THE ESSENTIAL PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE
The Pamir Highway is a journey steeped in magic, conjuring images of a bygone era and taking you away from the familiarity of the modern world. A remote route through high mountainous lands, it’s both a geographical feast for the senses and a cultural treat. Mountains, valleys, lakes and high plateaus serve up an ever changing array of amazing vistas, while the divergence between the Tajik West and Kyrgyz East offers a fascinating insight into the peoples of this starkly beautiful region. It’s this variety that helps to make a trip through the Pamirs so special.
When planning your own Pamir Highway Road Trip, there are a number of important things to know. Perhaps you’re wondering about the different transport options? Or maybe you’re concerned about budget, food and accommodation? Questions about when to go, what to take and which direction to travel also spring to mind, along with a whole host of practical considerations. In this comprehensive and essential guide to the Pamir Highway, we provide answers to all of the above and more, as well as providing useful resources to help you get the most from your trip.
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The actual Pamir Highway refers to a largely Soviet built road known as the M41, traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. While the majority of travellers will journey on sections of the M41, a trip on the Pamir Highway rarely means actually sticking to this road the whole way. For most, the Pamir Highway is a more general term used to describe a route between Dushanbe and Osh through the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region (GBAO). That route will likely include the Wakhan Valley, and possibly side trips to other valleys along the way.
Essentially, the way we see it is that the Pamir Highway is whatever journey you decide to make it. With that said, let’s cover a few options.
We’ve marked Pamir Highway accommodation options, sights, hiking trails, border crossings, camp spots and more on the map above. You can switch between terrain and satellite view too. You can also download our Maps.Me bookmarks for offline use here, just be sure to download the Maps.Me app first (iOS/Android).
THE OFFICIAL M41
This road runs between Dushanbe and Osh, via Tavildara, Kalai Khum, Khorog, Jelondy, Alichur, Murghab, Karakul and Sary Tash. This route is approximately 1250 km in length. Unless you’re a purist, chances are the only sections you will travel on are Kalai Khum to Khorog, and Alichur through to Osh. Most people take the southern route from Dushanbe to Kalai Khum via Kulob (better road, open all year round) instead of the northern route via Tavildara. Between Khorog and Alichur, most travel via the Wakhan Valley and Khargush Pass, instead of the direct route via Jelondy.
THE TOURIST ROUTE
The most common route for people travelling the Pamir Highway is via the Wakhan Valley.