allowed us to go for an afternoon hike.

After driving along the larger Yachi Kul lake for a while, we hiked our way back from the top of the hills to the village crossing the wet meadows.

We arrived in time to see the villagers bringing their livestock back, mixed herds of goats and sheep flocking the streets. Perfect moments of traditional Tajik life.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Yachi Kul Lake


Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Yachi Kul Lake

Traveling from Alichur to Bulunkul:

  • Road Conditions: Dirt road
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Bulunkul Lake Park Permit: 21 TJS per person
  • Bulunkul Lodging: Sharop Guesthouse
    • Cost:1,000 KZS som / 140 TJS Somoni / US$15 per night per person (dinner, stay, breakfast)
  • Highlights: Drive to Kurteke Mountains, Observatory, Ibex Goats




Day 7: Bulunkul to Langar

We spent about one-hour driving around the smaller Bulunkul Lake, watching fishermen throwing their nets in part left unfrozen of the lake.

Leaving Bulunkul behind, we aimed to reach Langar for the night. Given the snowstorm of the past days, we were not sure we could cross the 14,252 ft (4,344 m) Kargush Pass. That day was, however, very clear, and most of the snow wiped out by the strong winds.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Kargush Pass to Langar

Kargush Pass to Langar

Traveling from Bulunkul to Langar:

  • Road Conditions: Dirt road
  • Duration: 7-8 hours
  • Langar Lodging: Mich Guesthouse
  • Highlights: Kargush Pass, Pamir River, Afghanistan

Day 8: Langar Petroglyphs & Engels Peak Meadows Hike

Another side trip, this time, around Langar. The hike to the Engels Peak Meadows passes by the site of the Langar Petroglyphs, so it was easy to combine them both.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // View into the Wakhan Corridor during the Engels Peak Hike

View into the Wakhan Corridor during the Engels Peak Hike

While the Petroglyphs have been damaged by modern graffitis, the hike to the meadows gave us 180-degree views of the Wakhan Corridor and the Panj River.

  • Distance: Around 6 miles (10 km)
  • Duration: 8 hours
    • 1 hour for the Petroglyphs
    • 7 hours for the hike (2 hours up to the water channels, 4 hours along the leveled water channels down to Zong, 1 hour from Zong to Langar)
  • Permit: Not needed to trek and camp at the Engels Peak meadows
  • Donkeys: To help carry bags and food, hikers set for this Pamir trekking opportunities can rent a donkey with a guide for 750 TJS. It’s possible to only rent the donkey alone for 100 TJS, but if the donkey gets hurt or dies, the costs will be 100 US$
  • Highlights: Langar Petroglyphs, Engles Peak Meadows, Stunning views of the Wakhan Corridor

Day 9: Wakhan Corridor Langar – Ishkashim

A day through the history of the Wakhan Corridor, as we visited several ruins dated back thousands of years.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Wakhan Corridor from the Yamchun Fortress

Wakhan Corridor from the Yamchun Fortress

The Yamchun Fortress was the highlight of the Wakhan Corridor, but we enjoyed the other sites as well, notably the small but informative Yamg Wakhani Museum, and a hot soak in Bibi Fatima Hot Springs.

  • Road Conditions: Dirt road
  • Duration: 8 hours (3 hours for the actual drive)
  • Ishkashim Lodging: Dollat Bik Guesthouse
  • Highlights: Vrang Stupa, Yamg Wakhani Museum, Yamchun Fortress, Bibi Fatima Hot Springs, and Khakha Fortress

Day 10: Ishkashim to Khorog

The day was mostly a drive along the Panj River, where we could observe the life in the Afghan Villages across the border. So close, yet still so far, Afghanistan remained untouchable at that point.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Afghan Village across the Panj River

Afghan Village across the Panj River

Arriving in Khorog was bittersweet, as the town went our Pamir Highway trip was complete. 

  • Road Conditions: Bumpy and damaged paved road
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Ishkashim Lodging:
  • Highlights: Garam Chashma Hot Springs, Khorog

Pamir Highway Trip Costs

The costs for such a trip are based on the distance and the number of days.

  • Car: US$0.63 per km
  • Driver: US$10 per day
  • Lodging: US$15 per person per night, including dinner and breakfast
  • Food: About US$2 per lunch per person

Visa to Tajikistan

The process for the visa for Tajikistan has been simplified and makes it much easier to enter the country. Indeed, the Tourist Tajikistan electronic visa works smoothly and quickly for most nationalities. Valid for 45 days, we received ours within two days of our Tajikistan e-Visa application. For most countries, the Tajik visa costs US$50.

The Pamir Highway is in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, which requires separate access – the GBAO permit. Just check the relevant box in the online form, and for an extra US$25, that permit will be added to the eVisa automatically.

Accommodation on the Pamir Highway

Most of the lodging on the M41 and the Wakhan Corridor are small guesthouses, with more or less developed amenities. Few homestays offer beds but provide cots put on the carpet, the traditional Tajik sleeping way.

In some guesthouses, you might have a private room or share the main room with other travelers. Restrooms are usually in an outhouse, some without a roof, others without doors. Only a handful of guesthouses have bathrooms with hot showers.

Only one had Wifi, but there was an internet blackout at the time of our visit.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Pamir Accommodation Tajikistan Style

Pamir Accommodation Tajikistan Style

So be prepared for rustic stays. But what some of these guesthouses might lack in Western comfort, they cover a hundred falls by their warm welcome, their smile, their hospitality. While every traveler is different and satisfaction is based on individual expectations, on our end, we would not trade anything more comfortable if that meant losing interacting with the local people.

Most guesthouses and homestays charge a fixed price of US$15 per night per person. The costs include a night stay, dinner, and breakfast. Not all guesthouses are equal; some have a hot shower, some have WIFI, most all have the restrooms in an outhouse. 

Tajikistan Peoples on the Pamir

While the Tajikistan population is mostly composed of Tajiks speaking Tajik, about 15% are Uzbek on the western side of the country. North of Tajikistan close to the Kyrgyzstan frontier, most of the villages are of Kyrgyz descents, while the people are speaking Kyrgyz. They communicate in Russian with their fellow Tajiks from the rest of the country, Russian being the lingua franca in most of the former Soviet Republics. Russian and Tajik are the two official languages of Tajikistan taught at school.

In the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region where the Pamir Highway runs, other local Tajikistan languages include Ishkashimi and Wakhi.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Our Kyrgyz Host Assel in Alichur

Our Kyrgyz Host Assel in Alichur

Traditional Tajikistan Food

Be prepared for savory and filling meals – from the noodle-based Langman, the rolled stuffed pastry Oromo, steamed meat dumpling Manti, and of course the traditional dish of pilaf rice Plov. Tajik food will fill any belly with tasty meals.

Breakfast might include fried eggs, sausages, porridge, bread, served with fresh homemade butter or cream, some yaourt, or some jam.

You might lack vegetables, but as you will see, the soil and weather are not ideal for growing veggies — all of the ones you might see or eat come usually from Osh in Kyrgyzstan, or Khorog, making them rather expensive.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Rolled stuffed pastry Oromo

Rolled stuffed pastry Oromo

Animals in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is home to incredible wildlife, with some species very elusive and hard to spot. From snow leopards, Tibetan snowcocks, to wolves, and marmots, the Pamir Mountains are a great place for a chance to see these animals. And of course, the famous Marco Polo sheep, and Ibex goats!

We got lucky to see both Marco Polo sheep and Ibex goats during our trip. We even saw two herds of Ibex jumping from rocks to rocks. What an incredible sight!

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Ibex Goats

Ibex Goats

Best Time To Visit Tajikistan

Summer is the most popular season, as the weather of Tajikistan is reasonably warm and sunny. We traveled the Pamir Highway mid-October, which is usually outside the recommended period.

The weather was indeed cold with negative temperatures and snow storms, but we were many times the only people on the road, the only hikers on the trail, and the only people in guest houses which let us connect with the families more than we would have among 20 to 30 other tourists. So as you plan your travel in Tajikistan, make sure to keep in mind the seasons.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // October Weather: Whiteout on the Pamir

October Weather: Whiteout on the Pamir

Time in Tajikistan

The timezone is somewhat split in Tajikistan. From Karakul Lake to Khorog, the villages follow Bishkek time. However, from Khorog to Dushanbe, it’s Dushane time. There is one hour difference between the two, so make sure to confirm which Tajikistan time is used.

Pamir Highway Safety

While no place on earth is, of course, risk-free, traveling on the Pamir Highway is safe. With only a handful of villages, the potential risks come from road incidents or challenging mountains.

The Pamir Afghanistan border is also relatively safe, the Wakhan Corridor one of the most stable regions of Afghanistan.

So if you are asking yourself the question “is Tajikistan safe?”, we did feel safe during our entire Pamir Highway trip, and in all the other cities in Tajikistan we traveled to.

Our Partner: Destination Pamir

The tour operators and agencies that offer Pamir Highway Tours are numerous, and it might be hard to decide which one to choose. After checking reviews and talking to several tour operators, we decided to go with Destination Pamir. The company is a small family business, run mostly by Erali, the youngest son who lives in Osh. The family owns the Erali Guesthouse in Murghab, and Ahmed Ali, the eldest brother and our driver for the trip, has been a driver for 8 years. All the family members have more or less ties to the business, with another brother Sherali working as a guide. So when it comes to the Pamir, they know what they are talking about.

We couldn’t have been happier with Destination Pamir services. We discussed our itinerary with Erali in details, who came prepared with a detailed map to review the trip carefully. The jeeps were spotless and in perfect conditions, which are very important given the road conditions and the remoteness of the area. Ahmed Ali was a very safe driver, which we appreciated as he carefully maneuvered the jeep through snow-covered roads, through snowstorms and whiteouts. The guesthouses we stayed at were clean and the hosts friendly, with plenty of food awaiting us at every meal. While Ahmed Ali was not fluent in English, he did understand a lot, and we enjoyed his constant smile and readiness to make our trip perfect.

So we can only recommend Destination Pamir for your Pamir Highway Trip. And while part of this tour was in partnership with Destination Pamir, our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this connection. Thank you Destination Pamir for the opportunity of working together.

Top Tourist Attractions in Tajikistan

So if you ask us whether we enjoyed our trip, the answer is a highly recommended YES! This Pamir Highway Tour was one the highlight of our Tajikistan travel, and one of the top things to do in Tajikistan. The Pamir Mountains, the Wakhan Corridor, the Yamchun Fortress, and the Pamir hospitality made for a unique experience.

Pamir Highway Travel Tips

  • Wear layers and bring a good windproof jacket. The winds can be fierce and freezing
  • Even if you don’t plan on hiking, take good shoes as the roads are always uneven, and visiting the sites will take you through fields and over small hills.
  • The shortest time will be in 2 days: Osh to Murghab, and Murghab to Khorog. But these days will be extremely long, and you won’t really see have time to appreciate the scenery.
  • Change at the bazaar in Osh before leaving Kyrgyzstan. We were able to pay the guesthouses in Karakul Lake and Murghab in KGS. However, we had to pay in US$ or TGS the rest of the trip.
  • Bring some snacks and water for the road
  • And don’t forget toilet paper.
  • Make sure to select a reliable tour company. Many have less than recent vehicles, or these cars are not well maintained. Or the drivers will lack the proper tools to fix problems. Destination Pamir switched to winter tires prior to our trip, had a bad full of tools, and even a shovel.  

 

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This tour was in partnership with Destination Pamir. However, our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this connection.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage if you make a purchase using these links – at no cost to you. Our opinions are our own and are not impacted by these partnerships.

Travel to Tajikistan Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor // Karakul Lake

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