A unique, exhilarating, luxury 4×4 and/or motorcycle adventure to the little known land of the ‘Great Game’
Are you in dire need of a proper adventure, but with a little luxury thrown in?
Then it’s high time you rebooted your system by joining this awe-inspiring adventure through Tajikistan, one the most diverse, wild, exhilarating and least explored corners of the planet.
This luxury-laden two-week adventure 4×4 and motorcycling expedition will take you not only along much of the legendary Pamir Highway, one of the greatest road trips on earth, but to hidden valleys, mountain lakes, yurt camps, Zoroastrian ruins and high mountain passes very few outsiders ever get to see. This is wilderness in its purest and most visceral form. And this is an entirely unique adventure.
Why is it luxury? We hear you cry. Well, where do we start….You’ll stay in 5* hotels, private homestays and bespoke, specially constructed yurt camps. You’ll feast on delicious food prepared by our team chef. You’ll sit beside azure lakes sipping cool gin & tonics at the end of a hard day’s drive You’ll wallow in hot springs. You’ll be spoilt by our brilliant team of British and Tajik guides and experts. You’ll gain a deep understanding of Tajik and Pamiri history and culture through the astronomers, naturalists and historians who will join us at various stages of the expedition, enlightening us about the Silk Road, the Great Game, the Zoroastrians and more. You’ll sit under astonishing stars listening to Pamiri music.
Beyond this, there’s the unquantifiable luxury of being in the real wilderness. For most of the trip there’ll be a wonderful absence of internet or mobile reception, allowing you to become unshackled from the endless stream of emails, social media and telephone calls that blight our modern lives. You’ll have space, freedom, starry skies, panoramic vistas, time to think – time to well and truly get away from it all and super-charge your soul.
And of course the 4×4 travel and motorcycle riding in Tajikistan is a luxury in itself – empty roads, mountains, verdant valleys, high altitude deserts, rushing rivers, space. Every day is different. Every day you’ll feel like an explorer.
Quite simply, there is no other trip like this on earth.
If this sounds like just the ticket, please read on to see how you can secure one of the few, exclusive places on this luxury expedition. It might just be the best thing you ever do.
This is a 14-day adventure by either 4×4 or motorcycle among Tajikistan’s fantastically scenic Pamir Mountains, starting and ending in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. You can choose to either ride one of our motorcycles, or if that isn’t for you, we’ll provide a quality 4X4 with a driver with no more than 2 guests per vehicle – no squeezing you into another traveller’s lap here!
Following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Timur and Marco Polo, we’ll drive among massive snow-capped peaks, follow rushing aquamarine glacial rivers and enjoy the endless skies and wide-open landscapes that typify this extraordinary part of the world. Along the way we’ll get to know the Tajik, Kyrgyz and Persian cultures, stay with delightful families and sleep in remote nomadic encampments far from the madding crowds. We’ll clamber up to 2000 year old fortresses, visit pre-Christian Buddhist stupas, glimpse stunning Silk Road caravanserai and bathe in magical hot springs. At every turn we’ll face hyperbole-defying views.
At times it will be roasting hot, at others you’ll need to hunker down against mountain hailstorms, but at every turn you’ll be amazed, awed and humbled. We will take you and a select small group to places that few others visit, and you’ll experience them in a way that cannot be emulated.
MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 6. PLEASE CONTACT US FOR SUITABLE DATE RANGES
Where will we be staying?
On this expedition, we’ll be staying in 5* hotels in Dushanbe, very good hotels elsewhere when available, 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 specially constructed luxury yurt camps in a few locations on this trip, and we like to think of these as our own Central Asian version of ‘safari’ style camps!
I see you do other trips here, how is this different?
This expedition is totally different from our others. Each has a different price point and each itinerary is specific to that expedition. In the case of our luxury trip, almost everything is changed from our classic expedition itineraries. From the hotels in Dushanbe (now 5* luxury) and en route, to the homestays (on this tour we have sole occupancy of each guesthouse and provide our own beds, linen and food) and even nomad yurt encampments (think beds, linen, duvets and hot tea brought to your bed in the morning) – it is all bespoke and it’s all unique. This itinerary also offers the choice of travel by 4×4 or motorcycle. No-one is doing anything similar in Central Asia, so this trip cannot be replicated by others.
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 Pamir Highway luxury itinerary, our group is usually 7-8 guests plus a guide, top-notch mechanic, back-up drivers (3 support vehicles in addition to guest 4×4’s, on this tour), our chef and his assistant, a camp manager and both of the Edge directors, Marley and Ants. Additionally, we will have local specialist guides to the natural world, geology, history and astronomy available. We usually find that our groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range.
My wife/husband/partner wants to come but can’t ride – is this a problem?
No! We fully understand that you might want to share this incredible experience with a friend or loved-one who cannot ride a motorcycle, and this is exactly why we are giving the flexibility of vehicle types. If you ride a bike and this is how you choose to travel with us, then great! Or, if you prefer to let one of our professional drivers take the strain in a quality 4×4 then we cater for that, too. Sadly we cannot allow pillion riders on this trip, as the terrain makes it very difficult for the bikes and riders alike, and we are keen to avoid any additional risk to our guests or team.
What type of 4×4 do you use?
We tend to prefer vehicles like Toyata Landcruiser that offer a good mix of comfort, reliability and ruggedness. Other, cheaper, vehicles are available in this part of the world, but you are buying a luxury experience, so this shouldn’t involve pushing a 30 year old mechanical nightmare up the Pamirs! Availability of different brands and models changes seasonally, but we will provide the best available wherever possible.
Why have you chosen such small engined motorbikes?
In the words of our guide “the Pamir highway kills bikes”. And he should know! Our local guides have huge experience of working in these often hostile terrains, and after trying – and in most cases still owning – almost every type of bike imaginable (including the usual GS, KTM etc) have opted for the lightweight, adaptable, mechanically simple and hugely robust Suzuki DRZ400. The bikes cope very well with the bumps and lumps and are comfortable both on and off the pegs. If your drop a bike, it likely won’t break and you’ll be able to pick it and yourself back up without needing a support team and a crane. We are huge fans, and several of our customers have gone home to buy a DRZ400 themselves after seeing how they cope in the Pamirs.
Can I bring my own bike to ride instead of using yours?
Yes. We can arrange for your bike to be freighted to Dushanbe from anywhere in the world. We fully understand that some people like to ride their own machines. Extra costs apply, depending on the freight-from location. If you do ship your own bike, it would be sensible to include with it a small selection of essential spares or specialist tools, just in case anything needs repairing on the expedition. We would personally advise against heavy round-the-world adventure type bikes, but are happy to discuss anything with you.
What will the weather be like?
A very difficult question to answer when traversing the fourth highest mountain range on earth. But, you can expect some hot days lower in the valleys and off the high plateaus – temperatures could be in 20-30C 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.
I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?
Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our small groups. We don’t charge single supplements to solo travellers – see below.
Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?
No. 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 some of our remote 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 a comprehensive information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful. This information will be specific to those travelling in 4×4’s or motorcycles.
I want to ride a bike – how do I choose what to wear?
This is really a matter of personal choice, as all riders have their own modus operandi. However, our experience says that good expedition boots are very useful, whilst in terms of lid we tend to favour flip-front helmets that can be lowered when cold and raised quickly to meet and greet people along the way. We will give you plenty of bike-specific information and ideas in the information pack after you join the expedition.
Is there a back-up vehicle?
Yes. We will travel with several back-up 4×4’s, carrying your luggage and our equipment from site to site.
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. We can organise flights for you, should you wish.
What will the food be like?
We have our own professional chef and his assistant on this tour. We will be preparing delicious meals for you, and will wherever possible be giving you a flavour of the local foods. In general, the local food in the Pamirs is good, if somewhat limited in terms of available ingredients. This is one of the reasons why on our luxury tours only, we provide all meals from our own field kitchens. We will also be bringing our own field bar, so that you can enjoy a decent gin and tonic, glass of wine or other beverage in locations where this service is normally totally impossible.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. On this tour, for the majority of nights you will have your own room, but there will also be times where we are staying at very small homestays or in yurt encampments when there is no option but to share. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring earplugs, in case of snorers or the host family waking early.
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 Alichur and Murghab plateaus, often above 4000 metres. We also cross some high passes, with the Ak Baital being 4700m (over 15,000 ft). 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 from our medic 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 back-up 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.
Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We employ international risk experts Sirisk to perform our country risk assessments 1 month prior to departure. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, and have excellent relations with the relevant embassies in Dushanbe. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and have a fully trained UK paramedic/doctor with us throughout this expedition.
I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?
Yes. We offer some set group dates for 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 bespoke expeditions page.
Boasting ancient Buddhist temples, soaring peaks, echoes of Alexander the Great, turbulent aquamarine rivers and generous Persian hospitality, Tajikistan is a spectacular landlocked Central Asian republic, sharing borders with China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and narrowly separated from Pakistan by the magnificent Wakhan Corridor – a territorial relic of the 19th century’s Great Game between Russian and British Empires.
With a land area equivalent to that of England and Northern Ireland combined, this crossroads of Asia is dominated by the Pamir Mountains – the fourth highest range in the world. Over ninety per cent of the country is classified as mountainous, laying claim to the world’s longest non-arctic glacier, highest natural dam and the source of the Panj/Amu Darya/Oxus river.
The poorest of the ex-Soviet Union states, this easy going, nominally Ismaili Islamic nation consists of many different ethnic groups, including Tajik and Uzbek in the north and west, Wakhi and Shugni in the south, plus Yagnobhi, Kyrgyz and many others. Several remote valleys have their own distinct languages and customs.
As befits a mountainous terrain, the climate is hugely varied. It can be searingly hot in the lowlands in summer, whilst the winters are characterized by deep snow and closed passes that isolate resilient communities for weeks or months at a time.
Wildlife abounds; you are likely to see soaring eagles from old Silk Road fortresses, fearless marmots near abandoned caravanserai and maybe even a Marco Polo sheep – named after the famous traveller who passed this way 700 years ago. History oozes from this country’s terrain, whose people we have found to be overwhelmingly friendly and inquisitive. Pamiris in particular are keen to smile and wave as we travel through their region, and to share their traditional music and stories.
Among the mountains that encircle the Tajikistani Pamir Highway, every bend in the road provides a vista fit for a coffee table tome. Travelling here is a supercharger for the soul. We’d be surprised if you didn’t want to come back!
Reasons we love Tajikistan
- Mountain scenery so lofty, humbling and dramatic that it affects your heart, spirit and tear ducts!
- Charismatic and amiable people who genuinely treat visitors as guests to be treasured rather than cash cows to be milked.
- History – it’s all around us at every turn, from the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians through to Alexander and the modern era
- Lack of organised tourism. Of course, Tajikistan would love – and deserves – more tourism to develop, but right now even the simplest of trips can still bring out the inner adventurer in visitors
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially highly dangerous.
Riding motorcycles is an inherently risky activity – even in Northern America or Europe – and to compound this, you will be riding motorcycles off-road in a VERY remote part of the world. Standard adventure insurance ordinarily covers riding motorcycles in such a remote region for those up to 69 years of age. We can however offer this expedition to anyone who can gain comprehensive medical evacuation insurance for riding in this part of the world.
Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours (a day even) for the emergency services to reach you.
Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking. And certainly don’t consider signing up if you haven’t got a full motorcycle license.
Furthermore, Central Asia can be a very tough place to travel in and, broadly speaking, the tourism industry is in its infancy. This is why we – and hopefully you – like it so much.
There’ll be no wi-fi or mobile reception for most of the ride. We will be providing fluffy towels, Egyptian cotton sheets, duvets and some sprinklings of other luxury, but en-suite bathrooms will be an extreme rarity. The roads are bumpy, some days will be very tiring, it’s very possible you’ll feel the effects of altitude.
We will be very pleased to put you in contact with previous guests if you’d like to ask them how their experience matched our description.
This is an adventure, conducted in style and all possible luxury, but it remains an adventure in a remote part of the world, where Waitrose, Wegmans and Wholefoods superstores are a long way away. We love it, and we are sure you will too, but we see it as our job to be up-front about the places we hope to share with you.
This expedition costs £9,495
What this includes
Local airport transfers to and from your 5* hotel in Dushanbe
a) Rental of a fully insured Suzuki DRZ 400 motorcycle, including all fuel
b) Provision of a well-maintained 4×4 vehicle with driver and all fuel for every 2 persons booking to travel by car
Daily luggage transfers – no need to carry anything on your bike
All accommodation. This will range from simple family homestays and specially constructed luxury yurt encampments in the mountains to 5* hotels in the cities.
All meals, professionally prepared by our expedition chef and his team.
A professional guiding team including Ants and Marley, an English speaking Tajik guide and a top notch mechanic, plus expert naturalist, geologist, historian and astronomer guides.
Back-up vehicles and drivers, spare bike, all spare parts, tools and any roadside repairs
Fresh filtered water, wines and a travelling bar for evening aperitifs and digestifs.
A qualified expedition medic on hand 24/7
Visas, passes and permits required for the expedition
Printed and bound photographic souvenir book of your trip
What it doesn’t include
International flights (we can arrange these on your behalf – extra costs apply)
Your personal riding or other adventure equipment – clothing, boots, helmets, protection, waterproofs etc
Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac