Tajikistan is one of the most overlooked tourist destinations in the world, but it’s a shame since the country offers some of the most scenic nature in the world.
But luckily, a few tourists a year that are brave enough to venture off the mainstream tourist’s destinations in the world and rather go off and explore the real beauty of what this world has to offer.
And what’s the best kind of transportation to travel one of the least explored countries in the world? A car? A motorbike? No and no, the best way is by Bicycle!
One of my plans with making a trip through Tajikistan and the Pamirs was to use an old shitty bike, and not a 2000 Euro bike that “everyone” told me that I had to use, especially all the “expert” on all the bike touring forums. So what did I do?
I bought an old used DBS bike for 200 Euro, bought the cheapest bike bags and panniers I could find (even I had to admit that I should have spent more money on the bag and panniers, especially since one of my bags broke the FIRST DAY, but that’s what we have duck tape for).
I started this trip with flying into Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
Dushanbe is by far the biggest city in the country, it does have a few sights, but there’s nothing special to brag about there, but like most other travellers did I have to spend a few days there, so I did the normal sightseeing, one thing that’s worth checking out is the Museum of Antiquities that old host artefacts found from the silk road area, one of the most famous artefacts is a 13meter (40foot) long Buddha statue.
The biggest issue in Dushanbe was the drunk police officers that were demanding bribes for anything.
Especially the officers that hang around the Massive Statue of Somoni in the city centre.
When I finally managed to leave Dushanbe after the 4th day and arrived in the small town of Nurek about 70km further, I was exhausted, completely tires, maybe it wasn’t that smart after all to make a trip like this without any training so what so ever.
Nurek is home to the world’s second tallest man-made dam in the world at 300m, only beaten by a dam in China with 5meters. Nurek Dam actually had the world record from 1972 to 2013.
It was another 130km to reach the city of Kulob from Nurek.
There’s not much to say about that part of the trip, except that I had to pass through Anzob Tunnel, better known as the “Tunnel of DEATH.”
The tunnel was open in 2006 despite being only partially finished, and it quickly gained the reputation as being one of the world’s most dangerous tunnels.
It’s a 5km long tunnel with NO light inside it’s literally pitch dark, and potholes with the size of basketballs and to make things even worse; there’s no ventilation system inside the tunnel, so it’s a truly feels like a claustrophobic abyss inside there.
Then, on my way to Kulob, this restored fort showed up in the middle of nowhere.
Then while having a rest outside the fort, a local wedding party showed up and insisted that I take part in the celebration.
The city it’s one of the biggest cities in Tajikistan, but there’s not much to say about the place except that it’s a nice city to rest for a day or two.
From Kulob it’s only another two days until you reach the border with Afghanistan, a border you will be following for the next two weeks. You’re so close to Afghanistan that it’s hard NOT to sneak in.
The border area between Tajikistan and Afghanistan has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
The first proper village you will reach along the river banks is Kalaikhum.
Kalaikhum is a small green settlement, that’s more like a traveller meeting point, on a famous junction.
You will meet travellers coming from Kyrgyzstan towards Dushanbe, some others that have taken the “upper” road from Dushanbe towards the Pamirs, and some of them have taken the lower route (the one I took). During my two days stay in Kalaikhum I met about 12 – 14 other travellers on motorbikes, people with cars and other with bicycles, there was even a French guy that was WALKING BY FOOT.
From Kalaikum there is another 245km to the next town that’s called Khorugh.
Khorugh is the last proper town/city that you will pass through in Tajikistan before you reach Osh in Kyrgyzstan.
Like I already mentioned Korugh is the last town/city you will see in a while, it’s also the place with the last ATM and last place where you get to enjoy some tasty food and cold beer for a while. There are some decent restaurants with English menus along the riverfront.
This adventure will continue in a second post and third post, covering Wakhan valley and the Pamir Highway.
Additional information about Tajikistan.
Want to do a tour through Tajikistan?
Visa for Tajikistan.
Tourist visas are available at arrival at the airport for citizens of countries with no Tajik embassy; the visa fee is 25 USD, bring exact amount since they didn’t really have any change there.
I would recommend you to print out the forms and fill them out when you arrive; it will save you A LOT of time since there is only one immigration officer at the airport, it can easily take 1 – 2 hours to obtain your visa at the airport if there are many tourists arriving.
A separate permit is required if you wish to travel to the GBAO region (the Pamir area); it costs $US50, and it’s easily obtained in Dushanbe.
Money in Tajikistan.
There are ATM’S all over Dushanbe, but they all charge you a fee for withdrawing money. I also found ATM’S in Kulob and Khorugh, but I didn’t find ANY ATM trough Wahkan Valley or the Pamirs. There are also money changers all over the capital.
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Sunday 7th of February 2021
So no one is going to mention the tourists beheadings in that country, only the beautiful scenery? Ok. I wish u all good luck, hippies.
Sunday 7th of February 2021
Hello. This post is from 2016, and the horrible tourist killings happened in 2018.
How to Find a Pamir Highway Tour in Tajikistan
Friday 9th of November 2018
[…] Cycling – The Pamir highway is a cyclist’s paradise. We passed a few travelers cycling the route. Some anticipated the journey to take 3 weeks and others 5 weeks. However, it’s not an easy road to cycle, so be ready and don’t attempt it unless you are an experienced cyclist. Check out this great account of someone who cycled the Pamir highway. […]
Wednesday 9th of May 2018
Great adventure man! thanks for sharing it. I just have one question: you said you were doing this without any training (which I still cant decide if u are crazy or brave or both) what was your average distance per day on the section from Kalaikum to the plateau? thing is I am going to do this route in October but unfortunately I don't have a lot of time - however I have the legs - so Im trying to estimate how many days I'll need.
Saturday 12th of May 2018
Heey. Sorry for the late reply. I might be a bit crazy, but i never do any training before trips, not a single hour:)
It depends which way you want to take? Will you head directly from Kalaikum to Khorog than straight onwards M41? or will you go by the Wakhan Valley? If going trough Wakhan will it take you about 4/5 days to reach the end of the valley if taking it slow and easy, then another 2 really hard days to get back on the M41. From there is there another 2/3days to Murghab. Just be aware that October can be to late if you are unlucky with the wheater. I had a really really bad snow storm after Murghab during my trips
Thursday 26th of January 2017
Sweet blog/pics bro! I did the same route last year as well, and this takes me back again.
Thursday 2nd of June 2016
Admittedly, I've never heard of this place, but the scenery looks breathtaking! I love getting around by bicycle! It's faster than walking, but slower than driving so you can still enjoy the scenery.