When to go?

According to the The Afghanistan-USSR 1983 International Boundary Study, spring and summer are the seasons of greatest water flow, and late summer and winter the time of low water. September is a month of relatively low water before the snow and cold weather set in.

Probably the ideal time for travel is August and September, although the area is accessible as early as July. Before July, floods make access roads sometimes impracticable and streams impassable. After September, snowfalls start blocking roads and trails. The further into July you go, the more likely you are to be able to drive until Sarhad-e-Boroghil, and the easier rivers and streams will be to cross.

Our team traveled in the Wakhan and Pamir during the last three weeks of July. Our car was blocked by a flooded stream shortly after Qala-e-Panj and we had to pursue on foot. Although we were able to cross most rivers and streams that were on our way, it was sometimes with great difficulty. We would advise to travel to the Wakhan and Pamir as further into July as possible.


Most Wakhi speak Wakhi and Dari, and most Kirghiz speak Kirghiz and Dari. Very few people speak English. Dari being the most widely spoken language in the region, for the sake of good communication, it is strongly advisable either to study Dari before traveling to Afghanistan, or to go with an interpreter. Although being able to communicate in the people's own language is not absolutely essential, it is obviously much more interesting to be able to do so. In particular, being able to deal with the Afghan authorities in Dari makes life much easier. Young interpreters may be hired in Kabul (e.g. try students of the French-Afghan Lycée Esteqlal for French-English-Dari interpreters for 20 to 30 US$). Official interpreters like the ones used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are much more expensive at 50 USD/day. You will have to provide him with full trekking equipment.

Dangers & Annoyances

During the Soviet invasion, the Wakhan and Pamir was not a fighting place and therefore is generally clear of land mines (there are mines in the valley that leads to the Noshaq). Until the end of the Taleban regime, the Wakhan and Pamir was controlled by the Northern Alliance of Ahmad Shah Massoud, therefore the Wakhi and Kirghiz have never seen the Taleban. Today, it is probably one of the safest places in Afghanistan. People are extremely friendly and non-violent. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the Wakhan and Pamir is a border region and smuggling and drug trafficking may be happening in some areas. In any case, stay away from border lines, especially with Tajikistan and China. The biggest dangers whatsoever are the ones associated with trekking in high mountains: beware of altitude sickness, and be extremely careful when walking across rivers and streams, and walking on glaciers and rockfalls.


Until Eshkashem, there are many tchaikhana to choose from in most towns and villages. Beyond Eshkashem, in the Wakhan, each village has a shah (king) whose duty is to accommodate and feed visiting travelers. He generally does not expect any contribution (except maybe in Sarhad-e-Boroghil). In the Pamir, most settlements have a house or yurt dedicated to visitors (generally traders). Likewise, it is their duty to feed and accommodate visiting travelers. It is difficult to know how to reciprocate their hospitality. Some gifts may be appreciated. In any case, show extreme respect to the people in general, and to their leader in particular. Blankets are generally provided although a sleeping bag is really good to have. Outside villages and settlements, herder's shelters and purposely-built traveler's shelters are plentiful and ready to accommodate you for the night.

Pack animals

Although you may choose to carry your bag yourself, you may as well go for a pack animal. Horses, donkeys, yaks and even Bactrian camels are plentiful in the Wakhan and Pamir. They can be found anywhere and are always ready to carry your stuff (and even yourself). Some things you should know about pack animals:

  • A donkey carries as much as a horse
  • A horse has taller legs than a donkey and therefore is more suitable to keep your feet dry when crossing rivers and streams
  • A yak is by far the most powerful animal, it can go anywhere, carry anything, for any period of time (ideal for icy terrain)
  • A camel is the most respected animal, for it can carry the heaviest packs
  • Donkeys do not like to cross bridges
  • Stallions are more robust than mares and walk further
  • Yaks can carry people but are difficult to handle for the inexperienced rider
  • At weddings, a yak is worth 20 sheep, and a camel 2 yaks
  • Pack animals always come with their owner, who can also be useful as guide
  • Yak-dung is the most appreciated for fuel
  • Prefer donkeys in the Wakhan, horses in the Pamir
  • Pack animals must be changed at each village so that they can all benefit from the business
We hired donkeys 500 Afghanis/day in the Wakhan valley and 800 Afghanis/day in Sarhad. We hired horses 850 Afghanis/day in Sarhad and 600 Afghanis/day in the Pamir. We hired a yak in the Little Pamir for 1000 Afghanis/day. The price includes accompanying horseman/guide. In any case, be prepared for fierce negotiations!

It may be better to buy donkeys in Qala-e-Panj. Packing donkeys is easy, ask somebody to teach you. Buying donkeys will save you the burden of intense negotiations at each village. It will also turn out cheaper than hiring them beyond a certain number of days. You can still hire guides on the way for a few dollars.