central asia horse riders yurt

The Great Game

A Grand Central Asian Odyssey

Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set


Join Central Asia explorer and Trip Leader Roger Williams to discover the magic of the most far-flung destinations of “the Great Game,” as the 19th century diplomatic rivalry between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia was known. Roger is a veteran of this fabled realm and his long-time friendships here bring us fascinating cultural opportunities as we journey from western China’s Xinjiang Province to northern Pakistan's Hunza Valley, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. We begin in the former Silk Road trading post of Kashgar, with its world-famous Sunday market, then explore dazzling Hunza, known for its spectacular Karakoram Mountains and the warm hospitality of its residents. We then cross the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan on a high, remote road amid the lakes and glaciers of the High Pamirs. One highlight along the way will be gazing into the once-forbidden Wakhan Corridor, a  buffer zone between Tajikistan and Afghanistan created during the Great Game between Russia and Britain. Here the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Pamir ranges converge in spectacular fashion and we’ll meet the semi-nomadic Wakhi and Tajik people who herd their yaks beneath snow-capped 20,000-foot peaks. Come along and feast your eyes on phenomenal scenery, visit ancient sites that few travelers ever see, and meet the Uighurs, Hunzakuts, Tajiks, and Wakhis, whose rich cultures are deeply tied to this desert and mountain realm. Note: We do plan to visit the Hunza Valley, but if conditions are not right, our alternative itinerary visit brings us to the former Silk Road hubs of Turpan, Khotan, and Yarkand in China's storied Takla Makan Desert.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Kashgar, China

Explore this famously isolated city, launching pad for many Tibet, Pamir, and Karakoram expeditions in the 18th and 19th centuries. We roam the amazing Sunday Bazaar, which still throbs in the heart of Kashgar, and other sites including the green-tiled tomb of Abakh Khodja, a powerful 7th century ruler of Kashgar.

Days 4-12
Tashkurgan / Khunjerab Pass / Hunza Valley

We head to beautiful Karakul Lake then over Subashi Pass to Tashkurgan at 12,000 feet. We'll cross the breathtaking Karakorum Mountains into northern Pakistan’s spectacular Hunza Valley, an independent princely state for some 600 years. Hunza’s main town, Karimabad, lies in the shadow of majestic snow-covered Rakaposhi (25,501’). In our days here, we visit local homes, tour ancient hilltop forts, enjoy walks along the ancient hand-dug water channels that irrigate the valley’s apricot orchards, and soak up the mountain and glacier views. On Day 12, we head back to Tashkurgan, China.

Please note: If it does not seem wise to visit Hunza for any reason, we have created an alternative Non-Hunza itinerary for Days 4-12. On these days, we'll explore the oasis-cities of the southern Silk Road. We start with Turpan, home to some of the most important Buddhist cave sites in Asia, and the fascinating sites of Khotan, a magnet for Chinese traders even before the Silk Road days, and Yarkand, once an important stop for the Silk Road's cashmere trade, before heading to Kashgar and Tashkurgan.

Days 13-15
Kashgar / Irkishtam Pass, Kyrgyzstan / Murghab Valley, Tajikistan

Returning to Kashgar, we then head to Kyrgyzstan, crossing Irkishtam Pass (9,679’) and contouring below the high Pamirs to Tajikistan, with vistas of Pik Lenin and the snow-capped Pamir Range. Stunning Pamir panoramas, ancient geoglyphs, and interactions with shepherds make our journey fascinating.

Days 16-20
Khargosh Pass / Wakhan / Khorog / Kala-i-Khum

Traveling along the banks of the Oxus River, we enter the Wakhan region of Tajikistan, where the mighty peaks of the Hindu Kush come into view. The green Wakhan Corridor was created during the Great Game by the British Empire to act as a buffer against Russian ambitions in India. We meet the Wakhi and Tajik people of Wakhan and continue through Badakhshan Province to the pleasant town of Khorog and onward to the outpost of Kala-i-Khum.

Days 21-27
Dushanbe / Khujend / Tashkent, Uzbekistan

After visiting Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, we enter Uzbekistan and explore Iskanderkul Lake, Khujend, and Tashkent before departing on Day 27.



Roam the famed Sunday Market in the Silk Road outpost of Kashgar
Experience the breathtaking setting of the Hunza Valley
Meet the Uighurs, Hunzakuts, Tajiks, Uzbeks and other Central Asian peoples
Cross the spell-binding High Pamirs on the roof of Asia
Enjoy one of the great overland journeys of the world


Length: 27 days
Cost From: TBA  
Arrive: Kashgar, China
Depart: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Lodging: 25 nights in best available hotels and guesthouses, 1 night in alpine tented camp
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Archaeology
Trip Level:

Cultural exploration and walking tours, rugged road travel