Experience the breathtaking mountain landscapes of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on this two-week expedition. From Bishkek to the ‘stone city’ of Tashkent, travel to some of Central Asia’s most remote and awe-inspiring locations. With forays into places like the Wakhan Corridor along the Afghanistan border, this is a journey for the seasoned voyager who favours the path less travelled.
- Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
- Physical rating
- Min 15
- Group size
- Min 1, Max 15
Why we love this trip
Explore the spectacular mountain ranges shared between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
Explore the bustling town bazaars of Khorog and Osh
Discover the world of Tajikistan before Islam at the Museum of National Antiquities
Enjoy the hospitality, warmth and culture of the locals with a range of homestays on your journey
You will be met upon arrival at the Airport, after you have collected your luggage please look out for our Peregrine representative near the exit doors. Please be wary of taxi drivers trying to claim they have been sent from Peregrine, we never use taxi's for airport pick ups. If you have trouble finding your driver please call Fantastic Asia on +996 555 30 30 25.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or call our local operator +996 555 30 30 25. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Bishkek is a relaxed city of wide streets and handsome houses, and locals boast that it has more trees per person than any other Central Asian capital. With plenty of parks and gardens to shelter its inhabitants from the intense summer heat, and many monuments from the country's Soviet past, a walking tour with our local guide is a great way to experience the contemporary face of an ancient nation.
TsUM Department Store in the city centre is renowned for having the best range of Kyrgyz souvenirs for shopping. If you arrive early check out the National Museum, which can't hide from the fact that it used to be the National Lenin Museum - the upper floors with the collections of Soviet memorabilia and murals are a clear giveaway.
Please bring a couple of extra passport size photos for your GBAO permit and Tajik visa in case they are required. We will normally visit the Tajikistan Embassy on day 2.
- Asia Mountains Hotel or similar (1 night)
Arrive early evening into Toktogul and overnight here. Free evening at your leisure.
Please note due to limited availability and only small hotels in this area we will overnight in either Chychkan or Toktogul tonight. Your leader will advise you on Day 1 as to where you will stay for your departure.
Throughout our trip we travel in 6-8 seater private vehicles, with some sightseeing or transport to dinners and optional activities by local transport or taxis. When travelling in our own vehicles our leader will generally take the front seat in order to communicate with the driver and in cases where we are split over multiple vehicles, will take turns travelling in each. As we spend long days travelling together, the leader may also rotate who is travelling in each vehicle.
Due to the dusty conditions of the roads, photography from within the vehicles will need to be done with the windows closed. We will make frequent stops along the way for to take photos at the most scenic spots.
- Onson Motel or similar (1 night)
Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country Osh is often referred to as the "capital of the south". It has a majority Uzbek population, evidence of its proximity to the border.
While you are here, we visit Suleiman's Mountain, a site of huge Islamic importance that dominates the centre of the city. While the walk is not strenuous for those with good fitness, you will need good footwear as there are many slippery and steep steps and slopes.
We will also visit the Osh Bazaar, one of the biggest bazaars in Central Asia where we can also change some money into Tajikistan Somani for the journey ahead.
Depending on our arrival time, we may do some of our Osh activities the following day.
- Hotel Sunrise or similar (1 night)
Conveniently located in the Alai Valley bordering Tajikistan, Sary Tash is a junction for explorers heading off in many directions on the road to Osh, Murgab (Tajikistan), and Kashgar (China).
Spend the night in a basic homestay in this small, remote village at the junction of the Silk Road.
Like many of our homestays on this trip, accommodation is multishare and depending on room and group configuration may be on a mixed gender basis. In some months there may be the option to stay in a yurt pitched in the yard of our homestay.
Bedding is mattresses, pillows and blankets on the floor and as temperatures can often get close to or below freezing at night here and homes are not centrally heated, we recommend warm clothes to sleep in.
Our homestay in Sary Tash does not have running water or bathing facilities and has a simple squat toilet outside. Our meals may be taken in a "dining yurt" which is set up in the yard.
There is minimal lighting at night here as in many of our destinations on this tour so we advise taking a head torch for getting around after dark and going to the toilet during the night.
- Mirbek Homestay or similar (1 night)
It's here in this spectacularly remote spot that we cross the border from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan. Plenty of patience might be needed as the officials work through the various permits and procedures, but this will all be taken care of by you leader so all you'll need to do is just follow their instructions and wait as the anticipation of entering a new country builds!
Once we are in Tajikistan we make our way down the 95km to Karakul Lake for lunch, experiencing more dramatic scenery and photo opportunities on the way.
Karakul Lake is too high to support aquatic life and it is the largest out of 800 lakes in the Pamirs which were created by earthquake, tectonic activity and glaciers.
The final 135km today takes us to Murgab via the Ak-Baital Pass, the highest pass on the Pamir Highway and in the former ex Soviet Union at 4655m.
Murgab is located in a valley at approximately 3,000 m above sea level and surrounded by high peaks. This region is inhabited mainly by Kyrgyz people.
On a clear day, you can see Muztag Ata peak – the highest mountain in the Pamirs of 7546m.
Tonight's homestay does not have a reliable electricity source and power cuts are frequent. Another reason why that torch will come in handy!
Your leader will allocate rooms for the night. Some have simple wire frame beds and others with mattresses on the floor.
Enjoy a simple dinner and breakfast provided by our hosts such as home made bread, plov (rice pilaf) and fried eggs or porridge.
Bathroom facilities here are outside, with the possibility of a shared banya (simple sauna) if our hosts are able to source enough water to heat up for us.
Keen star gazers will be treated to a great display here on a clear night with little light pollution effecting views of the night sky.
Total travel time for the day is difficult to predict given the terrain, but we estimate around 8 hours of driving, so essentially the whole day.
- Erali Homestay or similar (1 night)
As we enter the Wakhan, there are amazing views of the Pamirs to the right and the Hindu Kush to the left. On the other side of the pass we cross through another check point as we now driving along the Afghanistan border.
Compared to our previous village stays, the surroundings here are much more fertile, with families having their own garden plots to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages and flowers.
We'll stop somewhere along the way for lunch in a local chaikana (teahouse/cafeteria).
We stay in a traditional Pamiri house tonight, which consists of a large pillared central room where all home life takes place. Raised platforms around the walls form sleeping and eating areas and the kitchen and area where the family sleeps while guests are accommodated are attached to the house.
Home cooking awaits us, perhaps lagman (noodle soup) or shorpa (meat and vegetable soup).
After dinner our hosts will roll our mattresses and our group will all be sleeping in the same shared area tonight.
Total travel time today is expected to be around 8 hours to cover the 280km.
- Tilobek Homestay or similar (1 night)
There's the option after breakfast this morning of hiking to a petroglyph site above the village, which involves a fair physical effort to reach. These images carved into the rocks high above the village depict goats, caravans, horses and Ismaili symbols.
From where we can park our vehicle you need to hike up a gravelly slope for at least 30 mins (depending on fitness) before the first carvings are visible. There is little shade and it's hard going but the views and exercise after so long sitting in vehicles are definitely worth it!
We then drive to nearby Vrang where on a cliff-side pitted with caves, stands a Buddhist complex dating from 4th-7th centuries, reminders of the ancient pilgrim caravans that passed through the region. There are traces of this Buddhist history to be found throughout Central Asia, despite the dominance of Islam in recent centuries. It's another climb to get here, but the path is flatter in places and not as physically demanding as the petroglyphs.
Travel on via the stunning valley that follows the winding river with a stop somewhere along the way for lunch on the way to Ptup, where you will experience another Pamiri homestay in the traditional Wakhan style. Expect around 4 hours today for the 80km drive.
Ptup has proved to be a favourite destination of our Tajikistan travellers in the past due to the pretty surroundings and wonderful hospitality of our hosts. The multi-generation family who live here have a beautiful garden and house with a flush toilet and a shower with a solar water heater.
Depending on departure and arrival times, we will either visit Ptup's nearby sights today or tomorrow. They include the stunning Yamchun Fort, which some claim is the most spectacular sight in the country.
To get to the fort involves a drive along extremely windy narrow mountain roads so for safety reasons we will not attempt this activity in the late afternoon as darkness falls quickly in the Pamirs. Once at the sight, there are views from the road over the fort and valley. There is another photo spot higher up the hillside, which involves a short hike with no path. Access to the fort is possible by a tricky scramble down the rocky valley a short way and then up and around to get inside the fort itself.
If time and road conditions permit, we may be able to visit Bibi Fatima hot springs, named for the Prophet Mohammed's sister and a kind of local bathhouse. Local women believe they can increase their fertility levels here and many view visiting as a kind of spiritual experience. Men and women have separate bathing times and bathing is generally done without swimsuits or underwear.
- Saidbek Homestay or similar (1 night)
You will pass through Ishkashim where we might stop for lunch, continuing to follow the Afghan border. Look out for the watch towers and border crossings, which despite the proximity of the countries (sometimes only 100m apart!) are few and far between, with very little contact between people on each side of the divide.
Watch out too for ovrings, the spectacularly scary footbridges that Afghans have build along the cliff faces in order to be able to commute from one village to another.
The contrast across the river valley here can be quite stark in places. Tajikistan is undoubtedly a poor country, but in general the roads are sealed and buildings are connected with electricity, whereas over the river you will see locals living in much simpler conditions. You'll often be able to get a wave from your neighbours across the river as we travel along!
Once in Khorog you will be in the capital of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
While here you will have some time to explore Khorog's sights including the bazaar (your leader will point out stalls selling goods from Afghanistan) and the lovely botanical gardens that are perched high above the town, affording some great panoramic views.
In Khorog we stay in a guesthouse with private bathrooms. Our meals will be taken at the guesthouse, with perhaps a dinner at an Indian restaurant in town, one of the city's best.
- Parinen Inn Guesthouse or similar (1 night)
- Breakfast (2)
- Lunch (2)
- Dinner (2)
We stay in a homestay here, which sometimes also accommodates other independent travellers. The guesthouse is multistory, so be prepared for some steep steps to get to and from the sleeping spaces, dining area and bathrooms. There is a simple shower, some running water and both a flush and pit toilet in the courtyard.
We'll have dinner, perhaps local style dumplings, and breakfast at the homestay before setting off for our longest travel day of the trip to the nation's capital tomorrow.
- Bahrom Homestay or similar (1 night)
For dinner tonight we might head out on the town to a Middle Eastern restaurant, one of the city's finest, or to a popular Chaikhana which has been in operation since Soviet times.
Day 12 will be full of sightseeing and include the central parks, fountains and monuments and the option of visiting the main Bazaar or Soviet era Central Department Store for some souvenir shopping.
Just outside of Dushanbe (approx 30km) is the 18th century Hissor Fort, which is being heavily restored but is nonetheless an interesting place to visit. The history of Hissor fort is colourful, with the fortress the stronghold of local basmachi forces (local freedom fighters, what we would call mujaheddin today). Through the 1920s a power struggle was played out in the region between Bolshevik forces and Pan-Turkic would-be occupiers under the Ottoman Enver Pasha.
Back in Dushanbe, you will visit the the excellent Museum of National Antiquities. This relatively new museum reflects Tajikistan's diverse pre-Islamic cultural heritage, with exhibits from Bactrian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Hindu eras of influence. The highlight is undoubtedly the giant sleeping Buddha on the 2nd floor.
Please note that while we aim to include all these activities in your time in Dushanbe, there may be times when travel times or weather mean that we are not able to fit everything in the time allowed or sights may be closed unexpectedly. Your leader will talk to you about the options and any decisions needed will be made as a group.
- Marian's Guesthouse or similar (1 night)
- Breakfast (2)
- Lunch (1)
In 2014 travel conditions meant that we were unable to include a planned stop in Istaravshan on the way to Khojand and avoid travelling after nightfall. We are currently researching whether there is a way to still include this stop in 2015. Updates to these trip notes will be made as soon as possible.
Our sightseeing time in Khojand may be limited to a brief city walk the following morning due to arriving late in the afternoon.
Tonight we stay in an excellent hotel with private rooms and bathrooms, one of the city's best restaurants and located right in the centre of town.
Total travelling time today is approximately 6 hours and 285km.
- Grand Khojand Hotel or similar (1 night)
From the border it is around 70km to Tashkent, the biggest city in Central Asia. The total journey should take around 6 hours today.
We stay in the Uzbekistan Hotel, a monument to Soviet times and still one of the best located (and most popular with locals for weddings and photos!) hotels in the city, overlooking Amir Timur Square.
After some time to refresh from our journey we will meet for an optional final dinner at one of Tashkent's excellent restaurants, reminisce about the amazing adventure we have accomplished and say goodbye to our leader, drivers and new friends.
As there are no included activities in Tashkent and we recommend staying a few extra days to enjoy all this busy city has to offer, or extending your time in Uzbekistan by adding on our Jewels of Uzbekistan tour.
Your epic trip through Central Asia’s heartland will come to an end after breakfast on Day 17 in Tashkent.
- Uzbekistan Hotel or similar (1 night)
- Breakfast (2)
Meals14 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners
Transport4WD vehicle, Private vehicle, Taxi
AccommodationComfortable hotel, Guesthouse, Homestay
Dates & availability
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Venturing well away from cities and into extremely remote areas, this trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation and facilities are often very basic but the rewards are immeasurable. You will need an excellent level of general health for this trip. There are some very long driving days over rough terrain, shower and toilet facilities are limited and we are numerous days drive from any medical help. Most meals are taken sitting on the ground, toilets are outside and sleeping arrangements may be multishare or simple matresses on the floor in some locations.