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.
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.
If you’re looking for all the practical info like transport options, budget, accommodation, what to see and do along the way, and so on, head over to our complete Pamir Highway Travel Guide.
Read through our account day by day, or jump to a particular section by clicking on the links below
Day 1: Dushanbe – Kalai Khum
Day 2: Kalai Khum – Jizeu
Day 3: Jizeu – Khorog
Day 4: Khorog – Yamchun
Day 5: Yamchun – Zong – Langar
Day 6: Peak Engels Meadow Trek
Day 7: Langar – Zorkul
Day 8: Zorkul – Jarty Gumbez
Day 9: Jarty Gumbez
Day 10: Jarty Gumbez – Murghab
Day 11: Murghab – Pshart Valley
Day 12: Pshart Valley – Madian Valley – Murghab
Day 13: Murghab – Karakul
Day 14: Karakul – Tulparkul
Day 15: Tulparkul – Osh
Watch the behind the scenes version of our Pamir Highway road trip on our Instagram Stories Highlights
We’ve marked our complete Pamir Highway road trip route on this map, along with key sights, hikes, accommodation, etc. Tap the menu button at the top left for more info, to toggle sections on and off, and to switch between satellite and terrain view.
See the expandable info boxes below for tips on how to save this map and download offline versions for use on the road.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (ONLINE VERSION)
To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps. On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.
Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop. Note that this map is best viewed on desktop, using the ‘My Maps’ version instead of the mobile Google Maps version (which is less interactive).
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (OFFLINE VERSION)
To use an offline version of this map with all the same pins and routes marked, first download Maps.Me (iOS/Android), then download our 15 Day Pamir Highway Itinerary bookmarks, and select open with Maps.Me.
You can easily plan your route in Maps.me by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’. You can use Maps.me offline, which is ideal when you’re travelling through the Pamir.
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.