What is there to do in Tajikistan? For adventure 4×4, motorcycle, and bicycle travelers the answer is simple and absolute: the Pamir Highway. Never heard of the Pamir Highway as one of the go-to Tajikistan tourist attractions? In case you have not, the Pamir Highway (otherwise known as M41) is the world’s 2nd highest international highway. It winds from Osh, Kyrgyzstan all the way to Dushanbe, Tajikistan for a grand total distance of 1,252 kilometers! Rugged, dangerous, extremely weathered, and utterly awesome, it is sure to put a notch in your adventure destination belt.
WHAT MAKES IT SUCH A DRAW TO TRAVELERS?
When you visit Tajikistan, you will notice that its trademark feature is the Pamir Mountain Range. The Pamirs in Tajikistan are called “the roof of the world” due to the massive 5000+ meter peaks (including numerous 7000+ meter peaks) that thrust their way into the sky. Considered one of the most inaccessible areas in the world, the Pamirs are home to several rare animals such as the Marco Polo sheep and endangered snow leopard and over 15 ethnic groups, making it extremely diverse.
The Pamir Highway slices right through the Tajikistan Pamir Range, providing exquisite scenery along the whole route. Travelers who tackle the entire highway can brag about crossing 3 massive mountain passes and rarely dipping below 3,800 meters while on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. If fact, the highest point on the highway is 4,655 meters (Ak Baital Pass). When you travel to the Tajikistan Pamir Range, you are going where few travelers have ventured before.
WHAT MAKES IT AN ADVENTURE DESTINATION?
The Pamir Highway is not a high traffic area for tourists that visit Tajikistan or many other people for that matter. The area is remote, desolate and the road is only partially paved. Avalanches, landslides, and the occasional earthquake tend to alter the face of the highway and make travel slow-going. The roads are cleared and the Pamir Highway is in fact often used by trucks transporting goods from China to Dushanbe, so it is completely possible to drive/cycle across it, but all these aforementioned factors plus the fact that you have got altitude and temperature extremes to consider make it a challenging journey. (In the Pamirs, the average temperature in July ranges from 5° – 10°C, and in January, between -15° and -20°C.)
However, all these things considered, I do not think you will be able to find one person that traveled the Pamir Highway that ever said it was anything less than memorizing and completely worth the effort. A Pamir Tajikistan tour with a guide is recommended as your guide will be familiar with how best to safely journey across it and where all the popular Tajikistan tourist attractions are along the way. However, independent travelers can cross it themselves using either a sturdy 4×4 vehicle, motorcycle, or mountain bike.
First and foremost, adventure travelers book a Tajikistan tour of the Pamir Highway to see the exquisite Pamir Mountain landscape in all its majestic, wild glory. The journey itself is the destination. Even if you made no stops along the way, you would find the scenery well worth the trip. However, there are some places to stop and see that are quite fascinating.
- Bibi Fatima Hot Springs – These refreshing hot springs are tucked away not far from the village of Yamchun in the famous Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan. The site itself if fairly simple with just a concrete structure built around the springs to provide some privacy, but the waters are crystal clear and rejuvenating after a most likely chilly, bumpy ride down the highway.
- The Wakhan Valley – The Wakhan Valley is named after the nomadic Wakhi people group that call this untamed valley home. Known to have some of the wildest terrain on the planet, this 210-km-long corridor divides the Pamir Mountains and the Hindu Kush and is truly a sight to behold.
- Yamchun Fortress – This fortress was built on a clifftop between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC overlooking the Wakhan Valley. A formidable structure with massive stone walls and watchtowers, Yamchun Fortress provided much-needed protection on the Silk Road. It is one of the oldest structures found in the Wakhan and is not something you want to miss when you visit Tajikistan.
- Museum of Muabata Kadam – Not far from the major road in Yamg is a house that has been reconstructed and turned into a small museum dedicated to the life of Sufi mystic, musician, and astronomer Mubarak Kadam Wakhani (1843–1903). Inside you can find a plethora of manuscripts, the parchment of which Wakhani himself made from the bark of apricot trees, as well as various musical instruments, robes, jugs, and more.
THE PAMIR HIGHWAY 2015
So if you are looking for an adventure for your vacation this year, book a Tajikistan tour of the Pamir Highway. Not only will you get to experience its wild terrain and beauty, but you will get a glimpse of the challenges faced by many Silk Road travelers that had to cross through the Pamirs. It is a Silk Road experience that is much less touristy than many places offer and provides a refreshing dash of authenticity. Due to the lack of traffic in general through this remote area, there are even several fortresses and caravanserais that still stand from Silk Road times. The whole area is simply spectacular, so book a tour, travel Tajikistan, and see the Pamir Highway for yourself!
Photo from source: www.journey2dakar.com; photos by supplier SR1412