Khorugh, the capital town of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (Province), is situated in a steep river valley surrounded by the Pamir mountains. The nearby river Panj (aka Oxus) is the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The town has enough bustle to be interesting but it certainly isn't overwhelming. There are a plethora of NGOs working in the area.
The Pamir Eco-Culture Tourism Association (PECTA) has an office at the edge of the city park (37.49N x 71.548E) where you can get a map of the Pamir mountain region, as well as books about the local culture, advice about home-stays, etc.
Nearly everything closes on Sundays, there's not even transport out of town (except perhaps for Murghab and Dushanbe, but get there early); it may be wise to plan a schedule accordingly. A day wandering amongst equally bored watermelon vendors can get quickly become tedious.
Airplane usually flies 1 flight a day, when the weather is good during the summer. Spectacular flight, for about USD 85.
Vehicles run constantly to Khorugh. Best to get there is very early in the morning, maybe 06:00-07:00. Vehicles leave from a lot tucked away near the airport. Most people in the capital are unaware of its location. When heading to the airport from the north you go into a dip going under a big road. Just before that there will be a dead end road on your right. Get out of the car and walk through a big gate (lots of people heading that way.) Just repeat "Khorogh" to everyone, and sooner or later someone will know what you're talking about. Price is 300-350 somoni (30-35 US dollars, June 2019).
Get a good vehicle as a good vehicle usually means a good driver. The trip takes between 14-17 hours and this will sometimes be split over 2 days.
There are a series of parking lots, each with vehicles heading to somewhere in the Pamirs. Vehicles arrive in town around 08:00-09:00 and begin departing 10-12ish, whenever they get a full load. The cost to most villages is 1-3 TJS a seat.
In town you can just walk or catch a local marshrutka for 1 TJS.
- Mountains. Just climb one and you will have spectacular views.
- Julandee (towards Murghab) High altitude, hot spring resort, and wonderful climb behind the springs. The rooms are quite nice and very affordable. USD 10-15ish. Food is available, but ideally you should bring some bread, potatoes and carrots. They will cook, but they have trouble getting the food up there. Very good spot to spend the night before proceeding to Murghab, it’s high enough altitude to see if you get sick. If you are not used to high altitudes, take aspirin to mitigate altitude headaches.
- Vanj valley is spectacular. If you can get a good vehicle, go to the top. There is the famous "Bear" glacier carving into the valley. The villagers there (in Poy Mazur) will gladly put you up as a guest. Give them a gift, $10-15, and insist as the villagers are very poor.
- Garm Chashma (towards Ishkashim). A hot spring and resort-like area.
- Hop in a marshrutka and get out at a random village. The locals will likely look after you including food. Just bring a bit of money $10-15 to cover their food costs and to help them out. Make sure you insist: for cultural reasons, they will refuse at first, but it's culturally legitimate for you to insist.
- Mountain climbing, hiking, cultural immersion, etc.
- Beautiful botanical garden. It's out of town towards Roshtkala. Just say "botanical" and people should understand. Some of the local marshrutkas turn around in front of it. Just go up the hill. Closed on Sundays, and Saturdays are iffy.
- [dead link] Khorog Park (Chorbogh) (near the stadium and main bridge). amazing stonework emphasizing local traditional resources...
- Trekking/trVel guide Jusuf who speaks very good English and can arrange any kind of trips in Wakhan and Afghanistan. He also has an (unsigned) Homestay at his village of Khaskhorugh 35 km on the way from Khorog to Iskhashim. Mobile: 935451852
- A hat. They are pretty cool. Make sure they fit, though. Western heads are notoriously large.
- There are other crafts available at several craft stores downtown and in the Serena Inn's common area.
- Seasonal fruits are available in the bazaar, as are instant noodles, canned corn, canned peas, hotdogs, bread, etc.
- Deli Dharbar is a great little Indian food place. USD 5-7 for a filling and tasty meal. It's between the bazaar and the only stoplight in town, on a side street. Ask locals for MicroFinance Bank, which is across the street.
- Varka Russian food at reasonable prices. In front of the Red Crescent Compound. Ask locals for "Varka". They all know it.
- Serena Inn USD 12-15 a meal. Pricey, and not all that impressive. Also has a restaurant in the Khorog city park (37.49N x 71.548E) with an indoor dining room as well as a roofed open-wall dining area on the bank of the river (very nice place when the weather is warm).
The bazaar sells osh (pilaf), eggs, and potatoes, or all variety of fried pastries. Head up the place where they sell bread in stacks on the main road.
- Varka is the only bar in town and colourfully nicknamed "fight club" by locals, although not as rough as this suggests. Pamiris generally aren't heavy drinkers.
Be careful with the water as always but the water here is not nearly as bad as in Dushanbe. Most water sources in the villages are contaminated by cattle and people upstream.
- Several inns and lots of homestays available.
- 1 Pamir Lodge. The budget place in town. Quite far up the hill. Very popular among bicycle travellers. Camping 50 SM; Rooms 7-8 USD per person..
- Parinen Inn (near the new bazar).
- Lal Inn (Lalita Inn).
- [formerly dead link] Laalmo Pamir Home Stay (Close to school #7, up the hill from the Barka restaurant), ☏ . Laalmo is a very nice lady who runs a homestay in her house. Nice meals. Very clean and western toilet and shower with hot water. Good place to stop on your way in and out of the higher places. Breakfast is extra, but it has hot showers, western toilet. $10.
- Serena Inn Very nice but pricey at $100. Has en-suite bathrooms. Is 2.2 km north from the Khorog airport, on the west side of the main road at 37.525N x 71.506E. Built by the Aga Khan Foundation in-order to encourage tourism in the region. Built in typical Badakshani style and situated next to the river, it is luxurious. Telephone: (+99235222) 3228. http://www.serenahotels.com/serenakhorog/default-en.html
Some hotels and guesthouses will have WiFi, but not the majority. Go down to the PECTA info centre in Khorog City Park, Wi-Fi is available for 5 somoni for 3 hours. The staff are friendly and English-speaking.
If you need treatment, you need to evacuate. There are some expat docs in Dushanbe, who know what they are doing.
Broken bones can be dealt with in Khorugh. The hospital (a huge compound) is near the lowest walking bridge, on the non-bazaar side.
The Aga Khan Foundation has access to a helicopter for emergencies. Flag down a vehicle with one of the logos.
- Afghan visa: The consulate of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan opens at 09:00. Visa processing time is short (usually less than 30 minutes). Bring a passport picture (there is also a photographer in town). You have to write a letter of intent stating that you bear all risks of travelling to Afghanistan. Visa prices seem to vary, EU passports around $150, US $200.
- Murghab In the bazaar, there is a very big vehicle market. You can get a private taxi to Murghab there. USD 200-100 is a fair price. Towards the main town from the bazaar there is a water spigot on your right, maybe 100 meters away from the bazaar. Anywhere within 100 metres of where you're standing is fair game for the Murghab marshrutkas to bel behind buildings, on the road, etc. USD 15 is a fair price for a big vehicle, more for a smaller one. It probably leaves around 10AM, or maybe earlier, depending on when the seats get filled. Get there no later than 08:30.
- Dushanbe USD 40-60 by land and USD 85 by air.
Air - Go to the airport. Try to give your passport to someone. If they take it, that means you might get on the list. Ask... there might be some English speakers there, but all speak Russian. ("Samaliot" = airplane). Once the airplane takes off from Dushanbe, they will begin selling tickets in the back of the building, so walk around to a tiny hole in the wall and listen for your name. 1hr flight.
Land - Arrive at the bazaar no later than 08:00. The place will be mostly deserted, except for a few men standing around cars. They are going to Dushanbe. Pick a very good car. Once their vehicle filled, they will leave. 14-24hrs, provided no problems. 1 day trip is tough but 2 days is much more relaxing. Your food may very well be covered in the fee. Be careful at the roadside diners. Often the soup or food has been sitting out for days. Eggs and hotdogs are safest.