Silk Road to the Pamirs Overland Expedition

LOCATION: China, Tajikistan, Pakistan
TRIP LEADERS: Nicole Smoot
DIFFICULTY: moderate
DATES: June 9-24, 2018 (16 days)
PRICE: $3,200 USD

 
IMG_0937.JPG

TRIP DETAILS

Some of the world's most dramatic mountain ranges meet in a little spot sandwiched between China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here, the Himalaya, Hindukush, Karakoram, Pamir and Tienshan mountains have defined trade routes and mountain passes into remote kingdoms and nomadic territories for centuries. These passes are where the Silk Road crosses into the Orient, and cultures defined by hundreds of years of conquest and migration meet. Our expedition takes us overland through the mountains passes separating these gigantic ranges from the Silk Road bazaar town of Kashgar through the nomadic grasslands of Gorno-Badakhshon in Tajikistan and down into the Hunza valley in northern Pakistan. Culturally stunning and geographically mind blowing, this expedition is designed for adventure seekers.

IMG_0764.JPG

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Travel with nomadic Kyrgyz yak herders in Tajikistan's remote and visually stunning GBAO region.
  • Sleep in yurts with nomads on the Central Asian Steppe. 
  • Cross the Qolma Pass in the Pamir Range between China and Tajikistan. 
  • Drive down the Karakoram Highway from China to Pakistan, crossing the Khunjerab Pass. 
  • Stay in homestays in the Ishkoman and Yasin Valleys in northern Pakistan's Khowar and Shina regions. 
  • Marvel at some of the world's largest and most dramatic glaciers in Passu and Gulmit. 
  • Visit the ancient fort of the Kingdom of Hunza, where the king lived before Hunza joined Pakistan after the colonial era. 
  • Work with local schools in the Chipursen valley on the Pakistan-Chinese border. 
  • Explore Kashgar's old town and Sunday livestock bazaar, where horses, camels and sheep are traded and sold between Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik people. 
IMG_0951.JPG

ITINERARY

DAY 1. SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2018. ARRIVE IN KASHGAR (KASHI), CHINA

Arrivals in Kashgar throughout the day. Kashgar (spelled Kashi in Chinese) is connected to the rest of China through Urumqi (spelled Wulumuqi in Chinese) by plane, train and bus. Urumqi has a large international airport with connections throughout China, Russia, Korea, Central Asia and Southwest Asia. Participants may choose to arrive today, or may arrive (tomorrow) a day late if they need to. We will host a welcome dinner in Kashgar's old town tonight. 


DAY 2. SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2018. KASHGAR

In the morning we will explore Kashgar's Sunday Bazaar and livestock market. Held only once a week, the Sunday livestock market brings ethnic Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Hui people together to buy, sell and trade sheep, horses, donkeys and camels. We will have a very local lunch at the market before returning to Kashgar proper. Travelling largely by foot, we will spend the afternoon in the Old City. Much of Kashgar's original old city was destroyed and rebuilt by the Chinese government in 2012, save for a small section of original houses. We will see see both sections and explore this still very much alive Uyghur neighbourhood.   

IMG_5725_2.jpg

DAY 3. MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2018. KASHGAR - QOLMA - MURGHAB

We will depart from Kashgar by car in the early morning for the Qolma Pass, high in the Pamirs about 4-5 hours southwest of Kashgar. We will exit China at the Kulma Border Post before hitching a ride on some of the Kamaz trucks headed into Tajikistan through several kilometres of no-man's-land. Once we arrive at the Tajik border post at Qolma, we will proceed through Tajik immigration and customs formalities before continuing on to the remote Tajik countryside where we will be spending the next several days with nomadic Kyrgyz yak and sheep herding families high in the Pamir mountains.  


DAY 4-6 :: TUESDAY, JUNE 12 to THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2018 :: NOMAD LIFE IN THE PAMIRS

Over the next three days we will be in the deep, mountainous backcountry of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshon Autonomous Region (GBAO) living with Kyrgyz nomads. We will participate in daily life activities, including herding sheep, horseback riding, moving yaks, cooking, food preparation and hiking into the backcountry to find ancient human petroglyphs. The experience of living with and enjoying the company of local families is just incredible. 

IMG_1051.JPG

DAY 7 :: FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018 :: MURGHAB - QOLMA - TASHKURGAN

Today we will bid farewell to our host families and drive back up to the Qolma Pass, exiting Tajikistan and re-entering China for a brief one-day stay. We will spend the evening in the Chinese town of Tashkurgan, which is largely ethnically Tajik and Wakhi and is the last major settlement before the Pakistani border. 


DAY 8 :: SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2018 :: TASHKURGAN - KHUNJERAB - GILGIT

In the early morning we will board our bus for Pakistan, crossing over the Khunjerab Pass. The mountain views are stunning as our bus travels down the highway past the Pamir and Karakoram mountain ranges. Our bus will stop at the actual border between China and Pakistan for a security check, offering us the opportunity to take some photos with both the Chinese and Pakistani border guards. We will then continue to the Pakistani outpost of Sost to clear Pakistan entry formalities (visas are available on the border for many nationalities). We will then continue past more stunning views and poplar trees to Gilgit, the capital of Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan Region. We will spend our first night in Pakistan in town. 

IMG_4340.JPG

DAY 9-11 :: SUNDAY, JUNE 17 TO TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018 :: ISHKOMAN AND YASIN VALLEYS

We will depart Gilgit for the Ishkoman and Yasin Valleys, nestled deep in the Karakoram mountains. We will spend the next three days in homestays with Khowari and Shina people in these small towns soaking up the local culture, going on hikes in the mountains, fishing, and more. 


DAY 12 :: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2018 :: GILGIT - ALIABAD - KARIMABAD

We will depart from Gilgit in the morning back up the KKH (Karakoram Highway) to the Hunza Valley. Hunza was its own independent princedom until 1974 when it was merged with Pakistan. Culturally, Hunza remains unique within Pakistan, the local Burusho people borrow aspects from Kashmiri, Tibetan, Uyghur, Khowar and Shina traditions. We will visit the commercial centre of the region, Aliabad, and continue on to Karimabad, where we will tour the Baltit Fort. Stunning views of Mount Rakaposhi abound in this stunning Ismaeli region. 


DAY 13 :: THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018 :: KARIMABAD - GULMIT - PASU

This morning we will continue up the KKH to the small Burusho mountain towns of Gulmit and Pasu where we will enjoy stunning short treks across foot bridges onto massive glaciers in the shadow of gigantic peaks. We will spend the evening in a guesthouse in Pasu. 

IMG_4235.JPG

DAY 14 :: FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018 :: PASU - CHIPURSEN VALLEY

We will catch a van in the morning for the remote Chipursen Valley. The road to Chipursen breaks off from the KKH at the border post in Sost before continuing a couple of hours west. In Chipursen we will spend time with the local school for the day, learning about the Pakistani education system and the work of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme. We will spend the evening in homestays with local families. 


DAY 15 :: SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2018 :: CHIPURSEN VALLEY - SOST - KHUNJERAB - TASHKURGAN

We will depart Chipursen in the morning by van for the Pakistani border post at Sost. There we will go through formal exit procedures while we wait for the bus from Gilgit to arrive at the post. Once the bus arrives we will board it and continue up the steep Khunjerab Pass to the Chinese border and security station. There, we will re-enter China and continue past glacial lakes and towering peaks to the town of Tashkurgan, where we spent a night after arriving back from Tajikistan. We will spend the night in Tashkurgan. 


DAY 15 :: SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2018 :: TASHKURGAN - KASHGAR

Our bus will continue on to Kashgar (about 6 hours away) in the early morning. We have no activities planned in Kashgar today and individuals may fly out. We do recommend spending the night in Kashgar and flying out the next day in case there are unforeseen traffic issues, which are not uncommon on the KKH.  If need be, individuals may hire a private car to drive to Kashgar the night before from Tashkurgan. We will assess the situation from the ground. 

IMG_1045.JPG

READY TO JOIN?

LOCATION: China, Tajikistan, Pakistan
TRIP LEADERS: Nicole Smoot
DIFFICULTY: moderate

DATES: June 9-24, 2018 (16 days)
STARTING IN: Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China
ENDING IN: Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China

PRICE: $3,200 USD
INCLUDING: all ground costs, transportation, accommodation, guides, food, visa invitations.
NOT INCLUDING: airfare, insurance, visa fees. 

 

ESSENTIALS

LOCATION: China, Tajikistan, Pakistan
TRIP LEADERS: Nicole Smoot
DIFFICULTY: moderate

DATES: June 9-24, 2018 (16 days)
STARTING IN: Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China
ENDING IN: Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China

PRICE: $3,200 USD
INCLUDING: all ground costs, transportation, accommodation, guides, and food.
NOT INCLUDING: airfare, insurance, visa fees. 


TRIP LEADER

nicole-smoot-square-bw.jpg
 

NICOLE SMOOT
Adventures of Lil Nicki

Nicole is an Alaska native and hard core, no bullshit adventure traveller. She spends her days venturing to some of the most inaccessible corners of the planet, from Antarctica to Tajikistan to Yemen. From the floors of bus stations in random countries that end with "stan" to five star resorts, Nicole does it all. She started her adventure travel blog in 2015 and spends much of her time growing her content.