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Along the Pamir & Karakoram Highways: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China & Pakistan

Group Tour

21 Days From A$10,536

Overview

Few places on earth can match the grandeur of the epic scenery encountered on this unique itinerary. Travelling along sections of two of the world’s most scenic drives – the Pamir and Karakoram Highways - we’ll not only meet the varied ethnic groups who call this lofty world home, but we’ll also witness the incredible diversity of some of the planet’s most famous ranges including the Pamirs, the Karakoram’s and the Hindu Kush.

Crossing remote borders between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Western ...
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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

20 x Breakfasts
19 x Lunches
19 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use will start the tour in 4WDs and as the roads improve we will change to minibuses or coaster buses.

 

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 14

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this trip, the accommodation is quite varied. In Tajikistan we’ll be staying in a combination of hotels, guest houses and homestays. In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the homestays are basic with shared facilities. In Pakistan, we will be staying in some functional small hotels whilst in China, the accommodation is typically in larger hotels due to the nature of what’s available.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Moderate

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Along the Pamir & Karakoram Highways: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China & Pakistan
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN DUSHANBE

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN DUSHANBE

The tour begins in Dushanbe where accommodation for this night is included in the tour due to the arrival times of our suggested flights. Those on the group flights will arrive in the early hours of Day 2.

Avesto Hotel or similar

DAY 2: IN DUSHANBE

DAY 2: IN DUSHANBE

After a relaxed start we have the rest of the day to explore the city and see the sights. Depending on opening hours (which are subject to frequent change), we plan to visit the impressive Museum of National Antiquities, which houses Asia’s largest statue of the sleeping Buddha (a mighty 13 metres), ancient weapons and a carving of Alexander the Great, or the impressive new National Museum located next to the world’s tallest flagpole!

Avesto Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: DUSHANBE - KALAI - KHUMB

DAY 3: DUSHANBE - KALAI - KHUMB

This morning we start our epic journey taking the Pamir ‘highway’, a road built by the Red Army in the 1930s in order to link the isolated communities to the rest of the Soviet Union. Today is a full day’s drive through the changing landscape of canyons and farmland to Kalai-Khumb, situated so close to the Afghani villages just across the river that you’ll be able to wave to each other.

Karon Palace Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: KALAI-KHUMB - KHOROG

DAY 4: KALAI-KHUMB - KHOROG

Today we head south towards Khorog, the administrative centre of the Pamir region, dramatically set deep in the valley at the confluence of the Panj and Ghund rivers and boxed in by the mountain peaks. We can enjoy wonderful views towards Afghanistan. If time permits, we may have chance to enjoy the views from the Botanical Gardens (one of the highest in the world), and the town is the site of one of Central Asia’s few university campuses.

LAL Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: KHOROG - YASHIL KUL LAKE

DAY 5: KHOROG - YASHIL KUL LAKE

Today we continue along the Pamir Highway and make a stop en route at Jelondy hot springs. Here we have the opportunity of taking in the curative waters at this local style spa. We then continue on to our overnight stop at Yashil Kul Lake, where we will stay in the small hamlet of Bulunkul. The people living locally are Kyrgyz pastoralists living in a harsh but hospitable environment. Our stay here will deepen our understanding of how people have adapted to live in such remote mountainous areas, in fact the coldest place in Tajikistan.

Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: YASHIL KUL - MURGAB

DAY 6: YASHIL KUL - MURGAB

After following the Alichur Plateau, we plan to stop for lunch at a yurt camp and meet the local nomads. If the weather is clear enough we’ll head up to Shorbulak Observatory, from where you can see the Muztag Ata (7550m) and Kongur (7719m) peaks, which are part of the Kunlun Shan Range. We then continue on to Murgab. This quiet town (with the only bazaar of the High Pamir region) is still struggling with its development due to the nearby Russian border guards’ base being closed down – the last remaining Soviet influence in this region. The recent opening of the Chinese Qolma Pass, however, has slowly aided the town in its progression.

Pamir Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: MURGAB- MADIAN VALLEY - MURGAB

DAY 7: MURGAB- MADIAN VALLEY - MURGAB

Today we will explore the stunning Madian Valley, one of the main grazing areas near Murgab, as well as the Eli Su hot springs. Driving out of town, we will then head off on foot towards Eli Su. Here we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and spend time relaxing, before returning to Murgab for the night.

Pamir Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: MURGAB - KARAKUL

DAY 8: MURGAB - KARAKUL

Our journey today takes us to Karakul. The road climbs up to the Ak Baital Pass (The White Mare Pass), which at 4655m stands as the highest pass in the former USSR, and on to the Muzkol Valley. We will take a short detour to the Shor and Rankul Lakes, where we will stop for a picnic lunch. Views of mountains and glaciers along the way are simply breath-taking. The stunning Karakul Lake is hidden deep in this expanse of arid landscape. It is a body of water thought to have been created millions of years ago by a meteorite and noted as one of the most geologically fascinating places on earth. We’ll have the opportunity for a short walk along the lake to our homestay in Karakul village. The surrounding area offers some spectacular views, which are especially dramatic with the sun setting over the nearby snow-capped mountains.

Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: KARAKUL - SARY TASH (KYRGYZSTAN)

DAY 9: KARAKUL - SARY TASH (KYRGYZSTAN)

Travelling up to the Kizil Art Pass (4280m) today, we will then cross the border into Kyrgyzstan and pass through the gateway to the Pamir Plateau, or as Marco Polo called it – ‘The Roof of the World’. We’ll drive north to Sary Tash and weather permitting we will be able to see stunning views of snowy Lenin Peak, which at 7134m is the second highest mountain in the Pamirs. Here we stay the night with a local family in their cosy house.

Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: SARY TASH - KASHGAR (CHINA)

DAY 10: SARY TASH - KASHGAR (CHINA)

Today is a full day travelling which will include the border crossing into China’s western-most province – the autonomous Xinjiang region. Starting with what is likely to be an early start, we will drive east along the main artery of the Old Silk Road to the Irkishtam Pass. The first 30kms is a rather rough road but this improves and we continue through an area of outstanding natural beauty, with multi-coloured sedimentary sandstone flanking our route. Finally we’ll arrive in the important trading hub that was once the prize of Great Game explorers.

Qinibagh Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: KASHGAR

DAY 11: KASHGAR

There will be ample time for personal exploration in this Silk Road city which sits today, as it has done for centuries, at a major crossroads of trade routes. We will of course see the (controversial) statue of Chairman Mao in the city centre as well as visiting the green-tiled Abu Khoja tomb in the quiet suburbs. After a traditional Uighur lunch we will have a break before heading into the old town. We will end the day by having tea on the second floor balcony of one of the old chaikhanas, watching the street market below us.

Qinibagh Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: IN KASHGAR

DAY 12: IN KASHGAR

Today we will have the chance to experience the famous Yakshambe Bazaar - the Sunday Market. In the morning we will first visit the famous animal market. Here we will spend time watching the locals trade everything from woodwork and ironware to sheep, donkeys, cattle, horses and camels before progressing onto the covered bazaar, believed to be the biggest in Central Asia. The afternoon will be free for you to spend at your leisure and you may want to hire bicycles and head off into the nearby fields to explore.

Qinibagh Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: KASHGAR - TASHKURGAN

DAY 13: KASHGAR - TASHKURGAN

Like countless traders before us, today we will commence our journey on the southern branch of the Old Silk Road, passing Karakul Lake and the formidable 7000m-high peak Muztagh Ata – the Ice Father - en route to Tashkurgan. This interesting frontier town is famed for its old fortress which, if time permits, we will take time to look around.

Crown Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: TASHKURGAN - PASSU (PAKISTAN)

DAY 14: TASHKURGAN - PASSU (PAKISTAN)

Crossing the land border calls for an early morning departure, first checking through passport control before driving over the spectacular Khunjerab Pass and on to Sust in Pakistan. After clearing immigration, we head for Passu. En route we’ll stop to take photos at the Batura Glacier to view the Shisper Peak standing at 7600m.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 15: PASSU - HUNZA

DAY 15: PASSU - HUNZA

This morning we pass through the town of Gulmit, the old summer capital of Hunza situated at approx. 2500m.The fertile plateau here boasts an abundance of crops such as maize, wheat and potatoes, along with apricots, peaches, apples and walnuts. We will take a wander around and visit some of the local houses before continuing our journey down the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to Hunza. At the northern end of Lake Attabad we take a short boat ride on the lake before heading through the newly built tunnel and then continuing to Hunza and the principal town of Karimabad. In the late afternoon we will drive up to our amazing hotel for our first night in Hunza. Our hotel is situated 2,850m above sea level, 800m above the valley floor with panoramic views of seven 7,000m peaks!

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 16: HUNZA

DAY 16: HUNZA

Today we will be able to take a spectacular walk down into town – or go by bus – where we will be able to visit Altit Fort and go for a water channel walk. Alternatively we can just chill-out in this fabulous location. It really is one of the most amazing places on earth and there are plenty of things to do.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 17: HUNZA

DAY 17: HUNZA

Realising the last few days have been quite full-on, we have decided to indulge you, and give one more full day at this heavenly spot. Besides relaxing, there are numerous local walks to enjoy.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 18: HUNZA - GILGIT

DAY 18: HUNZA - GILGIT

After breakfast we will continue south down the Hunza Valley to Gilgit. Here we will have the chance to visit the famous Gandharan Buddha and the Christian cemetery before having a look around the bazaar. If a game of Polo is on, this is a great place to watch. From here we will transfer to our wonderful hotel, situated a little way out of town.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 19:  GILGIT - NARAN

DAY 19:  GILGIT - NARAN

Today we have a spectacular drive back towards Islamabad as we drive along the Karakoram Highway enjoying the mountain scenery and stunning countryside. Flights at this time of year are unreliable and can be cancelled on a regular basis due to adverse weather conditions so we plan to drive this very memorable route, and break our journey in Naran. The majority of the people here are Pashtun and we may have the opportunity to have a stroll around the bazaar in the early evening or sit and watch the world go by in one of the rooftop cafes.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 20: NARAN - ISLAMABAD

DAY 20: NARAN - ISLAMABAD

This morning we will continue our journey to the capital city of Islamabad, and if time allows visit the Faisal Mosque. This is the largest mosque in Pakistan and can accommodate up to 100,000 worshippers. This evening we have our farewell group dinner in a traditional restaurant.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 21: TOUR ENDS ISLAMABAD

DAY 21: TOUR ENDS ISLAMABAD

The group flight departs early this morning so tour will end after breakfast in Islamabad.

Breakfast

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Mid-Range
Good quality service and overall comfort
Superior
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Mid-Range
Good quality service and overall comfort
Superior
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Mid-Range
Good quality service and overall comfort
Superior
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Mid-Range
Good quality service and overall comfort
Superior
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards without the big price tag
Mid-Range
Good quality service and overall comfort
Superior
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

REVIEWS OF THIS TRIP

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Travel, Discover, Help

For every passenger that our local agent in Kyrgyzstan hosts, $1 per day is donated to their charitable project during your stay.
 
Travel, Discover, Help enables children from orphanages to learn more about Kyrgyzstan, by offering excursions to the countryside and events throughout the year.  
 
Additionally, they provide 40,498 days of work for locals annually and support ecological campaigns - transporting waste from glaciers and mountain gorges across this beautiful country.

Homestays

In Tajikistan, we will stay in the homes of hospitable locals. This is a great way to meet and interact with the local people, understand their limited infrastructure, and be introduced to their culture and way of life. With the homestays we use, the money goes straight into these remote communities and so benefits the people directly.

Supplementary Information

Chris Aslan Alexander

We are delighted that Chris will be accompanying the group tour departure. He is very much an expert on Central Asia having lived in Uzbekistan for 7 years,Tajikistan for 3 years and Kyrgyzstan for two years. During his time there he immersed himself in the local cultures, customs and traditions living with local families, and picking up several of the local languages. Chris will add an in depth knowledge of the customs, history and religions of this fabled region of the world.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
TK 1980 London Heathrow (LHR) 11:30 Istanbul (IST) 17:20
TK 254 Istanbul (IST) 21:00 Dushanbe Airport (DYU) 03:40
TK 1985 Istanbul (IST) 13:00 London Heathrow (LHR) 14:50
TK 711 Islamabad Airport (ISB) 05:15 Istanbul (IST) 09:15

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for Tajikistan, China & Pakistan.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements. 

Lahore & Wagah Border

Extend your time in Pakistan and visit Lahore, to see this famous old Moghul city and the ‘Closing of the Gate’ ceremony. Allow 3-5 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Warning

The FCDO sometimes advises against certain parts of this itinerary.

Wild Frontiers has many years’ experience of running trips which contravene FCDO advice but these decisions that are never taken lightly and are always taken in conjunction with our local partners after extensive consultation. As part of the booking process, you will need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you have read the advice, that you are still happy to travel and that you will obtain travel insurance which is not invalidated by the FCDO advice.

For more information, please see the Insurance section or contact us. Non-UK clients should be sure to check the travel advice of their own governments as well as the small print of their insurance policies. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Key Information

CLIMATE

The weather conditions can be extremely varied on this tour. In the mountains of Tajikistan you will often be travelling at heights in excess of 3000m and so even in the middle of summer it can turn bitterly cold; at the same time mercury in the thermometers of Dushanbe and Kashgar can be nudging 40 degrees. In Pakistan there might be some monsoon cloud, but the weather should be very pleasant pretty much everywhere.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. Driving days can be long and tiring and it should be noted that this trip is in essence a big road trip. However please note that in certain places you will be staying in homestays so you should be prepared for basic facilities and no showers for part of the trip. We think that what you will be witnessing will easily make up for any discomfort!

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.
On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour except the homestays in Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking. In addition, due to the particular nature of this trip, an interim deposit of £600 (or equivalent) per person will be required within 30 days of booking a guaranteed departure, or subsequently within 30 days of receiving confirmation from us that the trip has been guaranteed.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 6714 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION