What was once an important ”Silk Road” route, along which Marco Polo, as well as tens of civilizations and empires, traveled, today, has today become one of the most epic road trips on Earth, as the Pamir Highway or M-41, as it was called during Soviet times, goes through one of the most impressive, remote and wild mountain ranges in the world.

From Osh to Dushanbe, over a period of over 3 weeks, we decided to hitchhike 1,250km of landscape, geographical and cultural contrasts. From wandering around the beautiful Alay Valley to the 300km of road bordering Afghanistan where you can see Afghan villages, climbing 4,600-meter-high mountain passes and attending some nomad games where horses and violence are the main protagonists.

The Pamir Road has everything, both good and bad, as this road is also the main channel for heroin coming into Europe from Afghanistan, the largest opium and heroin producer in the world.

When driving the Pamir Highway, adventure is more than guaranteed.

Pamir Highway

 

Pamir Highway: Everything you need to know

Jump to any content you want:

A few things you need to know
Safety in the Pamir Highway
The people in the Pamirs
Pamir Highway route – A complete itinerary
Hitchhiking the Pamir Road: The ultimate guide
Transportation along the Pamir Highway
Accommodation in the Pamir Highway
How much does it cost to travel the Pamir Highway?
Packing list for the Pamir Road

 

Things you need to know before traveling the Pamir Highway (M-41)

When to go – The road is open all year long but, from the end of September till the beginning of June, cold takes over the Pamir plateau. I was there in August and I remember that, in a town called Alichur, the morning temperature was -6ºC. This village, in particular, had registered the lowest temperature in the country, around -60ºC. Traveling here in winter may be pretty tough. You had better come from June to September, especially if you want to go hiking.

How many days do you need – It depends on what you want to explore. If you just want to drive along the road and stop in the most typical places, people tend to finish it in 5 or 7 days. However, if you want to go around the side valleys, you will need more time. Add a few extra days for each side trip you take. I spent more than three weeks there.

Where does the road begin and finish? – The beginning and end of the Pamir Highway is such a controversial topic. If you look north, it definitely begins in Kyrgyzstan, in a southern city called Osh. However, some sources claim that it ends in Afghanistan, while others say that it is in Termez (Uzbekistan), Dushanbe (capital of Tajikistan) and Khorog (also Tajikistan).

Pamir travel
Amazing road! – Driving the Pamir Highway

 

And what about the tourist route? – For most travelers, the journey begins in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and ends in Khorog (Tajikistan), a small town which is the gateway to an autonomous region named GBAO. After Khorog, people also continue to Dushanbe. You are going to spend 85% of your journey in Tajikistan.

Visa and GBAO permit – For Kyrgyzstan, most nationalities get a 2-month free visa on arrival at the airport. If you are not one of the lucky countries, read this article from Caravanistan. On the other hand, for Tajikistan, most countries need to apply for a visa in advance. Besides, the road goes through GBAO, a region which requires an additional permit. Here you can find everything related to the visa process: How to get a Tajikistan visa.

Electricity – After Khorog, in the Tajik part, the region has been without electricity for years, so they use solar panels. Some guesthouses (only a few), have solar plugs where you may charge some of your devices. What I recommend is that, if you have a DSLR, bring it fully charged and a spare battery. I was able to charge my phone only once, thanks to a kind man I met who had a generator in his house.

Internet – In Kyrgyzstan, the internet works pretty well, both Wi-Fi and 3G. However, in Tajikistan, you will barely be able to send Whatsapps, so forget about internet until you reach Khorog.

Food – Pamir villages are so remote that they barely receive food and other supplies, besides all the basic stuff, of course. If you aren’t planning to go trekking and you just want to go village-hopping, there’s no problem, as in all homestays and guesthouses, meals are included. However, if you want to go to the mountains, I suggest you get supplies at the supermarkets in Osh and Khorog

Altitude – After the Karakoram Highway (China and Pakistan) and Khardung La (India), the road that goes through the Pamir plateau is considered the highest in the world, going over 4,600 meters at Ak-Baktal pass. I felt absolutely nothing, because I had spent 4 months trekking in Kyrgyzstan and traveling in Pakistan, but I met people who had just arrived in Central Asia and they got altitude sickness. Take all necessary precautions, like drinking lots of liquid and have Diamox with you.

Pamir Highway
The stunning Pamir Highway

Safety in the Pamir Highway

The Pamir Highway is very safe. People are lovely and crime is unheard of.

Therefore, the only danger you may encounter is anything related to trekking, mountains, and adventure in general. Remember that you will be in a very high altitude and the health care in the area is quite rudimentary.

The only advice I can give you is to travel with proper travel insurance.

I strongly recommend World Nomads as it is the only insurance provider that gives unlimited medical coverage, besides covering for a large number of adventure activities, such as trekking up to 6,000 meters, something quite useful when you are traveling the Pamir Highway.

Click here to get your quote from World Nomads

 

The people in the Pamir Mountains

One of the most fascinating things about Central Asia is its large mix of people and ethnic diversity as, for centuries, an endless number of civilizations and empires have been wandering and trading along these roads, popularly known as the Silk Road.

Surprisingly, in the eastern part of Tajikistan, most people are not Tajik but Kyrgyz, an ethnic group with strong Mongolian features, whereas Tajiks are closer to Iranians and Afghans. The Pamir mountains are, physically, closer to Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, its inhabitants are closer to Mongolia, a country which is thousands of miles away! Fascinating.

People Tajikistan
A random dude from the Pamir mountains

Pamir Highway route – The ultimate travel itinerary through the M-41

From Osh to Khorog and getting finally to Dushanbe, the M-41 is home to such a vast quantity of beauty and hidden places that it would one whole lifetime to explore all of them. The following itinerary is the one I did personally. It took us more than three weeks to complete but, to be very honest, we traveled on a slow path and did a couple of side trekking trips.

Note – You will see that many bloggers mix the Pamir Highway with the Wakhan Valley in the same article. While the valley tends to be part of the same trip, it’s totally wrong to include it as part of the M-41, because it’s not; not geographically and not even culturally. For this reason, I’ve decided to write a separate article:

Read: A guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

Pamir Highway map

 

1. Osh – The second most important city in Kyrgyzstan

Located in the south of Kyrgyzstan, in a very strategic position for anyone who is traveling to China, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, it’s not surprising at all that Osh has become a mere transit point for a lot of travelers, which means that its timid beauty is often overlooked by most of them. However, it’s precisely due to its location that Osh is home to an awesome cultural blend, both ethnic and culinary.

Things to do in Osh

Osh can keep you busy for several days and one of my favorite travel blogs called Uncornered Market has simplified it very well in this interesting article: Travel Guide to Osh.

Read: Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan, the ultimate travel itinerary

The Alay valley, Kyrgyzstan
The dreamy Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan – Pamir Highway adventure

2. Sary Tash – More than a border town

Distance: 184km from Osh

Located in the middle of the Alay Valley, with stunning views of the Pamir range, Sary Tash is not a typical,  unattractive border town but totally the contrary, as it is positioned in such a privileged location, that it has become an awesome base to organize treks and other trips. Moreover, even though the village is rather small, it has a couple of homestays, a few restaurants and a gas station, which makes it a great place to rest on your way to Tajikistan.

Things to do in Sary Tash

Alay Valley- Located at 3,200 meters, this dreamy valley limits the border with Tajikistan and the Pamir range. One of the most beautiful spots in the country.

Sary Mogol – 15 kilometers from Sary Tash, Sary Mogol is a dusty but quite photogenic village. This is the gate to the Lenin Peak base camp.

Tulpar Lake – A couple of kilometers before Lenin Peak base camp, you find Tulpar Lake, a beautiful lake surrounded by velvet-green rolling hills, from where you have fantastic views of the Lenin Peak. The lake has a yurt camp and doesn’t require any permit, unlike the Lenin Peak base camp, which actually does require a permit.

Lenin Peak – Standing 7,100 meters above sea level, Lenin Peak is the second highest mountain in the Pamir range. We trekked to the advanced base camp and it was our best trekking experience in Kyrgyzstan. Theoretically, visiting the base camp requires a special permit but we didn’t have it and, obviously, no one asked for it.

The article about How to get to Tulpar and Lenin Peak base camp is on its way.

Read: Trekking in Kyrgyzstan, a beginner’s guide

Tulpar Lake
Tulpar Lake and Lenin Peak at its background

3. Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan border crossing at Kyzyl Art Pass

Distance: 45km from Sary Tash

At 4,200 meters, Kyzyl Art Pass is the second highest border crossing in the world, after Khunjerab Pass, the border between China and Pakistan. The landscape is freaking awesome and, regarding bureaucracy, it’s a hassle-free border to cross.

For further information, read: How to cross from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

Kyzyl Art pass
Kyzyl Art pass – No man’s land

4. Karakul Lake – The first settlement within Tajikistan

Distance: 50km from the border

A small village composed of a couple of mud-brick houses but located on the shore of Karakul lake, the largest lake in Tajikistan. Honestly, there’s not much to do in this village, besides wandering around the lake or climbing the side hills to observe the beautiful views. Here you will also find a military base where you can see the remains of old Soviet Union tanks. Apparently, the village is also a good base for trekking.

We didn’t stay here more than 30 minutes, enough time to rest, walk around and take a couple of pictures.

Karakul Lake Tajikistan
The village of Karakul – M-41 Pamir Highway

5. Murghab – The main town in the Pamirs

Distance: 133km from Karakul

Before starting your journey along the Pamir Highway, you will see that all travelers talk about a place called Murghab, which is nothing less than the largest settlement in the Pamir mountains and a transportation hub that even has an airport.

However, when you arrive, what you’ll find is just another set of mud-brick houses with no electricity, a bazaar where shops are inside shipping containers and, in general, a lot of misery. People from Murghab live mainly from the few tourists who pass by and in our experience, they were the most money-oriented people in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

However, this small village has a lot of potential, as it’s surrounded by beautiful valleys where authentic nomads live and from where you can organize great treks. We stayed here for 6 days.

Read: Trekking the Fann Mountains – The 7 Lakes Trek

Islam in Central Asia
The mosque in Murghab

Things to do in Murghab

At Chabysh festival – In the middle of August, At Chabysh festival takes place, a sort of competition, internationally known as horse games, where participants play polo with a dead goat and do horse racing and wrestling, also on a horse. At the festival, you will see a few tourists but 90% of the attendants are locals, so this is quite an authentic event. It lasts for 2 days and we were very lucky to arrive on the second day, which was August 13th, so I recommend you plan your trip accordingly. However, try to find out about the exact dates beforehand as the day of the month may vary every year to make it fit on the weekend.

Murghab town – From a peculiar mosque to the remains of Soviet Union machinery and a very weird bazaar where the different shops are inside shipping containers, we actually enjoyed wandering around Murghab for a day or two.

Horse games tajikistan
Horse wrestling in At Chabysh

 

Pshart valley – For us, this was one of the best experiences we had throughout our journey along the Pamir Highway, as here we finally met a group of nomads who were at all used to tourists, so unlike most yurt camps you find when you are traveling in Kyrgyzstan, here we slept and ate with them and they didn’t even want our money, even though we decided to pay them generously. The truth is that visiting the Pshart valley is great because the landscape is also gorgeous. The nomad camp is 5 or 6 hours walking from Murghab.

Trekking to Gumbezkul Pass – If you want to get a glimpse of what’s trekking in the Pamirs like, Gumbezkul pass is a 5,200 meters mountain pass from where you can appreciate a significant piece of the Pamir range. The pass links both Madiyan and Pshart valleys and climbing it is quite a challenge but anyone reasonably fit, with little experience, can do it.

If you want to know more information about Gumbezkul Pass trek, I wrote this article for Everything Everywhere:

Pamir Mountains – How to trek to Gumbezkul Pass

Pamir mountains
                                                             Me, at the top of Gumbezkul Pass. It was so windy!

6. Alichur – One of the coldest places on Earth

Distance: 104km from Murghab

From the road, Alichur seems an exceptionally uninteresting town but actually, just entering any of its side valleys, the landscape becomes really impressive. This is where the lowest temperature in the country ever was registered (-60ºC) and actually, even when we were there in August, it was freaking freezing, around -6ºC at 6am in the morning, apart from a very strong wind, which tripled the cold feeling. Bring warm clothes!

Things to do in Alichur

The village – Like any other Pamirian village, this settlement is composed of just a couple of shacks, so we just killed our time hanging out around the village and taking photos of the local life and the yaks that were wandering freely around the village.

People Pamirs
A funny kid somewhere in Alichur – Pamir Highway route

 

Marco Polo sheep safari – Do you know what the Marco Polo sheep is? They are some cow-size sheep that live in Central Asia. Yes, they are as big as a cow. Google it. The thing is that, in the mountains around Alichur, there are a few hundred specimens and you can go on a safari to spot them. However, before you go and get disappointed, you should bear in mind that they are extremely shy, so you only can see them from 1km away maximum, which means that you’ll just be able to see two tiny black dots. For this reason, the guide will always bring a pretty powerful telescope that will help you appreciate their majesty. We were five people and paid $15 per person for a 5-hour safari, starting at 5am in the morning.

Exploring the side valleys – The valleys around Alichur are among the most interesting I saw in Tajikistan and not because of their beauty but they are so imposing and made of a wild geology which I had never seen before. You can appreciate them within walking distance from Alichur.

Yak trekking – Kyrgyzstan may be famous for horse trekking but Tajikistan is popular for climbing mountains on a yak. Because we were on a low budget, we decided not to do it but you can ask for prices at the homestay.

Trekking to the lakes – Personally, I didn’t do this trek but, from Alichur, a lot of travelers do a 2-3-day trek to a set of lakes in which you can find Bulunkul lake. The way to follow is on the Maps.me app, so you can’t miss it. Nevertheless, as I said before, bring a good tent and sleeping bag as the wind and temperatures are freezing.

pamir highway adventure
The valleys around Alichur

7. Route between Alichur y Khorog

Distance: 211km from Alichur to Khorog

We completed this route in only one day, in 10 hours. Since we did it hitchhiking, we stopped in different villages where we ate and met real Tajiks for the first time, since, unlike in the eastern Pamirs, people living here are Tajiks.

Except for the first few kilometers, where you see Lake Bulunkul, among other lakes, the rest of the way is not as impressive as what you’ve been seeing for the last days, so I would recommend going straight to Khorog. However, I would also recommend spending one night in Bulunkul, located 15km from the M-41, and where you can find a few homestays

Note: After Alichur, a couple of kilometers before Bulunkul, you find a detour that leads to the Wakhan Valley, which means that most travelers never drive this section of the M-41. We did it because, before going to the Wakhan, we urgently needed to connect to the internet to apply for our online Iranian visas, so we really needed to go to Khorog.

Remember to read my Guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

m41 pamir highway
Somewhere between Khorog and Alichur – Pamir Highway Tajikistan

8. Khorog – Welcome to civilization

Distance: 211km from Alichur

If you come from eastern Tajikistan, arriving in Khorog is sort of a cultural shock, as here you can finally get electricity, internet, supermarkets where you can buy actual cheese and a few good restaurants. Khorog is a great place to enjoy for a couple of days.

Things to do in Khorog

Saturday Afghan market – Khorog is located right on the border with Afghanistan, so every Saturday, Afghans are allowed to cross to attend a market where they can sell their typical products, as well as buying Tajik stuff, like vodka and fabrics. The market takes place in a military area, which means that there’s a lot of security and Afghans can’t enter Tajikistan proper. They have so much fun in this market as, unlike in highly restricted Afghanistan, here they can get drunk and even flirt with the local women. And indeed they do! At the end of the day, you may see a few Afghans completely smashed. Actually, if I was an Afghan, I would also, definitely, come to this market every Saturday.

Khorog City Park – Khorog has a pleasant park where you will find one of the best local restaurants in town (Choi Khona), by the river. There’s also the information center, where you can connect to the internet, order an espresso and, of course, get all the tourist information you need.

Afghan market Khorog
Afghans in the market of Khorog

9. The way to the capital Dushanbe

Distance: 520km from Khorog

Khorog and Dushanbe are separated by 520km of road, 300km of which go along the Panj river, a 20-meter wide river, whose other side is Afghanistan territory.

That’s the most incredibly interesting thing about this part of the journey.

For miles, you will pass by countless Afghan villages, where you will see men riding their donkeys, working in the field and even women doing the laundry in the river.

You are so close to them that you could actually talk to them. In fact, I was continuously yelling and waving at them and they always waved back at me! It was amazing.

In some sections, you will see that you could even cross the river if you wanted, without any problem. Actually, that’s the main smuggling point from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. Most heroin in Europe has crossed this part of the river.

Read:

How to get a visa for Iran in Dushanbe

How to get a visa for Uzbekistan in Dushanbe

Panj river
From the road: the left side is Afghanistan and the right Tajikistan

A guide to hitchhiking the Pamir Highway

Along your journey, you may meet several people saying:

I met some backpackers who had been waiting for a ride for days

Seriously, I don’t know where the f*** they were but, if they were traveling the Pamir Highway, it can’t be possible.

We never had to wait for more than 2 hours.

What is actually true is that hitchhiking for FREE may be a bit tricky, as in this part of the world, even the locals pay. You need to bear in mind that here, everybody is a taxi driver and whoever travels from one village to another, with an empty seat is losing money.

Hitchhiking for free is also possible but you will need an extra dose of patience, as your best bet will be trucks or generous locals, which are rare. In our experience, European tourists never picked us up, even if they had empty seats. Bastards!

Honestly, most of the time, I paid for my rides, as the price from Murghab to Alichur, for example, was just a few dollars, so I preferred paying to waiting.

By the way, many locals will tell you ridiculously high amounts which you should, politely, refuse.

Hitchhiking Pamir Highway
Hitchhiking in the Pamir Highway!

Hitchhiking the Pamir Road –  Section by section

From Osh to Sary Tash – Very easy. Cars pass quite often, so you can easily find a ride for free.

From Sary Tash to Karakul – Difficult. Local cars tend to be full, so your best option would be to get on a Chinese truck or, if you are extremely lucky, in a tourist car. You will need to be very patient but it’s definitely possible. Try to stand on the road as early as possible.

From Karakul to Murghab – Difficult. Most cars also will be full but, in the morning, you may find a local going to Murghab. Be patient. Local price should be 30TJS ($3.40).

From Murghab to Alichur – Very easy. We waited for less than one hour, starting at 10am in the morning. We took a ride for just 40TJS ($4.50) and I am sure that, if we waited longer, we would have got a better deal.

From Alichur to Khorog – Relatively easy. We waited for two hours and we did the whole journey in 10h, approximately, taking 3 different rides. In total, we paid around $7 – $8.

From Khorog to Dushanbe – Very easy and crazy. It took us more than 3 days, 2 of which were spent inside a truck. Yes, 48 hours squeezed in a truck which was carrying 80 tons. The driver didn’t accept any money but, when he said that it would take 30 additional hours to arrive in Dushanbe, we decided to take a local shared taxi in Qalai Qumb, which cost us 120TJS ($13).

Transportation in the Pamir Highway
A Soviet truck

Driving the Pamir Highway – Transportation

Hiring a 4×4 with a private driver

One of the most popular ways to travel the Pamir Highway is by renting a car with a private driver. If you start from Kyrgyzstan, Osh Guest House is the most famous place to hire this kind of service, as the owner has loads of experience in helping travelers with it.

Tours are standard and, typically, they offer 4-day and 7-day tours, including the Wakhan Valley.

If you are alone, in Osh Guest House, there is also a blackboard where you can write down that you are looking for other people to share a car. 4x4s allow up to 4 passengers. From July to August, it will be easy for you to find other partners but, if you come off-season, you may have to wait a bit longer.

Price is around 950$ for the 7-day tour, which can be split up into 4 people.

In these tours, they charge you per kilometer. However, from the beginning, they tell you that, if you follow their itinerary and don’t do any side trip, the price would be around $850 for the 7-day tour, from Osh to Khorog, including the Wakhan Valley, gas and driver’s meals and accommodation. If you want to explore any side valley, they will charge you for each and every extra kilometer you do.

Note: You will see that most people claim that this is the best way to travel but, honestly, I think it’s the worst. Why? Well, basically, you won’t have time to do most of the activities I mentioned previously. On this tour, the daily routine is to wake up and just drive to the next destination, so you won’t have the chance to enjoy and explore the Pamir mountains. If you don’t have a lot of time then this might be a good option but, if you have plenty of time, I suggest you rent a car. In Osh Guest House, you can also rent a Toyota Landcruiser or a Mitsubishi Pajero, which cost $100 – $130 per day. It’s, definitely, cheaper. 

The pamir highway
The Pamir Road, right before arriving in Murghab

Bicycle

The Pamir Highway is the Mecca for cyclists. I had never seen so many people traveling by bicycle as here but actually, the truth is that its beauty and challenging conditions makes it the perfect place for this way of travel. I don’t travel by bicycle, but the cyclists I met said that water and food were scarce, as distances between villages were huge. Just bring enough supplies and a good sleeping mat, as the ground where one camps is hard as hell.

Public transport

There’s no actual public transport, except from Osh to Sary Tash, but what you find is local shared taxis. If you are on a budget, this option is totally feasible but, unfortunately, there are very few routes, which means that they run to very specific places only. If you want to go to any place which in between or outside the below itineraries, you will have to hitchhike.

From Osh to Sary Tash – There are daily marshrutkas until 2pm from the station located here: 40.536484, 72.798298. Price: 350SOM ($4).

From Osh to Murghab – The shared local taxis to Tajikistan don’t run regularly and timings vary and change every day, as it depends on how many people want to cross the border on that day. Furthermore, there is no ”taxi station” for Tajikistan, which means that you’ll need a local contact. Luckily, there are several people who can arrange it for you. First of all, I recommend you contact Ibrahim, a taxi driver from Murghab who does this journey a few times a week. He is the only man who charges the local price to tourists, which is 2,000KGS ($30). He speaks English, so call him at 0778790365 and ask him when is he planning to cross. Additionally, if you can’t go with him, Osh Guest House can also organize a shared taxi for you. However, they will charge you 2,500KGS ($37), meaning that they get a 500KGS commission. If you are in Sary-Tash or Sary-Mogol, CBT Sary-Mogol can arrange it but they will also charge 2,500KGS, although they can tell the driver to pick you up in Sary-Tash, instead of Osh, no problem.

From Murghab to Khorog –  Local shared taxis leave every day from Murghab station. Try to be there early in the morning, as they leave when they are full. Honestly, I don’t really remember the price but it was not expensive.

From Khorog to Dushanbe – Cars going to Dushanbe take between 14 and 18 hours, as it’s a 500km road in a very bad condition. For this reason, a seat is quite pricey ($35). There are 1 or 2 a day and they are always extremely full, so try to be at the station around 6am. I am not kidding, we arrived there at 7:15 and there were no seats anymore, so we decided to hitchhike until Dushanbe.

Pamir plateau
Just before Ak-Baital pass – 4,600 meters

Accommodation in the Pamirs

Homestay is the most common type of accommodation, which means that you will stay at local people’s houses, a great way to learn about their culture.

Usually, most houses are pretty cozy, especially in Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan, you tend to have a relatively comfortable bed, whereas in Tajikistan, you will get a thin mattress on the floor.

Regarding food, there is no difference between the two countries and you will always get your dose of homemade jam, bread, and shorpo (a local meat broth).

Prices range from $10 to $15, Tajikistan always being more expensive than Kyrgyzstan. Price always includes dinner, breakfast and, rarely, also lunch.

The following list contains all hostels and homestays I stayed throughout my journey plus recommendations from people I met. All are budget options but, honestly, you can’t really find more expensive ones.

Nomads tajikistan
Nomads milking their yaks – We stayed with them in Pshart Valley, close to Murghab

Where to stay in Osh

Budget Guest House – Biy Ordo Guest House – A fancy hostel with brand new furniture but with budget dorms and rooms. If you are looking for a comfortable place within a budget, this might be your best option.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Backpacker Hotel – Osh Guest House – Cheaper than Biy Ordo but not as comfortable. This is the most budget option for backpackers.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Mid Range Guest House – Eco House – For couples or people with a higher budget, this is one of the top-rated guest houses in Osh. Very comfortable, amazing breakfast and at a very good price for what you get.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Where to stay in Sary Tash

Budget Homestay – Hostel Muras – Cozy, good dinner and breakfast, Hostel Muras is very well-rated among foreigners. The staff speaks English.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Where to stay in Karakul

I didn’t stay there, so I can’t recommend any but I saw plenty of homestays.

 

Where to stay in Murghab

Pamir Hotel – The only proper hotel in town with electricity (after 6pm), western toilets and shower. It’s the priciest in town but they also have budget dorms.

Sary Kul Lodge I would not stay here. This guest house is pretty popular and it’s actually more budget than Pamir Hotel. However, it doesn’t have electricity. To be honest, I didn’t have a good experience here as the manager told us a certain price and, the day we checked out, she said that she got it wrong, claiming that she didn’t speak good English. She was a liar. Moreover, she tried to rip us off with the exchange rate and charge me $10 for the laundry. I am just being honest, you can do stay whatever you want 🙂

 

Where to stay in Alichur

NGO Purgut Homestay – Don’t get confused by the name. It’s not an NGO but the family running it is super kind and will feed you until you explode. This was one of the very few homestays where lunch was also included. The man of the house can also organize yak treks, as well as the Marco Polo sheep safari.

 

Where to stay between Alichur and Khorog

We didn’t stay between these two places but I remember that, in many villages where we stopped, locals always asked us if we wanted a place to stay, so you won’t have any problem if you really want to sleep here.

 

Where to stay in Khorog

Budget Homestay – Mini Hotel Sharon – Besides having the name of a hotel, it’s a homestay and the most centric one in town. A friend of mine stayed here and loved it.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Backpacker Hostel – Pamir Lodge – The most popular backpacker hostel. All right, the hostel is pretty cool as there is a friendly atmosphere and a huge hanging out area. However, the hostel has the capacity for more than 100 people and it only has two toilets and two showers, so when I came in August, it was very difficult to find them empty, apart from being quite dirty of course.

 

Backpacker Hostel – Hostel Do Nazarbayg – An alternative to Pamir lodge. You will find fewer backpackers but the location is much better and, of course, it doesn’t get busy.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Where to stay between Khorog and Dushanbe

I did this journey in 3 days but I slept in a truck. However, both Rushan and Qalai Qumb are relatively big towns where you can find homestays.

Where to stay in Dushanbe

Backpacker Hostel – Yeti Hostel – I spent 10 days here and the truth is that this is one of the most comfortable hostels I’ve been to. Super comfy beds, a big kitchen and a living room with awesome couches, Yeti Hostel is one of those places where you can stay for a long time.

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Backpacker Hostel – Green House – Located right next to Yeti Hostel, Green House is very similar to Yeti, with the difference that this one is always busier as it is more famous and older. I recommend Yeti Hostel just because it’s less busy.

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Budget Guest House – Hello Dushanbe – If you want a less backpacker-friendly place, Hello Dushanbe may be slightly more expensive but the facilities are great. Mostly, it has double rooms but also one budget dorm. If I ever come back to Dushanbe, I would stay here.

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Pamir Road
The road between Murghab and Alichur

How much does it cost to travel the Pamir Highway?

As you can imagine, the price will depend fundamentally on your way of transportation. These are the typical prices:

Accommodation – Homestay prices are pretty standard, from $10 to $15, including dinner and breakfast.

Food – Dinner and breakfast are always included but for lunch, a meal in a local restaurant costs between 10TJS – 30TJS ($1.10 -$3.40).

Transportation – It’s difficult the calculate an average. However, since most people travel on the 7-day tour with a private guide, which costs $850 for 4 people, which is $212 per person, I would say that cost would be $30 a day, with everything included.

Therefore, the average price will be, taking into account that you travel with a private driver:

a minimum of $50 a day

Note:  If you go by public transport or hitchhiking, the price will be less than half of that. 

Pamir highway tajikistan
Me along the Pamir Highway

What to bring to the Pamir Highway? The ultimate packing list

Book guide – Bradt has the most insightful travel guides for Central Asia and they have separates book for both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. You could also buy the Lonely Planet Central Asia but it’s very outdated and they have very few pages for each country.

Steripen – A great device to purify the water and avoid stomach problems.

A warm sleeping bag – If you are going to camp, a good sleeping bag is a must. Remember that temperatures are freezing, even during the summer months. I have a Kelty Cosmic 2, which is incredibly warm and relatively light.

Lightweight tent – The Pamirs are very windy and, for this reason, you must bring a good tent. My Freelite 2 is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s incredibly resistant and weighs less than a kilo. I’ve camped at above 4,000 meters, with wind and snow, and didn’t feel anything.

Coffee maker HomgeekCentral Asia is famous for tea but not for coffee. With Homgeek, you can have an espresso anywhere you want, by only pressing with your hands. If you don’t want to drink instant coffee for your whole journey, you had better buy this device. It works with ground coffee.

KindleAt night, there nothing else to do besides reading a book and, if you don’t want to carry them in your backpack, just bring a Kindle.

Antibacterial thermal t-shirt IcebreakerIt will be cold and the Icebreaker t-shirts are antibacterial, which means that you can wear them for days without stinking.

HeadlampEssential anywhere in the mountains.

Hand SanitizersNo need to say why you need to bring them.

Sunscreen – At high altitudes, sun-rays are pretty harsh.

Anti-mosquitos – In case you don’t wanna get raped by mosquitos, as there are plenty of them around the lake areas.

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pamir highway

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9 comments

  1. Sounds very nice and amazing road trip, this can give us the experience which worth remembering throughout the whole life. This is the way which was taken as the main route for trading in that era. Thanks for sharing this beautiful information with us.

  2. Wow! You had me at the coldest place in the country at -60 degrees celsius. Based on the pictures the mountains look insanely ski-able. Shocked that there haven’t been any backcountry pro-skiers visiting this region with so much terrain at your finger tips. Are there any local skiers?

    1. Hi Alex, I am not aware of skier tourists, as I went there during summer and, during this season, there’s definitely not enough snow. Moreover, I seriously doubt that there’s any ski resort, as local tourism in the eastern Pamirs is practically non-existent. Perhaps you may find something in the western Pamirs, which are more populated but I didn’t explore that area. If you want to ski in Central Asia, you can go to Karakol, in the north of Kyrgyzstan. There’s a pretty good resort filled with wealthy Russian and Kazakh tourists. The Tien Shan mountains are freaking awesome as well. Cheers,

  3. When i set my first foot on here, i was totally shocking because of the impressiveness and majesty of the nature and the width of the highway. My hometown is in Vietnam where all the roads are small and winding. The trip to Pamir had changed my mind. It helped me to realize how amazing the world is and how much i need to travel and learn.

  4. Interesting highway……

    I’m researching about it… need more information..looking.

    Thanks for the info for now… 🙂

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