A land steeped in history, mythology, and spellbinding beauty, Chapursan Valley is one of Pakistan’s most spectacular regions. Not particularly well-known and relatively difficult to access, Chapursan gives a deeply rewarding experience to the travelers who make the effort to seek it out.
Chapursan Valley is situated in Pakistan’s northwest corner, bordering the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. Due to its location, Chapursan has served as a waypoint for travelers for millennia despite the harsh, rugged territory that defines it.
I’m not gonna lie: getting here isn’t the easiest. Northern Pakistan has some of the most raw, wild terrain on the planet, so a safe (more or less 😉) journey requires a lengthy, tiring, and bumpy trip. But both the journey and the destination itself give one of the most fulfilling experiences you can possibly have.
This comprehensive guide covers all that you need to know about visiting Chapursan: getting there, where to stay, things to do when you’re there, and very importantly, what you need to bring with you. No matter what it is, this guide has got you covered.
What is Chapursan Valley?
Chapursan is one of my favorite parts of Pakistan because it truly does have everything waiting for the traveler: wild adventures, stunning scenery, great food that’s hard to find anywhere else, and a rich, unique history that gives the valley its singular identity.
Meaning “what else do you need” in Persian, Chapursan has a storied heritage of acting as a place of refuge and replenishment for the traveler, being the first true resting point on the Silk Road after long stretches of empty, desolate wilderness in Central Asia.
Weary travelers going eastward would arrive here after days or even weeks without finding any semblance of civilization or ways to resupply their stocks, so Chapursan was their one-stop-shop for resting at long last, and finding all that they needed to continue their journey.
On top of that, Chapursan to this day serves as a pilgrimage destination for Muslims throughout the region seeking to visit the mystical shrine of the famed Tajik saint, Baba Ghundi, so the people of the valley are more than used to greeting travelers despite Chapursan’s remote characteristics. Honestly, the hospitality of this region is incredible even for Pakistan, and that’s saying quite a lot.
Overflowing with epic, raw beauty, impossibly kind people, and captivating history, Chapursan is the sort of destination for those seeking a unique, unforgettable experience on Pakistan’s frontier.
When to Visit Chapursan
The people of Chapursan are some of the hardiest people I’ve ever met and can endure the harshest, most extreme weather conditions that can possibly throw at humanity. For the rest of us, though, it’s good to know when the weather is at its most mild so we can avoid experiencing the climate of the Pamir Mountains at its most relentless.
May through October are the best months to pay a visit where the weather is concerned, as you’ll manage to avoid freezing conditions while enjoying the relatively mild warmer months. Days will usually have mild to warm temperatures while the nights can still get very, very cold.
I have been there in April and the underground water pipes in the villages were still frozen – meaning no running water.
The valley never gets crowded due to its remote nature, but if you want to avoid seeing any tourists at all (who are mostly pilgrims) go in May or October. It’s not an exaggeration to say you might be the only visitor in the entire valley at that time. The weather then is a little colder but the sheer, untouched majesty of Chapursan more than makes up for it.
Autumn in Chapursan is absolutely mystifying, and personally my favorite season to visit. No tourists, lower prices, and a wealth of colors to feast your eyes on.
Winters here can be brutal, even at the altitude of 3200 meters, which is relatively low for the Pamir range. I strongly recommend avoiding a visit in this season unless you’re already adjusted to living in regions with vicious winter weather and ready for more, and that’s to say nothing of the miserable state of the road during the colder months.
Getting to Chapursan Valley
Thankfully, there are a few different ways to get to Chapursan despite its remote location: public transport, hiring a jeep, or taking your own personal vehicle. In this section I will elaborate on these options and the pros and cons of each one, as well as the road conditions and what you can expect along the way.
Even for a far-flung place like Chapursan, there is an affordable way to get there: Public transport. And to sweeten the deal, there are multiple venues for taking advantage of this option!
A public van leaves from Hunza daily and follows the Karakoram Highway all the way to the Chapursan Valley turnoff point near Sost, continuing deep into Chapursan itself. If you’re staying anywhere on the KKH between Aliabad and Sost, all you have to do is tell the owner of your guesthouse/hotel that you want to take the van to Chapursan, and they will arrange for the van to pick you up right in front by the roadside.
If you’re already in Sost, there is a public jeep that departs for Chapursan daily. Simply tell the owner of your hotel that you want to take the public jeep to Chapursan and they’ll direct you to the station where the jeep departs from, and they’ll inform you of the jeep’s schedule as well.
Either option will cost you just a few hundred rupees. It’s reliable, low-risk, and low-cost. The downside is that public transport affords you the least amount of flexibility and constrains your ability to quickly move around once you’re in Chapursan itself.
Hiring a Jeep
Wanting to see Chapursan while having a great degree of freedom, convenience, and reliability while not having to worry about paying for vehicle repairs should disaster strike? Then hiring a private jeep is absolutely for you. The rugged characteristics of Chapursan road means that you need a vehicle with kickass suspension to get around, and a good jeep does the job as nothing else can.
Having your own jeep means you can get around the valley relatively quickly and reliably, all while a competent, skilled pro does all the driving for you. You also won’t be on the hook financially if repairs to the jeep are needed, and help is never too far off should something happen.
All of that comes at a cost, though: this is naturally the most expensive option. You can expect to pay at least 6000 thousand rupees even for just a day trip, and that price will rise for each day you want to stay in Chapursan. Negotiate with your driver and make sure the price is set and agreed upon in advance.
Taking Your Own Personal Vehicle
By far the most fun of the three options, taking your own vehicle into Chapursan is a thrilling adventure and provides the most flexibility in getting around the valley.
Let’s get this out of the way first, though: Chapursan’s road is entirely off-road and not especially easy to drive on, so a vehicle with an automatic transmission built for driving in a city simply isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need a manual motorcycle or a vehicle with good suspension.
While not nearly as dangerous as, for example, the road to the Fairy Meadows or Shimshal Road, riding or driving on Chapursan’s road is still fairly challenging and risky, so I don’t suggest attempting it unless you’ve got a considerable amount of experience at handling off-road tracks.
As of this writing, the road conditions themselves are mostly bearable, save for one section near the first village, Yarzrich. This segment is roughly one kilometer in length and it is absolutely nightmarish to drive on. Excruciating, bumpy, and decidedly not enjoyable, you really need to be careful on this part which begins roughly one hour after the turnoff from the Karakoram Highway.
Caution also needs to be taken when crossing the valley’s numerous bridges: I’m not kidding when I say these bridges look sketchy as hell to drive on and I hold my breath every time I cross one. They genuinely look like they’re going to collapse as soon as any weight gets applied to the surface and yet they hold strong each time.
Those bridges can also be quite slippery, especially in cold weather, so just take your time in crossing and you’ll be fine. Saving a few seconds by going faster just isn’t worth the risk of serious injury.
Taking your own vehicle has an element of danger – and adventure! – that the other options lack, and it’s also important to remember that you’ll be footing the bill for any repairs to your vehicle should the need arise. And should you have a breakdown somewhere, you could be waiting a long time before help arrives.
Where to Stay in Chapursan
Owing to its history as a place of sanctuary for pilgrims and traders, the tradition of providing overwhelming hospitality to the traveler continues to this day. The people of Chapursan are Wakhi – an ethnic group found in northern Pakistan – and they will always ensure that you are stuffed with delicious food and hot chai!
Internet and phone signal throughout the valley is very weak at best and mostly nonexistent. Booking online in advance isn’t really a thing here, but thankfully, that’s not something you’ll have to worry about. 99% of the time, all you need to do is show up the day of your arrival, and rooms will be available.
Chapursan’s myriad of villages means there are plenty of spots to base yourself from, either staying in one spot or moving around as you see fit. The first village you’ll come across, Yarzrich, is about an hour’s drive from the Karakoram Highway and the distances between villages shrink as you go further into the valley. It’s possible to make the drive from Kirmin to Zudkhun – the final village – in roughly an hour.
Because of its long-held status as a traveler’s haven as well as the endpoint for Muslim pilgrims journeying to the shrine of Baba Ghundi, Chapursan has plenty of guesthouses to choose from, scattered throughout the valley’s many villages. Here you’ll find information on the prices, locations, and the contact numbers of Chapursan’s plethora of guesthouses.
Where prices are concerned, expect to pay around 2000 to 3000 rupees per night for a room at the absolute maximum, regardless of where you’re staying. Do not allow a host to charge more than 3000 rupees per night.
Here is a summary of the guesthouses and contact info in Chapursan: Below you can find details about each accommodation option.
|Village||Hotel Name||Contact Info|
|Kirmin||Didar Karim Guest House||+92-0355-5295103|
|Keel||Little Pleasure Guest House|| +92-0355-4316829|
|Reshit||Village Guest House||Owned by Iqbal Nabi|
|Reshit||Hilltop Guest House|| +92-0355-5650906|
|Sher e Sabz||Pamir Mountain Guest House||+92-0355-5654099|
|Sher e Sabz||Chapursan Village Guest House||Owned by Rasul Khan|
|Zudkhun||Shah Guest House||+92-0355-5650306|
One of the first villages in Chapursan you can stay in and a drop-off point for public transport, Kirmin has one guesthouse owned by Didar Karim.
Just a little further down the road, you’ll come across Keel Village, a tiny hamlet with a splendid backdrop. There’s one guesthouse which you’ll find marked on the left-hand side of the road (Littel Pleasure Guest House).
Reshit Village and Sher e Sabz Village
Only a few kilometers after Keel is Reshit Village and Sher e Sabz just after, home to a number of guesthouses.
Chapursan Village Guest House (Sher e Sabz) – owned by Rasul Khan
Meaning “first house,” Zudkhun is literally the first village that weary travelers would arrive at when traversing the Silk Road from the west through Tajikistan and Afghanistan. There is a well-known guesthouse here run by Alam Jan Dario, a local who has lived in Chapursan most of his life, and another one just down the road named Shah Guest House.
Alam Jan is a bit of a legend in his own right and has worked with the likes of famous Nat Geo photographer Matthieu Paley; his place is the Pamir Serai Guest House. A good second option is the Shah Guest House.
An important note on Pamir Sarai Guesthouse/Homestay:
While I personally have had a fantastic time staying here to the point of it feeling like home (as did Chris, founder of Off the Atlas), recently there have been allegations arising of male family members from this guesthouse sexually harassing foreign and local female visitors.
Female travelers should be aware that staying here does carry some risks. The general traveling public who plans to visit this place should be aware of this history and take precautions accordingly.
Check out this article if you want to know more about the issue of sexual harassment in Pakistan in general.
What to Do in Chapursan
Travelers to Chapursan are lavished with things to do, so much so to the point that it’s impossible to cover it all in a guide. There’s so much to explore and discover that even locals who have spent their entire lives here will say there’s always more to learn. With all that said, there are some highlights that can’t be missed.
Travel to the Shrine of Baba Ghundi
Located at the very edge of Chapursan Valley leading up to the Wakhan Corridor, the shrine of Baba Ghundi is a mystical, revered destination for both pilgrims and common travelers. A visit to Chapursan is not complete without taking the time to explore this amazing site.
If you don’t have your own transportation, it’s possible to arrange for a vehicle to take you there. Just ask the owner of your guesthouse to arrange a vehicle and they’ll make it happen!
*An important note: As the shrine is virtually touching the Afghan border, the Pakistani army considers this area sensitive and the rules for entering the area are constantly changing. There is a checkpoint at the entrance, and at the least, you will need to show your passport and visa to the guards.
However, that policy can change at any moment of the army’s choosing and you may need a Non-Objection Certificate (NOC) in order to enter. NOCs are difficult to obtain and you will need to acquire one well before arriving in Chapursan. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict when or if those rules will change. Thankfully, this does not apply to Chapursan Valley itself.
Treks, treks, and more treks
Chapursan has a seemingly infinite number of treks both large and small to satisfy the appetites of any hiker. You could hike for just a few hours or embark on a trek that lasts a week or two through the Little Pamir range and into the Wahkan.
Some older locals have told me that prior to 9/11, it was far easier to cross the borders into Afghanistan and Tajikistan, which left a truly huge window of opportunity open for trekking and exploring. It’s tragic to think of all the opportunities we’ve missed out on since then.
Even so, it’s still possible to set out on some of Pakistan’s most breathtaking hikes. Your guesthouse owner can help to organize a guide for day hikes, whether you’re looking for something grandiose or smaller-scale. They can even help with hiring porters and mules if needed – though this stuff should be organized in advance.
If you are plan on doing a big multi-day hike though the Little Pamir, you will need to bring your own gear, food, and the correct permits before coming to Chapursan. Organizing a guide and porters beforehand is also a must.
Learn more about Chapursan’s Unique History
Ask any local and they will be happy to indulge your curiosity about Chapursan’s rich, bizarre history and myths. There aren’t many better ways to pass the time at your guesthouse in between sessions spent exploring the valley!
Hearing these stories around the fire, chai in hand with the enthralling Pamir Mountains as the backdrop will leave you hungering for more and yearning for yet another journey into this remarkable valley once you’ve left…
What to Bring
Thankfully, Chapursan isn’t entirely off-the-grid so you don’t need to pack like it. Should you forget something, there’s a good chance you can replace it without too much trouble. That being said, here are some basic essentials you shouldn’t forget:
- A headtorch. Never leave home without it!
- If you’re only staying a few days, a small daypack (40 liters or so) would be enough. If you want to go on a lengthy trek, a bigger pack will be a great help.
- Sleeping bag rated to freezing temperatures. Nights can be frigid, and sometimes the blankets the guesthouses have won’t get the job done (but you can always ask for more if you need more warmth!).
- If you’re planning on camping, don’t forget your own camping kitchen, sleeping pads, tent, food, etc.
Check out my full Pakistan adventure gear packing list.
Final Thoughts: Chapursan Valley Travel Guide
Chapursan is undeniably one of Pakistan’s greatest treasures. Its landscapes possess watercolor painting-like beauty, its people are some of the most hospitable you’ll find anywhere, and its distinctive identity as a port of call for travelers dating back to ancient times makes Chapursan irresistibly alluring.
This enchanting valley, though difficult to reach, delivers one of Pakistan’s most glorious experiences. Chapursan is for lovers of trekking, adventure, and history. If any of those are your thing – Chapursan is a can’t-miss.