Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lonely Planet Central Asia - the 9 to 5

This winter I'm working on a new edition of Lonely Planet's Central Asia guide. This is the more normal part of the job, stuck in my studio in front of the computer screen and typing up the new guide. Research was earlier this autumn in Tajikistan, one of my favourite places. I entered Tajikistan from the Afghanistan side, spent a couple of weeks in the high Pamirs checking out the latest homestays from META, the excellent community tourism organisation there, and then finally managed to catch the white-knuckle flight from Khorog to Dushanbe. I've been to most of Tajikistan before but this time managed to hitch and hike up to the Zerafshan and Yagnob valleys, where there are new homestays. Did some hiking in the hills, visited all the homestays and enjoyed being away from the lowland heat of Dushanbe which was punishingly hot in August.

I always come away from a trip with one great place to visit next time; this time it's Zarosh-Kul, an incredible looking Pamiri lake on a 6 day loop trek out of Barchadiev, near the Pamir Highway. That's my tip for an adventure to do right now in Tajikistan.

In the meantime I'm stuck at my desk over the winter, tweaking Central Asian history and food sections. Gives me a chance to be normal. Well.....


  1. Tajikistan was also a favorite of mine, especially the High Pamirs. I was very happy with the assistance of the folks at META -- homestays, drivers, and trip planning. But folks at the Lonely Planet ThornTree forum and elsewhere keep asking how to get in contact with META, and the information on their site at is quite out of date. Any suggestions?

    Separately but on a related note, several folks at the ThornTree are asking about traveling to and in Tajikistan in winter. From Osh, Kyrgyzstan, to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, would you recommend entering via Sary Tash and the Pamir Highway (which is, technically, open year round but through the sparsely populated and traveled Gorno-Badakhshan region) or via Batken, Isfara and Khojand (which is much shorter and more traveled, but the Shakhristan and Anzob passes between Khojand and Dushanbe are said to be closed from November to May, though the Anzob tunnel might be open)?

    Perhaps could the latter route work if one flies from Khojand to Dushanbe, or does the Pamir Alay range weather often close even the Osh-Khojand leg?
    Perhaps the former could work if one flies from Khorog to Dushanbe (stunningly gorgeous but scary flight, as you note), except perhaps in winter the oft-windy air route is often unavailable?

  2. Hi CAT,
    Meta have a new website at but it's currently not working (though it was earlier this year). You can email them at and call at 3554-21766 (or 992919485002 or
    935931449). This year they have a couple of new yurtstays south of Chatyr Tash, just north of Zor-Kul (you can trek over the ridge for views of the lake).
    Costs in 2009 were:
    Guide: $15, $30/day depending on the qualification of the guide; (including food and lodging compensation).
    Driver: From $0, 55$ (Russian jeep) to $0,70 (Mitsubishi Pajero) for an organised tour + $10/ day (including food and lodging compensation).
    Home stay: $6, $9 (in the Murghab area)/night/pers, $10-15 (Kalaihumb, Khorog) $10-15 /night/pers,
    $15(Dushanbe) /night/pers.
    Yurt stay: $6/night/pers. According to the standard of the yurt
    Food: Breakfast = $2/pers; Lunch = $4/pers; Diner = $4/pers for every place;

    Pamir Hwy would be really cold but possible if weather is ok and you have your own reliable transport (you don't want to break down in winter...)

    It's certainly possible to travel via Batken but getting from Osh to Batken can be tricky without dipping into Uzbekistan. Easier to get an Uzbek visa and travel via Andijan and Kokand. I'd fly from Khojand to Dushanbe (I'm pretty sure it runs year-round. A new Somon Air flight runs this leg en route to Russia). The Chinese are building a tunnel under the Shakristan Pass but until it's finished it's a bit of a mess and likely impassable in winter. Anzob tunnel was sometimes open in summer 2009 but sometimes closed due to renovation to try to get rid of the water in the tunnel.

    And yes the Khorog-Dushanbe route is unreliable, more due to clouds and wind than cold. The Sagirdasht Pass might be closed in winter (it was closed in summer due to political tensions). The Pamir Highway is possible in winter but you need a flexible itinerary and lots of warm clothes. No yurtstays though...


  3. Hi Bradley,
    I have seen your Marco Polo - film (5 parts) in German TV and was impressed. In march 2011 I was in China together with my wife JUTTA. We also visited Suzhou and Hangzhou. I wrote a travelling report (4 parts):

    For the moment I'm busy with my autobiography "Ein Leben voller Abenteuer" (A Life full of Adventures) with my travelling around the world in more than 40 years:


    Klaus Metzger

  4. Tajikistan was really a good place to explore, seeing this made me had the travel time. I've been in that place.

  5. o YEH Tajikistan is great especcially Pamir i was staying at Laalmo's Homestay in Khorog where i had a wonderfull meal and which i recomend to everyone :)



Classic Pamiri Scenery of Gorno Badakhshan

Current Favourite Track