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Wakhan Explorer - Reverse

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"Wakhan Explorer - Reverse"

1 Day. Dushanbe
Arrive Dushanbe. Meet agent. Transfer to hotel. After some chance for rest sightseeing tour of Dushanbe: See Rudaki square, Ismail Somoni monument overlooking city hall, friendship palace. Anyone with an interest in archaeology will enjoy the Museum of National Antiquities, which opened in 2001. The exhibits in this museum are mostly from Tajikistan's pre-Islamic civilizations (Greek/ Bactrian, Buddhist, Hindu and Zoroastrian). The centerpiece is the 14m reclining Buddha in Nirvana. Since the tragic destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan, this is the largest surviving Buddha statue in Central Asia. See history museum if time permits. After lunch visit nearby Hissor Fort, former capital of Eastern Bukhara province; the site has two fine 18th/19th century madrassas one of which is now a fine ethnographic museum. Accommodation: Marian's guest house. Meals: BLD

2 Day. Dushanbe to Kalaikhum
Depart from Dushanbe towards Khorog and the Pamirs. The more conservative attitudes of this region can be seen in the local style of dress and beards, but the hospitality is just as welcoming. Over a mountain pass to Kalaikhum and the scenery and people change again. Here the people are Badakhshani's not Tajiks but a number of separate tribal groups, each with their own language. Unlike their Sunni neighbours, the Badakhshanis are Ismaili, followers of the Aga Khan. Attitudes and dress are a little more liberal in Badakhshan. From Shurobad, the road joins the river Panj, which forms Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. This is a fascinating drive. On the Tajik side of the river, the road is asphalted and buildings have electricity and are constructed using metal and glass. On the Afghan side only about 100 m distant the road is a donkey track and buildings are mud and wood. Accommodation: guest house. Meals: BLD

3 Day. Kaiaikhum to Khorog
Continue from Kalaikhum to Khorog, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Accommodation: Parinen Inn. Meals: BLD

4 Day. Khorog
Full day in Khorog. In the morning we explore Khorog: small history museum, local market and visit the second highest in the world botanical garden. If that day falls on Saturday we explore Afghan market in Khorog outskirts. Accommodation: Parinen Inn. Meals: BLD

5 Day. Khorog to Ptup
Continue south to Ishkashim, which stands at the mouth of the Wakhan valley. This is where the 19th century Great Game ended, when Britain and Russia signed a treaty adding a strip of the Wakhan valley to Afghanistan to create a neutral buffer zone between their two empires. As we enter the Wakhan, there are amazing views of the Pamirs to the left and the Hindu Kush to the right. Straight ahead is peak Karl Marx (6,723 m). Continue to Yamchun, where it is possible to walk along a ridge to see the Zoroastrian Fortress of Fire Worshippers. Further up the hillside are the hot springs of Bibi Fatima. Unlike Garmchashma, where the water is full of minerals and very silty, the water at Bibi Fatima is crystal clear. It is possible to take a natural steam bath in a rocky cave. Accommodation: Homestay. Meals: BLD

6 Day. Ptup to Langar
Drive east along Wakhan valley: visit Wrang Buddhist complex dating from 4th-7th centuries on a cliff-side pitted with caves. At Yamg, visit the quirky museum of Sufi Muborak-Kadam, a local Sufi scholar, theologian, poet and traveller, who died in 1910. Near his house there is a stone pillar with a hole in it which he used to calculate a solar calendar. There is also a local house with a ceiling inscribed with unusual decorations, detailing people, plants, animals and calligraphic inscriptions. When we arrive at Langar, we will stay in a traditional style home. In the evening make a steep climb above Langar village and see the petroglyphs carved into the rock, depicting mountain goats, caravans, horse riders with banners, and the Ismaili symbol of a hand.

7 Day. Langar to Murghab
Drive north over Khargush Pass to Yashikkul Lake. Once again, the landscape and peoples change as we slowly go higher into the Pamirs. We have left behind the lush valley of the Wakhan and the Pamiri tribes.The terrain here is becoming barren and rocky. This region is inhabited by nomadic Kyrgyz herders. Visit Bulunkul Lake and if time permits the Chinese cemetery at Bash Gumbez, then continue to Murghab (3,630m). The terrain here is desolate but has a stark beauty to it. The view of the night sky is stunning for anyone who lives in a city. The Milky Way can be clearly seen as a bright splash. In Murghab we stay above the city and enjoy the sunset over Muztagh Ata - 7546m peak in Chinese Pamirs. Accommodation: Homestay. Meals: BLD.

8 Day. Murghab to Osh
Early start. Drive north over Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655m, the highest section of road in the former USSR. On the way down from the pass, we will stop briefly at a Great Game-era Russian military post. The plateau is dominated by Lake Karakul, which at 3,915 m is too high to support aquatic life. Karakul is the largest of a range of about 800 ancient lakes in the Pamirs which were created by earthquake, tectonic activity and glaciers. By the lakeside, there are some mysterious stone circles. The road crosses a second high pass at Kizyl-Art (4,280 m), which forms the border with Kyrgyzstan, before descending to Sary-Tash and Osh. On the other side of the pass, the scenery suddenly changes, becoming as green and lush as the Pamir Plateau was barren. Accommodation in a hotel in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's most ancient city. Accommodation: Hotel. Meals: BLD

9 Day. Osh-Bishkek
Visit Suleyman Too or Solomon's Throne - a sacred hill of some religious importance of local muslims and small museum build on cliff face, Babur's house on the top of the mountain once exploded during Soviet anti religious campaign and restored by local people in 1963. In the foothill see Rabat Abdullah Khan Mosque and Mausoleum, shop souvenirs at Osh Bazaar. Transfer to airport for evening flight to Bishkek. Accommodation: Guest house. Meals: BLD

10 Day. Bishkek
Full day in Bishkek: we have a wander around this relaxed Central Asian capital of Kyrgyzstan, taking in such sights as Ala-Too Square, Osh market, Lenin statue, Russian Orthodox church, History Museum and/or Museum of Applied arts museum and Victory Square. Accommodation: Guesthouse. Meals: BLD

11 Day. Bishkek-Airport
Onward travel - Transfer to the airport for your return or onward journey.

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