Adventure awaits in rugged and remote Tajikistan

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan sprawl across the vast expanses of Central Asia but are still hidden from many visitor’s minds, despite offering outstanding beauty, simplicity and a feeling of complete remoteness. The allure lies in the heritage of the Silk Road, where ideas, culture and people flowed from East to West, and in the green field backcountry and sweeping mountain landscapes that play host to the traditional nomadic lifestyle. Journey through cities featuring crumbling reminders of Soviet occupation and influence and out into the stunning wilds, where the ancient history of these long-lived nations – Persian and Mongol, Buddhist and Muslim – becomes clearer. While political and military forces have battled over these regions, life in these isolated areas has changed little in the past centuries – the yurts you’ll stay in with local families have remained, while empires have fallen.


Start
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Finish
Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Countries
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
KFST
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Experience the legendary hospitality of Central Asia. With five nights spent across Tajikistan's excellent homestay network, you'll immerse yourself in local life

  • Skirting the border with Afghanistan, get glimpses of the other side, from the hair-raising Afghan-built footbridges (ovrings) to the exotic imports on display in Khorog's local bazaar

  • Enjoy a picnic lunch as you take in the splendour of Karakul, the largest lake of some 800 in the Pamirs

  • Soaring along the iconic Pamir Highway is an unforgettable experience, especially in fine weather when the mighty peak of Muztag Ata rears its head

  • Dushanbe is perfect final stop. With included visits to the Hissor Fort and National Museum of Antiquities, you can discover the nation's capital while learning more about the country's fascinating past

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip visits places as high as 5,000 metres above sea level, which can cause altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.

  • The varied terrain of Tajikistan also makes for extremely varied weather. Temperatures can range from below freezing to over 40ºC so check the weather forecast online before you visit and pack accordingly.

  • Medical facilities can be as far away as 2-3 days' drive at times, as some locations are very remote. During this journey the group will spend time in remote areas without home comforts or easy access to medical facilities. You will need to have excellent physical health to join this trip.

  • In the Pamirs you'll stay in local homestays, with the whole group often sleeping in one large room on mattresses on the floor. Bathroom facilities are outdoors, and it won't be possible to take a shower every night of the trip.

  • Daily drives range from 3 to 10 hours in duration. Depending on passenger numbers, the group may be split into two vehicles. Though the longer travel days and single night overnight stays can be tiring, you'll be in a private vehicle, and much of the scenery in this part of the world is simply stunning.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Welcome to Central Asia! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, be sure to explore Bishkek. You'll find it's a relaxed city of wide streets, trees and parklands, and a palpable Soviet past. TsUM Department Store in the city centre is renowned for having the best range of Kyrgyz souvenirs for shopping. Also check out the State Historical Museum, which can't hide from its former guise – the National Lenin Museum.

As we will leave Bishkek on Day 2 and do not include any activities here as part of our tour we recommend arriving a few days earlier to experience all that this city has to offer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bishkek – State Historical Museum - USD2
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Depart Bishkek and travel to Toktogul (approximately 6 hours) though spectacular mountain scenery today. This is an urban settlement in the Jalal-Abad province of Kyrgyzstan. You will arrive in the early evening, then enjoy a night of free time. Due to the limited options in this area, the accommodation tonight might be in Chychkan or Kok Bel rather than Toktogul. Your leader will advise you on Day 1 as to where you will stay for your departure.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Notes: Throughout the trip you will be travelling in 6- to 8-seat private vehicles, with some sightseeing or transport to dinners included, as well as optional activities by local transport or taxis. In the private vehicles, your leader will generally take the front seat in order to communicate with the driver, and in cases where the group is split across multiple vehicles, you will take turns travelling in each, to mix things up. Due to the dusty conditions of the roads, photography from within the vehicles will need to be done with the windows closed. Frequent stops will be made along the way for photos at the most scenic spots.
Travel onward from Toktogul to Kyrgyzstan's second city, Osh (approximately 8 hours). Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the capital of the south. It has a mostly Uzbek population, which is evidence of its proximity to the border. While you are here, you'll visit Suleiman's (Solomon's) Mountain, a site of huge Islamic importance that dominates the centre of the city. While the walk is not strenuous for those with good fitness, you will need sturdy footwear as there are many slippery and steep steps and slopes. You will also visit the Osh Bazaar, one of the biggest markets in Central Asia. As well as browsing this intriguing bazaar, here you can change some money into Tajikistan Somani for the journey ahead. Depending on the arrival time, some activities in Osh will be scheduled for tomorrow instead of today.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Osh - Suleiman's Mountain
  • Osh - Bazaar
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
After a morning of exploring Osh, continue to Sary Tash (approximately 3 hours). On this journey you will cross the Taldyk Pass (3,615 m). Conveniently located in the Alai Valley, bordering Tajikistan, Sary Tash is a junction for explorers heading off in many directions on the road to Osh, Murgab (Tajikistan), and Kashgar (China). You will spend the night in a basic guesthouse or homestay in this small, remote village at the junction of the Silk Road.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
As with many of the homestays on this trip, accommodation is multi-share and, depending on space and the configuration of the group, may be mixed-gender. In some parts of the year there might be the option to stay in a yurt pitched in the yard of the homestay. The bedding consists of mattresses, pillows and blankets on the floor. As temperatures can often get close to or below freezing at night, and as homes are not centrally heated, it's best to bring warm clothes to sleep in. Your guesthouse/homestay in Sary Tash does not have running water or bathing facilities, and the toilet is a simple squat facility outside. Meals may be taken in a 'dining yurt' set up in the yard. As in many destinations on this trip, lighting is minimal at night, so a head torch is recommended for getting around after dark and for bathroom visits.
Today we drive to Murgab (approximately 6–7 hours). Firstly, after breakfast, drive the 50 kilometres from Sary Tash to the Kyzyl Art Pass (4,280 m). In this spectacularly remote spot, you will cross the border from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan. Remember to be patient as officials work through the various permits and procedures. Once inside Tajikistan, you'll make your way down the 95 km to Karakul Lake for lunch, with yet more dramatic scenery and photo opportunities along the way. Karakul Lake is too high to support aquatic life and is the largest out of 800 lakes in the Pamirs; these lakes were created by earthquakes, tectonic activity and glaciers. The final 135 km today takes you to Murgab via the Ak-Baital Pass (4,655 m), the highest pass on the Pamir Highway and in the former Soviet Union. Murgab is located in a valley at approximately 3,000 m above sea level, surrounded by high peaks. This region is inhabited mainly by Kyrgyz people. From here, on a clear day, you can see Muztag Ata (7,546 m), the highest mountain in the Pamirs. While here, your hosts will prepare you a simple dinner and breakfast – homemade bread, plov (rice pilaf) and fried eggs or porridge. Keen stargazers will be treated to a great display on a clear night, with very little light pollution affecting views of the night sky.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tajikistan - Karakul Lake
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
As tonight's homestay does not have a reliable electricity source, power cuts are frequent. This is another reason a head torch will come in handy. Your leader will allocate rooms for the night. Some have simple wire-frame beds and others have mattresses on the floor. Bathroom facilities are outside, with the possibility of a shared banya (simple sauna) if your hosts are able to source enough water to heat up. 
Today is another long day of breathtaking driving (approximately 10 hours). Drive through the picturesque Alichur valley, over the Khargush Pass (4,344 m), to the Wakhan Corridor. As you enter the Wakhan there are amazing views of the Pamirs to the right and of the Hindu Kush to the left. On the other side of the pass you will cross through another check point and travel along the Afghanistan border. In contrast to the previous village stays, the surroundings here are more fertile, with families growing tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages and flowers on their own garden plots. A stop will be made somewhere along the way for lunch in a local chaikana (teahouse/cafeteria). Tonight you will stay in a traditional Pamiri house, which consists of a large pillared central room where all home life takes place. Home cooking awaits – perhaps lagman (noodle soup) or shorpa (meat and vegetable soup). After dinner your hosts will roll the mattresses and you'll share a sleeping area with the rest of the group.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today is one of the most active days of the trip so take advantage of the chance to stretch your legs! After breakfast there's the option of hiking to an interesting petroglyph site above the village. The images, carved into the rocks high above the village, depict goats, caravans, horses and Ismaili symbols. You'll hike up a gravelly slope for at least 30 minutes (depending on fitness) before the first carvings are visible. There is little shade and it's hard going, but it's well worth the exertion, especially after so long in a vehicle. Next you will drive to nearby Vrang, where on a cliff-side pitted with caves stands a Buddhist complex with 4th-century origins. It's another climb to get there, but the path is flatter in places and not as physically demanding as the hike to the petroglyphs. Continue to Ptup via the stunning valley that follows the winding river (approximately 3 hours). You'll stop en route for lunch. Ptup is the location of your next Pamiri homestay in the traditional Wakhan style. The multi-generation family who live here have a beautiful garden and house with a flush toilet and shower with solar-heated water. While you're in Ptup you'll visit the stunning Yamchun Fort, which some claim is the most spectacular sight in the country. To get to the fort you'll follow very windy, narrow mountain roads, so for safety reasons this journey will be made well before nightfall. Access to the fort itself is via a tricky scramble down and along the rocky valley. The views out over the valley are amazing. If time and road conditions permit, you might be able to visit Bibi Fatima hot springs too.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Langar - Petroglyphs
  • Vrang - Buddist Stupa
  • Ptup - Yamchun Fort
Optional Activities
  • Ptup - Bibi Fatima Hot Springs - USD2
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Depending on departure and arrival times, you'll visit the sights around Ptup either today or tomorrow.
From Ptup you will travel to Khorog (approximately 6 hours), which after our village experiences might seem like a bustling metropolis. You will pass through Ishkashim, perhaps stopping for lunch there, and continue along the Afghan border. Look out for the watchtowers and border crossings which, despite the proximity of the countries (sometimes only 100 m apart), are few and far between, with very little contact between people on each side of the divide. Also watch out for ovrings, the spectacularly scary footbridges that Afghans have built along the cliff faces in order to be able to commute from one village to another. The contrast across the river valley here can be quite stark in places. Tajikistan is undoubtedly a poor country; in general the roads are sealed and buildings are connected with electricity, but over the river you will see locals living in much simpler conditions. You'll often be able to get a wave from your neighbours across the river as you travel along. Once in Khorog you will be in the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Here you'll stay in a guesthouse or hotel with private bathrooms. Perhaps enjoy a dinner at an Indian restaurant in town – one of the city's best.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Time to explore Khorog's sights today, including the bazaar. As you wander throughout this intriguing marketplace, your leader will be able to point out to you which stalls are selling Afghan goods from our neighbours across the river. There will also be time to check out the lovely botanical gardens that are perched high above the town, which boast some great panoramic views, and the curiously quaint Regional Museum.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Khorog - Regional Museum
  • Khorog - Pamir Botanical Gardens
  • Khorog – Bazaar
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Set off to Kala-i Khum (sometimes written Kalaikhum), a small town on the Pamir Highway (approximately 10 hours). Today is mostly a travel day, and since the town is so far away, most groups will arrive too late to be able to explore on arrival. Tonight's accommodation is a guesthouse or homestay which sometimes also accommodates other independent travellers. The guesthouse is multistory, so be prepared for some steep steps to get to and from the sleeping spaces, dining area and bathrooms. There is a simple shower, some running water and both a flush and pit toilet in the courtyard. Dinner is included again this evening, perhaps local style dumplings.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Enjoy some breakfast at the homestay before setting off for the nation's capital, Dushanbe (approximately 8 hours). In Dushanbe we stay for 2 nights in hotel with private bathrooms. For dinner tonight, the group might head out on the town to a Middle Eastern restaurant – one of the city's finest – or to a popular Chaikhana which has been in operation since Soviet times.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Check out the local central parks, fountains and monuments, with the option of visiting the main bazaar or Soviet-era Central Department Store for some souvenir shopping on our city tour toady. Just outside of Dushanbe (around 30 km) is the 18th-century Hissor Fort. Though this fort is being heavily restored, its colourful 20th-century history makes it quite an interesting visit. Back in Dushanbe, you'll check out the excellent Museum of National Antiquities. This relatively new museum reflects Tajikistan's diverse pre-Islamic cultural heritage, with exhibits from Bactrian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Hindu eras. The giant sleeping Buddha on the second floor may well be the highlight here. Enjoy your last night with the group this evening.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dushanbe - City Tour
  • Dushanbe – Hissor Fort
  • Dushanbe – National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan
Optional Activities
  • Dushanbe – Shah Mansur Green Bazaar - Free
  • Dushanbe – Haji Yakoub Mosque & Madressa - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
While we aim to include all of the above activities in your time in Dushanbe, there may not always be time to fit everything in, as travel times and weather conditions can vary. Sites of interest can also close unexpectedly. In these cases, your leader will talk to you about the options and any decisions that need to be made as a group.
This epic trip through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan comes to an end after breakfast. There are no activities today and you are free to depart at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners

Transport

Private Bus

Accommodation

Guesthouse (4 nights), Homestay (5 nights), Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Osh - Suleiman's Mountain
  • Osh - Bazaar
  • Tajikistan - Karakul Lake
  • Langar - Petroglyphs
  • Vrang - Buddist Stupa
  • Ptup - Yamchun Fort
  • Khorog - Regional Museum
  • Khorog - Pamir Botanical Gardens
  • Khorog – Bazaar
  • Dushanbe - City Tour
  • Dushanbe – Hissor Fort
  • Dushanbe – National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan

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Important notes

1. Due to the demands of travelling at high altitudes a Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.
2. A Single Supplement is available for this trip, excluding nights in home stays.
3. You will need to obtain your Tajikistan e-visa & GBAO permit before travelling on this trip.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Tajikistan Discovery trips score an average of 3.5 out of 5 based on 4 reviews in the last year.

Tajikistan Discovery, September 2017

Peter Burbridge

Tajikistan Discovery, June 2017

Stuart Forster