forbidden mountain roads
a great game adventure from BRITISH india to russian central asia and across china's wild west
Islamabad – Peshawar – Gilgit – Tashkurgan – Kashgar – Pamir – Dushanbe
Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month from May to September. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will give you a wide range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
DAY 1 - Islamabad
Our tour guide will meet you in the arrival hall of Islamabad International Airport (exact meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email in accordance to your flight schedule).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in Pakistan.
We'll spend the day touring Islamabad, a city where the country's past, present and future bump into each other amid the colourful chaos of its crowded streets and exotic bazaars.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Islamabad.
DAY 2 - Peshawar
After an early breakfast we'll transfer to Peshawar, a predominantly Pashtun city in the northwest close to the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Peshawar is not only the fascinating and at the same time intimidating gargantuan frontier town of drug trafficking, tribal feuds and black markets: this is also a place of ancient Islamic architectures and fading colonial grandeur and its intricate network of crowded streets and narrow alleys is the epicentre of all the different aspects of Pakistan's society, history and culture.
Highlights of our walking tour around town include: Yadgar Square, Mahabat Khan Mosque, Qissa Khawani Bazaar and the Peshawar Museum, which houses a rich treasure of art, sculpture and historical relics dating from the Gandhara period.
Dinner and overnight in Peshawar.
DAY 3 - Swat
Today we'll move north to the legendary Swat Valley.
We'll drive toward the picturesque Malakand Pass and visit the magnificent ancient Buddhist monastery of Takht-i-Bahi en route.
We'll then continue to the enchanting slopes of the Swat Valley and stop at the world-famous Churchill's Picket along the way.
Dinner and overnight in the Swat Valley.
DAY 4 - Chitral
We'll start early in the morning and drive towards Chitral via the Lowari Pass.
We'll devote all the day to the exploration of this almost mythical land of impervious roads, towering mountains and secretive valleys inhabited by infidel and polytheist Indo-European tribes, the Kalash, who are rumored to be the descendants of four Greek soldiers of Alexander the Great's army.
Dinner and overnight in Chitral.
DAY 5 - Mastuj
In the morning we'll transfer to Mastuj, a picturesque village north of Chitral.
The unpaved tracks carve their way through stark and rugged mountainscapes: this traditional route has been used for centuries by traders between Chitral and Gilgit and en route we'll have magnificent views of Tirich Mir and Buni Zom, two of the highest peaks in the Hindukush.
Dinner and overnight in Mastuj.
DAY 6 - Gupis
We'll continue our odyssey across Pakistan's untamed borderlands and enter the Karakoram range: wilder sceneries will greet us during the drive as this route is visited by much less people and is snow covered during the wintertime: only nomads inhabit this forgotten land moving around with their flock of goats in constant search for green pastures.
In the afternoon we'll reach the otherworldly settlement of Gupis on the southern bank of the Gilgit river.
Dinner and overnight in Gupis.
DAY 7 - Hunza Valley
We'll driver further east and head to Karimabad, a glorious settlement of the higher Hunza Valley, set against a backdrop of peaks towering above 7000 metres.
On the way we'll have excellent views of Rakaposhi and Ultar, yet two more of the highest mountains in the region.
We'll als stop for tea at a viewpoint to see Rakaposhi in its all glory from summit to its glaciers.
Dinner and overnight in Karimabad.
DAY 8 - Tashkurgan
Today we will travel along the mythical Karakoram Highway north to the border of China, the notorious Khunjerab Pass, which at 4700 metres is the world's highest border crossing between two countries.
Along the way we will be able to admire the unique flora and fauna of Khunjerab National Park.
After completing the usual border crossing formalities we'll head straight to Tashkurgan, the end-of-the-world capital of the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, one of the many ethnic provinces of Xinjiang, aka Chinese Turkestan, a provincial-level autonomous region of China home to a number of ethnic groups, including Uyghur (the titular nationality), Han, Kazakhs, Hui, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Mongols and even Russians.
In Tashkurgan we'll pay a visit to the local museum and tour the imposing fort overlooking the town, before having a traditional Chinese-Tajik dinner in one of its many picturesque teahouses.
Overnight in Tashkurgan.
DAY 9/10/11 - Kashgar
We'll leave Tashkurgan and head to the historic Silk Road town of Kashgar, a place full of ancient culture and modern contrasts.
On our way to Kashgar we'll stop at the quintessentially Uyghur market town of Upal for a traditional Turkestani lunch.
Once in Kashgar, we'll devote two-and-half days touring both the main historical sights and the off-the-beaten-path attractions in and around this mesmerisingly chaotic and splendidly diverse Central Asian town.
In addition to our exploration of Kashgar's narrow alleys, bustling markets and historic mosques, we'll also go out of town and visit the elegant sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert near the crumbling village of Yarkand.
Dinner and overnight in Kashgar.
DAY 12/13 - Sary Tash
Today we'll move west and enter the territory of the mighty former Soviet Union, in the shape of the tiny but gorgeous Kyrgyz Republic, a mountainous independent state squeezed among China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The road trip from Kashgar to the 3000-metre high Irkeshtam Pass, marking the border between China and Kyrgyzstan, is an attraction for itself, as you will travel through stunning and diverse landscapes of red mountains, desert plateaus and remote settlements built along the unruly course of the Kirzlesu River.
Once entered Kyrgyzstan (expect long but friendly border formalities) we'll head to Sary Tash, a rather otherworldly Mad-Max-style hamlet along the road and the last major Kyrgyz outpost on the Highway.
Coming from China we'll arrive in Sary Tash quite late in the evening, just in time for a shashlik dinner and some astronomic observations of the sublime night sky over the Pamir.
On our second day we'll explore the area surrounding the hamlet: from Sary Tash you'll enjoy stunning views of the Trans-Alai and in clear-weather days you'll get a glimpse of the mighty Lenin Peak and Communism Peak, the two highest mountains in the whole USSR.
The more athletic among us will be able to undertake short hikes across Martian landscape around Sary Tash, whereas the lazier ones will enjoy the company of the local villagers, who will share with us their homes, their food and their stories.
Dinner and overnight in Sary Tash.
DAY 14 - Pamir Highway
We'll continue our epic journey along the Pamir Highway heading towards Rangkul, yet another remote hamlet surrounded by unreal natural beauty and crumbling Soviet ruins.
We'll visit the nearby Rangkul Valley Bird Reserve and after lunch we'll drive south to Murghab, the main urban settlement in Northern Pamir.
After a quick tour around the rather dull downtown (read Soviet nostalgia plus deserted bazaars plus empty mosques) we'll visit the local mountaineering association and learn more about the history and the explorations of this extremely remote corner of Asia.
Dinner and overnight in Murghab.
DAY 15 - Pamir Highway
Another day driving along the legendary Pamir Highway.
We'll first head to the tiny village Alichur where we'll enjoy a traditional Pamiri lunch.
In the afternoon we'll reach the extremely isolated Bulun-Kul Lake and the nearby fishing hamlet.
Dinner and overnight in Bulun-Kul.
DAY 16 - Wakhan Valley
Today we'll finally reach the Wakhan Valley, arguably the most beautiful of its kind in the whole Pamir region.
We'll drive on remote mountain roads and catch stunning glimpses of Afghan villages located a few metres away on the opposite bank of the narrow Panj river.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the journey in semi-abandoned Soviet military outposts straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie.
In the afternoon we'll reach Vrang, a pretty rural village mostly inhabited by the Wakhi people.
Dinner and overnight in Vrang.
DAY 17 - Tajikistan: Wakhan Valley
We'll continue our adventure across the Wakhan Valley visiting hot springs and ancient pagan temples along the way.
We'll stop in several traditional Wakhi hamlets along the way and after lunch we'll reach Ishkashim, a relatively larger village and the crossing point into Afghanistan.
Dinner and overnight in Ishkashim.
DAY 18 - Tajikistan: Khorog
Late wake-up call and lazy morning in Ishkashim.
We'll then head to Khorog, the capital of the Autonomous Badakhshan.
Khorog walking tour: House of the Soviet, Aga Khan Botanical Gardens, Pamir University, Lenin Statue.
Dinner and overnight in Khorog.
DAY 19 - Tajikistan: Dushanbe
Early morning start for an epic 10-hour drive to Dushanbe, the capital of the country.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul in Rushan, Kalaikhum, Tavildara and other fascinating little villages along the way.
Please note: theoretically there is a daily flight from Khorog to Dushanbe; in practice, however, the flight schedule is absolutely unreliable, as it largely depends on 1) weather conditions 2) number of booked passengers 3) the unforeseeable whim of pilots, flight attendants and airport authorities. If lucky enough, then we might be able to skip the bumpy odyssey to Dushanbe gloriously flying over an epic landscape of high peaks and narrow gorges. The flight is included in the tour price.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
DAY 20 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Tajik breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Dushanbe International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the train/bus station.
End of the tour.
3 to 6 participants: 4600 €
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 25 euro/night), private transport in the region, entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights, meals, drinks and tips, visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
Please note: entry to Pakistan will be refused to Israeli passport holders and travellers with any evidence (stamp, visa, permits) of visiting Israel.