Ethnic expedition with Mzungu to the nomadic tribes of remote
Wakhan Corridor

AFGHANISTAN


August 13 to 30, 2022
Tour Afghanistan

tour to Afghanistan expedition to Wakhan corridor Wakhi Kirgiz Kyrgyz people travel Afganistan Tajikistan Ishkashim horseback trekking to the mountains Himalaya Karakorum tour to Tibet

Dassanech Karo tribe Bulls jumping ceremony Assale Afar
For those who prefer truly unbeaten paths, who want to feel like a traveler, explorer and welcome guest, who looks for deep dive into the lifestyle and culture of indigenous peoples preserved in the lost northeast appendix of Afghanistan, the place where the great ranges of the Himalayas, Karakorum and Tien Shan converge at one point, where the peoples of the Wakhi and Kyrgyz graze their sheep at the dizzying heights of Pamirs.

For those who prefer truly unbeaten paths, who want to feel like a traveler, explorer and welcome guest, who looks for deep dive into the lifestyle and culture of indigenous peoples preserved in the lost northeast appendix of Afghanistan, the place where the great ranges of the Himalayas, Karakorum and Tien Shan converge at one point, where the peoples of the Wakhi and Kyrgyz graze their sheep at the dizzying heights of Pamirs.

SСHEDULE & COST:

Dates: August 13 to 30, 2022. Mzungu leads

Duration: 18 days / 17 nights

Number of participants: 5 – 10

Cost per person:
- USD 3 140 subject to 9 – 10 participants, or
- USD 3 240 subject to 7 – 8 participants, or
- USD 3 440 subject to 5 – 6 participants.


Everything is included except for:
- international flight to Kabul and back
- international medical insurance
- Afghanistan visa (150 USD, price can be changed, to be obtained in the embassy in advance)

Estimated cost of flights Moscow – Kabul – Moscow: USD 900 – 1300. (Usually bought on your own, we consult you).

Single supplement: 550 USD (Single accommodation in Afghanistan might be possible upon request)




TRAVEL PROGRAM: TOUR TO AFGHANISTAN
Day 1. August 13, 2022. Kabul
Morning arrival by air in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan.
Visit to culture ministry, tourism department section, to inform, then take permission letter from Badakhshan province. If it can be finished fast, after lunch, visit to museum, then back to Babarsha Garden or Birds' bazaar. Overnight at Baharistan Aria guesthouse.

Recommended flight:
— with Turkish Airlines, arrival in Kabul at 6:40 am from Istanbul, flight TK-706,
— with any other flight that arrives in Kabul no later than at 8 am on August 13.

Accommodation: Baharistan Aria guesthouse or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 2. August 14, 2022. Kabul — Fayzabad
Early morning breakfast. Start driving to Badakhshan province (long distance of 510 km, 12 - 13 hours driving). Lunch on the way (Afghani local food). Continue up to Fayzabad, center of Badakhshan province. Overnight at the guesthouse.

Accommodation: Lajward guesthouse or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 3. August 15, 2022. Fayzabad — Ishkashim

After early breakfast, we go to information culture office, to make official notification and obtain permission letter for Ishkashim Wakhan. In case we succeed to finish the formalities fast, we start driving towards Ishkashim. Lunch at the restaurant in Baharak district. If official papers get more time, lunch in Fayzabad, then later drive up to Ishkashim (150 km, 4-5 hours driving). Overnight at the guesthouse with good food.

Accommodation: Marco Polo guesthouse or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 4. August 16, 2022. Ishkashim – Khandud – Qala Panj
Early morning we have breakfast and arrange all for departure to Wakhan Corridor. We drive to Wakhan corridor, along Wakhandarya river, from village to village (80 km) and get into acquaintance with the local life and culture, taking photos.
The Wakhan Corridor is anarrow strip of territory, extending to China and separating Tajikistan from Pakistan. The corridor, wedged between the Pamir Mountains to the north and the Karakoram range to the south, is about 350 km long and 13 – 65 km wide. From this high mountain valley the Panj and Pamir rivers emerge and form the Amu Darya.
The corridor was formed in 1893 by an agreement between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, creating a buffer line between the Russian Empire (Russian Turkestan, present-day Tajikistan) and the British Empire (British India).
The Wakhan Corridor has been closed to regular traffic for over a century and there is no modern road. There is a rough road fromIshkashim to Sarhad-e Brogil built in the 1960s, but only rough paths beyond. These paths run some 100 km from the road end to the Chinese border and further to the far end of the Little Pamir.
Arrive in Khandud, center of Wakhan district. Lunch and again passing registration procedure. Then, if we have time, visit women handcraft center and continue to Qala Panj.
Night at Shah Langer guesthouse.

Accommodation: Shah Langer guesthouse
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 5. August 17, 2022. Qala Panj – Sarhad-e Broghil
Early morning, after breakfast, drive from Qala Panj to Sarhad-e Broghil (90 km), visiting Wakhan villages one by one, seeing Wakhan local style and learning about their culture.
The Wakhi practice agriculture in the river valleys, and herd animals in the summer pastures at higher elevations. They often have two residences – one for winter and one for summer. Their houses are built of stone and sod. Wakhi people are known for their unique underground houses, where only a hole in the "ceiling" serves for lighting and air ventilation.
Ethnic Wakhi-speakers have a total population of about 50 000 – 60 000. The population is divided between four countries: Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. The Wakhi people have been settlers of their lands for hundreds if not thousands of years however, because of the politics of Russian and British Empires during the 18-19 centuries, boundaries were created which separated the large body of the Wakhis into living in four countries.
Arrive Sarhad-e Broghil, the last big village. Lunch. Walk around the village to see some families. We arrange horses for next days, for riding horseback and carrying luggage. Overnight at Chaqanbay guesthouse.

Accommodation:
Chaqanbay guesthouse
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 6. August 18, 2022. Sarhad-e Broghil – Dahlez pass – Borak
Early morning, after breakfast, we depart by horsebacks to Wakhi pasture plateau. On these high pastures groundwater and streams create seasonal meadows: the "pamir" from which the region gets its name.
Each traveler has 2 horses, one for riding and another one for the luggage. There are 2 ways that can be chosen: lower way and upper way. Depending on the road condition as of August (now road construction is in progress) we'd choose the lower way. If lower way is not available, we take the upper way and use Dahlez pass at 4267 meters above sea level. Local traders and Wakhi shepherds take Dahlez pass in order to reach the valley and get back.
Although the terrain is extremely rugged, the Corridor was historically used as a trading route and it appears that Marco Polo came this way.
We stay overnight in Borak camping in tents.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 7. August 19, 2022. Borak – Langar
After breakfast we continue our horseback riding (sometimes switching for trekking) along Wakhi pasture plateau, where Wakhi shepherds breed their sheep on the pure mountain hills at the high elevation. We pass pristine rivers and cross beautiful wooden bridges which bring us to medieval times. Not many people live here. Wakhan is sparsely populated. The total population is estimated at about 10,600 people. Wakhi and Kyrgyz are the major ethnic groups of Wakhan. Nomadic Kyrgyz herders live at the higher altitudes. We are on the territory of Wakhan Corridor Nature Refuge, where some rare animals can be found, such as ibex and snow leopard (more than 100 cats).
Via Morpach pass we arrive to Langar area and stay overnight in camping.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 8. August 20, 2022. Langar – Qash Goz (Baza'i Gonbad)
This morning we start our trekking/horseback riding along mountain river from Langar to Qash Goz or to Baza'i Gonbad (about 9 hrs) where we reach first Kyrgyz nomads camp. Getting into acquaintance with Kyrgyz nomadic life, photographing.
While on Earth live some 5 million Kyrgyz people, here in Wakhan Corridor they are considered minority and barely exceed 1000 inhabitants. Kyrgyz, along with Wakhi, occupy the same territory, but speak different languages: Wakhi belongs to the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian group, whereas Kyrzyr is Turkic language of the Altaic group. Kirgyz, as opposed to Wakhi, is written language.
While Kyrgyz are predominantly Sunni Muslims, any ancient indigenous beliefs and practices, including shamanism and totemism , coexisted syncretically with Islam. Shamans, most of whom are women, still play a prominent role at funerals, memorials, and other ceremonies and rituals.
Kyrgyz are nomadic and live year-round in yurts. As opposed to Wakhi, Kyrghyz people do not grow any crops and do not practice any form of settled agriculture. Kirgiz use grazing grounds above 3500 m above sea level for breeding yaks, fat-tailed sheep and goats.
Baza'i Gonbad is the site of a domed tomb and nearby settlement of Kyrgyz herders. The shrines and tombs scattered throughout the area are all of a comparatively recent character.
Dinner and talk around the fire. Overnight at camping next to Kyrgyz shepherds in our tent.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 9. August 21, 2022. Qash Goz (Baza'i Gonbad) – Lake Chaqmaqtin
Today we trek from Baza'i Gonbad along Little Pamir river to the Kyrgyz nomadic pasture on Lake Chaqmaqtin. We are now in Little Pamir area which is the home for Kyrgyz nomads scattered on this mountainous territory.
The Little Pamir is a broad grassy valley 100 km long and 10 km wide, and is bounded to the north by the Pamir Mountains. The Little Pamir is used by semi-nomadic Kyrgyz herders for summer pasture. Until 1978 the northeastern portion of Wakhan (the Great Pamir and the Little Pamir) was home to about 3000 – 5000 ethnic Kyrgyz. In 1978 almost all the inhabitants fled to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Saur Revolution. Many of the Kyrgyz subsequently migrated to Turkey, but in October 1979, following bringing the Soviet military forces to Afghanistan, a group of about 200 Kyrgyz returned to the Little Pamir. In 2003 there were 140 yurt households in the area (some 1000 Kyrgyz people).
Stay for overnight at homestay with Kyrgyz nomads or in the tent at the lake.

Accommodation: homestay with nomads or camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 10. August 22, 2022. Lake Chaqmaqtin – Qurchin
Today we start trekking from Lake Chaqmaqtin. Chaqmaqtin Lake lies at an elevation of 4 024 m, extends for about 9 km and is about 2 km wide. The lake is a glacier basin lake formed when the ice was once very thick here before it melted away a few thousand years ago.
This place is known as the Pamir Knot, the area where the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakorum, Kunlun and Hindu Kush ranges meet.
We finish in Qurchin reaching Kyrgyz nomadic camp. Night in camping in our tents.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 11. August 23, 2022. Qurchin – Ghuramdah Wakhi shepherds' camp
After breakfast in our camping nearby Kyrgyz nomads camp, we continue trekking among the mountains, passing Aqbalis pass at the altitude of 4595 m. Today we end up at Ghuramdah Wakhi shepherds' camp and get into acquaintance with the curious Whaki nomadic culture.
While Kyrgyz people have always been relatively rich pastoralists and primarily used this land for their pastures, Afghan Wakhi were much poorer in late 20th century. Wakhi farmers utilizing the Pamirs for summer grazing tried to compete with the rich Kyrgyz nomads who controlled most of the Pamirs. Some impoverished Wakhi took up jobs as shepherds for Kyrgyz herd owners. Eventually they turned to nomadic strategies, one of the rare case when farmers became nomads.
Set up our camping close to Uween Sar pass.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 12. August 24, 2022. Ghuramdah Wakhi shepherds' camp – Uween Sar pass – Nowhabad Wakhi shepherds' camp
Today morning we spend with Wakhi shepherds, who come to these mountainous pastures only in late summer, as the summer here in Little Pamir is truly short. We are on the serious elevation where even during summer days you feel cool. While today trekking we overcome Uween Sar pass (4887 m above sea level), so that we are at the highest point of our expedition.
Trekking/horseback riding (by today you for sure decide what you'd prefer!) until Nowhabad Wakhi shepherds' camp. One more evening dedicated to local Wakhi traditions and photography. Camping nearby the nomads.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 13. August 25, 2022. Nowhabad Wakhi shepherds' camp – Sangi Nowishta – Baharak – Shover valley
Breakfast and our last morning with Wakhi shepherds. Today we cover the distance until Sangi Nowishta (3 hrs hiking), where during summer season 2 or 3 Wakhi shepherd families stay and where some ancient stone inscription can be found.
Walk further to Baharak and to Shover valley (2 more hrs). Set up our camping in Shover valley. We are back to the river and to the relatively less altitude.
The valley supports populations of Marco Polo sheep and ibex. The Marco Polo sheep's habitat is the mountainous regions of Central Asia. They are distinguishable mostly by their large size and spiraling horns. Their conservation status is "near threatened" and efforts have been made to protect their numbers and keep them from commercial hunting. It has also been suggested that crossing them with domestic sheep could have agricultural benefits.

Accommodation: camping in tents
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 14. August 26, 2022. Shover valley – Sarhad-e Broghil
After breakfast we make 7 hours trekking back to Sarhad-e Broghil via Shover pass. You still can rely on your horses (no trust to your legs already;) and take an advantage to spend this fool day with your new friend before we say them goodbye in the afternoon. The trekking/horse riding part is finished in Sarhad-e Broghil, where we have a well-deserved rest at the hot springs and, finally, shower and prober bed! Dinner and overnight at Chaqanbay guesthouse.
Accommodation: Chaqanbay guesthouse
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 15. August 27, 2022. Sarhad-e Broghil – Ishkashim
After early breakfast we drive directly back to Ishkashim located right on the border with Tajikistan (11 hrs). Lunch in Qalapanj or in Khandod. Arrival to Ishkashim, night at Marco Polo guesthouse with good Afghan food, clean rooms and bathrooms.

Accommodation: Marco Polo guesthouse
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 16. August 28, 2022. Ishkashim – Fayzabad
Breakfast and start driving to Fayzabad (150 km, 4-5 hours driving). Upon arrival in Fayzabad, we have lunch, then walking around the bazaar to see local life. Visit the old brick bridge that have long history. Back to guesthouse, overnight night with good food.

Accommodation: Lajward guesthouse or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 17. August 29, 2022. Fayzabad — Kabul
Early breakfast and long drive (510 km, 12-13 hours) to Kabul. Lunch en route. We drive via Kunduz and Polikhumri provinces, making short stops in interesting places en route. Upon arrival in Kabul, dinner and overnight in Baharistan Aria guesthouse in Kabul.

Accommodation: Baharistan Aria guesthouse or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 18. August 30, 2022. Kabul – Return flight
Early breakfast and transfer to the airport of Kabul. Check-in and return flight home or another destination.

Recommended flight:
— with Turkish Airlines, departure from Kabul at 8:10 am for Istanbul, flight TK-707,
— with any other flight that departs from Kabul any time on August 30 or in the night from August 30 to 31.

Accommodation: no
Meals: breakfast


Cost includes:

  • double/twin accommodation in hotels and tents
  • accommodation in guest houses and in homestay
  • transport along the route: Toyota Hiace minibus from Kabul to Ishkashim and back (max 6 persons in 1 minibus) and Land Cruiser 70/80/100 in Wakhan part (3 persons on a back seat of a car)
  • airport transfers
  • 2 horses per person for trekking route: one for riding horseback and another for carrying personal luggage
  • full board meals (3 meals a day) along the whole route, cook services
  • drinking water along the whole route
  • camping equipment (tents, cooking stuff, cutlery)
  • permit for Wakhan, Afghanistan
  • all permits and paper work in Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan visa facilitation
  • all entrance tickets as per program for all sites and parks
  • financial support of local communities, local guides
  • experienced local English speaking guide along the route
  • English and Russian speaking team leader ethnographer Mzungu




Cost excludes (to be additionally paid) :

  • international flight to Kabul roundtrip (about USD 900 – 1300)
  • international medical insurance
  • Afghanistan visa (150 USD in Afghanistan embassy in advance, price can be changed),
  • personal items, souvenirs
  • alcohol, soft drinks
  • single supplement
  • tips



To take with:

  • two wear sets (trousers, long sleeve shirt, T-shirt, underwear, socks, sun hat)
  • light trekking jacket, warm jacket with wind stopper for highlands, light gloves and mountain hat (can be cold, up to +5 / +10 C in the mountains)
  • comfortable and hard wearing shoes: 1) light ones for the towns; 2) trekking boots (waterproof) for trekking; 3) slippers
  • raincoat
  • swimsuit
  • sun and wind protection means (cream, sunglasses, sun hat)
  • forehead torch
  • trekking sticks
  • travel backpack (better waterproof), not more than 80 liters capacity
  • small backpack for personal stuff and photo-, video cameras
  • sleeping bag for 0/+5 degrees C (can be cool at night)
  • tourist sleeping mat
  • personal medical kit (analgesic, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydration, court plaster, medicine from motion sickness, your personal medicine)
  • personal hygiene items (towel, soap, many wet tissues as no shower for many days)
  • anti mosquito repellents
  • photo / video camera
  • additional batteries for cameras and power bank (or solar charger for charging phone batteries or camera battery)
KEY FEATURES:
TOUR TO AFGANISTAN AND TAJIKISTAN
Afghanistan


Best season: June – September

Wakhan Corridor – the remote appendix of Afghanistan, a non-touristic mountainous region, most of which is passable only on foot or on horseback. Wakhan corridor once became a trade route traveled by Marco Polo.

Minor authentic tribes of Kyrgyz people nomading at an altitude of more than 4 thousand meters in the Little Pamir.

Wakhi people, known for their unique underground houses with a hole in the ceiling and the fact that some of them switched from a settled to a nomadic way of life.

The Pamir Knot – the place where 5 ranges meet at once: where the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakorum, Kunlun and Hindu Kush, with its mountain lakes, rapid rivers and meadows.

Authentic Kabul and picturesque Badakhshan province.

Deep dive into Afghan reality, Afghan cuisine and Afghan hospitality.

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©️ Alessandro Bergamini
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