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Pamir Highway Guide

Updated May 2020, The Ultimate Guide To The Pamir Highway was originally published in January 2017

As we made the colorful twists and turns down out of Shurabad Pass with my first glimpses across the River Panj into Afghanistan, I knew this surely wouldn’t be my last adventure along the famed Pamir Highway. What was historically an important route along the Silk Road was turned highway by the Soviets between 1931 and 1934 as a means to transport troops and provisions rather than the yaks, silk, and horses of the past.

Looking to do the ultimate road trip? Look no further than the Pamir Highway, or the M41 as the Soviets had named it.

So what gives me the gall to write about it? I’ve now done the full route between Dushanbe and Osh twice. Some legs of the Pamir Highway I’ve done several times.

In 2016, I did a pretty typical Pamir Highway and Wakhan Valley trip. 2017 brought me to comb through the Bartang Valley and get in a bunch of hikes in the Central Pamir.

In June 2018 I spent a chunk of time exploring some off the wall and extremely remote locations in the Eastern Pamir- Shaimak, Toktomush, and Sary Goram. 2019 is brought me to explore the Karategin (Rasht Valley) among other places. I have done the route by private 4×4 hire, shared taxi, and hitchhiking, the only area I don’t have any expertise in is cycling it.

This guide will focus on the true Pamir Highway Route. I have written extensively on a couple of variations to the M41 including the Bartang Valley & Highway, and the Wakhan Valley in separate posts.

There’s not really an official beginning or end of the Pamir Highway. So, unofficially I will say that it extends from Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, transits a brief stint of southeastern Uzbekistan, and traverses Tajikistan to end in Osh Kyrgyzstan.

For most of you, your M41 adventure will extend between Dushanbe and Osh, with most time spent between Khorog and Osh. There are several variations of the Pamir Highway journey that can be done (the true M41 passes through the Gunt Valley), such as the Wakhan ValleyBartang Valley, or Shokhdara Valley.

Wanna go to Tajikistan? Start here- The Tajikistan Travel Guide
Grab a copy of the Bradt Tajikistan guidebook to kickstart your travel planning

PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Money Matters
Dushanbe to Osh or Osh to Dushanbe?
How to get a Tajik Visa
How to get a GBAO Permit
Other Permits
How to Travel the Pamir Highway
Dushanbe to Qala i Khumb
Qala i Khumb to Khorog
Khorog to Murghab
Murghab to Osh
Time Zones
Pamir Highway Budget
Tours & Guides
Packing List
Pamir Highway Safety

Money Matters

In this article, you’ll find prices quoted in Tajik Somoni, Kyrgyz Som, and US Dollars. Currently (December 2020) the exchange rates are:

$1 USD = 11.33 TJS
$1 USD = 84.80 KGS

Note that the US Dollar is widely accepted, especially in Tajikistan. Some drivers and accommodations will actually prefer dollars over Somoni.

As of 2019, getting Somoni out of ATMs in major towns and cities isn’t much of an issue (it used to be that Tajik ATMs were out of money at least 90% of the time). I would advise carrying some USD in with you just in case. In Kyrgyzstan, ATMs are widespread in cities and towns, and many dispense USD in addition to KGS.

Note: There are NO ATMs along the M41 between Khorog and Osh as far as I am aware

ATMs can be found in Osh, Khorog, Qalaikhumb, and Dushanbe.

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Dushanbe to Osh or Osh to Dushanbe?

Ultimately this is pretty much just up to where you want to start and end. Many people find flying into Bishkek or Osh from their home country to be much cheaper (for me the prices to Dushanbe are always nearly the same) and will start from Osh.

Others will start from Osh and make a clockwise road trip through Tajikistan (first heading into northwest Tajikistan visiting Khujand, the Fann Mountains, and finally onto Dushanbe and will come back to Osh via the Pamir Highway), while others will take this approach in a counter-clockwise direction. It’s completely up to you.

Before my first trip, I had read on a blog (the only one I could find on the Pamir Highway) that you should opt to go Osh to Dushanbe because the views are better, but I’m here to say that the views are equally stunning both directions.. not to mention: you can, in fact, turn around and catch the view that you are driving away from. I know, crazy concept! 

Price-wise costs will likely be nearly the same, so decide what route works best for your travel plans and go with it!

Tajik Visa

Most visitors will need a visa to enter Tajikistan, good news is: most nationalities are eligible for an E-Visa which is super simple, you can apply online here.

Note: The E-Visa is only meant for single entry for a length of 45 days. If you plan to go into Afghanistan (or any other neighboring countries) and return, technically you’re supposed to apply for a double-entry visa which means you do need to apply at an embassy. The visa can easily be acquired at embassies in BishkekAlmatyTashkent, and more.

I didn’t have enough time to apply for a double-entry visa before leaving home, so I applied for an e-visa prior to arriving and then applied for a second e-visa after I got my visa for Afghanistan- I later found out from a host that you’re not technically allowed to have out two e-visas with dates that overlap. I had zero problems crossing back into Tajikistan with the second e-visa. Just because I had no problems doing it doesn’t mean anyone else will have no issues or that it won’t change in the future- just an FYI.

The E-Visa will set most people back $50 USD, applying in an embassy, prices can range somewhat.

If you’re planning to apply for visas on the road check out Caravanistan’s embassy reports.

GBAO Permit

If you want to take a trip down the Pamir Highway you will need a GBAO Permit. This will cost you $20 additionally when applying for an e-visa. If applying at the embassy it should cost somewhere around the same amount.

Tajik National Park Permit, Tajik National Park, Tajikistan
Tajik National Park Permit

Other Permits

Other permits for travel in the Pamirs (however are not necessary if you don’t plan to visit these places) are the Tajik National Park Permit and the Zorkul Permit. These are only necessary if you plan to visit areas in the Tajik National Park or if you plan to go off the Pamir Highway to visit Zorkul. Both can be applied for at the PECTA office inside the Central Park in Khorog.

The only other permit would be the Lake Sarez Permit, the only way I am aware of obtaining the permit is through Sarez Travel or Bartang & Sarez Tours. The permit costs $25 USD per day.

How To Travel The Pamir Highway

You have a few options here. You can opt to hire a private 4×4, go via shared taxi, organized tour, cycle, hitchhiking… In this guide I will only be covering the true Pamir Highway route, meaning it won’t include the Wakhan, Shokhdara, or Bartang Valleys. Those are included in separate travel guides.

Note that it is easy enough to camp along the Pamir Highway if you are, say, cycling or hitchhiking. Just take normal precautions and ask permission if it looks like you’re on someone’s private land.

Temperatures can get downright cold at night even in the summer, so be prepared. Otherwise, plan to stay in the homestays scattered along the Pamir Highway.

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4×4 Hire

Probably the best option for taking in the scenery if you don’t plan to stray too far away from the main road/routes if at all, although this is the most expensive way to do it aside from an organized tour.

The going rate for a 4×4 hire (Landcruiser or Pajero) with a driver I’ve seen anywhere between 0.65¢ to 0.90¢ USD per kilometer on offer. The length of the M41 between Osh and Dushanbe is roughly 1,335 kilometers, so the full trip will likely cost around $1,000 USD plus about $20/day for the driver’s accommodations- more if you plan on taking side trips.

If you can wrangle together a group of 4-6 travelers this can cut costs dramatically. The best places to look for other travelers is via the forum on Caravanistan or putting a notice on the board at the PECTA office (if planning to hire from Khorog to Osh) when you arrive in Khorog.

Shared Taxi

If you thought there was public transport along the Pamir Highway you are sorrily mistaken. The closest things to it are shared taxis and marshrutkas.

A shared taxi is quite literally just about anyone with a vehicle sitting in the shared taxi lot headed for _____. They leave when full. Marshrutkas are usually shitty Chinese minibusses with next to no suspension that depart when full (meaning 7 people, sometimes more if a family of 8 decides to jump in while 6 of you are waiting for the last passenger to leave).

The most common routes are Dushanbe to Khorog, Khorog to Murghab, and Murghab to Osh (or vice-versa). Prices (roughly) are as follows:

  • Dushanbe-Khorog: $34-39/300-350 TJS
  • Khorog-Murghab: $14-20/120-180 TJS
  • Khorog-Rushan: $14/120 TJS
  • Khorog-Shazud $2.30-5.70/20-50 TJS. (Shazud to Bachor via taxi/4×4 $11-17/100-150 TJS)
  • Murghab-Osh: $20-25/200-250 TJS
Bartang Highway, Bartang Valley, Bartang, Pamir, Pamir Mountains, Pamirs, Tajikistan, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan, Badakhshon

In my experience with shared taxis and marshrutka I’ve never had to haggle for the price as drivers had given an honest price when I asked the cost, but I did know the relative costs beforehand (asked local friends), and I speak enough Russian/Tajik to argue. If the price they give is higher than the usual range, haggle.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is relatively easy along the Pamir Highway although plan to pay something and be prepared for possible long wait times. It isn’t impossible to do it for free but most drivers do expect a few Somoni.

It’s a good idea to pack a tent, some food, and cold weather gear in case you don’t manage to find a ride and need to camp somewhere and wait until morning. I always give a few Somoni when hitchhiking even if I’m not asked for payment.

You can sometimes hitch on Chinese trucks from Khorog to Murghab from Tank, just 22 kilometers east of Khorog. The trucks aren’t allowed to transit the city during the daytime and they do expect payment. From Murghab to Khorog these Chinese trucks will stop overnight 2km northeast of Murghab and depart around noon, (expect to pay 30-40 TJS on these two routes).

Hitchhiking tends to get a bit more difficult when you stray off the M41 such as parts of the Wakhan Valley, Shokhdara Valley, and Bartang Valley can get a bit testing at times waiting for a ride (I’d say the Bartang and Shokhdara more so). Hitching the Khargush Pass between Langar and Bulunkul is notoriously difficult, though not impossible

Organized Tour

There are several companies that offer organized Pamir Highway Tours. Kalpak TravelPamir Horse AdventurePamir Highway AdventureSarez Travel, among many others can arrange tours. Most organized tours I’ve seen advertised come in between $1,200 and $4,000 USD per person, of course depending on the length of tour and levels of accommodations in cities.

Self Drive

Whether your driving in your own car or motorbike from Europe or East Asia as part of a greater Silk Road adventure, plan to rent in Kyrgyzstan or buy a vehicle once you’re in the region. I’ve never self drove the Pamir Highway, but have read in the past that renting or even buying a vehicle is easier from Kyrgyzstan than Tajikistan (I can’t say how true this is from personal experience though!)

Renting a Pajero or Landcruiser, I was told by people I met in Khorog cost them $120 per day for the rental from Osh. If you’re looking into buying a vehicle over there Caravanistan and its forums would be a good place to start your research.

Cycling

This is a bucketlister for many cyclists. The majority of other travelers I’ve met in Tajikistan have been cyclists. I do not have any expertise in this as I have never personally cycled the M41, so I’ll turn you over to some blogs that do! Good blogs to visit are We Love MountainsBlanca on a Bike, and Traveling Two.

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Khafrazdara Lake, in the Pamirs but not on the highway

Looking For A Little More Information On The Pamirs?

Check out these guides:

Tajik Wakhan Valley Travel Guide

Solo Female Travel In Tajikistan

Dushanbe City Guide

Bartang Valley & Highway Guide

Jizeu Trek: The Pamirs Best Overnight Hiking Trip

How To Get To Lake Sarez

How To Get To Khafrazdara Valley & Grum Grijmailo Glacier

Rasht Valley Travel Guide

How To Cross The Qolma Pass Between Tajikistan & China

10 Reasons To Visit The Pamirs

THE ULTIMATE PAMIR HIGHWAY GUIDE

Dushanbe to Qala i Khumb

There are two routes to get you between Dushanbe and Khorog- the Northern or the Southern Route. So which should you choose, the Southern Route or Northern Route? Well, that’s entirely up to you.

The Northern Route stays on the true M41 the entire way from Dushanbe to Khorog, whereas the Southern Route strays off of it and rejoins it in Qala i Kumb. The northern route is shorter but notoriously more difficult.

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Rudaki Park, Dushanbe

Dushanbe

Ahh, civilization and the bustling capital of Tajikistan. It’s fairly Soviet-esque but still uniquely Tajik. 

Dushanbe has a number of accommodations from expensive Soviet-era hotels, hostels to homestays. My go-to any time in Dushanbe is Hello Hostel. It’s in a quiet neighborhood a few blocks from Rudaki (the main road), and the staff is amazing.

I have also heard great things from friends and other travelers about Greenhouse Hostel and Yellow Hostel, all of which are located in the same neighborhood.

Don’t know what to do in Dushanbe? Check out the Dushanbe City Guide

Where To Stay In Dushanbe

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Mevlana Yakub Charki Mosque in Dushanbe

Check out my post for the best restaurants in Dushanbe

Where To Get Shared Taxis To The Pamir Highway From Dushanbe

Head to the Badakshanskaya Avtostansiya at 149 M. Nazarshoev, just behind the Hilton (formerly Sheraton) Hotel. Walk through the gates and continue walking, people will likely ask where you are wanting to go and point you to where the Khorog bound taxis wait.

Most shared taxis will depart Dushanbe for Khorog (or Qala i Khumb) early morning between 5 am and 8 am. Few will depart on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so you may have to wait a bit until yours fills up.

There is a small chaikhana here to grab breakfast at right next to the taxis as you wait.

Expect a shared taxi to take anywhere from 14 to 20 hours between Dushanbe and Khorog at a cost of 300-350 TJS.

Southern Route

This is the most common route and the route that most of the shared taxis use. This way will take you south to Kulob first passing the Nurek Reservoir before beginning the ascent up the Shurubad Pass, once over the pass you’ll descend down onto the River Panj with views into Afghanistan.

Nurak reservoir, Tajikistan, Pamir Highway, Nurek
Nurek Reservoir

Nurek Reservoir

Worth a short stop to stretch your legs and take in the beautiful scenery.

Kulob

Not much of interest to most in Tajikistan’s third-largest city aside from the nearby fortress and the 14th century Mir Sayid Ali Hamadani Shrine in Hulbuk.

Shurubad Pass

If coming from Dushanbe the top of this pass this will be your very first (of many!) GBAO checkpoints, or last if coming from Osh. You will wind down out of the pass to the border with Afghanistan and follow the River Panj until Qala i Khumb.

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A bus stop on top of Sagirdasht Pass

The Northern Route Of The Pamir Highway

This is the road less traveled. You will stay on the M41 the entire way between Dushanbe and Khorog.

From Dushanbe, you will first head east toward Vakhdat and continue to Obigarm where shortly afterward the road will make a turn toward the south to Tavildara, up and over Sagirdasht Pass before descending down to Qala i Khumb. Note that the Sagirdasht Pass is typically closed from October until May due to snow.

Tavildara

Tavildara is a small town along the M41. It’s a great jumping-off point for adventures off the M41 into Garm and the Rasht Valley.

Looking to hike in the Rasht Valley? Check out the Gardan i Kaftar Trek

Sagirdasht Pass

This 3,252 meter (10,670 feet) monstrosity is typically blanketed in snow from October to May, sometimes longer. In the brief summer, it is possible to cross over the pass. Lots of beautiful and colorful wildflowers in spring and summer and great camping opportunities.

Qala i Khumb, Kala i Khumb, Kalaikhumb, Tajikistan
Qala i Khumb

Qala i Khumb to Khorog


The Pamir Highway from Qala-i-Khumb all the way to Khorog stays along the River Panj, giving you sometimes pretty close glimpses into Afghanistan’s Badakshan Province.

Qala i Khumb

You’ll feel like you’ve hit civilization once you reach Qala i Khumb, there are several shops, restaurants, and accommodations.

For accommodation, Darvaz Guesthouse is a good and inexpensive option as well as Roma Jurayev. There are pricier options like the Karon Palace Hotel. You can book some guesthouses online via PamirTop, though it’s easy enough to get a guesthouse arranged once you arrive. Local kids will likely see you on the street and guide you to a relative’s place.

There isn’t much in the way to see in Qala i Khumb, I spent three days there in the fall of 2019 after completing a trek in Rasht Valley and taking the Northern Route of the M41 to town. People in Qala i Khumb are friendly and it is a great place to relax for a day or two.

Vanj Valley

Vanj sits just off the M41. If you plan to pay a visit to Tajikistan’s largest glacier, Fedchenko from the village of Poi-Mazar this is your jumping-off point.

Rushan

Rushan is your jumping-off point for adventures further into the Bartang Valley. You can opt to get dropped in Rushan rather than continuing onto Khorog. Try Homestay Mubarak +992 934052304 or Rushan Inn Guesthouse +992 935550049 for accommodations.

Bartang Valley

If you want an amazing side adventure to the Pamir Highway the Bartang Valley has tons to offer. Check out the Bartang Highway Travel Guide for more information on the valley. The most popular trip into the Bartang Valley is the trek to the picturesque village of Jizeu.

Everything you need to know: The Bartang Valley

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Along the M41 between Alichur and Murghab

Khorog to Murghab


I’m focusing on the true M41 for this section of the Pamir Highway route. If you’d like to learn more about the Wakhan Route check out the Wakhan Valley Guide and for the Bartang Valley check out the Bartang Valley & Highway Guide. I will be releasing a separate guide for the Shokhdara Valley.

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Khorog Botanical Gardens

Khorog

Khorog will always have a special place in my heart. I have spent a lot of time here, more time than any other sane tourist probably would have. It’s a fairly compact city and is easy enough to get around on foot, although there are two marshrutka routes.

Khorog is a great place to base yourself for trekking in the Central & Western Pamir, Bartang Valley, Wakhan Valley, Shokhdara Valley, and more. It’s also where you’ll want to pick up an Afghan Visa if you plan to cross the border into the Afghan Wakhan Corridor.

The best things to do before you leave Khorog is to at least spend an afternoon in the shaded Central Park and a visit to the Botanical Gardens. There are several restaurants in Khorog, my favorites are Nan-Melan for Qurutob, Delhi Darbar for Indian food, and Hotel Lal cafe for a pizza. There is a nice chaikhana in Central Park on the riverside.

Khorog has a decent sized bazaar in the middle of town where you can stock up on just about anything.

Plan your time in Khorog: The Khorog Travel Guide + 6 Things To Do In Khorog

Where To Stay In Khorog

There are several accommodation options in Khorog, my favorite being Do Nazarbek Hostel. Nazarbek is very friendly and helpful and treats you like family, and although it’s listed as a hostel each room is a double with a private toilet and shower.

Where To Get Shared Taxis/Marshrutkas

To Murghab (via the Gunt Valley)

Go to the parking lot alongside the Bazaar (there’s also vans everywhere in the lot selling melons), and even out front of the bazaar in the completely clogged road. The drivers will likely find you before you find them. Just say where you’re wanting to go and they’ll point you to the vehicles headed that direction.

A marshrutka to Murghab should cost 120 TJS, shared 4×4 taxis will cost 150 TJS. A marshrutka bound for Shazud (for those planning to visit Bachor) will cost 20 TJS per seat and 50 TJS in a shared taxi and takes about 3-4 hours (Hiring a taxi from Shazud to Bachor should cost about 120 TJS on average additionally).

To Wakhan Valley

Wakhan bound shared taxis usually can be found across a footbridge over the river from the parking lot where you grab taxis to Murghab and the Bartang Valley. Sometimes you can find them on the main road through Khorog as well. Shared taxis bound for the Wakhan Valley’s Ishkashim should cost 50 TJS and take 3 hours, and expect to pay 120-250 TJS for the 7-hour drive to Langar.

Those planning to head into the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan can pick up a visa at the consulate here in Khorog and grab a shared taxi bound for Ishkashim. You may have difficulty finding transport on Sundays out of Khorog as nearly everything is closed that day. For more info on the Wakhan Valley check out my Wakhan Valley Travel Guide.

To Dushanbe

Shared taxis bound for Dushanbe can be found a short walk west from the Osh Bazaar (past the park), but sometimes at the bazaar as well. Expect to pay 300-350 TJS for a seat in a shared 4×4.

To The Bartang Valley

Go to the same parking lost alongside the bazaar where the Murghab bound taxis wait. Prices will vary depending on where you’re going. Most will only go to Rushan or Jizeu for those planning to do the trek, expect to pay 120-150 TJS for the journey.

Taxis going beyond in the Bartang Valley will cost more. A private 4×4 to Pasor or Gudara can likely run $150 USD each way. Learn more about the Bartang Valley here.

To Shokhdara Valley

You’ll need to cross the footbridge over the river just like you would get to the Wakhan bound taxis, opposite the river from the Murghab taxis. Once across the river, there is a lot over there. If you’re not sure if you’re in the right place, ask- people in Khorog are extremely friendly and helpful. Khorog-Dushanbe shared taxis should cost 300 TJS and take 14-20 hours.

Have Afghanistan on your mind planning a trip across the border in Tajikistan?

Bachor

Bachor is located off the M41 via the village of Shazud. From Bachor, you can trek to Yashilkul, Bulunkul, or make a loop of the stunning mountain lakes beyond Bachor. Technically you’re supposed to have a Tajik National Park Pass out here, but I was never asked for it.

Looking for more hikes? Check out the 10 best treks in Tajikistan

Jelondy

Jelondy is home to a hot spring that many from Khorog will make an occasional weekend family trip out of.

Koi-Tezek Pass

This 4,272 meter pass will make you feel like you’re on the moon with its lunar landscapes and high altitude.

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Bulunkul

Bulunkul

This small village just off the Pamir Highway and allegedly the coldest place in all of Tajikistan (a record low temperature was recorded at -60ºC!). Bulunkul isn’t much to write home over, but the morning reflection of the swirled mountains in the morning is worth it. It’s also the gateway to Yashilkul.

Yashilkul

A 4km drive or walk from Bulunkul, and a much bigger lake. You can do some treks out of Yashilkul, but you do technically need that Tajik National Park Permit to visit (I was never asked for mine at Yashilkul).

Plot your time in the East Pamir: The Eastern Pamir Travel Guide

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Views from Alichur

Alichur

A predominately Kyrgyz community that consists of scattered white homes, a small handful of homestays, a restaurant, and a mosque. Alichur doesn’t see many travelers stay overnight, so curious locals will likely give you a tour of their village.

Ak Balyk, Ak Balyk Pond, Ak Balyk Spring, White Fish Spring, Pamir, Pamirs, Pamir Highway, Eastern Pamir, Tajikistan
Ak Balyk

Ak Balyk

One of my absolute favorite places in Tajikistan and it’s ironically easy to access. Just north of Alichur, it will be on your right side if you are Osh bound, on your left if Dushanbe bound. Whatever you do, stop! Especially in the morning, the water is crystal clear. But don’t get in it or pee in it- it is sacred. Ak-Balyk means ‘white fish’ in Kyrgyz.

Bash Gumbez

Just a few kilometers of the Pamir Highway, Bash Gumbez is nearby to an old Chinese tomb.

Madiyan Valley

Just south of Murghab extending toward the west. If you follow the jeep tracks up far enough there is a hot spring out here. You can hike up and over Gumbezkul Pass and reach Pshart Valley (or vice-versa).

Murghab, Tajikistan, Eastern Pamir

Murghab to Osh

This is the final stretch (or the beginning if you’re starting in Osh). Murghab to Sary-Tash is a strange adventure through lunar landscapes, but beyond Sary-Tash you begin to descend towards the Ferghana Valley.

Murghab

Welcome to the wild-wild East! This is your best base to explore the Eastern Pamir from. It’s equal parts weird and wild really, from the shipping container bazaar, the dead goat polo At-Chabysh festival, to the Soviet-era remnants- Murghab will keep you occupied for at least a couple days. There is a chaikhana in town, but most people just eat at their homestays.

Plan your stopover in Murghab: The Murghab Travel Guide + 3 Things To Do In Murghab

Where To Stay In Murghab

My favorite place to stay in Murghab is Erali Guesthouse. The family who runs the guesthouse is so sweet, especially the Mom who will cook up your meals, invite you to her kitchen to see how she makes bread, and even sit down for a glass of chai with you.

I’ve randomly ended up at Tulfabek Guesthouse a couple of times I’ve passed through Murghab, it’s a great value at only 45 TJS per night including breakfast.

One thing to note about Murghab is that electricity is irregular. Don’t be surprised if it’s out or so weak it’s nearly impossible to charge anything while you’re there.

  • Erali Guesthouse (+992 93563751421618)
  • Tulfabek Guesthouse (+992 935389159)
  • Pamir Hotel (+992 93050586321762)
Murghab, Murghab Bazaar, Shipping container Bazaar, Tajikistan, Eastern Pamir
The Murghab Bazaar, note that the shops are inside shipping containers

Shared Taxis From Murghab

Osh

From the bazaar expect a couple of 4×4 shared taxis will depart to Osh/Sary-Tash. If you want to guarantee a seat best to arrange the day before. You can expect to pay 200-250 TJS (or about 2,000 KGS coming from Osh to Murghab)for the 12-hour ride to Osh.

Some evenings drivers will go homestay to homestay asking if anyone is looking for a shared taxi in the morning (the last time I was in Murghab this was how I ended up arranging my shared taxi), you can also ask at your homestay and they will likely make a call and get you square to leave in the morning.

Khorog

Expect to pay about 120 TJS for the 7-9 hour drive to Khorog. A few vehicles to depart daily toward Khorog from the bazaar.

Rangkul

A shared taxi departs the bazaar in the late afternoon behind the Aida Cafe. A seat will coast 20 TJS.

Departures For Qolma Pass

You will need to get private transportation to reach Qolma Pass (border crossing with China). I recommend contacting Pamir Highway Adventure to arrange a 4×4. You will also need to arrange a pick-up to take you to Kashgar or Tashkurgan on the Chinese side of the border. Learn more about crossing the Qolma Pass here.

Departures For Wakhan Valley

You will find it easiest to hire a private 4×4 to reach Khorog via the Wakhan Valley. You can contact any of the operators listed in the Tours & Operators section below. For more info in the Wakhan Valley, check out my Wakhan Valley Travel Guide.

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The colorful Pshart Mountains

Pshart Valley

This rainbow swirled valley sits just north of Murghab and can be combined with the previously mentioned Madiyan Valley via Gumbezkul Pass.

Ak Baital, Ak Baital Pass, White Horse Pass, Tajikistan, Eastern Pamir
The top of Ak Baital Pass at 4,655 meters

Ak-Baital Pass

White Horse Pass in Kyrgyz. This pass goes up and over 4,655 meters, be on the lookout because many times Marco Polo sheep can easily be spotted from the highway. Don’t be surprised if it’s snowing up here, even in mid-summer.

Karakul, Karakul Tajikistan, Pamir
Karakul

Karakul

Karakul is a large lake created by a meteor impact and with a twilight zone-esque village of the same name at its shores. There is a scattering of homestays in Karakul and some even have signs posted on the highway as you cross through the village.

Plan your visit: The Karakul Travel Guide

Kids playing in Karakul

Kyzyl-Art Pass

This is the second-highest border crossing in the world at 4,282 meters. Wave goodbye to Tajikistan and hello to Kyrgyzstan (or vice-versa). There are some beautiful color striped mountains in this no-mans-land between Kyzyl-Art and Bordobo.

Everything you need to know: The Kyzyl Art Border Crossing

Kyzyl Art, Kyzyl Art Pass, Tajikistan
A Rainbow Mountain in the no-man’s land between Kyzyl Art Pass and Bordöbö

Bordöbö

This is the Kyrgyz side of the border crossing, not too far from Sary-Tash.

Sary-Tash

Home to a couple of shops and a small handful of homestays. Hostel Muras is a good place to start. Plan to head off 30 kilometers west to Sary-Mogul for the best views of Pik Lenin or to stay at the yurtstay at Lake Tolpur.

Suleiman Too, Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Views from the summit of Suleiman Too in Osh

Osh

Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city in a flat valley with a giant rocky mountain in the center of it. Osh is ancient, interesting, and has a strange vibe.

Occasional ethnic tensions come to a head here as it sits in the gnarl of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan coming together in the Ferghana Valley. But, Osh is normally completely safe to visit.

Things to check out here include the large and sprawling Osh Bazaar, Suleman Too, Cave Museum, Animal Market, and of course the Lenin Statue. There are a plethora of restaurants here, my favorite being Izyum- if you need a break from Central Asian fare.

Plan your visit to Osh with my Osh Travel Guide

Where To Stay In Osh

My personal favorites for accommodation are Osh Backpackers and Silk Way Boutique Hotel, both have staff that is very helpful and great to chat with.

Where To Grab Shared Taxis In Osh

Shared taxis bound for Tajikistan (Pamir Highway) usually can be found at the Murghab-Baza taxi stand and sometimes at the Argomak taxi stand, expect to pay about 1,500 Kyrgyz Som per person in a shared 4×4 for the 12-hour ride. You can also speak with your guesthouse and ask for them to arrange for you.

For transport to most elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan by marshrutka or shared taxi head to the Main Minibus Station. If bound for Batken to continue into Tajikistan’s Ferghana Valley cities of Isfara, Khujand, and Istaravshan head to the Batken Minibus Stand. You can also stop by Visit Alay (The CBT Osh) office, or contact them to arrange trips on the Pamir Highway.

A Weird Thing About Time In Eastern Tajikistan

The entire Murghab District of Tajikistan (think: Murghab, Alichur, Bulunkul, Bash Gumbez, Rangkul, and so on…) operates 1 hour ahead of Tajikistan time. Therefore the Murghab District operates on Kyrgyzstan time. I always ask once I’m in Eastern Tajikistan which time we’re leaving/meeting/etc. in the morning just to verify.

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A Kyrgyz nomadic family’s yurt between Jarty Gumbez and the M41

Pamir Highway Budget

What should your budget be? Well, that all depends on how you wanna go about this.

Accommodations

Expect to pay $10-20 USD per night including breakfast and dinner.

Food

As breakfast and dinner are likely included in the cost of your homestay, expect to pay anywhere from 10 TJS to 40 TJS for lunch at a chaikhana.

Transportation

This is largely dependent on if you go about this via 4×4 hire or by shared taxis. Expect a 4×4 hire without side trips at an estimated 7 days to come in around $1,200 USD (of course this can be split amongst 2-6 of you). If doing the journey solely by shared taxi/marshrutka expect your cost to be $65 USD per person.

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It’s vast, it’s desolate, and it’s absolutely beautiful

Estimated Budgets For The Pamir Highway

$180 per day

Via private 4×4 hire (solo traveler)

$50 per day

Via 4×4 hire shared amongst 4 passengers

$25 per day

Via shared taxis

*These are averaged over 7 days

Pamir, Pamirs, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, GBAO

Tours & Guides

These are tour operators and guides that can be hired to take you out on excursions and on treks in the region.

Tajikistan Based Operators

You can also contact PECTA for more recommendations.

Kyrgyzstan Based Operators

  • Visit Alay– Community Based Tourism (CBT) In Osh. Can arrange various trekking trips in the Alay Valley and Pamir Highway trips for those starting from Kyrgyzstan.

Operators Based Outside Central Asia

  • Kalpak Travel Offering a 5% discount to anyone who mentions the promo code Nicki-Kalpak2017 when booking! Ran by Swiss traveler Luka and his wife Aijan who is originally from Kyrgyzstan. Kalpak offers an active trip along the Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Osh, as well as trips to other regions of Tajikistan and Central Asia.

*Remember that guides and drivers will expect a tip.

Packing List

  • Here are a few handy items I like to have on me when exploring in the Pamirs.
  • The Inreach Explorer+. A GPS & SOS beacon, that can also send and receive text messages. Delorme/Garmin offers some good monthly sponsored when in use.
  • A solar charger can be a great way to keep your electronics and batteries charged when trekking in remote areas of the country with no access to electricity for days on end.
  • An external battery pack can also help you out in a pinch when batteries are dead and you’re in the middle of nowhere.
  • I use the Osprey Ariel 65L backpack and recommend Osprey’s products because of their guarantee. Shop backpacks here!
  • A tent is handy if you plan to do any trekking, or are planning to cycle or hitchhike the Pamir Highway. I use the MSR NX Hubba-Hubba and love it!
  • A sleeping bag can prove useful if planning to camp while cycling or trekking and also for chilly nights even in a homestay. I use a Nemo sleeping bag cold rated to 15ºF/-5ºC.
  • A good pair of hiking boots. My personal favorite is the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX hiking boot.
  • If planning on trekking/camping and you like to enjoy a warm meal I can recommend a lightweight cooking camp set.
  • I personally use the Katadyn water filter. Tap water in the entire country is unsafe for drinking and natural water sources can be contaminated.
  • Trekking poles are recommended. Click here to browse through some nicely rated sets.
  • headlamp will come in handy!
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! Don’t let the cold fool you.
  • Mosquito Repellant can prove handy in springtime at lower elevations, although I’ve personally never run into many bugs out here in my late summer and fall adventures.

Books

  • Trekking in Tajikistan by Jan Bakker & Christine Oriol. You’ll find detailed descriptions of these hikes as well as those in the Pamirs in this book.
  • Tajikistan and the High Pamirs by Robert Middleton & Hue Thomas. This is a huge book, but it has so much good info on Tajikistan from history, great-game stories, travel information, and more.
  • Bradt Guide Tajikistan by Sophie Ibbotson & Max Lovell-Hoare. The most comprehensive guide to  Tajikistan in print.
  • Central Asia by Lonely Planet. Handy to have with you, although don’t necessarily treat it as a bible. Things rapidly change and the currency can fluctuate so it’s not always dead on. A new edition published in 2018 and I heavily question whether the writer in charge of the Tajikistan section had ever stepped foot in the country, you’ve been warned.
  • The Central Asia Phrasebook by Lonely Planet I found this to be a handy item for Tajik, Russian and Kyrgyz phrases, not so much for the Wakhi phrase section.

Maps

  • The Pamirs by Markus Hauser. Can be found online on Amazon, or can always be picked up at the PECTA office. The creators also created a Northern Tajikistan map as well as the Southern Tajikistan map.

Great Online References

  • Pamirs.org: A great all-around resource for all things Pamir. From trekking, visa & permit information, cycling, sport, and more!
  • Trekking in the Pamirs: Jan Bakker’s website with information on many hikes all over Tajikistan (not just the Pamirs!).
  • PECTA: Can help you arrange anything Pamir. Very responsive.
  • Caravanistan: Saule is a wealth of knowledge on Central Asia. She is very responsive via email and can put you in contact with numerous tour agencies in the country.
  • Indy Guide: Making travel in the whole of Central Asia & Mongolia easier buy providing the largest community marketplace of Central Asian tour operators and drivers.

Pamir Highway Safety

In general, traveling the Pamir Highway is safe with the usual precautions. The most likely risks to dampen your trip will be food poisoning and altitude sickness. Other dangers include risks associated with trekking in remote areas, natural disasters such as landslides, avalanches, and earthquakes, and bad roads paired with crazy drivers.

In July 2018 there was a terrorist attack carried out in the Denghara District south of Dushanbe. 7 cyclists were struck by a car driven by men pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, 4 of which died due to injuries sustained from the collision and stab wounds. I’m not including this to scare you, but it is something to be aware of.

This is not a regular occurrence in Tajikistan, (in fact this was the first terrorist attack carried out in the country targeting tourists) proving that nowhere in this world is truly safe from these kinds of events.

In September 2018 demonstrations took place in Khorog by fed-up Pamiris demanding better infrastructure for the region as well as more job opportunities and economic growth. Naturally, the central government sent in the army to quash any attempts of violence. Shortly after, several known criminals in the GBAO were arrested. Some fear these protests could be the first ripple in the instability to come in the Pamir region. If demonstrations turn violent the Tajik government will typically close the region off to foreigners and force any already there to evacuate. The last time this happened was the summer of 2012.

Is Tajikistan safe? Click here to read more

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Have Any Questions Not Answered About Traveling The Pamir Highway?

Ask your Pamir Highway questions in the comments below!

Need Travel Insurance for Tajikistan?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

More Posts from Tajikistan:

14 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To The Pamir Highway”

  1. Hello
    In the Pamir highway how is the internet connection and possible to by SIM card?

    When this Virus finished, I want to visit on Pamir for 10 days, starting Dushanbe to Osh. I’m gonna choose tour with Pegas Adventure.
    There is more options for reliable price.

    If anyone visited on Pamir highway, please share with more experiences…

    1. Hi again Alex,
      You can easily get a SIM card in Dushanbe. On my last visit in 2019 I had my hostel in Dushanbe issue a document for me, which I took to TCell and was able to pick up a new SIM (I had lost my previous Megafone SIM from years past). You’re supposed to be able to pick up a SIM at the Dushanbe Airport on arrival as well (though I landed in the middle of the night, so was unable to).

      I’m assuming you’ll be entering Tajikistan at Dushanbe as you mentioned you’ll bet starting your Pamir Highway trip from there. I’ve also purchased a SIM in Khujand in the past easily as well, in the event you’ll be entering Tajikistan from the Fergana Valley.

      Coverage on the Pamir Highway is hit-and-miss. Nearer to larger towns you can expect to have 3G (Qala i Khumb, Khorog, Murghab), but in many stretches plan to have no service at all or “E” ( which works at a snail’s pace).

      I have not worked with Pegas, the company you’ve mentioned arranging your trip through, so I can’t comment good or bad on them.

      I hope you are able to visit Tajikistan soon, I’m really missing it this year. Best of luck!

  2. Pamir highway is popular in Central Asia. Possible to start Dushanbe or Osh. We contacted with Happy Travel and hired transport 4×4 with them. Car was absolutely comfortable, clean, and our driver speaking English. Very easy contact with them on Facebook. Ulan will help you. We sarted from Osh to Dushanbe via Wakhan corridor. Wakhan corridor is super, you need take with thus way

  3. As I begin my research on my upcoming Pamir Highway trip I’ve come across several travel guides, but I must say that yours is by far the most detailed. Your experience in and love for Tajikistan really shows in your blog posts and writing. Thank you for sharing the information you’ve acquired over the trips you’ve made to the Pamirs.

    Joe

  4. Hi Nicki,
    I was looking to visit Tajikistan in the fall, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. I had read your guides when I first became interested in this part of the world, but I am now somewhat apprehensive after the recent attack on the cyclists on the Pamir Highway a few days ago. Should I plan to go at a later time? Have you been recently?

    Thank you,
    Cat

    1. Hi Cat,
      I totally understand your new concerns, but it’s hard for me to give a straight answer on what you should do. I personally will continue traveling in Tajikistan, this news definitely shocked me when I woke up to it earlier this week. I’ve had great experiences traveling all over the country and have never gotten the smallest feeling that something like this may happen. Will an attack like this happen again? I don’t know, I personally don’t think and certainly do not hope another attack like this will happen again, but I think only time will tell us for sure. Tajikistan does have it’s problems such as corruption, poverty, nepotism, religious repression and so on- which in my opinion may have helped influence the attackers to pledge to the IS. Also, Rahmon, Tajikistan’s president since 1992 (you probably understand what I’m hinting at here) pissed off many Tajiks recently in one of his speeches demanding police to not be corrupt toward tourists (police here are known for corruption), and of course there was no mention of police needing to shape up in regards to the corruption that Tajik citizens face. This could be a demonstration toward the president and government being that the region that the attack happened in is also the same region that the Rahmon family is from. However these are just ideas I have milling about in my head.

      I have just been in Tajikistan in June of 2018, but I was in the far southeast corner of the country almost the entire time. The only “city” if you will, that I spent any time in was Murghab on this trip. The area I spent most the time in this time is a very remote area so my recent travels wouldn’t really be relevant to whats happening in other parts of the country, but friends I have scattered around the country have not said anything about the country seeming unstable recently.

      Sorry that I don’t have a straight forward answer to this question for you. If you feel that uncomfortable about visiting then maybe hold off for a bit, but if not I’d go. Note that Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan suffer similar problems to Tajikistan and I wouldn’t say they are anymore at or less at risk for attacks than Tajikistan .

  5. I CAN’T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR THIS POST!

    I’m planning my first trip to Tajikistan for this summer and of course the Pamir Highway is on my itinerary. I stumbled across your blog a few months ago when I really started to think about visiting Tajikistan and I am so glad to have came back to read this guide. Great photos btw, and thanks again 🙂

    1. Hi Nicky!
      So glad to hear it’s helping you plan the trip and I’m happy to hear you’re going to visit Tajikistan. Let me know if you have any questions that come up through the planning process. Best of luck out there, hope you enjoy Tajikistan.

  6. Hi Nicki,
    Thanks for such great content I’m really glad I found your site, it’s an incredible resource. I’ll be doing Tajikistan this summer and my plan is to make my way up to the Kyrgyzstan border in order to then cross into China via Irkeshtam. I wanted to see if you knew, is there a way to get a ride to the border from Murghab or Karakul? I have 45 days in Tajikistan so time isn’t a concern but I am trying to keep costs down by doing as few private cars as possible, though for the final leg to the border I will do whatever is necessary. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Jesse!
      I’ve never hitched that stretch of the road so I can’t say for sure how easy/hard it is. I do know that typically if you plan to stop in Karakul that it may take you a day to a few days to find a ride whether a shared taxi or whatnot out of Karakul. Although I have spent a day there and I’d say it’s totally worth the stop! Best bet may be to get to Karakul and possibly arrange a shared taxi that’s bound Murghab to Osh to grab you for that stretch. Shared taxi Murghab to Osh should cost about 140-200 TJS from Murghab to Osh, so I’d expect to pay a fraction of that to go Karakul-Kyzyl Art. Wasn’t sure if you’d heard but foreigners have had much crossing the Qolma Pass from TJ into China in 2017, so that could be another option if you don’t want to go to Irkeshtam- you should be able to hitch a ride for a few TJS on Chinese trucks bound for Kashgar and Tashkurgan. Hope this helps you, best of luck!

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