Land of incredible wilderness, rugged mountains, fast-flowing rivers, open spaces, and an incredible sense of hospitality, overlanding and wild camping in Tajikistan simply is an overlanders’ dream.
During the dry season (summer/autumn) you can drive through Tajikistan in a 2WD because there are asphalt roads and laterite-type of roads from border to border. Simultaneously, the country offers challenges for 4WD through sandy deserts, flooded valleys, and over snow-covered mountain passes.
In Tajikistan, wild camping opportunities abound along fast-flowing rivers, at the foot of imposing mountains, amidst empty gravel plains. When local people walk up to you and your vehicle, it’s most likely to say hi, to offer something to eat, or to invite you to their homes.
Truly, what is there not to like?!
Finding Adventure and Meeting Fellow Overlanders
While empty and remote, you won’t be alone. Tajikistan is well making its way onto the must-see lists of overlanders and other travelers. The Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor are among the most likely places you’ll end up sharing a wild camp with fellow overlanders, whether they travel by car, motorcycle or bicycle.
In this blog post we share our favorite spots and a couple of other overlanders have chimed in with theirs – the photos will give you a sense of magic that you will feel when traveling here and our contributions are meant as an inspiration.
BUT: by no means let our blog post limit you as to where to camp. Tajikistan offers plenty of spaces, everywhere, and it’s part of a great overland trip to go and find your own favorite camping spot. So, be inspired here, consider iOverlander (more on this below) a useful back-up system, but go and have your own adventure!
Enjoy the read.
Index for Overland Camping in Tajikistan
In this blog post we will share the following topics:
- Map with GPS Waypoints of Campsites & Paid Accommodation
- Favorite Spots for Wild Camping (Ours & Fellow Overlanders’), divided over 4 regions: Pamir Highway, Bartang Valley, Wakhan Corridor, and Western Tajikistan
- Useful Spots for Camping
- Paid Campsites & Other Paid Accommodation
- Staying with Locals
- A Word on Climate
- A Word on Water & Toilets
- A Word on iOverlander
- Additional Overland Travel Resources
1- Map with GPS Waypoints of Campsites in Tajikistan
Let there be no misunderstanding: no, you don’t have to go to these places. No, these are not by definition the best spots. In Tajikistan you will have no problem finding your own places to camp.
As mentioned earlier, we decided to share our GPS Waypoints anyway, for travelers who would like some tips about camping spots which we enjoyed or found practical. Please note that this is always our personal experience.
2- Gorgeous Spots for Wild Camping
Region 1 – Overland Camping on the Pamir Highway and in Side Valleys
General Note: You can camp anywhere along Karakul Lake, from right next to the village of Karakul to a remoter spot. We all find our beautiful spots around that lake, here are two suggestions:
Karakul Lakeside – Wild Camp #1
Where: About 10km from the main road south karakul village. It was a little cold and a little windy – using the car to block the wind was fine for the ground tent.
How to get there: Via a pretty flat dirt road. We did it at sunset and the sun was in our eyes so a little annoying to get there.
Why: Very pretty.
GPS Waypoint: 38.882914, 73.356208 (alt: 3937 meters, Sep ’19)
Shared by: Lior & Lilach
Karakul Lakeside – Wild Camp #2
Why: Amazing light covers the lake and the mountains when the sun goes slowly to sleep, in the night you feel the fresh clean air and in the daytime you can swim in the clear water. It’s just nature and you.
GPS Waypoint: 39.002008, 73.55438
Shared by: Paul & Lia. Follow them here.
Kyzystrabat – Dead-end-Road – Wild Camp
Where: Driving from Murgab southeast we tried doing a loop via Shayman near the Chinese border. Ala, that wasn’t working and at a big military base we were stopped. We turned around and camped along the river not far from there, still south of Shayman.
Why: A gorgeous spot in the middle of nowhere; you can’t get much more remote than here.
GPS Waypoint: 37.481696, 74.823598 (alt: 3860 meters, Sep ’19)
Hot spring next to Bulunkul Lake – Wild Camp
Where: This hot spring is reachable with a 4×4. We had no problem reaching it with the Lada. All the way from Bulunkul village is easy gravel road even for a normal car. The last 100 meters have a very steep downhill that is only passable on a 4×4.
Why: The hot spring was knee-deep, very hot, and super nice.
GPS Waypoint: 37.766886, 73.020352 (Sep ’19)
Shared by: Lior & Lilach
Region 2 – Overland Camping in the Bartang Valley
Shorolyu River Camp (just south of Shuhali) – Wild Camp
Where: Along the river, near the geoglyphs of Shuhali.
Why: Wild, and with a water source.
GPS Waypoint: 38.646937, 72.909207 (alt: 3775 meters, Sep ’19)
Riverside Mini Beach Camp (south of Dar Jomj) – Wild Camp
Where: Along the side of the road, onto a grassy field with some trees and a water canal.
Why: Maybe it was sheer luck to have no wind here, as there normally is wind all the time everywhere, but here we camped for an extra two days in bliss. Quiet, beautiful, water source, nice temps.
GPS Waypoint:38.008422, 71.809955 (alt: 2114 meters, Sep ’19)
Region 3 – Overland Camping in the Wakhan Corridor
Riverside Wild Camp (just before Garm Chasma hot spring)
Where: Large field with trees along a river.
Why: peaceful, shade, water.
GPS Waypoint: 37.218117, 71.509457 (alt: 2416 meters, Sep ’19)
Riverside Wild Camp (some 30kms before military checkpoint Khargush)
Where: A wild Pamir river between you and the Afghanistan side, hide between trees and bushes on a flat area.
Why: The voice of the moving water is music for your ear and a bonfire in the night keeps your heart warm. If you are lucky, you will see a Caravan on their way walking with yaks, camels and colorfully dressed women.
GPS Waypoint: 37.229994, 72.854207 (alt: 3500 meters, Sep ’19)
Shared by: Paul & Lia. Follow them here.
Region 4 – Overland Camping in Western Kazakhstan
Iskander Kul – Wild Camp #1
Why: It is only accessible by driving almost all the way around the lake so it is undisturbed. It has a large flat area to camp overlooking the lake with stunning views for sunrise and sunset.
GPS Waypoint: 39.06288, 68.38037 (Sep ’19)
Shared by: Jennifer Sutton & Stuart Bridger
Iskander Kul – Wild Camp #2
Why: In the middle of nowhere a beautiful turquoise lake surrounding high mountains. Parking among high trees directly in a small and calm bay with sand. We saw some footprints of the wild bears and walked around in the amazing landscape.
GPS Waypoint: 39.065584, 68.36136 (Sep ’19)
Shared by: Paul & Lia. Follow them here.
3- Useful Spots for Overland Camping
Camping just outside Murgab
Where: Below the town, in the field beyond the mosque
Why: Convenient. A good place to camp in solitude and quietness, with sometimes the curious kids visiting, some of whom are herding sheep on the field. In the distance rises the impressive white peak of the 7546 Muztagata Mountain in China. Squat toilet (clean) conveniently located next to the mosque.
GPS Waypoint: 38.170734, 73.973228 (alt: 3592 meters, Sep ’19)
4- Paid Campsites & Other Paid Accommodation
Dushanbe – Green House Hostel
Why: We just really liked the place. Good vibes with many cyclists and other overlanders, super clean, kind staff. Walking distance to the fabulous Indian Restaurant Delhi Darbar. Fresh bread and few convenience shops around the corner. Still, $5 per person / per night is too much money, esp. since there isn’t a particularly nice or quiet place for your car but laundry is 10 somoni per 7kg load (self-service). WiFi was reasonable. Find Green House Hostel here.
GPS Waypoint: 38.097624, 67.856619 (alt: 436 meters, Oct ’19)
Dushanbe – Hotel Latife
Why: To be in solitude for a day and take a rest. Took a room for 100 somoni per night (about $10). The basic, clean bed looked good but wasn’t. A patch of grass with charpoy where lazed away for the day, which is why we came here. Kind owner, laundry a ridiculous $5 per load (which they do by hand). Wifi was reasonable. A couple of blocks down the road is a small bazar with fresh food and also a number of restaurants.
GPS Waypoint: 38.545140, 68.749710 (alt: 830 meters, Oct ’19)
Homestays in the Countryside
In the countryside the magic word is ‘Homestay’ – not ‘Bed & Breakfast’ or ‘Hostel’ – just ask for ‘Homestay’. That’s the place to go if you want to stay with local people. Often you pay a fixed price that includes meals. You’ll find many of them on and around Pamir Highway.
5- Staying with Locals
In Tajikistan we did not use Couchsurfing nor were we invited to stay at peoples’ homes (we were invited for tea though, regularly).
By the time we were in Dushanbe, we were exhausted and were glad to have time to ourselves and the company of fellow travelers at the above-mentioned Green House Hostel. Next time, we do hope to use Couchsurfing though (here; find us under ‘Coen Wubbels’).
Read more: Couchsurfing in Russia
6- A Word on Climate (When to Travel)
Before going to Tajikistan, I thought that overlanding in September would be late in the season, considering the high altitude of the Pamir Mountains.
Not so, at all.
In fact, I’d argue that September is a perfect month to travel the Pamir Highway. Of course, temperatures plummeted at night on higher altitude, but days were pleasant or even hot on lower altitude. Late summer/early autumn is the harvest season so a lot is going on in the valleys which is fun to watch and making it easy to connect. We had blue sky during our 30 days in the Pamir Mountains and not a drop of rain. It was absolutely perfect.
From what I gathered from other overlanders, spring and early summer (say, into June) can be tricky in somer regions with overflowing rivers (e.g. Bartang River). The remote regions are then not doable with 2WD and may cause problems for 4WD. Not sure if you need a 2WD or 4WD for your trip? – Overlandsite explains the differences.
The same is for winter. Snow covers large parts of the Pamir Mountains. The Pamir Highway stays open, I have been told, but be prepared for a challenge.
I’d argue the best and easiest season to travel in Tajikistan (particularly talking about the Pamir Region) is July-October.
Read More: Our Recovery Gear
7- A Word on Water & Toilets
Our experience of overlanding in Tajikistan has been largely limited to the Pamir Region. Here, villages have water pumps, which makes it easy to fill up your water tank/water bottles.
Whether you hike, bicycle, motorcycle, drive a car or backpack around the country, don’t buy bottled water. Bring a stainless -steel water bottle and a water filter system. There is an amazing selection of small, handy, water filter systems out there, such as MSR water filters or, even smaller, a SteriPen or Lifestraw. Or carry water purification tablets if weight and space really are a big issue (we do so on our long-distance hikes).
The environment will thank you!
As to toilets, in the countryside, expect long drops in little-sheltered huts or low walls without roofs. Bring toilet paper wherever you go. In cities there may be regular toilets but don’t flush the toilet paper; it goes in the bin.
Read more: Tips for the Ultimate Overland Shower
8- A Word on iOverlander
Whether wild camping or staying in hotels, iOverlander is the best overlanding resource on finding places to stay as well as other practical points for overlanders, e.g. on workshops. (You may find a number of the above-mentioned campsites on iOverlander).
iOverlander is a non-profit project, started and maintained by fellow overlanders. To keep this great resource for overlanders going, you can contribute in (at least) two important ways:
- Donate (you will find the donate button on the website)
- Share your own experiences of camping that add value to other overlanders (camping spots or otherwise useful points).
9- Additional Overland Travel Resources
Suggestions to find good travel information on Tajikistan:
- The forum on Horizons Unlimited has been a longstanding source of information especially for motorcycle tourers but has a growing wealth for four-wheeled travelers as well.
- Overlanding Facebook groups among which Overland to Asia and Overland Experience.
- Journal of Nomads is an inspiring travel blog for Tajikistan (and other Central Asian countries).
- Caravanistan is an excellent, up to date online resource for Central Asia.
- We used a Bradt Tajikistan Travel Guide, Insight Guides Russian phrasebook, and Reise KnowHow Central Asia Roadmap.
- Keep an eye on our own Tajikistan blogs, among which a Tajikistan Travel Guide and Budget Report.
Tips, Suggestions, Contributions?
We hope you found this helpful. Questions? Fire away in the comment section below. Would you like to see your favorite overland camp added to this list? Let us know!
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