Ride the Pamir Highway
Are you suffering from nature deficit disorder? Do you need to unplug, unwind and get away from it all? Then join us on this adrenaline-fuelled motorcycle expedition along Central Asia’s legendary Pamir Highway.
Winding through the mountains of Tajikistan and south-western Kyrgyzstan, the Pamir Highway is one of the wildest, most scenic roads on the planet. So named because it cuts through the High Pamirs – the fourth highest, yet least explored mountain range on earth – it’s a route famous for its thrilling driving and formidable scenery. Expect lashings of adventure, dusty tracks over distant mountains and heart-warming hospitality.
This epic motorcycle ride takes you over the highest pass in the former Soviet Union, past one of the largest meteor-lakes in the world and through some of the most awe-inspiring mountains on earth.
An Epic Central Asia Motorcycle Tour
Ride the Pamir Highway, past turquoise rivers and massive, snow-crowned peaks. Meet fabulously friendly people, sleep in nomad’s yurts, bathe in hot thermal springs and marvel at 2000 year old Buddhist stupas, stunning Silk Road fortresses and more.
No one knows the dusty tracks and hidden valleys of these mountains better than us, and many of our globetrotting guests have billed it the best riding they’ve ever done.
Visit Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
This immersive itinerary starts and ends in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, and takes you through the heart of the Pamir Mountains and a swathe of south-eastern Kyrgyzstan. You’ll ride along the stunning Wakhan Corridor, stay in delightful homestays and be awe-struck by 7000+ metre peaks and glittering canopies of stars.
Our bikes are a well-maintained fleet of Suzuki DRz400 and Honda CRF250L dual-sport machines and you’ll always be accompanied by a mechanic and back-up vehicle.
Please note that these bikes are perfect for the rugged terrain of the Pamir Highway, but they are not suitable for two-up pillion travel.
||Dushanbe International Airport
||Please ensure you arrive in good time for the expedition to begin, as noted in the itinerary and subsequent information pack we will send to you after booking.
- Suzuki Drz400E/S or Honda CRF250L motorcycle, prepared and maintained for your use.
- All accommodation
- All meals
- Airport transfers
- A superb English-speaking guide
- Back-up vehicle with mechanic
- Entry into local historical/cultural sites
- Technical passport for the bike allowing it to travel to and from Kyrgyzstan
- Filtered water
- Water-to-Go Filter bottle
- International flights to/from Dushanbe
- Your riding equipment
- Refundable $500 deposit for the bike – against scratches and scrapes, broken mirrors etc
- Extra snacks
- Visas and other permits as required (Tajik visa, GBAO permit x 2)
Please note that we will need to see your proof of holding a motorcycle licence – experience counts but we do need to see a licence too, please.
At times it will be roastingly hot, at others you’ll need to hunker down against mountain hailstorms, but at every turn you’ll be amazed, awed and humbled.
There will be a maximum of seven people in the group. On the way, you’ll run out of superlatives to describe the Pamir Highway. What are you waiting for?
We’re recommended by Mad or Nomad
Where will we be staying?
On this expedition, we’ll be staying in good hotels in Dushanbe, Khorog and Osh, guest houses or basic hotels in other towns, and more often in homestays with local people and their families. The homestay concept is widely accepted throughout Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – particularly the former – so these nights are often highly enjoyable glimpses into local customs and lifestyles. We also stay in yurts in a couple of locations on this trip.
We feel that true luxury is getting to know a place and its people, not necessarily measured by the thread count of the bed linen or the number of hotel restaurants.
What size of group will it be?
Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. On the Ultimate Pamir Highway route, group sizes are dictated by the size of the homes we will be staying in. Our group is usually 7 expeditioners, a guide and mechanic. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range, and where motorcycles are involved, this is particularly true.
Why have you chosen such small engined bikes?
In the words of our guide “the Pamir highway kills bikes”. And he should know! Our local guides have huge experience of working in these often hostile terrains, and after trying – and in most cases still owning – almost every type of bike imaginable (including the usual GS, KTM etc), have opted for a mix of lightweight, mechanically simple and hugely robust Suzuki DRZ400 and Honda CRF250L machines. The bikes both cope very well with the bumps and lumps and are comfortable both on and off the pegs. If you drop a bike, it likely won’t break and you’ll be able to pick it and yourself back up without needing a support team and a crane. We are huge fans.
How is this different to other itineraries in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan I’ve seen?
We’ve been doing this route for some time and we do it differently from others. Our groups are small and our focus is on travelling first and motorcycles second. This means our daily mileages are low as there is just too much to see to be tearing through at breakneck pace everywhere. Other tours cover our mileage in far less time, and we wish them well – it just isn’t our desire to rush through. Remember, our ethos is to take the time to stop, breathe and take it all in.
What will the weather be like?
A very difficult question to answer when traversing the fourth highest mountain range on earth. But, you can expect some hot days lower in the valleys and off the high plateaus – temperatures could be in 20-30 degrees range or higher. At altitude, we have experienced every season in the course of a single day – warm sunshine followed by winds and rain, hail or snow on the passes and perhaps down to 0 degrees for a short period of time. In general, the rule of thumb is to expect warm days and cooler nights when we are out of the lowland areas.
I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?
Yes. More than 85 per cent of our riders travel alone as part of our group. You’ll travel as part of the group, not an outsider.
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 do I choose what to wear on the bike?
This is really a matter of personal choice, as all riders have their own modus operandi. However, our experience says that good expedition boots are very useful. We don’t tend to ride using metal-toed dirt boots, but some do. We use an adventure-style boot that allows good ankle protection and is stiff with protection on the shins. In terms of lid, we tend to favour flip-front helmets that can be lowered when cold and raised quickly to meet and greet people along the way. Although we are there during the least-rainy season we tend to use a pull-on overcoat and trousers that are kept to hand for quick access. Under these we ride in a well-ventilated and elbow/shoulder/back/knee armoured bike jacket and trousers – the better ventilated the happier you will be! As already highlighted, most riders have their own tried and tested methods. Our simplest motto would be to layer for multiple weather types.
Is there a back-up vehicle?
Yes. We will travel with a 4WD carrying filtered water and spares where necessary. We also plan to have a spare local rider, in case anyone is unable to ride at any point.
How much are flights?
This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, the cheapest flights to Dushanbe might be via Moscow. We use Turkish Airlines via Istanbul because they are good, cost-effective connections. Costs are usually around the £550 mark, return. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place.
We can book your flights for you via our own ATOL license – let us know if you want us to take the strain by booking your flights for you.
What will the food be like?
Varied; the Pamir area is not particularly agriculturally inclined, mostly due to the precipitous nature of the topography, and often poor soils. But many of our homestay hosts pride themselves on making good meals for their guests, so we will be well looked-after. If you are a vegetarian, food can be a little dull (lots of bread, potatoes and eggs with salads) but perfectly acceptable. For meat-eaters, pilaf is the main dish. Usually rice and meat in one dish and often very tasty. Freshly made non (bread) is available almost everywhere and can be delicious. We try to ensure we have some treat foods in the back-up vehicle for picnics. In general we think food is a core part of any cultural experience and there are a good number of local dishes to try on our route.
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 quite a number of days above 3000 metres, and up on the Alichur and Murghab plateaus, often above 4000 metres. We also cross some high passes, with the Ak Baital being 4700 m (over 15,000 ft). 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 back-up vehicle. Our route is also planned to gain altitude in the smallest increments possible to aid acclimatisation. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. There may be hotels and guest houses where we will have separate rooms and wherever possible we will arrange this, but there will also be times where we are staying at homestays or in yurts when there is no option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring good earplugs and eye-masks, in case of snorers or the host family waking early.
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 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.
I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?
Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our tailor made tours page.
Is it a guaranteed departure?
As with any itinerary we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make it viable. On the Ultimate Pamir Highway by Motorcycle tour this is 5 people from a possible 7. When you express interest in this expedition, we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least 3 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.
Are the Bikes Insured?
The motorcycles are insured as per local law but in reality this doesn’t mean much. Insurance is effectively non-existent here and disputes are normally settled on the spot to mutual satisfaction. OUr guides are there to help in these unlikely situations. Your own travel/personal insurance should cover you for riding a motorcycle of this size in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We take a $500 deposit against scrapes and scratches, broken mirrors or indicators etc caused by drops or falls.
Is this really for me?
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Travelling by motorbike is an inherently risky activity and to compound this, you will be travelling in a developing part of the world.
Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours for the emergency services to reach you.
It will also be physically tiring.
While we ADORE Tajikistan, travel here isn’t for everyone. There’ll be simple (but charming) homestays, some long drop loos, bumpy roads and a lack of Wi-Fi and mobile connection. If you can’t handle this sort of travel, then please don’t sign up for this trip.
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 proper, unique and delightful experience that you’ll remember forever, then you are in luck! This itinerary delivers like few others.