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Afghanistan & Tajikistan: Wakhan Pamir Adventure

TOUR IN

ASIA

  • 20 Jul
  • -
  • 08 Aug 2022
  • |
  • 20 days

$7833

per person

Availability: 12 places

    In Afghanistan’s distant north-eastern corner lies the Wakhan corridor. This narrow strip of land once formed the buffer zone between the British and Russian Empires and was of immense strategic importance during the 19th century ‘Great Game’. Today the area is inhabited predominantly by Wakhi herdsmen and is not only remote and peaceful, but is also blessed with some of the finest mountain scenery the world has to offer.

    From Dushanbe in Tajikistan, we will first travel into the Tajik Pamir before heading to the Afghan border and into the Wakhan Valley. We will make our way slowly up the valley, visiting villages, taking some day walks and enjoying traditional Afghan hospitality. We will stay in basic guesthouses throughout our time in Afghanistan as we discover the delights of this famed region. This is a trip right out there on the edge of civilisation: we will find no mobile reception, internet access or even electricity for the most part.

    What we will experience here though takes us back to another century when people lived in a very different way…unlike so many you hear about, this trip is a true adventure of a life time.

    Day 1

    DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN DUSHANBE (TAJIKISTAN)

    Due to the arrival time of our suggested group flight in the early hours of day 2, accommodation for this night is included in the tour cost. The Tour Leader will arrange a short introductory meeting for those who arrive earlier.
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    Day 2

    DAY 2: DUSHANBE

    After some time to settle in this morning we will take a look around the Tajik capital, admiring some of the impressive architecture and stocking up on some supplies at the local bazaar. At an altitude of 800m and with a mountainous backdrop, this is the perfect place to get ready for the big journey ahead.
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    Day 3

    DAY 3: DUSHANBE – KALAIKHUM

    After breakfast we will head out on the famous Pamir Highway. This road is of vital importance for the country and ultimately it skirts the southern edge of the Tajik Pamir to finish in Osh. Today we follow the road as far as Kalaikhum where we plan to spend the night
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    Day 4

    DAY 4: KALAIKHUM – BARTANG VALLEY

    Kalaikhum sits on the Panj River, a major tributary of the famous Amu Darya (Oxus) River. This morning we’ll follow the river upstream passing the Vanch Valley before coming to the meeting point of the Bartang and Panj Rivers. From here we turn off the main road and follow the Bartang River upstream. We’ll pass traditional Pamiri villages and stay in a small private guesthouse.
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    Day 5

    DAY 5: BARTANG VALLEY – ISHKASHIM

    After a morning walk visiting local villages and some time to relax we’ll make our way to Ishkashim in Tajikistan, which lies opposite the town of Ishkashim in Afghanistan and which will be our base for the next two nights.
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    Day 6

    DAY 6: IN & AROUND ISHKASHIM

    A full day allows us to explore our surroundings, which contain a multitude of varied sites including forts, hot springs & shrines. Tonight, while sipping on our last beers for some days to come, we can look out over the river towards the country that will be our home for the next 10 days.
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    Day 7

    DAY 7: TO ISHKASHIM (AFGHANISTAN)

    Leaving Tajikistan this morning we’ll cross into Afghanistan via a bridge over the Panj River. Even after clearing immigration & customs there will still be some further red tape to deal with, so some patience will be needed! We will at least have the help of our Afghan guide and the feeling of being in an almost forbidden land is very special.
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    Day 8

    DAY 8: ISHKASHIM – PEGISH

    A rough road built by the Soviets takes us into the Wakhan Corridor. With the valley barely 20km wide in places, this road is not for the fainthearted and there may be some river crossings to negotiate. The scenery, however, is truly magnificent and we will undoubtedly meet many of the local Wakhi people. The women are especially noticeable with their bright red scarves and beaded necklaces. The valley has several basic guesthouses, which – along with yurts in the Little Pamir - will serve as our accommodation over the coming nights. The itinerary has been designed to allow for ample time for walks, village visits, photography and meeting the friendly inhabitants of the valley. While we have a planned itinerary whilst in Afghanistan, it should be stressed that day to day changes can and almost certainly will occur – this is Afghanistan after all! Maximum flexibility may be called upon. For the most part, daily driving distances are generally not far but can take time to the rough condition of the roads. Our base for tonight is Pegish, home to the Wakhan’s oldest shrine.
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    Day 9

    DAY 9: PEGISH – QALA E PANJ

    Continuing east, we follow the southern bank of the river and are treated to views of both Tajik and Afghan mountains throughout the day. We will pass through the regional centre of Khandud which divides the lower Wakhan from upper Wakhan and has the largest market in the valley after Ishkashim. Despite this, it is still a very quiet town with limited supplies. We will spend tonight in Qala e Panj which was the the home of Pir Shah Ismail, the spiritual leader of Wakhan Ismailis. Here we will find the atmospheric ruins of two forts, overlooking the river from a strategic vantage point. It is also home to the regional office of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and if we are lucky we may be able to find someone to talk to us about their efforts to protect the wildlife of the area, especially the endangered snow leopard. There will also be the chance to go for a walk in the Sarkand Valley.
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    Day 10

    DAY 10: QALA E PANJ - SARHAD E BROGHIL

    As we head further up the valley, we cross the Wakhan River just upstream of where it meets the Pamir River to become the Panj. This confluence of rivers also mirrors the interweaving of Pamiri & Wakhi cultures. As we head along the northern bank of the river, deeper and higher up the Wakhan, we pass several clutches of homes, all of which are inhabited by families who eke a subsistence living off the land. Later today we’ll reach Sarhad e Broghil which will be our base for the next two nights.
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    Day 11

    DAY 11: IN SARHAD E BROGHIL

    Depending on local conditions, today we will make one of several local hikes available and perhaps picnic on a grassy meadow below one of the area’s many mountain passes. En route we can expect to encounter some local families on their summer pastures. Alternatively, the day is free to explore this tranquil village with its friendly local people. We may also be able to arrange a traditional game of buzkashi, a game often described as rugby on horseback; it involves several men, their horses, a headless goat and almost no rules!
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    Day 12

    DAY 12: SARHAD E BROGHIL - BOZAI GUMBAZ

    Today we will drive on the Wakhan’s newest road. Previously the road ended at Sarhad e Broghil and anyone wishing to proceed further east needed to prepare for a major expedition on foot or yak! However, in 2020 a new road opened connecting Sarhad to the Little Pamir. Our journey today will explore a whole new world whilst visiting and overnighting with the famous Afghan-Kyrgyz community, who fled to the region in the early 1900s to escape increasing Russian influence in their homeland of Kyrgyzstan.
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    Day 13

    DAY 13: BOZAI GUMBAZ - CHAQMAQTIN LAKE

    We will continue on the new road to Chaqmaqtin Lake which lies towards the west of the Little Pamir and which was formed in a giant rock basin carved by ice. Before we reach Chaqmaqtin lake we will visit the old ruins of USSR military camps whilst learning more about the unique Afghan-Kyrgyz culture. There may also be opportunities to go fishing, walking and to view the source of the Wakhan River.
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    Day 14

    DAY 14: CHAQMAQTIN - WARDIF

    Today we will head back westwards towards Wardif, leaving the Kyrgyz and returning to the lower reaches of the Wakhan Corridor. Tonight, we plan to stay at the homestay of two widows, whose story is famous in the Wakhan and has become an inspiration for female empowerment projects in the area. After tragically losing their husbands, both brothers, the women took it upon themselves to start raising an income from shepherding in the local community. In recognition of their hard-work and positive approach to their struggles, a local organisation then built them a simple home which could accommodate visitors; and this is where we will spend the night.
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    Day 15

    DAY 15: WARDIF - GOZ KHAN

    Heading further westwards we will reach Goz Khan, situated on the knuckle of the Pamir and Wakhan rivers and affording our first sight of Tajik territory in almost a week. This quaint village is great for an afternoon stroll and the relatively comfortable guesthouse offers the perfect sanctuary for digesting the sights, smells and memories of the journey so far.
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    Day 16

    DAY 16: GOZ KHAN - QAZIDEH

    Our final full day in Afghanistan sees us travel to Qazideh, which sits at the entrance to the valley leading to Afghanistan’s highest peak, Mt Noshaq (7.492m). It was from here in 2009 that Malang Daria and Amruddin Sanjar set off with a team including fellow Afghans Afiat Khan and Gurg Ali to become the first Afghans to summit their country’s highest peak. All four so-called “tigers” of the Wakhan were integral in helping Wild Frontiers set up their Wakhan operations over a decade ago and remain good friends today.
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    Day 17

    DAY 17: DRIVE TO KHOROG (TAJIKISTAN)

    Crossing back into Tajikistan we bid farewell to our Afghan guide and drivers and head for our first hotel night in over two weeks! Being the regional capital of the GBAO (Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast), Khorog is a very relaxed and quite cosmopolitan place, home to a university and a wonderful city park. After the stresses and strains (and bumpy roads!) of Afghanistan it should come as a very welcome relief.
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    Day 18

    DAY 18: KHOROG - KULYAB

    Today we’ll leave the Pamirs behind us as we make our way westwards, aiming to reach Kulyab in time for dinner, this allows us to get the bulk of our drive out of the way today.
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    Day 19

    DAY 19: KULYAB - DUSHANBE

    Our final day’s drive takes us back to the Tajik capital by lunchtime and gives us a chance to spend a relaxed afternoon in the city.
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    Day 20

    DAY 20: TOUR ENDS IN DUSHANBE

    Those on the suggested group flights will transfer to Dushanbe airport in the small hours of the morning for their early return flight.
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