Stretching more than 1,500km between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Pamir Highway is one of the World’s Wildest roads – and for the intrepid traveller, one of the most epic roadtrips.
Stretching more than 1,500km between the cities of Osh in Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe in Tajikistan, the Pamir Highway, Also called M41 is one of the wildest roads in the world – and for the intrepid traveller, possibly the planet’s most epic road trip. The road which is the second highest paved road in the world, travels through savage wilderness, ranging from high desert to snowy mountains and crossing passes of more than 4,000m, and is likely inhabited by more snow leopards and spiral-horned Marco Polo sheep than humans. Travelling here you can look at China, peek into Pakistan and wave to villagers in Afghanistan.
With peaks of more than 7,000m, the Pamir Mountains, better known as Bam-i-Dunya (Roof of the World), are surpassed in height only by the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindu Kush. The unstable terrain crosses over high passes and through earthquake, landslide and rockfall zones, which makes the Pamir Highway one of the most challenging drives out there – and these extreme conditions attract motorcyclists, bicyclists and thrill-seekers who love big, wild and remote landscapes.
This road through the mountains was originally built by the Russians during the fabled ‘Great Game’ that was started in the mid-1800s by the British and Russian Empires who competed for control over Central Asia. One of the main arteries of the original Silk Road also followed this path, and you can still see remnants of the ancient medieval mountaintop fortresses that were built to protect trade through the region. In the 1900s, the Soviets further improved the route, but it still mostly remains a rough rock, sand and dirt track, and attempts to completely pave it have met with erosion, potholes and a state of continual disrepair.
Despite the obstacles, it’s worth all the dust, distance and rough travel to come here. The distances are huge, the terrain is wild, and it’s so remote that you’ll barely spot another vehicle. What you will see is some of the world’s most stunning scenery – and have the adventure of a lifetime.
I did this trip in august 2019 with a colleague of mine from work and i dont regret doing it. I drove the Mongol Rally in 2012 and i had planned to visit Tadjikistan then but as there was tensions in the area and the Taliban had taken control of some parts of the Pamirs it was too dangerous to do it. Now 7 years later i finally came back to see what this road trip was all about.
We had a car with a driver for 7 days, driving from Dushanbe to Osh, starting at the lower altitude and driving upwards towards the higher platoes so we didnt get sick from the altitudes. Others come the other way, use more time or even take on several excursions along the way such as climbing mountains or camp along the way on theyre own. We stayed in guesthouses along the way, where local familys invited us where they served food and drinks. As we booked the trip thru a travel agent everything was planned out such as the route, homestayes, restaurants, luches, dinners and a few sights that they knew we as tavellers wanted to stop and see.
Budget wise this trip can cost a bit if you do it thru a tour company, but i got tips from a friend thru a travel community that recommended me this operator. The biggest cost is offcourse the flight and the car with or without driver, and maybe which homestay you want. Food, beverages and stuff along the way is dirt cheap down here.
For all of you who think about doing it, driving your own car, motorcycle, bicycle, walk or even do a overland trip from continent to continent, do it and not just dream about it