Towns and villages on the Pamir Highway (M41)
For many, a trip to the Pamir region in Tajikistan has everything one needs on an adventure. Journey one of the highest roads in the world amongst splendid peaks, stunning landscapes, outstanding azure lakes and the friendliest people in the region.
Capture history as you tread a path beaten by Marco Polo and Alexander the Great.
Let's take a look at the different towns and villages on the Pamir Highway.
This small village located next to the stunning lake Karakul, Meaning black lake I have only ever seen it a beautiful Turquoise reflecting the mountains of off its crystalline surface. The village is a collection of small stone buildings with walled courtyards.
These days, most have homestay and guest house signs hanging.
It is remote here and feels as though the village is running half empty. If you want to imagine yourself in a spaghetti western, then this is the place for you.
What you see is what you get in this one-road town, many travellers do not rate it claiming there is nothing to see here.
The author disagrees. All one needs is a keen imagination and a sense of history.
In 1893 the Russians established the Pamirsky Post their most advanced and southernmost outpost later during the period of the Soviet union the town further expanded.
Many of the small soviet buildings remain in situ with their functions listed on plaques outside. This authentic mountain crossroads has watched the world from above once home to Russian satellite stations and military bases it has now lost that sheen. Located in this desolate retreat are guesthouses, homestays and an ageing Soviet-style hotel.
Small shops offer essential supplies to needy travellers from beer to informal currency exchange. Murghab is also home to an original Lenin statue at the heart of the town.
There is also a rather well preserved and presented victory monument on the main road through the settlement.
Everything Ali Chur!
For Ali Chur village is located on the Ali Chur River in the Ali Chur valley.
Joking aside this valley is a real treat fed by a river offering views of lush green fields home to yurt and herd. The locals in this region spend their summer months preparing for winter in this high-altitude pasture. Ali Chur village is a real contrast when compared to the green of the surrounding valley dusty roads around whitewashed stone buildings are the norm. Travel-weary adventurers will welcome the few homestays and small restaurants here.
The Golden fish is the most popular offering up fish from the nearby river.
Whichever way that you have travelled either across the rough Pamir or through the Wakhan corridor Langar is a real treat. Offering views of high mountains while nestled in is the lush green valley; Langar is a village of irrigated fields and trees. The homestays here are relatively basic but comfortable and pleasant. Langar has been home to people for over 6000 years and a little extra time here allows for some enjoyable hikes or a chance to view life in the remote region.
Ishkashim has the feel of a delightful small town while giving fabulous views across the Panj River to its sister city of the same name in Afghanistan.
It can be a pleasant place to stop and freshen up on your journey as it sits at the mouth of the Wakhan corridor.
The town itself has a small market, some well-stocked local shops and a small museum. Aside from this unless you have an interest in basic soviet architecture, we would recommend getting out of the town to explore a little more.
If you do venture out of the town, there are some ancient fortresses, small museums and Zoroastrian temples worth a visit.
This city is a real welcome break after travelling through the Pamir's, with a population of 28,000 people it's also a sizable affair for the region as well as the provincial capital. Khorugh located at the confluence of the Gunt and Panj rivers.
Historically its favourable location made it an area over much dispute. The Emir of Bukhara, Shah of Afghanistan, Russia and even Britain disputed the region. Of course, the Russians were too emerge as the winners after The Great Game. The borders were eventually fixed the current northern border of Afghanistan on the Panj River and established the territory of Russian Pamir around Khorugh. In The City, there is a mix of hotels from 5* to homestay along with a wide variety of restaurants.
There may not be too many wow sights to visit in Khorugh although we would strongly recommend a drive up to the Khorugh Botanical gardens. There is also an Ismail Somoni statue located in a small park on the north side of Lenin Street the statue of Somoni stands on a granite plinth, set with the mountains behind.
Khorugh Botanical cover around 624 hectares and sit at an altitude of 2320 m, making them the second-highest in the world. The Gardens perched on a mountain terrace between Gunt and Shahdara rivers. The views from the gardens are fantastic looking out over Khorugh, and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The gardens were started in 1940 by the Russian Professor Anatoly Gursky; he was to observe the survival rate of plants at altitude and the associated climatic conditions.
The Gardens now have more than 2300 species of trees and plants. For those interested the signs in the gardens have the plant names in Latin as well as Cyrillic. The gardens are in a mixed state; some areas look a little neglected while other places are perfectly trimmed.
There is a museum here although I have never seen it open, there is also housing up here built for the presidential visits.
If travelling from Dushanbe Kalai Khum for many is the real start of their Pamir adventure.
Within reach of the capital Kalai Khum, in my opinion, is one of the most attractive towns on the M41. A small river surges through the heart of this picturesque settlement rumbling past terraced restaurants and tight, tidy homes. Surrounded by mountains, one of which has remnants of the 5th-century fortress, if you choose a more extended stay here, the walk offers astounding views across to Afghanistan. Accommodation covers all needs from homestays to the very relaxing Karon Palace.