Trekking the Wakhan, Afghanistan

In September 2019 we will be heading to one of world’s most remote corners. A 22-day journey to visit the land of one of the world’s last and least visited nomadic cultures: the Kyrgyz of the Afghan Pamir. We will begin and end in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe before travelling along the dramatic Pamir Highway and crossing over into Afghanistan. We will then pass through the Wakhan Corridor to the Afghan Pamir. The last section of this journey will be made by foot as we make our way to the summer grazing grounds of Chaqmaqtin. We will have the opportunity to encounter Kyrgyz and Wakhi nomads who graze their livestock here during the summer months as well as seeing ancient tombs and Buddhist engravings, which live as a reminder of this once great section of the Silk Road.

Highlights:

  • Discover the culture of the Wakhi and the Kyrgyz nomads of this rarely visited corner of Central Asia
  • Travel along the Pamir highway, one of the world’s highest roads
  • Explore deep into territory where few outsiders have ever been

Date: 2nd – 23rd September 2019

Start Point: Dushanbe, Tajikistan
End Point:   Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Maximum number of people: 10

Days 1 – 2 Dushanbe – Kalaikhum – Khorog
Monday 2nd to Tuesday 3rd September 2019
After collecting guests from the airport we head straight out of Dushanbe driving along the Pamir Highway towards the town of Khorog. We will overnight in Kalaikhum before taking a rest day in Khorog, nestling on the banks of the Panj River. We will stay overnight at a local homestay and begin to acclimatize to the mountains and explore this typical Tajik town of the Pamirs.

Please note – if we need visas for Afghanistan for any of the group we go straight to Khorog in one long day and have a rest day in Khorog. However, we strongly recommend you arrange your Afghan visas prior to your trip.

Total driving: 14 – 16 hours
Altitude Dushanbe: 800m
Altitude Khorog: 2100m

Day 3 Khorog – Ishkishim
Wednesday 4th September 2019
We will drive to the border town of Ishkishim and cross over into Afghanistan. Once in Ishkishim we will be staying at a guesthouse converted from the home of a local man or we will stay nearby in Qazideh. With the help of the Aga Khan Foundation local families are earning a little extra income this way.

We spend one whole day in the area with our guide, making the final preparations and collecting our permits for the Wakhan region. Once we have left Ishkishim we will have to be self sufficient for 14 days and we need this day to ensure we have everything arranged. You will have time to explore the local environment and understand some of the Wakhi culture through our Wakhi guide.

Driving: 3 hours
Altitude: 2600m

Day 4 Ishkishim – Qala e Panja
Thursday 5th September 2019
The 250km from Ishkishim to Sarhad e Broghil takes us along the narrowest section of the Wakhan Corridor. Passing the 7492m high Noshaq, Afghanistan’s highest peak, we will follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Hsuan Tsang on this ancient silk route. The road is poor and can be washed out in places but we hope to make it in two long but scenic days. We will have to stop in the village of Khandud to process some further paperwork and we plan to overnight in the village of Qala e Panja.

Driving: 6-8 hours
Altitude: 2800m

Day 5 Qala e Panja – Sarhad e Broghil
Friday 6th September 2019
We make our way to the furthest point that we can by vehicle. At Sarhad e Broghil the road ends and any further journey must be made on foot or by horse. We spend the afternoon making our final preparations for our trek into the Afghan Pamir.

Driving: 4 hours
Altitude: 3250m

Day 6 Sarhad e Broghil – Daliz Pass – Shawr
Saturday 7th September 2019
The geography of the region means that one of the toughest days trekking comes on the first day. The Wakhan Corridor becomes too steep to follow the river. For the first time since we joined the Panj River we move away from it, and instead must cross three passes. The first is the Daliz Pass (4260 metres) and will involve a vertical altitude gain of 1000 metres. We will overnight in Shawr.

Trekking: 7 hours
Altitude: 3450m

Day 7 Shawr – Boharak – Varsgitch
Sunday 8th September 2019
A further day’s trekking along the bank of the Wakhan River. We may meet Wakhi shepherds bringing their flocks back to the bigger villages for the winter.

Trekking: 6-7 hours
Altitude: 3600m

Day 8 Varsgitch – Masamarad
Monday 9th September 2019
Trek from Varsgitch to Masamarad via Langar. Langar means ‘free buffet’ and is a classic spot for the Wakhi to graze their sheep and yaks. The scenery gradually changes walking from the steep sided valley of the Wakhan to the wide-open plains of the Afghan Pamir.

Trekking: 5-6 hours
Altitude: 3800m

Day 9 Masamarad – Bozai Gombaz
Tuesday 10th September 2019
Passing by Khach Goz, we make our way further to Bozai Gombaz which is one of the largest Kyrgyz settlements in the area. At Bozai Gombaz there is a chance to visit the nearby Kyrgyz tombs, rest or simply watch the Kyrgyz way of life.

Trekking: 5 hours
Altitude: 3900m

Day 10 Bozai Gombaz – Chaqmaqtin Lake
Wednesday 11th September 2019
An easy days trekking up one of the sources of the Amu Darya, the 9km long Chaqmaqtin Lake where the Kyrgyz nomads graze their sheep and yaks in the summer. We may well see a Bactrian camel train too.

Trekking: 4-5 hours
Altitude: 4050m

Day 11 Chaqmaqtin Lake – Kurchin
Thursday 12th September 2019
If weather permits we will take the tough but spectacular high route back from Chaqmaqtin to Sarhad. Seeing more of the stunning Pamir Mountains. We return across the high plains, camping at the small Kyrgyz camp of Kurchin high above Bozai Gombaz.

Trekking: 5-6 hours
Altitude: 4100m

Day 12 Kurchin – Aqbelis Pass – Ghughumdeh
Friday 13th September 2019
After 2-3 hours the group will be at the top of the Aqbelis Pass (4600 metres) with great views of a small alpine lake. Another hour brings the group to a delightful lunch spot. In the early afternoon the group will arrive in Ghughumdeh for the night.

Trekking: 5-6 hours
Altitude: 4300m

Day 13 Ghughumdeh – Uween Sar Pass – Nauabad
Saturday 14th September 2019
Possibly the toughest day of the trip. Certainly the crossing of the Uween Sar Pass (4850 metres) is the highest point reached on the trip. An early start should see the group cross the pass around noon. From then on it is downhill to the small camp of Nauabad.

Trekking: 8 hours
Altitude: 4200m

Day 14 Rest day in Nauabad
Sunday 15th September 2019
A full day of rest and relaxation, or even a short day hike, in Nauabad.
Overnight in Nauabad.

Day 15 Nauabad – Sang e Nauishdah
Monday 16th September 2019
A short days trekking between Nauabad and Sang e Nauishdah.
Overnight in Sang e Nauishdah.

Trekking: 2-3 hours
Altitude: 4100m

Day 16 Sang e Nauishdah – Shawr
Tuesday 17th September 2019
If the river is low, as it can be at this time of year, then we have an option of making this day an hour or so shorter by fording the river to reach our overnight camp of Shawr. If the rivers are still high then we will cross the river near Boharak.

Trekking: 5-7 hours
Altitude: 3450m

Day 17 Shawr – Daliz Pass – Sarhad e Broghil
Wednesday 18th September 2019
A final crossing of the Daliz Pass (4250 metres) before the descent back into Sarhad e Broghil, where we will spend the night. Our vehicles will be waiting to take us back towards Tajikistan. We will say goodbye to our horsemen here.

Trekking: 5-6 hours
Altitude: 2800m

Day 18 Sarhad e Broghil – Qala e Panja – Ishkishim
Thursday 19th September 2019
The drive back to Ishkishim should be relatively smooth at this time of year as the river levels are low after the summer snow melt. Once back in Ishkishim there will be time to rest and say goodbye to our Wakhi guides.

Driving: 4-6 hours
Altitude: 2600m

Day 19 Ishkishim – Khorog
Friday 20th September 2019
We cross back into Tajikistan and head back up the Pamir Highway. Khorog will seem like Las Vegas after nearly three weeks in the Pamirs.

Driving: 3 hours
Altitude: 2100m

Day 20 Khorog – Kalaikhum
Saturday 21st September 2019
The long drive back to Dushanbe will be broken at the small town of Kalaikhum.

Driving: 6-7 hours
Altitude: 1250m

Day 21 Kalaikhum – Dushanbe
Sunday 22nd September 2019
A final meal together in Dushanbe.

Driving: 8-9 hours
Altitude: 800m

Day 22 Fly home
Monday 23rd September 2019
We will ensure that you are taken to the airport to catch your flight.

Cost:
US$4300 per person

A deposit of US$400 is required to reserve your place on this trip.

You will be accompanied by an experienced international guide from Untamed Borders for the entire length of this trip.

Please note, the itinerary is what we hope to achieve on this trip – the actual route in the Afghan Pamir can vary due to weather or other restrictions.

The trip includes:
All accommodation
All food in Afghanistan
Breakfast in Tajikistan
Transport/transfers
International guide
Local guides
Local cook
Tents and camping equipment
Pack animals
Permits to visit the Wakhan region

The trip does not include:
Any necessary visas
Insurance
Flights
Entrance fees
Drinks
Tips
Lunch and dinner in Tajikistan

If you have any questions regarding this itinerary or about Afghanistan in general, please contact us.

Fitness Requirements:
Our trekking trips are designed to be physically engaging and provide a level of challenge for most people. As a general guideline, we recommend that you have some prior experience walking with a 10-15kg day pack for up to 8 hours over 5 or more days through uneven & varied terrain (and weather); ranging from hard-packed earth, tussock grass, boulder fields, scree slopes, soft snow patches, and knee-deep rivers.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Tajikistan. We run our Wakhan trips to coincide with the regular Turkish Airlines flights from Europe to Dushanbe, which is the most practical route into Tajikistan.

You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for other suggested routes.

Mail: untamedborders@rtwexperts.co.uk

Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966

Visas:
You will need Double entry Tajikistan visa with GBAO permit and an Afghan Visa for this trip. We will assist with advice on how best to obtain these visas as visa requirements vary from country to country. Obtaining a Tajikistan e-visa (either two single entries with different ‘valid from’ dates or a double entry) is the quickest method. For the Afghan visa we will issue you a letter of invitation to provide along with your visa application at your embassy/consulate.

If you are based in the UK then we recommend Travcour as an agent for your visa requirements. They are UK’s oldest leading travel visa specialist and able to provide full visa support and consultancy for Untamed Border’s destinations. Click here to obtain our specialist visa packages and support from Travcour. They are the people we use when we need visa support for our staff.

Insurance:
The Wakhan and Afghan Pamir regions are both very remote areas in one of the least developed countries in the world. Please ensure that your insurance covers you both for visiting Afghanistan and for rescue in the Wakhan region of Afghanistan. If you have any questions about which insurance company to select please contact us.

Food:
Outside of Dushanbe options will be limited and once we are on the trek we will only be able to eat what we bring with us, or barter for from the nomadic people. Any specific allergies or dietary requirements can be accommodated if we are given prior warning. Please feel free to bring your own energy bars/trekking snacks from home, if you want to supplement it with what we provide you.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.

The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room when that is available. When we are in the Wakhan area we will be staying in tents and in local guesthouses that sometimes only offer central communal areas to sleep in.

Transport:
We always check the vehicles we use thoroughly before each trip. In Afghanistan we aim to use four-wheel drive vehicles and our international guides will carry a satellite phone should the vehicle develop a fault.

When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort, enjoyment and safety of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
For this trip we use team leaders from Untamed Borders who have experience of guiding in the Wakhan. In addition to these experienced leaders we will be working with local Wakhi guides and porters.

Security:
Trips to Afghanistan do create dangers all of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas that we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.