The Ancient Pamir Highway

The Ancient Pamir Highway
Oct 21, 2014
By Greg Stephenson

Have you ever had one of those unexplainable moments when you recall a specific scene from an event that has nothing to do with what you’re doing at the moment? This happened to me a couple days ago when I had this instant vision of driving in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan conducting field work for an NGO I was working with at the time. The majesty of the mountains coupled with the cool summer air created one of the greatest memories of my time in Central Asia. The Pamir Mountains has this certain effect on people that is unexplainable and it goes well beyond the typical souvenir that you can buy. This is something that tickles your memory for as long as you are on this Earth. One of the more adventurous ways to get this experience is to travel on the Pamir Highway that passes through Tajikistan. The trip is not for everyone, but if you decide to do it, you will have accomplished traversing one of the world’s most famous roads!

The history of the Pamir Highway (M41) goes back millennia when it was a section of the Great Silk Road. In 1915 a 1 meter wide pack road was completed between Dushanbe and Khorog by a team of workers who were being punished for their participation in the 1912 insurrection in Central Asia. Many of them were killed during the construction and the only monument remaining of their work is the road itself. It wasn’t until 1931-1934 that a road passable for motorized vehicles was completed, but the maintenance needed to keep it open has been an ongoing affair since then. During the days of the Soviet Union it was relatively easy to keep the road open, but since 1991 when the Central Asian states were granted their independence road coordinated maintenance has been problematic. Due to its geographic location, the road is susceptible to the effects of earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, mudslides, and everything in between. While parts of the highway are paved with asphalt, most it is made of sand and gravel. The Pamir Highway extends from Osh, Kyrgyzstan and passes through Tajikistan (Khorog, Dushanbe), until it terminates in Termez, Uzbekistan.

Due to the unpredictable nature of travel on the Pamir Highway, it is highly advisable to keep yourself informed. Summer is the best time to hop in the 4x4 and make sure that you’ve got plenty of provisions loaded with you. This trip can be chopped into many different variations; while some like to create an itinerary that starts in Osh and concludes in Termez, others prefer to drive only in Tajikistan, while some decide that they want to include it on their Uzbekistan tours. No matter what you decide, this ancient road will connect you with the most beautiful mountains on the planet!

Greg Stephenson

Greg has lived and worked in Central Asia since 1997. His hands-on understanding of the people, culture, and tourist destinations provides our clients the opportunity to feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands. His travels throughout Central Asia have given him the opportunity to interact with many professionals in the tourism industry that enables him to providing the highest quality of services anywhere in the world.

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