The Pamir Highway is one of the most picturesque roads in the world and the highest mountain road on the territory of Central Asia. It appeared in the XIX century during the "Great Game" - the colonial rivalry between the British and Russian empires. At first, the route connected the Fergana and Alai valleys, and later continued to Khorog and Dushanbe.
A modern journey should start from the capital of Tajikistan and, gradually acclimatizing, climb the mountains - to the "roof of the world": when the Pamirs got this nickname, the locals did not yet know about the existence of a higher Tibet. The trip promises to be exotic and colorful: most of the Pamir Highway passes through the high mountain gorge of the Pyanj River, along the border with Afghanistan. In addition to successive green valleys and dramatic gorges, at the bottom of which the Pyanj boils, there are many sights on the way, and they are very diverse.
Foothills of Pamir
The journey from Dushanbe begins on the spurs of Gissar-Alai. The mountains are not so high yet, but there are already a lot of interesting things. Particularly impressive are the high-altitude Nurek hydroelectric power station and the multi-colored salt mountain of Khoja-Mumin with openwork caves. You can make a detour and drive to the medieval Buddhist monastery of Ajina-Tepe or the hot springs of Chiluchor-Chashma, which form the river. But the main landmark on this stretch of the path is the ancient city of Kulyab, in the center of which is the mausoleum of the Persian scientist and theologian Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani.
Valley of the Pyanj River
After the Shuroabad pass, the Pyanj river valley begins - the border with Afghanistan passes through it, the road winds after the river. This is where the Gorno-Badakhshan region begins: the mountains around are getting higher, the landscapes are getting more spectacular. The process of looking out for unusual Soviet stops in settlements and suspension bridges across the numerous rivers rushing to Pyanj is also entertaining. At the place where the river Obihumbou flows into it, the village of Kalai-Khumb is located, where you can have lunch and relax.
The most interesting begins in the village of Rushan, where you can comfortably stay in one of the guest houses for a couple of days. It is interesting to make trekking along the rivers Vamardara or Bartang, take pictures against the backdrop of the azure lakes formed by the Jizevdara river. And in the city itself - take a walk along the Vamar fortress, which offers views of the Afghan coast of the Pyanj with rare desert villages. A barely noticeable path runs along the almost sheer cliffs: if you take care of binoculars in advance, you can see rare travelers in national clothes on it - most likely, they are heading to the famous market in the village of Ishkashim.
Khorog – the capital of Pamir
Khorog is the administrative center of the Gorno-Badakhshan region and the starting point for traveling through the high Pamirs. It even has an airport, but it mainly serves helicopters.
In Khorog, there is an amazing botanical garden - the second highest above sea level in the world (after Nepalese). The collection contains more than 4,000 plants from all over the world, which you would not expect to meet in such a climate. And in the local history museum you can learn about the history of the Pamirs and about the local peoples who call themselves pomiri and inhabit the territories of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. In addition to Islam, Zoroastrianism (especially in Shungan) and Buddhism (Wakhan) are strong in the region, so religious buildings are diverse and specific, and their architecture meets the climate.
From here you can get to the balneological resort of Garm-Chashma: it's nice to relax in the hot springs, they resemble Icelandic ones and form geysers up to one and a half meters high. There will still be springs ahead, but much more modest: in the village of Avch, 27 kilometers from Ishkashim, in Yamchun (Bibi-Fatima baths) and in Zong (Sharalay spring).
Ishkashim and fortresses
The main attraction of Ishkashim is the bazaar in the neutral territory between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In addition to Chinese consumer goods, there are a lot of antiques, clothes and other curiosities here, you can spend more than one hour here. Especially decisive ones choose brides for themselves, but foreigners, perhaps, should not rush into this. Days and hours of operation to be confirmed.