After three days of driving along the Pamir Highway, a few days in Khorog and then a little detour to Afghanistan, it was finally time to head to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, or as we would say; back to civilization. After several days without wifi, showers and variety of foods, we were both excited to be going to a big city again. Although I definitely prefer the mountains and the quiet villages, a big city is nice for a change once in a while. Instead of driving from Khorog to Dushanbe, which would take somewhere between 15 hours and 2 days because of terrible roads and unavoidable car problems, we decided to catch a flight, which would only take 1,5 hours. Or rather, we would TRY to catch a flight. Because getting a flight from Khorog to Dushanbe or the other way around, is much easier said than done. Because of the spectacular mountain views, the flight is very popular with locals and the few tourists that come to this area of the world, and the flight is tiny with only 17 seats. There is also the problem with the flight only leaving once a day – and only on clear weather days!
Steve and I were sick of driving along the bumpy roads of Central Asia and we didn’t fancy another extremely long one, so we even cut our precious time in Afghanistan short to allow ourselves an extra day to catch the flight. And luckily, we made the right choice.
We arrived at the tiny airport at 6.30 AM after a short night’s sleep. Both the host of our homestay and the taxi driver told us that the airport wouldn’t be open until 8 AM, but Steve had read online that the flight would leave at 7.30 AM – or so he thought (we later found out that it’s the flight in the opposite direction that leaves at 7.30… Always trust the locals!). We ended up waiting for four hours for a flight that we weren’t even certain would leave. When we got to the airport, the sky was semi-clear, but as the hours went by, the sky started darkening and the clouds above us thickened.
While we were waiting to hear if we could go or not, we got talking to Colby from USA and Mike from England, who were both living and working in Dushanbe at the time. They were a great help with the ticket process, as they could translate for us. 2,5 hours after we had arrived, Colby received news that the flight from Dushanbe had departed, which meant that we were almost certain to be able to go. We bought the tickets and prayed for the weather to stay as it was. At 10.15 AM, we were finally let in the waiting area.
We watched the tiny Tajik Air flight land and it suddenly hit me that our dream was becoming a reality. We were going to fly through the Pamir Mountains!! Not over them, but through them! We had heard how epic this flight is from other travellers, so we were really excited to be able to experience it ourselves!
Steve and I quickly got up when the doors opened, so we could get ourselves two window seats for the epic once-in-a-lifetime flight experience!
And epic it definitely was! We flew in and out of mountains for an hour, and despite my overwhelming tiredness, I managed to keep awake due to the breathtaking scenery that we kept getting.
The flight itself was not as scary as I had thought it would be. We got really close to the mountains a few times, so close that it looked like I could touch them if I stuck my hand out of the window, but the pilot seemed to know what he was doing. After all, he has been flying that route for years. I’m generally quite scared of flying, so I usually don’t enjoy it at all, but this one I was able to really enjoy. I promised myself to forget about my fear and just enjoy the scenery as we were flying past it. It was the Pamir Mountains after all! Flying through those mountains with Afghanistan on one side and Tajikistan on the other was something really special to do and I wanted to enjoy every moment of it.
I was extremely tired after having slept only 3 hours the night before, but I fought to keep my eyes open throughout the flight through the Pamirs. It was only when we reached the flatlands of Central Tajikistan that I let my eyes rest for a while, before opening them up once again to enjoy the landing over Dushanbe.
The flight took about 1,5 hours and despite being known as one of the most dangerous flights in the world, it got us there safely without any near-death experiences. It was a remarkable experience and a definite must-do if you ever find yourself in the GBAO! Travelling through the Pamir Mountains has been an adventure of epic proportions and is one of my all-time favourite travel experiences!
After 8 days in tiny mountain villages, we had arrived back to civilization; back to western standards, back to good food and back to wifi (finally). The Pamir experience was amazing, but getting to Dushanbe was a real treat after all of those days!
Do you want an experience like ours? Then find out how to catch a flight from Khorog to Dushanbe!:
- Choose a good weather day to fly, as you otherwise might be disappointed!
- Get to the airport early to reserve a seat, as there are only 17 available. It wasn’t a problem for us, as we were travelling off-season, but in the summer it might be difficult to get a spot on the popular flight.
- We had heard that buying the ticket one day prior to the flight was necessary, but we had no trouble buying it the same morning.
- We were told that the ticket price would be 100 USD per person, but we only paid 605 somoni, which is about 77 USD.
- Even without someone to translate for you, getting a ticket is easy, as you just follow everyone else to the tiny ticket office in the back of the building, hand over your passport, buy your ticket and then go to the waiting room, which is located in the small building on the other side of the road.
- You’re allowed 10 kilos of luggage per person for free, and you (usually) have to pay for more, but my luggage was 3,6 kilos over the limit and they didn’t charge me for it.
- Sit on the left side of the plane for the best mountain views! This is the Afghan side, which is undoubtedly the most interesting.
- Enjoy and don’t forget to bring your camera!!