A photographic journal of our journey from Osh in Kyrgyzstan to Murgab in Tajikistan

This summer we took a road trip that will go down as one of the most visually enthralling adventures we have experienced: traversing a stretch of the renowned Pamir Highway before dropping down into the Wakhan Valley and following the river which forms a natural border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Widely considered to be the second-highest highway in the world (after the Karakoram Highway which links China and Pakistan), the Pamir Highway begins (or ends depending on your direction of travel) in Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan and drops down into Tajikistan, spanning almost the width of the country before heading further south briefly into Uzbekistan before officially ending in the Afghan town of Mazarin Sharif. Forming one route of the historical Silk Road, the highway also goes by the less romantic name, the M41.

For those planning a trip to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, we have written in much more detail here, but, because pictures speak louder than words, here is a visual record of our daily journey along the Pamir Highway and through the Wakhan Valley.

Day 1 – Osh to Tulpar-Kul near Sary Mogol (Kyrgyzstan)  

Leaving Osh, it’s not long before the city melts away and gives way to Kyrgyzstan’s signature rolling hills and plunging valleys …

Osh to Sary Tash Kyrgyzstan-10Osh to Sary Tash 

Osh to Sary Tash Kyrgyzstan-6Osh to Sary Tash 

Our first night was spent on the shores of Lake Tulpar-Kul. It’s usually a peaceful spot, but our stay coincided with the traditional annual horse games providing us with a fantastic opportunity to spend the night in a yurt learn more about nomadic Kyrgyz culture.

Tulpar Kul (Achik-Tash) Kyrgyzstan-5Lake Tulpar-Kul

Tulpar Kul (Achik-Tash) Kyrgyzstan-89Lake Tulpar-Kul

Tulpar Kul (Achik-Tash) Kyrgyzstan-113Lake Tulpar-Kul

Day 2 – Tulpar Kul to Peak Lenin Base Camp, Achik Tash (Kyrgyzstan) 

Geographically we had only a short distance to cover and had it not been pouring with rain, we might have hiked the 2 to 3 hours from Tulpar Kul to Peak Lenin Base Camp. Instead, the drive took a similar amount of time, traversing roads with no markings across the jailoo – pastures for Kyrgyzstan’s nomadic people.

Tulpar Kul (Achik-Tash) Kyrgyzstan-112Lake Tulpar-Kul

Sary Mogol to Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-2Sary Mogol to Peak Lenin Base Camp

Sary Mogol to Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-4Sary Mogol to Peak Lenin Base Camp

We arrived at Peak Lenin Base Camp in thick, freezing fog, pouring rain and a bitter wind. Miraculously, during lunch, the weather started to clear and by late afternoon we were rewarded with the most spectacular views of Peak Lenin and the surrounding mountains.

Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-73Peak Lenin Base Camp

Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-28Peak Lenin Base Camp

Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-86Peak Lenin Base Camp

Day 3 – Peak Lenin Base Camp, Sary Mogol to Sary Tash to Karakul (Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan) 

We awoke to an equally stunning day …

Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-97Peak Lenin Base Camp

Peak Lenin Base Camp Kyrgyzstan-56Peak Lenin Base Camp

After leaving Base Camp we returned the same way back to Sary Mogol, on to Sary Tash and towards the border with Tajikistan. As the elevation started to increase, the scenery became noticeably more arid and the green started to be broken up by brown patches of bare earth and rock.

Tajikistan border to Karakul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-1Tajikistan border to Karakul on the Pamir Highway 

Tajikistan border to Karakul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-10Tajikistan border to Karakul on the Pamir Highway 

Our first night in Tajikistan was spent in the town of Karakul, on the shores of the lake of the same name. A settlement rather than a town, Karakul consists of several low-rise white-washed houses and reminded us of remote north Africa. Despite being situated at 3,914 metres above sea level, Kara Kul is a salt lake and is part of the UNESCO-listed Tajik National Park.

kara-kul-lake-karakul-pamir-highway-tajikistan-8Kara-Kul Lake, Karaku

Karakul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-10Karakul Village

Day 4 – Karakul to Murgab and the Pshart Valley (Tajikistan) 

Climbing higher on the high-altitude highway, today we crossed the Ak-Baital (White Horse) Pass, at 4,655 metres, before reaching Murgab. 

Ak-Baital (White Horse) Pass Karakul to Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-1.jpgAk-Baital (White Horse) Pass

Karakul to Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-2Karakul to Murgab on the Pamir Highway

Wild-west in feel, Murgab was our base for exploring the pretty Pshart Valley.

Pshart Valley Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-35Nomads in the Pshart Valley near Murgab

Pshart Valley Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-27Nomads in the Pshart Valley near Murgab

Pshart Valley Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-14The Pshart Valley near Murgab

Day 5 – Murgab to the Madiyan Valley and on to Bulunkul and Lake Yashil-Kul 

This morning, before continuing along the Pamir Highway, we ventured into the Madiyan Valley.

Madiyan Valley Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-3Madiyan Valley

Madiyan Valley Murgab Pamir Highway Tajikistan-24Madiyan Valley

We detoured from the highway to Bulunkul, from where we drove up to picturesque Lake Yashil-Kul before spending the night in the village. Hovering at around 3,700 metres the village is home to Lake Bulun-Kul, arguably more photogenic than Yashil-Kul – if you can stand the swarms of mosquitos!

Bulunkul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-2-2Bulunkul Village on the Pamir Highway

Bulunkul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-3-2.jpgBunlukul Village

Yashil-Kul (Lake) Bulunkul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-7Yashil-Kul Lake near Bulunkul

Bulun-Kul (Lake) Bulunkul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-6Bulun-Kul Lake, Bulunkul

Day 6 – Bulunkul to Langar and Hisor 

Bulunkul Pamir Highway Tajikistan-4Scenery near Bulunkul

Today, we rejoined the Pamir Highway briefly, before turning off and heading towards the fabled Wakhan Valley, crossing the Khargush Pass. The views here, at 4,344 metres, provide a tantalising first glimpse of Afghanistan and the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush beyond.

Bulunkul to Khargush Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-17Bulunkul to Khargush in the Wakhan Valley

Khargush to Langar Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-34Khargush Pass, Wakhan Valley

Soon after this point, we were hugging the Afghan border and the excitement rose. If we’d been bowled over by the views up until this point, well …

The river acts as a natural border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, separating the stark, jagged landscapes of both countries with a raging torrent. This was the scenery we had come to Tajikistan to see and it didn’t disappoint.

Khargush to Langar Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-21Khargush to Langar in the Wakhan Valley

khargush-to-langar-wakhan-valley-tajikistan-23Khargush to Langar

khargush-to-langar-wakhan-valley-tajikistan-35Khargush to Langar

We realised that we weren’t going to reach our destination before dark if we didn’t resist the urge to ask our driver to stop every few minutes for photos! We would follow the river for a few days yet, so there would be many more opportunities …

We were happy we did reach Langar in good time, as our overnight here provided the perfect opportunity to stretch our legs and explore this Pamiri village, along with neighbouring Hisor.

Langar Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-1Langar

Hisor Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-14Hisor

Day 7 – Hisor to Ishakashim 

The drive today was along a beautiful stretch of the valley, dotted with small villages and farmland but still with Afghanistan as a constant backdrop. To add to the landscape, we visited fortresses at Yamchun and Namadgut.

Hisor Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-12Hisor

Langar to Yamchun Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-1-2En route from Langar to Yamchun 

Yamchun (Zulkhomar) Fort Yamchun Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-2Yamchun Fortress in the Wakhan Valley

Yamchun to Namadgut Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-7Yamchun Fortress in the Wakhan Valley

yamchun-zulkhomar-fort-yamchun-wakhan-valley-tajikistan-6Yamchun Fortress in the Wakhan Valley

Day 8 – Ishakashim to Khorog 

For some reason, we imagined that once we left the Wakhan Valley, that would simply be the end of the road as far as superlatives went. We may have become blasé about our views, but they were no less impressive as we reached the end of our epic journey along the Pamir Highway and through the Wakhan Valley.

Ishkashim to Khorog Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-31Ishkashim to Khorog 

Ishkashim to Khorog Wakhan Valley Tajikistan-7Ishkashim to Khorog 

Gunt River Khorog Tajikistan-4Gunt River, Khorog


As you can imagine, this is just a tiny selection of the photographs we took along the Pamir Highway and through the Wakhan Valley! If you’d like to see more, check out our gallery pages: Photographs of Kyrgyzstan and Photographs of Tajikistan


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Pamir Highway and Wakhan Valley in Photographs 1 Pamir Highway and Wakhan Valley in Photographs 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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