Cycling the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan was a dream of mine since 2015, when I read about the first stories from other travelers who cycled the Pamir Highway and as I decided that I’m going to do a world trip by bicycle. Now, 4 years later, I was right before crossing to Tajikistan and finally cycling and experiencing the adventurous Pamir Highway on my own.
After a few days of rest and historical culture in Samarkand, we left the city on the morning of the 5th October 2019 as a group of four. Andrew already had to leave us in Bukhara as his Tajikistan Visa so as GBAO-Permit was about to start and also end earlier than ours. So we have agreed that we will hopefully meet again in Dushanbe about a week later. As we left Samarkand, we could already see the first mountains on the horizon, which felt great and super exciting after all these weeks through deserts and flatlands. The border to Tajikistan was only a 40km ride away. Around midday, after the last stop for some more delicious Uzbek Somsa’s, we reached the border checkpoint.
What we expected was a long, time-consuming inspection on the Tadjik side, but it was nothing like that. First, on the Uzbek side of the border, we changed our last few Som’s for Tadjik Somoni to a rather bad exchange rate and bought a few more Snickers for the road. Then the Uzbek border police stamped us out and we were able to directly cross into Tajikistan without any waiting. On the Tadjik side, there was a small customs container where we had to show and stamp our Visas and a few minutes later it was all done.
The first few kilometers in Tajikistan felt great. There was this adventurous feeling in the air, the anticipation for cycling the Pamir Highway, and the upcoming climbs and adventures. As soon as we crossed the border, the mountains started to rise on both sides of the road.
Tajikistan, a country where more than 90% of its territory is mountainous and half of it lies 3000m or more above sea level, is an absolute dream for every adventurer and especially, landscape photographer. I couldn’t wait to see more of it!
The mountains haven’t been the only thing that changed after the border crossing. In every little village we cycled through, there were dozens of kids shouting “HELLLOOOOO” and running towards us to get a high-five as soon as they saw us. This was also something I previously heard and read about from other cyclists who have been in Tajikistan, but I couldn’t really imagine what extent it would be. There was a hello from everywhere, and not only all these hundreds of kids were happy to see us, but also the older ones were quite welcoming and friendly.
On this first day, we cycled around 40 more kilometers in Tajikistan and finally found a perfect camp spot just a few meters next to the main road, next to an empty hut with a huge and wide view over the Serafschan river and the valley below. We did not only get a magical sunset and sunrise but were also able to start the next day with a downhill instead of a climb.
Pamir Highway FAQ
How high is the Pamir Highway
The majority of the Pamir Highway runs at an average altitude of about 2800-3000 meters asl. with its highest point at 4655 meters at the Ak Baital Pass.
Best time to visit the Pamir Highway
The best time to visit Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway is around May until September. While visiting the Pamir Highway in late autumn or winter is more challenging definitely a great adventure too.
Is the Pamir Highway paved
The majority of the Pamir Highway, also called the M41 is paved, altough there are a lot of potholes. There are some rough hard gravel sections, mainly along the panj river.
How long is the Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway is around 1250km's long, from Dushanbe (capital of Tajikistan) to Osh in Kyrgyzstan.