Tajikistan, A legendary trip by bicycle.

Tajikistan is one of the most overlooked tourist destinations in the world, but it’s a shame since the country offers some of the most scenic nature in the world.
But luckily, a few tourist a year that are brave enough to venture of the mainstream tourists destinations in the world and rather go off and explore the real beauty of what this world has to offer.

And what’s the best kind of transportation to travel one of the least explored countries in the world? A car? A motorbike? no and no, the best way is by Bicycle!

One of my plans with doing a trip trough Tajikistan and the Pamirs was to use an old shitty bike, and not a 2000 Euro bike that “everyone” told me that I had to use, especially all the “expert” on all the bike touring forums. So what did I do?

I bought an old used DBS bike for 200 Euro, bought the cheapest bike bags and panniers I could find (even I had to admit that I should have spent more money on the bag and panniers, especially since one of my bags broke the FIRST DAY, but that’s what we have duck tape for).

pamir,bike trip
Myself in the middle of Wakhan valley on my old shitty bike. Its Afghanistan on the left side across the river.

I started this trip with flying into Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
Dushanbe is by far the biggest city in the country, it does have a few sights but there’s nothing special to brag about there, but like most other travelers did I have to spend a few days there, so I did the normal sightseeing, one thing that’s worth checking out is the Museum of Antiquities that host old artifacts found from the silk road area, one of the most famous artifacts is a 13meter (40foot) long Buddha statue.

The biggest issue in Dushanbe was the drunk police officers that were demanding bribes for anything.
Especially the officers that hang around the Massive Statue of Somoni in the city center.

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The huge Statue of Somoni in the center. Apparently, the crown is 10 kilograms of gold.
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A 13meter long Buddha statue that been found close to the Afgan border on display in Museum of Antiquities.

When I finally managed to leave Dushanbe after the 4th day and arrived in the small town of Nurek about 70km further, I was exhausted, completely tires, maybe it wast that smart after all to do a trip like this without any training so what so ever.

Nurek is home to the world’s  second tallest man-made dam in the world at 300m, only beaten by a dam in China with 5meters. Nurek Dam actually had the world record from 1972 to 2013.

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The most boring photo on my page so far, the almighty Nurek Dam.

It was another 130km to reach the city of Kulob from Nurek.
There’s not much to say about that part of the trip, except that I had to pass trough Anzob Tunnel, better known as the “Tunnel of DEATH“.

The tunnel was open in 2006 despite being only partially finished and it quickly gained the reputation as being one of the world’s most dangerous tunnels.
It’s a 5km long tunnel with NO light inside it’s literally pitch dark, and potholes with the size of basketballs and to make things even worse, there’s no ventilation system inside the tunnel so it’s a truly feels like a claustrophobic abyss inside there.

Then, on my way to Kulob, this restored fort showed up in the middle of nowhere.

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An unnamed Tajik fort just before the city of Kulob

Then while having a rest outside the fort a local wedding party showed up and insisted that i take part of the celebration.

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Then suddenly while having a rest, this wedding party showed up.

The city its one of the biggest cities in Tajikistan, but there’s not much to say about the place except that its a nice city to rest for a day or two.

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The obligatory photo to take  when you arrive in Kulob, some typical Soviet building at the square.

From Kulob  its only another two days until you reach the border with Afghanistan, a border you will be following for the next two weeks. You’re so close to Afghanistan that its hard NOT to sneak in.

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One of the first glimpses that you get of Afghanistan, that is on the right side of the river.
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Following the river for the next few weeks, Afghanistan is just a few meters away.
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Still following the river.

The border area between Tajikistan and Afghanistan has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The first proper village you will reach along the river banks is Kalaikhum.
Kalaikhum is a small green settlement, that’s more like a traveler meeting point, on a famous junction.

You will meet travelers coming from Kyrgyzstan towards Dushanbe, some others that have taken the “upper” road from Dushanbe towards the Pamirs, and some of them have taken the lower route (the one I took). During my two days stay in Kalaikhum I met about 12 – 14 other travelers on motorbikes, people with cars and other with bicycles, there was even a French guy that was WALKING BY FOOT.

Kalaikhum,Tajikistan
One of the homestays in Kalaikum. You can see there’s more bicycles there.

From Kalaikum there is another 245km to the next town that’s called Khorugh.
Khorugh is the last proper town/city that you will pass trough in Tajikistan before you reach Osh in Kyrgyzstan.

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The river that goes trough Korugh.

Like I already mentioned Korugh is the last town/city you will see in a while, its also the place with the last ATM and last place where you get to enjoy some tasty food and ice cold beer for a while. There are some decent restaurants with English menus along the riverfront.

This adventure will continue in a second post and third post, covering Wakhan valley and the Pamir Highway.

Additional information about Tajikistan.

Visa.

Tourist visas are available at arrival at the airport for citizens of countries with no Tajik embassy, the visa fee is 25 USD, bring exact amount since they didn’t really have any change there.

I would recommend you to print out the forms and fill them out when you arrive, it will save you A LOT of time since there is only one immigration officer at the airport, it can easily take 1 – 2 hours to obtain your visa at the airport if there are many tourists arriving.

A separate permit is required if you wish to travel to the GBAO region (the Pamir area); it costs $US50 and it’s easily obtained in Dushanbe.

Money.

There are ATM’S all over Dushanbe, but they all charge you a fee for withdrawing money. I also found ATM’S in Kulob and Khorugh, but i did’t find ANY ATM trough Wahkan Valley or the Pamirs.

There are also money changers all over the capital.

11 Comments
  1. Wow, what an adventure! The scenery looks absolutely stunning, and so cool that you got invited to a wedding! I’d love to do this someday. 🙂

  2. Beautiful sceneries and sounds like such an adventure. I like that you decided to cycle around the place instead of drive there. Best way to see a place, most definitely. Can’t wait to read the continuation of this post!

  3. For sure it is a very adventurous trip, not for general travellers. If I were younger, I may consider to do it. But I enjoy reading your travel log.

    1. Hello Joseph.

      Thank you, It´s still very adventures going trough the country with a car, and you would be able to visit more places than I was able to do with a bike. I left Tajikistan 1 day before my visa expired in the end and really had to rush the last days to reach the border in time.

      Christian

  4. Admittedly, I’ve never heard of this place, but the scenery looks breathtaking! I love getting around by bicycle! It’s faster than walking, but slower than driving so you can still enjoy the scenery.

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