Tajikistan, a Central Asian country rarely visited by foreigners is one of the last few places where you can truly experience adventure in a wild & untouched landscape. A landlocked country dominated by the Pamir & Alay mountains, Tajikistan is also part of the ancient Silk Road which passed through the country centuries ago.
My journey in Tajikistan began with a trip to Osh, the southern city of Kyrgyzstan. From Osh, I traveled along the Pamir Highway, also known as M41 Highway into Tajikistan. The Pamir Highway is also known as the "Roof the World" & travelling on the Highway is an adventure in itself. To travel this route, I had to get a Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) permit from the Tajikistan embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Driving out from Osh, the landscape started to change & within a couple of hours, I find myself facing some of the most inhospitable but gorgeous mountain landscape. I spent a night in Sary Tash village en route to Murghab.
The next morning, I crossed the land border into Tajikistan. At this point of time, it is better to hire a local Jeep driver to bring you across the immigration. This is because most of border guards in Tajikistan are "corrupted" & some form of "bribery" was required to cross the border without any hassle. And this is what I think is happening when the Jeep stopped at the Tajikistan's immigration and the driver took my passport, a bottle of vodka & some naan (bread) into the office while I waited inside the Jeep. After about 15 minutes of waiting, I got back my passport & was given the clearance to enter Tajikstan.
I then continued on my journey to Murghab Village, stopping in Karakul lake en route. The lake, surrounded by the Pamir Mountains & located within the Tajik National Park is one of the highest alpine lake in the World at an altitude of 3,900m. There is a small Kyrgyz settlement near the lake and the setting was spectacularly scenic!
From Karakul, my next stop is Murghab. At 3,650 m above sea level, this is highest town in Tajikistan. It felt more like a village here & it was isolated from most of the outside world. It is no wonder why, considering that Murghab lies on the borders of China and Afghanistan deep in the Pamir Mountains. The Kyrgyz are the main ethnic group living in this cold & often harsh environment. Despite the harsh conditions, the people here are self-sufficient, happy & welcoming. There is even a mosque built outside of town for the majority Sunni Muslims population.
From Murghab, I spent the next 10 days travelling on the Pamir Highway & stopping by some villages along the way. While travelling down the Wakhan from Khorog, I visited Langar village. It is a quiet village with gorgeous mountains scenery & the Panj river is all that divides Tajikistan & neighboring Afghanistan.
I went off the Pamir Highway & literally "off the beaten path", finding myself in Bulunkul Lake & Yashilkul Lake. There is a small settlement in the remote village near the lake & this region is known as the coldest place in Central Asia with the coldest recorded temperature falling to -63 Centigrade.
From Bulunkul, I traveled on towards Langar (again), Darshay, Ishkashim & Khorog.
In Langar, I visited the Yamchun Fortress, one of the most impressive defense fortification built in ancient Wakhan & there is also a cool natural hot spring located up in the mountains from the village.
Darshay is another beautiful village & is the gateway to trekking in the Pamir mountains. Here in Darshay, it is one of the best place to spot the elusive Marco Polo sheeps but unfortunately I did not have the luck to spot one when I went trekking into the surrounding mountains. But I did manage to find some petroglyphs (rock carvings) left behind by ancient people about a few centuries ago!
Darshay is a peaceful place definitely worth spending time exploring & I will recommend spending a few days here to take in all the natural beauty!
From here on, I left for Ishkashim before finally making it to Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan. After a few days resting in Dushanbe, I left for Iskanderkul Lake in the Fann Mountains, Penjikent & Khujand before leaving Tajikistan. Throughout my travels in the country, I spent most of the time staying with locals & this gave me a unique insight into the lives of the Tajik people! This remain one of my best memories of Tajikistan.
Travelling in Tajikistan is not easy & is challenging most of the time but I say go with a free mind & you will experience the best of Tajikistan.
There are so much more to explore in this country & I believe Tajikistan is and will always be an epic travel destination!