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Transport in Khorog

Air - One of the main attractions of Khorog is the flight in from Dushanbe (just under US$100), which, depending on your confidence in the pilots of Tajik Air, will be one of the most exhilarating or terrifying experiences of your life. For most of the 45-minute flight the aircraft scoots through (not above) mountain valleys, flying in the shadow of the rock face with its wingtips so close you could swear they kick up swirls of snow. In Soviet days this was the only route on which Aeroflot paid its pilots danger money. Tajik Air operates a daily flight between Dushanbe and Khorog.

It is one of the most spectacular flights on earth, soaring just above the mountain peaks before virtually nosediving onto the narrow airstrip between the river and Somoni. The downside is that with the slightest flurry of snow, rain or fog the flights are cancelled, often causing days of delay as passengers are shunted from one scheduled flight to the next. Tickets can be booked online via the Tajik Air website (, or obtained from the ticketing office at the airport on the morning you wish to fly.

Flights originate in Dushanbe and, in theory, run daily but they are grounded at the first sign of bad weather (which is frequent outside of the summer months). Passengers must then take their chances the next day, tussling for seats with those already booked on that flight. After a run of bad weather, hundreds can turn up to fight for the first flight’s 40 available seats. You should budget an extra day or two into your itinerary in case flights are cancelled and be prepared to travel overland if need be.

The airport ticket office (h8am-12.30pm & 1.30-4pm) is 3km west of town and minivan 1 runs to/from the centre. To buy a ticket, turn up at the airport at around 8am to see if the plane is coming. Only when the plane actually arrives will you be allowed to check in. Baggage allowance is 10kg; excess is around 1% of the air ticket per 1kg. There’s no pre-assigned seating; seats look left to views of Afghanistan, right towards the peaks of the Pamirs.

By road There are two routes between Dushanbe and Khorog: the slightly shorter northern road goes via Tavildara, but is poorly maintained and closed in winter; and the smoother southern road through Kulob which is open (avalanches permitting) all year round.

On a good run, the 525km drive takes between 16 and 18 hours. If you are driving yourself, you should break frequently, ideally stopping overnight en route, as the slightest catnap or error of judgement will see you and your passengers plunge unceremoniously to your deaths. This is not an exaggeration. You will be physically and mentally exhausted when you reach your destination, whichever route you choose.

Travelling by public transport, minibuses and taxis leave at first light to maximise the daylight hours available for driving. Providing your minibus doesn't suffer a puncture or other form of breakdown (seemingly a rite of passage on this road), you arrive not long before midnight. The fare is TJS200 and buses depart from Dushanbe's Badakhshan bus stand at the corner of Aini and Ahmad Donish (16 to 20 hours) when full. Add an extra TJS50-60 if you're travelling in a shared taxi. The ride is uncomfortable and you should satisfy yourself before leaving as to the safety of both the vehicle and its driver. Get there in the morning and be prepared to hang around for hours before finally leaving. You might score a ride in a Land Cruiser for 200TJS per seat. Minibuses to Murgab (50TJS, nine hours) depart when full from 200m east of the bazaar, assuming there are enough passengers. Four-wheel drives and minibuses to Ishkashim (30TJS, three hours) leave in the late morning from a lot just across the river from the bazaar.  It's a relatively easy drive, with interesting diversions to the hot springs at Garm Chashma and the ruby mines.

There are also daily minivans to the outlying villages of Roshtqala, Jelandy, Rivak, Shahzud, Porshnev, Rushan and Basid. Some depart from the bus station, others from two stands a couple of hundred metres west. Note that very little transport runs on Sunday.

The drive along the Pamir Highway to Murghab follows the Gunt Valley, then climbs towards the Murghab Plateau. The journey takes nine hours and, if you're travelling by minibus, it costs TJS60. The minibuses leave from the stand to the east of the bazaar and only leave when full. If you want to speed up the departure, you may be able to pay for the empty seats, and this will also give you a bit more room. You could instead hire a car.

Getting around Khorog is a relatively compact town, and most places youti want to go to are within easy walking distance. The extremities are the Serena Inn (5km west of the main town) and the botanical gardens (5km to the east), though in reality you'll spend the bulk of your time in the few blocks either side of Central Park.

Khorog is well served by both minibuses and shared taxis. The most useful of these is minibus #3, which runs from the bazaar, across the river to the south side of the town, then east to the botanical gardens. The journey costs TJS1 (TJS8 if you prefer a taxi).