Special Ecotourism
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General information about travel organisation



Access: How to get to Murghab

By air

To Tajikistan
The capital of Tajikistan is served by Tajik airways with a weekly flight from Munich, Delhi, Bishkek. Other suitable airports are Tashkent and Bishkek which offer a better choice of airlines and schedules (British Airways, Turkish Airways, Kyrgyz Air, Uzbek Air etc).

To Gorno Badakhshan
There are daily flights between Dushanbe and Khorog. The flight must be amongst the most spectacular regular flights you can buy for money, winding along the narrow Pianj valley following the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan in a rather small plane. Unfortunately, the flights are very irregular, as the planes and pilots need good weather conditions.

Over land to Gorno Badakhshan

The road to GBAO is part of the fun. There are three major access roads:
Dushanbe - Khorog - Murghab
Osh - Murghab - Khorog
Tashkurgan (China) - Kulma pass - Murghab (closed to tourists)

Dushanbe - Khorog offers two routes:
Via Kuljab, where an all weather road is currently being constructed by a Turkish road construction company. A spectacular road along the gorge of the Pianj river following the border with Afghanistan.
Via Tavlidara, a road open only in summer over the beautiful pass of Tavildara and down to the Pianj valley at Kalaikhum. Hardly less spectacular than the previous, road conditionsa re not improving.

Khorog - Murghab offers various routes:
The Pamir Highway is an amazing deed of Soviet engineering. You curve up the Gunt valley until reaching the pass of Koitezek (4272 m) and enter the high plateaus of the Eastern Pamirs. Clearly the fastest route, and very spectacular.
Via Ishkashim and the Wakhan corridor. The road is not in as good a condition, but the attractions on the way clearly outweigh this disadvantage: fantastic views of the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan and Pakistan, castles and fortresses of the Buddhist and Hephtalite era, shrines of the Isamili Pamiri, the hot springs of Garam Chashma and Bibi Fatima. You reach the Eastern Pamirs after crossing Hargush pass (4344 m).
Make sure your GBAO permit includes Ishkashim!
Via Roshtqala along the Shakhdara valley. Again along fabulous valleys with awesome views of peaks such as Pik Karl Marx and Pik Engels, dotted with ruins of fortresses (Roshtqala) and shrines. Also, not the worst choice.
Along Bartang valley: this route will not take you straight to Murghab but to Kara Kul lake. The road must be amongst the most beautiful of the Pamirs, etching past Pik Communism and the Fedjenk glacier system. Unfortunately it is very bad, feasible only in late summer and even then…

Murghab - Osh
This is the best, easiest and fastest access route to the Eastern Pamirs (if you have the GBAO permit) in principle open all year. The road takes you over ever higher passes (4655 m - Ak Beital) and is splendid in all seasons. Try to spend an extra day in the Alai valley with the splendid views of the 7000 m peaks of Pik Lenin and others.
From Sary Tash (Alai valley), you have the option to cross into China via Irkeshtam border provided you have the Chinese visa.

Tashkurgan - Murghab
This road via Kulma pass (4762 m) has been opened for trade in May 2004. It offers fabulous views of Mustag Ata - but it is for the time being off limits for foreigners.

Transportation is of course part of the adventure:
You can book a taxi (e.g. with META, with the Great game or with Pamirstourism)
There are irregular public busses between Osh, Murghab and Khorog
There are Marshrutkas (shared taxis) between Dushanbe and Khorog, Khorog and Murghab and Murghab and Osh
You can hitch a lift - usually with an adequate contribution to the fuel expenditures.

Whichever option you select: roads are bad, cars are fragile and time is one of the luxuries you should take along when travelling to and in the Pamirs. Prices vary according to the flexible fuel prices. You will often have to pay for a return trip.


Tourist visa can be obtained at Tajik embassies in Europe (Brussels, Vienna, Berlin), in all Central Asian capitals or upon arrival at Dushanbe airport.
Website to consult: www.tajikembassy.org
Austria: Universitaetsstrasse 8/1A ; 1090 Vienna; 1-409 82 66 11
Belgium : Avenue Louise 363 - 365 ; Brussels ; 02 - 64 069 33
Germany : Otto Suhr Allee 84; 10585 Berlin; 30 347 93 00

Some embassies require an invitation letter, others do not - enquire. The price for the visa varies according to the time of delivery required.

Gorno Badakshan (GBAO) requires a special travel permit. It is either on a piece of paper or it is stamped into your passport. It states the districts ("rayon") you are permitted to visit, so make sure you get all you want.
It can be obtained at the Ministry of Interior in Dushanbe or with the help of various tour operators such as The Great Game (www.greatgametravel.co.uk), Central Asian Tourism Corporation (CAT), Sayoh (www.sayoh.tojikiston.com). The price for the permit including service charges varies from 20 US$ to more. Because of the administrative effort, many operators will try to link the obtention of a permit to other services.
Since 2004, the permit can also be obtained upon arrival in Khorog, the capital of GBAO within three days of entering GBAO.

You will still have to register at the various check posts along the road and with OVIR as well as with KGB. The registration fee is 15 US$ plus 15 Tajik Somoni, unless you obtained your permit with the Ministry of Interior, in which case it is for free.

Special permits
Some areas (such as Sarez lake) need a particular travel permit (to be obtained at the Ministry of Emergencies) very difficult to obtain. Other areas, in particular along the Afghan and Chinese border, are off limits for tourists or can be visited after obtaining the permission with the local KGB and OVD.

Trekking and mountaineering
A nature fee of 1 US$ per visitor per day has to be paid to the department of Nature Protection for each day of trekking. An altitude fee has to be paid for every day over 6000 m.

General information and links

Security and health
Travelling in Tajikistan can be considered as reasonably safe. The biggest danger might be linked to transport: bad roads, landslides, old cars. Make sure you have all the necessary travel documents to avoid problems at the multiple check-posts.
No particular health measures need to be taken for the Pamirs (the regular ones as Tetanus etc). in down country Tajikistan, Malaria might be an issue, and occasionally water borne diseases such as Typhoid or dysentery cause problems. Ask for specialised medical consultation.
Medical services are available in bigger towns (Khorog, Murghab), but they are basic and specific medicines might be difficult to find. You should take along a medical kit containing, amongst regular travelling medicine, some first aid material (including needles and syringes).
Normal hygienic precautions are of course recommended: watch the water you drink and the food you eat.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a danger as everywhere in the world. Act accordingly, act responsibly.
Altitude will definitely cause problems. Take your time, if you can, and calculate an adaptation day. For bad cases of altitude diseases, Murghab Ecotourism Association has a hyperbaric chamber which can counter the acute symptoms of altitude disease.

You can exchange cash (dollars and increasingly Euro) on the bazaars of Murghab and Khorog. Traveller cheques, credit cards and other virtual money is of no use between Dushanbe and Osh.

The best map of the Pamirs was published in 2003 by ACTED in cooperation with the Swiss cartographer Marcus Hauser. The scale is 1:500 000 and it contains travelling and background information. www.geckomaps.com
Central Asia maps are available from various publishing houses (Gizimap, Nelles)
On the internet you can access scans of 1:100 000 Soviet topographical maps: www.lib.berkely.edu/EART/tajikistan/100k.html

Only a brief overview is given here (Any good search engine should help to respond to further enquiries).

More information on the Pamirs:
www.lonelyplanet.com (check the "thorntree" for latest information edited by travellers)

www.asiaplus.tajnet.com (newsservice)
www.geocities.com/travel_tajikistan (online travelguide with links)
www.traveltajikistan.com (travel information)
www.greatgametravel.co.uk (provides links to further information)
www.angelfire.com/sd/tajikistanupdate (general information site and links)

www.celest.com.kg ("information pack" by the tour company "Celestial Mountains" full of valuable information and links)
www.cbtakyrgyzstan.kg (homepage of the Kyrgyzstan based "community based tourism association)
www.novinomad.com (tour agency involved in Ecotourism)
Many other websites are available - just ask your search engine...

Organizations supporting the project:

Partner organizations within the UNESCO sponsored Ecotourism project