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Khyber Pass

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Closed to foreigners?
A few travellers have reported lately that they were refused permits to travel from Peshawar to the Khyber Pass, and told the only option was flying, based on perceived heightened threats to foreigners: others have said that only those travelling through and crossing the border are issued permits. In any case, be prepared to make alternate plans if you must visit Afghanistan.

The Khyber Pass is the main route between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The pass itself is entirely in Pakistan.

The only alternate route is the Bolan Pass further south, between Kandahar and Quetta, which crosses the same mountain range, is even more dangerous and is open only for locals and aid workers.


The area is inhabited by the ethnic Pathans or Pushtuns, effectively a traditional tribal people. On the map, it is part of Pakistan, but the Pakistani government has never exercised direct control over it. Indigenous tribal chiefs control all aspects of life within the area.

Pathan territory spans the border. 60% of them live in Pakistan, 40% in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, they are the largest ethnic group at 40-odd% of the population and have often dominated government and business.

The Pathans have twice defeated the greatest armies of their day. When Alexander the Great attempted to cross the pass, he did not manage it for several weeks, until he bribed one of the local chieftains into assisting him against the ones who were blocking him. At the height of British power during Queen Victoria's reign, the Khyber was the border of the Raj and of Imperial India. Britain fought several wars against the Pathans and never managed to successfully subdue them. In the first Anglo-Afghan war, a force of 16,000 (Which consisted of 4,500 professional soldiers) attempted to quell the indigenous peoples through force and all but one man perished.

Since 1980, the Pathans have fought the Soviets, Afghans, American-led allied forces, and the Pakistani military.

The Pathans provided most of the adherents of Taliban. Many — both pro and anti-Taliban — are still (2012) fiercely resisting various efforts by US and allied forces and/or the Pakistani government to control their area.

Crossing the Khyber has always been something of an epic adventure. Today, it is far too dangerous for most travellers.


The local language is Pashto, but many people also speak Pakistan's Urdu or Afghanistan's Dari. A few speak English.


The nearest towns on the route that goes over the pass are Jalalabad in Afghanistan and Peshawar in Pakistan.

At the top of the pass is the town of Landi Kotal.

Get in[edit]

Except for trails which only locals can use safely, the only way in or out is via the main road through the pass.

From Peshawar to Torkham (the border town) you are required to obtain a permit and travel with an armed guard.

Taxis and buses are available on both sides of the border. See the Afghanistan and Pakistan pages for detailed info on crossing the pass.

See[edit][add listing]

At the top of the pass is the town of Landi Kotal, famous for smuggling everything from consumer electronics to AK-47s. Attractions for the truly intrepid tourist include weapons factories and hashish warehouses.


The pass is on the Istanbul to New Delhi over land itinerary, though the current recommended route avoids it.

Do[edit][add listing]

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Eat[edit][add listing]

The local food consists of red meat mainly lamb which is pan fried into the form of Chappli kebab and eaten with a large tandoori naan and fresh salad with Doogh, a yogurt drink to accompany it.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

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