Here’s everything you need to know about a Pamir Highway tour! The Pamir Highway is a remarkable road, that stretches the M41 from Kyrgyzstan into Uzbekistan; passing through mountainous Tajikistan. A trip to the Pamir Highway is one of the most exciting parts of a wider journey in Central Asia. If you’re a sucker for magnificent scenery and off the beaten path destinations, then adventuring along this remote road is totally for you. In this post, find the perfect 5-day Pamir Highway route, how to find a cheap tour, prices & more.
Table of Contents
- 1 Obtaining a visa for Tajikistan
- 2 How to find a cheap Pamir Highway, Tajikistan tour
- 3 What the Pamir Highway tour includes/ excludes
- 4 Other transport for the Pamir Highway
- 5 The ultimate Pamir Highway route from Osh to Dushanbe
- 6 Day 1 of a Pamir Highway tour: Osh to Kara-kul
- 7 Day 2 of a Pamir Highway tour: Kara-Kul to Murghab
- 8 Day 3 of a Pamir Highway tour: Murghab to Langar
- 9 Day 4 of a Pamir Highway tour: Langar to Ishkoshim
- 10 Day 5 of a Pamir Highway tour: Ishkoshim to Khorog
- 11 Day 6 & 7 of the Pamir Highway route: Khorog to Dushanbe
Obtaining a visa for Tajikistan
Most nationalities need a visa to enter Tajikistan, and a GBAO permit to enter the Wakhan Valley region. It is easy to obtain a visa online. The e-visa costs $50 and can be obtained from the Tajikistan Government website. To get the GBAO permit, you apply on the same application for an extra fee of $20.
How to find a cheap Pamir Highway, Tajikistan tour
Finding a tour at a reasonable price was rather difficult to do. Not to mention the effort put into finding a group of people to share the experience with and keep the costs down. Of course, you can do the tour by yourself, but you will be paying for the full cost of the car and you may feel lonely during the evenings when no-one is around. To find people to join the tour with you, we recommend writing on the forums on Caravanistan. This is how we managed to pull together 4 other people to join us on our Pamir Highway adventure.
To find the tour, ASK AROUND! Source prices on Caravanistan, and through hostels and hotels in Osh or Dushanbe. Out of all the tours and prices we found, the cheapest was booked through Aigul, the owner of Apple hostel in Osh. You can contact her on +996553280881 for more information. She is very helpful and will help you find a tour to suit your needs. If you don’t have a Kyrgyz sim, don’t worry, she is responsive on Whatsapp too!
What the Pamir Highway tour includes/ excludes
The cost of the Pamir Highway tour includes the driver, car and petrol. Our tour was all-inclusive of taxes, but make sure to check before booking.
The tour doesn’t include accommodation and food. Prices for homestays are around $15 per night and include breakfast and dinner. If you are not a fan of the food in Central Asia, we recommend you stock up on noodles and pasta before you leave Osh or Dushanbe. You will be able to ask for hot water at the guesthouses to cook for yourself. If you choose to cook yourself, you will be able to negotiate the cost of the stay for less.
To cut costs further, consider camping. If you have camping gear you can ask to pitch your tent for a small fee in the garden of the guesthouses. We had recently purchased a tent at the start of our trip to Bishkek, so we asked If we could put it up, and just use the bathroom facilities and the hot water. The cost of pitching a tent varies. Sometimes, guesthouses would allow us to pitch for FREE, other times we paid a small fee of $2-$5.
If you’re looking for the best 2 person tents to purchase before you leave, make sure to check out this super detailed tent comparison post.
Other transport for the Pamir Highway
Public transport is little and far between, but it’s still possible to travel the Pamir Highway with a lot of patience! By flagging down shared taxis you will be able to travel the route eventually. If you are on a very low-budget this is something you may want to consider. However, we recommend avoiding this option as you won’t be able to ask your driver to STOP for some photographs. And believe us, YOU WILL WANT TO! After all, why would you come to the Pamir Highway and not have the chance to admire it properly?
Hitchhiking is common across Central Asia (even the locals do it), so you should be able to hitch a ride easy enough. However, you will still be expected to pay for the journey, just as the locals do. The prices of trips vary, and it all depends on what you agree with the driver. Make sure to agree on a price beforehand to avoid any confusion.
Cycling the Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway is a cyclist’s paradise. We passed a few travellers cycling the route. Some anticipated the journey to take 3 weeks, and others for 5 weeks. However, it’s not an easy road to cycle, so make sure you are well prepared and don’t attempt it unless you are an experienced cyclist. Check out this great account of someone who has cycled the Pamir Highway.
The ultimate Pamir Highway route from Osh to Dushanbe
Most tours to this area start in Osh, Kyrgyzstan or Dushanbe, Tajikistan. If you choose to start your tour in Osh, you must be warned of the sudden high-altitude increase. On the first day, you may summit to 4,600 meters; this can cause headaches and dizziness. Starting in Dushanbe, the climb is gradual, and you are less likely to feel the altitude effects. You can also include the Wakhan valley corridor in the trip as well; the most popular thing to do! After all, why would you want to miss out on the chance to see the amazing scenery and peek into Afghanistan, which lies less than 200 meters across the river?
Day 1 of a Pamir Highway tour: Osh to Kara-kul
Meeting our driver for the Parmir Highway tour
Day one of our tour began with our friendly driver, Beka, picking our group of 6 up from Apple Hostel in Osh at 8 am. We loaded the car with our backpacks, water and food to last a few days. As we pulled away, we were all a little dancey with the excitement of our trip ahead. As we left the city of Osh the scenery started to change; rolling green hills started to appear, cattle filled the roads and nomadic yurts started to pop up everywhere. We made a quick stop off at a local yurt camp, where we watched some women milking the horses. They then eagerly waved it in our faces, gesturing for us to give it a try. Expecting the milk (kumis) to be thick and have a musky taste similar to everything else in Central Asia, we were a little reluctant, but tried it anyway. It was alright!
Driving towards Sary-Tash
Afterwards, we jumped back into the car and headed towards Sary-Tash to grab some lunch. 40 minutes later we were back on the road pushing along to the border crossing, but not before stopping to take some stunning snaps of the snow-capped Peak-Lenin. We were expecting the border crossing to be a pain in the ass process, but it took no more than 40 minutes. The border guards, whilst scary with their huge guns on the outside, were smiley and friendly and tried their best to chat with us about England.
Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan border crossing
After stamping out of Kyrgyzstan, we lingered in No Man’s Land for a further 20 km, surrounded by wild marmots roaming the plains. Driving along the bumpy dusty road, we hung our hands out of the window and felt snowflakes lightly brush against our hands. The higher we tugged up the mountains the colder it got, and the more snow started to fall. Finally, we had made it to the Tajikistan border crossing. The process took around 30 minutes to stamp into Tajikistan and be on our way to our homestay in Kara-kul.
A cold night in Kara-Kul
We had originally planned to camp out for our first night in Tajikistan, but it was far too cold. So, we opted to stay inside the homestay with our fellow travellers. The lake in the small dust town is mystical with the crystal blue colour sparkling under the evening’s sunset. Watching the sun go down over the lake was a great end to our first day, despite feeling sick and dizzy from the altitude change, which is just one of the life-changing challenges of the Pamir Mountains.
Where we stayed in Karak-Kul
Place: Mexmohxoha Homestay
Price: $15 for bed and food, or $9 just for the bed.
What’s included: Bed, breakfast and dinner. Dinner consisted of pasta soup with bread, and potatoes with veggies. Perfect for non-meat eaters! The toilet is also a western-style toilet but is located outside of the bedroom area.
Would we recommend: YES! The homestay is very clean, and the owners are friendly and welcoming.
Day 2 of a Pamir Highway tour: Kara-Kul to Murghab
We woke up early in the morning ready to continue our journey from Kara-kul. Before leaving we visited the village shop for some bread and took a stroll around the small town of 600 people. We passed between the small houses whilst high-fiving every kid that crossed our paths and tried to ask them a few questions in English.
The road to Murghab
We left for Murghab around 10 am. Along the way, we passed more spectacular scenery and snow-capped mountains. In some parts, there was even snow on the ground. We stopped many times for photo opp after photo opp. After driving for around 6 hours, we finally reached Murghab and got a bite to eat at a nearby café. Afterwards, we headed to our guesthouse and pitched up the tent for the evening. We debated staying in the Yurt in the garden but turned out the guesthouse was hosting a dinner that evening inside the yurt, so it was not available to sleep in.
Searching for wifi
After being without a wifi connection for a full day, we all started to get withdrawal symptoms, so we went to the nearby market, in search of a Tajiki sim with data. The market itself was cool to walk around. All the stalls are set up in ship containers; such a strange but genius way to set up a market! As for the sim card, we could buy a sim with some data from Megafone, but it wasn’t much good anyway. The data was slow and most of the time non-existent.
First-night camping in Tajikistan
Later that evening, we tucked into our sleeping bags, and almost froze to death on our first night in our newly bought, camouflage tent.
Where we stayed in Murghab
Place: Filura Guesthouse
Price: $15 or FREE for a tent without food.
What’s included: Bed, breakfast and dinner. The toilet is also a western-style toilet but is located outside of the bedroom area.
Would we recommend: YES! The homestay is very clean, and our fellow travellers said the food was the best they had in long while. The hosts are also very kind and friendly.
Day 3 of a Pamir Highway tour: Murghab to Langar
As the crisp cold air seeped through our tent, we were more than happy to wake up and get moving. We ate breakfast (bread with Nutella and honey), and then were soon on our way towards the Afghan border. The roads along the way are windy and extremely narrow. It was quite scary looking down at the never-ending drop. Along the way, there are plenty of mind-blowing scenic spots. We came across the clearest blue water lakes we have ever seen, snow-capped mountains, and a fascinating lake filled with red shrimp.
Entering the Wakhan Valley
The journey from Murgab to Langar was another long tiresome day. Due to the bumpy conditions of the roads, the journey took around 9 hours (although, we did stop a million times). It’s on this length of the journey we needed our GBAO permit to enter the Wakhan valley region.
Beers to end the day
After a long day of driving, we finally arrived at our homestay for the night. We quickly sprung our tent up and headed into the village, passing vegetable fields and locals frantically waving away at us. We strolled around the village just before sunset and headed to the local shop to pick up a couple of local beers. It was a great end to another magnificent day of driving along one of the world’s scariest roads and admiring the out of this world mountain ranges.
Where we stayed in Langar
Place: Nigina Guesthouse
Price: $15 or $5 to pitch the tent.
What’s included: Bed, breakfast and dinner. The toilet is also a western-style toilet but is located outside of the bedroom area. There is also a shower, but it’s nothing more than a drizzle.
Would we recommend: NO! The homestay is clean, but our group said that the food was awful and that the beds were very uncomfortable. In the morning when we paid for our stay, the woman refused to give us our change. Instead, she tried to justify it by changing the exchange rate to double that of the dollar.
Day 4 of a Pamir Highway tour: Langar to Ishkoshim
Relaxing at the hot springs
We woke up in the morning and quickly packed away our tent, ready to make the short journey to Ishkoshim. After just 2 hours of driving, passing similar landscapes as the previous day, we reached Yumchum fort, which boasts great views overlooking the river that separates Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Just 1 km up the road from the fort are a set of hot springs; which we were so ready for, having not had any shower facilities for the past few days. Hot springs are one of our favourite things to do, no matter where we are in the world, whether that be in sunny England or vibrant Taiwan.
The hot springs are separated between women and men, so we parted ways for some quiet time away from each other. The hot springs were small but did the job of getting us clean and feeling fresh. The cost to enter the hot-spring was just 10 Somani ($1.03) each.
A night in Ishkoshim
After an hour or so at the hot springs, we hopped back into our 4×4 jeep and continued to Ishkoshim. We were pleasantly surprised at Ishkoshim and the cleanliness of the streets. Whilst it’s a small town, it was nice to walk around and get a feel for the local village life. Today, was also the first day of the world cup, so we all desperately wanted to find a TV to watch the opening game. Turns out many people in the town don’t own a TV, but we got lucky as we met the only guy in town who owns a projector. He invited us to his back garden to watch it there. It was cool watching the opening game of the world cup on the border of Afghanistan with a bunch of Tajiki guys; some of whom were soldiers and doctors.
Where we stayed in Ishkoshim
Place: Hannis Guesthouse
Price: $15 or $2 to pitch the tent.
What’s included: Bed, breakfast and dinner. As we chose not to eat meat on this trip (partly because we have no idea what we would be eating) we ordered our food without meat, which the owners gladly obliged. Dinner cost us $2 each.
Would we recommend: YES! It’s a lively place and most travellers end up here. It’s a great place to share travel stories. We were lucky enough to be here during the end of the Ramadan celebrations, where the guesthouse hosted an evening of celebrations, attended by what seemed to be the entire town of Ishkoshim.
Day 5 of a Pamir Highway tour: Ishkoshim to Khorog
Goodbye’s to our super 6 & driver
This day was the last day of our tour with our driver, Beka. It was sad knowing that the little group that we had grown close to over the last few days were ready to part ways and galivant in other parts of the world. For us, we would explore the ancient cities of Uzbekistan. Today was another short drive to Khorog. We had arrived in less than 3 hours. The scenery, whilst spectacular, was pretty much the same as the previous days. En route, we made another stop off at another hot-springs, but Katie decided to pass up on the opportunity of another day of hot springs. Instead, she sat in a small nearby café munching on French fries and sipping green tea.
Time for some good food
Before we knew it, our Pamir Highway tour had come to an end. For the last time, we set up our tent for the night in a hostel’s back garden. That evening we went in search of some good food. After living on noodles for the past week, our bellies were rumbling away for some fatty fast food. We managed to find a KFC; not a real KFC but Khorog’s local knock-off version. The chicken and pizza were pretty good and certainly satisfied our taste buds. It was a great end to our much-anticipated Pamir Highway tour.
Where we stayed in Khorog
Place: Like Home Guesthouse
Price: $15 or $5 for a tent.
What’s included: Bed and breakfast.
Would we recommend: YES! The homestay is very clean and newly built. There are two showers and two toilets. The owner is friendly and speaks good English. There is wifi available too.
Day 6 & 7 of the Pamir Highway route: Khorog to Dushanbe
The next morning, we decided to stay in Khorog for another night. And there was great news for all of us…our super 6 wanted to stick together and head towards Dushanbe. As our chartered tour had already ended, and the price of a chartered tour from Osh to Dushanbe was almost double the cost of Osh to Khorog, we opted to go in search of a private taxi. As we didn’t want to sit cramped up for over 14 hours from Khorog to Dushanbe, we chose to break up the 14 hours journey with one last stopover in Qalai Khumb. The total cost of a shared taxi based on 6 people was 1,800 Somani ($186) and included the night stop in Qalai Khumb.
Where to stay in Qalai Khumb and Dushanbe
Qalai Khumb: Jurev Roma – A nice family-run property that overlooks the river. $15 for bed, breakfast and dinner.
Dushanbe: Doshan hotel – There is a range of rooms to choose from. Prices vary depending on the room. The cheapest dorm bed is $5, and the private rooms range from $17-$25. The property is very new and clean. Breakfast is included in the price.
For more prices and deals on properties in Dushanbe, CLICK HERE.
Planning to head into Uzbekistan from Dushanbe? Read about the border crossing from Dushanbe to Samarkand, with a stop at the stunning Iskanderkul Lake.
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