Wakhan Valley, a legendary trip by bicycle.

pamir,bike trip

The Wakhan Valley (also named the Wakhan Corridor) is one of the most beautiful and remote places in Asia and the world.
There ain’t no smartphones or WiFi connection in this part of the world, and the common transportation is still donkeys.

But since the common transportation is the donkey, the best way to travel around the valley is by hiring a car and guide or riding your own with a bicycle. I did meet a few foreigners traveling trough the valley in a hired car but they were rushing trough, only spending 3/4 in the area, while me and my bike had to spend 12 days going trough the area.

I could have done it faster, probably about half the time, but the Wakhan Valley is way too beautiful to rush trough.

The best thing about doing the trip with a bicycle is that you are completely on your own. It’s so peaceful and I got invited to drink tea and smoke opium with the locals in every village that I passed by.

Most people are drawn to places which have been fully explored and especially over-exploited before and they tend to think they should go places because they’re mentionned in a book or seen on TV.

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My cheap shitty bike, with my cheap shitty Painners and my cheap shitty everything.

From Khorog (were I finished the first part of this Tajikistan bike adventure) to the end of the road in the Wakhan Valley is about 320km (199 miles).

Ishkashim

When traveling south from Khorog, Ishkashim is the first town you will encounter (110km/68miles).
Ishkashim is the most famous village in the Wakhan Valley, there’s a famous border market every Saturday, held  between the two borders on the Afghan side of the Panj River.

Unfortunately, I passed trough Ishkashim on a late Sunday evening, and I started to get close to the expiring date on my visa so I had no time to spend 6 days waiting around Ishkashim just to visit the market.

All the local seemed pretty used to foreign tourists here, and “all” kids were nagging me for chocolate.

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Two of the local kids in Ishkashim.
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Leaving Iskhashim, nice green and flat.
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Im not ALONE, another biker:)

There are a few ancient forts along the Wakhan Valley, they would have been easy to reach with a car, but a real struggle with a bicycle.
So instead of spending a hard day of climbing, i continued towards the small settlement of Zong.

marco polo cheap,wakhan_valley
A shrine, just outside of Zong, the horns are from the legendary Marco Polo sheep.

The Shrine that’s located just outside of Zong is a famous photo stop for everyone that comes trough. There are Shrines similar to this one located all over the valley, but this was the far the biggest one I have seen.

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Biking slow and enjoying the scenery.

From Zong is there only a few Km to the small settlement of Vrang.

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Soon approaching Vrang, Nice and flat.

Vrang is a very popular stopover place for people traveling trough the area, it didn’t take long from I stopped in the village to have a small rest before I was surrounded by a big group of local kids that spoke the best English that I have heard in a while, they all wanted to show me the famous sight of the village, the Vrang Buddhist Stopa and caves.

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Vrang Stopa, overlooking the beauty of Wakhan Valley.

The Vrang Buddhist Stopa, is a construction, believed to have been built in the 4th century, thought to be used in some of the oldest religious rites in Central Asia. The locals also claimed that the platform was originally a Zoroastrian worshipping site.
The Stopa is built up of 5 layers of stones and offers a great view over the valley. The locals even claim that on the top stone, you can see a footprint from Lord Buddha himself.

There are a few hermit caves surrounding the area too, the locals claim also they were used by Buddhist monks residing the area back in the 4th  century.

Wakhan Valley
Two of the old hermit caves just underneath Vrang Buddhist Stopa.

I ended up spending two days in Vrang just resting and repairing some bike problems.

Local farm work in Vrang, no heavy machinery in this area
Local farm work in Vrang, no heavy machinery in this area.
Vrang
Getting Sheep blocked on the way out of Vrang.
Wakhan Valley
Still Green, but from now does it become less and less of them.
Wakhan Valley
The more east you get in the Wakhan Valley, they more barren does it become. Less and less trees but still as beautiful as heaven on earth.

The next and last village in the Valley is Langar. After that there is a road that goes over the Khargush Pass before it reaches and connects with the M41 better known as the Pamir Highway.

Main street in Langar, the last village in Wakhan Valley
Main street in Langar, the last village in Wakhan Valley

Langar is the biggest village in the Wakhan Valley after Ishkashim, there are shared jeeps running from Langar to Krough and Murgabb in the Pamirs once a week if enough people.
There are also plenty of drivers that are offering to drive you to Murghab for about 70USD.

I unfortunately had to hire a car together with two other travelers I met to get to Murghab. I really really didn’t want to do that, but i was running dangerously close to the end of my Tajik visa
.Wakhan Valley

Wakhan Valley
Some small climbing towards Langar.
The mountains opens up on the Afghanistan side of the valley and offers view towards the Hindu Kush mountains.
The mountains open up on the Afghanistan side of the valley and offers the view towards the Hindu Kush mountains.
Riding Donkey is still common use of transportation.
Riding Donkey is still common use of transportation.
Wakhan Valley
Watch out for the cars, which cars?
Wakhan Valley
The Panj River that runs makes up the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

One thing that was getting too tempting for me while traveling in this area was to cross into Afghanistan illegally, I had been biking less than a 100m from Afghanistan for a few weeks, and I couldn’t let the opportunity of crossing into Afghanistan illegally go away.

Crossing the river into Afghanistan ilegaly.
Crossing the river into Afghanistan illegally.
Happily arrived illegally in Afghanistan.

My trip from Langar to Murgabh and towards Kyrgyzstan along the Pamir Highway adventure will continue in another post.

Additional information about the Wakhan Valley.

Money

There are NO ATM in Wakhan Valley so be sure to bring enough cash. But you can pay everything with USD.

Permit and Registration.

You will need to have a GBAO permit to travel trough the Wakhan Valley and later on the Pamir highway.

You must register with three different government agencies in Ishkashim (Tourist police, Ishkashim province police, and the military.) You will need four passport sized photos for these registrations (women should have headscarf photo). You can get photos taken in Ishkashim.

You must also register with Wakhan province police in each village where you stay.

There was also some random checkpoints where they checked the permit.

Accommodation.

Even the smallest village seemed to have a homestay, the price is 15 USD – 25 USD, it often includes breakfast, dinner, and unlimited tea.
But don’t expect the comfiest beds in the world.

Don´t expect sown beds during homestays
Don´t expect soft beds during homestays.
2 Comments
  1. Absolutely stunning scenery! I especially like the part where you “illegally” crossed the river into Afghanistan. Cheeky! As for the road conditions in the Wakhan Valley, I noticed it is nothing but gravel the entire way. How did this impact your ride during your 12 days here (i.e. how far could you get on average per day by bike)? Sounds like it wasn’t that far if you had to hire a taxi towards the end of your trip.

    1. Hi Ray.

      About 95% of the Wakhan Valley is gravel with the 5 other percentage being very find sand. While the gravel was find to bike across was the sand a nightmare. I only biked a few hours a day, I stopped “everywhere” to enjoy the scenery an talk to the locals. The other travelers I came across in the valley went trough the valley in just 3/4 days and I could easily have done the same. The couple i shared the taxi with in the end admitted that they had regrets with rushing trough the valley

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