Road Trip: Pamir Highway in Central Asia

By Tim Kroeger June 10, 2019 Adventure, Tajikistan

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The Pamir Highway is one of the world’s most adventurous roads to drive. The road traverses the mountain passes of Central Asia, connecting the cities of Osh in Kyrgyzstan and Mazar i Sharif in Afghanistan.

The highway passes by towering peaks, windswept valleys and isolated mountain communities. 

The epic trans-border road trip is a bucket list experience for lovers of adventure.

The most common Pamir Highway itineraries cover the stretch of road between between Osh and Khorog in Tajikistan. Along the way, it is possible to glimpse snapshots of life across the river in Afghanistan.

The most adventurous of travelers can even cross the border into Afghanistan’s remote Wakhan Corridor. 

Most people who travel the Pamir Highway choose to hire a driver for the route. If that doesn’t sound adventurous enough, one can either hitchhike or tackle to route by bicycle. Traversing the Pamir Highway on two wheels, is regarded as one of the pinnacles of cycling.

The Pamir Highway boasts some of the most impressive scenery in the world. From windswept valleys to lunar landscapes and from fertile plains to abandoned Silk Road fortresses, a road trip through the Pamirs affords spectacular views at every bend.

In Kyrgyzstan, the landscape consists of golden valleys and yurt-speckled pastures. In the Alay Region of southern Kyrgyzstan, 23,000ft Peak Lenin is one of the crown jewels of the road trip.

The Peak Lenin Base Camp is a fantastic place to hike and soak in the stellar mountain views. 

Across the border in Tajikistan, the scenery becomes more rugged and desolate. Lunar landscapes look as though they belong on a different planet.

As the Pamir Highway nears the Afghan border, it follows the Panj River to the town of Khorog. Along the way, the road boasts views of fertile plains and Afghanistan’s jagged mountain peaks. 

Due to its high altitude and harsh climate, the Pamir Highway is best explored in summer or early Autumn, when temperatures are above freezing and the road is still passable.

Those who visit the area in winter months runs the risk of inclement weather and landslides. Even in summer months, the weather can be unpredictable. It is possible to experience intense heat, snowfall, hail and rain within the matter of hours! 

Driving along the Pamir Highway is not an experience for travelers who are accustomed to luxurious hotels or fine dining. The Pamir Highway is a challenging destination to visit and tourist amenities are scarce.

Along the highway, food and accommodation options are rudimentary at best. Most accommodation options consist of basic family-run guesthouses with shared sleeping quarters and minimal hygiene standards.

Read also: Healthy Road Trip Snacks

Public restrooms smell so foul, that even those with stomachs of steel cannot help but feel nauseous in their presence.

The Pamir Highway is not designed for inexperienced travelers or those seeking familiar comforts.

Yet, travelers who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and face potential obstacles (be they in the form of altitude sickness, food poisoning, severe weather or landslides), will be rewarded with some of the most rugged and unspoiled scenery on Earth. 

Written by Erika from Erika’s Travels

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