Crossing the Wagah border between India and Pakistan

Updated in 2020: a quick guide on crossing the Wagah border between India and Pakistan between Amritsar and Lahore. Includes everything you need to know about this well known—but little-used—border crossing.

March 2020 update: Due to the ongoing health crisis in much of the world, the Attari – Wagah border crossing is currently closed for foreigners. It is unclear how long this will be the case, but I will update this guide with new information once it becomes available.

 

Want to dive deep into Pakistan with me? I’ve designed Pakistan tours like no other—check them out here.

Famous for its daily Wagah border ceremony, known for its border tensions, the Wagah border sees little actual traffic. Probably because most people are still wondering if it’s possible to cross overland between India and Pakistan!

Good news: it totally is. If you’re armed with a visa (and nothing else), the Wagah border crossing is the most convenient way of traveling overland between India and Pakistan. Read on for a guide to crossing the border between India and Pakistan, last updated in 2020.

Note that the name of this border on the Indian side is called Attari. However, most people know the Attari border crossing simply as Wagah. I will use the term Wagah to describe this border, as it is the same as the Attari border crossing.

A guide to crossing overland at the Wagah border between Amritsar and Lahore

Note: This article focuses on foreign travelers. Though the process seemed to be the same for a group of Indian women crossing at the same time, other Indians or Pakistanis might have a different—and more thorough—experience. If you’re Indian or Pakistani, you can only use this border if your visa specifies you’re crossing by foot.

I’ve crossed this border multiple times, going from both Lahore to Amritsar and from Amritsar to Lahore. Despite tensions between India and Pakistan, and the sometimes intense security you’ll encounter in Pakistan, the actual border crossing is very easy and straightforward. Here’s how to do it.

Headed to Pakistan? Don’t miss this practical guide with things to know before you go to Pakistan.

Crossing overland at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan - Public bus to Atari - Lost With Purpose travel blog

How to get to the Wagah border from Amritsar, India

Taxi to the Wagah border

You can hire a taxi to bring you to the Wagah border crossing station for around 800 INR. They will not be able to bring you further than that point.

Bus to the Wagah border

Public buses run from Amritsar to a point close to the Wagah border. A rickshaw to the Amritsar bus stand should cost 70 – 100 INR from the Golden Temple area. Vicky, Jugaadus Hostel’s dedicated rickshaw driver, charges 100 INR for a ride from the hostel. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the bus stand from either of these places.

Once at the bus stand, there are half-hourly buses from Amritsar bus stand to Atari, the nearest town to the Wagah border. These buses leave from dock 23, and a hawker will direct you to the right bus. A ticket is 35 INR per person, and the journey takes roughly one hour.

The bus also stops at Amritsar Railway Station. It stops just outside the exit, near the stairs for the footbridge. The hawker will make it clear he’s going to Wagah Border; if you’re coming to Amritsar by train, keep your ears open.

I suggest leaving Amritsar by 14:00 at the latest. Officials stop letting people cross around 15:30, sometimes earlier in winter as the border closing ceremony times are dictated by sunset.

Crossing overland at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan - The bus stand to Attari and the Wagah border - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The bus will drop you off roughly 3 kilometers from the Wagah border. There will be plenty of cycle rickshaws around to pedal you to the actual Wagah Border crossing. They charge 20-30 INR per person.

If you’re heading from Lahore to Amritsar you can go from the Wagah border to Amritsar using the same bus. However, you might have to pay a bit more for the cycle rickshaw to bring you to the bus stop. Expect 40-50 INR instead.

 

Crossing overland at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan - Cycle rickshaw to the border - Lost With Purpose travel blog

A cycle rickshaw from Attari to the Wagah border

The easiest way to get to the Wagah border from Lahore

Getting to the Wagah border to cross from Lahore to Amritsar is a bit less straightforward. There are buses, but I don’t know from where they go or how often they go. If anyone reading this has some information, please let me know.

The easiest way to get from Lahore to the Wagah border is by rickshaw. Uber and Careem used to drop people at the border, but they are now prohibited from doing so. However, their rickshaws seem to be able to avoid this issue—give it a go!

A rickshaw to the Wagah border from Lahore should cost around 500-700 PKR.

Is there a train between India and Pakistan?

The train between the two countries is but the stuff of legends. Many travelers have sought out a way to cross by train, but trains are not running at this time. The only time when trains run between the two countries is during major religious pilgrimages. Don’t expect to get on those—security will be tight, and they will not allow non-pilgrims to ride.

Crossing overland at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan

The below section is written as if coming from Amritsar to Lahore. If you’re crossing the border from Pakistan to India, the process is more or less the same, just in reverse.

Crossing the Wagah border on the Indian side (Attari)

Once you enter the border crossing compound, your passport will be checked and your details noted down. After this, you’ll be directed to the visitor center. Here you will be patted down (lazily) before heading to the immigration booth. At the immigration booth, your passport will be checked and stamped, and you’ll have to fill in an immigration card with basic questions.

After this your bags will be scanned, immigration cards checked, and you’ll be put on a two-minute (and delightfully air-conditioned) bus to the border. The whole process took roughly 20 minutes, but it can take longer if there are more people. There were only four others when we crossed. Note that you’re technically not allowed to take Indian rupees out of India, but they hardly ever ask about this.

Crossing overland at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan - Bus at the Indian border - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Sweeeeet AC

When you get out of the bus, hand your immigration card to an officer, and then you can proceed to the actual border crossing. Here your passport will be checked two more times, once on the Indian side and once on the Pakistani side.

Crossing the Wagah border on the Pakistan side (Wagah)

Note: If crossing from Lahore to Amritsar,  you’ll have to go through several security checkpoints on the Pakistan side before reaching the border area.

After walking through the border gate to the Pakistan side, you’ll be directed to the immigration office where you have to fill in an arrival card. They will want to know the exact address and phone number of the place or person you’ll be staying with, but as long as you write down something that makes sense, they won’t actually check or bother you much about it.

They’ll also ask you where else in Pakistan you’ll be visiting. Only give generic answers such as Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, and say you’ll either fly out or cross back over the Wagah border. Avoid mention of crossing overland into Iran or China if this is your plan.

The whole process took about 10 minutes in total. My bags weren’t searched, and I could proceed to walk into Pakistan.

Getting from the Pakistan side of the Wagah border to Lahore

Once you leave the immigration office, there’s a little sitting area with shade and some porters. Here you can change some money, and wait for a toy train (yes, really) to bring you to the parking lot. From the parking lot, you can take a taxi or rickshaw to Lahore. I was quoted 800 PKR (about $6) for a rickshaw ride, which means you can probably haggle the price down by a couple hundred.

It’s also possible to hitchhike back to Lahore or take a bus. If you want to do this, you’ll have to walk to the “town” about a kilometer beyond the border compound. However, it’s easiest to just take a rickshaw or taxi. If you stay to watch the Wagah border ceremony (more on that below) you can definitely hitch a ride back to Lahore from the Wagah border.

 

Report of crossing overland from Amritsar to Lahore at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan - The gate to the Wagah border area - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Entrance to the Wagah border area from the Pakistan side

Watching the Wagah border ceremony

Instead of hopping on a taxi or rickshaw, I recommend you stay for a bit and watch the utterly bizarre border ceremony. The ceremony starts around 18:00 (earlier in winter), but people start pouring in around 16:00.

Crossing from Amritsar to Lahore at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan

The ceremony is free to watch, but you can’t take your luggage. You can ask the kiosk at the parking lot if they will look after your bags, or ask at the immigration office if you can store them there. Alternatively, a (literally) cooler option is to cross the border earlier in the day, drop your bags in Lahore somewhere, and return to the border in the evening.

The added benefit of watching the ceremony is that it will be easy to hitch a ride or take a bus to Lahore afterward, saving you a chunk of money.

Where to stay in Amritsar and Lahore

Amritsar

  • Ultra budget – Golden Temple – Free dorms at the Golden Temple for foreigners. Basic, but perfect for budget travelers.
  • Budget – Jugaadus Hostel – A super laid back hostel with very friendly and helpful staff. One of the first hostels in India. Good value.
  • Mid-rangeGolden Tulip Amritsar – An orderly hotel with pool close to Amritsar railway station. Price includes breakfast.
  • LuxuryRanjitvilas – A beautiful building a bit outside of Amritsar, surrounded by quiet fields. A great way to experience Punjabi hospitality at its finest.

Lahore

  • Budget – Lahore Backpackers – The most popular backpacker hangout of Lahore (beware: Lahore Backpackers is not a tour operator, don’t get an LOI or a tour from Lahore Backpackers!).
  • Mid-range – Tourist Inn Hotel – Friendly staff and excellent food options in this mid-range hotel.
  • Luxury – Luxus Grand Hotel – One of the best value luxury hotels in Lahore, the hotel has a gym, pool, and friendly staff.

 

So there you have it, a complete guide on crossing overland at the Wagah border between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. It’s easy and relaxed, and much less thorough than you would expect at such a sensitive border.

Planning your trip to Pakistan? Check out this massive guide with everything to do in Lahore!

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Crossing the border between Georgia and Russia

From Sebastiaan: A guide to crossing the land border between Georgia and Russia via the Georgian Military Highway.

 

Hanging out in Georgia (Kazbegi) or southern Russia (Vladikavkaz) and interested in crossing the Georgia – Russia border by land? I got you!

Here’s a guide to crossing the border between Georgia and Russia on foot. This border crossing guide includes transportation information, visa advice, tips for the actual border crossing process, and everything else you need to know to make your border crossing as smooth as possible. If you’re heading to Georgia, make sure to check out my Georgia travel guide.

Before crossing the Georgia-Russia border

Getting a Russian visa

Most people need a visa for Russia. You can get one in your country of residence. However, if you need to get a Russian visa while traveling you can apply for a Russian visa in Tbilisi. Here’s a guide to applying for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, Georgia.

There are no ATMs on either side of the border. Money changing facilities are available at the border crossing, but they’re not always open. Better you bring some Russian rubles or Georgian lari, depending on which direction you’re going. Once you’ve crossed the border, both Vladikavkaz, Russia and Kazbegi, Georgia have ATMs.

Getting to the Georgia – Russia border

How to get to the Georgia – Russia border from Georgia

Taxi or car from Kazbegi

Kazbegi is the closest town to the Georgia – Russia border.

It’s a 20-minute drive from Kazbegi to the border. A taxi to the border costs around 15 GEL, but you might have to haggle hard for this price. Note that Georgian taxis are not allowed to cross the border. It’s impossible to take a taxi from Kazbegi to Vladikavkaz unless the driver is Russian (or Armenian).

Hitchhiking is another option. Many Russians and Armenian cars drive across the border daily.

Marshrutka from Tbilisi

It’s also possible to jump on a marshrutka going to Vladikavkaz from Tbilisi if they have enough space. The ride from Tbilisi to the border takes about 3 hours. Direct marshrutkas run from Didube bus station for 30 GEL. They go hourly… if there’s demand. If not, at least one goes at 5:00 in the morning. To make sure you secure a seat, head to Didube the day before to reserve one.

How to get to the Russia – Georgia border from Russia

Buses and marshrutka run from Vladikavkaz to Kazbegi and Tbilisi throughout the day, leaving from the main Vladikavkaz bus station. This is a popular route; show up early or reserve your seat in advance. Tickets are 700 – 900 rubles per person.

You can also take a taxi to the border, Kazbegi, or all the way to Tbilisi. This will cost anywhere from 1000 to 1500 rubles. The drive to the border takes about half an hour.

Hitchhiking to the border should be possible, though finding a good starting point might be tricky. It’s best to take a taxi or local bus to the highway and start from there.

Crossing the Georgia – Russia border

Important: You can’t walk across this border. If coming from Georgia you can walk into the customs area, but after that, you have to hitch a ride to the Russian side. If coming from Russia you have to take a car starting from the Border Logistics Terminal.

Crossing the Georgia – Russia border from Georgia

Georgian side

As noted above, you can’t cross by foot (it’s too long anyway: the buffer zone is a few kilometers long). However, you can walk into the customs area and get your passport stamped. You have to find a ride to the Russian side—and further to Vladikavkaz—after this, but based on my experience it’s easy to do so.

The Georgian side of the border crossing is a breeze; it took me two minutes. Officials check your passport and make sure you have a Russian visa. The end.

Interrogations on the Russian side

Fill out an immigration card in duplicate, then give the cards and your passport to the immigration officer. They might ask questions, but the lady who handled my passport didn’t speak English. After perusing my passport, she told me to sit down and called a colleague.

After 15 minutes, a FSB officer brought me to a back room in a different building. My Pakistan and Afghanistan visas had sparked suspicion!

I was questioned for an hour, mostly through Google Translate. He was never unfriendly and I was in an open room, so I never felt like I was being treated criminally. However, I was asked questions like: “Were you in contact with state security services in Pakistan?” and “Were you in contact with terrorists in Afghanistan?” (Would I really answer yes if so?) They also asked for a lot of personal information: phone number, home address, my parents’ details, where are you going in Russia, etc. They even took my phone’s IMEI number.

I don’t know if this is standard procedure, but be prepared to face questioning when crossing the Russian border. Be polite, answer as truthfully as you can. In most cases, I assume questioning won’t be as intense as mine unless you’ve been to “suspicious” countries as well.

In my case, the process on the Russian side took two hours.

Getting to Vladikavkaz

After questioning I was led back to the immigration post, and my ride—I’d hitched a ride with a friendly Russian man—was still waiting for me. He brought me to the Logistic Terminal, from where I hitched a ride further to Vladikavkaz.

If taking on a bus, make sure to take your bags off before the official crossing. They’ll probably wait for you while you’re being questioned… but you never know.

You can get a taxi to Vladikavkaz for 700 to 1000 rubles if you get stuck at the Logistics Terminal. In my experience, hitchhiking is also easy. You can change money at the Logistics Terminal, but there is no ATM.

Crossing the Russia – Georgia border from Russia

Crossing from Russia is more straightforward; it’s unlikely you’ll be questioned for long when leaving. Just remember you can’t cross the border by foot, and you must be in a vehicle from the Logistics Terminal onwards.

You can buy car insurance for Russia and Georgia at the Border Logistics Terminal if  traveling with your own vehicle.

Where to stay in Kazbegi, Georgia

If you’re going straight to Tbilisi, Georgia, here’s a guide with things to do in Tbilisi.

Most people, however, take time in Kazbegi to go hiking and visit the Trusso Valley.

Kazbegi is a popular tourist destination, so in high season it’s useful to book ahead. Below are some of my recommendations for where to stay in Kazbegi:

Check out more accommodation options in Kazbegi on Booking.com

Where to stay in Vladikavkaz, Russia

Vladikavkaz is the nearest city to the Russia – Georgia border in Russia. The city is pleasant enough to stay for a day or two, but doesn’t offer any definitive highlights. Note that prices are higher than in Georgia. Here are a few solid accommodation options in Vladikavkaz:

  • Budget: Hostel One. Don’t expect many foreign backpackers—or much English—here, but it’s the best budget option in Vladikavkaz. Book Hostel One here.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Standard. Good 3-star hotel in Vladikavkaz with all the amenities you need. Check out Hotel Standard here.
  • Luxury: Penthouse Alania. If you want to stay in style, where better than a penthouse? It’s a bit outside the center, but free bicycles make up for it. Book Penthouse Alania here.

Check out more sleeping options in Vladikavkaz here!

There you have it: a complete guide on crossing the border between Georgia and Russia. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

 

Woop, transparency! Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you book or buy something through one of the links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

How to apply for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, Georgia

A complete guide from Sebastiaan on how to apply for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, Georgia. Includes information on necessary documents, where to get the Russian visa, and how much Russian visas cost.

 

Getting a Russian visa while on the road can be tricky. Usually you can only apply for a Russian visa in your home country or country of residence.

However, if you’re among the many nationalities who can go to Georgia visa-free for one year, you can apply for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, Georgia. Here’s how.

How to get a Russian tourist visa in Georgia

What documents do you need to apply for a Russian visa?

Before you can apply for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, you need several documents:

  • Letter of invitation
  • Filled out application form
  • Copy of information page of passport
  • Passport photo (3.5 x 4.5 cm)
  • Proof of medical insurance in English. Must state that it’s valid for Russia.

You also need to make an appointment with the Russian Visa Center in Tbilisi. You can make an appointment on their website here.. Do this a week in advance, as they’re often fully booked. Note that you pay for the visa service when you book an appointment and you need to have a Georgian phone number. The visa service costs 84 GEL.

Note: It’s technically possible to go to the Russian consular section at the Swiss embassy. However, I’ve been told they make it virtually impossible to apply for your visa there. The Visa Center charges a fee, but at least things go smoothly and you won’t be turned away.

How to get a letter of invitation (LOI) for Russia

There are several companies that can help you with a letter of invitation to Russia.

The most well-known and professional of these companies is Real Russia. You can apply for an LOI on their website. The invitation letter costs around US$20, and is usually sent to you in a matter of minutes.

Filling out the online application form for a Russian tourist visa

After you have your letter of invitation, fill out the online application form here.

The form mostly consists of standard visa application questions. You need your LOI provider’s information, so make sure to apply for an LOI before filling out the online application form. Once done with the form, save it to your computer and print it out.

Tbilisi, Georgia from above

Tbilisi, Georgia from above

Applying for a Russian tourist visa at the Visa Application Center in Tbilisi, Georgia

Once you have all the documents, head to the center on your appointed date. The address of the center is Besiki Business Center, Office #205, Second floor, 4 Besiki Street. More contact details for the Visa Center here.

It’s a side street of Rustaveli Avenue, roughly halfway between Rustaveli and Liberty Square metro stations.

Not everyone speaks English inside, but the lady who helped me did. She checks all your documents, possibly asking you a few more questions. If everything is in order, the whole process takes about 15-20 minutes.

You pay the visa fee by credit card at the application center. The visa fee for most European citizens is 115 GEL. Double check the website to see how much your visa will cost.

How long does it take to get a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi?

Unfortunately, the Center workers are just middlemen; the can’t tell you when your visa will be ready. In my case, it took 10 business days for the application to be approved. I got an email saying my visa was ready and could be picked up in the same building, room #104. Bring your receipt when you pick up your visa.

As you can see, though manageable, the process takes a decent amount of time. If you need some inspiration on what to do in Tbilisi in the meantime, check out this guide to Tbilisi on a budget, and don’t forget to check out this guide to travel in Georgia with everything you need to know, too.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

A guide to visiting the Kalash Valley

A complete guide to visiting the Kalash Valley. Includes information on where to stay in the different Kalasha Valleys, information about Kalasha culture, and how to get to the Kalasha Valleys. Updated in November 2019 to reflect the new pricing and security situation.

 

The Kalash Valley (also called Kalasha Valley) is home to the famous Kalash people, a unique people said to be descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great. The Kalash Valleys consist of three mountain valleys in the KPK province of Pakistan.

Cut off from the world and saved from Muslim invaders by their location in three remote mountain valleys, the Kalash people are a cultural world apart from the predominantly Muslim population of Pakistan. The colorful Kalash people are animists, not Muslims, make their own wine, and have a plethora of other unique traditions and festivals.

Below you can find a guide to the Kalasha Valleys, including information on Kalasha culture, which of the Kalash Valleys to visit, how to get to the valleys from Chitral, and much more about visiting the valley and spending time with the Kalash people.

Kalasha woman with blue eyes in traditional outfit

Blue eyes like this are common throughout the Kalash Valleys

Which Kalash Valley to visit

Before you go, you must decide which of the three Kalasha Valleys you want to visit:

  • Bumburet – The most developed valley in terms of facilities, and most popular with domestic tourists.
  • Rumboor – Small villages in Rumboor are less developed and more popular with foreign tourists. Unlike Bumburet, Rumboor is still predominantly Kalash.
  • Birir – The least developed Kalasha Valley, and sees the least visitors.

I suggest you visit either Rumboor or Birir, as Bumburet has undergone a Disneyfication process, and is less Kalash and more Murree at this point. The percentage of the population that is Kalasha is also much lower in Bumburet.

 

View from a shared taxi on the road to Kalash Valleys

The road into the Kalash Valleys

Kalash culture

As stated above, the Kalash people are not Muslim. Their unique culture and traditions predate Islam by some years, and the Kalash people can best be described as animist, although some scholars believe their religion can be linked to ancient Hinduism.

Unfortunately, their unique culture is diminishing. Many non-Kalash have started living in the valleys. Roughly 50% of Kalash people have converted to Islam for a variety of reasons, usually related to financial struggles, marital obstacles, and societal pressures.

I spoke to several young Kalash girls who had one friend whose parents recently converted to Islam (automatically making their daughter Muslim, too). The girls were still friends, but the parents weren’t happy with this; many Muslims don’t agree with local culture and traditions.

Luckily, many of the Kalash people work to keep their culture alive. Kalasha women still wear their traditional dress, and there are many Kalash festivals celebrating and showcasing Kalasha culture. If you plan on visiting one of these festivals, make sure to read about responsible tourism in the Kalasha Valleys below.

How to get from Chitral to the valleys

Chitral is the starting point for getting to the Kalasha Valleys. Regardless of which valley you want to visit, the way of getting there by public transport is generally the same.

Direct Jeeps from Chitral to the three different valleys leave around 13:00 from near Bank Alfalah in the center of Chitral. These Jeeps charge 200 – 300 Rs per person. However, Jeeps go to Birir only when there is demand.

If you don’t want to travel during the middle of the day, there are shared cars going to the valleys in the early morning and late afternoon. To find a shared car, head to the Chitral central bus stand (the partially covered area with minibusses and shared cars), and get a shared car to Ayun. Ayun is about an hour from Chitral, and a seat costs 100 Rs or 600 Rs for the whole car.

Chitral central bus stand with cars to Ayun

The central bus stand. Cars to Ayun can be spotted in the back on the left side, sitting close to the road.

From Ayun, shared cars and Jeeps go to the different valleys once full. They charge 100 Rs per personfor the bumpy ride to your valley of choice, although cars might charge a bit more depending on the day’s demand (or lack thereof).

If there are no transport options available when you arrive Ayun, a private hire should cost no more than 1000 – 1200 Rs to any of the valleys. However, if you wait for a while, it’s usually possible to fill up a car with other travelers and locals who are going to the valleys. From Ayun, it will take one to two hours to any of the valleys.

As of 2019, to enter the Kalash Valleys, foreigners have to pay 600 Rs per person “for the welfare of the Kalash people”.

Kalasha woman drying out walnuts to store for winter

Drying out homegrown walnuts to store for winter

What to do in the Kalasha Valleys

If you’re visiting the Kalash Valley during one of the festivals, there will be plenty of feasts for the eyes. Dance, drink and be amazed at the colorful rituals and clothes on display. The festival times in Kalash Valley are:

  • Chilam Joshi – May
  • Uchau – Autumn, usually September
  • Choimus – Two weeks around the winter solstice

However, if you visit outside of festival time, there’s not that much in the way of official things to do. The valleys are a place to sit and enjoy a bit of nature, and while away the hours chatting to and hanging out with the local people. Aim to learn a bit about their culture, not check sights off of a bucket list.

Kalasha girls in traditional outfit playing games

Playing games with some boisterous Kalasha girls

It used to be that your movements were restricted if visiting the Kalasha Valleys. Foreign travelers were assigned police escorts upon entering any of the valleys.

However, new tourism policies have been implemented, and you are now more free to wander around without an escort. You can hike around any of the valleys, visit small villages deeper in the valleys than previously accessible, or even hike from one valley to the other. Ask at your guesthouse or homestay for more information.,

 

View of Rumboor Valley in Kalash, Pakistan

Wandering along the road through Rumboor

Mobile networks in the Kalasha Valleys

If you need to have phone signal or internet while in Kalash, make sure to get yourself a Telenor SIM card. It’s the only network provider operating in the Kalasha Valleys.

 

Flowers and views of Rumboor Valley

Can’t complain about the view from the porch of Kalash Home Guest House in Rumboor!

Where to stay in the Kalash Valley

Bumburet

This valley has several hotels and guest houses and is becoming less Kalash and more Muslim by the day. Luckily, there are still several Kalash-run guesthouses where you can get your dose of local culture. Kalash House is a basic but friendly guesthouse in Brun that also offers camping space, and there are two more Kalash-owned guesthouses nearby in case it’s full: Kalash Galaxy and Kalash View

Rumboor

Rumboor only has three guest houses, and the most homely of the lot is Kalash Home Guest House. If you’re driving into Rumboor, it will be on your left at the start of Grom village—you can’t miss it! Run by the amiable Engineer Khan, the food is delicious, the family is friendly, and the location great.

Rooms are 2000 – 3000 Rsper person, depending on the season. Food is usually included in the price, and you can buy homemade wine for 1,000 Rs per 1.5 liters if Engineer isn’t in the mood to drink with you.

If it’s full, you can try Kalash Indigenous Guesthouse, also in Rumboor.

Birir

More remote and with little in the way of facilities, I only know of Irfan Guesthouse in Guru village from the Pakistan Traveller Guidebook, the most comprehensive guidebook for Pakistan available.

Get a copy of the Pakistan Traveler Guidebook here for more information on traveling in the Kalash Valleys and other parts of Pakistan.

Foreign visitor posing with a Kalasha girl

A colorful combination with one of the Kalasha girls I befriended

Responsible tourism in the Kalash Valley

The Kalasha Valleys are naturally and culturally beautiful, but beauty can easily be eroded by the onset of mass tourism. To do your part to preserve the beauty of the area, and ensure your tourism has a positive effect, please keep the following things in mind:

  • Stay in a hotel/guesthouse run by a Kalasha person or family.  Little of the tourism money that flows to the valleys end up in Kalasha pockets, so this is how you can ensure it does!
  • Ask before taking photos. There’s no doubt that the Kalasha people, particularly the women, are stunning. However, many women are averse to being photographed (outside of festivals). I’ve also heard tensions are growing between the Kalash and outsiders, partially because of the way domestic tourists arrive and start snapping photos of women and children without asking or showing any kind of consideration. Instead of creeping on the women, befriend them, talk for a while, then ask for a photo.
  • Enjoy the natural products, not packaged snacks. There are plenty of native fruits, vegetables, and nuts growing around the valleys. Snack on those, rather than contributing to the sorry state of plastic waste afflicting the valleys. And, of course, collect your trash, don’t throw it on the ground.
  • Drink the local wine and tara responsibly. It’s poor form to show up as a guest in someone’s area, then get utterly shitfaced, loud, and destructive on their alcohol. If you can’t handle your drink, limit your consumption. It means more for those of us who can control ourselves.

Police registration for foreigners in Chitral and the Kalash Valley

You don’t have to register with the police in Chitral anymore. Foreigners are no longer assigned a guard when visiting the Kalash Valleys. When you travel to Chitral,  you will register and get a FRO either at Lowari Tunnel or after Shandur Pass, depending on the route you take.

There are several police checkpoints on the way to the valley, and you might have to register when you arrive in the Kalash Valleys.

Want to travel to the Kalash Valleys in Pakistan, home to the colorful and culturally wild Kalasha people? Here's a guide to visiting the Kalash Valleys from Chitral, including tips on where to stay, how to get to Kalash by public transport, and advice about responsible travel in the Kalash Valleys.

 

So there you have it, a complete guide to the Kalash Valleys with everything you need to know. Let me know in the comments if anything has changed.

 

Looking for more practical Pakistan travel information? Check out this guide with things to know before going to Pakistan.

 

Yay transparency! There are some affiliate links in this post. If you buy something using my links, I’ll make a small bit of money at no extra cost to you. I use this money to cover the costs of running the blog.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

How to get from Georgia to Abkhazia

A complete guide on how to get from Georgia to Abkhazia, based on personal experience in May 2019 and updated with information from other travelers.

 

Abkhazia is a breakaway republic backed by Russia. Recognized by only a handful of countries, Georgia considers it part of Georgia. Many travelers believe, due to its convoluted status, it’s impossible to visit Abkhazia.

However, visiting Abkhazia is relatively straightforward, provided you have some patience. Below you can find a complete guide to getting the visa for Abkhazia, and how to get from Georgia to Abkhazia.

 

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Getting an entry permit for Abkhazia

Hold your horses! Before you can head out to Abkhazia from Georgia, you have to get an entry permit from the Abkhazian government.

To do so, go to the website of the Abkhazian foreign affairs and fill out the form. Make sure to put enough time under the “period of stay” option. Many people only say they want to stay a few days, but end up staying longer.

It takes 5-7 working days for the entry permit to be issued. I applied for mine on a Monday and got the permit the following Monday.

Once you get the permit, print out 2 or 3 copies. You need one at the border, and another one to get your actual visa in Abkhazia (more on this later). The third copy is in case you lose one. Shit happens, you know.

There are a handful of countries that don’t need a visa for Abkhazia. These are:

  • Transnistria
  • South Ossetia
  • Vanuatu, Venezuela
  • Nauru
  • Nicaragua
  • Russia

 

Bored while waiting for your entry permit? Check out this guide to visiting Tbilisi on a budget!

 

How to get to the Georgia – Abkhazia border

The nearest city to the Abkhazian border at Ingur is Zugdidi. You can reach Zugdidi from Tbilisi by train or marshrutka.

Marshrutkas to Ingur, where the border is, wait at the train station and start running around 7:00 in the morning. They leave when full, and cost 3 GEL.

It’s also possible to take a taxi to the Abkhazian border from Zugdidi. This should be around 10 GEL.

Make sure you have some Russian rubles on you before you cross the border. There is no money changing facility, and they don’t accept GEL in Abkhazia.

 

Abkhazia border crossing

Welcome to Abkhazia!

Crossing from Georgia to Abkhazia at the Ingur border

The Georgian side

The border is officially open from 7:00 in the morning. However, foreigners who want to cross the border need clearance from Tbilisi. The office that gives this clearance doesn’t open until 10:00, and it can take a few hours before they get back to the police post on the Georgian side. Make sure to bring snacks and a good book!

I arrived at the border around 7:30, but couldn’t cross until 12:00. The Georgian side will take your passport to put some information on their computer, and they might ask a few questions. Don’t mention that Abkhazia is its own country. If they ask why you want to visit, just say you want to see all of Georgia. I wasn’t asked any questions, as no one at the police post spoke English.

The Abkhazian side

Once the Georgian police say you can go, it’s about a 15 minute walk to the Abkhazian side. If you’re carrying heavy luggage, you can jump on a marshrutka, but it’s better to just walk. Once you reach the Abkhazian border, there are two border posts.

The first border post is manned by an Abkhazian guard. He’ll check your entry permit and will stamp your passport. They didn’t speak English but were friendly enough to ask me where in the passport I wanted my stamp. This part took about 10 minutes.

About 100 meters further is a Russian checkpoint, manned by the FSB. Here they’ll lazily search your bag, check our entry permit, and ask you a few questions. Several people here spoke English, and they were friendly and professional.

They took me to a back room for some extra questions, but the FSB officer was friendly and told me it was routine. They were mostly interested in my travels to Pakistan and Iran. This part took about 20 minutes.

The bus to Gali from the Abkhazia border

The bus to Gali (Гал) from the Abkhazian border

Onwards travel from the Abkhazian border

There are taxis and marshrutka waiting right outside the border compound. There is no direct transport to Sukhumi, so you’ll have to go to Gali (Гал) first. A marshrutka to Gali costs 50 rubles and takes about 15-20 minutes.

The marshrutka drops you off at the bus station in Gali, from where you can take a bus or marshrutka to Sukhumi (Сухум). A bus costs 200 rubles and marshrutka cost 250 rubles. The ride takes about 2 hours.

If you get dropped off at the bus station in Sukhumi (right next to the train station), you can take local bus number 1 into the city center. It goes right in front of the bus station.

Visa for Abkhazia

The visa you receive once in Sukhumi

Getting a visa in Sukhumi

Once you reach Sukhumi, you have two days to get your visa. But since it’s such an easy process, you might as well get it over with. The visa office address is Sakharova 33 in Sukhumi. It’s open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:00. They have a lunch break between 12:00 and 13:00.

To get the visa, show the people your entry permit. The entry permit has the duration of your stay on it, but if you ask nicely, they might give you a few extra days if necessary. My visa was 400 rubles, payable in cash. The whole process took about 10 minutes.

The visa is a separate piece of paper, so make sure you don’t lose it. You need it to leave the country.

Sukhumi seaside in Abkhazia

Welcome to Sukhumi!

Where to stay in Sukhumi

Many people use Sukhumi as their base to explore Abkhazia. There are plenty of hotels and guest houses, and a handful of homestays too.

  • Budget: Roza Guesthouse. A bit outside of the city center, Roza offers a dorm room and private rooms. Run by a friendly young family and with a great garden, this is a perfect budget option in Sukhumi. Book Roza Guesthouse here.
  • Mid-range: Sukhumi City Hostel. Don’t let the name fool you, this is not a hostel. Right at the water, close to the center, this place is popular with the handful of foreigners who travel to Abkhazia. The owner speaks English. Check out Sukhumi City Hostel now.
  • Homestays: If you’re looking for a homestay, head up to the seaside promenade and talk to one of the ladies selling tours there. They can help you sort it out. It helps if you speak Russian, though, English isn’t common.

There are plenty of other options online. Browse Sukhumi accommodation here.

Interior of a monastery in New Athos, Abkhazia

A monastery in New Athos

Other places to visit in Abkhazia

New Athos

New Athos (Новый Афон), also known as Akhali Atoni, is about 30 minutes away from Sukhumi and makes for a great day trip. The drive up here is stunning, and New Athos has several points of interest. These include a gorgeous monastery, a hilltop fort, an abandoned railway station, and a cave.

Gagra

Gagra is a beach resort popular with Russian tourists. I honestly didn’t think it was that special, although the drive from Sukhumi to Gagra is really pretty. Some people opt to stay a night in Gagra, but I personally think a day-trip from Sukhumi is enough. However, if you want to visit Lake Ritsa without going on a tour, it’s probably easier to get there from Gagra. Gagra is about 1.5 hours away from Sukhumi.

Gagra resort in Abkhazia

Gagra isn’t much to write home about, but pretty enough

Lake Ritsa

Due to bad weather, I didn’t go here, but it’s supposed to be stunning.

Unfortunately, there is no public transport to the lake. Getting there with a (Russian) tour is easily organized in Sukhumi or Gagra, and costs around 1,000 rubles.

However, if you have time and camping equipment, it’s worth trying to hitchhike there. There are also several hotels, but they are quite expensive. Besides the natural beauty, it’s possible to take a look at one of Lenin’s summer houses at Lake Ritsa.

Money in Abkhazia

Abkhazia uses Russian Rubles. There are ATMs in Abkhazia that accept international debit and credit cards. However, these ATMs are often empty or out of service, and when they’re not, there’s often a long line to get money. It’s best to bring enough Russian rubles for your entire trip.

Getting a SIM card in Sukhumi

Unless you speak Russian, getting around in Abkhazia can be tricky due to the language barrier. So it’s useful to get a local sim card to get connected. Luckily, it’s very easy to get a local sim card in Abkhazia.

The two main operators are A-Mobile and Aquafon. They both have offices on Victory Avenue. You need to have a visa to get a SIM card. The whole process of getting a sim card in Sukhumi takes about 10 minutes, and prices range between 500 – 800 rubles.

Guide to getting from Georgia to Abkhazia

The old Sukhumi train station

Safety in Abkhazia

Most governments advise against travel to Abkhazia, and there are no consular services available for most nationalities. However, these travel advisories mostly date back from the time there was still an active conflict in the region.

For tourism purposes, Abkhazia is relatively safe, especially if you stick to the main tourist areas of Sukhumi, New Athos, Gagra, and Ritsa Lake. For more information on places to go outside these areas, talk to the owner of Sukhumi City Hostel.

So there you have it, a complete guide on getting from Georgia to Abkhazia, including all other information you might need. Anything else you want to know? Just ask in the comments.

 

Lurking in the Caucasus? Don’t miss this Georgia travel guide!

 

Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book something using one of the links, I’ll make a bit of money at no extra cost to you. It covers the costs of running the blog!

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Day trippin’ to Mtskheta and Jvari from Tbilisi

A quick guide on how to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Includes info on the cheapest way to visit Mtskheta from Tbilisi using public transport (marshrutka), and useful historical information on Mtskheta.

 

Though Tbilisi is a hopping city with plenty to see and do, sometimes you just need a breath of sweet, relatively-smogless air and a moment or two without the sounds of cars honking. When that need arises, the nearby city of Mtskheta (pronounced mush-ket-ah... I think) is a great day trip from Tbilisi. Mtskheta and the neighboring monastery of Jvari are both UNESCO world heritage sites, for good reason. Below you can find my guide on getting from Tbilisi to Mtskheta, and what to do in Mtskheta.

Panorama of Jvarti overlooking Mtskheta

The reason: they real nice.

A day trip from Tbilisi to Mtskheta

The Mtskheta area has been occupied since around 1000 BCE, and the inner city surrounding the central cathedral is quite charming with its cobblestone streets and mountainous backdrop. It is also one of Georgia’s oldest cities and its former capital. Mtskheta became a cultural heritage site in 1994.

Things to do in Mtskheta

There are several historical monuments in Mtskheta, which together make up the world heritage site. You can find info on them below.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

The cathedral in the center of town, Svetitskhoveli (pronounced *???*… don’t ask questions), circa 300 CE-ish, is grand, awe-inspiring, and filled with plenty of beautiful icons to be kissed. There are also loads tombstones to be carefully skirted–or stomped upon, for the more antagonistic souls.

Mtskheta from across the river

Look at that sexy town there. That’s Svetitskhoveli in the middle (…obviously).

People claim that the cathedral is built upon the burial ground of *THE* robe of Christ. Which robe, I do not know. The explanation further states that a Georgian Jew bought the robe off of a Roman soldier, then brought it back to Georgia. Methinks the Roman was likely laughing all the way to the bank, but for the Georgians’ sakes, I hope his souvenir was worth as much as he paid for it.

There is also a pillar inside the cathedral made of a cedar tree, that is said to have cured diseases and healed blindness when touched.

Jvari Monastery

The monastery is, to put it frankly, in a freaking epic location, and provides an excellent vantage point of Mtskheta and the river around the town, Aragvi. It’s a bit smaller and younger than the cathedral in town, being built around 500 CE. From what we could see when not being assaulted by the 38291309 different wedding parties that were swarming the place while we were there–clearly it is The Place to Be for people looking to tie the knot–it was just as incredible.

Weddings at Jvarti monastery outside Mtskheta

A wedding for you and a wedding for you and a wedding for you…

There are several other historical sites scattered around the city. These include the 3rd-century BC fortress of Armaztsikhe, the 11th-century Samtavro Monastery and, when the water is low, an old Roman bridge crossing the river.

How to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi on a budget

Mtskheta is easily reached by public transport from Tbilisi. Below you can find out how.

Getting to the minibus station in Tbilisi

Your journey begins with getting to the Didube bus station in Tbilisi. Go to your nearest metro station, and take the metro to Didube for 1 GEL (it’s a flat rate regardless of distance).

Once there, exit the metro and head through a tunnel out into the market/bus area. There will be plenty of taxi drivers, marshrutka (minibus) drivers, and random drivers of questionable origins milling about. Ignore the drivers that tell you there are no marshrutky going, or that they can do it cheaper. They’ll probably be telling you this in Russian anyway, so if you don’t know any Russian, it will be even easier to ignore them! Joy!

Head towards the signs that say “Kazbegi“. If you don’t see them, you can ask people “marshrutka Mtskheta?” and point in some direction questioningly. If you hear the word taxi, ignore and remind them you want a marshrutka. A useful Russian phrase: tollko marshrutka (только маршутка), only marshrutka.

Kazbegi sign minibus

Follow the signs to Kazbegi/ minibusses. Ignore stink eyes.

Once you find the minibus area, you can get a ticket from the cashier counter. It’s labeled with a blue sign that also has English writing on it. Conversely, you can also pay the marshrutka driver once you get off the bus, but it’s probably easier to determine the amount to be paid before getting on the bus, rather than while it’s in motion. A round trip to Mtskheta and back should be 1 GEL per person. Cheap, right?

Buying ticket to Mtskheta

1 GEL? Oh, you tease.

The minibus from Tbilisi to Mtskheta

You’ll know you’re in Mtskheta once you see the cathedral in the city center. The ride is about 20 minutes from Tbilisi. We’re not sure if the minibus has a specific halting point in the city–we just got off once we seemed somewhat close to the cathedral and other people were getting off.

Mtskheta to Jvari monastery

After checking out Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and once you’ve wandered around the city a bit, you can head to the Jvari monastery by taxi. We were told you could get there on foot, but we’re thinking that’s only for the hardcore walkers–the monastery is around 12 kilometers from the city.

For us normal humans, a taxi is the way to go. The taxi can be bargained to 10 GEL (in total, not per person) for a round trip to the monastery, or so we’ve heard from others. We paid 20 because derp, and we couldn’t remember how much it was supposed to be at the time.

You can always share a taxi with other stingy backpacker folks that you might see wandering about. We only saw Russian tour groups, but February isn’t exactly peak tourist time. The taxi ride takes about 15 minutes because of winding roads.

Getting back from Mtskheta to Tbilisi

Once you’ve communed with God/given up on becoming a monk/seen what you wanted to see, you can head back from Mtskheta to  Tbilisi via the minibus. They follow the same route going out of the city as they do going in. There are no specific stops, so if you see a minibus with some kind of sign in the window, just flag them down and ask if they’re going to Tbilisi (they probably are). We caught ours outside of the Samtavro cathedral, a smaller church + monastery combo nearby the main cathedral which, coincidentally, was also filled with 10001 wedding parties. Go figure.

All in all, the total cost of transportation is 12 GEL, less if you share a taxi with someone, which you probably will. Enjoy your visit to Mtskheta!

It is also possible to do the trip by taxi from Tbilisi, or as part of an organized group. I think you should skip the group tour, as getting from tbilisi to Mtskheta is easy, but if you want to take a taxi call an Uber. Getting to Mtskheta by taxi should be around 20 – 25 GEL.

Where to stay in Tbilisi

Tbilisi is a hopping city with loads to do. Many travelers plan to stay only a few days, but end up staying much longer than that. If you’re looking for a good place to stay in Tbilisi, consider the following options:

  • BroBro: Centrally located with a friendly and helpful staff, this place is great for budget travelers – Book BroBro Hostel now.
  • Gallery Hostel Tbilisi: A stylish hostel catering to the upper-budget and mid-range segment of travelers – Book Gallery Hostel Tbilisi now.
  • Homestays: We are a big fan of homestays, as they allow you to get a better understand of the people and culture you’re visiting – Book your homestay in Tbilisi now.

 

Big fat georgian wedding

A summary of our day out in Mtskheta.

 

Have you ever been to Mtskheta or other places in the Mtianeti region? Have tips for other travelers? Share in the comments below! It will bring great honor to your family.

Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book a stay after clicking on one of the links, we get a small commission, at no extra expense to you. We haven’t sold our soul to booking.com or anything–we honestly found booking rooms through their website to be the cheapest option throughout Georgia. We stayed in all budget options listed, and picked the mid-range options based on recommendations by other. This is how we manage to keep this blog running. It takes a lot of time and effort, after all! If you’ve found our content helpful, we’d love it if you’d do us a solid and book through one of these links 🙂 Cheers!

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Kutaisi Travel Guide: a place for rest and relaxation

A complete guide to travel in Kutaisi, Georgia. Includes information on what to do and where to stay in the laidback town of Kutaisi.

 

Like the city of Batumi, Kutaisi has some backstory to it. It served as the capital of various significant kingdoms within Georgia throughout history. Unlike Batumi, much of its charm remains. When arriving in Kutaisi, it’s hard to miss Bagrati Cathedral, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, but the city has much more to offer than first meets the eye.

Below you can find a quick guide to travel to Kutaisi. This guide to travel in Kutaisi includes some background information on the city, things to do, where to sleep, and how to get to Kutaisi by public transport.

An introduction to Kutaisi

Kutaisi has been a historically significant city throughout the ages, even housing the parliament of Georgia at some point. Kutaisi was the capital of the Kingdom of Georgia in the Middle Ages. It also served as the capital of the Kingdom of Imereti. Now it is the capital of the Imereti region and is considered the second city of Georgia. There is evidence that the city has been inhabited since around the 6th century BC.

Surprisingly, not that many people make the effort to visit Kutaisi. Most people opt to visit Tbilisi and then head to either the wine region of Telavi and Sighnagi or go further into the mountains of Mestia or towards the Russian border at Kazbegi. However, Kutaisi has plenty of things to offer for a few days of exploring, while at the same time offering plenty of options for some rest and relaxation. Below you can find a list of the best things to do in Kutaisi.

What is there to see when you travel to Kutaisi?

Kvavila Monastery

Kvavila Monastery is beautifully perched on a hilltop overlooking the center of Kutaisi. It’s a modest church surrounded by a cemetery filled with all kinds of tombstones. Some are beautiful, and some are straight-up bizarre: we saw one with a full-body portrait of a guy flashing his Nike Airs, with a cigarette in hand. We almost fell asleep by the ruins at the edge of the cemetery–they overlook the river and were cloaked with sunshine just so.

graveyard church kutaisi georgia

The view is magnificent, I was very comfortable, and the graves were very intriguing.

Obviously, there are more churches–have we told you that Georgia is very religious yet? What is the difference between these and the churches in Batumi, you ask? One of the churches in Kutaisi is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. Other differences include the lack of ugly skyscrapers as a backdrop, and we only saw one casino in Kutaisi.

Kutaisi is also perfect for those who wish to mingle with the locals. It has two universities, so there are many young people to talk to.

Bagrati Cathedral

Bagrati Cathedral dominates the skyline of Kutaisi. Originally built in the 11th century, the cathedral was destroyed during the Ottoman campaign in what is now Georgia. Luckily the magnificent building has been completely renovated. Bagrati used to be on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list but has been removed from the list in 2017, as UNESCO considered its major reconstruction detrimental to its integrity and authenticity

Bagrati cathedral kutaisi georgia

Hard-to-miss Bagrati has been completely rebuilt after its destruction by the Ottoman empire.

bagrati nighttime kutaisi georgia

Bagrati at night has a certain romantic feel to it…

crazy man bagrati kutaisi georgia

…but if you try to have “sexy” at Bagrati this man will find you. He acted as our impromptu tour guide/sexy police while at Bagrati, and informed us that Georgian men are lazy, Georgian women are only interested in sex, and the Turkish people were the only ones that ever built anything in Kutaisi.

Gelati Monastery

The main attraction in Kutaisi, besides its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings, is Gelati Monastery. Gelati Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is beautifully perched on a hilltop. The interior isn’t too shabby either. Definitely worth your while.

gelati monastery kutaisi georgia

Perhaps one of the most colorful interiors in a Georgian monastery.

Colorful roof tiles on Gelati monastery in Kutaisi, Georgia

… and maybe one of the most colorful exteriors, as well.

view from gelati monastery kutaisi georgia

The view isn’t too shabby either.

Gelati Monastery is about 10 kilometers out of town, so you have to take a marshrutka to get there. They leave every two hours or so, starting around 8:00. Ask your guesthouse for directions to the marshrutka stop. It’s located on a side street behind the opera house. The driver will likely see you wandering around, and yell at you to see if you’re looking for the marshrutka to Gelati.

marshrutka sign gelati monastery kutaisi georgia

Want to go to Gelati? Look for a marshrutka with this sign, about 100m behind the theatre.

 

Relax, relax and relax some more

I love relaxing (some people might call me lazy, I prefer “masterfully inactive”), so I loved to travel to Kutaisi. The relaxing flow of the river, the atmosphere of a student town, the beautiful view from Gelati, it all came perfectly together. Definitely worth your while.

chilling in kutaisi georgia

Lazing on our patio overlooking the city.

pastry in kutaisi georgia

To chill, you need some tasty food…

beet in kutaisi georgia

… and a cheap beer (1.5 GEL!) or two to boot.

Other things to do in Kutaisi and its surroundings

But wait, there’s more. For those who love strolling around markets, there is the Green Bazaar, an incredibly vibrant market in Kutaisi. For those who are looking for nature, you can visit Okatse or Martvili Canyons, or take a stroll along the Rioni River.

Kutaisi also has a pretty Opera House, and there are several other natural attractions nearby Kutaisi, such as the Prometheus Cave and the Kinchka Waterall.

 

Where to sleep in Kutaisi

To relax you need a good place to sleep, and we couldn’t recommend Sun Hostel (Guesthouse) more. The place beautifully overlooks the river, it’s five minutes walking from Bagrati Cathedral, ten minutes from the city center, and has a very homely atmosphere. The rooms are extremely spacious, the owner and his son (who speaks English very well) are friendly and the wine flows freely. Oh yeah, we also only paid 25 GEL a night. I almost felt bad paying so little and getting so much. Book Sun Hostel here.

entrance sun hostel kutaisi georgia

The entrance (unlike the dog) is no-nonsense…

room sun hostel kutaisi georgia

..but the rooms are amazing…

sun hostel kutaisi georgia.

…and we couldn’t recommend this place enough.

Other recommendations in Kutaisi include:

  • Art House Hostel: Cheap hostel with a caring host. Not much English is spoken, but the willingness to help more than makes up for this – Book Art House Hostel here.
  • Hostel Mandaria: Not actually a hostel but this lovely place offers clean and cheap double and triple rooms – Book Hostel Mandaria here.
  • Old District: Midrange option with a classic feel. Comfortable beds and a caring host make this a great option for travelers who wish a little privacy – Book Old District here.

Transport to and from Kutaisi

It’s easy to get to Kutaisi by marshrutka. They arrive a bit out of town, either at the bus station behind a McDonalds or about 100m up the road (pictured below). Take bus 1 from across the street where you are dropped off, and get out once you are on a big bridge over a river to get to the city center. Lots of other people will likely be getting off here as well. The bus costs 0.30 GEL. The city itself is completely walkable.

Marshrutka stop kutaisi georgia.

This is where we arrived from Batumi. The actual bus station is behind the McDonalds, about 100m down the road.

bus station kutaisi georgia

The ticket counter at the actual bus station. The times on the left are for buses to Tbilisi, the middle is for buses to Batumi, and the right is for buses to Zugdidi.

bus to schalkwijk kutaisi georgia

Apparently, there are also buses to Schalkwijk, a part of my hometown of Haarlem in the Netherlands.

So there you have it, a quick guide to things to do in Kutaisi, Georgia.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

How to get from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee

A quick guide on how to get from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee. This guide focusses on getting from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee by public transport or by car. If you are driving your own car, scroll down for a route map. 

 

Here’s a quick guide on how to get from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee.

How to get from Guwahati to Shillong by public transport

Although the Meghalaya Tourism website state that regular buses to Shillong leave from the Inter State Bus Terminal, there were no buses from Guwahati to Shillong when we arrived there. Apparently, there are two private buses, one at 6:00 and one at 17:00, but these times are terrible. If you want to travel from Guwahati to Shillong outside of those times, you have to travel by Sumo.

A shared Sumo at a snack stop on its way to Shillong

Our shared Sumo at a snack stop

Sumos are basically shared Jeep taxis. They’re the most common form of travel between cities and villages in the northeast. Sumos from Guwahati to Shillong leave from Khanapara bus stand. To get there, jump on a bus leaving from G.S. Road near the train station. Most buses going from here, driving away from the train station, will pass here. Just ask the hawker. A ticket to Khanapara is 10 Rs. per person.

Looking for accommodation in Guwahati? Check out the best deals on Booking!

At Khanapara, you’ll be accosted by plenty of Sumo hawkers. It’s good to walk around a bit, since Sumo’s don’t leave until full. So if you enter an empty Sumo, you might have to wait for a while. Some drivers will try to get you to charter the whole Sumo. Friendly but firmly decline their offer (unless you want to, of course).

Getting from Guwahati to Shillong by shared Sumo costs 170 Rs. per person. In our experience, drivers are honest about the fare, but this being India, be wary of shysters. 170 Rs. is the standard price. It takes 2-3 hours to get from Guwahati to Shillong.

Note: There might be Sumos leaving from Guwahati’s train station to Shillong. From here the price is 10-20 Rs. per person more. If bus services resume, a bus to Shillong from Guwahati should cost 100 – 130 Rs. per person.

 

The Sumo stand in Shillong for rides to Sohra, AKA Cherrapunjee

How to get from Shillong to Cherrapunjee (Sohra) by public transport

Most people travel from Guwahati to Shillong to visit Cherrapunjee. To get from Shillong to Cherranpunjee you’ll have to take another Sumo. There are several Sumo stands in Shillong, making finding the right one a bit tricky. Taxi drivers aren’t helpful, since they’ll just want to drive you to Cherranpunjee themselves.

Shillong is a nice place to visit for a couple of days. Check out the best hotel deals here!

Girl walking in the shared Sumo stand in a parking garage in Shillong

The Shillong to Cherrapunjee Sumo stand is located on the second floor of a dark parking garage. It’s marked on Google Maps. There will be a written sign saying Sohra (another name for Cherrapunjee) above two parking lots.

A ride from Shillong to Cherrapunjee costs 70 Rs. per person. The first driver wanted to charge us more to put our luggage on the roof of the car—which is BS—so we waited about half an hour for another Sumo to go. Sumos from Shillong to Cherranpunjee go when full. It takes 1.5-2 hours to get from Shillong to Cherrapunjee.

Not sure about heading to the Northeast? Check out our post on why you need to visit Northeast India!

A path and some houses in Cherrapunjee

Cherrapunjee is one of the wettest places in India. Wise visitors (unlike us) bring umbrellas and rain covers for bags.

Staying in Cherrapunjee and visiting Nongriat

Most people visit Cherrapunjee as a jumping-off base for visiting Nongriat and various root bridges. Nongriat is a small Kashi village in the jungle, home to several living root bridges, of which one is a magnificent double-decker. Nongriat can only be visited by walking for about 1.5-2 hours from nearby Tyrna, and the surroundings are absolutely gorgeous. We highly recommend it.

Double Decker Root bridge in Nongriat

There are several cheap sleeping options in lower Cherrapunjee/Sohra, about 20 minutes walking downhill from the main town.

By The Way Hostel charges 250 Rs. per person, and D-Cloud charges 300-350 Rs. per person. Accommodation is simple, and a little overpriced if you’re not alone, but you don’t have many other options. There are a handful of nondescript restaurants on the “main” street near By The Way.

Check out Booking.com for more places to stay in Cherrapunjee!

Sunset in Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India

Sunset in Cherrapunjee

To get from Cherrapunjee to Nongriat, you can take an early morning bus from near By the Way, which leaves around 9:30, or a taxi to Tyrna.

A taxi should cost 250 Rs., but don’t be surprised if you have to pay 350-400 Rs. The owner of By the Way can give more information on how to get to Tyrna by bus. You can also walk to Tyrna, which will take a couple of hours. From Tyrna, it takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach Nongriat by way of 2,500 steep stairs through the jungle.

The cement stairway to Nongriat

The steep walk to Nongriat

There are several basic sleeping options available in Nongriat, of which Serene Guest House is the most well known. It’s best to just show up. Even if they’re full, the owner, Byron, will arrange something for you. Serene charges 300 Rs. per person, and a scrumptious all-you-can-eat dinner is available daily for 130 Rs. per person.

Getting from Guwahati to Shillong with your own car

The road from Guwahati to Shillong is in reasonable condition. National Highway 6 (NH6) goes directly from Guwahati to Shillong. The distance is roughly 100 km and it will take about 3 hours to get from Guwahati to Shillong. NH6 is a toll road.

To get from Shillong to Cherrapunjee, take NH 206. Shillong to Cherrapunjee takes roughly 2 hours, and the total journey will be about 5 hours. Below you can find a route map for getting from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee.

 

So there you have it, a quick guide on how to get from Guwahati to Shillong and Cherrapunjee. Let us know in the comments if anything changes so we can update the post!

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Crossing the Russia – Ukraine border between Belgorod and Kharkiv

A complete guide to crossing the border between Russia and Ukraine at Belgorod and Kharkiv. Includes information on transport, cost, customs, and other useful tidbits to make this crossing as easy as possible.

 

Getting from Belgorod (Russia) to Kharkiv (Ukraine) or the other way around is straightforward provided you already have your visas in order. Below, you will find all the information you need for the overland border crossing between Russia and Ukraine. This guide is based on personal experience crossing from Belgorod to Kharkiv.

The process will be slightly different if you are coming with your own car or crossing the border by foot, but the formalities are the same.

Transport to the Russian and Ukrainian border

From Belgorod (Russia) to Kharkiv (Ukraine)

There are hourly buses leaving from Belgorod train station to Kharkiv. They go from the small bus station on the right-hand side of the train station. It’s hard to miss.

Bus for the Russia - Ukraine border crossing

 

A bus to Kharkiv costs 350 rubles per person. Don’t forget to buy a ticket for your luggage, too! A luggage ticket costs 35 rubles. You don’t need a ticket for your carry-on luggage, just for your large backpack or suitcase.

Bus ticket prices to Kharkiv, Ukraine

Bus ticket prices and times from Belgorod to Kharkiv (Kharkov)

This is a popular route and many Ukrainians visit Belgorod to visit family or to go shopping for appliances. If you arrive about an hour before your desired bus you should be able to get a ticket. You have to show your passport to buy a bus ticket.

There are several men changing rubles to hryvnia skulking around the bus station if you need to exchange currency. Since you don’t need cash to cross this —and can exchange money in Kharkiv—there’s no real need to change money here.

You will spend around 4 to 5 hours on the bus (possibly longer if it’s really busy at the border) so make sure to bring enough snacks and drinks. You won’t be able to buy any along the way.

Heading to Ukraine? Check out my complete guide to travel in Ukraine.

From Kharkiv to Belgorod  

Buses from the Ukrainian side go from the bus station next to Kharkiv train station, on the right-hand side when facing said station. Buses depart regularly and cost 155 hryvnias plus a 19 hryvnia luggage fee for your backpack or suitcase.

People standing outside the bus station in Belgorod, Russia

Try to be at the station about an hour before your bus goes to ensure you get a ticket. You have to show your passport to buy a ticket for this bus.

Bus ticket times and prices for Kharkiv to Belgorod, Russia

Bus ticket times and prices for Kharkiv (Ukraine) to Belgorod (Russia)

If you need to change hryvnia to rubles there are several money exchange bureaus in the streets around the train station. It’s also possible to change in Russia, but you will probably get a better rate for your hryvnia in Kharkiv than in Belgorod.

You will spend around 4 to 5 hours on the bus (maybe longer if it’s busy at the border) so make sure to bring enough snacks and drinks, as you won’t be able to buy any along the way.

 

Crossing the Russian and Ukrainian border from Belgorod and Kharkiv

From Russia to Ukraine

The ride to the border takes about an hour in either direction. Once you arrive, the bus will likely have to wait for another half an hour to an hour before it can proceed to the immigration checkpoint.

Once at the checkpoint you must get out and put your bags through a bag scanner. After this, you can proceed to passport control.

The line is a bit chaotic but the process doesn’t take too long. Make sure to have both your passport and immigration card ready. There were no questions asked. The whole process of everyone getting out of the bus, going through immigration, and getting back on the bus takes about 45 minutes.

After you get back on the bus it drives to the Ukrainian side. Here, you’ll have to wait significantly longer. We had to wait for about 2 hours before it was our turn to be inspected.

This time, you won’t have to leave the bus. A Ukrainian border guard will come on the bus to collect everyone’s passport. If necessary (which it wasn’t in my case), you’ll be called to the border post for questioning. The whole process took about 45 minutes.

After this, you’ll get your stamped passport back and the border guard will wish you a good time in Ukraine. From here, it will take another hour or so to reach Kharkiv.

From Ukraine to Russia

The process from Kharkiv to Belgorod is the same as described above but in the reverse order.

What to do and where to stay Belgorod

Belgorod doesn’t have any must-see sights, but it’s a pleasant city to spend a day or two. For people interested in history, one of the largest tank battles of WW2 was close to Belgorod. There is a diorama in Belgorod dedicated to the battle, and you can visit the site of the battle at Prokhorovka, which is about 30 km outside of Belgorod.

There are several decent hostels in Belgorod, with Kvartira 31 being the best of the lot. They have two locations, but the one close to the university is probably your best option. Book a room at Kvartira 31 here.

For more sleeping options in Belgorod, click here.

What to do and where to stay in Kharkiv

Kharkiv is the former capital of Ukraine and a big university city. It has plenty to do, and you can easily stay here for a few days. If you want to know what there is to do in Kharkiv, check out this great article.

Kharkiv has a few decent hostels, of which Station Hostel and Ride Hostel are the best. Station Hostel is close to the train station (duh), and is spacious and quite new. Book a room at Station Hostel here. 

Ride Hostel is halfway between the center and the train station. It’s a bit less spacious but cheaper and definitely comfortable. I stayed at both Station and Ride and would recommend them equally. Book a room at Ride Hostel here.

Browse more sleeping options in Kharkiv

There you have it, a complete guide on crossing the border between Belgorod and Kharkiv in Russia and Ukraine. Have questions or information to add? Do share in the comments!

 

Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book a stay using one of the links, I’ll make a bit of money at no extra cost to you. Never fear, I’d never steer you wrong.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

How to get from Islamabad to Naran by public transport

A step-by-step guide to getting from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad to Naran by public transport. Includes travel times, costs, and where to find transportation.

Naran is a popular outdoors getaway for Pakistanis from all over the country. The town is easily accessible, has plenty of tourist infrastructure, and the scenery is beautiful. Worth a trip if you’re looking for an escape from the sweltering cities of Pakistan!

Before you go from Islamabad to Naran

Before leaving, make sure the road between Mansehra and Naran is open for public transport. The road usually opens up for public transport in June. If traveling before June, you’ll likely have to take a Jeep from Mansehra, which is considerably more expensive. The Karakoram Club Facebook group is a great place to find information on openings and travel in northern Pakistan.

Getting to Naran from Islamabad

To get to Naran from Islamabad, you first have to go to Mansehra. There are two ways of getting there: taking a local bus from Pirwadhai bus station in Rawalpindi, or a Daewoo bus from the Daewoo terminal in Rawalpindi. We recommend using Daewoo, as it’s quite comfortable, has reclining seats… and it’s air conditioned! There used to be a direct link between Rawalpindi and Naran provided by PTDC, but at the time of writing it was not in operation.

The Daewoo bus from Islamabad to Abbottabad, Pakistan

Riding like a bo$$ in the cool and comfy Daewoo buses.

Daewoo doesn’t go directly to Mansehra–you’ll have to take the bus to Abbottabad. This bus costs 390 Rs per person and takes three hours. There are several throughout the day, so make sure to check the Daewoo bus schedule online.

When you arrive at the Daewoo station in Abbottabad, a Daewoo minivan will likely be waiting to take you to Mansehra. A ticket costs 40 Rs per person, and the ride takes around half an hour. If you take a local bus from Rawalpindi to Manshera, there will be minibusses at the dropoff point there too. If not, just ask around and people will show you in the right direction.

Once in Mansehra, face the main road from the bus station, and walk about 500 meters down the road to your right. Here, you’ll find a minibus terminal. A ticket to Naran costs 300 Rs per person. Minibusses leave when full, and take around 3.5-4 hours.

The minibus terminal for buses to Naran in Mansehra, Pakistan.

The minibus terminal in Mansehra.

Where to stay in Naran

Naran is a popular destination for local tourists. In peak season prices can skyrocket, and it’s recommended to book ahead. In the off-season and during Ramadan (when it falls in summer) there is no need to book ahead, and prices are more negotiable.

Naran itself is basically just a street with shops, restaurants, and hotels, so you can walk around to find a place that best suits your needs.

What to do in Naran

Naran is popular for a reason. There are several lakes that can be visited, and Naran is the base for several hikes too. The most famous lake near Naran is Lake Saif-ul-Malook. It’s possible to hike to the lake, but most people opt to take a Jeep there. There are talks of a cable car being built, but so far nothing has been finalized.

Other popular places in and near Naran include Ansoo Jheel, Lalazar, and Dudipatsar Lake.  For more information on what to do in Naran, check here.

Onwards travel from Naran

In summer it’s possible to travel onwards from Naran to Chilas (useful for those traveling to Fairy Meadows), but only when Babusar Pass is open. In 2016, it opened on the 21st of June. The Karakoram Club on Facebook maintains a schedule of passes in the north and their status.  If you’re interested in traveling this route, check out our article on how to get from Naran to Chilas and the Fairy Meadows.

So there you have it, a quick guide on how to get from Islamabad to Naran by public transport, including information on where to stay and what to do. Let us know in the comments if you have more questions.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Rolling hills and flowers galore in Dzukou Valley, Nagaland

The rolling hills of Dzukou Valley, on the border of Nagaland and Manipur, are one of the highlights of India’s Northeast. Here’s some photographic proof, and a guide with everything you need to know about Dzukou Valley.

 

Dzukou Valley -sometimes spelled Dzükou Valley or Dzüko Valley- sits high amongst the clouds, at 2,452 meters above sea level, straddling the border of Nagaland and Manipur in northeast India.

In summer, vivid green hillocks pave the way for blue mountaintops, and bright flowers wave in the winds amongst the tall grasses. In winter, temperatures drop far lower than one would expect in such tropical states, and Dzukou Valley freezes, sometimes covered in white snow.

Below you can find some quick info on Dzukou Valley, some photos to inspire you to trek to Dzukou Valley, and practical information on visiting Dzukou Valley.

Hot and cold colors in a panorama at sunset

Even through the clouds, sunset at Dzukou is stunning

An introduction to Dzukou Valley

Dzukou Valley is most famous for its multicolored carpets of flowers that bloom in summer, most notably the Dzukou lily which is found only in Dzukou Valley.

The flowers begin to bloom with the monsoon season, and the first two weeks of July are usually peak flower season in Dzukou Valley. But if you can’t make it during flower time, we assure you, it’ll be gorgeous at any time of year, and it has much more to offer than colorful flora for saturated selfies.

It’s a beautiful place to hike around in itself, flowers or not, and if you’re into rock climbing there are plenty of opportunities to break a sweat within the valley. Even more interesting (to us, anyway), Dzukou Valley is well-known and loved by local tourists from Nagaland and Manipur, but has yet to be “discovered” by foreigners and domestic tourists from further away. Come visit while you can, because India’s northeast is almost certainly going to experience a tourism boom in the coming years.

In case you need more convincing…

Feast your eyes on these photos of Dzukou Valley

The path leading through Dzukou Valley to the rest house

The path leading into Dzukou Valley

Pink summer flowers beginning to bloom in Dzukou Valley

Dzukou lilies beginning to bloom in the valley

The green carpeted hills of Dzukou Valley

Typical cloudy Dzukou weather

Sunrise over Dzukou Valley on a foggy morning

Early morning sun breaking over the valley

A boy hiking in to Dzukou Valley

Wandering into the valley

Yellow flowers blooming in Dzukou Valley

Yet more flowers a-blooming in the valley

Now that we’ve convinced you to visit (we have, haven’t we?), it’s time to get down to business! Read on to learn everything you need to know to make your visit to Dzukou Valley a success.

How to get to Dzukou Valley from Nagaland

Although it’s possible to get to Dzukou Valley from Manipur, the main approach is from Nagaland. There are no amenities on the Manipur side, the trekking trail is much more strenuous, and roads to the valley are in poor condition. Most visitors from Manipur drive to the Nagaland side to enter the valley.

If you wish to approach from Manipur, make sure you have the proper equipment and a local guide who knows the way. This guide will focus on how to get to Dzukou Valley from Nagaland.

From Kohima, the laid-back capital of Nagaland, getting to Dzukou Valley is a relatively straightforward affair. The valley can be approached from two towns: Jakhama and Viswema. Jakhama (spelled Zakhama on Google Maps) is about 20 kilometers from Kohima and Viswema about 25 kilometers away from Kohima. Kohima itself is reached by bus. The nearest railhead to Kohima is in Dimapur.

Shared taxis to Viswema

Shared taxis to Viswema

To get to either of these towns from Kohima, take a shared taxi from the Network Travels AOC Bus stand. There are several yellow vans and Sumos parked—just ask one of the men sitting around, and you’ll soon be pointed to the right vehicle. It costs 40 Rs per person to get to Jakhama, and 50 Rs per person to get to Viswema. The taxis leave when full, and it takes about 30 – 45 minutes to reach Viswema.

Heading to Nagaland? Make sure to check out the tribal village of Longwa, on the Myanmar border!

 

How to approach Dzukou Valley

The approach you should take depends on your fitness/masochist level. The trek from Jakhama to Dzukou Valley is more demanding but takes less time. The trek from Viswema to Dzukou Valley is more gradual but generally takes longer.

We recommend taking the Viswema approach entering the valley and exiting Dzukou Valley via the path to Jakhama.

As of World Environment Day 2019, Dzukou Valley is a plastic-free zone. This means you’ll have to pay a security fee if you’re carrying any polythene bags. You’ll get the security fee back when you leave and proof you’re still carrying your bags.

Getting to Dzukou Valley from Viswema

The Viswema approach starts with roughly 8 kilometers of motorable road. The road slopes up gently, and the walk takes around 3 hours. You can hire a taxi from the main highway to the end of the motorable road, but be prepared to pay 1,500 Rs for the ride.

Alternatively, you can try hitching a ride. There’s some construction going on at the end of the road, and the construction workers will probably let you jump on the back of their truck if they pass you. You could also walk to the trailhead, but this will take another hour or so.

Sign marking the start of the Viswema approach to Dzukou Valley

The start of the steep uphill climb on the Viswema approach

To get to the valley, follow the trail for about 45-minutes to an hour. The climb is steep and could be slippery depending on the weather, as there’s a lot of dirt/mud. Be careful!

Surprisingly, there are plenty of dustbins along the way. Make sure to use them to throw your trash out while walking.

After the steep climb to the top of the mountain, you’ll be in Dzukou Valley. From the beginning of the valley, it’s another pleasant two hours through the valley to reach the rest house. There is a little rest stop at the beginning of the valley trail where you could have a lunch break.

Getting to Dzukou Valley from Jakhama

The approach from Jakhama is much more demanding than the one from Viswema, and unless you’re into that sort of thing, we recommend you take this one down, not up. The steep path is lined with rough-hewn stone steps, which are much easier to walk down than the muddy trail up from Viswema. It took us about 3 hours to walk down from the valley to the main road on this path.

A boy sitting on the stone steps down to Jakhama

Wobbly legs on the long way down to Jakhama

If you’re heading upwards, from Jakhama there’s a motorable road for about 3-4 kilometers, after which your ascent starts. It’ll take at least 4 – 5 hours to walk up, and it’s a pretty steep affair. The steps are in good condition, though, and you’ll arrive very close to the rest house in the valley. The path eventually merges with the trail through the valley starting near Viswema.

Route sign for the hiking trails at Dzukou Valley

To the left is the path to Jakhama, to the right, Viswema

 

Cost of visiting Dzukou Valley

Entrance to the valley costs 20 Rs per person for people from surrounding villages, 50 Rs per person for other Indians, and 100 Rs per person for foreigners. Entrance fees are paid at the rest house, and you only need to pay once, not per day.

Price list for items such as tent, cooking utensils at the Dzukou Valley rest house

Price list for the Dzukou Valley rest house

Where to stay in Dzukou Valley

There is a basic rest house overlooking the valley, offering two refugee camp-like dorms and five private rooms with barebone amenities. Bring your own inflatable mattress, or you’ll regret your poor life choices.

The dorm costs 50 Rs per person, and private rooms are 300 Rs per room. Mattresses, blankets, and pillows are extra. Simple breakfast and dinner are also available.

VIP room in a rest house in Dzukou Valley

A “VIP” rest house room. We call it ~hiker chic~.

If you have the proper gear, Dzukou Valley is also a great place to camp. There are several natural campsites in the valley. The main site is smack in the middle of the valley, while the others are sheltered by small caves. You can camp virtually anywhere you want, however, as long as you pay the park entry fee. The valley is a popular camping spot for local tourists, and when we were there several groups has set up camps throughout the valley. If you ask nicely you can probably join such a camp if you want to.

 

A view of Kohima from the balcony of Morung Lodge homestay

A sick view of Kohima from the balcony of Morung Lodge

Where to stay in Kohima

Kohima is a pleasant enough city to stay for a day or two before or after your visit to the Dzukou Valley. Unfortunately, super budget accommodation is hard to find.

Pine Hotel offers very basic rooms, starting at 1,000 Rs per night. A more pleasant—but also more expensive—option is the Morung Lodge homestay right next door. The interior is charming, Nino (the owner) is nice, and it boasts a 4/20 friendly atmosphere, but at 1,000 Rs per person for a dorm bed (including simple breakfast and dinner), it’s woefully overpriced. Still, it was a good and safe place to leave our extra luggage while hiking to Dzukou Valley.

What to do in Kohima

Kohima is the laidback capital of this hilly state, and you could do worse than exploring the bazaars and just walk around to experience the atmosphere. There are also several churches, and a war cemetery remembering the victims of the battle for Garrison Hill during the Second World War.

The green hills of Dzukou Valley on the border between Manipur and Nagaland states in India, is one of the highlights of northeast India. Here's photos of Dzukou Valley for trip inspiration, plus a detailed guide on how to get to Dzukou Valley from Kohima, Nagaland, tips for trekking, and details on how much it costs to visit Dzukou Valley from Nagaland.

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So there you have it, a quick guide on how to get to Dzukou Valley from Nagaland. Let us know in the comments if anything changes, or if you know a good place to stay in Kohima.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

Crossing the Iran-Iraq border at Bashmaq and Penjwen

This border crossing report contains information on crossing overland from Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan. Note this does not apply to crossing between Iran and southern Iraq.

Lost with Purpose is blocked in Iran. To access Lost with Purposen in Iran, use a VPN. We recommend ExpressVPN. Read more about accessing blocked websites in Iran here.

The overland Iran-Iraq border at Bashmaq and Penjwen is open 24 hours a day, only closing for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.  This border is best reached from Sanandaj or Kermanshah on the Iran side, or Sulemani (Sulaymaniyah) on the Iraqi side. If coming from Erbil or northern Iran, take the border crossing at Piranshahr (Iran) and Haji Omeran (Iraqi Kurdistan) instead.

Getting to the border from Sanandaj, on the Iran side, takes about 3.5 hours. Getting to the border from Sulemani, on the Iraq side, takes about 1.5 hours. Customs formalities are easy, but things are a bit confusing on the Iraq side.

Here you’ll find all the information you need on getting to the border, crossing without hassle, and finding onwards transport.

Getting to the Iran-Iraq border from Sanandaj in Iran

The most logical starting point for this border crossing is Sanandaj, about 3 hours from the border.

After Sanandaj, your first stop is Marivan, where you could also spend the night if desired. To get to Marivan go to the bus terminal north of Sanandaj, called Terminal Sanandaj to Saqqez on Google Maps. A taxi to here from the Sanandaj city center should be 70,000 – 100,000 IRR (US$0.50 – 0.80). A shared taxi from Sanandaj to Marivan costs 300,000 IRR ($2.50) per person and takes about 3 hours. Shared taxis depart when full.

Shared taxis to the border

If you tell the shared taxi driver you’re going to the Iran-Iraqi Kurdistan border, he’ll drop you off at the bus terminal where you can get a taxi. A shared taxi to the border costs around 50,000 IRR ($0.30), but you might have to wait a while for it to fill up. You can hire the entire car for 200,000 IRR ($1.50). If you decided to stay in Marivan for the night, you can find a taxi from Zingheh Square in Marivan. Taxis from there will drop you off about a kilometer from the actual border. You’ll have to walk the last part.

If planning to come from Kermanshah, first take a shared taxi from Kermanshah’s bus terminal to Sanandaj, which costs 250,000 IRR per person ($2.00), then follow the above steps.

Where to stay in Sanandaj

Sanandaj offers several places to sleep, ranging from cheap motels to luxury hotels. At the moment, it’s not possible to book hotels in Sanandaj online. If you’re looking for a place to sleep in Sanandaj, check out the following spots:

  • Budget: Hedayat Hotel. Basic motel in the center of town on Ferdowsi Street. Good for budget travelers in Iran.
  • Mid-range: Sanandaj Tourist Hotel. Decent hotel aimed at local tourists. It’s a bit out of town but offers good amenities.
  • High-end: Sanandaj Shadi Hotel. Not really worth the money, but probably the most upscale hotel in town.

Visiting Sanandaj? Make sure to check out the stepped village of Palangan. Check this offbeat Iran guide to see how!

Getting to the Iran – Iraq border from Sulemani in Iraqi Kurdistan

Sulemani, also called Sulaymaniyah or Suly, is about 100 km from the border. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get from Sulemani to the Iran border by shared taxi or bus, and costs 4,000-7,000 Iraqi Dinar ($3.30-5.80). The taxi won’t bring you right to the border, but instead to the town of Penjwen which is about 8 km from the border.

From here you could take another taxi, but it’s very easy to hitchhike the last few kilometers. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can get a taxi from Penjwen to the border for about 2,000 Iraqi Dinar ($1.80). If taking a private taxi from Sulemani, it should bring you all the way to the border. Once you’ve crossed the border, walk for about 15 minutes to leave the border compound, then get a taxi to Marivan for 200,000 IRR ($1.50) and follow the route mentioned above, but in reverse.

Where to stay in Sulemani

Sulemani has plenty of places to stay, but most travelers end up in Dolphin Hotel. Dolphin is sometimes advertised as a hostel, but there are no dorm beds; it’s just a basic hotel. However, it’s the best bet in town if you want to meet other travelers.

  • Budget: Dolphin Hotel. Basic hotel close to the bazaar and the best place to find other travelers. Book Dolphin Hotel here.
  • Mid-range: Khan Saray. Good value mid-range hotel with friendly staff and convenient location. Check out Khan Saray here.
  • High-end: Titanic Hotel. Probably the most famous hotel in Sulemani. It has a bar, restaurant, spa, and everything else you’d expect of a luxury hotel. Book Titanic Hotel here.
The Iran - Iraq border crossing gate

The land border crossing between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan

Crossing the Iran-Iraq border at Bashmaq and Penjwen

If you’re coming from Iran, citizens of the EU and several other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival for Iraqi Kurdistan.

When coming from Iraq, you need to have a visa for Iran to enter. If you need help getting a visa for Iran, contact 1stQuest. Use the code LWP-QST to get a 5% discount.

Things are smooth on the Iranian side of the border. Follow the signs until you’re in the big immigration hall. Here your bags will be scanned, and your passport and visa will be checked. You can also change money here (at poor rates). When I was there, there was hardly anyone crossing and the whole process took 5 minutes. There is no exit fee, and the immigration officer didn’t ask me any questions. However, if you’re entering Iran you might be asked a few questions about the purpose of your visit and where you want to go.

On the Iran side of the border

On the Iraq side, things are a bit more confusing, mostly because it’s not clear where you need to go. Basically, you need to walk straight for a bit, then go left towards a building with some posters on it and a few containers in front of it. There are usually taxis hanging around this building.

First go to one of the containers where a guy will fill out a form for you containing standard information such as your name, nationality, date of birth, etc. You can’t fill out the form yourself, and they charge 3,000 Iraqi Dinar ($2.50) to do it for you. However, I didn’t have local currency and told them I wasn’t carrying any dollars either. After a bit of back and forth banter they let me go without paying.

After this, you have to bring the form you just got to the main immigration office next door. When I was there, there were many Iranians waiting about to get their passport stamped, but they have to go through an extra process. Just enter the room at the second door to your right, and they will stamp your passport with a 30-day Iraqi Kurdistan visa.

Onwards travel from the Iran-Iraqi Kurdistan border

Iran: going to Sanandaj

If you came from Iraq and are traveling to Iran, the first logical stop is Sanandaj. Sanandaj is about 3.5 hours from the border. You can follow the steps described above, but then do them in reverse order. You might have to pay a bit more for a taxi from the border to Marivan, but the rest should be the same.

Iraq: going to Sulemani

There are taxis waiting for you right after the border, but these charge 50,000 – 60,000 Iraqi Dinar to get to Sulemani ($41-50). If you want to do it cheaper you have two options:

  1. Walk for about 1 km to exit the immigration compound. From here you can get a shared taxi to Penjwen for about 2,000 IQD ($1.60). From Penjwen you can take either a bus (4,000 IQD/$3,20) or a shared taxi (7,000 IQD/$5,80) to Sulemani.
  2. Hitchhike from the border to Sulemani. I hitchhiked to Sulemani and it was easy. The first car I hailed brought be to Penjwen and dropped me off on the highway at the edge of town. From there the third car that passed by picked me up and drove me all the way to Sulemani. Most people that drive here will drive to Sulemani, so if you have time and feel adventurous it’s easy to hitchhike.

There you have it, a complete guide on crossing the Iran-Iraq border at Bashmaq and Penjwen. Give a shout in the comments if anything has changed.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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