For stark, mountain deserts, salt lakes and giant sand dunes you might explore the Rang-Kul area. Rangkul village has homestays and ZholKerbez runs yurtstay camel treks (per camel for one/two/three days US$70/90/110, pre-booking essential), but don't underestimate the discomfort of camel-riding.
Gunt Valley to Koi-Tezek Pass
A series of well-watered orchard villages lead out of Khorog and up the Gunt Valley whose rugged valley sides become ever more dramatic as the greenery becomes more sparse. Rocky pinnacles and regular glimpses of white-top peaks are impressive for many miles but especially dramatic after Dehmyona (Km685).
Bulunkul & Yashil-Kul
The bumpy 4272m Koi-Tezek Pass leads into lunar-like, high-altitude desert scenery, framed by a series of snowy if relatively unremarkable peaks. After nearly 40km the road starts to descend sharply with sweeping views ahead over stark landscapes and two large salt lakes.
Bulunkul to Murgab
Alichur (Km828) is a wide scattering of low, whitewashed hovels, many daubed with the words 'stolovaya' (canteen) or 'guest house'. It's the westernmost limit of Mugab Region's predominantly Kyrgyz community whose occasional yurts dot the mountain-edged plain that stretches over 50km east. Several yurtstays are within 400m of the highway, notably at Km837, Km838.
Shakhty & Zor-Kul
The impressive Neolithic cave paintings of Shakhty (4200m) are 50km southwest of Murgab, 25km off the Pamir Highway, in the dramatic Kurteskei Valley. Soviet archaeologists apparently took shelter in the cave during a storm one night in 1958, only to awake the next morning open-mouthed in front of the perfectly preserved red-ink paintings of a boar hunt.
To really get off the beaten track, take the road up the Ak-Suu Valley to Shaimak, 126km from Murgab, at the strategic junction of the borders of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan. This is about as Great Game as it gets! You may need KGB approval to travel past the checkpoint before Tokhtamysh.