Alichur is a small village surrounded by endless empty moonscape. The village consists of very little other than several homestays, a small shop, and a few wells for drinking water. Robert Middleton tells us:
The name means Ali’s curse and is reputed to have been spoken by the prophet’s son-in-law Ali on a journey through the area, on account of the harsh climate and penetrating winds there. The mountain tops on both sides are rounded and smooth; this plateau area was once on the sea floor – indeed, the coral so frequently used in old Pamiri jewellery was once collected here in the side valleys of the Alichur plain.
While at first glance Alichur’s surroundings seem inhospitable and devoid of life, like elsewhere in the Pamirs, a closer look reveals remnants of times past and tenacious wildlife hiding in plain sight.
Things to see and do
Alichur is home to the Burgut conservancy, a community-driven effort to resist poaching and hunting in the Pamirs. It’s working, and Burgut is a good place to view wildlife. Yak riding and Marco Polo sheep viewing tours are possible to arrange through Matluba Homestay. For more extensive tours, it is best to get in touch with a tour operator in advance.
Marco Polo sheep and ibex should be easy to spot for all. Catching sight of the illustrious snow leopard is of course much more difficult, but not impossible in the Alichur range; most rangers at Burgut have had sightings.
For more info, see wildlife watching in Tajikistan.
Bazardara, Bash-Gumbez, Bahmal-Jylga and Ak-Balyk
Bash-Gumbez holds a centuries-old mausoleum, while at Ak Jylga you can find petroglyphs.
A knee-high geyser sits halfway between Alichur and Bulunkul. It isn’t that impressive, but it is another invitation to get off the beaten track.
To see the geyser, get off the M41 and follow the very rough track that leads straight to Bulunkul from Alichur (2 hours).
To go to Bulunkul without seeing the geyser, take the tarmaced M41 until just past the Wakhan turnoff, where a dirt track takes you to Bulunkul (1h30).
A shared taxi leaves to Murghab at 7am most mornings for 30 somoni, coming back in the afternoon. To get to Khorog, either call a driver in Murghab to reserve a spot and pay the full 150 somoni fare (homestays can arrange this) or stand on the road and hitch a ride for slightly cheaper.
It would be possible to get to Khorog for about 70 somoni by hitching a ride to Jelondy for 40 somoni and taking the minibus from there for 30 somoni but this requires lucky timing or a long wait.
For a complete overview of your options, see transport along the Pamir Highway.
Most homestays have similar quality rooms, sheets that probably aren’t washed, and okay food. Electricity is usually from a solar panel during the day and a generator in the evenings which can charge a phone but not much more. Prices are with dinner and breakfast, but discounts are always possible if you cook your own food.
Not reviewed: both Tursunbai and Ibysh homestays have been recommended to us. Your feedback is welcomed.
Homestay Matluba: 95 somoni, 10% of this goes to an NGO which aids schools in the region. Can arrange yak riding and Marco Polo sheep viewing tours. Yurt and house to sleep in. The friendly owner speaks a bit of English.
Homestay Nur: 120-140 somoni. The rooms are just for tourists, the family does not live here. Has a washing machine and sauna. Some English spoken.
Homestay Shukrona: 100 somoni. Very good English – Shukhrona is an English teacher and her daughters study in California. This is the best place to have a conversation with your hosts.
Marco Polo: 95 somoni. Had a funny smell, soup for dinner and porridge for breakfast, and a very smoky shower. Stay here as a last resort.
Homestay Muslim: 116 somoni. Clean, but we did not feel welcome here, and there was no shower. Another last resort.
Amina Homestay: 95 somoni. Decent English, and decent cooking. Amina has an indoor bucket shower with hot water, and a rather unique 4-person toilet, as well as a fish named Barbara. Option to stay in a yurt or in the house.
A small shop holds enough of a selection to survive on until Murghab or Khorog. Amina’s homestay also has a little restaurant, and most other homestays will likely feed you if asked. 13 km east of Alichur, a small white building next to a lake serves great fish.