Ultimate Pamir Highway by Motorcycle

Code: PAMHWY/GUI/AUG/20
2021 dates now available
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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.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATIONDushanbe International Airport
DEPARTURE TIMEPlease 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.
INCLUDED
  • Suzuki Drz400E/S or Honda CRF250L motorcycle, prepared and maintained for your use.
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • Airport transfers
  • Fuel
  • 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
NOT INCLUDED
  • International flights to/from Dushanbe
  • Your riding equipment
  • Refundable $500 deposit for the bike – against scratches and scrapes, broken mirrors etc
  • Alcohol
  • 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

Ultimate Pamir Highway: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan by Motorcycle – Small Group Tour
Minimum group size 4 persons. Maximum group size 7 persons.

1

Day 1: Monday

Start Point: Home
Destination: Dushanbe
Travel: Plane and Hotel Transfer

Flights (usually Turkish Airlines via Istanbul) arrive at the rather ungodly hour of 03.45. A driver will collect you from the airport and whisk you to the comfort of your 5* hotel. Once you wake up, today will be a gentle day of sleeping, acclimatizing, eating and drinking. You’ll also have a chance to see the bikes, and make sure you’re happy with seat height etc.

2

Day 2: Tuesday

Start Point: Dushanbe
Destination: Kala-i-Hussein
Travel: Motorcycle

Lift Off!

It’s chocks away as you hit the road to Kala-i-Hussein, 220 km east of the capital. You’ll stop for lunch and a swim by a beautiful blue lake, and end the day in a pretty little village in the foothills of the Pamir ranges. Here you’ll be staying in either the local mosque or a family-run guesthouse. Both are delightful. Today the riding will be on both tarmac and dirt roads.

3

Day 3: Wednesday

Start Point: Kala-i-Hussein
Destination: Kala-i-Kumb
Travel: Motorcycle

Today it’s a thrilling 70 km ride over the 3852 m Khaburabot Pass to the town of Kala-i–Kumb, where you’ll join both the mighty Panj River and the border with Afghanistan. On the way you’ll enter Gorno Badakhshan, the autonomous province that defines the Tajik Pamirs. Tonight you’ll be in a guesthouse with comfy beds and good food.

4

Day 4: Thursday

Start Point: Kala-i-Kumb
Destination: Khorog
Travel: Motorcycle

After a good breakfast at your guesthouse, you’ll head deeper into the mountains, following the Pamir Highway and the Panj River 240 km south-east to Khorog along the Afghan border. Expect soaring eagles, stunning mountain scenery and dusty roads carved through deep river gorges. By now you’ll be seeing why people rave about the riding here. In Khorog you’ll be staying at a comfortable hotel, and have the choice of pizza or excellent Indian for supper.

5

Day 5: Friday

Start Point: Khorog
Destination: Yamchun
Travel: Motorcycle

After a chance to explore Khorog’s bustling market and stock up on snacks for the road ahead, it’s south to Ishkashim, a small town on the Afghan border. From Ishkashim it’s east along the Wakhan Corridor, where you’ll be riding in the shadow of both the High Pamirs and Pakistan’s Hindu Kush. Tonight, after a stunning 160 km ride, you’ll stop in  the village of Yamchun, home to a 2000 year old Silk Road fortress and some reviving hot springs. The view from here has to be among the best on earth. Well, we think so anyway.

6

Day 6: Saturday

Start Point: Yamchun
Destination: Langar
Travel: Motorcycle

There’s so much to see in the Wakhan Corridor that today you’ll just ride 40 km to the village of Langar. On the way you’ll stop to climb up to ancient Buddhist stupas, visit a great little museum and stop in some lovely Wakhi villages. The views across to Afghanistan and Pakistan are quite something, and the family at tonight’s homestay utterly delightful. By now, you will have well and truly left all your worries behind, and be relishing the remoteness of this rare and wonderful place.

7

Day 7: Sunday

Start Point: Langar
Destination: Jarty Gumbez
Travel: Motorcycle

After breakfast at the homestay, you’ll hit the road and wind north-east out of the Wakhan Corridor, leaving the Pyanj far below. Turning off the ‘main’ road, you’ll head east into the wilderness, following the Pamir River through the Zorkul Nature Reserve (conditions permitting). This route lies between the Alichur and Great Pamir mountain ranges and offers some spectacular views. You’ll be crossing a 4400 metre pass today, then dropping down to a remote settlement for a night at a simple guest house replete with its own hot springs. Tonight’s altitude is 4100 metres.

Please note that this route is only passable at certain times of year, and is weather dependent. At other times, you will spend the night near Alichur, on the Murghab Plateau.

8

Day 8: Monday

Start Point: Jarty Gumbez
Destination: Murghab
Travel: Motorcycle

This morning it’s a fabulous 165 km ride across the extraordinary lunar landscape of the Aksu River valley, through the remote, high altitude desert of the Bam-i–Dunya, ‘the roof of the world.’ To your right lies the Saray Kol range and behind it, China. To your rear are Afghanistan and Pakistan; this is truly one of the most remote tri-borders in the world and the views will knock your socks off. Watch out for yaks, Kyrgyz nomads and fat golden marmots. Time and weather permitting, you’ll stop off at an abandoned Soviet observatory and a vast meteor crater. Tonight will be spent in a cosy homestay in Murghab, at 3600 metres above sea level.

9

Day 9: Tuesday

Start Point: Murghab
Destination: Sary Tash
Travel: Motorcycle

From Murghab it’s a short ride up and over the 4655 m Ak-Baital pass (the highest pass in the former Soviet Union) and on to the Kyrgyz border, via the turquoise waters of Lake Karakul. As soon as you cross the border you’re into another world – gentler mountains, nomads and glossy herds of horses flowing across the felted steppe. After a total ride of 235 km, you’ll arrive in the small town of Sary Tash, where you’ll spend the night in a cosy homestay.

10

Day 10: Wednesday

Start Point: Sary Tash
Destination: Osh
Travel: Motorcycle

After breakfast at your homestay, it’s a beautiful 180 km ride through the southern heart of Kyrgyzstan (the Switzerland of Central Asia) to Osh. On the way you’ll stop at a UFO cafe (you’ll see what we mean) for a leisurely lunch, before arriving in Osh in the afternoon. In Osh you’ll stay in an old Soviet hotel we’ve come to be rather fond of. There are smarter places, but they don’t have the character of this old relic.

11

Day 11: Thursday

Start Point: Osh

Today it’s a day off in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s main southern city, to explore this former Silk Road city with its brilliant bazaars, mosques and museums.

12

Day 12: Friday

Start Point: Osh
Destination: Khujand
Travel: Motorcycle

Today is the longest day on the road, a 380 km ride (on tarmac) through the Batken region to Khujand, in Tajikistan. You’ll cross the border in the afternoon and arrive in Khujand in time for a delicious supper. This will be a very different Tajikistan to the one you left behind in the Pamirs. Tonight is in a good hotel in the heart of this attractive town.

13

Day 13: Saturday

Start Point: Khujand
Destination: Dushanbe
Travel: Motorcycle

It’s your final day on the road, and the day you tackle the infamous (but recently repaired) Anzob Tunnel. After 220 km on tarmac roads, you’ll be back in Dushanbe for supper. Tonight you’ll be in the best hotel in town.

14

Day 14: Sunday

Start Point: Dushanbe
Travel: Foot, Vehicle or Trolleybus

Day off in Dushanbe – it’s your time to explore this interesting city, maybe visit a spa for a massage, do a spot of shopping, explore the bazaar or just relax in the comfort of your 5* hotel. We will be taking you for a delicious farewell supper in Dushanbe this evening, and then you can sleep before your early morning flight tomorrow.

15

Day 15: Monday

Start Point: Dushanbe
Destination: Home
Travel: Motorcycle

The suggested Turkish Airlines flight (via Istanbul) departs at another ungodly hour of 05.40. Hardly worth going to bed is it?

TourStart DateEnd DatePrice
Pamir Highway by Motorcycle14/06/202128/06/2021£4,350.00Taking Bookings

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.

Enquire

From£4,350.00

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