kirghiz nomads khunjerab pass china

Kirghiz nomads near the Khunjerab Pass, China

Kirghiz nomads still live in traditional yurts in the high Pamirs, the lofty peaks that separate western China and Tajikistan. We meet many nomads as we cross the trans-Pamir roads in the footsteps of the Great Game.

Photo by Pam Shandrick

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The Great Game

The Silk Road through the Pamirs & Tian Shan Mountains
with Roger Williams
Repertory Trip: Next Offered August 20-September 14, 2016

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 25 days
Arrive: Kashgar, China
Depart: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Lodging: 24 nights in hotels, guest houses
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Cultural exploration and walking tours, rugged road travel


  • The Silk Road Cities of Kashgar, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Tashkent
  • Visit Kyrgyz nomad yurt camps
  • Breathtaking scenery of the High Pamirs and Tian Shan Mountains

This was a real expedition! For me, a dream come true.Judith M.—Albuquerque, NM

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  It will be several years before this journey is offered again. Now is the time to go!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-9
Kashgar, China / Osh, Kyrgyzstan

In Kashgar, an isolated Silk Road oasis with an end-of-the-world feel, we roam the bazaar, explore Karakol Lake and Tashkurgan, then make a spectacular drive into Kyrgyzstan, where we meet Kirghiz nomads and admire views of the Tian Shan Mountains.

Day 1
Kashgar, China

Arrive in Kashgar, where you are met for a transfer to our hotel. In the evening we gather for a group orientation and Welcome Dinner. Overnight at hotel in Kashgar...D

Kashgar: A desert oasis with an end-of-the-world feeling, Kashgar is located 600 miles southwest of Urumqi and 80 miles east of the Russian border. This famously isolated city of walled adobe compounds was the launching pad for many Tibet, Pamir, and Karakoram expeditions in the 18th and 19th centuries and was also a major center for the Great Game, the shadowy diplomatic jousting match between Britain and Russia for dominance over Central Asia. Although Kashgar is modernizing and the old city walls have been torn down, it still has an exotic atmosphere, with its population of Uighurs, Tajiks, Kirghiz, and Uzbek peoples. The bazaars are the focus of life in Kashgar, and are crowded with a variety of donkey carts and bicycles.

Special Note: Should you wish to visit Kashgar’s legendary Sunday market, which will take place on June 29, you must arrive one day early.

Days 10-12
Murgab, Tajikistan / Leyangar

We cross the Kizilart Pass and enter mountainous Tajikistan, visiting shepherds' settlements and enjoying views of Muztagh Ata.

Days 13-19
Khorog, Tajikistan / Dushanbe / Khujand

The Pamir Highway brings us to Khorog, in Tajikistan, and onward to Dushanbe, the capital, where we visit the Tajik National History Museum and Gissar, a Silk Road center of commerce and learning still dominated by its 18th century Ibrahim Beg fortress. Crossing two passes, we continue to Khujand, Tajikistan’s second largest city, founded by Alexander the Great around 2,300 years ago.

Days 20-25
Samarkand, Uzbekistan / Bukhara / Tashkent

Crossing our last border, we enter Uzbekistan and arrive in Samarkand, a city of almost mythic fame, with its soaring minarets and gleaming blue-tiled domes. Our excursions today include Samarkand’s breathtaking main square, the Registan, with its panorama of handsome mosques and 15th century madrassas (religious schools). Our journey continues to Bukhara, once a major stopping point on the Silk Road, and we end our adventure in Tashkent, the capital and one of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan. Depart on Day 25.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated Level 3, Moderate. While the trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, the rustic accommodations, long travel days, and transportation conditions may be quite demanding. Our expedition travels to areas that have experienced very little tourism. We believe that the most important requirements are a spirit of adventure and the understanding that you are visiting a remote and fascinating region. This is not designed as a hiking trip, but we do hope to have a few exploration walks of several hours during the journey.

Accommodations are in good city hotels and in basic guesthouses, with one night in a homestay and one night in a tented village.

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included in the program. Continental breakfasts are included at hotels. We usually arrange other meals at local restaurants instead of using the set meals in the hotel. Bottled water is provided throughout the trip. Village food tends to simpler and oilier than city food, but it is also an excellent chance to sample the food in rural areas.

Ground transportation is by bus and jeeps. We have taken local travel times into account in planning the itinerary, though road conditions can change from week to week. While traveling in rural areas, there are few decent public bathroom facilities. We recommend that rather than using local facilities on drives, you do what the locals do and opt for a “nature break” when on road journeys.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered only every two to five years. This journey will not be offered again for several years. Now is the Time to Go!

Aug 20-Sep 14, 2016  Roger Williams

Trip Cost

Prices for this trip are being finalized. Contact us and we'll send them to you as soon as they are available. more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: $500
150 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Arrival and departure transfers for those arriving on the recommended group flight or on the scheduled arrival and departure dates
  • Accommodations
  • All meals included
  • Walking and driving tours per itinerary
  • Professional English-speaking local guides in all cities
  • Entrance fees to all sites listed in itinerary

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

Internal airfare, international airfare, airport departure taxes, individual arrival or departure transfers, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, optional tipping or gratuities to the leader, hotels en route to and home from the trip, any additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to international airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations, visa fees, travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Roger Williams

In 1986, Roger Williams led his first Wilderness Travel trip. Nearly 30 years later, he shows no sign of stopping, with added trips filling up quicker than the one before. If it isn’t the surplus of knowledge Roger brings when he leads a trip that makes it so unique, including his cultural insight to places like Nepal (where he spent eight years studying Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist iconographics, Himalayan languages, and woodblock art) and Japan (where he spent another two years studying Japanese woodblock art, Japanese language, and Shingon Shu, an esoteric sect of Japanese Buddhism), then it may be his awareness for cultural preservation that keep clients coming back. In July 2014, he returned from The Great Game journey, a special Wilderness Travel Expedition that included visits to the Wakhan Valley as well as Mazar i-Sharif and Balk (formally Bactria) in northern Afghanistan. Roger has also been working as a technical advisor with USAID consulting in tourism development projects in Mongolia, Armenia and Croatia. When not leading trips, Roger is the director of Snow Lion Graphics/SLG Books in Berkeley, California, a publishing house specializing in books and calendars relating to Asian cultures. “There should be a rating higher than excellent for Roger,” one client wrote after her Central Asia Explorer trip with Roger. “His knowledge, energy planning, and attentiveness are superlative.”

Upcoming Trips:

Central Asia Explorer, August 23-September 15, 2015
China's Wild Southwest, October 13-November 4, 2015
India's Malabar Coast, January 27-February 20, 2016
Iran: In the Footsteps of Kings, March 10-April 2, 2016
Trans-Caucasus Adventure, May 20-June 13, 2016
Nagorno-Karabakh: Land of the Black Garden, June 13-22, 2016
The Great Game, August 20-September 14, 2016
Wonders of Nepal, October 9-November 3, 2016
Eastern Bhutan and India's Wild Northeast Frontier, November 21-December 17, 2016

Client Testimonials:

Tibet is a place like no other on the planet! Roger’s language skills and knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism opened many doors. Connie D., Alamo CA
Heart of Tibet
Exceedingly knowledgeable, very caring. Priscilla and Franklin O., Malvern PA
Mystical Bhutan
Roger knows how to run a trip. He’s very organized and clearly communicates the daily plan. Also, he's a lot of fun and I was impressed with his expertise on Buddhist iconography. Fran M., Mill Valley, CA
Hidden Himalayas
Roger is remarkable. This trip showed him at his best. We could never have traveled across the roof of the world without his preparation and energy. Thanks for a grand experience! Ruth and Frank H., Edmonds WA
In the Footsteps of the Great Game
Roger takes good care of his travelers and we learned a lot about the people, their culture, and history. His love for this part of the world is infectious. Ruth G., Del Mar CA
In the Footsteps of the Great Game
Roger is great! Hard working, knowledgeable, personable. He really makes a difference. Bill R., Walnut Creek, CA
Passage to India
I can understand why Roger has such a big following. He worked all the time to make the trip the best it could be. Marsha S., New York, NY
The Great Game
Roger is clearly a well-seasoned professional. He is passionate about India and it shows everyday, whether it is interacting with the locals or talking about the iconographics and sites. Grace L., Boston, MA
Passage to India
Exceptional dedication, passion, and professionalism. Roger has the right personality and attitude for this. Jonathan T., Boston, MA
Passage to India
Roger is a wealth of knowledge and very well traveled. He takes his duties as trip leader extremely seriously and goes out of his way to please each client. Terri H., Berkeley, CA
Armenia and Beyond
Roger provided a unique and enjoyable travel experience. His knowledge and familiarity with the sites visited and enthusiasm for these countries and peoples made this a great travel experience. Judy A., Davis, CA
The Burma Road: Kunming to Rangoon
Roger's extensive travel experience and knowledge of Asian culture and Buddhism greatly enhanced the trip. And all the planning he did before and during the trip ensured an excellent itinerary and made everything run smoothly. Nancy R., Walnut Creek, CA
Tribal China
There should be a rating higher than excellent for Roger. His knowledge, energy planning, and attentiveness are superlative. Debra B., Jackson, WY
Central Asia Explorer
Roger is the best tour leader with lots of experiece and profound knowledge of the subject area. Kudos to him and WT. Tan Kiet T., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tribal China
Roger has tremendous skills as a trip leader. He has a real gift with people and his relationship with local guides enriches the areas we visit. Joan L., Baltimore, MD
Journey to the Heart of China
Roger is simply a brilliant organizer and always finds the very best services available. He also brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to anything Asian. Elizabeth M., Providence, RI
The Burma Road: Kunming to Rangoon
I'm struck again with the magnitude of the incredible adventure you led us on. I have pretty much traveled the world since that trip, with adventures galore...but nothing has, or ever will, compare to it. Aleen S., Cedar Mountain, NC
The Great Silk Road
Roger is an exceptional trip leader with an historian's grasp of the influences shaping this part of the world. Kathe W., Pittsburgh, PA
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger was nothing short of outstanding as a trip leader...managing people as well as logistics of a 25+ day intensive trip. He has a clear desire to share his knowledge, interest, and excitement about Southeast Asia. We've had a lot of good Trip Leaders and I'd rate Roger as #1 on my list. Greg W., Pittsburgh, PA
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger was well organized, with careful planning and terrific knowledge of the culture and religion. His interaction with the group was unlike anything we have experienced on prior trips. He is a real treasure for WT, one of your best. Donald H., Farmington, CT
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger is a flexible leader who listens to his travelers and absolutely cannot do enough for people. He looked after us well and programmed as much variety into the trip as possible. Mary R., New York, NY
Trans-Caucasus Adventure
Roger is amazing! His knowledge of the history and culture of the area is extensive and he can recall all sorts of information on any number of subjects. His enthusiasm, kindness, and energy never wane. Jane F., Naples, FL
The Great Game
Roger is a lot of fun, as well as being extremely knowledgeable! He goes out of his way to make the trip interesting and comfortable for those traveling with him. Catherine H., Cambridge, MA
Journey to the Heart of China

Client Comments

This was a real expedition! For me, a dream come true. Judith M., Albuquerque, NM Each day was a new adventure. We felt as though we were totally in another world, especially in the mountain communities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Carole M., Versailles, KY
A difficult but wonderful trip. It met with and exceeded all my expectations and fulfilled a lifelong wish to see this part of the world! Jane F., Naples, FL