Afghanistan : Wakhan Explorer Jeep Expedition

Code: WAKEXP/JEEP/GUI/19
Flexible Departures
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Flexible Departure: July and August only. See Itinerary for details.

Afghanistan’s isolated, mountainous Wakhan Corridor is one of the most enigmatic places in the world. A forgotten corner of Afghanistan that’s tucked between Pakistan, China and Tajikistan, it’s a majestic landscape populated by Kyrgyz and Wakhi pastoralists.

To get here, you’ll fly into Dushanbe, Tajikistan and then drive south along the Tajik – Afghan border for three full days. Don’t worry – you won’t be getting bored as there is plenty to see along the way.

You’ll cross into Afghanistan at Ishkashim and spend the next six days exploring the area by 4WD and on foot and yak. You’ll try to reach the source of the Amu Darya river in the glacier tongues by Chaqmatin Lake and keep your eyes peeled for Marco Polo sheep, bears, wolves and even the elusive snow leopard.

On the route you’ll drive through epic, untrammelled wilderness alongside rushing turquoise rivers and massive, snow-capped peaks. You’ll meet fabulously friendly people, stay in delightful homestays, learn about Tajik, Kyrgyz, Afghan and Persian culture, sleep in nomad’s yurts, bathe in hot thermal springs and marvel at ancient petroglyphs, 2000 year old Buddhist stupas, stunning Silk Road fortresses and hyperbole defying views. All whilst following in the footsteps of historical legends such as Timur, Alexander the Great and Marco Polo, accompanied by local guides who know the route and can bring it alive for you.

This itinerary starts and ends in Dushanbe. Your transport will be a comfortable Toyota Landcruiser 4WD not some pokey rattle-box that will loosen your fillings.

This is a partner-led tour, and you’ll be looked after by our tried and trusted local partner, who are extremely experienced at leading trips into the Afghan Wakhan.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Dushanbe International Airport
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for the expedition to begin, as noted in the itinerary and subsequent information pack we will send to you after booking.
INCLUDED
  • Car with driver
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • Airport transfers
  • Fuel
  • Local English-speaking guide
  • Entry into local historical/cultural sites
  • Filtered water
  • Water-to-Go Filter bottle
NOT INCLUDED
  • International flights to/from Dushanbe (we can book these for you via our ATOL partner, so just let us know if you’d like us to organise)
  • Alcohol
  • Extra snacks
  • Visas and other permits as required (Tajik visa, GBAO permit x2, Afghan Visa)

We will, of course, have a Plan B ready in case of unexpected unrest in the part of Afghanistan that we will be visiting and this will mean an exploration of the Tajik Wakhan, Zorkul Nature Reserve and the far south-eastern corner of Tajikistan where the Afghan Little Pamir Range crosses the border, a very remote and barely-visited part of the world.

There will be a maximum of nine people in the group in three cars, along with our drivers and guides.

Wakhan Explorer  – The Wakhan Corridor and Valley in a small group, by 4×4
This is a minimum-group size departure of 6 persons. Maximum group 9 persons.
July and August only.
NB – itinerary under development. Political /safety issues and the opening of the new crossing may change our itinerary.

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Day 1: Monday

Arrive Dushanbe International Airport, Tajikistan
Flights (usually Turkish Airlines via Istanbul) arrive at the rather ungodly hour of 03.45 so this will be a gentle day of sleeping, acclimatising, eating and drinking.

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Day 2: Tuesday

Lift Off!
It’s chocks away as we hit the road to Kala i Hussein 220 km east of the capital. We’ll stop for lunch by a lake where you can swim, and by then we will have left the tarmac behind for a few days as we head into the mountains proper.

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Day 3: Wednesday

Kala i Hussein – Kala-i-Kumb
A thrilling 70 km drive over the 3852 m Khaburabot Pass to Kala-i–Kumb, where we join both the mighty Panj River and the border with Afghanistan. On the way we enter Gorno Badakhshan, the autonomous province that defines the Tajik Pamirs.

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Day 4: Thursday

Kala-i-Kumb – Khorog
We head deeper into the mountains, following the Pamir Highway and the Panj 240 km south-east to Khorog along the Afghan border. Expect soaring eagles, stunning mountain scenery and dusty roads carved through deep river gorges. We will collect our Afghan visas from the consulate here.

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Day 5: Friday

Khorog – Ishkashim – Khandud
An early start this morning. From Khorog we continue south to Ishkashim where we cross into Afghanistan to meet our local guides. We’ll make some distance up the Wakhan valley this afternoon (this is one of the worst roads in the world) before stopping for the night in Khandud village.

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Day 6: Saturday

Khandud – Sargaz
We’ll have time to visit the ruined ancient mosque in Khandud and admire the views over the river that once gave the ruined castle here such a commanding aspect. We continue on, through the confluence of the Pamir and Pyanj/Wakhan rivers near Kala-i-Panj, home to a hunting lodge of the last Afghan King Zahir Shah and a couple of revered shrines.  The road is rough but hot springs at Sargaz will be our reward on arrival

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Day 7: Sunday

Sargaz – Sarhad-e-Broghil
We head due East, up the valley today towards Sarhad-e-Broghil. There is a pass from here over into Pakistan, but we won’t head that way today. This is the end of what passes as a road, and will be our base of operations for the next couple of days, surrounded by high valley walls and impossible snow peaks. More hot springs await us here!

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Day 8: Monday

Wakhan Valley
Exploring by foot and/or horse or yak.
The place known as Bozai Gumbez, on the confluence of the Wakhjir and Ak Su Rivers was where one of the most important players of the Great Game – British Colonel Francis Younghusband met a band of Russian Cossak soldiers and was ordered to leave “Tsarist Russian” sovereign territory. The Russians later apologised but this laid foundation for the creation of the Wakhan Corridor as a buffer zone between the two great empires, a legacy that created the geographical oddity of current-day Wakhan.

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Day 9: Tuesday

Wakhan Valley

Exploring by foot and/or horse or yak.

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Day 10: Wednesday

Sarhad-e-Broghil – Langar (Tajikistan)
A full day’s drive back down the Wakhan will bring us to a new bridge that has been constructed in early 2018. Assuming the bridge is fully open as planned for our timing in 2019, we will cross here into Tajikistan and spend the night at a local family-run guesthouse.

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Day 11: Thursday

Langar – Ishkashim
A full day today to drive back down the Tajik Wakhan valley. There is plenty to see on the way, not least ancient stone sundials, a Buddhist stupa, ruined Zoarastrian castle dating back over 2000 years and one of the best hot springs in the entire region. We should be back in Ishkashim in time for supper.

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Day 12: Friday

Ishkashim – Rushan
We’ll drive north along the Pyanj River today, passing Khorog and having a picnic lunch on the way. It’s about 160 km to Rushan, where we will stay in a family guesthouse at the foot of the Bartang valley.

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Day 13: Saturday

Rushan – Dushanbe
We will get an early start this morning. The initial 200 km to Kala-i-Kumbh is rough going, so we will try to get that over and done with by lunchtime, leaving a smoother ride back to Dushanbe on the paved road via Kulob. Hopefully we will arrive back in Dushanbe in time for a later supper before the sleep of gods in our comfortable hotel.

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Day 14: Sunday

Dushanbe
Day off in Dushanbe – it’s your time to explore this interesting city, maybe visit a spa for a massage, do a spot of shopping, explore the bazaar or just relax in the comfortable hotel. We will be taking you for a delicious farewell supper in Dushanbe this evening, and then you can sleep before your early morning flight tomorrow.

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Day 15: Monday

Dushanbe – Home
The suggested Turkish Airlines flight (via Istanbul) departs at another ungodly hour of 05.40. Hardly worth going to bed is it?
Tour Start Date End Date Price
Afgan Wakhan Explorer 05/07/2020 31/08/2020 £4,550.00 Taking Bookings

Where will we be staying?

On this expedition, we’ll be staying in good hotels in Dushanbe and Khorog, guest houses or basic hotels in other towns, and more often in homestays with local people and their families. The homestay concept is widely accepted throughout Tajikistan so these nights are often highly enjoyable glimpses into local customs and lifestyles. We also stay in yurts in a couple of locations on this trip, particularly in Afghanistan where we will spend at least one night in tents too.

We feel that true luxury is getting to know a place and its people, not necessarily measured by the thread count of the bed linen or the number of hotel restaurants. Give us a real experience any day.

What size of group will it be?
Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. On the Wakhan Explorer itinerary, group sizes are dictated by the size of the homes we will be staying in. Our group is usually 9 expeditioners at most, a local guide and our drivers. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range.

What will the weather be like?
A very difficult question to answer when we’ll be travelling in the dozen kilometres-or-so between the third and fourth highest mountain ranges on earth. But, you can expect some hot days lower in the valleys and off the high valleys – temperatures could be in 20-30 degrees range or higher. At altitude, we have experienced every season in the course of a single day – warm sunshine followed by winds and rain, hail or snow on the passes and perhaps down to 0 degrees for a short period of time. In general, the rule of thumb is to expect warm days and cooler nights when we are out of the lowland areas. The winds in the Wakhan can be pretty cold and fierce around sunset particularly, so you’ll need to bring warm clothes and a sleeping bag.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?
Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group. You’ll travel as part of the group, not an outsider.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?
We try our hardest not to but sometimes we cannot avoid it. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges.  It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive,  all costs are included in the expedition price. Please note that in many of our destinations, single rooms are simply not available due to the nature of the available tourism infrastructure.

What kit do I need to bring?
We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

How much are flights?
This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, the cheapest flights to Dushanbe might be via Moscow. We use Turkish Airlines via Istanbul because they are good, cost-effective connections. Costs are usually around the £450 mark, return. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place.

We can book your flights for you through our trade ATOL partners – please just ask us for details.

What will the food be like?
Varied; the Pamir area is not particularly agriculturally inclined, mostly due to the precipitous nature of the topography, and often poor soils. But many of our homestay hosts pride themselves on making good meals for their guests, so we will be well looked-after. If you are a vegetarian, food can be a little dull (lots of bread, potatoes and eggs with salads) but perfectly acceptable. For meat-eaters, pilaf is the main dish. Usually rice and meat in one dish and often very tasty. Freshly made non (bread) is available almost everywhere and can be delicious. We try to ensure we have some treat foods in the vehicles for picnics. In general we think food is a core part of any cultural experience and there are a good number of local dishes to try on our route.

Will I be affected by altitude?
Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending quite a number of days above 3000 metres, and up on the in the high valleys, often above 3500 metres.  If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it, you should consider discussing this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible rapidly thanks to our vehicles. Our route is also planned to gain altitude in the smallest increments possible to aid acclimatisation. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.

Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. There may be hotels and guest houses where we will have separate rooms and wherever possible we will arrange this, but there will also be times where we are staying at homestays or in yurts when there is no option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring good earplugs and eye-masks, in case of snorers or the host family waking early.

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?
Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our tailor made tours page.

Is it a guaranteed departure?
As with any itinerary we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make it viable. On the Wakhan Explorer tour this is 6 people from a possible 9.  When you express interest in this expedition, we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least 3 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.

Value for Money
We are very proud of the routes we design and the way in which we travel them. We don’t cut corners and we plan meticulously. We are a small company that treats every guest as our friend and you won’t find that kind of service in many places. 85% of our customers have re-booked to travel again with us and some of them come on a trip every year. We also do annual expedition and remote medicine training and pay for 24/7 remote medical assistance cover. We employ professional military-grade risk assessments and plan for every possible negative scenario whilst hoping that none ever come to pass. We take our obligations to you and your safety very seriously and this all does cost money. We think the price offered is keen, but add the extra measures outlined above and we think the price represents great value for this unique cultural experience.

Is this really for me?
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.

Travelling by 4WD is an inherently risky activity and to compound this, you will be travelling in a developing part of the world. Travel insurance will not cover you in Afghanistan, so we will be self-reliant when on Afghan soil.

Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours for the emergency services to reach you.

It will also be physically tiring due to altitude.

Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking.

If you like your holidays to include foie gras, butlers and miles of quilted loo roll then please look elsewhere.

If however, you want a proper, unique and delightful experience that you’ll remember forever, then you are in luck!

Enquire

From£4,450.00