“A seventeen day, small group journey along the historic Pamir Highway, through the mountainous and cultural wonders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with thirteen days in the former. ”
Dushanbe | Gissar | Fann Mountains | Iskander Kul Lake | Penjikent UNESCO World Heritage Site | Sarazm | Zeravashan Valley | Shakhristan Pass | Istaravshan | Kalaikhumb | Khorog | Garm Chashma hot springs | Yamchun fort | Bibi Fatima | Vrang Buddhist complex | Murgab | Madian Valley | Karakul Lake | Osh | Uzgen | Chichkan Gorge | Tian Shan mountains | Bishkek
Description of Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan holiday, The Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway, an ancient route that traverses some of the most exquisitely elevated landscapes in the world, is the perfect artery for any Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan holiday expedition. As well as being almost devoid of tourists, these countries have so much to offer a traveller seeking new cultures, extraordinarily wild landscapes and ancient history.
To get to grips with the history first of all, after arriving at Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, we head to the ruins of the ancient fort of Gissar, aka Hisar, also the site of some 16th century madrassahs. A few days later, we head further north to the ruins of ancient Penjikent and Sarazm give us insight into one of this regionís most powerful civilisations, the Soghdian Empire. Never far from mountains, our first hike into the hills is in the Fann Mountains where we walk around the stunning Iskander Kul Lake which, at an elevation of 2,195m, and surrounded by peaks, is a wonderful place to explore.
This trip also takes us to the great cities of Istaravshan and Khojand where traditional artisans, fascinating markets, ancient forts and architecture make them definite urban highlights for many of our visitors. Rather typical of the Pamir Highway, we go from urban to rural very quickly, heading next into the Pamir Mountains, where wilderness areas, remote villages and tiny communities reveal a world that feels almost untouched for centuries.
Following the River Panj and border with Afghanistan to Khorog, capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, you can manage to observe stark contrasts between the sights on Tajikistan's side of the border compared with the views into Afghanistan. Our trip continues along traces of the Silk Road, where impressive remains of fortresses and Buddhist temples can be seen, such as at the 4th century complex at Vrang.
The magnificent Pamir Highway then leads us into Kyrgyzstan, after stopping at seasonal settlements of Kyrgyz nomads en route in the Madian Valley. In Kyrgyzstan, our first night is spent in Sary Tash, a very remote village where we stay with a local family. In contrast, we visit a bustling bazaar in the ancient city of Osh, where we also walk a pilgrimsí trail up to Solomonís Throne. And for one final contrasting element, we finish our tour along the mighty Pamir Highway in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, taking time to take in its historical highlights, such as the History Museum, Leninís monument, Manas Monument and Ala Too Square.
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Responsible tourism: Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan holiday, The Pamir Highway
This tour travels through some very remote regions, many of which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining their pristine nature. We strive to ensure that we leave these areas as we find them and our team have been trained in strict no litter policies, meaning that we take all refuse to either be recycled or properly disposed of in nearby towns. When exploring the landscape on foot we make sure that we stick to whatever tracks there may be, and when driving we stick to the dirt roads so as not to degrade the landscape.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as nations have only existed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and up until recently have seen very little in the way of tourism. We believe it is incredibly important that at this early stage of tourism development we work with local service providers to set and implement best practice, so that this becomes the norm as tourist numbers increase. In conjunction with our local team we work with the guesthouses and hotels to help them to implement best practice in terms of environmental issues, from energy conservation to waste disposal. We also help to educate local guides and drivers about how not to negatively impact upon the areas visited. Western norms with regards to this are quite different from local concepts and also those instilled during Soviet times, so this can be a challenge but we are confident that we can help to develop environmentally responsible tourism practices within Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
As with many of the trips that we offer, this tour has a strong focus on local culture and different ethnic groups. Where possible we try to ensure that local people benefit from our presence. This trip includes many nights staying in locally run guesthouses, which provide employment for people from the remote communities we travel through, often in areas where little alternative for employment exists.
In Kyrgyzstan we spend the night with a local family, which helps the financial benefits filter down to people who would otherwise have little opportunity to gain from tourism in their area.
We meet many different ethnic groups on this trip, all with their particular sets of customs. We are careful to ensure that we do not break any local taboos, and travellers are briefed on appropriate behaviour when visiting such groups.
We also visit a number of historic sites on this trip. Where entrance fees exist, the inclusion of these within our tour price helps to maintain them, not just for other western travellers but for local people for whom they hold far greater significance. This can be important in regions that have not always enjoyed much government funding for cultural monument. We also use local guides in such places Ė again where available Ė which helps to ensure that remote communities can gain from tourism, however small this may be in the grand scheme of things.