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I'm heading into Tajikistan on Friday (to Dushanbe). I aim to go around to Khorog and then via the Pamir highway to Kyrgyzstan. I'm unsure as to how long to allow for this part of the trip, or how to go about doing it. I assume I'll run into more information as I hit the country, but in the meantime I hoped someone on here would have more info.

I have applied for the required permit, and have a 30 day visa for both countries. However, I'm a bit behind schedule so would like to be quick, but don't want to rush it either.

Does anyone have some estimates on the minimum length of time required for a single traveler?

(I'm claiming this isn't ambiguous as I'm after the minimum, rather than some flaky 'how long does it take' - some could happily take 6 months to do it!)

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You get visa at Dushanbe airport if you are from certain countries .. In dushanbe you can hire transport for the whole travel .. or you can find cheap appartment in Dushanbe and apply for GBAO permission .. it will take one day, sometimes more .. then you can use public transport to get to Khorog ... from Khorog, you'd better hire car which will take you to Wakhan corridor, then to Murgab and Kyrgyzstan .. you can arrange some tours for you while travelling –  user2058 Mar 17 '12 at 7:53
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Hi Mark, having done this trip what would be your estimate for minimum time? (I saw from other questions that health problems meant the trip didn't go as planned, sorry to hear that, so I totally understand if you're reluctant to estimate) –  user568458 Feb 16 '13 at 21:38
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@user568458 wasn't health per-se, I just take a lot of medicine and it turned out it was hard to source in Tajikistan, had to go back from Khorog to Dushanbe to get it :) So I ended up with not enough time to do the whole Pamir - just up to Khorog, which was spectacular. That's 2 days, and I reckon 7-10 would be enough to do the whole thing, but that's just my reckoning and wouldn't allow for delays, sourcing new vehicles and all that. –  Mark Mayo Feb 17 '13 at 7:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've done the Pamir Highway in the summer of 2014. It's hard to answer the question how long it takes because it's not a road for getting from A to B but it's an experience in itself and you may want to spend as long as you can up there.

There are several points to think about before heading out:

Which route? do you want to take, there are several options from Khorog, you can go south along the Afghan border to the Wakhan valley and then turn north to join the M41. You can go north via the Bartang River or along the Shokh Dara valley. The most direct route is to leave Khorog on the M41 and stay on it all the way to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. I think all of them are worth taking, you could do the Southern loop and come back to Khorog and then do the M41.

Road along the Panj river, border with Afghanistan, photo by Peter Hahndorf

How to travel?, the easiest way is to hire a jeep with a driver. This will be expensive, if you can find other people to form a group, it may be affordable, I was originally planning to do this, but never found more than one other person to join me.

Using shared taxis (usually SUVs, but also old Opels) only gets you so far. You can get from Khorog to Ishkashim, or Murgab to Sary Tash, but you have to be very lucky to find them in the remote areas of the Pamirs, there are just not enough people travelling there.

You can try to hitch, usually all cars and mini-buses still charge you something. On the M41 between Khorog and Murgab there are a few trucks every hour going to China. I hitched with several of them and they never wanted money. But in the Wakhan valley and between Murgab and Kyrgyzstan there are no trucks and very few cars. I remember one morning waiting at the side of the road not seeing a car for four hours either way.

And finally you can cycle or walk. I started walking early in the morning and by 11 am when it got really hot I started hitching until I reached the next place with a homestay.

On the M41, photo by Peter Hahndorf

How often to stop? Besides Khorog only Murgab has one hotel. There are basic guest houses in Eshkashim and Jelandy, but otherwise it's all homestays and there are not so many villages on the way. The tourist office in Khorog has a list of homestays, but I never used it. Whenever I got to a village it was easy to find a family that would take me in. There are many places to stop and do side trips on the way. Lots of hiking opportunities.

towwards Kyrgyzstan, photo by Peter Hahndorf

I spent 17 days in the Pamir region, not long enough. If you have a hired jeep you can make it in two or three days from Khorog to Osh, but then you wouldn't stop much.

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+1 Great answer! Just out of curiosity, how expensive is “expensive”, roughly speaking? –  Relaxed Jun 1 at 18:02
    
@Relaxed - I'm not sure, they only time I paid for transport was a shared SUV from Murgab to Sary Tash, six passengers, we paid 20 USD each. The ride was about seven hours. –  Peter Hahndorf Jun 1 at 18:12
    
Great answer, I had to turn back at Khorog, unfortunately, for medical supplies and then my travel window closed after that, but I dream of returning, I loved Tajikistan. –  Mark Mayo Jun 1 at 23:26
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@MarkMayo - Considering the accepted answer doesn't answer the question and says you can't do the highway by yourself , I had to write something. This was a fantastic trip and you should go back –  Peter Hahndorf Jun 2 at 0:05
    
Wow. Where's the picture with two trucks from? –  sharptooth Jun 2 at 11:22

Pamir highway is more than 700 kilometers long, and contains some mountain crosses over 4000 meters AMSL. This trip will be very difficult for you, and I wish you good luck with that.
According this article, you should know this:

  • There are not many service points at the Pamir highway
  • After the USSR was down, neither Tajikistan nor Kyrgyzstan have money to spend on quality on the Highway, so in some places road is in awful condition.
  • You'll need some paper for the visiting the Afganistan-near places of this Highway. Unfortunately, I can't provide any info about this, but I think you could get this info locally.
  • There are some companies providing a trip for this Highway, and you should use their tours - I think you can't get through this Highway at your own.
  • You can search for the mountaineering commands for the support - they frequently are at the Highwway because of two mountains they want to visit: Ismoil Somoni Peak and Lenin Peak

Thats all I know, sogood luck with that :)

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Thanks VMAtm, in a dodgy net cafe at present so will have to look at the links etc when I reach Dushanbe, but re thje paper, I've got the permit for that, thanks, it's US$10 from any Tajik embassy, so not too bad. –  Mark Mayo Jul 8 '11 at 14:15
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And hopefully I can find a few others to join me on a tour, that would be perfect, less stress about driving that way ;) –  Mark Mayo Jul 8 '11 at 14:16

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