John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil

2005 Kashch Goz, Little Pamir, Wakhan, Afghanistan 2004 Kyrgyz yurt at Kashch Goz, Little Pamir, Wakhan, Afghanistan 2004 Upper Wakhjir Valley, Little Pamir, Wakhan, Afghanistan

Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor & the Afghan Pamir

John Mock and Kimberley O'Neil traveled to Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and the Afghan Pamir six times between 2004 and 2008, and John returned again to Wakhan in 2016. In Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir, they have trekked more than 1,000 kilometers and crossed eleven high mountain passes.


Their successful 2004 expedition to the source of the Oxus River in the Wakhjir Valley and across the Dilisang Pass to Misgar in Pakistan was supported by the 2004 GORE-TEX Brand ® Shipton/Tilman Grant awarded by W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Read the expedition report, or read it on W.L. Gore's / WINDSTOPPER ® Adventure Diaries. Play the expedition slide show.


In 2005, they were consultants for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Aga Khan Foundation-Afghanistan on Tourism Promotion in Wakhan District, Badakhshan, Afghanistan.

In 2006 and 2007, they worked in Wakhan District for the Community Conservation project of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Biodiversity Project. In 2014, Wakhan National Park was established as Afghanistan's second national park.

IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) published in its June 2014, No. 82 issue of The Mountain Protected Areas UPDATE:

"The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the Afghanistan Government's recent declaration establishing the entire Wakhan District, one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan, as the nation's second national park. The Wakhan National Park, with its beautiful alpine grasslands and craggy mountains, will provide protection for Afghanistan's rare and vulnerable wildlife such as the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, lynx, Himalayan ibex and urial. This new protected area will be co-managed by the Afghanistan Government and local communities, providing livelihoods related to the park and improved services to one of the poorest and most isolated regions on earth. The new park, just over 1 million hectares or 4,200 square miles, is in Afghanistan's far northeast, and borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China; its narrow valley landscape is sandwiched between the Pamir and Hindu Kush Mountains. This huge new protected area is about 25 percent bigger than Yellowstone National Park. Network members John Mock and Kim O'Neil, and George Schaller have been working toward this end. This is indeed good news!"

Read a 2011 update on protected areas in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the IUCN-WCPA Mountain Protected Areas UPDATE (No. 72, December 2011).

Read about the outcome of the Return to Noshaq campaign to raise funds to clear landmines from the trekking route to Noshaq (7492m), Afghanistan's highest peak.


Their writings on Wakhan include history, culture, language, rock art, Old Tibetan inscriptions, shrine traditions and tourism.

They wrote and coordinated Wakhan & the Afghan Pamir, a 16-page tourism brochure with descriptive text, route information and detailed two-page route map, which will be published by the Aga Khan Foundation-Afghanistan in June 2006 for their Wakhan tourism development program. To download the latest version of the brochure (3.9MB), you can also visit the AKDN Publication page of the Aga Khan Development Network's website.

They contributed an essay "The Roof of the World" on Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir to a travel literature anthology entitled The Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle of Nowhere, published in October 2006 by Lonely Planet Publications. Publishers Weekly writes in Spring 2006 that this book "pictorially encourages an all-out search for adventure."

2005 Kimberley O'Neil approaching Irshad Uween (4979m), the pass linking Wakhan's Little Pamir from Bai Qara Valley to Pakistan's Chapursan Valley

Readers' Comments

Your works on Shimshal oral expressive forms and interpretative categories as well the articles you publish on the Wakhi area and Wakhan more broadly are brilliant and very inspirational for a young research like me. Thibault, Belgium, March 2019.

I was here reading [your] Wakhan adventures, which are very inspiring to say the least. I thank you for this great resource. Umut, Turkey, April 2018

I want to make the trip to the Wakhan and I have found your website to be very helpful - not to mention the beautiful brochure! - thanks! Aimee, Kabul, June 2014

I am writing to share a recent article I wrote about my travels through the Wakhan Corridor, which also includes some of my photographs. I also wished to thank you for the detailed information provided on your website, as it was exceptionally helpful during my pre-trip planning. As a scholar myself, I've found your articles on the cultural history of the Wakhan exceptionally engaging and informative … much of my own knowledge of the region has come from your own work. James, Canada, June 2014

Your travels and publications are very inspiring: Your careers are exactly the path that I hope to pursue. Paul, UK, October 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed your inspiring expedition notes and photographs, and indeed, as a newspaper correspondent until recently based in Pakistan, I enjoyed your excellent guide book. Ismabard, February 2012

[We]'d like to thank you for putting all these informations together! It is one of the few links on the Wakhan Corridor on the Web, and the mix of personal stories, extremely useful datas and breathtaking pictures is clearly a must-see for anyone willing to travel in this part of the world. Fabrice (Paris) and Cedric (Montreal), May 2011

Thank you so much for the wonderful account of your expedition to the source of the Oxus. It is a truly inspirational read! Alessandra, October 2010

[I] am fascinated by Wakhan corridor … [and would like to] … walk in your footsteps to the Oxus source and over the Dilisang Pass … Piotr, Poland, January 2009

Forgive this message from a stranger, but I've been a fan of your website for more than a year now. I found it when I started planning my own trip to Afghanistan and the Wakhan. It's a real inspiration, as some of your admirers have already said. John, UK, January 2009

Your travel report have been a great source of inspiration. Frederic, France, July 2008

I received your email and website address from a friend of mine and you really give me inspiration … You are doing great work! but I am sure you are aware of this! Britt, Netherlands, May 2008

Thanks for the inspirational website. I hoped to travel into Wakhan in 1973 but the King was deposed and that was that; we were repeatedly turned back. Thirty-five years later and retired, I am inspired by your website to thinking about it again…
Mark, UK, October 2007

I have read your informative and very interesting report from August 2004. Congratulations on a fine achievement and in particular on having the confidence to proceed beyond the ice cave area to the Dilisang Pass, when you remained uncertain exactly where it was.
Bill, Surrey, UK, March 2007

Your website is great - you have led amazing lives!
Kristin, Ohio, March 2007

I visited your web site and I found it very interesting, my best compliments for your trips and for the pictures. Reading your report about the traverse from Wakhan to [Pakistan] made me want to visit Wakhan and cross Irshad Uween.
Pietro, Italy, June 2006

What a nice web site you have! And what an example you can be for a young 20-year-old traveller like me! There is nothing more important in life than having the courage to live our dream … Wow!
Olivier, Montréal, April 2006

Afghanistan Now

Today's traveler to Afghanistan has the unique opportunity for their travel experience to have a positive impact by contributing financially to urgent humanitarian needs and reconstruction efforts. In return, Afghanistan will offer its rich culture, history and natural beauty, and the Afghans will share their strong tradition of hospitality. So, rather than waiting, go to Afghanistan now.

Wakhan Permission (Updated January 2007)

In addition to obtaining a visa for travel to Afghanistan, you need to request special permission to travel anywhere in Wakhan District of Badakhshan Province (essentially anywhere east of Ishkashim), which includes all of the Wakhan Corridor and Afghan Pamir. A trekking permit is not required.

The process for getting permission changes regularly, so cover all your bases. In 2006, the steps were:

  • 1. In Kabul
    Contact the Afghan Tourism Organization (ATO) who can act as the liaison with government ministries and issue you a letter to give to government authorities in Faizabad and Ishkashim. ATO's office is near Kabul International Airport on the right-hand side of the road 100 meters before the roundabout when coming from the city.

  • 2. In Faizabad
    Contact Engineer Mohammad Deen (Roshan telephone 0799-418060) at the government's tourist information center who issues a letter for authorities in Ishkashim.

  • 3. In Ishkashim
    Go to the Border Security Force and to the police.
    • The Border Security Force's commander, currently Mir Abdul Wahid Khan, issues another permission letter for Wakhan. This letter must state you have permission to visit Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir if you want to go to the Big Pamir and/or the Little Pamir. He may or may not issue this letter without previous letters from Kabul and/or Faizabad.
    • The police in Ishkashim radio permission to police posts upvalley, although this system is subject to breakdowns.

You may be asked to show your letters at several places, but definitely in Qila-e Panja and Sarhad-e Broghil. If you don't have permission, you will be sent back to Ishkashim.

Cross-Border Permission (Updated January 2007)

Enticing possibilities for cross-border treks are already luring hardy trekkers to Wakhan. Keep in mind that obtaining a visa for a country does not mean you have "permission" to cross an international border where there is no legal border crossing or immigration checkpost. In order to attempt a cross-border route, you must request special permission from the governments of both countries that allows you to exit one country at a given location, and enter another country at a given location with notation of where you will handle immigration formalities.

In Afghanistan, start with ATO. In Pakistan, contact the Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Tourism (email, telephone 92-51-9213642, fax 92-51-9215912), Green Tower Trust, 11th floor, Blue Area, Islamabad, Pakistan. The only legal border crossing between Afghanistan and Tajikistan is at the town of Ishkashim.

Warning: If you attempt a cross-border route without explicit permission for that route, you are subject to being shot at, taken into custody, and accused of crimes. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 everyone who attempted an international border crossing without permission was detained by authorities. Foolhardy decisions are likely to create an international incident, and risk authorities restricting access to these border areas for everyone.


Maps of Wakhan are not available for sale within Afghanistan, so visit an online map seller.

The topographic 1:500,000 The Pamirs (ISBN 3-906593-35-5, Gecko Maps 2004) map features the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) region of Tajikistan. It depicts Afghanistan's Wakhan District, yet lacks place names, prominent peaks, and routes. It does, however, give the best readily available depiction of the topography.

Russian Maps

The Russian military published four series of highly detailed topographic maps, labelled in Russian, that best depict Wakhan for trekking and mountaineering.

  • 1:50,000 series (18 sheets)
  • View an index of the Wakhan sheets in the 1:50,000 series.

    Download the Russian maps.

  • 1:100,000 series (10 sheets)
  • Map #Map NameMap Description
    J42-132 Ichdrag
    J43-99 Sarhad
    J43-100 Langar confluence of Borak and Wakhan Rivers, up Shpodkis Valley, across Uween-e-Sar and Aqbelis Pass to Kashch Goz
    J43-101 Chakmaktin Wakhjir Valley east from the confluence of the Bozai Darya and Wakhjir River to the Wakhjir Pass, and the Little Pamir north to Chaqmaqtin Lake
    J43-109 Khandud
    J43-110 Sust
    J43-111 Yor Yor Broghil
    J43-112 Showorsher
    J43-113 Babakhundi Kamansu Valley south across Dilisang Pass into Pakistan
    J43-121 Masjid-Lasht

    View an index of the sheets in the 1:100,000 series.

  • 1:200,000 series (8 sheets)
  • J42-30, J42-36, J43-20, J43-21, J43-25, J43-26, J43-27, J43-31

  • 1:500,000 series (2 sheets)
  • J42-G, J43-V

U.S. Military Maps

The U.S. military published two series depicting Wakhan.

  • 1:250,000 Joint Operations Ground (JOG) (6 sheets)
  • NJ 42-12, NJ 42-16, NJ 43-09, NJ 43-10, NJ 43-13, NJ 43-14

    View an index of the 63 sheets in the Afghanistan series.

  • 1:500,000 Tactical Pilotage Chart (TPC) (2 sheets)
  • G-6B, G-7A

  • 1:100,000 U.S. Defense Mapping Agency Afghanistan Series U611
  • (Map sheets listed from west to east):
    • 3191 Gaz Khan

    • 3291 Sarhad (Rochun to Langar, Tila Bai to Zorkol, north to Tajik border, includes Kotal-e Shaur)

    • 3391 Tas Seri (Little Pamir from Langar to Qara Jilga, just east of Chaqmaqtin Lake, Wakhjir Valley east to Kamansu)

    Note: Series does not show areas south of the Wakhan River.


[This page is under construction.]

Hiring Local People

Download the 2013 list of prices for transport, local hires (guide, cook, porter, pack animals), and guest houses issued by the Tourism Incharge, Ministry of Culture & Information.

Most trekkers will want to hire a least one person with local trail knowledge who can bring a pack animal (donkey, horse or yak) to carry gear and assist with river crossings. Every village has a rotational system that equitably gives work to men who want to work with trekkers. When you arrive in a village near a trailhead, the villagers can easily find someone to accompany you.

Anyone interested in hiring a trek guide or trek cook can contact the following individuals who received basic training as either a guide or cook, and with spoken English. Of the 25 names below, there is one from each village in Upper Wakhan. Everyone is eager to work and build upon their basic trek skills - put the word out in any village.

Trained asNameHome Village
(listed west to east
from Ishkashim)
Home Region
GuideBahlai Sarkand (son of Kuboz)Qila-e PanjaUpper Wakhan
CookInayat DilshadQila-e PanjaUpper Wakhan
GuideMohammad Gul (son of Sarwar)AvgarchUpper Wakhan
GuideDildar Beg (son of Pahlwan)SastUpper Wakhan
GuideCharshambiQila-e WustUpper Wakhan
CookJuma Gul(son of Anwar Qul)GozkhunUpper Wakhan
GuideQurban(son of Haq Nazar)WuzedUpper Wakhan
CookMehrban Shah (son of Khairullah)ShelkUpper Wakhan
CookMurad BegKipkutUpper Wakhan
GuideSyed Faqir (son of Mir Din)SargezUpper Wakhan
GuideBadul Beg (son of Qadam Ali)Baba TungiUpper Wakahn
CookMirza (son of Mohammad Hassan)KuzgetUpper Wakhan
CookGharib Mohammad (son of Bashir)KretUpper Wakhan
GuideBoz GulKarichUpper Wakhan
GuideSarwar (son of Pomeri)KandkhunUpper Wakhan
CookAlam Khan (son of Khuda Bakhsh)DehghulamanUpper Wakhan
GuideMohammad Ayub (son of Wali)RorungUpper Wakhan
CookJuma Khan (son of Pina Khan)RochunUpper Wakhan
CookDildar (son of Farman)Archa (Rukut)Upper Wakhan
CookKhan (son of Yusuf)NirsUpper Wakhan
GuideMurad Ali (son of Nauroz)KorkutUpper Wakhan
CookGulshir (son of Fatoh)NeshtkhawarUpper Wakhan
GuideKhuda Birgen (son of Mohammad Beg)PtukhUpper Wakhan
CookSyed Khan (son of Sihat Khan)ChilkandUpper Wakhan
GuideKhaliq DadSarhad-e BroghilUpper Wakhan

In 2006, the following men have also received training in basic mountaineering, camp chores and cooking, and spoken English.

NameHome Village
(listed west to east
from Ishkashim)
Home Region
MalangQazidehLower Wakhan
Yar MohammadWergund BalaLower Wakhan
Aziz BegPaghishLower Wakhan
Noor AliKhandudLower Wakhan
AmruddinKhandudLower Wakhan
Syed SafdarSargezUpper Wakhan
Hatam BegKretUpper Wakhan
Gurg AliKarichUpper Wakhan

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