Travel tips, advice, tricks and hacks.

Travel As A Solo Woman In Afghanistan: The Wakhan Corridor

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What’s it like to travel as a solo woman in Afghanistan: Wakhan Corridor.

Most everyone was questioning my mental stability when I said I was going to visit Afghanistan. Even after I’ve returned unscathed (aside from the 8 hour Afghan colon cleanse, but that’s another story) people are still concerned over my faculties. And others will continue to think I’ve absolutely lost it. And I’m sure I’ll even have to face backlash from a few righteous travel bloggers acting like I’ve committed the worst offense by visiting a country that’s been considered a war zone for decades. You know the ones that have a fit about others visiting war zones, crazy regimes, and countries whose government’s have atrocious and well publicized human rights violations. All the while their high-and-mighty-blogger-asses visit places pulling some pretty bad moves (even violating human rights), just with rulers who are much better at sweeping it under the rug and hiding it (i.e.: paying big mouths to shut the fuck up) from the international community.

In September 2017 I turned up in Eshkashim, Afghanistan as a solo female traveler with nothing planned, no fixer or guide arranged, but an idea of what I wanted to do. Within minutes of crossing the border everything was settled. I’d found a guide and was on my way to a guesthouse to begin arranging all the Wakhan permits with Malang (my guide) who I would definitely recommend to anyone headed to the Wakhan.

Malang and I.

Yes, I am fully aware Afghanistan in general is probably one of the hardest countries in the world to be a woman. However the Wakhan Corridor is a little different for women in comparison to much of the rest of the country. And while I’m on this, let’s stop feeling sorry for the women of Afghanistan, let’s respect them for what they do and deal with. They have it hard and that sucks, but I don’t think enough people realize how amazing, resilient and tough these women are. When in parts of the country you have women and girls risking their lives on the daily for something so humanly basic as an education, you know you have a country full of burqa and hijab clad bad asses.

Disclaimer: Most every country on Allah’s green Earth recommend against all travel to Afghanistan because of the decades the country has spent racked with war and let’s not forget those assholes, the Taliban. The Wakhan Corridor has remained pretty safe throughout the years, however anything could change at any time. Do your homework. Be sure you can handle this. Afghanistan isn’t a place to go for the notoriety of saying you’ve been. If you chose to go, you are going at your own risk.

Afghanistan, solo woman in Afghanistan, Wakhan corridoR, Qazideh

So what was it like to travel as a solo woman in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor?

Easy, amazing, eye-opening and mostly hassle-free. However, be prepared to rough it. This is an extremely remote chunk of Afghanistan, after all. Running water, sewer lines, hygienic standards, and central heating DO NOT exist yet here.

Most the inhabitants of the Wakhan practice Ismailism.

The Islmailis are a Shia sect that are found in the Tajik and Afghan Wakhan as well as into the Hunza Valley in Pakistan and of course scattered worldwide. In the grand view of Islam, Ismailism is pretty liberal. It’s not uncommon to see women without the headscarf on the Tajik side of the Wakhan, with that said, generally all women and teenage girls you will see in the Afghan Wakhan will be wearing a headscarf as this area is far more cut off from the world than its Tajik counterpart and in general live more traditionally. I’m not going to delve to far into what Ismailism is, because you can google that yourself. But I will say that women hold a pretty high regard in their society and are well respected. Wearing the headscarf is optional.

What did I wear?

Guess what? I DID NOT have to wear a burqa, as most think when I say I went to Afghanistan. I still chose to go the conservative, modest route. My outfit included a black pair of Elephant pants (you know, like the ones everyone buys in Thailand), a grey long sleeve shirt, and a headscarf. For cold temps (which you will almost certainly encounter in the mountains) I had a hooded sweatshirt and a rain jacket. This was the perfect outfit. Not too hot for the valleys and down below, could layer up for colder temps up higher and conservative enough to blend in.

Afghanistan, solo woman in Afghanistan, Wakhan Corridor

Don’t be shocked on arrival in Afghan Eshkashim to see some women wearing the famed blue burqa. Eshkashim is not quite yet into the Wakhan Corridor. So you will see some women taking care of business in town wearing just a headscarf as well as others fully covered in burqas. As you delve further into the Wakhan the blue burqa will become non existent.

Tip: didn’t pack something clothing wise you may use/want while here? Like a long enough top or a headscarf? Head to the bazaar in Eshkashim. You can pick up cheap clothing here easily.

Expect some stares.

No, not in a let’s-make-her-feel-uncomfortable kind of way. More out of curiosity kinda way. On any given year, the Wakhan, Afghanistan’s hoppin tourist hot spot will usually see no more than 100 foreign tourists. Being a tourist there makes you a spectacle. Being a woman makes you even more a rarity. A solo woman? You may as well be a unicorn.

Solo woman in Afghanistan, solo woman Afghan Wakhan

And yes, everyone wants a selfie with you.

Hey girl, heeeeeeey.

JK. I never was cat called once I arrived into the Afghan Wakhan, what a relief. I’ve traveled a fair amount of the world, majority of it as a solo female. Catcalling is usually something you just have to deal with, i.e. ignore most the time. But here? None.

Tip: if you do get harassed or catcalled, make a scene. Others won’t tolerate it either.

I got a view into the lives of women that male travelers would ordinarily never see.

Being a girl traveling in Islamic countries really is a treat in this sense. You get to join the women behind the curtains where no man is allowed. By the second day I lost count of how many times I had been kidnapped by a mob of women and girls to flip off all the layers and talk over bowls of shirchai.

Solo woman in Afghanistan, solo woman Afghan Wakhan

Yak milking lesson underway!

One evening this lovely lady in Aksanktich taught me how to milk a yak. Full disclosure: It was super easy, yaks have tiny teets, and we both were laughing uncontrollably.

Tip: Keep an open mind about the lifestyles here. I know some westerners that would find the lives here of women to still be, well, pretty old school. Understanding goes a long way.

And then expect to be the third gender.

Writing ‘third gender‘ makes me laugh thinking of the hoopla going on in the United States over the transgender bathroom debacle.

Now there isn’t quite the extent of gender segregation here as you can expect to see in other parts of Afghanistan and even the greater Islamic world, however you’re still viewed almost as if you were another gender. Immune from being banned from things that women ordinarily can’t or wouldn’t do. You’ll likely be invited to partake in activites that women wouldn’t typically be, but also you’ll be invited to take part in women-only events

Afghanistan. Wakhan Corridor

Having a shirchai session with the men.

On another note: Do still expect to shake hands with men, but wait for them to gesture first. In many Islamic areas of the world, unrelated men and women do not touch. A safe bet is to always put your hand over your heart and slightly bow your head. I found in 99% of cases the men reciprocated and then held their hand out to greet you.

Do expect to be asked about your husband and children.

While being a pretty liberal region of Afghanistan, women still live pretty traditional lives and typically will have large families. If you don’t wanna be questioned so much say you’re married with kids whether you are or aren’t. I always replied that I did not yet have kids and that was almost always immediately met with a ‘why not?’ It’s highly unusual for a 30 year old to not have a child here. I found a ‘maybe in a couple years‘ usually stifled off any further questions regarding reproductive planning.

Tip: Bonus points if you have pictures of your family whether it’s real or fantasy. Wakhis are always delighted to see what your life is and looks like back at home.

People are very honest here.

I, being the scatterbrain I am left my wallet with over $1,000 (yeah, don’t expect to find ATMs) sitting on a chair in the passport control office at the border. I didn’t realize it until probably 10 minutes later as I was saying my goodbyes to new Afghan friends and my guide, Malang. I walked into the office to find the Afghan border guard waiting with my wallet sitting on his desk for me to come back for it. If I did the same at home my wallet would have been emptied in mere seconds.

Expect to be treated like royalty.

The Wakhi are known for their hospitality. Even if a family has little in way to offer they will still go above and beyond (and even into debt) to treat a guest extremely well.

Tip: pick up a few supplies at the bazaar in Eshkashim to share with new friends. Even if it’s just a bag of potatoes or a stack of non bread.

Other helpful tips:

Make sure you’re up to date on vaccinations.

Outbreaks such as cholera are not unheard of. Hygienic standards are not up to par with western countries and illnesses spread fast here.

Bring any necessary medications with you.

Anything you need, bring it. Also worth having is a broad spectrum antibiotic, Imodium (back to the 8 hour Afghan colon cleanse), anti inflammatories, etc. are worth packing.

Pack layering clothing.

Even in summer you can expect near or below freezing temps high in the mountains. During the day and especially down in the valley you can expect pretty warm to hot temperatures.

Expect to get dust everywhere.

It is likely the dustiest place I’ve ever visited. Make sure and protect your electronics and bring allergy pills if you’re susceptible to dust born breathing problems.

Plan the first 1-2 days of your Afghan arrival to be spent getting necessary permits.

Several passport photos, and passport copies are needed for the various bureaucratic hoops that your fixer will likely jump through for you. On day 1 Malang took my passport and got all the copies he needed to begin the process. Day 2 I spent roughly 4 hours sitting in the Eshkashim police station handing over copies of my passport and photos to get my migration card and the hand written permits to travel further into the Wakhan. I don’t quite understand the process, but it’s just what needs done.

There was a huge meeting in Sultan Eshkashim in August 2017 to begin steps forward to consolidate this process to make travel here easier in hopes to bring in more tourists. As well as agree on lowering prices for services such guiding, pack animals, and taxis to lure in more visitors. However as it stands now, trading several passport copies around town and a lengthy visit to the police is the procedure. Plan to pay your guide/fixer $40-50 for this service. Unless of course you speak fluent Dari and wanna give it it a crack yourself, OR you plan on only visiting Sultan Eshkashim and not adventuring further into the Wakhan.

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Do you want to travel as a solo woman in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor?

This is likely to be an experience you will never have anywhere else.

Check out these posts to start planning:

How to get an Afghanistan visa.

Guides I recommend?

Solo woman in Afghanistan. Solo woman Afghan Wakhan

Me and Malang.

Malang Darya is who guided and translated for me. He’s professional and knows all the ropes, and is among the first Afghans to summit Noshaq Mountain. He runs his own company called Big and Little Pamir Travel made up of 6 guides beside himself. Shoot him an email at malang.noshakh@gmail.com or reach him at +93 794766067.

Got questions about travel as a solo woman in Afghanistan and the Wakhan Corrodor?

Ask in the comments below!

Changing the World One Liter At a Time: The Day One Response Waterbag

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Day One Response Waterbag- Providing safe and clean drinking water.

The Day One Response Waterbag

*This post is sponsored and brought to you by my partnership with the Day One Response team. Of course all opinions are my own. I do personally believe that access to clean drinking water is one of the most important causes out there.

As many of you know, I love camping and trekking whether I’m at home or while I’m traveling. I’ve camped all over Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Africa, Europe, the USA, South America and New Zealand. I’ve done many huge treks the world over. But do you know the most important thing of all that I need to tote along with me?

Clean drinking water.

Most of us from western countries take access to clean drinking water for granted. Did you know 6.3 million people worldwide lack access to safe water sources?

Millions of people die every year from consuming unclean water, and children are unfortunately the most susceptible.

This where the Day One Waterbag™ steps in and is going the length to make a difference. Day One Response is sending out Day One Response Waterbags™ worldwide to help bring safe, clean drinking water to those who need it the most.

With the purchase of every Day One Waterbag the Day One Response company will donate 600 liters of water to those in desperate need.

What is the Day One Response Waterbag™?

The Day One Waterbag™ is a backpack style water purification system that provides all four functions to purify and safely store clean drinking water.

It can hold up to 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of drinking water and purify it for safe drinking in 30 minutes. When completely full the Day One Waterbag™ bag weighs in at 10 kg (22 pounds) and with handy backpack style straps can easily be taken along with you whether camping or going on a multiday treks.

The Day One Waterbag™ and purifying tablets can provide a family of 4 with clean drinking water for up to two months!

It removes bacteria, viruses, protozoan cysts, DDT, sediments, pollutants, lead, humid acid, and arsenic from water after 30 minutes.

How to use the Day One Response Waterbag™:

 

1. Fill The Bag.

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Fill the Day One Response Waterbag™.

Simply fill the Waterbag with water from your nearest source to the fill line.

2. Add The P&G™ Purification Packet.

Open and add the P&G™ purification packet contents to the contaminated water and then close the bag.

3. Mix the contents.

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Add, mix and let sit.

Mix around the contaminated water and the purification packet for 5 minutes.

4. Wait 25 minutes.

Let the Day One Response Waterbag™ and its contents sit for 25 more minutes.

5. Drink up!

Voila! Clean drinking water.

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Enjoy clean drinking water!

More Info:

  • All-in-one patented solution
  • Closed multi-treatment system
  • Uses P&G™ Purifier of Water
  • Meets emergency drinking water guidelines
  • U.S. Marines Ranked #1 in water performance and user operation
  • Clear and simple user instructions
  • Easy to transport
  • Tested Worldwide

Want to get one of your own?

Click here to purchase your Day One Waterbag™.

The Ultimate Female Packing List

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What I Pack For My Travels

*This post contains affiliate links.

Sorry boys, this is the ultimate female packing list. Although if you just cross a few things listed here off you wonderful men travelers out there can use it too.

Over the years what I pack for my travels has morphed and evolved. I typically try to pack as light as possible* but seeing that I’ve gone photographer/blogger I’ve had to allot more space for items pertaining to that area. What I’m mostly going to talk about here is what I pack for travel in general. My very first big international trip was in 2010 to backpack around Europe and all I packed with me was my backpack, 2 tees, 1 tank, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts, 1 hoodie, 1 rain jacket, 2 pairs of socks, the shoes on my feet and undies I had on, my iPhone and a Nikon Cool Pix camera. That was it! How I wish I could go back to packing like that!

*Except that time I went to Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, Argentina and Chile on one trip. That was a nightmare to pack for as I hit every climatic zone known to human kind, and I love my winter gear and refused to ditch it. I had nearly 100lbs (45kg) worth of shit with me. 

My #1 piece of advice for packing: Pack as little as possible. If there’s something you didn’t pack and wind up needing it and you’re going somewhere that there are other humans you will likely be able to find clothing, common medications and other items fairly easily.

The Ultimate Female Packing List

What I recommend to pack and some optional item too!

Luggage

You gotta have somewhere to put all you stuff right? BTW, I am not a fan of suitcases!

  • 1 65L Backpack– I always bring my trusty Osprey backpack. I use the Ariel 65L currently. I would love to go smaller in size, but find 65L to be the perfect size for my travels that include mountaineering and long trekking adventures.
  • Backpack Raincover– Never know what kind of weather you’ll get while traveling. A rain cover is a must.
  • Backpack Travel Cover– Protect your backpack while in transport.
  • 1-2 Dry Bags– Keep all your electronics safe when you’re traveling over water (or near it)! They also can double as compression bags to cut down on wasted space. Neat huh?

Clothes

Pack as few as possible and remember you can always pick up odds and ends when you get there.

  • 2 pairs of Leggings– A friend asked me other day what my jeans size was and I said legging, I’m terrified to try to wedge my ass into jeans. Leggings are versatile.
  • (optional) 1 pair of Shorts– If I’m not going somewhere warm, or only visiting conservative countries these guys don’t make it in my bag.
  • (optional) 1 pair of harem pants– If I’m traveling to a conservative country. Comfy and take up little space.
  • 1 Pair of undies– This may be TMI, but I’ll say it here: I don’t usually wear underwear. They’re a waste of space. I only wear them when wearing a skirt. If you are an avid undies wearer I would suggest bringing a few pairs.
  • 1-2 T-shirts– I will opt for baggy longer tunic style shirts if I’m traveling in conservative countries.
  • 1-2 Tank tops
  • 1 Long sleeve shirt– Great for conservative countries and cooler places.
  • 1 Regular bra
  • 1 Sports bra
  • 1 Dress– I normally wear a maxi dress on the plane. Best ever.
  • 1-2 Swimsuits– varies depending on where I’m going. I normally go with high neck crop style tops like thisno nip slip worries.
  • 2 Pairs regular socks
  • (optional) 2 Pairs of hiking socks If I’m going to do any trekking. Hint: I usually am.

Accessories

Not totally necessary, but all things I use almost daily.

  • 1 pair of Sunglasses– You usually can pick up cheap pairs anywhere, but I do love to have at least one nice pair on me.
  • 1 pair of Eyeglasses– I have this annoying astigmatism and I refuse to wear contacts.
  • 1 Headband– To keep my annoying hair outta my face.
  • 1 Sarong– It can be a dress, a towel or a scarf! Handy to have in your purse when visiting more conservative countries and nipping in to check out religious sites. Can easily be bought on arrival.
  • Secret Pocket Scarf Tammi makes amazingly cute scarves with secret pockets that she sells on Etsy. I love mine. Great alternative to a purse.
  • 1 Sewing kit– To mend torn clothing and can be used to place stitches if injured and in a pinch.

Outerwear

Worth having if you love outdoor adventures.

  • 1 Rain jacket– A thin one that can be rolled and takes next to no space.
  • 1 Hat– I hate my hair sometimes and my head gets cold sometimes, unless I’m in the tropics.
  • (optional) 1 Winter jacketOnly if I’m going somewhere cold i.e.: Antarctica.
  • (optional) 1 Pair of rain pants Only if going somewhere really wet and cold. You can wear layers underneath and they second as snow pants in a pinch!
  • (optional) 1 Pair of glovesOnly if going some where cold.

Footwear

I normally just pack my trusty hiking boots and Crocs flats.

  • 1 pair of Hiking Boots– I tend to do a lot of hiking when traveling. I love my Merrell Moabs whole heartedly.
  • 1 pair of Ballet style Crocs– They’re cute, I can wear them in the water, wear them to a nice outing in a dress. I can’t thank my friend Corin enough for showing me these!
  • (optional) 1 Pair of hiking sandals– if planning to visit the tropics.
  • (optional) 1 Pair of muck or snow boots– For cold trips.

Important Stuff

Toiletries

I cannot recommend Lush Products enough and they’re all liquid free! # carryonlife.

  • 1 Lush shampoo bar– These shampoo bars last me months.
  • 1 Lush solid conditioner– Will last me about 3 months.
  • 1 Lush soap bar
  • 1 Lush coalface facial wash bar
  • 1 Lush greench deodorant powder– This bottle will last you forever. I still haven’t finished mine off after a whole year.
  • 1 Lush toothy tabs– Kinda weird at first but you get used to them.
  • 1-2 Lush massage bars– They can be used as lotion.
  • 1 razor handle- and 1 razor cartridge per month of travel.
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 2 Containers of floss
  • 1 Small bottle of bug spray
  • 1 Small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • 1-2 Bottles of chemical free Sunscreen
  • 1 Jar of Tiger Balm
  • 1 Package of wet wipes- Hello ‘whore bath’.
  • 1 Diva Cup– Say goodbye to tampon shopping.
  • 1 chapstick
  • 1 Small box of Bandaids
  • 1 Small first aid kit
  • 2-4 Hair ties
  • A few bobby pins
  • 1 Brush/comb
  • 1 Small container of coconut oil– You can use it for just about anything.
  • 1 small tube of super glue– can fix things with it or use to seal small cuts.
  • (optional)  Scrubba Washbag– Packable washing machine.
  • (optional) 2-4 Rolls of travel toilet paper– can easily be purchased once you’re there.
  • (optional) 1 small container of Qtips– can be easily picked up when you arrive.
  • (optional) 1 Small bottle of perfume

Make up

My make up kit will vary depending on where I’m going and what my plans entail.

  • 1 Bottle of mascara
  • 1 Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner– This stuff is AMAZING!
  • 1 Eyebrow kit– I have blonde eyebrows and dark brown hair and I am very self conscious about that.
  • (optional) 1 Bottle tinted moisturizer
  • (optional) 1 neutral colored eyeshadow

Meds

Can easily be picked up once you arrive, but this is what’s normally found in my kit.

If you take any Rx meds, bring them and enough with you.

  • Ibuprofen
  • Broad spectrum antibiotic
  • Immodium
  • Benadryl
  • Bacitracin– A heavy duty form of Neosporin
  • (optional) Antimalarial– If visiting places where Malaria is present. Know which prophylaxis you may need. Check out this handy chart from the CDC for more info. 
  • (optional) Fluconozole
  • (optional) Ginko Biloba– allegedly helps with altitude sickness.
  • (optional) Melatonin– if you have troubles sleeping.

Camping Gear

All optional, but I do camp a lot on my travels. A website that I like to shop is Back Country.

Tech Stuff

Much of this is totally optional. I’d love to take a trip and leave ALL of this shit at home.

  • 1 Smartphone– Handy for everything. Although sometimes I just turn it off and leave it off
  • 1 Delorme Inreach Explorer+– This is my favorite gadget by far! GPS, SOS beacon and text messenger all in one!
  • 1 Phone charger
  • Extra batteries for EVERYTHING– I have a tendency to wander to remote places sans electricity.
  • 1 Solar charger
  • 1 External Battery
  • (optional) 1 Laptop and charger
  • 1 External Hard drive
  • Travel Adapter Power Strip– 1 part adapter, 1 part power strip. The best of both worlds rolled into one.

Random Items:

  • 1 Combination lock– handy to lock up luggage in hostel lockers.
  • Ziplock bags– These bag boys have a zillion uses. From holding stuff to a ghetto rain cover for you camera.

Photography:

Trust me, this is all a post in itself! There is a lot to my kit, but guess what? It all fits in one small backpack. Check out what travel photography gear I carry.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Want to share you packing tips and advice? Comment below!

 

Machu Picchu Tips- See the Wonder

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What you need to know to visit: My Machu Picchu Tips.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Planning to visit Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world? My best friend Tay and I visited Machu Picchu in June of 2016, I came with low expectations and left impressed. Machu Picchu has rightfully earned its spot as one of the new seven wonders of the world. After our trip there I wanted to share some of the Machu Picchu tips we learned along the way (and even things we wished we knew but didn’t until after we arrived). Here are my Machu Picchu Tips!

Big changes to Machu Picchu starting July 1, 2017:

It has been spread through the news this month (June, 2017) that new changes will be put into place for visiting Machu Picchu. Starting July 1st tourists can only enter for a half day with an official tour guide. If you haven’t booked a guide in advance, there are official guides at the entrance who charge 100 s/. for groups of up to 4 people. Tickets will need to be purchased for the time slots of either 6am to 12pm, or 12pm to 5:30pm, however if wanting a full day at the park you can buy an entrance ticket for each time slot. From information I have read online it sounds like the tickets will remain the same prices. New rules will be put into effect as well, including the ban of selfie sticks, tripods, monopods, food & utensils, bags over 40 x 35 x 20 cm (16 x 14 x 8 in) in size, and more. To read more information on the upcoming changes read this article by Rick Vecchio of Peruvian Times. These changes are in an effort to help protect the historic site from the effects of the large volume of tourists who visit each year.

I have not yet tracked down information on how this will effect those wanting to hike up Huayna Picchu or Moñtana Picchu, if any at all. The official Peruvian Government’s Machu Picchu site referenced below in order to purchase tickets is down and has been for several days. As information becomes available I will update the following information in this post.

Buy your ticket in advance

Machu Picchu is very popular and for good reason. Since it is popular it is a ticketed site with only 2,500 tickets available each day. Tickets can be booked directly at http://www.machupicchu.gob.peThe website is available in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Italian.

As of May 2017 the current currency rate was 3.27 s/. Peruvian Sol to $1 US Dollar.

Fees are:

Machu Picchu Ticket:

Foreign Adult: 152 s/.

Peruvian Adult: 64 s/.

Children 8yrs-17yrs 77 s/.

Students with ISIC card 77 s/.

Children under 8yrs are free.

Wanna Hike? Purchase the correct ticket

Limited numbers of tickets are available for the Huayna Picchu Hike and the Montaña Picchu Hike. Huayna Picchu is available for hikes in the 7-8am time frame and 10-11am time frame. Tickets will be checked. Montaña Picchu is available from 7-8am and 9-10am. Only 200 tickets are sold for each time slot each day and they will be checked.

Tickets for either hike (include the standard entrance to Machu Picchu) are:

Foreign adult: 200 s/.

Peruvian adult: 112 s/.

Students with ISIC cards and children 8-17yrs 125 s/.

*These prices include ONE of the hikes (either Montaña or Huayna) NOT BOTH!

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The view from atop Huayna Picchu.

Book train tickets to Aguas Calientes or Inca Trail trekking tours in advance (especially in the high season)

Train tickets can be booked on Peru Rail’s website, prices are different depending on class and time of day. But I already know, it’s downright expensive.

Hiking the Inca trail is an option for getting to Machu Picchu. Different treks range from 2-8 days in durations and on average will set you back anywhere from 1470 s/. to 2615s/.($450 to $800 quoted online), ($200-400 average once in Peru) depending on the trek, duration and group size.

A cheap alternative to get to Aguas Calientes

There is a cheaper option to take a Collectivo from Cusco or Ollantaytambo up to Planta Hydroelectico and then walk for 2 hours off to the side of the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. Expect to pay about 30 s/. for a colectivo from Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria and another 20 s/. for a colectivo from Santa Maria to Hydroelectrico. From Hydroelectrico you will walk for about two hours before reaching Aguas.

If you manage to get ahold of a topographical map of the area before you leave Cusco you can opt to trek Mollepata, Cachora and Huanicapa if you’re feeling pretty adventurous.

Don’t skip Aguas Calientes

Ah, Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, the jumping off point if you will. Most travelers seem to skip over Aguas Calientes and go to Machu Picchu on a day trip from Cusco or just spend a quick night there in transit to the famed site. Aguas Calientes is a sleepy little town set in a picturesque valley with a couple attractions of it’s own including a hot spring and a cloud forest hike. I spent two nights in Aguas Calientes and wished I would have had one or two more days there to have explored Aguas a little more.

Yes, you can find cheap accommodation in Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is known to be on the pricey side in comparison to the rest of Peru which is well known as an inexpensive destination. But don’t fear, with some planning you can stay in Aguas for less. Hostel dorms can be found for as little as 30 s/. to 50 s/.($10-20) per night. There is even the Camp Municipal where you can pitch a tent for 15 s/ per night. Plan to book well in advance to find the cheapest deals on accommodation, especially when planning a visit during the peak season (May to September), you know: early bird gets the worm. Another great way to cut down on expenses is to hit the market or grocer before you leave Cusco and stock up on food. Food does cost more in Aguas Calientes (and boy is the restaurant at Machu Picchu expensive, but very good).

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Don’t forget to acclimate

Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes sit a little lower in elevation than Cusco, but don’t potentially ruin your trip by not giving yourself a few days in Cusco to adjust to the altitude. Altitude sickness is very real and can be dangerous.

Get your bus ticket (or allot enough time to walk to the park)

Roundtrip bus tickets can be purchased from a little building just across the bridge from the train station. The building has a sign that says ‘Venta Oficial de Ticket de Bus‘ on it. Adult return tickets are 79 s/. ($24), children 40 s/. ($12). The first buses leave at 5:30 am and the line to purchase tickets will be lined up long before then.

If opting to walk from Aguas Calientes plan for the walk up to take 60-90 minutes on average, and you will gain about 2,000 meters in elevation on the way up there.

Know the Park Hours

The gates to Machu Picchu open at 6 am and close at 5 pm everyday. Plan your bus or walk to the park accordingly.

Good things come to those who wait: The late afternoon at Machu Picchu. Most tourists will be at the gates as the park opens to catch that famed Machu Picchu sunrise and then already leave before 1pm. After about 2pm I felt like we almost had the park and all the llamas to ourselves, there was hardly a soul there! Plus that golden afternoon light on Huayna Picchu was to die for, not to take the glory away from the sunrise, but I was very happy we stayed open to close.

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When I posted this photo on Instagram I had so many people asking how I shot it with no one else in it but Tay. Well, because this was right as the park was closing. Late afternoon, I tell you what…(Although if you look real close on the right hand side of the picture you can see a line of people on a tour).

Machu Picchu Tickets for less

Did you know there’s an often overlooked cheaper option for entrance into Machu Picchu? There is an ‘evening’ ticket permitting entrance from 1pm to 5pm for 100 s/. per person. This is a good option for those that come from Cusco in the morning and go straight to the park and are only spending one night in Aguas Calientes before departing back to Cusco.

Best Time to Go?

May to September is the peak season and the time when Peru is most likely to have clear, more stable weather (Peru is notorious for having unpredictable weather, so expect anything any time of year.) October to April is the wet season with a tendency for more rain and a mist and sometimes even thick clouds that never break in the worst case.

Hiring a Guide

Having a guide is still not mandatory, although that may change in the future. If you would like to have a guide to take you through the park you can easily hire one when you arrive at the park. They will be vying for your attention as you approach the gate. Expect to pay around 140-160 s/. for a roughly two hour guided tour of the park for 1-2 people.

Don’t forget to bring you passport (and ISIC school ID card if you’re a student)

You will be ID’d when entering the park, make sure you have your passport on you when you present you ticket at the entrance. Anyone paying the discounted student fee must provide their ISIC student card at entrance.

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Budget Ideas:

No frills Machu Picchu budget with two nights in Aguas Calitenes tent camping not including food can be done for a grand total of 322 s/. ($99)!

Mini bus from Cusco to Ollantayambo: 15-20 s/.

Mini bus from Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria: 30 s/.

Mini bus from Santa Maria to Hydroelectrico: 20 s/.

Standard Adult entrance to Machu Picchu: 152 s/.

Two nights camping at Camp Municipal 30 s/.

Mini bus from Hydroelectrico to Santa Maria: 20 s/.

Mini bus from Santa Maria to Ollantaytambo: 30 s/.

Mini bus from Ollantayambo to Cusco: 15-20 s/.


Midrange Machu Picchu Budget with two nights in Aguas Calientes in a hostel, not including food: 710 s. ($218).

Mini bus from Cusco to Ollantayambo: 15-20 s/.

Train from Ollantayambo to Aguas Calientes: 185 s/. booked in advance in cheapest class.

Adult Machu Picchu entrance ticket incl. hike up Huayna Picchu or Montaña Picchu: 200 s/.

Two nights in Aguas Calientes Hostel: 100 s/.

Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantayambo: 185 s/. booked in advance in cheapest class.

Mini bus from Ollantayambo to Cusco: 15-20 s/.


Comfortable Machu Picchu Budget with two nights in a B&B in Aguas Calientes, not including food: 1,140 s/. ($350).

Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes: 280 s/. booked in advance in a midrange class.

Adult Machu Picchu entrance ticket incl. hike up Huayna Picchu or Montaña Picchu: 200 s/.

Hiring a guide for a two hour tour of Machu Picchu: 150 s/.

Two nights in Aguas Calientes Hotel or B&B: 150-230 s/.

Train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco: 280 s/. booked in advance in a midrange class.

*These are per person estimates. Hotel B&B estimate is the only exception, based on double occupancy.

Of course prices can go up quite higher than 1,140 s/. if you want to book the Hiram Bingham train ($447 each way depending on day!) and want higher end hotels or choose to book a full tour from Cusco.

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Just two girls, two llamas and Machu Picchu.

My last few Thrifty Machu Picchu tips:

-Book in advance for best deals on accommodation and trains.

-Prepare your own meals with market or store bought produce and goods.

-Haggle- This is almost a fine art in Peru, hone your haggling skills for the best prices in markets and on taxi rides.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Planning a trip to Peru or further afield into South America? Check out my other posts!

Peru:

Rainbow Mountain Peru with Flashpacker Connect. The lovelies at Flashpacker Connect will set you up with amazing, professional guides that are eco-conscious and knowledgable on the area.

Cusco on the Cheap: The Tambomachay to Cusco Walk. How to see four of Cusco’s nearby archeological sites in a day for next to nothing.

13 Photos That Will Make You Put Rainbow Mountain on Your Bucketlist. Eye candy that will make you wanna see it for yourself.

The Most Hilarious, Worst Travel Day Ever. Peru is a beautiful country, but I think I had one of worst days while I was there. In less than 24 hours I was in a train wreck, lost a tooth and fainted on a bus station floor. My misery is your hilarity here.

Bolivia:

10 Photos That Will Make You Book That Ticket to Bolivia. More eye-porn.

One Week in Bolivia: Still Not Dead or Mugged. Everyone kept telling me how bad Bolivia was going to be…

Galapagos:

How to Score a Cheap Galapagos Cruise! The secrets exposed! Who wants to see the Galapagos for less?

Got any Machu Picchu tips to add? Comment below or e-mail me!

Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Peru, Machu Picchu Tips, Peru, Sacred Valley, girl machu picchu

How to Get to Mendenhall Ice Caves

Mendenhall Ice Caves, Juneau, Alaska, top 10 in travel 2016

How to get to the Mendenhall Ice Caves

*Go at your own risk!

Hands down one of the most magical things in the world? Joining the iceworms* under the icy blue world of a glacier. The network of cerulean ice caves is what makes Mendenhall Glacier so unique and special. Mendenhall Glacier is a very popular tourist destination, conveniently located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau, so if you happen to be in Juneau or are planning a trip there a visit at least to the glacier is a must, but a visit to the Mendenhall Ice Caves will likely be one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see.

*Yes, iceworms really do exist!

Don’t put off a visit to Mendenhall Ice Cave for too long! The ice cave is rapidly melting, collapses from time to time and with all the shifts in climate more recently the glacier could disappear all together in a few years.

*This post contains affiliate links. 

How to get to the Mendenhall Ice Cave

*Disclaimer: There is no way to guarantee access to the ice caves, it does collapse from time to time. Ask a park ranger at the the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center for the latest condition information.

1. Go to Juneau

You must get to Juneau first. You can arrive either by air or water. Juneau is not connected to the outside world by road.

2. Head toward Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest

The glacier is located about 12 miles north of downtown Juneau. Head northwest on Egan Drive, take a right onto Mendenhall Loop Road which will turn into Glacier Spur Rd. Follow Glacier Spur until you see Mendenhall Loop Road (yes, again) on your left, turn left and then continue on it. Take a right onto Montana Creek Road. Where the road “Y”s take the right onto Skater’s Cabin road. Follow Skater’s Cabin road to the parking lot at the end. This is the beginning of the ‘West Glacier Trail‘.

3. Start the Trek to Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves

From the end of Skater’s Cabin Road parking lot, start on the West Glacier Trail and follow the trail 4.5 miles to the glacier. This is a long trek and the trail is difficult, can be dangerous in areas and is mostly unmarked. It can get slippery so be cautious where you step. This route includes bridges, hazards, loose rocks, inclines, declines and even stairs. It’s not uncommon for people to twist ankles, suffer sprains and even broken bones on this trail.

Expect the hike to take about 3.5 to 4.5 hours on average, each way. It is advisable to get an early start, especially in the winter when days are short.

3.5 Option: Rather than hike, kayak!

It’s possible to bring a kayak (or rent one back in Juneau) and kayak across the lake in the summer and land just to the western flank of the glacier.

3.75 Option: In the winter, walk across the lake

In the winter, if the ice is thick enough it is possible to walk across the frozen lake from the Visitor Center.

4. Arrive at the western flank of the glacier

Walk north along the western flank of the glacier. Be careful as the rocks and ice can be very slippery here. This is a good place to pop on your crampons.

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska, Mendenhall ice caves

Me under an ice arch on the western flank.

5. Start looking for a stream coming from the glacier

This will typically lead you to the entrance of an ice cave.

6. Start looking for the entrance into the ice cave

Glaciers are constantly shifting, changing, melting, moving and sometimes growing. When I visited the opening was quite obvious. Other visitors report having to duck down or even crawl to enter. It just depends on how the glacier has shifted.

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Inside the opening of the ice cave.

7. Head on in

Once you’ve located the entrance, follow the tunnel in. Depending on the ice you can go to varying depths into the glacier.

Mendenhall Ice Caves, Juneau, Alaska

Into the blue abyss.

8. Enjoy the Mendenhall ice caves!

The best way I can describe what being inside the ice cave is like is to say it’s what I’ve always imagined being trapped inside a sapphire would be like. The blues flicker and flash and appear to shift to different hues. You can hear the constant movement of the glacier with the occasional groan and creak. It’s somewhere that I wanted to stay in forever and run out as fast as I could- it is an eerie feeling being under a glacier, but amazing at the same time.

Medenhall Ice Cave, Juneau, Alaska

What to bring?

Hiking boots- It’s a long hike to get out here and you want to be comfortable with good ankle support. Bringing a pair of rubber boots along will be handy as well as it can be wet going into the cave.

Crampons or ice cleats. You don’t want to be slipping and sliding around on a glacier. Crampons will provide you with the most grip. Cleats will at least give you some traction. Depending on your plans Ice axes may be helpful, although not usually necessary for most visitors.

Water- It’s no brainer. It’s a long hike.

Snacks- Like mentioned with the water, it’s a long hike.

Layers and a rain jacket Juneau is notorious for rain. Layers will keep you comfortable as it will be colder up on and in the glacier. You’ll most likely get pretty warm on the hike over.

Not comfortable going on your own? Hire a guide!

Beyond AK offers tours onto the glacier, including the ice cave. If you’re coming to Juneau on a short cruise ship stop they can arrange to pick you up and get you back to the ship before departure.

Mendenhall Glacier, Mendenhall Glacier Alaska, Mendenhall glacier girl, Juneau, Juneau Alaska, Alaska

Have you been to Mendenhall Ice Cave?

Or an ice cave elsewhere? I’d love to hear about it!

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Check Out These Posts For More Alaska Travel Ideas

Surreality of the Underbelly- Mendenhall Ice Cave

The story of my 2016 visit to Mendenhall Ice Cave.

Alaska Budget Travel Guide

How to travel Alaska on a small budget.

Shrine of St. Therese

A beautiful spot near Juneau, Alaska.

Free Things to Do in Anchorage

From hikes, to markets to exhibits, everything free to do in Anchorage, Alaska.

Anchorage In A Weekend

Ideas for a two day Anchorage, Alaska itinerary.

*Since people in general are stupid and sue happy: Go at your own risk. Glaciers are incredibly dangerous places, especially if you are inexperienced. You can fall into crevasses, glaciers can collapse on top of you, you can slip and fall and much more. I’m not responsible for you injuring yourself, maiming yourself, or dying, or for any belongings or items you may lose/break out there. Be careful. If you are bound and determined to reach Mendenhall ice cave but don’t have much confidence in your glacier trekking abilities it would be wise to hire an experienced glacier guide. 

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My Travel Photography Gear

My Travel Photography Gear

*This post contains affiliate links. 

Without a doubt, whether on the blog here, or on Instagram my #1 most asked question is what travel photography gear do you use? People are always asking what Camera I shoot with, what lenses, what I edit with. Well, here it all is!

So without further ado, here are all my secrets as to what photography gear I haul around the world with me. and PS: This is my first YouTube Video!

A few years back I started becoming more and more interested in photography. Back when I was a dumbass teenager, who thought she was going to become a famous artist one day, I thought that photography was art for people too lazy to create with their own capabilities. Ie: painting, drawing, sculpting, etc….. Boy, was I wrong.

Fast forward a few years as I stand over my newly dropped Canon Powershot SX230 HS under the blazing morning Cambodian sun at Angkor Thom. It would turn on, but when I would try to take a photo it was a 80/20 to whether it was going to take a photo. The 80% is the number against me.

So I had our tuk-tuk driver who went by Spiderman quickly take us to a camera shop back in Siem Reap. This was the day, I had been promising myself I was going DSLR after the Powershot for some time.

I walked out with the Canon 600D/t3i, and that’s where it really started. I mean really, really started… the borderline obsession.

Then fast forward to 2016, here I am. Still always toting a camera around. And believe it or not, all this gear I’m about to show you (with the exception of my tripod that I hook onto the outside) fits in a pretty small backpack!

Remember though you don’t need a big fancy DSLR camera to take great photos. There are amazing photographers out there shooting with just a smart phone. To me composition is key, and proper editing is a must. Any camera is a good camera.

So here it is guys: the Travel Photography Gear behind this blog, behind my Instagram feed.

Camera Bodies

Canon 5DS-R

travel photography gear

I have to admit, I still feel like this is waaaaaaay too much camera for me. I was perfectly happy with my Canon 600D. But as a gift, Grant bought me the Canon 5DS-R. And I’ll admit I’m totally and completely in love with this camera. It is a full frame camera and it comes with a hefty price tag of $3,899 USD. Yikes. I can’t believe I now own a camera that costs nearly as much as my first car did.

Of course I’m not saying that Canon is the way to go. My first digital point and shoot was a Kodak, then a Nikon. I stayed with Nikon for a while until I received my Canon Powershot SX230 HS as a college graduation gift. I ended up choosing to go with Canon on that fateful day I broke the Powershot only because my Mom (who works in a photo lab) suggested I stay with the same brand.

My cousin shoots with Nikon along with many friends of mine. I play with Nikon cameras from time to time and they are great.

I’d love to give one of those Sony A7II mirrorless cameras a try, but out of fear of liking it and having to completely switch over- I haven’t picked one up yet. It is tempting after seeing so many extremely successful photographers- such as Gary Arndt make the switch.

Canon 600D/t3i

travel photography gear

I still lug this body around with me. In the unfortunate event of needing a back up, I like to have it with me. It’s a good camera, its been through the abuse of me learning how to use it, how to shoot in manual, how to shoot the night sky. This is a great camera to get your photography footing on. It’s a crop sensor camera, so I also will use it to give me that extra zoom with my telephoto lens on occasion.

Lenses

I only travel with three lenses. That’s it. Of course I have other’s at home- a variety of wide angles, even a macro lens… The beauty of two people obsessed with cameras living under the same roof.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR DI SP

travel photography gear

This is my go-to standard lens. I shoot lots of landscape shots on this lens. It’s the lens you’ll find on my camera most of the time.

Rokinon 14mm

travel photography gear

Fully manual and tricky to get the hang of, but this is my favorite lens of them all. It’s super wide angle- so it’s my go-to for my photos involving the night sky, especially with that f/2.8. Plus this lens has a wallet-friendly price tag for the quality it provides.

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC

travel photography gear

My telephoto and my newest purchase. I love what I have taken on this lens- which got it’s most use so far in the Galapagos.

Tamron 2x Teleconverter

travel photography gear

Not truly a lens, more of a lens accessory. This bad boy doubles the zoom on lenses you use this in conjunction with. My 70-200mm turns into a 140-400mm using the 2x teleconverter.

It does come with some downsides- Autofocus can be spotty with it, photos do turn out darker than they should so to compensate knock your f/ down a couple stops, and fully zoomed in you do lose some sharpness. The win- it’s a whole hell of a lot cheaper than purchasing a lens with zoom capabilities to 400+mm. If I shout wildlife professionally I might be swayed to upgrade, but for the less than $200 USD I spent on this, it does the job.

More Associated Gear!

Tripod

travel photography gear
A must for taking photos- especially at night! I have used both the Zomei tripod and MeFoto Globetrotter.

Battery Grip

travel photography gear

Not an absolute must, but it does come in handy when shooting in extreme cold. It holds two batteries in it. Check out battery grips here.

Neutral Density Filter

Travel Photography Gear

I’ll admit, I don’t have the best of the best, but this does the trick. I had my parents grab me a cheap set of filters off eBay a couple years ago as an Xmas gift. You can invest and buy high quality glass ND filters. Or another hack (not personally tested) is to get some welding glass sheets. I use these to take long exposure shots when the lighting is just too bright. Shop ND filters here.

Using Lens caps to hold your SD cards

travel photography gear

Lens cap card container

An oldie but a goodie- people have been doing this for ages.

Gadgets I use in Conjunction with my travel photography gear.

iPad Mini, Clamcase, SD card reader for iPad.

travel photography gear

My baby laptop! I have an iPad mini. The clamcase is a blue tooth keyboard that your iPad clicks into. Then adding the SD card reader– now you’ve got the ability to load your photos onto the Lightroom app and voila: Photo editing on the road without the bulk of bringing a laptop with you!

travel photography gear

Solar Charger

travel photography gear

If you’re the type to wander off into the great outdoors- possibly for days on end with zero access to electricity, then a solar charger is a handy item to tote along with you. Don’t buy this one pictured (by Allpowers, it sucks! I know from personal experience). I’m back on the market for a new solar charger.

Photo Storage

travel photography gear

You got a couple options here: If traveling with a lap top and the ability to transfer files over, then an external hard drive is a great way to go. If not, well- plan to bring lots and lots of SD cards.

For Underwater and Filthy Places:

Without a doubt: The GoPro! What an easy to use durable camera.

Want to Travel and Shoot Drone footage?

Try the DJI Spark or DJI Mavic Pro!

So that is what comprises my travel photography gear.

I hope this answers all of your questions!

Do you have any hacks you use? What gear do you all use? I’m always open to new ideas!

Free Things to Do in Anchorage

This post contains affiliate links.

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Eagle River Nature Center.

Free Things to Do in Anchorage

*Including Eagle River and Girdwood.

I’ve lived in, around or near Anchorage my entire life. Although I grew up not thinking it was too exciting of a place, after years of international travel I’ve come to realize how unique of a city Anchorage really is! You can hike a mountain and still be within the bounds of the city. Not 10 minutes away you can grab a beer and a meal. We have an extensive network of bike trails. Anchorage really has a lot on offer especially for outdoors lovers. And guess what makes it all the better? There a number of free things to do in Anchorage!

*Several parks and hikes mentioned here fall within Chugach State Park. Most Alaska State Parks are free to enter, however the many state parks parking lots charge a $5 parking fee per day (additional for camping). If you are an avid state parks user it is worth picking up a $50 annual Alaska State Parks Pass.

Hikes

*Hikes come with a disclaimer: many do have a $5 parking fee, however; entrance to the park is free.

Start shopping Alaska Hiking Books here!

The Coastal Trail

11 mile trail that winds along the coastline from Downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park.  Good for walking, biking, rollerblading, and running.  You can cross-country ski the trail as well in the winter.

Eagle River Nature Center

Eagle River Nature Center

*$5 parking fee

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage in Eagle River valley.  20 miles of trails maintained by volunteers. Also leads into the 21 mile Crow Creek Pass trail through Chugach State Park to Girdwood.

Hike Up Flattop

View from Flattop, Anchorage

Photo Cred: Eli Duke via Flickr

*$5 parking fee

Take the Glen Alps trailhead and follow it 1.5 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain.  Super popular trail with great panoramic views of the city.

Campbell Creek Greenbelt Trail

Runs 7.5 miles from University Lake to Dimond Blvd.  Hugs alongside Campbell creek and goes through neighborhoods.  Good for walking, running, biking and rollerblading.

Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake

Photo Cred: Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

*parking fee $5, campsite fee $15 p/n.

Hiking trails, the lake and a campground.  Hiking connects in with Twin Peaks, Bold Peaks Valley, Pepper Peak and East Fork Trails.

Eagle & Symphony Lakes

Eagle and Symphony Lakes

*$5 parking fee… if you can find an open spot.

Park at the South Fork Trailhead back Hiland road in Eagle River.  About 11 miles roundtrip to the lake and back.  Great blueberry picking in the fall.

Thunderbird Falls

thunderbird faill. eagle river. chukka. alaska. waterfall

Thunderbird falls

*$5 pakring fee.

2 miles roundtrip hike ending at the waterfalls. Short easy hike.

Baldy

Baldy Hike

Up Skyline road in Eagle River.  1.5 miles roundtrip.  Great views of the inlet and Eagle River to Anchorage from the top. This hike can be continued beyond to Blacktail for a longer trip.

McHugh Creek

*$5 parking fee

Ends at Rabbit Lake up in the Chugach Mountains.  14 miles roundtrip, suggested to camp overnight if doing the entire trail.  Uphill the entire way. Rabbit Lake can also be accessed via the parking lot at the end of Upper Canyon Road (Upper DeArmoun Rd), this is a much more gradual and calm hike.

North Fork Eagle River

North Fork, Eagle River

*$5 parking fee.

About 20 minutes north of Anchorage, on the way back to the Eagle River Nature Center.  1 mile roundtrip.  Good trail for families with little kids.  Easy with no elevation gain.  Runs along side Eagle River.

Mile-High Road

Mile-High Hike, Eagle River

Out in Eagle River, about 3 miles up Eagle River road, look for Mile High road and follow the switchbacks up until you come to a pull off and park there.  Walk past the antenna and you’ll see the start of the trail.  Good views to the ocean, and down into Eagle River valley.  Continues and goes up to to Mt. Magnificent.

Winner Creek Trail

40 minutes or so south of Anchorage down in Girdwood.  Nice hike through the forest.  6 miles roundtrip.  Leads up to two canyons.  Hand tram over the Winner Creek Gorge.

Crow Pass

Crow-pass-alaska

21 mile trek through Chugach State Park between Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood and Eagle River (the nature center).  Some people split into an overnight trip.

Bird Ridge

IMG_9299

*$5 parking fee, if you can find parking in the lot.

5 miles roundtrip, uphill the entire hike to the top.  Great views of the inlet.  Head towards Girdwood from Anchorage, about a half hour away.

Virgin Creek

Short hike through the lovely greens of Girdwood to this picturesque little waterfall. (I’ve been corrected that it’s not technically a waterfall, but whatever).

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Virgin Creek.

Wildlife Viewing

Potter’s Marsh Bird Sanctuary

Potter's Marsh

Photo Cred: Luke Jones via Flickr

Just south of Anchorage, park at the Potter’s Marsh parking Lot.  Half mile of boardwalks over the marsh to view local bird species.  Likely to see Arctic Terns, Seagulls, Yellow Legs and more birds.  Moose frequent the area too.

Ship Creek Salmon Viewing Deck

Watch salmon run through the creek while fisherman try to catch them.  Located on Whitney road in the downtown area.

Parks

Kincaid Park

Kincaid Park

Photo Cred: Paxon Woelber via Flicker

1500 acre park in southwest Anchorage.  Plenty of places to hike, bike and even cross-country ski in the winter.  Links to Coastal Trail.  Access to beaches.

Earthquake Park

Park between Hood Creek and Point Woronzof.  Commemorating the 9.2 earthquake that rocked Anchorage and caused numerous of its neighborhoods to fall into the ocean.

The Park Strip

Oldest park in the city.  In downtown Anchorage.

Point Woronzof Park

Park on then inlet near the airport.  Running and biking can be done here all summer, great place to cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter.

Museums, Historic Sites and Learning

Want to head indoors? Don’t worry! Of the array if free things to do in Anchorage there are a number indoor options.

Alyeska Roundhouse Museum

*Accessible only by ski lift or tram in winter… lift tickets are an arm and a leg, tram only tickets are $25. Accessible by hiking in summer and fall.

Museum sitting 2,280 feet above sea level.

Alaska Heritage Library and Museum

Small museum of Alaska cultural history and heritage.

Alaska State Trooper and Law Enforcement Museum

Exhibits, photographs and memorabilia on Alaska Law enforcement in downtown Anchorage.

Alaska Public Lands Building

Info and displays on Alaska’s state and national parks.

Campbell Creek Science Center

Campbell Creek Science Center

Photo Cred: Bureau of Land Management via Flickr

Outdoor science education center.  Learn about the creeks, forests, wildlife and plants around Anchorage.

Eklutna Village

Native Village on the north outskirts of the Municipality of Anchorage.  Visit the historic park to see St Nicholas Orthodox Church, the spirit houses and learn about the culture, history and traditions of the Dena’ina Athabascan people.

Arts

Love the arts? And do you love free things to do in Anchorage? You have options.

First Friday Art Walk

First Friday of every month.  Make your rounds to the local galleries checking out the artwork of the local talents.

Music in the Park

Every Wednesday and Friday from noon to 1pm at Peratrovich Park.  Come listen to local Alaska music and Alaska Native Performers.

Markets

Not the adventurous outdoorsy type? Anchorage offers a few markets to peruse and they fall into the category of free things to do in Anchorage. Although if you want to purchase you’ll have to pay, but looking is always free!

The Anchorage Market

Saturdays and Sundays off 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage in the summer.  Alaska’s largest open air market.  Eat food from local vendors, buy locally grown vegetables and buy artwork and gifts.

The Spenard Market

Farmer’s Market under the windmill in Spenard every Saturday in the summer May-September.  Buy locally grown vegetables, and goods.

Anchorage Farmers Market

Every Saturday in the summer, located off 15th Avenue and Cordova.  Come by to purchase local produce.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Anything I missed?  Contact me at adventureoflilnicki {at} gmail.com or comment below and I’ll add it to the list of free things to do in Anchorage.

Want to travel a Alaska, but you’re on a budget?

No worries! Check out my Alaska Budget Travel Guide!

Travel Alaska On A Budget

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How to Travel Alaska on a Budget

It’s no lie: Alaska is f&*%^!@ expensive. Everything in Alaska is expensive. I know, I live here. Tourism in Alaska seems to be geared to target people on high budgets and with almost zero public transportation; traveling Alaska on the cheap can be daunting . But that’s where I come in. Here’s some recommendations to help you travel Alaska on a budget as well as general information on how to travel Alaska and what kind of activities are available.

*Some links in this post are affiliate links.

Quick budget tricks:

Come Early or Visit Late– Alaska has a short summer. It realistically spans May to September at its outer limits. The tourist season falls along the Alaskan summer. Tourism isn’t in full swing yet in May, and weather is typically nice and clear, making it in my opinion the most optimal month to visit and making flights, rental cars and excursions a little cheaper. September can be a beautiful month with the change of color but it can also sprinkle a little snow from year to year as far south as Anchorage.

Visit in the Off Season- Are you into wintersports or want to chase the aurora borealis? If you’re up to the cold and snow the winter can be a rewarding and equally as stunning time of year to visit in Alaska. Not to worry though many different winter temperatures can be found around the state, Alaska spans 1,420 miles north to south (2,285km). Temperatures in the southeast can be balmy in comparison to the rigid interior and frozen north.

DIY- Yup, do it yourself. Cut down on costs by self driving, pitching a tent and preparing your own meals.

Keep your eyes peeled for Airline Sales- We already know, getting here is expensive! Compare flights on Skyscanner and keep an eye out for the best deals.

Use Mileage- You think getting here is ridiculous, try getting around Alaska. Alaska Airlines has a pretty good stranglehold on the intercity travel within the state. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta and United all fly to Alaska. Check to see if your preferred airline or a partner flies to Alaska and cash in them miles. If you have a mileage plan through Alaska Airlines many times a roundtrip ticket between two cities in Alaska will come in at 15,000 miles. Good to keep in mind.

Get Outdoors– There are endless opportunities to enjoy the nature Alaska is known for, for free! Some parking lots at recreation sites and state parks will require an on average $5.00 parking fee for the day, $10 for overnight spots.

Northern Lights Coupon Book- Many tourists swear by it, I’ve never actually purchased one, although I did have a couchsurfer leave one with me as he was leaving the state and it had some good deals in it. This book comes out each year will set you back $55 for a copy but offers some big savings on tours, hotels and more. Can be a good value depending on if you plan to book a lot of tours and hotels, etc. You can purchase one online or pick one up in Alaska. Check out their website here.

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Alaska Map. Public Domain, by Ian Mackey. Red=Roads, Purple=Rivers, Black=Railroad.

Money and costs:

You ended up here because you’re most likely looking for way to travel Alaska on a budget. Here is some general money information:

Currency: Alaska is one of the fifty nifty United States. Yes, I have to mention that because many people aren’t sure what we are. Canada? Our own country? Russia? Are all likely guesses from people. Alaska accepts the US dollar as payment, although near the Canadian border you can sometimes find shops accepting Canadian dollars.

ATMs are easily available in cities and towns, although once you get away from civilization banks and ATMs disappear.

Exchange Rate: Last updated May 2017.

1 Euro= $1.10 USD

1 GBP= $1.29 USD

1 CAD= $0.73 USD

1 AUD= $0.74 USD

1 NZD= $0.69 USD

1 JPY= $0.01 USD

1 CNY= $0.14 USD

1 RUB= $0.02 USD

Don’t want to worry about getting cash? No problem! Travelex offers good deals for currency exchange.

Costs:

Costs will vary widely depending on your style of travel and comfort level. These are all ballpark averages and should be treated as such. To give you a rough idea for planning here are some general costs in May 2017:

Gasoline= $2.88/gallon.

Campsite= Free to $10 per night.

Hotel= $150/night.

Hostel= $60/night.

Small car rental= $35/day in the winter and shoulder seasons, but average closer to $100/day in the peak time when booking closer to arrival.

Larger car/SUV rental= $50/day in the winter and shoulder seasons, but average closer to $140/day in the peak time when booking closer to arrival.

Food= $1-5 per meal if cooking for self (even less if you plan to forage or live off ramen noodle packets), $10-15 per plate at a budget restaurant/cafe, $20-30 per plate at a midrange restaurant and $30+ per plate at a higher range restaurant.

Entrance to museums, cultural centers= $10-15 per person.

Entrance to parks= Free to $10 per person. Most of Alaska’s state and national parks are free to enter. Denali charges $10 per person to enter. Many state parks with road access and a parking lot will charge a $5 parking fee.

When to Visit:

This is all heavily dependent on what activities you want to partake in and what kind of temperatures you like. With that said Alaska’s weather is a bit of a rollercoaster and highly unpredictable. Plus, it’s a huge piece of land- 663,300 mi² ( 1,710,000 km²), the biggest state in the USA and roughly about 1/5 the size of the ‘lower 48’ states combined therefore making the temperatures and weather vary widely.  YES- It’s bigger than Texas, so leave your ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ shirt at home. Note that the following seasons are according to whats to be expected in the southern part of the state. Expect winter to be longer and summer slightly shorter from the interior and further north.

Summer:

By and far the most popular time to visit. It’s safe to say the June, July and August are officially Alaskan summer, but it can arguably be extended to May and September. Summer is the warmest with long long days as the sun will either barely dip below the horizon or never go down depending on where you go. June is usually a drier warmer month with July and August typically giving more rain, though this is unpredictable.

Fall:

Most people would regard the end of August, September and to mid October Fall. Snow can fall at any time, although usually will stave off until mid to late October around Anchorage (can vary big time year to year). Temperatures tend to fall steadily as the season goes on but is still a good time of year to get out on hikes and go camping. This is more of a shoulder season and costs tend to drop and most the tourists usually have left by September. September (and sometimes if lucky into October) is a great time to get out and enjoy the changing fall colors.

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Winter:

Winter will usually last from mid to late October until mid March. These are the darkest months of the year, with December through mid February in particular, the darkest. Expect cold temps and snow. Good time to visit for winter sports enthusiasts.

Spring:

Spring usually stretches from Mid-March until April-May. The days are getting longer and the skiing is getting good as the season begins. Weather tends to be clear and warm, although it’s not unheard of to have a surprise dump of snow even into May.

Getting to Alaska:

You have three options to get to Alaska

By land:

If you have the time and are already planning to pass through Western Canada driving into Alaska is an option via the Alaska-Canada Highway. Or the Alcan as most Alaskans refer to it. This is also part of the great Pan-American Highway Adventure- the road spanning from Ushuaia, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

By Air:

The most common way to arrive in Alaska by far. Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Ketchikan all are international airports with connections to other US states as well as Canada*, Germany*, Iceland* and Russia*. US cities that have direct service to Anchorage include Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake and Seattle. Keep an eye out on Skyscanner and Expedia for deals, or cash in mileage for a ticket.

*All international flights seasonal flights to/from Anchorage and/or Fairbanks. 

By water:

An option is to take a cruise up from Seattle though the Inside Passage to Anchorage or the Alaska Marine Highway System. Shop here for Alaska cruises. The Marine Highway starts (or ends depending on how you look at it) in Bellingham, Washington (state), makes an international stop in Prince Rupert, BC, and connects the following communities by ferry:  Akutan, Angoon, Chenega Bay, Chignik, Cold Bay, Cordova, False Pass, Haines, Homer, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, King Cove, Kodiak, Metlakatla, Ouzinkie, Petersburg, Port Lions, Sand Point, Seldovia, Sitka, Skagway, Tatitlek, Tenakee Springs, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Valdez, Whittier, Wrangell, and Yakutat. It is possible to bring vehicles by ferry. To check on prices and see the route map click here. Although the Marine Highway is in a sense a form of public transport, it’s not that cheap but still can be a good option.

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Cities, Towns, National & State Parks in Alaska:

Anchorage: Largest city in the state with every amenity you can imagine. Good jumping off point for exploring South-central Alaska. Only have a couple days to spare in Anchorage? Read my Anchorage in a weekend post for ideas of what to do in Anchorage. One a tight budget? Here are free things to do in Anchorage. Visiting in the winter and are a ski/snowboard bum? Here are the free places to ride near Anchorage.

Juneau: The state capital, located in the Southeast. Great start to explore Alaska’s panhandle, Mendenhall Glacier and nearby Glacier Bay National Park near Gustavus. Read further on my posts on to see why you should include Mendenhall Ice Cave and the Shrine of St. Therese on your visit to Juneau.

Fairbanks: The golden heart city, a great starting point for Alaska’s fierce interior. Best general area to see the aurora in winter (of course you’ll want to head out of town a little ways to get away from light pollution).

Matanuska Valley: Palmer and Wasilla are the two biggest community. Lots of outdoor explorations available and also a great jumping off point for south-central Alaska. Only a 1 hour drive north of Anchorage.

Kenai/Soldotna: Good place to stop off, resupply or use as a base for adventures in the Kenai Peninsula. Other nearby communities include Seward, Homer, Kasilof and Ninilchik.

Barrow (Utqiagvik): Point Barrow, the northernmost point of the USA, where the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas meet. The annual whale harvest and celebration is an amazing time to visit.

Nome: In northwestern Alaska. Ceremonial Finish of the Iditarod.  Not reachable by road from other parts of the state.

Bethel: Small town in southwestern Alaska. Not reachable by road from other parts of Alaska.

Kotzebue: In northwestern Alaska, very remote and no road access to other parts of the state.

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Savage River, Denali National Park.

Denali National Park: Alaska’s most visited national park and home to Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). $10 per person to enter the park and camping fees do apply (anywhere from $16-30 per campsite per night). You can only self drive yourself to the Savage River campground in the summer (this is only a short distance into the park). If you want to go further in you are welcome to cycle or hike the entirety of the road or opt to pay for one of the park’s buses. The non-narrated shuttle buses run between $26.50 and $34.00 depending on distance for adults 15yo and up and free for children under 15yo. The narrated tour buses will set you back about $80 per person. There is also are also free courtesy shuttles between the sites accessible by public road (that means the cut off is Savage River), the courtesy shuttles do the following: The Savage River Shuttle, Riley Creek Shuttle and the Dog Sled Demonstration Shuttle. All Make stops at the Denali Visitor Center and Wilderness Access Center. Click here for more information from the US National Park Service. Did you know in mid to late September each year you can self drive the length of the road to Kantishna in Denali National Park? Check out my post on how to get a Denali Road Lottery Permit to find out more and apply!

Kenai Fjords National Park: Another popular stop on the tourist trail on the Kenai Peninsula. Free to enter as there is no entrance fee or camping fees.

Glacier Bay National Park: Near to the tiny town of Gustavus, a short air taxi, flight or ferry ride from the capital of Juneau. Free to enter and to camp.

Katmai National Park: That postcard picture of Alaska with the bear catching a salmon right out of a waterfall? Yeah, that’s in Katmai. Brooks Falls to be exact. No entrance or camping fees.  Camping is backcountry style and careful planning is essential because this national park is crawling with bears. The only spot to camp that is serviced is Brook’s Camp Campground and is protected with electric fences Costs: $12 per person per night June 1 through September 17 and $6 per person per night in May and September 18 through October 31. Campers are limited to 7 nights in July and 14 nights per calendar year. Group size is limited to 6.

Wrangell/St. Elias National Park: Accessible by road, biggest accessisble settlement is McCarthy. Free to enter and to camp as there is no entrance gate to the park.

Kobuk National Park: In northern Alaska and extremely remote. Known for its sand dunes. No camping or entrance fees exist, although getting here can very expensive as there is no road access. Most visitors arrive by air taxi from Bettles or Kotzebue.

Gates of the Arctic National Park:

Remote park in the north of Alaska. Beautiful treks out into the Brooks Range. No park entrance of camping fees. Accessed only by air taxis from Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot or by hike from the Dalton Highway where the eastern park boundary runs along the highway.

Lake Clark National Park:

Located on the Alaska Peninsula, just north of Katmai National Park. No roads, no campgrounds and only one maintained hiking trail. This is the backcountry. Access is usually by air taxi. No entrance or camping fees.

State Parks: There are many state parks in Alaska. Click here to view the full list. More popular ones include Chugach, Denali, Hatcher’s Pass & Independence Mine, and Prince William Sound State Parks to name a few.

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Alaska, from above!

Getting around Alaska:

Going about it on your own is going to be your best bet at keeping to a budget. The only public transport in existence is within cities. Between cities? Forget it. In the summer months there are some tourist buses that go between common points of interest, but are expensive. Another option is by train, which you guessed it can be expensive but can be a great option for sightseeing but many times is more expensive than the price of a roundtrip airfare outside the state. Very little of the landmass is reachable by road. In fact, 82% of Alaska’s communities are not on the road system, making the use of boats and planes both commonly used modes of transportation to many places in the state.

Rental Car:

Renting a car can be a cost effective way to see the state, especially if you’re traveling with others. It also gives you the flexibility to go where you want, when you want.

Buy a Car:

Buy something cheap and used, resell it at the end. This is a common tactic you see for longer term travelers in New Zealand and can be done in Alaska as well. If your plans include a longer term itinerary in Alaska this could be a great option as you will be able to get a decent return when you sell the car off in the end.

Hitchhiking:

Hitchhiking is a good way to travel Alaska on a budget. Although not recommended in the winter because of long stretches of road and bitter cold temps. Of course hitchhiking comes with risks; there can be wildlife to be wary of along roads and of course you could get picked up by someone who has motive to do something bad to or rob you. It is possible and majority of the time goes without hiccup, but be careful out there. A great place to post or look for hitchhiking opportunities is Couchsurfing. I get e-mail updates from the Anchorage page and often see people posting that they are driving from point A to point B on date C and have D seats available, or for people looking for a ride headed from point E to point F on a range of dates.

Cycling: 

If there’s a road, there’s a way! In the summer you’ll see many cyclists cruising around Alaska. Make sure to review the road rules and be cautious; plenty of Alaskans plow around in giant SUVs and are quite oblivious to anything else on the road and just like in other parts of America they’re too busy texting while driving whilst snap chatting a selfie and Facetiming. Unfortunately bicyclists are at a disadvantage in an accident here by about a metric tonne, so be careful.

Marine Highway:

No, it’s not a tunnel underwater (I once had a friend ask this when referring to the Marine Highway), it’s a ferry system connecting a few parts of the state. Not cheap by any shot but can be used as a way to get around the vast state. The Marine Highway connects Bellingham, Washington and Prince Rupert, British Columbia to many ports in Southeast AK, South-central, AK and the Aleutian Islands.

Flights:

Depending on where you want to get to in Alaska, flying may be your only option. Alaska is largely inaccessible. Alaska Airlines, Ravn Air, Penair, air taxis and several charter flights connect Alaska’s towns, cities and villages. Larger airports served within the state are Aniak, Cold Bay, Barrow (Utgiavik), Bethel, Cordova, Deadhorse, Dillingham, Homer, Kenai, Kind Salmon, Kodiak, Kotzebue, McGrath, Nome, St. George, St. Paul, Sand Point, Sitka,  Unalakleet, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and Valdez. Keep checking on Skyscanner and Expedia for deals. Air taxis are your best bet of getting to very remote places.

Accomodation:

Yet another area that can be expensive, but if your willing to tent it or stay at a strangers place you can save big time on sleeping arrangements. There are very few hostels and guesthouses in Alaska. If you plan to go remote and away from cities, towns and major tourist centers indoor accommodation options can be non existent.

Camping:

There are countless opportunities to camp in Alaska! It’s not only a great way to save, but also gets you outdoors in nature. Some popular hikes allow free camping along routes (no cost), larger parks and national parks may have designated camping sites and will on average range from $10-$30 per site, per night. There are privately owned camp sites as well around the state. You can expect fees to be higher and may include amenities such as electricity and water.

Hostels:

Mostly found in cities or towns. Expect to pay in the $40-100 per night range.

AirBnB:

AirBnb gained a lot of popularity over the last couple years. I’ve had in general good experiences using it. Click my link here to sign up for AirBnB and receive $20 off your first booking!

*I do get credits toward my bookings if you sign up using the above link. Upon signing up you will get your own link that you can share with friends that will get you credits.

Public use cabins:

There are many public use cabins available around the state. Fees can vary from free to over $60 per night. Check out what cabins are available in state parks here.  If you join the Mountaineering Club of Alaska and pay the $20 yearly membership you can have access to seven beautiful little cabins scattered through the Talkeetna & Chugach Mountains. A word to the wise: many of the public use cabins book up far in advance especially for the summertime. Plan to book months in advance, but you can always check for last minute cancellations. The Mountaineering Club cabins are generally on a first come, first serve basis.

Couchsurfing:

I have used Couchsurfing quite a bit in my travels. If you don’t know what it is; Couchsurfing is a website where you can look for people offering free accommodations in places you plan to travel or you can opt to host travelers if you’re at home. I have both surfed and hosted on numerous occasions and have had all positive experiences, in fact most the people I have met through Couchsurfing still keep in touch and have even visited and met up with me again! Sign up for your Couchsurfing account here. Couchsurfing can be perfectly safe, read on to find out more on safety and more info in my post on Couchsurfing.

On etiquette: In most cases where I have surfed, I usually offer to buy groceries and help prepare meals for my hosts since they are after all, letting me stay for free. Everyone I have hosted in my home has always showed up with a bag of foods to prepare a meal with. This isn’t a must-do, but it is a nice offer. You can always bring small gifts from home to thank guests as well. Be creative. 

Hotels & Lodges:

Hotels can be found in most areas that tourists venture, unless you plan to get off the beaten path. Hotels typically are expensive and will run a minimum of $100 per night. Many hotels and lodges that cater to tourists come with a price tag much higher.

Activities:

There are endless activities to get out and explore in Alaska. These can range from free to thousands of dollars.

Hikes:

The trekking options in Alaska are endless! Most are free (may have a parking fee for use of car lots). Good websites to check out for hiking trail information are Alaska.org, Alaska Hike Search and All Trails.  Like to have a book in hand? Check out these books with information on Alaska hikes.

Fishing:

Alaska is known for its world class fishing. Whether you want to fly fish from the bank of one of our famous rivers or charter a boat to catch some delicious wild halibut in the open ocean, Alaska has it all! Apply for you Alaska fishing license online here. You can also pick up fishing licenses and tags at most grocery stores and even some gas/petrol stations around the state. Fishing charters can range between $100 to $350 or more.

Explore a glacier:

With an estimated 100,000 glaciers (only 616 have actual names) around the state you have endless opportunity to get out and enjoy at least one! Alaska has a number of easily accessed glaciers that you can almost drive a car right up to view. Check out this list of Alaska’s roadside glaciers. Other great ways to see glaciers are by longer hikes, flightseeing & heli tours.

*Glaciers can be a dangerous and treacherous place. People do get injured and killed by them. Glaciers can calve, people fall into crevasses and more. If you choose to walk out onto, ice climb, go ice caving, etc. you are taking your life into your own hands. Go at your own risk.

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Chasing the Aurora: Predominately a winter activity. Head to Fairbanks and the surrounding areas for the best viewing opportunities. The months of March and September are typically when they are the most active and the cold isn’t too bitter either! Aurora can be seen all over the state. just head to an isolated dark place away from city lights. Watching the northern lights dance is always free, unless of course you opt to take an aurora tour, and remember that this is no guarantee you will actually see them. Aurora is difficult to predict and weather needs to be clear to see them.

Ski/snowboarding:

If you plan a winter or spring visit hit the slopes! There are several resorts around the state, the biggest of which is Alyeska Resort in Girdwood about 40 minutes south of Anchorage. Girdwood is regularly ranked as one of the best ski towns in the world. You can find lifts operating at Hilltop Ski Area and Arctic Valley in Anchorage; Eaglecrest on Douglas Island near Juneau; Aurora Ski Land, and Moose Mountain near Fairbanks; Mount Eyak in Cordova. Numerous backcountry operators around Alaska can take you out on skiing and snowboarding excursions around the state. If you are experienced you can go into the backcountry without a guide at your own risk. Having avalanche training is extremely advisable as well as a shovel, probe and beacon and of course knowledge of how to use them. Shop for outdoor and ski gear here! Always go with others and check avalanche conditions before you go.

*Skiing and snowboarding are all at your own risk, even at a resort. Avalanche danger is very real. Many people die every year in avalanche and ski/snowboard related accidents. Avalanches can occur at any time, even when conditions appear to be safe. You can die out there and/or be incredibly injured.

Mountaineering:

There are plenty of mountaineering options in Alaska. Hello! you know the highest peak in North America is here right? Yup, that would be Denali. Most mountaineering trips in Alaska are not to be taken lightly and many are very treacherous. For example Denali has the biggest vertical rise of any mountain with a base above sea level on Earth, even in summer temps can dip far below the freezing mark and avalanches are a real worry. Many mountaineers prep themselves for months before climbing Denali. Another famous but rarely summited peak is Mt. Foraker, one of Denali’s neighbors and is basically to Denali what K2 is to Everest. More technical and more difficult than their high flying neighbors. I personally know someone who has died on Foraker.

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Ice climbing:

Plenty of ice climbing chances around the state in the winter and even year round on several glaciers. This can be quite dangerous. If you have your own equipment ice climbing can be enjoyed in most places for free. Several companies offer ice climbing tours that you can expect to pay over $100 per person, per day for.

Fishing:

Alaska’s fishing is world class. From combat fishing on the Kenai to reeling in 100+ lb. halibut out in the sound, we got it all. Apply for an Alaska fishing license here.

Kayaking:

A popular activity for Alaskans and tourists alike. With all the lakes, rivers and coastline Alaska has there are countless kayaking trips to be had. Kayaking tours are offered and usually average in the $100 range per person.

Mushing:

Are you an Iditarod fan? There are a few companies offering tourists their chance to mush a dog sled.

Glacier cruises:

A great way to view Alaska’s glaciers from the comfort of a ship. $60 per person and up. Some do include lunch and can have transportation to/from hotel for an extra charge.

Flightseeing:

Personally if I recommended anywhere to splurge on you Alaskan travels it would be for at least one flightseeing tour. This is probably my favorite angle to view Alaska from. Prices can get quite expensive, but it offers you a very unique way to see the state’s beautiful sites. Expect to pay $150 and up per person for a fixed-wing airplane flight tour, $350 and up per person on helicopter tours. Some tours include landings on glaciers, lakes, etc.

Cycling:

Alaska, particularly the Anchorage area has a great network of bike trails.

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Wildlife Viewing:

Bears, Moose, Dall Sheep, Caribou, Musk Ox… the list goes on. Hiring a guided tour can prove costly, some costing $400 per day! Don’t worry wildlife doesn’t charge a fee themselves and with a little luck can even be viewed while keeping your eyes peeled during long road trips. A great place to view wildlife is in Denali National Park on a bus tour which would set you back about $80 per person and will stop for wildlife so you can pour out and take photos or watch through binoculars.

Cultural Activites: 

Want to learn more about Alaska Native People’s traditions, culture, history, and languages? Check out the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage (Admission: $24.95 adult, $16.95 child) and the Anchorage Museum (Admission: Free for Members of the museum, $15 adult, $12 AK residents, $10 seniors, $10 students, $10 military, $7 children age 3-12yo and kids 2yo and under are free). In Barrow (name recently restored to Utqiagvik)  you can find the Inipiat Heritage Center ($10 adults, $5 students, $5 child, Seniors and Children 6 & under are free).

*Enjoy and partake in these activities, but remember: At your own risk. You can die or be injured doing any of these activities. 

Eat:

Alaska has some damn good food, especially when it comes to seafood. Your best budget option for eating is to stop by a grocery store and stock up on your own food and supplies. If cuisine isn’t you’re priority your money can last a bit longer in Alaska by preparing your own meals. Depending on where you’re going and what your plans are there may be no restaurants in your path anyways.

In most cities Carrs, Fred Meyers, Walmart and Target chain stores can be found. There are always locally ran food stores and or general stores as well to purchase goods from.

Foods to eat before you leave:

Fresh Alaska salmon (especially Copper River Red)

Fresh Halibut

Alaskan King Crab

Blueberries (sorry, only available in the late summer & fall)

Reindeer Sausage

Alaska has several great micro breweries!

If you happen to be around Anchorage on the weekend in the summer months, stop on by the Anchorage Market and Festival at 741 E 13th Ave. Several food vendors from around Alaska offer up some yummy Alaskan dishes (and some from the outside too). On Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays check out the similar Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market in Fairbanks at 2600 College Rd.

In most cities you can find restaurants serving up popular dishes from all over the US and the world. Alaska has a lot of good sushi restaurants. Some of my personal favorite restaurants in Alaska include: Moose’s Tooth, Glacier Brewhouse, 49th State Brewery, Double Musky, Silver Gulch, and Mile 229 Parks Highway Restaurant. These are just a few, of course there are many many more!

Foraging:

Yes it’s possible, although mostly limited to summer months to forage for your own food! It can be challenging but it is an option for those really looking to live off the land and save money. DON’T FORAGE ON PEOPLE’S PROPERTY! They tend to get pissed, and many Alaskans have guns and might shoot. Here a couple books to check out:

Safety:

Alaska can be a wild place.

Take your usual precautions when in towns and cities that you would in cities elsewhere in the world. Note that Alaska does have an extremely high rate of violent crime and sexual assaults, abuse and violence. Anchorage especially is particularly rough as of recent. Violent crime has always been high here, but seems to be elevating at a staggering level. Be careful.

Much of Alaska is wild, remote and treacherous. Attacks by wild animals do happen but aren’t common. Always make lots of noise when in the wilderness to help ward off animals, they are usually more scared of you than you are of them and it is always advisable to go as a group or at least with a buddy.

Natural disasters and forces of nature can and will kill you in Alaska. Alaska is very prone to Earthquakes, extreme cold temperature, avalanches, wildfires, tidal waves, treacherous roads and much more will not hesitate to maim or kill you.

Alaska’s weather is horribly unpredictable. You can even have extreme cold as well as extreme heat. Always be prepared, always bring layers and check the forecast but expect the worst. The weather can and will kill you.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

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Pamir Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know To Visit Tajikistan’s GBAO

Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, Pamir, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide, Pamir Highway, M41

The World’s Most Epic Road Trip: Pamir Travel Guide

*This post contains affiliate links.

The Pamir Highway, the Bam-i-Dunya, the Roof of the World, officially the M41. Bone crushing roads, vast remoteness, low oxygen, high altitude passes, cold nights and warm souls…. Not for the faint of heart. The Pamir Highway is about as adventurous as it gets! Keep on reading to find everything you need to know to prep you for Pamir travel.

The Pamir Highway is the second highest highway in the world, only under the Karakoram Highway in nearby Pakistan. Get ready for high altitude passes, the elusive Marco Polo sheep, unbelievable hospitality, sheep herder traffic jams, broken pavement, sky scraping mountains and views straight into the Afghani Wakhan, this is the famed M41.

I am also including information on the greater GBAO region and activities to be had in the region in this post in addition to the Pamir Highway.

Wanna join an awesome expedition in 2018 in the Pamirs?

Yours truly will be leading a high altitude expedition in The GBAO region of Tajikistan, Xinjiang region of China and the northern valleys of Pakistan. I will be taking a small group of you adventurers on the expedition in June 2018. Click here to read more about the trip and sign up!

LOCATION:

Pamir Highway Route

The Pamir Mountains take up a vast amount of Tajikistan’s Kohistani Badakshan- Better known by its former name: the GBAO (Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast). The Pamir Highway is the artery connecting this region with the rest of the world. The beginning of the highway is somewhat disputed between Dushanbe, Khorog, Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan), and Termiz (Uzbekistan) and all agree that Osh, Kyrgyzstan is the other end of the highway. The above map shows that Mazar-i-Sharif and Osh are the true terminus’ of the M41. I personally started my trip from Dushanbe and went up to Osh. It is very popular to do this road trip in reverse- starting in Osh and ending in Dushanbe or even doing it as a loop from Osh back up to Osh (this route would take you up through northwest Tajikistan and back into Kyrgyzstan in the end). The GBAO accounts for 45% of Tajikistan’s landmass, but only 3% of its population.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

Money:

It’s advisable to stock up on cash in either Dushanbe or Khorog if you are starting the Pamir Highway from within Tajikistan. If starting the journey from Osh, Kyrgyzstan you can stock up in Osh or even Bishkek if passing through. Some Kyrgyz ATM’s even dispense US Dollars (even better is to just have the cash already when you leave home if possible). US dollars are widely accepted, Euros and Russian Roubles generally will be taken as well. It is not uncommon for ATMs to be out of money in Tajikistan. The local currency in Tajikistan is the Tajik Somoni. The Somoni’s value seems to fluctuate, sometimes vastly.

Updated and revised! (January 2018) the exchange rate is:

$1 USD=8.81 TJS

€=10.51 TJS

£=11.93 TJS

$1 AUS=6.89 TJS

$1 CAD=7.07 TJS

1 RUB=0.15 TJS

If you want to read up more on money matters head on over to the Tajikistan Travel Guide

Visas:

Many countries can now apply for an E-visa, making the process extremely simple. Refer to the map below to find out if you’re eligible for an E-Visa, Visa On Arrival, Visa-Free Entrance or if you will need to obtain a visa from an embassy prior to arriving.

Visa Policy of Tajikistan, Pamir Travel Guide

Permits:

In order to visit the Pamir Highway which cuts through the GBAO (Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast) you need a GBAO permit! You can simply apply and pay for it at the same time you apply for your E-visa. If you don’t apply for the GBAO permit with your visa you’ll have to waste time attaining it from the OVIR office in Dushanbe. There are a few places in the GBAO that you need additional permits to visit, that includes: Zorkul, Lake Sarez and Tajik National Park. Click here to skip to the Permit Section of the Tajikistan Travel Guide.

Food:

The Pamir Highway is long with vast stretches of nothingness between settlements and towns, which is part of the allure. This can make dining a challenge. Simple meals can be had in homestays with dinner and breakfast typically being included in the cost of a night stay. If biking the length of the Pamir Highway or wanting to prepare your own meals there is a large bazaar in Khorog (pricy by Tajik standards) and a very limited small bazaar in Murghab (very expensive by Tajik standards) If starting from Dushanbe there are several markets around the city to stock up, on the way to Khorog from Dushanbe. Supplies can be purchased in Kulab (large bazaar), Kala-i-Khumb and Darvaz. Further along the Highway very limited supplies can be picked up in Bulunkul, Alichur, Murghab and Karakul. Brush up on you Russian and ask the locals. You’ll likely find yourself wandering into what looks like a house to buy some snickers bars, noodle packets or expired beer at very least. If you take the Wahkan corridor from Khorog, usually asking around town can get you the same in Ishkashim, Vrang, and Langar. You may occasionally find children in the Wakhan selling baskets of fresh picked apples in the afternoon after school for next to nothing. Chaikhanas (teahouses) can be found in Kulab, Kala-i-Khumb, Darvaz, Khorog, Dasht, Ishkashim, Vrang, Langar, Bulunkul, Alichur, Murghab and Karakul. Although many Chaikhanas in small settlements look like a home to an outsider, so ask around if you’re on your own without driver or guide to figure out where to go. Bigger towns, such as Darvaz and Khorog even have restaurants. Food will typically include the usual Tajik fare when traveling in the the Wakhan, Bartang, Shokhdara and Ghunt Valleys. Once into the eastern Pamir the population becomes predominately Kyrgyz nomadic people. In Alichur, Bulunkul, Keng Shibur, Murghab and Karakul expect to still find the usual Tajik fare with the a Kyrgyz nomadic twist. You will begin to see more yak products served, like yak’s butter and yak yogurt.

If you are a vegetarian, need not fear! Many homestay owners will ask if you are ‘vegetarianets (male)/vegetarianka (female) or sometimes they’ll just say veggie? There are enough foreign vegetarians that have traveled the region that many people are aware that vegetarians do exist, they’re not unicorns. A good phrase to learn in Russian is ‘Ya vegetarianets’ if you are male and ‘Ya vegetarianka’ if you are female. To say ‘I don’t eat meat’ in Russian, say ‘Ya ne yem myasa’. Just get used to the fact that your meals will genrally consist of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and bread. Vegans will struggle a little more, but it is possible to just tell your hosts ‘Nyet Malacca’ meaning ‘No milk. ‘Nyet yaytsa’ means no eggs in Russian. The word in Russian for vegan is ‘Vegan” for men and ‘veganka’ for women.

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When to Go:

The best time to do a trip through the Pamir Highway would be from June until the end of September. For trekking July through mid September will offer you the best weather and conditions. July to August is considered to be the summer months here. It is possible to adventure along the Pamir Highway outside these months, although certain times can be very challenging. Fall is in September-October and offers stunning colors, the weather tends to get on the cold side into October. November to March is winter and will be the most difficult. Expect heavy snowfall and temps to dip below freezing. Spring time falls between April and June. Trekking at lower altitudes is nice this time of year as the plant life is nice and green. However this is the riskiest time of year in way of avalanche danger at higher altitudes.

Gear:

This is all dependent on what your plans are for visiting the Pamirs. If you plan to do multi day treks: a tent, a good warm sleeping bag (think cold nights in the mountains), small camp stove, water purification system, backpack, layered clothing, hiking boots, hat, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, and trekking poles are all a good idea to bring into the wilderness with you. There are some nice day hikes and overnight hikes to be had where you can spend the night in a homestay (such as Jizeu) where you don’t need to bring much beyond maybe a small pack with a change of warm clothes and a water bottle. For trekking I carry the Osprey Aura 65L backpack and find it to be quite comfortable. Equally as important is a good pair of hiking boots, the Merrell Moab is my person fave. If you need camping supplies it’s best to pick them up in either Dushanbe or Osh before you take off.

Guides:

There are guides that lead tours in the Pamirs, as the Pamirs are Tajikistan’s #1 tourist attraction. Contact PECTA (Pamir Eco Cultural Tourism Association) to arrange guides and tours. Caravanistan and Indy Guide can both arrange tours for you as well. You can check out the Facebook Page and contact Women Rock’in Pamirs, Tajikistan’s first female tour guides!

Language:

Tajik is the official language which is nearly identical to the Farsi spoken in Iran and Dari spoken in Afghanistan. Pamiri (also called Badakshani) languages are spoken throughout the region. Wakhi, Rushani, Bartangi, Oroshor, Khufi, Shughni, Sarikoli, Yazgulyam, Vanji, Munji, Yidgha, Sanglechi, Ishkashmi, Zebaki are all languages that fall under Pamiri, with Pamiri considered to be a dialect of Tajik. Russian is widely spoken as Tajikistan was a former region of the Soviet Union. It is possible to hire English as well as German, French, etc. speaking guides if need be.

Getting to the Pamirs:

You can either start from or end in Osh, Kyrgyzstan to/from either Khorog, Dushanbe, Mazar-i-Sharif (AFG), Termiz (UZB). The most usual is for travelers to start and end in Dushanbe and Osh (or reverse).

Flights:

You can fly into Dushanbe or Osh easily. Mazer-i-Sharif is reachable by flights via Turkish Airlines, Emirates and Fly Dubai. You can easily fly into any of Uzbekistan’s big cities and begin the trip via Termiz. There one flight per day between Dushanbe and Khorog and back, although make sure to allot up to two extra days in the event of delays. The most recent information (2014) found online was via Carivanistan with prices stated at $100 per person each way. Skip here to read more information about the Dushanbe-Khorog flight.

Private Car Hire.

The average going rate the summer of 2016 for the hire of a Landcruiser with a driver was $0.80-$0.90 per km. Drivers will usually quote you in USD and will gladly accept them too. I was lucky to meet a driver who offered to do the trip for $0.70 per km, and I immediately accepted. Always negotiate and/or agree to a price before departing. There are many different routings of the Pamir Highway which can make the cost of your trip vary widely. For most the trip connecting Dushanbe to Osh via the Wakhan will come in around 1,200-1,500km give or take.

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For reference, here is a rough estimate if planning to hire a driver for legs of the trip:

Dushanbe-Khorog: $270/2380 TJS.

Khorog-Murghab: $270/2380 TJS.

Murghab-Osh: $350/3090 TJS.

When hiring a private car, your driver will expect a tip.

*Note that these prices are per car and therefore can be divided up amongst a group of you.

Shared Taxi.

This may require a little haggling, but here are some points of reference.

Dushanbe-Khorog: $39/345 TJS.

Khorog-Ishkashim: $5/44 TJS.

Ishkashim-Langar: $7/62 TJS.

Khorog-Murghab: $20/177 TJS.

Murghab-Osh: $20/177 TJS.

*Anyone with more accurate transportation costs, please e-mail me and I will update this section!

Cycling.

More than any other mode of transport you’ll probably meet and see more cyclists than cars, trucks, 4×4’s and walkers for travelers on the Pamir Highway! Cycling this highway will require being in good fitness and some smart planning as there are stretches where you may go a few days with no access to bazaars or shops or even water sources.  Many cyclists are doing the Pamir Highway as part of a greater cycling trip spanning from western Europe to the eastern seaboard of Asia or Southeast Asia.

If you plan to go the Pamir Highway via cycle, check out these blogs for more information as I didn’t personally cycle it on my 2016 trip in Tajikistan.

We Love Mountains.

Caravainstan.

Hitchhiking:

It is possible to hitchhike the Pamir Highway, be well prepared with enough food and water to span you a few days, ample clothing layers as it can be cold and windy here even in summer as well as camping equipment. There may be times where you don’t see a vehicle for hours or even days at worst case. Bring cash to offer to your driver as this is usually expected around this part of the world.

Highway Routes:

Just like Central Asia and the Silk Road, there’s no one route. There are several, let’s break it down:

Dushanbe to Khorog:

You can take Two different routes between Dushanbe that converge in Kala-i-Khumb and then continue on to Khorog, Three if you want to count the flight between the two cities.  Expect anywhere between a 14 and 20 hour adventure if going via the more common Southern Route by car. Expect substantially longer if planning to go by way of the Northern Route due to broken roads.

The Southern Route:  This is the more common route and usually the only land option open in the winters. If going by shared taxi from Dushanbe (same can be said for going the opposite direction) you’ll likely blast on through the entire route from Dushanbe to Khorog in one go with a few short stops for the toilet and snacks. If going by private car hire, your own vehicle, hitchhiking or cycling: From Dushanbe you will first head east to Vahdat and from Vahdat begin heading south. Shortly after Vahdat you’ll find yourself at the beautiful Nurek Dam, a good place to take a break and a photostop at the viewing pull off. From Nurek continue south to Kurbon where you’ll veer east again toward Kulab, Tajikistan’s third largest city and home to Mir Sayid Ali Hamadani Shrine. Kulab is a good place to stop off for lunch or to stock up on food supplies at the bazaar. Following Kulab you’ll begin the climb into the 2200m Shurabad Pass. On the way up Shurabad you’ll get to encounter your first GBAO checkpoint (or last if coming from Osh). The descent out of Shurabad Pass is a colorful one with orangy-red mountains and views to the Panj River and into nearby Afghanistan. You will follow along the banks of the River Panj with jaw dropping scenes of Afghan villages perched on riverside, rocky landings until you get to Kala-i-Khumb/Darvaz. If you going by private car hire Kala-i-Khumb/Darvaz are good options to spend the night.  There are restaurants, a hotel, homestays and shops in Kala-i-Khumb/Darvaz.

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Nurek Reservoir.

The Northern Route: Snow-covered most the year and typically closed from October thru May. Head toward Garm where the rods turn south toward Labi Jar and on to Tavildara. Once past Tavildara there are several places where you may need to ford the river as many bridges are broken making this route therefore difficult. There are amazing views to be seen especially if going from Dushanbe to Khorog (eastbound). After climbing into the Sagirdasht Pass you will then descend onto Kala-i-Khumb. (I’ve not taken the northern route yet, but have heard that it is very scenic from travelers who have).

Continuing from Kala-i-Khumb to Khorog: From Kala-i-Khumb the M41 continues south along the River Panj and winds into the Vanj Valley where at the opening (from the Dushanbe side) you’ll find yourself at another GBAO checkpoint.

Pamir Highway Side Trip- Fedchenko Glacier: At the village of Vanj you can turn north off the M41 and head to Poi-Mazar where the day hike to and out of the Fedchenko Glacier- the world’s longest glacier begins. There are options for homestays in the Vanj valley at Kholov and at Dursher. Longer trips can be arranged onto the Fedchecko Glacier. Check out this video of 5 skiers who traversed the monster glacier.

From Vanj to Khorog you’re in good luck as this is the smoothest stretch of road. 90 km in to the 172 km drive between Vanj and Khorog you’ll find yourself at the village of Rushan. From Rushan side trips can be done into the Bartang Valley and beyond.

Pamir Highway Side Trip- Bartang Valley: One of the wildest mountain valleys in the Pamir. The Bartang Highway can even be done as an alternative route to the traditional Pamir Highway. The highway connects Rushan in the south all the way up to Karakul in far northeast of Tajikistan. Although the Bartang highway is widely known for its bone-crushing roads. Depending on the condition of this road it may or may not be passible. 4×4 is the most comfortable way to travel the highway, but local marshrutka do make the journey at times. There are spots where you’ll likely need to ford the river, and it’s not uncommon for parts of the highway to crumble into the river. Every now and then a crazy motorbike will make it the whole way as well. Cycling the Bartang highway is an option as well. The Bartang Highway is home to numerous jumping off points that we will discuss later, such as: Lake Sarez, Grum Grijimaillo Glacier, Jizeu Valley, Khafrazdara Valley and more.

Pamir Highway Side Trip- Jizeu Valley: One of those most popular treks in the GBAO. Day hikes, overnighters and multi-day treks can be done here. Jizeu Valley is accessed via the Bartang Highway.

Rushan is home to a couple shops, a decent functioning hotel, a homestay, a petrol station and a couple Chaikhanas. It is possible to organize transport from Rushan up to the Bartang Highway to get dropped at the cable bridge to Jizeu Valley. If wanting to do more extensive travel up the Bartang Highway via car hire its best to head on to Khorog to take care of that first. Just 65 km separate Rushan from Khorog.

The Flight:  The flight can be difficult to arrange as you can’t just go online and book a ticket. There’s supposed to be one flight each direction between Dushanbe and Khorog each day, but if weather is not perfect they will ground it. If the flight doesn’t fill up they will usually cancel due to insufficient passengers. You will need to get on the list at the Tajik Air Office located at Nissor Muhammed 5, just across from the ‘Green Market’ in Dushanbe. The last I could find was updated in 2014 on Carivanistan. Tickets were going for $100 USD per seat each way, with only 17 seats available. This is a thrilling flight in an unpressurized plane that goes through, not over the mountains. If the flight the day prior to yours was canceled due to weather, those people will have priority over you. Taking the flight could actually take you extra time or days to get out due to possible delays, so keep that in mind. It is recommended to budget at least two extra days if trying to go by flight. Even then, it’s wise to have a backup plan to go overland if need be. If going the other direction, from Khorog to Dushanbe tickets can be purchased at the Tajik Air office across the main road from the airport terminal. For your information, no one at the Tajik Air offices speaks English, or other European languages. So unless your decently confident in you Russian, Tajik or Persian language skills it may be helpful to bring someone with you that can help translate for you.

Khorog to the Junction of the M41 and the Wakhan Corridor Route.

You have three options to get between Khorog and where the three routes nearly meet up near the Khargush Pass and the turn off the M41 to Bulunkul. They are via the Ghunt Valley (the true Pamir Highway), via Shokhdara Valley or via the Wakhan Valley.

Ghunt Valley: This is the true M41 route. A stark valley that winds up into dramatic snow-capped peaks.The Bachor trek (goes into Tajik National Park) can be accessed via the turn-off at Varshedz. Eventually as the road follows the river you will end up at the hot springs of Jelandy and then climb up and over the Koi-Tezek Pass and descend toward Bulunkul.

Wakhan Valley: Probably the most beautiful route and the most popular. Gaze on to adorable villages perched on the edges of the Afghani side of the Pamir River, cross through picture perfect villages on the Tajik side of the steep valley walls and get the occasional glimpse of the high flying Hindu Kush (remember the Wakhan Corridor is extremely narrow, giving you the ability to see not only into this remote stretch of Afghanistan, but Pakistan as well). The Wakhan Valley is dotted with old ruins and even a hot spring. The Wakhan Valley route will take you through the the Beautiful Garam Chashma Hot spring, the stunning Dasht village, the largest village in the area of Ishkashim, access to the Qaaakha Fortress in Namadgut, into Darshai where a trek up into the gorge can be done, the best preserved ruin in the area: Yamchun Fortress near to the Bibi Fatima Hotspring, the ancient Buddhist Stupa in Vrang, the old city ruins of Kala-i-Panja in Zong, eventually leading onto the lovely village of Langar and the last village of the Wakhan (or first if coming from Osh) of Ratm. Leaving Ratm you will being climbing into the high altitude Khargush Pass, here you will encounter another GBAO checkpoint. From this checkpoint you can either head east to Zorkul (that is, if you’ve secured a permit at the PECTA office before leaving Khorog), or continue north into the Khargush Pass to eventually meet back up with the M41.

Wakhan, Tajikistan, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide

The Wakhan Valley. The Pamir Highway is the narrow divide between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Shokhdara Valley:  Accessed via the Roshtqala Road from Khorog, it pretty much sits in a valley between the M41 and the Wakhan Valley Route. This route will take you into seldomly visited villages. From here you’ll have amazing views of Pik Engles and Pik Karl Marx. Homestays can be found in Roshtaqala, Vezdara, Sindev, Shohirizm, Javshanguz and Bodomara. This is a valley with many ideal camping opportunities as well.

Bulunkul to Murghab:

For this stretch there are two route options, the M41 or off roading between Zorkul or Chatyr Tash/Shakhty to Shaimak up to Rangkul and back over to Murghab.

Bulunkul is a lake and small village just north off the M41 near where the three routes between Khorog and Bulunkul meet. From Bulunkul Yashilkul can be easily accessed by a short drive or long walk. Back on the M41 head east to the small twilight zone looking town of Alichur. Alichur does look like it’s on the edge of the world. There is a Chaikhana here as well as a few homestays offering meals. Ask around to find a homestay here, it won’t take long and the friendly locals will help you out. There also is a shop to pick up very basic supplies and snacks if needed, just ask around and someone will grab a family member to unlock the house/shop for you. Shortly after Alichur (or before if coming from Osh) you can’t miss the stunningly beautiful Ak-Balyk, a small crystal clear holy pond. Shortly after passing Ak-Balyk you will see some jeep tracks headed off road toward the south. One heads south toward Keng Shibur (a sheep hunting camp) via Bash Gumbez. Another track a little further up the road will bring you south between the villages of Chatyr Tash and Shakhty to Jarty Gumbez (another Marco Polo hunting camp). If not taking the off road detour you’ll stay on the M41 through the Naizatash Pass and descend down into Murghab. Right before entering into Murghab you will be stopped at yet another GBAO checkpoint.

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A Kyrgyz nomadic family’s yurt between Jasty Gumbez and the M41.

Pamir Highway Side Trip- Jasty Gumbez-Shaimak-Rangkul to Murghab detour: If you choose to take the side trip off the Pamir highway to Jasty Gumbez (even Keng Shibur too)– Just south of here the trail ties into the one coming up and over from Zorkul. Follow this and you will eventually end up in the Great Game spy outpost of Shaimak. Shaimak was a strategic location for the British and Russians as the made their advances through Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. From one view point you can see from Tajikistan into Afghanistan, Pakistan and China all at the same time. From Shaimak head north along jeep tracks to the colorful mountains of Rangkul before heading back west and ending up back in Murghab.

Murghab and Side trips from Murghab:

Murghab is a ramshackle town thrown up in a lovely and picturesque wide valley. It’s a bit of a box-house jungle (which if you’re from Alaska like me, this won’t seem too unusual of a sight for you). A number of homestays and chaikhanas are available here as well as even a hotel. From Murghab you can take two side trips, the Madiyan Valley and Hotspring or the Pshart Valley (Or the above mentioned Rangkul can be done as a day trip from Murghab and back).

Madiyan Valley: The southern more option to the west. Head up the valley’s rough roads for views of the rugged surrounding mountains to eventually end up at a very secluded hot spring.

Pshart Valley: Here you’ll be surrounded by massive mountains that are swirled with colors. It’s pretty psychedelic. The extremely intrepid can attempt to head up the broken jeep tracks and attempt to go around the northside of Lake Sarez to tie into the Bartang Highway at Kök Jar (may the force with you). Even more intrepid hikers can attempt to make the long day hike between the Pshart and Madiyan Valleys. You can organize yurtstays and pick ups back in Murghab to do the trek.

Pshart, Pshart Mountains, Pshart Valley, Tajikistan, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan, Pamir Highway, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide

The colorful Pshart Mountains.

Murghab to Karakul:

There’s one known route between the two and that’s the M41 (I’m sure there’s some truly hardcore off-roaders who have it done it in other routes. This stretch of the M41 will take you up and over the 4655m Ak-Baital Pass, where it could very well be snowing in the middle of summer, and Marco Polo sheep can sometimes be seen right off the highway. The Pass descends down into the village of Karakul on the shores of the lake of the same name. The lake is said to unofficially be the highest navigable body of water on Earth, even higher than Lake Titicaca. Karakul is an odd village, but a nice overnight stop to break up the drive up to or from Osh. There are a small handful of homestays that are well signed right off the highway.

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Karakul.

Murghab to Osh:

The final leg (or the beginning if going the opposite direction). This leg leading to the Kyrgyz border will continue on the weird high altitude plateau moonscape along the border fence separating Tajikistan and China. The first border check is at Kyzyl Art Pass and then will continue on 20km of dirt road to the Kyrgyz border of Bordöbö. Keep you your eyes up for views of a stunning rainbow striped mountain in the no-man’s land between the two countries. Once through the border at Bordöbö you only have 24km to go until Sary Tash. Sary Tash is the jumping off point to many nearby trekking opportunities. The large city of Kyrgyzstan’s Ferghana Valley, Osh sits 185 km north of Sary Tash. (Sary Tash and Osh will be covered in posts on Kyrgyzstan).

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Final look back toward Karakul on the last stretch of the Pamir Highway before crossing into Kyrgyzstan.

*If you plan to go the Pamir Highway by bicycle check out these blogs for more information.

We Love Mountains.

Caravainstan.

Cities, Towns and Larger Villages:

Khorog: Biggest city in the GBAO with a rough population of 70,000 people. Restaurants, Hotels, Hostels, Homestays, Internet, Bazaars and Shops are available in Khorog. The population is well educated and it’s fairly easy to find English speaking locals (many will want to practice their English with you). There is a small hospital in case of small injuries but anything else will be sent to Dushanbe. Points of interest include the Central Park, Botanical Garden, and Regional Museum. The University of Central Asia is located here, as well as the Aga Khan Foundation.

Khorog

Khorog.

Murghab: Welcome to the wild-wild East, this is Murghab. Completely isolated, yet the best base to explore the Eastern Pamir from. Hotels, hostels, homestays, restaurants, internet, and a small (and expensive) bazaar are all available here.

Murghab, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, Pamir, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan

In the heart of Murghab.

Ishkashim: The largest village in the Wakhan Valley. Homestays and a guesthouse, and a chaikhana are available here.

Karakul: An eerie village full of welcoming locals on the edge of Lake Karakul, just north of Ak-Baital Pass. The surrounding region is almost entirely uninhabited. Well signed homestays are available here, all of which serve meals.

Alichur: A small scattering of houses along the Alichur River. Friendly locals will chat you up as you walk around. Homestays and a chaikhana are available here. Good base to explore the Alichur Valley from.

POPULAR TREKS:

The options are limitless! There is so much ground that can be covered here, it really is a trekker’s paradise. Here I will list some of the more popular treks in the Pamir region. If anyone has any input to add, as this is a massive region to cover with many options, please e-mail me any treks you feel I should add at adventuresoflilnicki [at] gmail.com.

A great resource on the region is Jan Bakkar who blogs at Trekking In The Pamirs. He has written about many of the Pamir hikes on his website and has also created what I think is the only e-book around on the subject. Click here to purchase his e-book, Trekking in Tajikistan for €6. It also includes treks on the Afghan side of the border as well as the Fann Mountains in the northwest of Tajikistan with maps. It doesn’t cover every trek under the sun, but for a whole €6 I thought it was money well spent to have that information in my pocket on the side of a mountain.

Another invaluable item to own here is the Pamirs Map by Markus Hauser, You can purchase it through my Amazon link here, or directly through Gecko Maps here. I also have a spare, unused, brand new copy of the map. If you’re interested, I’d be willing to sell it to you for $15- e-mail me at adventuresoflilnicki [at] gmail.com.

Unless homestays are mentioned, it’s pretty safe to assume that you will need a tent for the treks. Some treks may have nights where homestays are an option and other nights not.

Remember, you should plan to be fully equipped and well prepared out here. If you are an inexperienced trekker or are not completely confident in your skills: HIRE A GUIDE, there’s not shame in it and they are available (mostly June-September).  Trekking in remote mountains, or anywhere for that matter, involves risks. I will not take responsibility for any loss, death, injury, illness or inconvenience out here. Altitude sickness can strike even the most fit of people. Take the necessary precautions to acclimate for the altitude before beginning any trekking in the region. These trekking recommendations are meant as a rough idea of what kind of trekking trips are available in the High Pamir and GBAO region. Skip to the Tours and Guides Section for links to websites that can help organize treks for you and provide guides.

Western Pamir:

Jizeu (Bartang Valley): Probably the most popular trek in the Central Pamir. Jizeu is a small village set around several overflowed river-lakes in a stark valley. Arrange a car or shared taxi (Probably from Khorog) to take you just past Rushan Village (Rushan is about 65km from Khorog) a short drive (23km) up the Bartang Valley to the suspension bridge*. Cross the Bartang River over the bridge and follow the trail on up to the picture-perfect village of Jizeu. Give or take the trek to the lower village will take about 2 hours if you’re in reasonably good shape. The trail is well marked and there are signed homestays when you arrive in the village. Half of the homes in Jizeu operate as homestays! Further treks can be arranged by homestay owners from Jizeu, such as Ravmed Valley and beyond to Basid.

I can personally recommend Lola Homestay in Jizeu: Good food (my favorite Qurutob), a nice big room and friendly and welcoming family. 1 night including lunch, dinner and breakfast set me back 130TJS (Sept. 2016).

*All sources I found leading up to my trip to Jizeu mentioned to make sure not take the suspension bridge as it would take you only to the evacuated former village of Red and that the way to Jizeu was by way of a hand cranked cable car. When I arrived there was no cable car (it’s actually on the other side of the river next to a suspension bridge, no longer being used). I’m guessing that this is a newly built bridge. The concrete bases the bridge is attatched to do say ‘this way to Jizeu’ in spray paint. 

Jizeu, Jizeu Village, Tajikistan, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide, Central Pamir, Bartang highway, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan, Bartang

Jizeu.

Jizeu-Ravmed Valley-Basid (Bartang Valley):Homestay owners in Jizeu can help arrange guides to accompany you and/or useful information to go at it on your own to continue over the pass into Ravmed Valley (more homestays available in Ravmed Village) and eventually onto Khijez (homestays available) and eventually on to Basid.

Fedchenko Glacier: Can be done as a difficult full day in-out hike from Poi-Mazar. Turn north off the M41 at the village of Vanj and continue up the road until Poi-Mazar. Homestay can be found in nearby Kholov and Dursher. Multi day hikes can be arranged further along and even on the glacier for those experienced and daring enough for it. A small handful of people have skied the glacier.

Central Pamir:

Khafrazdara and Grum Grjimailo Glacier: The trek along Khafrazdara will bring you to beautiful lakes surrounded by jagged mountains in perfect Tajik fashion. This is a very remote trek. From the village of Pasor (along the Bartang Highway), if you can get up here as the Bartang Highway is famous for being impassible at times. There are two stunning lakes of Khafrazdara which can be trekked to from Pasor in one to two days depending on your ambition and speed. Another day further will take you to face the Grum Grjimailo Glacier. From the glacier expect to take at least two days to make it back to Pasor.

Basid and Badara (Bartang Valley): From both villages a number of lovely hike can be taken up trails leading to the high summer pastures.

Bachor to Lake Sarez: Begin from the village of Bachor, just off the M41 in the Ghunt Valley. Continue to the confluence of the Ghunt and Andaravaj Rivers (about 4km), and then continue following the Andaravaj River up into the 4,590m Andaravaj Pass. You’ll then come down the pass with views of Zarushkul and the small lakes leading into Vykhinch. This leg will take you three days. From the settlement of Vykhinch allow one more day to reach Lake Sarez. Make sure to have a Lake Sarez Permit prior to setting out on this trek, allegedly can be arranged at the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Dushanbe, but realistically the only way I’ve seen (and personally gotten the permit) was from Nurumuhammed who own Sarez Travel.

Bachor Mountain Lakes:  More trekking can be done to stunning lakes near Bachor. Visit Trekking in the Pamirs, where Jan Bakker explains the trek.

Eastern Pamir:

Pshart to Madiyan Valley via Gumbezkul Pass (Murghab/Aksuu Valley): This is a long, demanding day hike that begins at a Horse-Breeding Center and Yurtstay set at the point where the Pshart Valley divides. Trek up the Gumbezkul Pass beginning here up steep scree to eventually end up at 4,700m with great views over the valley. Once over into Madiyan Valley you can opt to continue trekking to the Madiyan Hot Spring. From Madiyan Hot Spring you can choose to continue trekking up into Bazardara Pass and continue onto Alichur Village (See Bazardara Valley section).

Pshart Valley, Pshart, Tajikistan, Pamir, Pamir Highway, Pamir Travel Guide, GBAO, Badakshan

Bazardara Valley (Alichur Valley): 10km east of the village of Alichur you can drive right to the foot of Bazardara Pass and trek on up Peak Alichur (5,800m). Trek further afield from Bazardara Pass and you will run into the ruins of Bazardara and eventually onto the Murghab/Aksuu Valley.

Bash Gumbez to Zorkul (Alichur Valley): Starting from the settlement of Bash Gumbez just about 30 km east of the village of Alichur a couple hikes can be done. From Bash Gumbuz head southeast to Ukchul Lake for a one day trek. The other option is to head south, up and over the 4,720m Bash Gumbez Pass and eventually onto Zorkul. Make sure you have a Zorkul permit from the PECTA office beforehand!

Alichur Village to Yashilkul and Beyond (Alichur Valley): From Alichur Village you can trek west to Yashilkul and further afield to Bulunkul, Lake Sarez and even onto Bachor.

Yashilkul, Tajikistan, Badashan

Yashil-Kul.

Zorkul Lake: Treks can be done around the lake and further out to Alichur Village, Bash Gumbuz and Jarty Gumbez.

Koi-Tezek Pass: Numerous day and multi-day treks can be taken from the side valleys of the Koi-Tezek Pass.

Wakhan Valley:

Darshai Gorge: A short hike from Darshai Village that will take you along the rushing river and eventually along a narrow path of of branches and rocks held impossibly onto a rock face. More treks can be arranged further from here including to a yurt camp. Taking a guide from Darshai Village would be wise to go beyond the rock face.

Mayakovsky Peak: Beyond the yurt camp mentioned above you can hike even further up Mayakovsky Peak (6,095m), hiking beyond the summit you’ll cross a snowfield and eventually end up at a homestay located at Bodomdara, which actually sits in the Shokhdara Valley.

Meadows of Pik Engels: Towering over the Wakhan Valley and one of Tajikistan’s most recognizable peaks, Pik Engels reaches up to 6,510m. Read more about how to do this trek on Jan Bakker’s website, Trekking in the Pamirs.

ACCOMMODATION:



Booking.com


Outside of Khorog, Murghab and Kala-i-Khumb expect to only find homestays. Homestays are typically rooms in a family’s home or separate small buildings on their land that offer a place to sleep for visitors. They almost always serve food and at least dinner and breakfast can usually expected in the cost of a nights stay. Expect homestays to run $10-20 USD per night including two meals.

In Khorog, Kala-i-Khumb and Murghab it is possible to spend the night in hotels, each city has a small handful on offer. Expect a nights stay to run in the $50-100 USD range.

If planning to trek, it’s advisable to bring a tent.

Hunting for Marco Polo sheep is a draw for hunter’s to visit the Pamir region from all over the world. The hunting season runs from November to March and most hunters stay at sheep hunting camps. From April to October the hunting camps will rent rooms to tourists and trekkers. Expect on average to pay $40 USD/night. Popular camps include Jasty Gumbez and Keng Shibur, however there are more camps scattered throughout the remote Pamir.

I stayed at the hunting camp at Jasty Gumbez and can’t recommend it enough! They have an indoor hot spring pool, rooms are heated and the meals are amazing (since I was on my own I even ate with all the guides and the family that runs the camp). All the guides and the family are very warm and welcoming. If you’re into star gazing this area is phenomenal at night. 

SAFETY:

In general the Pamir region as well as most the GBAO is a peaceful area, when hostilities do heat up (particularly in the far south near the Afghan border), Tajikistan will typically close the GBAO region to travelers.

Altitude sickness is a real risk all over Tajikistan as the country is almost entirely mountainous. Take proper precautions to acclimate to the altitude before taking off to do any strenuous activities.

The biggest dangers to be aware of in the Pamir, GBAO and Tajikistan are the weather conditions and natural disasters. In the summer lower elevation areas can get extremely hot- over 40ºC/100ºF! In the winter extreme cold can ravage the mountainous areas. Be prepared for anything. Especially in the mountains, no matter what time of year weather can change in an instant. It can go from being a warm sunny day to bad winds and freezing temps, even in summer! Tajikistan is very earthquake prone- something to take note of if you plan to do hiking. Many of those beautiful lakes only exist because of earthquake triggered landslides. For example, geologists fear that if a large earthquake dislodges the rockslide that naturally had created the dam of Lake Sarez and the dam breaches a wall of water would come hurling down the mountain valleys and wipe out and destroy villages, and roads clear down into Uzbekistan and possibly beyond. The villagers along the Bartang Highway have been trained with drills on what to do if the alarm goes off- head for high ground. Be prepared in general for survival that getting trapped out in the remote Pamir and GBAO is a possibility, by making sure you have a few days food supply and a way to filter your own water out there. A GPS is a handy tool, and even better if you have an SOS beacon. Cell phone coverage is very limited in this part of the world.

It is fairly common for travelers in this region to get sick. Sanitary and hygiene standards are not up to par with what a first worlder’s stomach is probably used to. Remember, this is one of the most remote places on Earth. It’s a wise idea to bring anti-diarrhea medication and a broad spectrum antibiotic with you. Healthcare in Tajikistan in general is pretty grim due to lack of funding. Common illnesses include Food poisoning and Giardia. There is a risk of Malaria in the extreme south of the country in the summer. There is also a risk of Hepatitis, Rabies, Polio and Tick borne Encephalitis. Occasional outbreaks of Cholera and Typhoid do occur as well.

Infrequently there is factional fighting and some warlordism that spills over the southern border from Afghanistan.

Tours and Guides:


These are tour operators and guides that can be hired to take you out on excursions and on treks in the region.

Wanna join me on expedition of a lifetime in 2018 in China, Tajikistan and Pakistan? I will be taking a small group with me in June. Click here to read more about the trip and sign up!

Kalpak Travel Offering a 5% discount to anyone who mentions the promo code Nicki-Kalpak2017 when booking! Kalpak offers an active trip along the Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Osh, as well as trips to other regions of Tajikistan and Central Asia!

Pamir Highway Adventure

Paramount Journey Offering 5% off tours if you mention the promo code PJ2017AN and this post!

Pamir Horse Adventure

Tour De Pamir

Sarez Travel Can arrange tours all over Tajikistan, but specialized in Lake Sarez and the Bartang Valley. The only agency I’m aware of that can arrange Lake Sarez permits.

Pamir Guides

Badakshan Travel

Women Rockin Pamirs

Pamir Silk Tours

You can also contact PECTA for more recommendations. Remember that guides and drivers all expect a tip.

Ak-Baital Pass, Ak-Baital, Tajikistan, GBAO, Badakshan, Pamir, Pamir Highway, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide, M41

Ak-Baital Pass.

Getting Out of the Pamirs or GBAO:

Most travelers in the Pamir tend to leave either by crossing the Tajik/Kyrgyz boarder at Kyzyl Art-Bordöbö in route to Osh or exit the GBAO in Shurabad Pass as they make way to Dushanbe.

If planning to exit into Afghanistan visas can be obtained at the Afghan Consulate in Khorog. If the borders are open (they are sometimes periodically closed) you can usually cross the border at Shegnan Bridge in Khorog or at the bridge at Ishkashim where the cross-border market used to take place.

At this time it is not possible for foreigners to cross into China, however, there are rumors that Qolma Pass may open up.

Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kyzyl Art Pass, Pamir, Pamir Highway, Pamit Travel, Pamir Travel Guide, M41

A Rainbow Mountain in the no-man’s land between Kyzyl Art Pass and Bordöbö.

Handy Gadgets, Gear Recommendations and Maps + Books:

These are goodies I personally found to prove quite useful on my travels in the Pamirs and all of Tajikistan.

Travel Gadgets:

One of my all-time favorite travel gadgets is the Delorme Inreach. Not only is it an SOS beacon, but it also can send and receive text messages and is a GPS. Delorme offers some good monthly plans when in use.

A Solar charger can be a great way to keep your electronics and batteries charged when trekking in remote areas of the country with no access to electricity for days on end. From personal experience I can say to avoid the solar charger by the brand All Power. Mine broke on my second day of trekking in Tajikistan.

An External battery pack can also help you out in a pinch when batteries are dead and you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Gear:

A backpack! I use the Osprey Ariel 65L Backpack, shop backpacks here!

A tent it handy if you plan to do any trekking. I use the MSR NX Hubba 1-man tent and love it! MSR also sells the same tent in other sizes: 2-man, 3-man and the 4-man Mutha-Hubba.

A sleeping bag can prove useful if trekking and also for chilly nights even in a homestay. I use a Northface Sleeping Bag cold rated to 20ºF/-7ºC.

A good pair of hiking boots. My personal favorite is the Merrell Moab hiking boot.

If planning on trekking/camping and you like to enjoy a warm meal I can recommend a Lightweight Cooking Camp Set.

I personal use the Katadyn water filter. Tap water in the entire country is unsafe for drinking and natural water sources can be contaminated. The Lifestraw or chlorine tablets are useful as well.

I still don’t own trekking poles, I probably should… click here to browse through some nicely rated sets.

A headlamp will come in handy!

Books:

‘Tajikistan and the High Pamirs’ by Robert Middleton & Huw ThomasThis is a huge book, but it has so much good info on Tajikistan from the history, great-game stories, travel and more!

‘Central Asia’ by Lonely Planet.  Handy to have with you, although don’t treat it like a bible. Many times information is out of date as things change rapidly here. The ‘Central Asia Phrasebook’ by Lonely Planet. I found to be a handy item.

Maps:

The Pamirs by Markus Hauser. Can be found online on Gecko Maps, or can always be picked up at the PECTA office. You can also order a Northern Tajikistan map as well as Southern Tajikistan map on Gecko Maps. I ordered mine through Amazon.

Great online references:

Caravanistan: Saule and Steven are a wealth of knowledge on Central Asia. They are very responsive via email and can put you in contact with numerous tour agencies in the country.

META: Only provides advisory services. Working to develop tourism.

PECTA: Can help you arrange anything Pamir. Very responsive.

Trekking in the Pamirs: Jan Bakker’s website with information on many hikes all over Tajikistan (not just the Pamirs!).

Indy Guide: Making travel in the whole of Central Asia & Mongolia easier buy providing the largest community marketplace of Central Asian tour operators and drivers.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Ready to start planning your Pamir Adventure?

Summer is just around the corner! Start planning today and make sure to check out my other posts out on Tajikistan:

Tajikistan Travel Guide– Every bit of info you need to know to travel in the gem of Central Asia.

10 Reasons to Visit Tajikistan– See why this is a must-see destination.

The Bartang Highway and Valley Guide– All the info to visit this beautiful slice of the Pamirs.

Guide to Solo Female Travel in Tajikistan– You can do it!

The Pamir Highway Guide– Slightly different from this guide, this is solely focused on the Pamir Highway itself.

Fann Mountains Guide + Trekking Info– Everything you need to know to visit the beautiful Fann Mountains.

Walking Among Giants in Beautiful Tajikistan– My personal trip through  the gorgeous Fann Mountains.

To The Pamirs and Beyond! Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, And still more to come!- My day to day breakdown of what I experienced in the Pamirs and Wakhan.

Got any Pamir Travel info to add?

Contact me at adventuresoflilnicki [at] gmail.com or even leave a comment below if you have suggestions or want to point out anything I have missed. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions either!

*The links to books & maps, travel gadgets and gear on this post to Amazon are affiliate links, if you choose to purchase these items through the links provided I am compensated at no extra cost to you! These links help offset the cost of the blog.

Ak-Baital, pond, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, Pamir, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan

Ak-Balyk.

How To Get A Denali Road Lottery Permit

Denali Road Lottery

How To Get A Denali Road Lottery Permit

In September every year Denali National Park, one of Alaska’s best known landmarks, allows visitors to drive in their own vehicles to the end of the park road to Kantishna (weather and road conditions permitting). If you would like to drive your own vehicle past Savage River in Denali National Park you will need to get your hands on a Denali Road Lottery Permit.

Road Lottery permit winners are allowed to fit as many people can legally fit in their car, truck or van and drive in on their specified date. The dates for 2017 are September 15th through the 19th, with 400 cars per day allowed in. The campgrounds at Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River are al open as well during the road lottery, they do have to be reserved in advance, which you can do at www.reservedenali.com or by calling 800-622-7275 or 907-272-7275. Some hotels in Healy and Cantwell will still be open this weekend for those not looking to camp.

During the summer you may go by tour bus, shuttle, bicycle or foot the entire length of the road but not generally with your own vehicle.  You can even take a flightseeing tour of the park.

Step 1: Apply For The Lottery

You must apply between May 1 and May 31 prior to the lottery.  You can apply over at www.recreation.gov or over the phone.  There is a $15 fee per entrance that is non-refundable. The lottery winners will be announced Sunday, June 18, 2017.

If your name is selected you will be notified by e-mail.  You will charged an additional $25 if your name is drawn for the lottery.  The permits are transferable, so you could have someone else apply for you and transfer the permit to you.

Step 2: Pick up permit for your day at park headquarters

This is assuming that you were selected or that you had a permit transferred to you.

You can begin driving into the park at 6am.  I’d advise to arrive the day before and pick up your permit so that you do not have to do it in the morning.  When you pick up your permit you also will need to pay the $10 fee per person for entry into Denali National Park. The $10 fee gives you entrance to the park for a 7 consecutive day period.

Step 3: Drive into the park!

At 6am the date of your permit you can drive into the park.  You have until midnight that night to be back past the Savage River bridge on your way out of the park.   Weather permitting, you have the opportunity to drive the entire length of the road to Kantishna.  There are years that the road is closed as soon as Savage River at mile 12.  It is not uncommon for some or all of the road to be closed several hours.  Just remember that all fees are not refundable in the event that the road is closed due to weather or conditions of the road.

Important Information:

(These are directly from the road lottery application page)

-There are some rules for the lottery listed here: Rules and Regulations for Denali National Park’s Road Lottery

-Watch the video before you go:  Rules of Driving the Denali Park Road.

-Each person may submit only one application. A non-refundable $15 application applies.

-The applications selected for the Road Lottery permit will be charged the $25 fee automatically. The park entrance fee of $10 per person is payable at the Denali Visitor Center when you pick up the permit.

-Interagency Federal Land passes will cover the park entrance fee. Please bring your pass with you along with photo identification.

-The person who picks up the permit must be the person who was selected or have the selected winner’s written approval (in the case of transferring the permit to another person).

-Permits may not be re-sold. However, you may give your permit to someone else. To do so, first print the reservation confirmation email. The reservation-holder should write a note on it indicating the name of the person you wish to give the reservation and then sign the note.

-Only vehicles with Road Lottery permits will be allowed to drive beyond the Savage River Check Station at mile 15 of the park road.

-For those with a Road Lottery permit, the park road beyond mile 15 is open from 6:00am to 12:00am. Areas further west on the park road will close prior to midnight.

-Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River Campgrounds are open during Road Lottery. Reservations are available at www.reservedenali.com or by calling 800-622-7275 or 907-272-7275.

-Don’t Move Firewood: Help protect our forests! Prevent the spread of tree-killing pests by obtaining firewood at or near your destination and burning it on-site. Moving firewood is illegal in some states. Visit dontmovefirewood.org to learn more.

Now who’s ready to start applying for their Denali Road Lottery Permit?