A Classic Tajikistan Adventure
This Classic Tajikistan tour will take you to soaring mountain ranges, historic Silk Road fortresses and turquoise lakes, all in the warm embrace of Tajikistan’s famous hospitality.
Ready for a hefty dose of adventure?
Explore Dushanbe, the Pamirs and the Fann Mountains. Feel the history of ancient Soghdia and Bactria. Follow the ghosts of Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and more.
This Classic Tajikistan itinerary isn’t just about stunning scenery: with us, you’ll really get to know the people that call this land home – from the mountain-dwelling Pamiris to those at the forefront of Dushanbe’s opera scene.
After spending some time in the country’s fast-developing capital, Dushanbe, you’ll discover Tajikistan’s little-explored hinterlands: from its northern shoulder – where you’ll visit secret Soviet spas – to its deep south, where the border with Afghanistan is inscribed with the remains of ancient civilizations. From here, you’ll head west into the mighty Pamirs, where you’ll stay in warm, characterful homestays and experience the pulse of everyday Pamiri life.
The Yagnob Valley
This Tajikistan tour will take you to the Yagnob valley, in the heart of the country’s Fann Mountains. Here, where stone houses cluster beneath walls of rock, you’ll meet the Yagnobi people, the last surviving remnants of the once powerful Soghdian race.
Legend has it that when a Soghdian boy was born, honey was placed in his mouth and glue on his palms. That way, he would speak sweet words and gold would stick to his hands. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a fitting fable for a people who accumulated great riches during the golden age of the Silk Road.
Embrace a Silk Road Adventure
Tajikistan remains a delightfully unexplored country. The roads can be bumpy, the food can be basic and the tourism infrastructure outside the capital can be somewhat haphazard. All of this, we think, make Tajikistan a fabulous place for group travel. If you love the thrill of new places, heart-bursting scenery and humbling hospitality, there are few countries that gladden the soul quite like this. This is a trip about people, culture and a place you’ll never forget.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Dushanbe International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please ensure you arrive in good time for all flights|
- All accommodation. These will range from simple family-run homestays and guesthouses to 5* hotels in Dushanbe.
- All meals
- All land travel costs, including airport transfers
- A charming professional local guide
- Local transport
- A Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
- International Flights to/from Dushanbe
- Guide gratuities
- Extra daily costs for snacks, alcohol or souvenirs
- Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac
- Visas and other permits as required (Tajik E-visa and GBAO permit only)
On this Classic Tajikistan tour, you won’t just be speeding through the country by 4WD. You’ll be drinking tea with locals, enjoying feasts in mountain homestays and getting under the skin of everyday Tajik life. In our opinion it’s these experiences, not the thread-count of your bed linen, that make journeys memorable.
Minimum group size: 5, Maximum group size: 8
Minimum-maximum group size: 5-8
Day 1 - Arrive in Dushanbe
Start Point: Dushanbe Destination: Dushanbe Notes: A restful arrival day
You’ll arrive in Dushanbe in the early hours of the morning. After being collected at the airport and transferred to your hotel, you’ll enjoy a few hours sleep before an afternoon exploring Dushanbe. Depending on availability, this could include watching a behind-the-scenes rehearsal at the Opera & Ballet Theatre.
Tonight will be spent at a 5* hotel in the city.
Day 2 - Dushanbe and North to Sughd
Start Point: Dushanbe Destination: Khujand Travel: Flight (40 mins)
This morning will include an expert-led tour of Dushanbe’s Soviet murals, followed by a visit to the National Museum of Antiquities. This is the home of one of Tajikistan’s most cherished relics, the Sleeping Buddha, as well as many other treasures of the Silk Road.
Later, you’ll board a short flight to Khujand, the capital of the country’s northern provinces. Here you’ll be staying in a 4* hotel.
Day 3 - Khujand
Start Point: Khujand Destination: Khujand Travel: Boat trip Notes: Bazaars and spas
This morning you’ll visit the city’s buzzing bazaar where you’ll try local food and drink, including plov and freshly baked bread. Later, you’ll catch your breath in the tranquil courtyard of the Mausoleum of Sheikh Muslekheddin, before boarding a private boat for a trip on Lake Kairakum. This will take you to a hotel and spa resort where you’ll enjoy a choice of local treatments.
Tonight, you’ll be in the same 4* hotel in Khujand, on the banks of the Syr Darya River.
Day 4 - Fann Mountains and Yaghnob Valley
Start Point: Khujand Destination: Yaghnob Valley Travel: 240 km by good road
Today you’ll drive south to the turquoise waters of Lake Iskanderkul, via the Shakhristan pass, the beautiful Turkestan Mountains and the little-visited Silk Road citadel of Istaravshan. At the lake – made famous by the legend of Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus, who was supposed to have sunk into the great depths and is said to rise again to graze in the light of each full moon – you’ll have lunch by the shore before a short drive into the Yaghnob valley.
The Yaghnob valley is unique. A vestigial remnant of the Soghdian civilization, the valley is the only place where a version of this ancient language still spoken.
You’ll enjoy the evening at a delightful family-run homestay.
Day 5 - Yaghnob and South
Start Point: Yaghnob Valley Destination: Bokhtar City Travel: A hike for those who want it followed by a 130 km drive via Dushanbe
After breakfast you’ll lace up your boots and stride out for a walk in the stunning, fertile Yaghnob Valley. With your legs stretched and your lungs cleansed, you’ll then follow the Varzob river south to Dushanbe, where you’ll break for lunch at a popular traditional chaikhona, or tea house.
After lunch you’ll continue south to Bhoktar City, a place very few visitors reach. Here you’ll enjoy spectacular hospitality with a local family – believe us when we say you’ll have a new extended family by the time you leave tomorrow morning! Divine.
Day 6 - Into the hills
Start Point: Bokhtar City Destination: Kala-i-Khumb Travel: 4 hours and around 300 km by good road
Today will start with an early visit to atmospheric Ajina Teppa, site of the sixth century Buddhist temple where the Sleeping Buddha was found. You’ll then drive to Hulbuk fortress, where a local professor of archaeology will help bring this once thriving Silk Road fortress city to life. Lunch will be in Kulob, home of some of the most famous embroidery designs and motifs of Central Asia.
From here you’ll follow a spectacular mountain road towards the Afghan border, stopping for a few hours in a wildlife reserve that’s home to snow leopards and the critically-endangered Bukharan Markhor (the world’s biggest goat). Walking with a local wildlife ranger, you’ll go in search of Markhor and learn about the incredible conservation efforts here.
After this special experience, a short onward drive will bring you to Kala-i-Khumb, on the banks of the Amu Darya, where you’ll spend the night in a 4* hotel.
Day 7 - Kala-i-Khumb into the Pamirs
Start Point: Kala-i-Khumb Destination: Khorog Travel: 240 km (around 5 hours) by unmade road Notes: Follow the border with friendly Afghans waving at you from their side of the mighty river
Today you’ll rise early to visit the “Machu Picchu of Central Asia” – a ruined Zoroastrian city on a mountaintop overlooking the route taken by Alexander the Great, Marco Polo and many others. Mooted as the birthplace of polo, this is a wild, historic place that you’ll likely have all to yourself. If available, a local archaeologist will show you around.
From here you’ll follow the Amu Darya – the Oxus of ancient times – east through jagged mountains and ancient villages, Afghanistan just metres away across the water.
You’ll stop for a picnic lunch in the shade of mulberry trees before arriving in the town of Khorog – capital of the Pamir region. A comfortable 4* hotel awaits, along with a delicious supper in an Indian restaurant!
Day 8 - Rest Day in Khorog
Start Point: Khorog Destination: Khorog
It’s important to enjoy travel and not see it as something to be endured. With this in mind, today is a day to rest, explore Khorog’s excellent bazaar and visit the town’s botanical gardens – the second-highest on earth. There’s a coffee shop here, as well as a supermarket, an ATM and a charming city park – developed with assistance from the Aga Khan – that provides a shady place to repose and reflect. If you wish, we can also arrange a visit to the beautiful Shakhdara valley.
While you’re here, adventurous fast-food junkies may also try a MacDolands (sic) or Khorog Fried Chicken. Get your fix while you can, for tomorrow you head into the Wakhan….
Tonight is in the same 4* hotel.
Day 9 - Wakhan Valley
Start Point: Khorog Destination: Wakhan Valley Travel: 200 km by unmade road
From Khorog the road winds upwards into the wild and beautiful Wakhan Valley, a momentously beautiful slither of wilderness on the border with Afghanistan. Prepare to be staggered by the scale and beauty of the mountains here. After numerous photo breaks and a picnic lunch you’ll stop in Yamchun, site of the 2000 year old ‘Fortress of the Fireworshippers’. Perhaps our favourite spot along the entire Silk Road, this spectacular ruined fortress overlooks the Wakhan Valley, Afghanistan and the snow peaks of Pakistan’s Hindu Kush.
After wandering among the ruins, you’ll spend tonight at a simple, charming homestay beside the fortress. Even better, one of the best hot springs in Central Asia is right here: perfect for reviving road-weary limbs. Don’t forget to look at the stars tonight – they’re quite something.
Today you’ll be sleeping at an altitude of 2700 metres.
Day 10 - Wakhan Valley
Start Point: Wakhan Valley Destination: Langar Travel: 50 km by unmade road Notes: More Wakhan wandering
It’s a short drive today, with plenty to see.
Steeped in history, the Wakhan Valley has been a melting pot of civilizations for millennia. Today you’ll see Buddhist stupas, a Sufi mystic museum, a solar calendar, Zoroastrian castles and rocks etched with 10,000 year old petroglyphs.
Tonight you’ll stay at a delightful village homestay, where you’ll spend the evening chatting and sipping tea among apple and apricot trees in their orchard. The food is delicious and the welcome is warm. Perfect.
Day 11- From the Wakhan to the High Pamirs
Start Point: Langar Destination: Murghab Travel: 300 km by road
Today you’ll drive onto the wind-scuffed Murghab plateau, an otherworldly wilderness of red rock and gem-like lakes. A jaw-dropping road takes you over the 4200 metre Khargush pass and on to a high-altitude lake next to a village which – in winter – is the coldest place in Central Asia. You’ll have a picnic lunch here by warm springs that teem with frogs. The mountains around you are home to snow leopards, bears and wolves but you’ll probably see only the fat golden marmots that live in burrows around here, or perhaps the birds of prey that hunt them.
You’ll continue via a ruined soviet astronomical observatory to the frontier town of Murghab. This was the forward operating base of the Russian Empire and played a significant role in the “Great Game” of the 1830’s to 1890’s. Huge scenery surrounds you and marches east to Xinxiang in China; this place retains an atmosphere suffused with intrigue. You’ll eschew the ‘hotel’ here in favour of a warm and comfortable homestay with great food and hot showers. There is a real border town feel to Murghab and you might imagine what this town is like in the remote depths of a snowy winter. Brrr.
Day 12 - Murghab to the Bartang Valley
Start Point: Murghab Destination: Savnob Travel: 4 hours on beautiful, but rough roads Notes: Epic Bartang Valley - only accessible from Murghab in summer
Into the wild! Today you’ll begin your journey into the remote Bartang Valley. The landscape is astonishing, the road spectacular and – although this is sometimes rough riding – the rewards rich.
Few people make it here, but you will not regret doing so for a moment. You’ll spend this evening at the village of Savnob in a simple homestay with a warm welcome and good, simple food. Your hosts are mountain people living traditional lifestyles and the money you spend here goes directly to the local community.
Day 13 - Bartang Valley
Start Point: Savnob Destination: Rushan Travel: 4 hours. 190 km on unmade roads Notes: Bartang Exploration!
You’ll continue your journey down the superlative-defying scenery of the upper and lower Bartang valley today, stopping for lunch with a local family before finally emerging back onto the Panj River for a restful night and wonderful food at Rushan village.
The Bartang was an ancient thread of the Silk Road, and caravans have been passing through this narrow defile for thousands of years. Many of the languages and cultures found along the Bartang are still distinct from others even just a mountain range away.
The valley isn’t passable all year around, so trips need to be timed to make sure the chances are high. We have the experience and local knowledge to make this happen. Many of our local team are Bartangi natives, so you’ll be in the best of hands.
Day 14 - Tavildara
Start Point: Rushan Destination: Tavildara Travel: 4-5 hours on unmade roads
This is the only short part of the journey where you briefly retrace your steps.
Today, the first part of your journey takes you back along the Panj River to Kala-i-Khumb, where you’ll stop for lunch. Your route then takes you into the Darvaz region over the switchbacks of the Khuborobod pass and into the verdant Tavildara valley. Here, the mountains begin to soften.
You’ll spend your final night on the road at the most special of places, in the welcoming arms of the local mosque whose visitor rooms will be your home for tonight. Not many other groups get to stay here, but we’ve developed a warm relationship with the Imam and you’ll be well looked-after. This is a chance to enjoy hot showers, clean loos, good food and the chance to see village life going on all round you. Rush hour here involves about seven cows and a small boy with a stick.
Take a deep breath and take it all in before your return to the hurly burly of city life tomorrow.
Day 15 - Back to Dushanbe
Start Point: Tavildara Destination: Dushanbe Travel: 5 hours on firstly unmade and then good roads
Today is the homeward run back to Dushanbe. You’ll reach the city in the early afternoon, check into your 5* hotel and have the rest of the day to relax by the pool, have a massage, catch-up with the news or do some last minute souvenir shopping. A farewell supper will set you up for a few hours sleep, before your airport transfer arrives in time for your 6 a.m. flight tomorrow morning.
Day 16 - Dushanbe to home
Start Point: Dushanbe Destination: Home Travel: Flight via Almaty, Moscow, Istanbul or Dubai
Most flights leave early in the morning, so we will get you to the airport in plenty of time.
Where will we be staying?
On this expedition, you’ll be in a comfortable 5* hotel in Dushanbe, and then we’ll be staying with local families or guesthouses. We love this way of travel and you’ll come away with a real sense of the people and culture of Tajikistan.
What will the weather be like?
Warm – in the 20’s or 30’s Centigrade during daytimes and cooler in the evenings. You’ll need a warm jacket at higher altitudes. Weather does of course depend on the season, and you can expect variation with altidude as you climb from 800 m to 4700 m and descend once again.
What kit do I need to bring?
We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.
How much are flights?
This totally depends on factors outside our control, but from experience the best flights are with either Turkish Airlines via Istanbul or Fly Dubai via Dubai. Pricing from London to Dushanbe return is around the £650 mark in economy, or around £1800 in business class.
We can book your flights for you on our ATOL license, so just let us know if you’d like us to take the booking hassles from you
What will the food be like?
Simple but good. The food in the mountains will be prepared by the local families we are staying with and will normally include plenty of bread, meat and dairy products. We will arrange for some extra food ‘treats’ to come with you, including energy bars for days out on the roads and trails. Recent travellers have described the food here as the best in Central Asia.
Will I have to share a room?
As at least four others will be joining you on this trip, you will have to room-share in some of the mountain homestays.
Will I be affected by altitude?
Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending a number of days above 2500 metres, and up on to 4700 metres at the highest point. If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it, you should consider discussing this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible rapidly thanks to our vehicle. Our route is also planned to gain altitude in the smallest increments possible to aid acclimatization. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.
Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone on group trips if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.
Is this really for me?
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend sixteen days of your life, it may also be physically tiring and you’ll be at altitude for some of the time.
This is a destination with a nascent tourism infrastructure, so whilst we do help smooth the ‘edges’, this is not going to be like a villa holiday in Mustique.
If you like your holidays to include foie gras, butlers and miles of quilted loo roll then please look elsewhere.
If however, you want a real, unique and delightful experience that you’ll remember forever, then you are in luck! Tajikistan is fabulous and we can’t wait to share our enthusiasm for it with you.