On this adventure through Central Asia, I have already written about my wonderful stay in Pamir Lodge and the spontaneous live article from Khorog. This is a region known as Gorno Badakhshan and you need a separate permit to visit, away from the main part of Tajikistan, so pick up your Gorno Badakhshan permit and head off to wildernistic Khorog, magical capital of the Pamirs. After exploring the Pamirs region for a few days, it’s time for a hefty top 22 sights from Khorog, stunning capital of the Pamirs, capital of Gorno Badakhshan. This is a glorious city crying to be found. I’m glad my wandering heart found a way here.
There are two main bridges that cross over the idyllic Ghund River in Khorog. It’s blue oceanic flow glistens in the winter sunshine adding a clear magic to a peaceful and friendly city.
Tick off both of the main bridges while you are here – one for walkers only, the other can take cars across.
2.Russian Friendship Monument
While the Soviet era came and went, we forgot that this city, Khorog was one of the southern most cities in the former USSR. Although this seems ridiculous now, they still have Russian writing everywhere, the locals speak Russian as their second or third language (after Pamir languages and Tajik) and they keep good ties to the lads and lasses in Moscow.
3.Soviet World War II Monument
Khorog is no exception to the rule and many fought for the Soviets against the Nazis from 1941 to 1945. For the Pamir people who fought and died in World War II a poignant and respectful monument sits in a park down near the bazaar.
A swanky new shopping mall doesn’t look out of place here. It’s probably the number one shopping centre in Gorno Badakhshan, not entirely amazing of course but it’s in the middle of the Pamirs so that alone gives it some appeal.
On the ground floor is a decent cafe, California Cafe.
5.Khorog City Park
In summer months this is meant to be a cool hangout for family and friends. Walking through the woods on a winter day, I loved the peace of it all. There was a frozen pond, an area with trees, a restaurant and a great view over the river and mountains in behind.
A simple yet scattered bazaar in the city centre off Lenin Street. It has different parts to it, indoor and outdoor. The usual range of goods yet slightly more rural and isolated here so the selection is smaller. The place is also less busy, which was nice after the madness of Osh Bazaar in Bishkek.
The best and longest running coffee house in town is Cafe Jamantal. Great tea and food but still no WiFi. Well, we are in the Pamirs, still I loved Cafe Jamantal for a chilled out few hours.
8.Khorog Regional Museum
This is the largest museum in the Gorno Badakshan region and is an excellent story through the Middle Ages, the Russian Revolution, the Soviet times and up to the modern day wars within Tajikistan. Nothing is written in English of course and entrance is 10 Somoni.
9.Khorog Football Stadium
If Gorno Badakhshan or the Pamirs ever got complete independence as a country, this would be the national football stadium. On a cold winter day I sauntered in, to find some kids making snowmen on the pitch. The football season runs April to November here.
Did you know that the easiest and quickest place to get an Afghanistan visa in the world is here, in Khorog?! You can get your visa in a day, no sweat and without a letter of invitation. I even heard rumours of some backpackers getting their Afghanistan visa in the space of an hour. Ridiculously cool ahead of your backpacking Afghanistan adventure.
Perhaps the world’s easiest entry point into Afghanistan is right here, on the edge of Khorog. I was here in winter months and planned to tour northern Afghanistan in Balkh and Samangan Provinces so I decided to head across the Uzbekistan entry bridge instead.
But I still popped up to this one where I was able to show my passport and that I had a visa for Afghanistan. Yes, they can let you across the border here easily if you really want to cheat and say you’ve “been to Afghanistan”. Just make sure you get a double entry visa for both Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as realistically this has to still count as an entry on your visa for security and bureaucratic reasons.
I found it hard to believe that Khorog has an airport. It’s so remote and apparently the flights out of here are some of the most scenic in the world, over the fabulous Pamirs mountains. That said, I preferred to overland it to save money, but the overland journey from Dushanbe was 22 hours, a flight is a mere hour. It’s a small airport about 5 kilometres from the city centre and less than 1 kilometre from the border bridge to Afghanistan. There are no daily flights to Belfast or Hong Kong just yet.
You might have heard about my guided tour of Dushanbe where I learnt about the Tajik legend of Ismaili Somoni. Here in front of the government buildings, Somoni sits proudly again. Despite the different culture in the region of Gorno Badakhshan – Tajiks and Pamiris are united on one thing – heroic Somoni.
14.First Car in Gorno Badakhshan
On a winding road out of the city, and the one that heads all the way to Murghab, you will find the first ever car that arrived in Gorno Badakhshan. Coming from either Russia/Soviet Union or China, this has been placed on a plinth for all to see.
15.University of Central Asia, Khorog
I wasn’t here to study and return to University but WOW. That was all I could say when I saw the sheer size of the University here. This is one of only three universities this sizer in Central Asia and it is opening in 2017. The grounds of the university are massive, a really cool project funded with the help of the Aga Khan Foundation.
How about a night on the rip in Khorog? I was able to watch some crazy locals do Pamir style dancing here on a night down the local Varka Bar. Despite my many efforts, I was unable to find any beer that was unique to the Gorno Badakhshan region, only Tajik beer, SimSim. They also serve textbook Russian beers.
For me, this place was the best restaurant in town. They serve SimSim beer, the place has a groovy interior and is housed in a basement off Lenin street. Tajik and Central Asian dishes served slowly but with a smile.
18.Munira’s Khorog Souvenir Shop
There are a few souvenir shops in Khorog but my favourite one was on Lenin Street run by Muniras, a local lady with good English. I bought a fridge magnet here for my Mum’s double century collection.
19.Viewpoint over Khorog
High up on the mountains above the University of Central Asia is an immaculate viewpoint over Khorog and the surrounding mountains. I was able to get a lift up here thanks to Said, Zohir and Zabaidee.
20.Gorno Badakhshan Mobile Library
I got to meet up with a local lad called Zohir who has set up a mobile library which can be used by children, students and backpackers alike. It’s a volunteer service, funded by donations, so if you see it, please give them some cash for internet use!
21.Gorno Badakhshan Government Buildings
So if this is a separate region, it must have its own government right? Well kind of. I’m not sure exactly what happens here and although I was invited to meet with some government officials, I declined due to the language barrier.
The main building of the government however is the one behind the Somoni Statue on Lenin Street.
I was here in winter and therefore didn’t get a chance to see the amazing Botanical Gardens in Spring but the views are incredible any time of year and this is the world’s second highest Botanical Gardens apparently.
My thanks to everyone who helped organise my stay and time touring the Pamirs region in and around Khorog in Gorno Badakhshan:
28 Minbulakskiy Lane, 720042,
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
+996 550 914 408
Facebook Page: Pamir Lodge on Facebook
Telephone: +992 – 3522 – 2-65-45
+992 – 93 592-1004
UK contact: 07930885342
Address: Pamir Lodge, Kuchai Gagarin 46, UPD Microrayon, Khorog 756000, GBAO, Tajikistan
Here are some videos from the top 21 backpacking sights in and around Khorog, Gorno Badakhshan: