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
Repertory Trip: Next Offered June 29-July 23, 2014

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $10,295  
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.

The Great Game is designed to be done in conjunction with our Glimpses of the Silk Road. Take both trips and enjoy a $900 discount!

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!

Our grand Central Asian odyssey links some of the most far-flung and spectacular destinations of “The Great Game,” as the 19th century diplomatic rivalry between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia was known. With long-time Central Asia explorer Roger Williams, we visit the Silk Road outpost of Kashgar, the awe-inspiring valleys of Kyrgyzstan, lying below the Tian Shan Mountains, then head into mountainous Tajikistan via the rugged 14,042-foot Kizilart Pass. We journey a remote road across Tajikistan’s spell-binding High Pamirs, with its lakes, canyons and massive glaciers, and visit a local Afghan market. Our grand finale is in the fascinating old Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Tashkent. Along the way, we soak up phenomenal mountain scenery and meet the Uighurs, Kirghiz, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other peoples whose cultures are deeply tied to this desert and mountain realm.

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.

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!

Jun 29-Jul 23, 2014  Roger Williams

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$10295 (10-12 members)
$12295 (8-9 members)
$12595 (6-7 members)
Single supplement: $1325 (limited availability)
Internal airfare: $79 (subject to change)
more on pricing

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.).

Trip Payment Schedule*

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

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

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $250 per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

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

Roger Williams

Roger Williams has led Wilderness Travel trips for over 25 years. He is a Tibetologist who lived in Nepal for eight years, studying Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist iconographics, Himalayan languages, and woodblock art. He lived in Kyoto for two years studying Japanese woodblock art, Japanese language, and Shingon Shu, an esoteric sect of Japanese Buddhism. Roger has led many trips for us through India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, along the Silk Road, in Southeast Asia, to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Iran, Mongolia, and into remote corners of the Russian Far East. Since 2002, Roger has been working as a technical advisor with USAID consulting in tourism development projects in Mongolia, Armenia and Croatia. In July, 2010, he returned from his third The Great Game journey, a special WT Expedition that included visits to the Wakhan Valley as well as Mazar i-Sharif and Balk (formally Bactria) in northern Afghanistan. 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.

Upcoming Trips:

Glimpses of the Silk Road, June 21-30, 2014
The Great Game, June 29-July 23, 2014
Trans-Caucasus Adventure, September 6-30, 2014
Land of the Golden Fleece, September 30-October 9, 2014
The Burma Road: Kunming to Rangoon, November 3-30, 2014

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