Tajikistan: The High Lands of the Pamir Highway

A stunning nature made of barren mountains, martian landscapes and beautiful high altitude turquoise rivers and lakes. The Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is an experience not to be missed.

I have posted about the Pamir Highway border crossing between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the previous post, where I thoroughly highlighted my enthusiasm for the road. Now, after Lenin Peak, which is right at the border between the two countries, what exactly can you do and see in Tajikistan?

Well, a lot. Too much, in fact, depending on how much time you have and what you like to do. So here are some highlights of our trip through this incredible, barren and isolated high lands.

Some mud bricks drying out at the sun in Karakul town

The first highlight is at Karakul, which is the name of both a small town and a beautiful unreal blue lake 3,900 m. high.

It’s always a homestay in Tajikistan, everywhere outside cities, and the villages are just something amazing to visit, with their roofless mud houses, soviet-era remains, small mosques and vast spaces. It’s interesting to walk around and be greeted by everyone, especially kids love to shout “hellos” all around.

Me at Urtabuz peak (5,032 m.) with a magical view on lake Karakol in the distance, well, part of lake Karakol in the photo, the whole lake was only for me and my buddy eyes 😉 Literally, it was only the two of us all around!

From Karakul we did the highest trek of our trip there (I was with a friend) at Urtabuz peak, just over 5,000 m. high and a mesmerizing view on the whole lake. The peak is indicated on Maps.me, but not the route, which you have to make up as you go. Your driver (you need a four-wheel drive to be on that road) needs to take you to the departing point of the trek and wait for you.

The next highlight along the way is in Murghab. The town has nothing to say, but from there you can do the Pshart-Madyan hike, with a pass at 3,900 m. In this case, the route is indicated on Maps.me, but not the pass. Your driver will take you to the starting point and come pick you up on the other side, otherwise the whole trek would take three days to complete. But only the day of the pass is really worth doing.

The Pshart-Madyan hike pass nearby Murghab

After Murghab, you can sleep one night in Alichur village, and then in Bulunkul. In between, a beautiful off-road drive can take you to see a small natural geyser, right in the middle of a charming, isolated and rocky valley where turquoise rivers formed by faraway glaciers are rich in fish, if you are into that hobby. I can only say that the homestay will cook it for you afterwards, and it’s a nice change of pace in the diet. That’s the third highlight.


A natural geyser somewhere on the road between Alichur and Bulunkul…

Bulunkul, the whole area is the fourth highlight, also known as one of the coldest places on Earth ( – 61 C has been recorded), is the beginning of many possibilities. You can horse ride or trek for days, go look for the snow leopard or the Marco Polo sheep, or just enjoy a hot spring or a sunset with a beer around the crystal clear waters of Yashikul Lake. I regret we had only one day to spend here!

Beautiful Lake Yashikul from the distance looking like a milky chimaera

At this point, we left the Pamir Highway to enter Wakhan Valley. But that’s another story.

That’s 500 words, let’s go.


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