PAMIR HIGHWAY ROAD TRIP
AN ALTERNATIVE 15 DAY ITINERARY
When you hear the words Pamir Highway, what do they mean to you? What picture enters your mind at the mention of them? Is it one of epic mountain ranges, nomadic yurts, long dusty roads and high plateaus? Or one of fertile river valleys, fruit trees, hot springs and ancient forts? Whichever it is, the lands along the Pamir Highway have it all – and then some.
This mountainous land of over 100,000 km² and 230,000 people offers a fascinating mix for the intrepid traveller. Stretching through much of Tajikistan and parts of Kyrgyzstan, the Pamirs are far from a homogenous whole. There is a keenly felt dividing line between the deep river valleys of the west and the high plateaus of the east, but as you travel from one region to the other, each has its own attraction. Although not often pretty, the lands along the Pamir Highway are starkly beautiful. And while not always an easy place to travel, it is a rewarding one.
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How to travel the Pamirs?
There are many different ways to travel the Pamir Highway, but while everyone has their own opinion, there’s no one correct way. Each offers a quite distinct experience and has its own unique challenges. Many brave the rocky roads on motorbikes. More hardy souls cycle or walk. Some drive their kitted out Land Rovers. Plenty take their chances hitch hiking, while others squeeze into shared taxis or join a pre-planned group tour.
We chose to hire our own driver and 4WD, setting out on a rough 15 day itinerary and paying by the kilometre. It’s not the cheapest way to do it by any means, but it does give you the most flexibility. Having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to choose your own itinerary, stop whenever you want and set your own pace.
While researching our own trip we found that most Pamir Highway road trip itineraries follow a standard 7-10 day route: Khorog to Osh or vice versa, via the Wakhan, Bulunkul, Murghab, Karakul and Sary Mogul. We also found that most accounts seemed to conclude that this pace was far too rushed. We were planning a trip to one of the most spectacular regions of the world on a once in a lifetime journey. The last thing we wanted to do was rush it. We wanted to savour our time in the Pamirs, breaking up our journey with hikes, wild camping and rest days.
We settled on a 15 day itinerary including Jizeu, Peak Engels Meadow, Zorkul Lake, Jarty Gumbez, Tulparkul and more. What follows is an account of our journey: the things we saw, the people we met and our experiences along the way. We’ve also included useful information about the places we stayed, prices, distances and travel times.