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TRAVEL

 

 

With support from the European Union, the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP - a project of the Aga Khan Foundation) and the Pamirs EcoTourism Association (PECTA) have opened a Tourism Information Centre in Khorog, located in the Central Park.

The Centre provides general travel advice as well as information on local tourism service providers (tour operators, hotels, home stays, drivers, guides etc.).

Communication Officer: Mrs. Zhandiya Zoolshoeva
Tel. (mobile) +992 93 557 59 03
See http://www.pecta.tj
.

To send an e-mail click
here
[tourism(at)pamirs.org].

For information on border crossings to Tajikistan, see here. N.B. Despite confirmation received in April 2013 from the Tajik Border Guard commander and Khorog Tourist Office that the Kulma Pass to/from China is now open for tourists, it seems (19 July 2013 - see here) that the Chinese border guards are not allowing tourists through. (If anyone has done so successfully, please send me an e-mail via the link on the Home Page.)

A new website (run by Sophie Willingale) gives very useful and up-to-date information about travel to and in Tajikistan. See http://tajiktourism.com/0.

Another new website gives information on small private hotels in Khorog and plans to add information on restaurants, sight-seeing etc. See http://www.khorog.com/
.

I have just added a section on this page with information on travel to the Afghan Wakhan (click here to access this section).

On 21 June 2013, UNESCO announced that the Pamirs had been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What this means for tourism remains to be seen. I fear not all good, as I suggested to UNESCO in the following e-mail sent the same day:

"As co-author of the first tourist guide to Tajikistan (Odyssey Publications 2008/2011), I was delighted to learn of the designation of the Pamirs as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I regret, however, that this designation is defined by the appellation "Tajikistan National Park", that bears no relationship to facts on the ground. The "Park" has no clearly defined (much less publicly designated) boundaries, no ranger personnel and no funding. Apart from those like myself who are only concerend to promote ecotourism in the Pamirs, those most interested in this new honour will certainly be the Tajik government - which has an excuse to levy fees from tourists for non-existent park services and non-planned investments in the protection of the site - and the many officials, semi-officials and plain local frauds who try to shake tourists down for a few dollars.

I would not wish that UNESCO withdraw the nomination, only that there be some follow-up by UNESCO to ensure that areas designated and recognised as national parks be effectively managed as a natural national resource."

If I get an answer, I will post it. (N.B. As of 31 July, neither UNESCO nor IUCN - which actually makes the recommendations to UNESCO - have given me the courtesy of an acknowledgement of my legitimate comment.)


There are several ways of getting to Tajikistan and Gorno-Badakhshan.

For general (and very useful) travel advice, see here
.


1. via Dushanbe

a) Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul: in summer outward on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday (return the following day) - see the Turkish Airlines website for details:
http://www.thy.com/en-INT/index.aspx.

N.B. Turkish Airlines now flies to and from Osh. See here.

b) A relatively recent arrival on the international travel market is the Tajik company Somon Air - see here.

c) Tajik Air (Tajikistan Airlines) flies daily Moscow-Dushanbe from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow (on some days more than one flight). The schedule can be found here and here.

Most of these flights allow an onward connection to Dushanbe the same day from international flights arriving in Domodedovo. For flights arriving in Sheremetevo, at least 2 hours travel time - not counting immigration and check-in - must be allowed for the airport transfer (expensive by taxi), otherwise, on the way to Dushanbe, travellers must spend a night in Moscow, which can be expensive and for which a Russian visa is required (also expensive). The timing of the return flight, however, makes it possible to connect the same day with flights to most international destinations. Several international airlines now use Domodedovo rather than Sheremetevo. A complete listing can be found on http://www.domodedovo.ru/en/main/timetablenew/.

e) Other connections: Dushanbe can be reached from other airports in the CIS and elsewhere. Probably the best alternative route to those listed above is via Bishkek (or more recently) Osh in Kyrgyzstan. This is particularly useful for travellers planning to combine Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on their tour. N.B. It is possible to buy a return ticket from Turkish Airlines Istanbul/Dushanbe and Bishkek/Istanbul or vice versa.

FlyDubai now flies to Dushanbe from Dubai and flights are planned to Osh - see below.

East Air, a Tajik charter carrier, recently announced a weekly flight to and from New Delhi - see here.

It is very hard to find information on flights from Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe and vice versa. They exist but you must get confirmation from the airline or from a local travel agent before believing any information you may find on the Internet. The following airlines have/had connections from Bishkek to Dushanbe:

Avia Traffic Company (See here - Russian only).

Kyrgyzstan Airlines (See here - Russian only).

N.B. Nearly all air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of the Kyrgyz Republic are banned by the European Union (see http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air-ban/).

Wikipedia is a useful source of fairly up-to-date information on these and other airlines. My best advice is to contact a travel agent in Bishkek or Dushanbe for these connections. One of the most reliable is Dima Melnichkov of Tajikaviatour in Dushanbe - 32 Bukhoro Street, Dushanbe-734025 phone: + 992 37 227 4725, fax: + 992 37 221 1934 - e-mail here [dmelnichkov(at)hotmail.com]. Dima is the author of the booklet Travel through Tajikistan published in Dushanbe - see section References, bibliography and links.

Dushanbe-Khorog

Once in Dushanbe, unless they have been able to obtain a mention of Gorno-Badakhshan on their visa, travellers must spend up to three days obtaining a special stamp in their passport authorising them to travel to Gorno-Badakhshan. (See the section on Visas for help in obtaining this.)

From Dushanbe, travel to Gorno-Badakhshan is either by air to Khorog or by road (approximately 16 hours in a modern four-wheel drive vehicle, longer in a commercial bus). Subject to the provisos listed below, there are one or more flights every day to and from Khorog.

Flights to Khorog are in a small plane that only departs Dushanbe if there is no cloud cover on the mountains on the way into Khorog and if Tajik Air determines that there are sufficient passengers to make the flight economical. All flights originate in Dushanbe, which means that there is only a flight Khorog-Dushanbe if the flight Dushanbe-Khorog has taken place. In the absence of flights, arrangements must be made for travel by private car or bus.

The Lonely Planet guide describes the flight as “one of the main attractions of Khorog” and “one of the most exhilarating or terrifying experiences of your life” – the plane “flying in the shadow of the rockface with its wingtips so close you could swear they kick up swirls of snow”.
 

pamirs travel flight mountain rushan pamirs travel flight mountain rushan pamirs travel flight mountain rushan


Hotels

In Dushanbe and Khorog there are a few acceptable hotels: information can be obtained from several websites (search on Dushanbe/Khorog and hotels). A new website offers information on a selection of hotels in Tajikistan - see
here
. N.B. The list is far from complete and excludes the major hotels in Dushanbe such as the Serena and Hyatt.
 

2) via Osh in Kyrgyzstan

Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, is situated in the South of the country. A paved road runs South from Osh to the last Kyrgyz checkpoint, Sary Tash (190km, 4 hours by private vehicle). From there a partially paved road leads across the Pamir plateau to Khorog (540km, 12 hours – several passes at altitudes higher than 4,000m). The various checkposts will not allow travellers to pass unless their Tajik visas mention specifically the destination of Gorno-Badakhshan.

There is no public transport available between Osh and Khorog. Travellers must try to make their own arrangements either with private vehicles or with one of the trucking companies operating out of Osh. N.B. There is only one human settlement (at the Kara Kul lake) between Sary Tash and Murghab (230km, altitude 3,640m).

N.B. Another scam by Tajik border guards - when going through the Kara Kul checkpoint on your way out of the Pamirs to Osh be careful to get back your immigration/landing card from the border guards. Otherwise, it has been reported, their colleagues at the exit checkpoint at Kyzylart will impose a heavy fine because you don't have it. I have written to Lochin Faizulloev, Deputy Minister of tourism on this issue asking that the persons concerned be punished as it will destroy tourism.

 

Karamyk Pass (Daroot Kurgan) crossing from the Alai valley in Kyrgyzstan to the Rasht valley (Garm) in Tajikistan

To the best of my knowledge, this crossing is not open for tourists. The Kyrgyz border guards have recently strengthened their presence on the Kyrgyz side to prevent drug trafficking, smuggling and terrorism. Don't even try to cross here. See reports here and here.

If anyone has relevant personal experience, please send me an e-mail via the link on the Home Page.

N.B.
Turkish Airlines now flies to and from Osh. See here.

FlyDubai is planning flights to Osh - see here - but take with a pinch of salt "the mountains in Tajikistan for skiing...."  

 

3) via Tashkent

Transiting via Tashkent requires travelling by road to Khujand in Northern Tajikistan and then flying with Tajik Air to Dushanbe or continuing by road; an Uzbek visa is required. Until the Uzbek frontier posts are more accommodating to international tourists, travel via Tashkent to Dushanbe and vice versa is not recommended.

4) Kulma Pass to/from China

A recent notice posted by the US Embassy in Dushanbe states that an agreement was signed between the Tajikistan and Chinese governments on December 29, 2011, whereby the Kulma pass border has now become a full-fledged border that will be open year-round. N.B.Despite confirmation received April 2013 from the Tajik Border Guard commander and the Khorog Tourist Office that the Kulma Pass to/from China is now open for tourists, it seems that this is still not the case - see here .


AFGHAN WAKHAN

There is increasing interest today in the Afghan Wakhan and many travellers either combine travel in the Pamirs with a visit to the Afghan Wakhan or access it directly via Ishkashim on the Tajik side. In recognition of this trend, the new edition of the Odyssey guidebook Tajikistan and the High Pamirs includes a section on the Afghan Wakhan with an excellent map by Markus Hauser showing historical monuments and guesthouses on both sides of the Panj. If you have the book, you will find the section on pages 606-611 - if you don't have the book, please buy it.

Below are the most useful links I have found on getting to and around the Afghan Wakhan:

A beautiful brochure published by the Aga Khan Foundation, a little outdated but with a good map of the little Pamir:
http://www.akdn.org/publications/2010_akf_wakhan.pdf  


Trekking information by Julien Dufour, who has probably the most informative website on the Wakhan: http://www.juldu.com/Pamir/index_pamir.html  


Very practical travel advice: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2229124  


More practical travel advice by the authors of the AKF brochure (see above):
http://www.mockandoneil.com/wakhan.htm  


http://ismailimail.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/documentary-wakhan-culture/  


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM72c1AlIQY  


http://wakhanexpedition2012.jimdo.com/blog/  


http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Afghanistan/North/blog-735013.html  


http://www.pilk.net/update4.centralasia.html  


Swiss newspaper report in German by the founders of the charitable association "Pamir Bridges" http://www.pamirbridges.ch/presse/PDF/LU-Little%20Pamir130311.pdf  


Plan for a group tour by mountain bike in the Wakhan in July 2013 http://www.secretcompass.com/mountain-bike-afghanistan/  

 


TRAVEL BY PRIVATE CAR

A recent report, describing a journey made in 2009 in a private vehhicle from Austria to Tibet, reports that no major problems were encountered at the Uzbek border coming from Tashkent nor on the Tajik side. The group crossed the Tajik frontier at Bustan north of Khujand and left through Kyzylart on the Pamir Highway. Unfortunately the blog is only in German: see here
 

TOUR OPERATORS

See Section on Tour Operators and other services.

For Trekking see the Trekking page.

For trekking in the Bartang valley, including Sarez, and around Bulunkul, contact Odina Nurmamadov, who comes from the village of Bassid in the Bartang, e-mail here - Mobile phone +992 91 936 6772, Khorog home number +992 835 222 47 59. Odina has just set up his own tour company - see www.pamirmount-tour.com.

New small Tour Operators:

For trekking and horse trekking in and around the most beautiful villages of the Pamirs see
here and here
. Aslisho Qurboniev, the operator, is one of the most remarkable self-starters in Pamirs tourism. Contact:
+992935661504 (Tj)
+7403741946 (UK)
Email: here or here.

For an attractive and rather different approach to tour organising, see Matthieu Paley's new website: www.pamirknot.com. Matthieu, in addition to being a superb photographer with high sensibility for the dignity of the people he portrays, is an intrepid and well-informed high mountain traveller. I wish him well with this promising new venture.

A new tour facilitator PamirLink offers special Eco-Cultural packages that include volunteer project work - See here. I also wish good luck to Roman Droux, an old Pamirs hand, who is working on this venture with Odina Nurmamadov (see above, under Trekking).

Pamir Trek Association, a new non-commercial group of guides to the Pamirs, including neighbouring regions of Kyrgyzstan, has recently been formed with special emphasis on horse trekking. See here.

For Hunting:

If you are a hunter, or want to see Marco Polo sheep - or just want to visit one of the most remote corners of the Pamirs and stay in a hunting camp (Jarty Gumbez) with a hot spring, get in touch with

Atobek Bekmurodov


Tel Murghab (+992 3554) 333
Khorog (+992 35222) 3333 / 2982 / 4113
Dushanbe (+992 372) 23 34 00 / 21 17 43
Moscow (+7495) 362 0830 / 361 42 84.
e-mail here.

or

 

Tolibek Gulbekov

66 Lenin Street Murghab
Tel (+992 3554) 21 639
Also in Dushanbe:
Dekhoti Street 21/3 Apartment 33
Tel (+992 372) 34 06 20


IMPORTANT NOTICE ON SAFETY

The Pamirs are very much "virgin territory" for tourism. Make certain that you know the conditions of the tracks, rivers and bridges that you envisage taking and check meteorological conditions. Take a good driver and a reliable vehicle - if your route includes uninhabited territory, it is advisable to travel with at least two vehicles. For example:

a) in summer in the Great Pamir there are large areas of treacherous terrain where a mud-slide has been covered with a baked clay surface that looks stable but is not;

b) many mountain sides are covered in scree (broken rock fragments) that is unstable and very slippery.

c) flooding/flash floods can destroy roads and make driving dangerous

d) unseasonal snow can block the Pamir Highway and other roads

See photos below and the note on safety on the trekking page.

 

pamirs great pamir jeep stuck mud

 

pamirs scree jawshangoz yaks

 

pamirs pamir highway jeep stuck snow

 

pamirs pamir highway jeep stuck snow

 


The sponsors of the present website decline all responsibility for accidents.



All text and photographs (c) Robert Middleton 2002


Web master Romanyuk Mikhail