Qala i Khumb Travel Guide, Tajikistan
Qala i Khumb Travel Guide, Tajikistan was originally published in May 2022
Qala i Khumb (sometimes called Darvoz) is a common stopover point for travelers taking on the famed Pamir Highway, helping to break up the long journey from Dushanbe to Khorog. But most don’t spend any time here, either having dinner and crashing for the night or just passing right through if doing the Dushanbe-Khorog jaunt all in one day. While Qala i Khumb doesn’t boast much in way of attractions, it is a nice place to stop off for a day or so for those traveling Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains a bit more slowly.
Qala i Khumb serves as a meeting point where the Southern Pamir Highway Route coming from Kulob and Shurubod Pass meets the adrenaline-inducing Northern Pamir Highway Route that comes down from Tavildara and over Sagirdasht Pass before the Highway continues toward Khorog along the Afghan border.
Start planning: The Tajikistan Trave Guide with everything you need to know
Qala i Khumb Accommodations
At the junction of the three roads coming from Kulob, Tavildara, and Khorog on the western end of Qala i Khumb you can usually find kids and teens hanging around in the later afternoon and early evening offering up rooms for rent in their family homes that are sat perched over the Obikhumboy River that feeds into the Panj. This was how we ended up staying at Sobir Homestay back in 2019 (years previous I had stayed at Roma Jirayev and at Sagakov Bahrom)
A few more established homestays do exist in addition to a hotel. I’ve personally stayed at Roma Juraev and Sangakov Bahrom homestays and can recommend either one. Both have balconies that overhang the Obikhumboy. They’ll even let you pull up a kurpatcha (the Tajik cushion that is laid out of the floor as a bed) on the balcony and sleep there on your sleeping bag and fall asleep to the sound of the river.
For those on a higher budget wanting more amenities, you can try the Karon Palace– the only real hotel in town. It’s located right in the middle of Qala i Khumb, just next to the I heart Tajikistan sign.
About three kilometers outside of Qala i Khumb’s eastern edge in a little area called Zingrogh sits a Raso’s chaikhana and guesthouse that’s signposted along the Pamir Highway (it’s technically unnamed). It’s run by a friendly man named Raso and his family.
The Raso’s guesthouse has three rooms with multiple beds and there is a shared bathroom in the hallway. Raso’s wife can whip up a variety of Tajik/Central Asian dishes on demand (so expect a little bit of waiting time).
Note that Raso speaks Tajik and Russian, but if you don’t he’s still super helpful (and Google translate will help aid in communication if need be).
Contact Numbers for the Above-Mentioned Accommodations
- Sobir Homestay: +992555051278
- Roma Juraev Homestay: +992934712117
- Sangakov Bahrom Homestay: +992934102750
- Karon Palace: +992355221888
- Raso’s Chaikhana & Guesthouse: +992909197744
Qala i Khumb Restaurants & Nightlife
Many of you will eat your meals at your guesthouse/homestay in Qala i Khumb as most all include dinner and breakfast in the room cost (lunch is typically a small additional fee).
With that said, Oriyono Restaurant is the most popular place in town, offering an array of typical Tajik fare along with beer and wine. The restaurant is located on the north side of the Pamir Highway cutting through towns and has a balcony overhanging the Obikhumboy River. My favorites are the pickle soup and shashlik.
My other favorite spot to eat in Qala i Khumb is the above-mentioned Raso’s Chaikhana & Guesthouse located three kilometers outside of town.
Raso’s family makes the food right there at the guesthouse, so expect typical Tajik dishes such as plov, manti, lagman, non, and achichuk salad.
Just next to Sobir Homestay that I mentioned earlier there is an ordinary convenience shop, but on most evenings it turns into an unofficial pub with the shopkeep pouring shots of Tajik vodka and cognac, Sim Sim (local Tajik beer company), and sliced sausages.
Continuing on to Khorog? Check out my Khorog Travel Guide to plan your stay
Things to do in Qala i Khumb
The I heart Tajikistan Sign, sat right next to the Karon Hotel is impossible to miss in town (these goofy signs have started popping up around Tajikistan in recent years). Next to it in the same square, you’ll also find a beautiful Pamiri-style Pavilion adorned with intricately hand-carved pillars.
On the eastern end of town, there is the gold-domed Qala i Khumb Mosque that if you show up outside of prayer times usually someone will happily let you in or even tour you around. Just opposite the mosque across the Pamir Highway and a short scramble uphill you’ll find the Qala i Khumb Graveyard and a Marco Polo Sheep Statue. If you walk to the eastern end of the graveyard and then across the Pamir Highway you’ll arrive at the Great Patriotic Victory Monument that overlooks the Panj River into Afghanistan.
Finally, west of Qala i Khumb you can stroll a kilometer to the west past the Obikhumboy River to the Avesto Arena, which local kids usually have football matches at in the afternoon (if you stay in Qala i Khumb for more than a night the local kids will probably have spotted you and taken you there by now). Continuing another 300 meters to the west of Avesto Arena is a giant Tajikistan flag monument, the placard at the location said something about celebrating independence.
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Things to do Near Qala i Khumb
Chorchaman is like a weird miniature-Disneyland without the rides. It was built as a summer palace for President Emomali Rahman (among many others) and is located about five kilometers west of Qala i Khumb (toward Kulob).
50 kilometers southwest of Qala i Khumb is the tiny village of Khostav. There are a few westward hikes you can do toward the Siyouh Koh Mountain. The best one is just a short jaunt to a place locals call Garlang that brings you atop craggy peaks that give you phenomenal views across the Panj River into Afghanistan.
The best place to stay is the Shar Shara Chaikhana which rents out beds and kurpatchas upstairs. Downstairs is a typical Tajik tea house serving up the usual Tajik fare. It’s a giant yellow building located right off the Pamir Highway and is popular with truckers.
Yoged is 30 kilometers southwest of Qala i Khumb by road. The main attraction here is the Yoged Museum and holy shrines of Oston i Khoja Chiltan, Oston i Khoja Khizar, Oston i Khoja Nazar, and Oston i Shah Owliyo.
There are a couple of homestays in Yoged if you’re looking to stay in the area. You can either arrange them through PECTA in Khorog or usually just show up.
5 kilometers east of Qala i Khumb this fantastic archeological find was only re-discovered in 2012. A coin has been found in the excavations of Karon Qala dating back to the 7th century, but the Zoroastrian temples present indicate that Karon Qala i much older than that. Nobody has figured out who built the ancient citadel.
Donations are recommended as there is no entrance fee to visit, but there is a local man who does oversee Karon Qala to whom you can pay a few Somoni to.
The Ruvzai-Nusai Border Crossing with Afghanistan
Just east of Qala i Khumn is the Ruvzai-Nusai Border Crossing with Afghanistan. It’s supposedly been open to foreign passport holders in the past but I do not know of anyone who has crossed here. The area across from Qala i Khumb in Afghanistan is currently under Taliban control, so crossing here at the moment isn’t recommended for obvious reasons.
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