A truly adventurous horseriding expedition in the extreme south of Tajikistan. This is one of the most breathtaking regions in the world, mineral peaks and snowy plateaus dominated by glaciers, and dramatic valleys that are home to shepherds and are the secret domain of the illusive snow leopard.
Ride through the Pamir Mountains, formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World". We enjoy the hospitality of families in Kyrgyz yurts or camp en-route.
Another highlight of this trip is the opportunity for riders to witness the Al Chabysh Festival in the remote town of Murghab, this is a sports and cultural event dedicated to the horse and the ancestral nomads.
The area is reserved for just a handful of adventurers each year.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AD of East Perth on 24/07/2016
Pamir Mountain Explorer Itinerary:
Day 1 - International Travel
Fly to Osh airport and land in the early hours of the morning on day 2 (6:35am in 2017).
Day 2 - OSH - SARI TASH
Go to a guesthouse in Osh with an opportunity to shower, have breakfast and sleep for a few hours. At around 12 have lunch in Osh then drive to Sari Tash (170 km, 4 hours) through the Fergana Valley, passing by Tol Dek Pass (3554m) where Pamir and Tien Shan meet. The culmination of the Pamir, Lenin Peak (7495m) may be seen on a clear day. Overnight in a yurt camp or homestay.
Day 3 - SARI TASH - KARAKUL LAKE - MURGHAB
If anyone needs to buy anything we can stop at the bazaar in the morning before setting off in the 4x4 and drive to the Kylzyl Art Pass (4336m) which marks the border with Tajikistan. After customs formalities, the road opens onto a vast plateau between Uy Bulak Pass (4232m) and Akbaital Pass (4655m), the highest pass of the former Soviet Union. It lies along the beautiful Karakul Lake and then swoops down into the valley of Murghab. Lunch in a homestay.
Murghab (from the Persian word meaning "river of the birds") is the capital of Murghob District. With a population of 4,000, Murghab is about the only significant town the eastern half of Gorno-Badakhshan. It is the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,630m above sea level. Welcome in a guesthouse in Murghab. Meet with your guide then help with the preparation of luggage for horse trek - each rider will carry their belongings in a pair of saddle bags provided. Porting equipment and supplies is by horse saddles. 12 jeep supplies will replenish fresh product and personal effects during the trek. Overnight in the guesthouse.
Day 4 - Day 11 - Horse trek
After breakfast, transfer by vehicle to the Southern bank of Madiana River (20 minutes) where the guide waits for you with his team of horsemen and horses - the team consists of Kyrgyz shepherds from the valleys.
The 8-day horse trek takes place on the heights of Pamir Oriental, nicknamed "the roof of the world". The daily route of this horse trek follows the transhumance trails used for centuries by the nomadic Kyrgyz. Your guide, who knows the mountains perfectly, adjusts the route depending on the movement of nomadic pastoralists, weather, grass and water needed for the horses, wishes and sporting abilities of the riders. You will cross lunar landscapes, high altitude pastures of such oases, valleys suspended at the edge of glaciers and dug tumultuous torrents. You will cross several mountain passes between 3,900m and 4,600m. You will admire amazing views of the high peaks of the Pamir that reach an altitude of 7,000m. You will have the opportunity to meet numerous nomadic shepherds who will welcome you in their yurt and share tea with you. You will be sometimes see the wildlife of Pamir, mainly Marco Polo or Argali, mountain goat or Ibex, wolf, marmots and birds of prey.
Along the way, you will have the opportunity to walk down the Madiana valley to a petroglyph site then up a canyon you will reach the hot springs of Jyluu Suu, famous for their thermal benefits. Bath in the hot springs.
Below in more detail is the outline of the planned itinerary. But with many years of experience in this high mountains, this detailed day by day itinerary can rarely be followed without some modifications. Nothing is fixed in the Pamir mountains, neither the weather nor the shepherds nor the mountains (snow avalanches, landslides, drying or a water point, etc.).
The overnight camping areas will be chosen by the guide depend on the weather, they will always be near running water and often near a shepherd camp. Overnight in tents. Riding time is between 4 and 6 hours each day - some high passes are crossed on foot, with the horse being led in hand.
At the end of the horse trek you'll arrive on the Northern bank of the Madiana River and transfer by vehicle to your guesthouse in Murghab. There is the possibility of going to the "bagna" (Russian bath) for those who wish. Preparation of luggage for departure the following morning. Dinner and overnight in the guesthouse.
Day 4 - MADIANA VALLEY - BOSTERI OF MADIANA - 4H RIDING
Crossing lunar landscapes, high green pastures like small oases, hugging the valley edges with turbulent streams gushing beside you, you will cross several mountain passes at an altitude of between 3900 and 4600 metres. Incredible views of the towering peaks of the Pamir (7000m) and chance encounters with the local wildlife (mountain sheep and goats, ibex, marmots, birds of prey...). You will be warmly welcomed into the yurts of the local shepherds to glimpse their way of life, unchanged for generations.
Camping overnight near the camp of a shepherd family in Bosteri Mediana. You will have pack horses with you on this trip. Each rider has a pair of saddlebags for his personal belongings, for a maximum of 12 kilos including the sleeping bag. Other belongings remain in your suitcase which stays safely in your guesthouse in Murghab. The Jeep supplying, scheduled one time during the trek, can bring back your suitcases to possibly change some clothes if desired.
Day 5 - BOSTERI OF MADIANA - 5H RIDING
Start riding in the mountains of Bosteri Mediana. Picnic in the valley before resuming the climb to 4200m. Admire the spectacular view from the top, dominated by the snowy peaks close by. You set-up camp along a creek below.
Day 6 - BOSTERI OF MADIANA - JYLUU SUU - 5H RIDING
Today we'll start riding along the parade River which is dug into the rock. Picnic along the Murghab River which fills Lake Sarez below. You go down the valley inhabited Madiana to a petroglyph site and then turn south through a valley to reach the hot springs Jyluu Suu, known for their thermal benefits. Enjoy a bath in the hot springs. Dinner prepared by the family that welcomes you. Overnight in two yurts installed especially for visitors.
Overnight accommodation is in yurts.
Day 7 - JYLUU SUU - KARA MUKOUR - 5H RIDING
This is an exciting stage of the ride with diverse terrain and riding. You join the main valley Madiana on horseback to fork immediately into a narrow canyon that opens onto a small green valley dominated by glaciers. Many Kyrgyz families set up their jailoo (summer camp) in this pleasant valley. Herds of yaks graze peacefully. You will arrive on horseback via a large mineral plateau, before joining a new jailoo where you step.
Day 8 - KARA MUKOUR - JAILOO BOSTERI - 6H RIDING + WALKING ON FOOT
A new sport but another beautiful stage to the adventure. You leave the Murghab district to reach that of Alichour. Here you will face two options depending on the condition of the snow passes: walk along a pass at 4600m leading to the vast plateau of Alichour or complete the 3 passes below you. The steep ascent often means you will need to walk on foot leading your horse (30 min walk max). The descent is walking in a field of Pieria.
Camping overnight in the jailoo of Bosteri.
Day 9 - JAILOO BOSTERI - PSHARTT RANGE - 6H RIDING
Your route changes direction to move north-east towards the Pshartt range. After crossing a new pass, you discover the beautiful views of the Northen Pamir. Facing you now are the snow-capped mountains which separate you from the geeen valley of Pshartt, where many nomads set up their yurt camp until the beginning of winter.
Day 10 - PSHARTT RANGE - MADIAN RIVER - 4H RIDING
The descent on the Madiana Valley offers beautiful green landscape, populated by small willow forests, which contrast happily with the mineral world through the previous days. There, on the right bank of the river we reach, there is the small hamlet of Midian, where live about ten Kyrgyz families.
Day 11 - MADIAN RIVER- MURGHAB - 4H RIDING
We have reached the lowest altitude of your trip in the Pamirs Oriental: 3 520 meters. The track will now go slowly down, alo,g the bottom of Madiana valley towards Murghab. You have the pleasure of a few canters on soft ground, alternating with the crossing of rocky hills overlooking the valley. Approaching Murghab you see far away the vehicle and your driver coming to meet you. It's time to thank your horses and say goodbye to your guide and his team; to regain the small town of Murghab where you will be welcomed back in your guesthouse.
Overnight in guesthouse
Day 12 - Murghab - Gulchö by 4x4 jeep (8 hour drive)
Overnight in a guesthouse.
Day 13 - Gulchö - Osh (1 hour drive).
Discover the Osh with your guide. Visit the bazaar, the large market, popular, colourful and lively, worth a look! Lunch and dinner in traditional restaurants in town. Overnight in your guesthouse.
Day 14 - OSH - HOME
A final farewell as we head to the airport for our international flight home. If flying with S7 Airlines your flight will depart early morning.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Pamir Mountain Explorer
Chabysh Horse Festival Itinerary:
International flight. Fly to Osh airport and land in the early hours of the morning on Day 2.
Day 2: Osh - Gulcho (1h30 drive)
Welcome at airport with interpreter and driver. Drive to Gulcho (1h30), village situated at 1800m. Welcome to the guesthouse, then rest. For those who wish to, walk to the "central bazaar" or market, visit of the museum dedicated to the Kyrgyz heroin Kurmajnan Dakta. Lunch in a local restaurant in the village. Dinner and overnight at the guesthouse.
Day 3: Gulcho - Karakul lake - Murghab (7h drive)
Back in the 4x4 vehicle and drive to the Eastern Pamir high mountains, crossing the Taldyk Pass (3.554m) where Pamir and Tien Shan meet. The culmination of the Pamir, Lenin Peak (7495m) may be seen on a clear day. Then the road crosses the Kylzyl Art Pass (4336m) which marks the border with Tajikistan. After customs formalities, the road opens on a vast plateau until Akbaital Pass (4.655m), the highest pass of the former Soviet Union. It lies along the beautiful Karakul Lake and then swoops down into the valley of Murghab. Lunch in a homestay.
Arrival to Murghab around 6:00 pm (from the Persian word meaning "river of the birds") is the capital of Murghob District. With a population 7,000, Murghab is about the only significant town the eastern half of Gorno-Badakhshan. It is the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,630m above sea level. Welcome to the guesthouse in Murghab. Late afternoon, meet with your guide then preparation of luggage for the horse trek - each rider will carry their belongings in a pair of saddle bags provided. Porting equipment and supplies is by horse
saddles. 1-2 jeep supplies will replenish fresh product and personal effects during the trek. Overnight in the guesthouse.
Day 4 - Day 11: 8-day horse trek
After breakfast, transfer by vehicle to the Southern bank of Madiana River (20 minutes) where the guide waits you with his team of horsemen and horses - the team consists of Kyrgyz shepherds, from these valleys.
Your 8 day horse trek takes place on the heights of Pamir Oriental, nicknamed "the roof of the world". The daily route of this horse trek, in total autonomy, follows the transhumance trails used for centuries by the nomadic Kyrgyz. Your guide, who knows perfectly these mountains, adjusts the route depending on the movement of nomadic pastoralists, weather, grass and water needed for the horses, wishes and sporting abilities of the riders. You will cross lunar landscapes, high altitude pastures of such oases, valleys suspended at the edge of glaciers and dug tumultuous torrents. You will cross several mountain passes between 3,900m and 4,600m. You will admire amazing views of the high peaks of the Pamir that reach an altitude of 7,000m. You will have the opportunity to meet numerous nomadic shepherds who will welcome you in their yurt and share tea with you. You will be sometimes surprised to see the wildlife of Pamir, mainly Marco Polo or Argali, mountain goat or Ibex, woolf, marmots and birds of prey. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to walk down Madiana valley to a petroglyph site then up a canyon you will reach the hot springs of Jyluu Suu, famous for their thermal benefits. Bath in the hot springs. The bivouac areas are chosen by the guide depending on the weather, always near running water and often near a shepherd camp. Overnight in tents. Duration of the stages between 4 and 6 hours riding a day - some high passes are crossed on foot, with the horse in hand.
At the end of the horse trek, arrived on the Alichur high plateau, last night in a camp, under tent.
Day 12 - Alichur - Murghab
Transfer by vehicle to your guesthouse in Murghab (3 hours). Possibility of going to the "bagna" (Russian bath) for those who wish. Walk in the "central bazaar" or market. Lunch in a local restaurant. Diner and overnight in the guesthouse.
Day 13 and 14 - Murghab
2-day participation in the horse festival "At Chabysh”, cultural and sporting event dedicated to the ancestral horse of the Kyrgyz nomads. Traditional horse games are linked together such as "Tyiyn Enmei" which consists in catching, at full gallop, some coins arranged on the ground, "Odarysh", wrestling on horseback, or the lively "Kiz - kumai", kind of horse race between a girl and a boy who must try to catch her for a kiss. In yurts there is traditional music, "Manashis" or storytelling for the hero Manas and craft shows. Lunch in a yurt. Dinner at the lodge. Late afternoon on Day 14, drive to Karakul lake. Welcome in a homestay, dinner and overnight.
Day 15 - Karakul - Osh (8h drive).
Departure from Karakul early morning. Welcome in a guesthouse in Osh town centre. Discover the town, with guide: "bazaar" which is the largest market in Central Asia, popular, colourful and lively. For those who wish to climb the mountain Souleyman, place of pilgrimage. Lunch and dinner in traditional restaurants in town. Overnight in your guesthouse.
Day 16 - Osh - International flight
Transfer by taxi to the airport for your international flight home. If flying with S7 Airlines your flight will depart early morning.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses used are a local breed, therefore they are made for the job! They are of medium size/ build, strong, sturdy and surefooted. Due to the nature of the terrain a large part of the riding is at a walk although there are opportunities for trots and a few canters especially on the last day when the luggage has been unloaded. Luggage is carried on your own horse in saddlebags which limits the speed!
It is imperative that you have a high level of general fitness for this expedition as a large part of the route is at high altitude. The 9 days of riding is very adventurous and several difficult passes (4600m high) are crossed where riders need to walk for around 1H up and 1H down.
Riders must be comfortable in walk, trot and canter and be able to mount and dismount unaided but a high level of skill is not necessary and balance, fitness and an adventurous nature are the most important requirements.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
There is a wide variety of accommodation on this trip. Expect mid range hotels in the city (by European standards), whilst in the wilds the camping is basic. You will also have the opportunity to sleep in yurts and be the guests of local families in their own homes. Pamiri Houses are traditional family homes and you are hosted by a family. That means everybody shares the same room with mattress and blankets provided by the family. No bathroom, just one toilet outside. The food is of a good quailty and ample, you have a cook that travels with the group in the back-up jeep. There will be plenty of local fare to sample, especially in the local guesthouses.
There's some intermittent phone signal; less so during the ride.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Tajikistan is part of a mountainous region on the borders of Afghanistan and China. It includes peaks rising to over 6,000 m/20,000 ft. These mountains carry snow the year round.
However, because of the distance from the sea and the shelter of the Pamir and Himalayan ranges to the south and southeast, it is a rather dry region considering its height. Winters are cold but spring comes earlier than farther north.
Please consult your GP before travel, they will advise you of any health concerns affecting Tajikistan. Bring along all of your personal medication. It is suggested that you could also pack antibiotics, water purifying tablets, dioralyte and immodium.
For people who are not used to the altitude it would be wise to consider buying Diamox and taking it when you arrive in Tajikistan.
Please bring all equipment and batteries etc along with you from you country of origin as it may not be possible to purchase these in Tajikistan. On camping nights, yurts andin family homes there is no electricity available to recharge photographic or video equipment, so bring spare batteries or solar chargers.
Knowing that Pamir is a high mountain area, you can find all seasons in succession, depending on altitude and weather (intense sun, hail, snow, wind, rain, etc.). The temperature can go over 28 °C during the day, with a background of fresh air, and go under -8 °C in the night. Please note that the maximum weight for luggage to be taken in the saddlebags is 12kg per person. Your travel bag will stay with your hosts in the village, safely, with your unnecessary belongings for trekking. You will be able to prepare an extra small bag with a few items that the food supply Jeep can bring you in the middle of the hike (which will allow you to exchange some clothes or other things).Be sure to include:
Windproof warm outdoor coat
Warm sweater or fleece
Riding helmet with wide brim
Raincoat and pants
Trekking or hiking shoes with a heel for riding in
Flashlight or headlight
Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures as low as - 5C
Light inflatable sleeping mat for under the sleeping bag
On arrival at the Guesthouse in Murghab, your guide will give to each of you a pair of saddle bags in which you can store your personal belongings and clothing (maximum 12 kg); without your suitcase or travel bag. The saddlebags will be transported on horseback during the trek, so they will follow you everywhere. Your travel bag or suitcase will stay safely in the guesthouse, with belongings and clothing unnecessary for the trek. You can also prepare a bag with some extra change of clothes, which you also leave in the guesthouse, and the car with supplies of food will bring you during the horse trek (this will allow you to swap some clothes or other cases).
Pamir Trek provides RedFox mountain tents (two people per tent), but you need to bring a sleeping bag (-10°C comfort advised) and an inflatable mattress (type: THERMAREST).
Personal pharmacy: in addition to your regular pharmacy, remember to take Imodium and an intestinal disinfectant (type: Intetrix) and a Diamox box (only in case of mountain sickness).
Drink: It is recommended to drink a lot, and often your guide will offer you tea, green or black. For reasons of weight to carry, the horses will not carry mineral water, and it is very strongly advised not to drink the water of rivers (the sources are scarce), so you need a flexible bottle, and a water filter (light, special for hiking) or disinfectant pills such as Micropur.
This is a 16 day/15 night programme running on set dates. A special programme runs in early August to include the Chabysh Horse Festival. More dates can be arranged on request for private groups of 4 or more, please enquire.
2017 Pamir Mountain Explorer: 19 June - 2 July, 17 July - 30 July, 28 August - 10 September.
2017 Chabysh Horse Festival: 31 July - 15 August.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 4 riders||1,719|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 2 riders||2,775|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,225|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 4 riders||1,879|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 2 riders||2,605|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,139|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 4 riders||1,849|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 2 riders||2,979|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,389|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 4 riders||2,019|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 2 riders||2,795|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,295|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 4 riders||2,219|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 2 riders||3,579|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,865|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 4 riders||2,425|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 2 riders||3,355|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 3 riders||2,755|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 4 riders||18,165|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 2 riders||29,289|
|2017 Mountain Explorer||14d/13n||8||double pp - 3 riders||23,469|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 4 riders||19,845|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 2 riders||27,479|
|2017 Chabysh Festival||16d/15n||8||double pp - 3 riders||22,565|
Argalis, tyan shan brown bear, siberian ibex, red marmot, wolves and snow leopards are amongst the species that call this region home.
For this trip you will need two visa's. One for Tajikistan and one for the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan (abbreviated as GBAO). Both can be acquired, at the same time, from the Tajik Embassy in London. For the place of stay please write “guesthouse Murghab”.
Tajikistan has a secular constitution. Most Tajik citizens are Muslims. Some, particularly in rural areas, may be conservative in outlook.
Homosexuality is not illegal under Tajik law but local attitudes are conservative, particularly outside the main cities. You should take care over public displays of affection.
Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in very basic conditions.
You should carry a copy of your passport and Tajik visa with you at all times, as there are frequent document inspections by the police.
Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.