South Aral Peak Hike, Tajikistan
South Aral Peak Hike, Tajikistan was originally published in April 2022
Looking to get out from Karakul and do a quick day hike on your Tajikistan Pamir Highway adventure? The hike up South Aral Peak, more commonly called Aral Yuj (short for Yujzhni), will make for a nice day hike, especially for those looking to get a bit more acclimated to the high altitude of the Pamir before setting out on much more difficult treks in the area.
In total, you’ll want to plan for about 3-4 hours to complete the Aral Yuj Hike if you’re reasonably fit, and possibly 5 hours if you are struggling with the altitude.
Start planning your Tajikistan adventure: The Tajikistan Travel Guide
South Aral Peak Hike
264m +/342m –
To begin the South Aral Peak hike, you’ll want to arrange for a drop-off/pick up from Karakul Village as the start of the trek is about 18 kilometers away (that is unless you don’t mind tacking 18 kilometers on each way along the Karakul shores to get to the start). Expect the ride to cost around 300 TJS (return) for the entire car from Karakul, so enquire with your guesthouse about arranging. We were doing a wild trip from Karakul to Rushan via the Bartang Valley, so we added it as part of our itinerary.
You will get dropped off in a broad valley with the shore of Karakul about 1 kilometer away at a rough elevation of 3,900 meters. Note that there isn’t really a trail per se for the South Aral Peak hike, but it’s pretty simple to find your way up.
For roughly the first kilometer from here, you will pretty much trek in the northwest direction until you reach a funky rock formation. Once at the rock formation, you can go around it from either side (it also makes a nice place to stop for a quick snack break).
Continuing from the rock formation, the path takes a bit of a turn to head more in a straight north direction. This is also where you begin to pick elevation quickly. At around 1.5 kilometers in, you’ll make a bit of jog to the northeast to continue the last 200 meters to the summit.
You know you’ll have reached the summit because there is a giant metal post up there. Take some time to enjoy the 360º panoramic views from the top. It is almost always windy at the South Aral Peak summit, so make sure to pack some warm and windproof layers, and there are some nice boulders that double as nice windbreaks you’ll find scattered around to hide from the icy cold gusts (it’s freezing, even in mid-summer).
Getting down, you’ll follow the top ridge to the northeast for about 100 meters before taking a turn to the southeast briefly. After that, you will follow the course of a gorge to the northeast until you reach the Karakul shore. For around the last kilometer once you’ve reached the shore, you’ll stay along the shore where you’re driver will likely spot you and come pick you up. If you make it a loop all the way back to where you’ve started you’ll need to add an additional 1.5 kilometers to the total (4.75 kilometers).
What to Pack for Aral Yuj
As the hike up Aral Yuj Peak is a shorter day hike, you don’t need to pack a lot. A warm windproof jacket, trekking pants, sunglasses, hiking boots or trail runners, hat, and gloves are absolute musts. You may find hiking poles handy on the hike down.
Not sure what to do while in Karakul? Check out my Karakul Guide
Where to Stay in Karakul
There are several homestays scattered around Karakul Village but my favorite is Erkin Guesthouse. Expect most guesthouses to cost between $100-250 TJS per night.
How to get to Karakul
Karakul is relatively easy to reach as it is located on the Pamir Highway. Though with the border closures between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that started in 2021, you’ll more than likely have to hire your own transport between Murghab and Karakul unless you have time to kill to either hitch or find a shared car from Murghab.
Have any questions about the South Aral Peak Hike?
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