• THE ESSENTIAL PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE

    A woman walking near a Landcruiser on a remote stretch of road running through the Pamirs near Jarty Gumbez
  • THE ESSENTIAL PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE

    A woman walking near a Landcruiser on a remote stretch of road running through the Pamirs near Jarty Gumbez

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.

Read through the full guide, or jump to a specific section by clicking the links below

WHAT ROUTE?

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.

  • A person standing on a rock looks out at the Wakhan Valley while driving the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan
  • A person standing on a rock looks out at the Wakhan Valley while driving the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan

The route runs between Dushanbe and Osh via Kalai Khum, Khorog, Ishkashim, Langar, Alichur, Murghab, Karakul and Sary Tash. It’s approximately 1500 km in length. The Wakhan is spectacular, and definitely worth seeing on your Pamir Highway trip.

A map of the Pamir Highway route options

This map shows both routes outlined above: the M41 and the main tourist
route which includes the Wakhan (map credit: Advantour.com)

This map shows both routes outlined above: the
M41 and the main tourist route which includes
the Wakhan (map credit: Advantour.com)


ALTERNATIVE ROUTES

If you want to explore away from the main tourist route then a great option is travelling from Langar (in the Wakhan) to Murghab via Zorkul Nature Reserve and Jarty Gumbez. You’ll need a permit to visit Zorkul, and realistically this route is only possible if you have your own transport, be it bicycle, 4WD or motorbike. It’s also best to ask locally at the PECTA office in Khorog about the “road” conditions as it can get really boggy around Zorkul, making this route tricky or impossible full stop.

 If you travel this route you’ll be treated to views unlike any other on the Pamir Highway. You’ll also encounter an abundance of wildlife (including the elusive Marco Polo sheep if you’re lucky), discover Iron Age burial grounds and have the pleasure of soaking away your aches and pains in the hot springs at Jarty Gumbez.

  • The river valley at Jarty Gumbez, green grass fringes the blue Isstyk on the right, ruins sit to the left of the road and mountains rise in the distance
  • The river valley at Jarty Gumbez, green grass fringes the blue Isstyk on the right, ruins sit to the left of the road and mountains rise in the distance

 This was the route we took and loved it. You can read more about the journey here.

This map shows our Pamir Highway route through the Wakhan, Zorkul Nature Reserve and Jarty Gumbez

If you are unable to secure a permit for Zorkul, or the road conditions make this section impassable, it’s also possible to get to Jarty Gumbez via a couple of turn offs on the main M41 between Alichur and Murghab (GPS coordinates 37.8351, 73.6732 and 37.9754, 73.9568). You could also attempt the route between Murghab and Jarty Gumbez via Shaimak in the very southeast corner of Tajikistan.

SIDE TRIPS & HIKES

There’s an endless number of side trips for you to embark on along the Pamir Highway. Your mode of transport and overall time frame will ultimately dictate which places are possible for you to explore. Here’s a few suggestions.

JIZEU

On the Kalai Khum to Khorog road, a 27 km detour from Rushan up the Bartang Valley brings you to a bridge crossing the raging Bartang River. From here you can hike 2-3 hours to the picturesque village of Jizeu.

An aerial view of Jizeu Valley, with green grass and trees lining a blue river and stark brown mountains rising steeply on either side

Looking down the valley from Upper Jizeu to Lower Jizeu, the mountains of the Bartang Valley in the distance


An aerial view of Jizeu Valley, with green grass and trees lining a blue river and stark brown mountains rising steeply on either side

Looking down the valley from
Upper Jizeu to Lower Jizeu


There are homestays here, or you can camp. You can read more about our experience here.

The route is marked on Maps.me (iOS/Android).

PEAK ENGELS MEADOW

The Wakhan Valley is one of the absolute highlights of a Pamir Highway journey. Yet so many people rush through, spending just one or two nights here. A great addition to your Wakhan itinerary is a hike up to Peak Engels Meadow, hidden high above Langar at around 4000m. You can do a day hike here from Langar (17 km return) or Zong (26 km return), but even better is to hike over two days and camp at the meadow. The route is marked on Maps.me.

An aerial view of Peak Engels Meadow in Tajikistan, the river snaking across the green meadow with the mountains rising behind

Peak Engels Meadow is a unique place in the Pamirs, one not be missed


An aerial view of Peak Engels Meadow in Tajikistan, the river snaking across the green meadow with the mountains rising behind

Peak Engels Meadow is a unique place in
the Pamirs, one not to be missed


PANORAMA RIDGE HIKE/HAUSIBEKS VIEWPOINT

This is a popular short-ish hike near the Khargush Pass between Langar and Alichur. It takes around 3 hours return from the road, offering 360 degree panoramic views.

BULUNKUL & YASHIKUL

This is a common overnight stop on the journey between Langar and Murghab. The village of Bulunkul itself is just a scattering of houses, located nearby Bulunkul Lake. From the village you can hike to a viewpoint over impressive Yashikul Lake. It takes about 2 hours return.

SHORBULAK OBSERVATORY & SHAKHTY CAVE PAINTINGS

A side trip off the M41 near Murghab (GPS coordinates for turn off 37.9754, 73.9568) leads you to some neolithic cave paintings at Shakthy (37.9075, 74.0166) and an incredible vista at the abandoned Shorbulak Observatory (37.9307, 74.1519). You could also visit these on the way to/from Jarty Gumbez.

  • The abanonded Soviet era Shorbulak Observatory, a rusting building with a commanding view over the Pamirs and mountains of Xinjiang Province of China
  • A woman standing looking out over a vast mountain landscape towards China from the viewpoint at Shorbuloq Observatory, off the Pamir Highway

MADIAN & PSHART VALLEYS

These are both popular side trips near Murghab. You can hike over the Gumbezkol Pass (4,700 m) between the two valleys, a challenging 17 km hike that takes around 5 hours from the Yurt Camp in the Pshart Valley (38.2649, 73.8258) to the road in the Madian Valley (38.1383, 73.7909). The hiking trail is marked on Maps.me.

  • View from the top of Gumbezkol Pass looking back towards the Pshart Valley
  • View from the top of Gumbezkol Pass looking back towards the Pshart Valley

If you don’t fancy the hike, both are beautiful valleys just to wander. You could also spend a night at the Yurt Camp in the Pshart Valley, or camp. Note that the Eli Suu hot springs (a popular place to visit via the Madian Valley) were washed away and more or less abandoned when we visited. Best to ask locally if they’ve been restored before embarking on the journey out there.

RANGKUL

This is a possible side trip off the Pamir Highway route between Murghab and Karakul. It’s around 74 km from the M41 to Rangkul village and back, passing the beautiful lakes of Shorkul and Rangkul. One for the scenery hunters.

  • A black Landcruiser and trail of dust behind it, driving by Rangkul Lake off the Pamir Highway
  • A black Landcruiser and trail of dust behind it, driving by Rangkul Lake off the Pamir Highway

TULPARKUL

There are a couple of yurt camps at scenic Tulparkul (25 km south of Sary Mogul in Kyrgyzstan), making this a perfect alternative to staying in Sary Tash or Sary Mogul itself. The lakes in the area are stunning, and you can climb a nearby hill for great views of Peak Lenin, or head off on a longer hike towards Peak Lenin Base Camp.

  • Sunrise reflections in Tulparkul, with Peak Lenin rising behind
  • Sunrise reflections in Tulparkul, with Peak Lenin rising behind

ALAY MOUNTAINS TREKKING

Numerous trekking routes in the Alay Mountains to the north of Sary Mogul make this an ideal spot for exploring, either on a multi-day hike or just for a day. Find out more about trekking options here and here.


TRANSPORT ON THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

There are three main options for backpackers looking to travel along the Pamir Highway – private 4WD hire, shared taxis, or hitchhiking. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and your experience will vary greatly depending on which method you choose. Here’s a rundown of each option, including costs and how to go about organising your travel.

HIRING A 4WD & DRIVER

The way we chose to travel, this method offers you freedom and flexibility, particularly when you pay by the kilometre. It’s also one of the more expensive ways to travel, especially if you’re travelling as one or two people. 

One common way to arrange your own vehicle and driver is through hostels in Dushanbe, Osh or Khorog when you arrive.  Hostels tend to have a connection with the same general pool of local drivers. Many also have notice boards to help travellers find others looking to travel at the same time, helping to share the costs. Organising it on the ground is a good option if you don’t mind potentially waiting a few days. You may get a cheaper deal and it gives you the opportunity to meet possible travel buddies face to face. We organised our Toyota Landcruiser and driver through Greenhouse Hostel in Dushanbe. They can also help you find others to share with, as well as offering set tours. Osh Guesthouse is another popular place to arrange your 4WD and  driver if you’re travelling in the opposite direction.

  • A Toyota Landcruiser parked at 4300 m with distant mountains in the background while on a Pamir Highway road trip
  • A Toyota Landcruiser parked at 4300 m with distant mountains in the background while on a Pamir Highway road trip

Another way is to use online sites such as Caravanistan and Indy Guide. This is a good option if you’re keen to have something sorted ahead of time. Caravanistan have an easy to use system and claim to use only high quality drivers and vehicles, declining your request if none are available. They submit your details and request to two competing providers in Osh and Dushanbe/Khorog, as well as giving you the option to join a group. They also have a Pamir Highway ride share forum where you can post your details to maximise your chances of finding others if you want to share the cost*. Indy Guide has links to a number of different individual drivers and providers.

Also have a scroll through Tourradar and Viator, checking the inclusions. They often have individual vehicle and driver hire available.

The standard vehicles are either a Mitsubishi Pajero or Toyota Landcruiser (the better of the two).

A point to note when hiring a vehicle and driver is that they often change in Murghab, regardless of direction of travel.

*Another way to find others to travel with is through the CBT Office in Osh or PECTA in Khorog. Both have a list of travellers looking to join a group.

4WD & DRIVER COST

There are two ways you can pay for this kind of trip. Pay by the kilometre plus a set daily amount for the driver, or agree a set itinerary and upfront price. The first way gives you the freedom to make decisions about where you go along the way, the second way locks you in but you know exactly how much it will cost.

Paying by the Kilometre

Prices range from $0.65-$0.80 per kilometre plus $15-20 per day for the driver (this covers their food and accommodation). Obviously the rate can fluctuate, but at the time of writing, the best rate that reputable operators were offering was $0.65 per kilometre. The ‘standard’ journey from Khorog to Osh or vice versa (via the Wakhan, Bulunkul, Murghab, Karakul and Sary Mogul) is around 900 km. Starting or ending in Dushanbe will bump this up to 1500 km. The route that we took totalled 2100 km. As you are paying per vehicle, this cost can obviously be shared with up to 4 people. 

To avoid any doubt, be sure to take a photo of the odometer at the start of your trip and again at the end. We’re not sure how common this is, but something to note is that if your vehicle has extra large tyres then the odometer won’t accurately display the total kilometres. Your driver will know the correct calculation to figure out the per kilometre rate. This was the case for us when we switched vehicles for the Murghab to Osh journey.

A black Landcruiser driving towards colourful mountains in no man's land between Bordobo Border Crossing, Kyrgyzstan, and Kyzylart Border Crossing in Tajikistan on the Pamir Highway

Our driver’s large tyres meant we had to do some calculations and refer to Maps.Me to figure out the real distance we travelled


A black Landcruiser driving towards colourful mountains in no man's land between Bordobo Border Crossing, Kyrgyzstan, and Kyzylart Border Crossing in Tajikistan on the Pamir Highway

Our driver’s large tyres meant we had
to do some calculations and refer to Maps.Me
to figure out the real distance we travelled


Paying Up Front

Essentially this is similar to booking on to a tour, paying a set price for a predetermined itinerary. For a standard 7 day itinerary you can expect to pay around $800 – $900 for the car and driver. Again, this cost can be shared with up to 4 people. Chances are, there will be room for slight detours along the way, but you’ll be expected to pay extra per kilometre for anything straying off the agreed route.

SELF DRIVE WITH HIRED 4WD

This option offers you the most freedom when hiring a vehicle, but it also comes with a certain amount of risk. Local drivers know the roads and conditions well, making them better equipped to handle the journey. Saying that, if we decided to travel the Pamir Highway again, this is an option we would seriously consider. However, with prices around $120-130 per day, it’s expensive – often more so than hiring a car and driver together. 

Rental options are limited, but if you are considering it, Visit Alay come highly recommended. English speaking Talant is the man to deal with, one of the two tour operators used by Caravanistan.

SHARED TAXI

This is one of the cheapest ways to travel the Pamir Highway. The flipside of that is it’s pretty uncomfortable and very limited in terms of what you can see and do along the way. Shared taxis really just travel the direct M41 route between Dushanbe, Khorog, Murghab and Osh. You can expect to pay a total of around $80-$100 per person to travel this route via shared taxis.

Options are limited for getting to the Wakhan, requiring you to travel from Khorog to the Wakhan and back to Khorog again, rather than continuing on to Murghab via the Khargush Pass. Shared taxis are non-existent for travel to remote places like Zorkul and Jarty Gumbez. 

Shared taxis have no set departure times, leaving when full. This usually means 6 people squeezed in, with your bags on top. Ask around to find out where local shared taxis depart from and be prepared to arrive early, from 6am, in order to get a seat. In main hubs like Osh, your hostel may be able to arrange a shared taxi to pick you up direct from your accommodation.

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HITCHHIKING

Hitchhiking is quite popular on the Pamir Highway. We met several people travelling this way and in general, they never had to wait too long for a ride. One thing that everyone will tell you though, is that it’s much more difficult to hitchhike for free. As there is no public transport in the region, any available seat is effectively for hire. All locals travelling along this route expect to pay. If you’re planning to hitch, then you should expect to pay a small fee, just like the locals. If you don’t, it’s still possible to travel this way, but you’ll receive many more knockbacks and have to wait much longer for a ride.

Aside from local vehicles, hired vehicles carrying foreign travellers may also have space available. Just be aware that it’s not always down to the tourists whether to pick you up. Extra passengers and bags means extra weight and higher fuel consumption – something many drivers will not be happy about. Sometimes the language barrier can be an issue too. We picked up a few people when we had a driver who spoke good English, and none when communication with our other (somewhat grumpy) driver was difficult.

It’s easiest to hitchhike along the M41 (this doesn’t include the Wakhan, which for many is the main highlight). It’s near impossible to do it in an extremely remote area such as Zorkul or Jarty Gumbez. As always, flexibility in regards to both your itinerary and timeframe is required if you plan to hitch. Budget wise, hitchhiking the whole way between Dushanbe and Osh would likely cost you less than $50.

MIX & MATCH

If you are flexible with your Pamir Highway travel plans and have time to spare, a mix and match approach involving shared taxis, hitchhiking and sharing the cost of a private car or 4WD is certainly possible. We met a few people doing this; largely travelling by shared taxi or hitchhiking, but opting to pay their way in a private car or 4WD to get from Langar to Alichur or Murghab. The best way to approach this is by asking around fellow travellers who have their own hire vehicle and offering to pay for your ride, or enquiring at homestays and guesthouses for a local driver. Busy places like Behruz Hostel in Langar or Pamir Hotel in Murghab are good options for meeting people.

  • View looking down from Ak-Baital Pass, the highest pass on the Pamir Highway at 4655m
  • View looking down from Ak-Baital Pass, the highest pass on the Pamir Highway at 4655m

BOOKING AN ORGANISED TOUR

For a fully inclusive Pamir Highway Tour with a set itinerary and guaranteed departure dates it’s a good idea to book through an international company before you arrive. This option can be a bit pricey, but it’s ideal for those limited on time and keen to travel with a small group of people (without having to find those people yourself!). Companies to check include Dragoman, Intrepid,  and various options through Tourradar. Note that many of these Pamir tours are part of a larger Tajikistan or Central Asia itinerary. Prices vary, but expect to pay a minimum of $2000 per person for a 2 week trip.

Many hostels in Dushanbe and Osh also offer Pamir Highway tours, with a set itinerary, number of days and price for the vehicle. If you’re happy to organise your trip last minute, in person, then this option is much cheaper than booking in advance with an international company. You may or may not be required to find fellow passengers yourself, and chances are the tour cost won’t include your accommodation and food. You’ll likely need to hang around up to a few days while plans come together, even in high season (July – August). Alternatively, Visit Alay has a group tour section on their site, bringing travellers together for set date itineraries and routes. Expect to pay around $350-$400 per person (based on 4 sharing the vehicle) for a 7-9 day trip. Your accommodation and food expenses will be extra – allow approx $150 more for this.

YOUR OWN TRANSPORT

Many people travel the Pamir Highway using their own transport, usually as part of a larger overland journey. While this option is quite specific, and not really applicable to your average Pamir backpacker, it’s worth mentioning as it is a common way to travel ‘The Roof of the World’.

4WD

Overlanding in your own 4WD is very popular these days, and we saw many such people travelling the Pamirs. If you’re an overlander travelling through Asia then it doesn’t get more enticing than the Pamir Highway. There is however, one significant drawback – many vehicles operate only on diesel, and that, is something that isn’t easy to find in these parts. The quality of the fuel is also often suspect, mostly due to incorrect storage. Friends of ours travelled from Osh to Dushanbe, but never made it down to the Wakhan. They struggled to find good quality fuel for their Land Rover Defender.

A driver filling up his Toyota Landcruiser in the sun at a petrol station on the Pamir Highway

The fuel that local vehicles use often isn’t suitable for an overlander from home


A driver filling up his Toyota Landcruiser in the sun at a petrol station on the Pamir Highway

The fuel that local vehicles use often isn’t
suitable for an overlander from home


MOTORBIKE

Many motorbikers travel the Pamirs, generally following the usual tourist route through the Wakhan. It surely must be a great pleasure riding through such a landscape. Fuel generally isn’t as much of a problem, but the availability of qualified mechanics means it’s good to be well prepared for any technical difficulties.

CYCLE

 We’d never seen so many long distance touring cyclists till Tajikistan. It seemed to be a funnel that every cyclist coming from Europe flowed through. Green House Hostel in Dushanbe was a hub for them, resting and repairing their bikes before or after the Pamir Highway. As mentioned in the account of our trip, we met many people travelling this way. And while it’s clearly a tough physical challenge, it certainly has an appeal. Cycling is a cheap way to travel, you go at your own pace, and there’s pretty much nowhere you can’t reach.

Three Pamir Highway touring bikes resting against the corugated wall of the Jarty Gumbez Guesthouse

Bikes outside of the Jarty Gumbez Guesthouse, one of the
more remote places to travel to from the Pamir Highway


Three Pamir Highway touring bikes resting against the corugated wall of the Jarty Gumbez Guesthouse

Bikes outside of the Jarty Gumbez Guesthouse,
one of the more remote places to travel
to from the Pamir Highway


ACCOMMODATION ON THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

Accommodation options along the Pamir Highway are pretty basic, largely limited to homestays or wild camping. A wider variety of hotels and guesthouses are available in larger cities at either end, like Khorog, Osh and Dushanbe. There are some unique accommodation options too, like yurt camps and a hot springs guesthouse. 

Generally speaking, it’s not possible (and there’s no need) to book accommodation in advance. You can just turn up. The exception to this is for busier cities like Dushanbe, Khorog and Osh, where it’s convenient to have somewhere booked in advance. You can do this easily through Booking.com. In order to find places to stay while you’re travelling the Pamir Highway, check Maps.me, talk to fellow travellers for recommendations, or ask your driver.

HOMESTAYS

Homestays are the norm along the Pamir Highway, and a great way to experience the local culture, food and traditions. The standard setup includes a common area in the family home where guests relax and eat around a low table. Depending on how busy the homestay is, you may be offered a private room to sleep in, or be sharing a room with other guests. You will usually sleep on the floor, on padded blankets which are rolled up and stowed away during the day. The toilet and shower (if there is one) is often outside in a separate building. Squat toilets are most common, but some places have a sit-down toilet.

Dinner and breakfast is normally included at your homestay. Typical food includes bread, butter, jam, eggs, noodle soup, laghman, plov, stew, and copious amounts of tea. At Akim Homestay in Yamchun we were treated to lots of fresh apricots from the garden, and we had some delicious fresh yak yoghurt at our guesthouse in Jarty Gumbez.

A garden full of trees flowers and hanging washing at Akim Homestay in the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

Morning light in the garden of Akim Homestay in the Wakhan Valley


A garden full of trees flowers and hanging washing at Akim Homestay in the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

Morning light in the garden of Akim Homestay


The average cost of homestays in the Pamir is $15 per person a night, including dinner and breakfast. Prices can vary though, between $12 – $20. You don’t need to book in advance (indeed this is often impossible given the lack of phone reception in many places!), so just look out for signs and turn up.

HOSTELS, GUESTHOUSES & HOTELS

Various other accommodation options are dotted throughout the Pamir Highway. 

As the largest town in the GBAO, Khorog has a bit of everything. For a cheap, central option we can recommend Hostel Do Nazarbayg. More options include LAL Hotel, Zarya Hotel and the fanciest in town, Khorog Serena Inn. The Pamir Lodge is also very popular (especially with independent overlanders), but is a little out of town. 

Murghab is the main town in the Eastern Pamir. We enjoyed our stay at Mansur Tulfabek Guesthouse. Other options include Guesthouse Erali and the Pamir Hotel, which has a cheap dorm-like yurt in the front yard as well as private rooms.

Behruz Hostel in Langar is a fairly new addition to the accommodation options in this lovely Wakhan village. It has private and shared rooms, with proper beds and modern toilet and shower facilities. 

At the start or end of your trip, Green House Hostel in Dushanbe is our recommended accommodation. They have dorms and private rooms. Hello Dushanbe Hostel and Yeti Hostel are also good options.

In Osh we can recommend TES Hotel, a modern and spacious place with a lovely outdoor area for relaxing over a beer. Apple Hostel, Osh Guesthouse, CBT Osh Tourist Info Office & Hostel, Silk Way Boutique Hotel and Biy Ordo Hotel & Hostel are also good options to check out.

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HUNTING CAMPS

There are hunting camps at Jarty Gumbez and Keng Shiber which are available for regular tourists in the summer. Expect to pay around $50 per person including meals at one of these. There is also a cheaper family run hot springs guesthouse at Jarty Gumbez costing $25 per person, including meals and use of the private indoor hot spring baths.

YURT CAMPS

There are a couple of yurt camps at Tulpar Lake near Sary Mogul in Kyrgyzstan. One is run by CBT and can be booked by popping into the CBT office in Sary Mogul itself. The cost is 1000 som per person including meals, or 500 som per person without food. There are a few yurts, with around 4 – 6 beds in each. The yurts have a stove in the middle which keeps it nice and toasty. There’s a separate dining yurt and a basic toilet block.

  • Yurts lined up at Tulparkul, in the shadow of Peak Lenin
  • Yurts lined up at Tulparkul, in the shadow of Peak Lenin

WILD CAMPING

It’s possible to wild camp on your Pamir Highway road trip, assuming you have camping gear with you. We camped in Jizeu, near Zorkul Lake, and in the Pshart Valley. We had planned on camping at Peak Engels Meadow too, but unfortunately this didn’t work out due to sickness. Most people who camp are travelling independently by bike or hitchhiking, but if you’re planning on hiring a 4WD and driver it’s also possible (we did!). You’ll just need to factor in where your driver can sleep and eat for the night and discuss this with them in advance.

A tent pitched at a wild camp spot in the Pshart Valley

Wild camping in the impressive Pshart Valley


A tent pitched at a wild camp spot in the Pshart Valley

Camping in the Pshart Valley


As always, make sure you follow the Leave No Trace principles when camping, and don’t pitch up on private land or farm land without asking first. You’ll need a warm sleeping bag and clothing, even in summer, as the temperatures at altitude really drop at night.

FOOD & WATER ON THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

FOOD

As mentioned previously, meals are generally included in the cost of your accommodation while travelling the Pamir Highway. There’s no menu to choose from, you’ll simply be served whatever the family are cooking that day. The food may or may not include meat. Most homestay owners have an understanding of ‘vegetarian’, although in some cases eating vegetarian may mean picking out the meat. If you have specific dietary requirements (for example you are strict vegetarian, vegan or coeliac), you may want to consider self catering. This means stocking up on supplies in Osh, Dushanbe or Khorog (and to a lesser extent Murghab), and carrying these with you along with a small camping stove and cookware. 

You can expect to be served a breakfast of bread, jam, butter, tea and maybe eggs. Lunch and dinner may be brothy soups, stews, plov, or noodles. Bread and tea are served with every meal. In the fertile Wakhan delicious apricots grow, and there’s noticeably more fresh fruit and vegetables compared to the Eastern Pamir. Fresh yak butter and yoghurt is a yummy treat, served more commonly in the Kyrgyz influenced east.

A bowl of Laghman and a basket of bread on a red and white check table cloth at a lunch stop on the Pamir Highway

A bowl of Laghman and local bread for lunch


A bowl of Laghman and a basket of bread on a red and white check table cloth at a lunch stop on the Pamir Highway

A bowl of Laghman and local bread for lunch


If you’re eating outside of your accommodation, budget around $2 for a local meal, or up to $10 if you’re eating at a more international place in Khorog or Osh.

DRINKING WATER

There’s no need to buy bottled water when travelling the Pamir Highway. This is a huge waste of plastic. Instead, fill up a reusable water bottle at taps, wells and streams along the way and treat it to make it safe to drink. You can use water purification tablets, or any other method such as a pump, squeeze filter or LifeStraw. Personally, we use a Steripen, along with a Nalgene water bottle and filter. It’s important to stay well hydrated at altitude, so having a reserve of water in a water bladder or spare water bottles is a good idea. Most villages have a well, which you can fill up from using the hand pump.

Just a quick warning – there’s every chance you will get sick from food on your Pamir Highway journey. We did, and many people we met did. You’ll be travelling in a remote area, where refrigeration and sterilised water is non-existent, and kitchen hygiene likely isn’t up to the same standards as your stomach is used to. Carry hand sanitiser with you and wash your raw fruit and veggies with sterilised water. Make sure you have a stocked first aid kit, including rehydration salts/electrolytes to help you get back on your feet after a bout of sickness and/or diarrhoea.

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THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR PAMIR HIGHWAY TRIP

In this section we’ve gathered some useful info and advice to ensure your Pamir Highway road trip runs as smoothly as possible.

WHEN TO GO

The ideal time to travel the Pamir Highway is June – September. Peak travel time is July and August. October brings beautiful Autumn colours, but cold weather. Winter lasts from November till March, with temperatures well below zero, biting wind and snow. April and May is still cold, with a risk of avalanches and landslides in the higher mountain areas.

Golden Hour view of the Madian Valley

Golden hour over the Madian Valley near Murghab in late August


Golden Hour view of the Madian Valley

Golden hour over the Madian Valley
near Murghab in late August


ATMs & MONEY

There are NO ATMs between Khorog and Osh and you cannot pay by card for anything. You must make sure you have enough cash to cover your whole journey. You will likely pay USD to your driver or for your tour, and local currency (Somoni in Tajikistan and Som in Kyrgyzstan) for accommodation, food and local transport along the way. Some ATMs in Dushanbe/Osh give out USD, but it’s a good idea to bring this into the country if you can. Don’t leave it until the last minute to gather all your cash – ATMs are unreliable and you may need to visit multiple ones before you find one that works. Your bank and/or the ATM itself will also have a max daily withdrawal limit. 

Personally, we brought $3000 into Tajikistan with us, and carried it around safely in our belts. We have read accounts online about money being stolen while travelling the Pamir Highway. If you are carrying large amounts of money, make sure you keep it on your person as securely as possible. 

Use large notes for bulk payments, and ensure you have small notes to pay for your accommodation, food and local transport along the way as people are unlikely to have change.

INTERNET (or lack of)

Don’t expect any wifi or data connection between Khorog and Murghab. Even in these two towns, the connection is pretty poor (especially Murghab). Between Murghab and Osh you may pick up a data connection with a local SIM in some areas, but don’t rely on this. Same goes for Khorog to Dushanbe. 

This means you need to be prepared in advance, having downloaded any maps you want to use offline, and saved any useful blog posts, articles, websites, etc. that you might want to reference later.

SIM CARDS

If you want to purchase a local SIM the best networks for coverage in the Tajik pamir region are MegaFon and T Cell. T Cell works okay in and around Dushanbe, MegaFon less so. Our driver was constantly switching SIMs depending on where we were in order to stay connected. In Kyrgyzstan, MegaCom and Beeline are good options. 

We purchased a Tajik SIM at Yeti Hostel in Dushanbe when we first arrived for approx $3 each. From what we could tell, it isn’t possible to just go to a shop and buy one as a tourist. We topped up credit at electronic machines in Dushanbe. 

In Kyrgyzstan we were actually handed free SIM cards at the airport when we first arrived (we were here prior to flying to Dushanbe and starting our Pamir Highway trip). We held onto them and tried to top them up with credit in a small shop in Sary Tash after crossing the border. With a language barrier and no electronic machine it was all very confusing and didn’t work. We eventually managed to add credit in Osh. 

Read up more about SIM cards for Tajikistan here, and Kyrgyzstan here.

KEEPING CHARGED

You may be able to charge your phone, camera batteries, etc. at your accommodation every night, usually from solar power, but it’s not guaranteed. Even in Murghab, power supplies are intermittent and limited to a few hours a day. A cigarette charger USB adapter is a handy thing to have for charging on the go if you have a private 4WD. If you’re planning on camping or heading off on overnight hikes then a solar charger is ideal, and a power bank always useful.

TIME ZONES

Something to be aware of – the entire Murghab district (essentially Bulunkul and everything to its east) runs on Kyrgyz time, which is 1 hour ahead of Tajik time. If you’re arranging departure times with your driver, fellow passengers, shared taxi drivers and so on, be sure to clarify if it’s Tajik or Kyrgyz time. 

A man is painting a window frame in the whitewashed wall of a house in Murghab in Eastern Tajikistan, one of the larger towns on the Pamir Highway

Murghab and the rest of the eastern Pamir run on Kyrgyz time, 1 hour ahead of Tajik time


A woman in striking red dress pushing a pram with a baby along a street in Murghab

Murghab and the rest of the eastern
Pamir run on Kyrgyz time, 1 hour
ahead of Tajik time


WHICH DIRECTION TO TRAVEL & HOW LONG ON THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

Ultimately, this decision may already be made for you based on your wider travel plans, time restrictions and so on. But if you’re in a position to choose, there’s a few points worth considering.

WHICH DIRECTION?

In our opinion, the main consideration when deciding whether to start your Pamir Highway journey in Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan is altitude. The altitude gain travelling eastwards from Dushanbe to Osh is much more gradual than travelling in the opposite direction. If you are already acclimatised (ie. you’ve spent time in the previous week at altitudes of around 4000m) then you are much less likely to suffer from altitude sickness when travelling in either direction. But if you are starting this journey having spent no time at altitude, you’re at a much higher risk of suffering from altitude sickness if you start in Osh.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness becomes a concern at altitudes of around 2500m and above. It can affect anyone and everyone, regardless of age, sex or physical fitness. Just because you’ve been unaffected at altitude in the past, does not mean you’ll be unaffected every time. On the other hand, if you have a history of suffering from altitude sickness, chances are you’ll be affected again (this is the case for Kim). The higher you go, the higher the risk. 

You should always ascend slowly; the general rule of thumb is that you should not sleep higher than 300-500m than the previous night. It’s OK to ascend more than 500m in a day, but it’s advisable not to sleep any higher than this. For example, you could go on a day hike or drive over a high pass with a 1000m ascent, but you should sleep at an altitude that is only 300-500m higher than the previous night. However, the usual routes and itineraries along the Pamir Highway are such that it’s not always possible to strictly stick to this. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to be aware of the advice.

With that in mind, all you have to do is look at the altitude gains involved over the first few days in each direction on the Pamir Highway to see that starting in Osh is more risky. 

Osh (963m) – Sary Mogul (3000m) or Tulpar Kul (3500m) – Karakul (3900m) via Ak-Baital Pass (4655m) – Murghab (3618m) 

VS

Dushanbe (706m) – Kalai Khum (1200m) – Khorog (2100m) – Langar (2909m)


Symptoms of altitude sickness (AMS) can include headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness, fatigue, problems sleeping and shortness of breath. At best it can seriously ruin your trip, and if left untreated it can progress to a life-threatening state of HAPE or HACE. Be sure to read up on altitude sickness before your Pamir Highway trip. Know the symptoms, how to prevent it, and the best way to treat it if it happens to you. Drink plenty of water (3-4 litres a day), have a supply of ibuprofen and paracetamol with you, and if you plan on taking acetazolamide (commonly referred to as diamox) either as a preventative measure or as treatment for AMS, know how to take this properly. 

HOW MANY DAYS?

Technically, you could drive the Pamir Highway between Osh and Dushanbe in 4 days, but why would you want to do that? Unless your sole purpose is to get from A to B, you should take as many days as possible to savour your journey through the Pamirs.

Firstly, your choice of transport will impact on how many days it takes to travel the length of the Pamir Highway. If you have your own vehicle, you have complete flexibility to choose your own schedule. If you are hitchhiking or travelling by shared taxi, then you’re largely at the mercy and timeframe of others. If you’re cycling, it could take a month or more. 

Assuming you’re travelling by vehicle between Dushanbe and Osh via the Wakhan, the absolute minimum you should allow is 7 days. But this schedule would involve a lot of driving and little time to actually get out and explore along the way. A better timeframe would be 9-10 days, allowing shorter drive days and more time to enjoy the destinations along the way. If you want to add in side trips like we did, get out on some day hikes, travel a less common route and/or spend more than one night in places, 14-16 days is more realistic.

A person with big backpack and tent walks on a narrow trail looking out to the Wakhan Valley below

A minimum of two weeks travelling the Pamir Highway will allow you
plenty of time for hikes and side trips along the way


A person with big backpack and tent stands on a narrow trail looking out to the Wakhan Valley below

A minimum of two weeks travelling the
Pamir Highway will allow you plenty of time
for hikes and side trips along the way


Of course, you could spend much longer in the region if you like, technically up to the limit of your visas (45 days for Tajikistan and 60 days for Kyrgyzstan for many nationalities). It’s also a good idea to factor in a spare day in case of sickness, breakdowns, travel disruption, etc. Our 15 day itinerary outlined in this post actually took us 16 days, including an unplanned day hanging around Murghab after Kim got sick from food.

WHAT TO PACK FOR THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

Your journey on the Pamir Highway will take you through remote, desolate landscapes, to altitudes of over 4600m, staying in small villages with limited supplies and certainly no internet. It definitely pays to be prepared. 

From clothing to specific gear, we’ve put together packing lists and recommendations to help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable Pamir adventure. Just expand the boxes below for the full checklists. 

CLOTHING

Even in summer temperatures can plummet at night in the high altitude Pamirs, and the persistent wind can really send a chill through your bones. You’ll definitely want to pack your thermals, layers and down jacket. General ‘outdoor gear’ is ideal, including a sturdy pair of shoes for hikes. Merino wool t-shirts are great for keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold, plus they won’t stink even after 2-3 days use.  Roads are often bumpy, so a sports bra is a good idea. The sun is extra harsh at altitude, so don’t forget a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. In general, it’s best to dress conservatively, covering your shoulders and knees just as the locals do.

T-Shirts x 2/3 (ideally merino wool as they are no-stink ) His/Hers

Fleece His/Hers

Down Jacket His/Hers

Shell Jacket His/Hers

Comfortable Trousers/Long Skirt x 2

Thermal Top His/Hers

Thermal Leggings His/Hers

Change of clothes for sleeping (remember you’ll likely be sharing with others at some point)

Socks x 2/3

Underwear x 2/3 & Sports Bra x 2

Hat

Scarf/Buff

Gloves

Hiking Shoes His/Hers

Sandals/Flip flops His/Hers


MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

From toiletries to tech gadgets, here’s a checklist of items you’ll find useful on the Pamir Highway. You may also want to pack your own sleeping bag for extra warmth, or if you don’t fancy sleeping under homestay blankets which rarely get washed.

Headtorch

Eye Mask & Earplugs

Travel Towel

Toiletries

Day Bag (for short hikes)

Water Bottle/Bladder

Scrubba & Suds
(portable washing machine)

Solar Panel

Power Bank

USB Car Adapter

Penknife

Toilet Paper

Wet Wipes

Suncream

Sunglasses


CAMPING & COOKING

If you want to cook for yourself or plan to camp along the Pamir Highway you’ll need to bring the appropriate equipment with you. Camping gas can be hard to source in Tajikistan, the best place to get it is at Green House Hostel in Dushanbe. In Kyrgyzstan try Osh Guesthouse in Osh, the CBT office, or outdoor shops and trekking agencies in Osh, Bishkek, Karakol, etc. You’ll want a warm 3 or 4 season sleeping bag, even in summer, and a quality tent to withstand the wind and cold. We use the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, but the MSR Hubba Hubba is also a good option.

STAYING SAFE & HEALTHY

A stocked first aid kit is a must as you won’t be able to pick up medicine, or such like, easily along the way. Antibacterial hand gel is also a must as soap and running water isn’t a given. We struggled to find this in Dushanbe, so best to bring it with you from home or elsewhere. As mentioned previously, a water treatment system is a better alternative to buying bottled water. If you are planning on heading off on hikes or into remote areas off the main tourist route, it’s worth seriously considering an emergency satellite GPS communication device. We have an InReach Explorer which is capable of two-way satellite messaging. 

Lastly, don’t forget travel insurance. Look for a policy which covers all the activities you may be doing (for example hiking above 3000m), has 24/7 emergency medical assistance and ideally search & rescue cover if you plan on heading off on hikes. Whether you’ve left your home country already or not, you can still get cover with World Nomads (available for residents of 140 countries) or True Traveller (UK and EEA residents). 

GET A TRAVEL INSURANCE QUOTE NOW



PAMIR HIGHWAY BUDGET

Your overall Pamir Highway budget will vary greatly depending on your mode of transport, and whether you’re sharing the cost with other travellers or not. Accommodation and food costs are fairly standard for any kind of traveller, unless of course you’re camping which is free. Below we’ve summarised costs for the most popular ways of travel and outlined our own costs in detail.

ACCOMMODATION

$15-20/day
Incl. Breakfast & Dinner

TRANSPORT
DUSHANBE ~ OSH

Hitchhiking: $50
(very variable)

Shared Taxi: $80-$100

4WD Set 7 Day Itinerary: $800-$900
(can share cost with up to 4 people)

4WD Pay By KM: $1000-$1400 + $15-$20 per day
(you set the route and number of days, can share cost with up to 4 people)

FOOD

$2-5/day
Covers Lunch & Snacks


WHAT IT COST US

We wanted to travel off the standard tourist route offered on set itineraries and spend around 15 days travelling the Pamir Highway. We planned to camp, do overnight hikes and not even drive anywhere some days. Therefore, the best option for us was to hire a 4WD and driver and pay by the kilometre, plus a daily rate for the driver to cover his accommodation and food. 

We agreed a rate of $0.65 per km plus $20 per day for our driver, travelling in a Toyota Landcruiser. Our total distance, as per this itinerary, came in at 2100 km ($1365) and we spent a total of 16 days travelling from Dushanbe to Osh ($320 paid to our drivers). In addition, we spent $326 on accommodation (12 nights paid, 3 nights free camping) and $71 on food, snacks and beer along the way ($20 of this was at Delhi Darbar in Khorog, and approx $25 on beer). Our Zorkul permits cost us $10 each.

OUR PAMIR HIGHWAY ROAD TRIP
DUSHANBE TO OSH
16 DAYS

TRANSPORT

$1685
Total

ACCOMMODATION

$326
Total 2 People

FOOD & DRINKS

$71
Total 2 People

FEES & PERMITS

$22
Total 2 People

TOTAL 2 PEOPLE

$2104 | $65.75 pp/day


GETTING THERE & AWAY

The M41, or Pamir Highway as it’s better known, is the second highest road in the world, linking the southwest of Kyrgyzstan and the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) of Tajikistan. The gateways at either end of the journey are Osh in Kyrgyzstan and Khorog or Dushanbe in Tajikistan. Some people fly direct to Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan specifically to travel the Pamir Highway, while others travel overland from neighbouring Central Asian countries as part of a longer trip. Here we’ll cover some practical details like permits, visas and international travel options. 

GETTING TO/FROM TAJIKISTAN

BY AIR

Dushanbe (DYU) is the main airport in Tajikistan. Airline options are limited. Your safest bet is flying with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, Fly Dubai via Dubai, or Air Astana via Almaty

BY LAND

Tajikistan shares a border with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan. Most people entering Tajikistan by land come from either Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. 

To/from Uzbekistan the usual border crossings are at the Samarkand/Panjakent border (ideal for trekking in the Fann Mountains before or after your Pamir Highway trip) or at the Oybek/Buston border (linking Tashkent and Khujand). 

To/from Kyrgyzstan the most common crossings are between Batken/Isfara (linking Osh and Khujand) or Bordobo/Kyzylart (linking Sary Tash and Murghab) on the Pamir Highway. Some people cross at both, completing a circular trip Dushanbe – Dushanbe or Osh – Osh.

The only border crossing between China and Tajikistan is the Qolma Pass, linking Murghab in the Eastern Pamir with Tashkurgan or Kashgar in Xinjiang Province. Read more about this crossing here

Between Tajikistan and Afghanistan the main border that foreigners cross is at Ishkashim, linking the Tajik Wakhan Valley and Afghan Wakhan Corridor. People usually use this border to make a trip into Afghanistan before returning to Tajikistan again.

Read more about Tajikistan border crossings here

GETTING TO/FROM KHOROG

Khorog is the capital of the GBAO, and a common starting or end point for people travelling the Pamir Highway. Most travel by land between Khorog and Dushanbe either by shared taxi on one long 12-16 hour journey, or by private transport, breaking the drive with a night in Khalai Khum. Shared taxis cost between 250-350 Somoni/$26-$37. Your accommodation in Dushanbe or Khorog can likely arrange a driver to come pick you up. Otherwise, check this post for details on where to take a shared taxi in Dushanbe, and this post for shared taxis from Khorog.

 It seems the Tajik Air flight that once connected Dushanbe and Khorog is no more. According to Caravanistan, a helicopter currently operates on Tuesday and Friday, costing $200 per person. Make email reservations through Pactec and be prepared for delays in departure.

Sunrise over the perfectly still mirrored surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

Many people combine a Pamir Highway road trip with trekking in the Fann Mountains, easily accessible via the border with Uzbekistan near Samarkand/Panjakent


Sunrise over the perfectly still mirrored surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

Many people combine a Pamir Highway road trip
with trekking in the Fann Mountains, easily
accessible via the border with Uzbekistan
near Samarkand/Panjakent


GETTING TO/FROM KRYGYZSTAN

BY AIR

The main airport to fly into in Kyrgyzstan is the capital, Bishkek (FRU). It is also possible to fly internationally to Osh with a limited number of airlines, or domestically from Bishkek with Air Manas/Pegasus. Your safest bet is flying with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul or Ulaan Baatar, Fly Dubai via Dubai, Aeroflot via Moscow, or Air Astana via Almaty

Given the relatively close proximity of Almaty, it’s worth comparing flight prices to there as well as Bishkek. Almaty airport is serviced by a few more international airlines such as Asiana (via Seoul) and Lufthansa (via Frankfurt). 

BY LAND

Kyrgyzstan shares a border with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China and Tajikistan. Most people entering Kyrgyzstan by land come from either Kazakhstan or Tajikistan. 

To travel to/from Kazakhstan the most common border crossing is at Kordai (linking Bishkek and Almaty).

As already described, to get to/from Tajikistan the most common crossings are between Batken/Isfara (linking Osh and Khujand) or Bordobo/Kyzylart (linking Sary Tash and Murghab) on the Pamir Highway. Some people cross at both, completing a circular trip Dushanbe – Dushanbe or Osh – Osh.

The main border crossing to/from China is at Irkeshtam (linking Sary Tash and Kashgar). 

To get to/from Uzbekistan the main border crossing is at Dostyk (linking Osh and Andijon). In summer there is also a train service between Bishkek and Tashkent, via Kazakhstan. 

Read more about Kyrgyzstan border crossings here.

GETTING TO/FROM OSH

Depending on your direction of travel, Osh will either be the start or end city on your Pamir Highway road trip. 

The most comfortable and time efficient way to travel between Osh and Bishkek is by air. It’s pretty cheap at around $40 and takes just 45 minutes. Air Manas/Pegasus make the direct flight daily. Note, they are on the list of airlines banned within the EU. 

 Travel by land is most commonly by shared taxi, taking around 10-12 hours. Prices vary depending on the season, as a flurry of migrant workers increase demand and prices from Osh in Spring and from Bishkek in Autumn. You can expect to pay anywhere between 1200 – 1800 Som / $17 – $25 for a seat. Your accommodation may be able to arrange a driver to pick you up, otherwise head to the new bus station  (40.5623, 72.7698) or corner of Masalieva and Navoi (40.5379, 72.8037). Early morning is best. 

Another option is to travel through the night on a cargo van. This post has more info. 

For onward travel from Osh to other destinations, check out Caravanistan.

VISAS & PERMITS

VISAS

Tajikistan

Passport holders of over 120 countries can obtain an eVisa online to visit Tajikistan. It costs $50 and allows you to travel for 45 days within a 90 day period. You can pay an extra $20 at the time of application to include a permit for the GBAO, which you will require for your Pamir Highway road trip. Check your eligibility here.

Kyrgyzstan

Passport holders of 69 countries can travel to Kyrgyzstan visa free for stays of up to 30, 60, or 90 days. Check your eligibility here

PERMITS

You’ll need a GBAO permit arranged in advance to travel the Pamir Highway. It’s easy to obtain at the same time as applying for your Tajikistan eVisa online. It costs $20. 

If you want to visit Zorkul, you’ll need a separate permit. This can be obtained at the PECTA office in Khorog, or in Murghab if coming from Kyrgyzstan. Ask at your accommodation to find the place, otherwise it is marked on Maps.me at a location opposite the Lenin statue (38.1694, 73.9672). We paid $10 per person for our Zorkul permits, arranged via our driver in advance of arriving in Khorog. We have heard that permit numbers are restricted, and some people are refused. You won’t get through the checkpoint at Khargush (near Langar in the Wakhan) without the permit, although there were no checkpoints between Zorkul and Murghab when we drove the route.

A separate permit is required if you want to visit Lake Sarez.  Technically you need a permit to visit the Tajik National Park area (a large area north of Bulunkul, encompassing Yashikul and various other lakes and mountains). This can be obtained easily at the PECTA office in Khorog and costs 15 Somoni/day.

Kokjigit Lake glowing golden at sunset, mountains rising behind

Make sure you organise a permit in advance if you want to visit Zorkul, or any of the other restricted areas


A tent is pitched on the shores of Zorkul Lake in Tajikistan at sunset, low mountains rising behind

Make sure you organise a permit in advance
if you want to visit Zorkul, or any
of the other restricted areas


USEFUL RESOURCES FOR THE PAMIR HIGHWAY

Whether it’s an old school paper map or an online forum, here’s a bunch of resources that are useful for planning your Pamir Highway trip.

MAPS

A great resource is Markus Hauser ‘The Pamirs’ 1:500 000 tourist map of the GBAO. Buy it on Amazon in advance, otherwise PECTA in Khorog usually has them in stock. This map is very useful and outlines hiking routes, obscure roads, and points of interest along the way. It also provides a lot of info on history, culture, geography, archaeology and so on.

Maps.Me (iOS/Android) is extremely useful for navigating on the go, even if you’re offline. Just be sure to download the relevant maps for the Pamir Highway in advance when connected to wifi (zoom in on the map until it prompts you). It has many hiking trails, off-road routes, accommodation and food options marked, plus loads of other info added by travellers. We use it all the time, and literally ended up navigating our way through Zorkul to Jarty Gumbez and beyond using Maps.me because our driver hadn’t been that way before. 

BOOKS

Lonely Planet’s Central Asia has useful info on language, history, culture and so on. We still always travel with one, combining the info from LP with that gathered from more personalised travel blogs. 

More general guide books to check out are Bradt’s Tajikistan Travel Guide and Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide.

If you’re keen to do some hiking in the Pamirs, a great resource is Jan Bakker and Christine Oriol’s book Trekking in Tajikistan: The Northern Ranges, Pamirs and Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. It covers various hikes in the Pamir, such as Peak Engels Meadow, plus hikes in the Fann Mountains and Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor.





ONLINE

Caravanistan has a wealth of info about all things Central Asia. They also have a popular forum covering all sorts of topics. 

Another popular online forum is the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum.  

The website design isn’t the most reader friendly, but the Pamirs.org site can be useful.

Trekking in the Pamirs is Jan Bakker’s website and is a good place to start when planning treks in the region. 

The shiny new PECTA website (Khorog based), and Visit Alay (Osh/Alay Valley based) are also useful.

*If you find any online resources (including this post!) that you might want to reference while on your Pamir Highway journey, make sure you save it for reading offline.*

THE ESSENTIAL PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE

We hope you have a wonderful time travelling the Pamir Highway. As always, just drop us a comment below if you have any questions or updates to share.

Happy Travels!

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*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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What an incredibly informative post! We are so keen to visit, have saved this for when we eventually do – thanks guys 🙂

All you need to know for your Pamir Highway adventure! Plan your journey through the spectacular Pamir mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgzstan on the ultimate high altitude road trip with this essential guide. Covers budget, accommodation, transport, food, routes, side trips & hikes, important info, what to pack & more. Online & offline maps also included. #CentralAsia #PamirHighway
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