Wakhan activities

A JOURNEY THROUGH WAKHAN IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL. AROUND EVERY TURN IN THE ROAD OR TRAIL ARE TANTALIZING MOUNTAINS, UNKNOWN WILDERNESS, AND FASCINATING VILLAGES AND NOMAD CAMPS. WITH EVERY STEP DEEPER INTO THE MOUNTAINS, YOU DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF ADVENTURE. WALK ALONG THE ROAD, WANDER THROUGH VILLAGES, EXPLORE THE INVITING MOUNTAIN PASSES. TRAVEL WITH THE GRACIOUS AND HOSPITABLE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE, SHARING THEIR HARDIHOOD. EXPERIENCING THESE MOUNTAINS FIRST-HAND IS INCOMPARABLE AND UNFORGETTABLE..

Trekking, by far the most popular activity in Wakhan, is traditionally a multi-day overland journey on foot involving the support of a trek crew who transport your personal belongings and gear such as tents, food and cooking equipment. Today’s trekking styles vary from backpacking where you carry everything yourself, trekking with porters who transport your gear using pack animals (yak, donkey, camel or horse), buying an animal and leading it yourself (usually a donkey, hence the name donkey trekking), or hiring a tour operator who organises your trek.

Distances in the Afghan Pamir are so great that you may want to hop a ride during part of your trek. Yaks, strong shaggy beasts, are regularly used by local people to transport gear, but are also fun to ride and useful for crossing rivers rather than fording them. In winter when rivers are frozen solid, it’s possible for intrepid travelers to move on these icy pathways in traditional caravans of double-humped Bactrian camels.

It’s more common, especially with Kyrgyz, to travel on horseback. Horse trekking, where your horse is your transportation vehicle and your travelling companion, allows you to move faster than on foot, relieves you of having to transport gear separately, and also facilitates navigating river crossings and steep slopes. You can go horse trekking even if you have little experience with horses by hiring a horse trekking tour operator.

The unique attractions for mountaineering in Wakhan are several easily accessible 7000m peaks of the Hindukush, including Afghanistan’s highest peak Noshaq (7492m), and numerous peaks higher than 6000m awaiting first ascents. The glaciated side valleys in the Big Pamir offer a host of virgin peaks. Extreme adventurers will find a playground for climbing and ski mountaineering.

The isolation and remoteness of Wakhan, its natural beauty, and its cultural diversity are ideal for cultural touring in 4WD vehicles. Exploring the cultural heritage, meeting people on village walks, day hiking and untrammeled camping each night combine to please the most venturesome visitors.

Unlimited opportunities for photography and discovering the rich natural history abound. Birdwatching, easily combined with other activities in Wakhan, is superb. Some of the best is along the Panj River and Wakhan River as you drive between Ishkashim and Sarhad-e Broghil. The upland rivers and lakes are nesting grounds for geese, ducks and ibises, as well as spring and fall stopovers for migratory waterfowl and raptors. Marshy flats and oxbow lakes provide year-round habitat for many wading birds.

The pristine natural environment boasts ideal wildlife viewing where charismatic species such as Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii), snow leopard (Uncia uncia), and brown bear (Ursus arctos) make their home, particularly in
the Wakhjir Valley and in the numerous side valleys of the Big Pamir. The whistling alarm call of ubiquitous long-tailed
marmots (Marmota caudata) alerts you to their presence before they dive into their burrows. (Inadvertently stepping into a marmot burrow may be the greatest physical danger for anyone trekking in the Afghan Pamir!) Grey wolf, red fox, Afghan urial (Ovis orientalis), ibex (Capra ibex), and other wild cats also thrive in this high and wild terrain. Ethereal and wonderfully unique butterflies grace summer wildflowers.

A few ambitious cyclists have already made their way to Wakhan. The road through the Wakhan Corridor is there for mountain biking, but you’d better be a good bike mechanic and have an ample supply of spare parts and tires.

Wakhan is an undiscovered, uncrowded gem not yet on the tourist map of the world. Cultivate a spirit of adventure and open heartedness, and add to it self reliance, sound judgment and good planning and you have the recipe for an unforgettable trip to one of the earth’s most exotic landscapes.