The historical Pamir Highway, officially called M41, is an excellent challenge for a 4x4 adventure travelers. Most of the road is paved, except for the mountain passes, and the length of the road is 1,252 kilometers between Osh and Dushanbe, going through the Pamir Mountains. It’s one of the world’s most famous routes for the adventurous travelers and lies mostly in Tajikistan, the highland country of Central Asia.
Most of the road is located in Tajikistan, a country situated in the middle of Central Asia with India to the south and China to the east, but the highway also goes through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. The Pamir highway leads from the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, through Tajikistan (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, Khorug, Dushanbe), via the eastern part of Uzbekistan, to Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Construction and maintenance levels vary substantially along the highway. The roadway is paved is some areas, but is mostly unpaved. The road is heavily damaged in places by erosion, earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches.A quick glance at the map, at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. The drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera!
The experience of using this road is very impressive. The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy, so it pays to take it slow. Secondary roads are mostly unpaved and are in very bad condition. The Pamir highway is mostly one-lane. The condition of the asphalt depends; sometimes it is really bad. Driving mistake can have deadly consequences, because the road is small and goes along deep valleys. No barrier stands between the road and the cliffs. Exercise extreme caution when passing on-coming traffic, over-taking and around corners. Drive with your headlights on at all times as it is easier for oncoming vehicles to see you.
This infamous road is tightly hairpinned and bumped, an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The road includes some steep sections, without market central lines, is very narrow, scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass at the same time and. It has not protections and there are no guard rails along this road. The surface of the road is gravel and sand, and chains or snow tyres can be required troughout the year. The highway is known as the second-highest altitude international highway in the world (at an elevation of 4,655 m above the sea level). The section between Dushanbe and Murghab has the European route number E 008. Construction and maintenance levels vary substantially along the highway. This stretch of road should not be attempted by novice drivers.
Pamir Highway is usually open all year, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. The decaying roads make traveling difficult and dangerous with lack of any rest stop plastic sheds. The high elevation of the highway is no stranger to high winds, another gruelling danger while driving on weathered cliffs. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area.
The main risk on this curvy and narrow mountainous road which rarely permits speeds over 30km/h is coming around a blind corner and discover a vehicle proceeding toward you. So, use caution and enjoy the magnificent scenery. A Pamir Highway traveler must be experienced and completely devoted to safe, slow and obstacle-conscious driving to deter danger. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice.
Due to the unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The route of the Pamir Highway has been in use for millennia, as there are a limited number of viable routes through the high Pamir Mountains; the road formed one link of the ancient Silk Road trade route. Throughout the area, the land is typically rugged and dry. This road is sometimes referred to as “The Road from Hell”. Check weather forecasts before leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more prone to storms at higher elevations. Be prepared with jackets, water, and emergency kit in your car.
Portions of this roadway may be temporarily closed due to road work or inclement weather. The road was built during Soviet times, to connect parts of their imperium in this region. Since the breakdown and Central Asia’s independence, not much coherent maintanance has been done to the road, only in spots, where damage has been caused by flash floods or scree. Heavy or prolonged rain can cause local flash floods that cover the road with water or wash out culverts or bridges.