My journey through Tajikistan is some of the most memorable travel I have ever experienced. Bar none.
Reading my Tajikistan travel diary reveals some moments of tiredness and discomfort but an overwhelming sense of the heartstopping excitement I felt while travelling through this amazing country.
Let me take you on a tour of Tajikistan, so you can catch a glimpse of the sights of this incredible country in Central Asia.
If you love adventurous travel, incredible scenery and fascinating culture be warned, you may want to book your flights straight away!
Penjikent to Dushanbe
After crossing the border from Uzbekistan we got to the small town of Penjikent, where we experienced our first Tajik hospitality and visited the ancient ruined city of Penjikent.
Each new day travelling in Tajikistan seems to reveal ever more stupendous views. Driving from Penjikent to Dushanbe hwe stopped off at the unbelievably turquoise lake of Iskanderkul, with a backdrop of the Fansky Gory Mountains.
The road to Dushanbe also revealed a few remnants of Tajikistan’s civil war…
Dushanbe is a bustling, leafy city with a few monuments.
Dushanbe to Khorog
From Dushanbe we took local transport and, when that broke down, hitchhiked to the town of Khorog. Of course there was more beautiful scenery on the way.
We were befriended by this lady who took us to visit her Mother in their traditional family house and then hospitably invited us to stay in her Khorog home.
The Wakhan Valley
From Khorog we entered the Wakhan Valley, on our approach to the Pamir Highway. Thet Wakhan Valley follows the Panj River that is the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It is green and dotted with places of cultural interest, including hot water mineral springs, fortresses, ruined Buddhist stupas and Zoroastrian fire platforms.
Deep in the Wakhan Valley we stayed at a homestay and explored a village on foot, climbing up the hill to see ancient petroglyphs.
These girls ran up to us, desperate to have their photo taken, but when it came to the camera shutter moment it all proved too much for one of them. The girl on the left is wearing a lovely dress in a traditional fabric pattern typical of this part of the Silk Road.
As the road climbed higher towards the Pamir region we stopped to climb up to this ruined fortress, built to guard the Silk Road millennia ago.
The Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is quite simply the highest road in the world – it’s the M41 to the Russians or a strand of the Silk Road to those more romantically inclined
Climbing up onto the plateau, the Hindu Kush rose up behind us, looking steeper with every minute. The high altitude landscape has the occasional tiny lake, near which yaks graze.
Lake Yashil near the village of Bulunkul may not be on every Tajikistan travel itinerary but it certainly should be. High on the Pamir plateau we camped beside this perfectly smooth remote lake and walked – gobsmacked – along its shores.
Further onwards we had an incredible view of Tajikistan’s magnificent Wakhan range with the great Pamir (plateau) between us and the mountains.
There were more ancient monuments and crystal clear mirror lakes as we travelled further along M41.
There were occasional herds of yaks, comfortable at these high altitudes and a great source of milk.
You can read more about driving the Pamir Highway on the blog.
Murghab and around
Murghab is a wild east town that we reached after three days on the Pamir Highway. The ‘capital’ of the Gorno Badakhshan region, this tiny town was once a Russian outpost but now scrapes out an existence in one of the most remote places on earth.
There is a market for basic supplies…
The border with Kyrgyzstan is now only a couple of day’s travel away and Kyrgyz herders with their yurts can be seen in the outlying valleys. This Kyrgyz gentleman with this traditional hat is in town to trade and buy supplies.
We took a day trip from Murghab to have morning tea with a Kyrgyz family who were still setting up their summer camp. This old lady was a whiz with her spinning…
Further into the remote mountains we eventually found the amazing geoglyph site of Shurali. A geoglyph is an enormous image or design produced in the natural landscape by aligning rocks or gravel.
Onwards towards Kyrgyzstan
From Murghab we travelled west towards the Alay Mountains. The great curling horns of Marco Polo sheep lie at the side of the road.
After a brief overnight stop at a village beside the beautiful Lake Karakul, we travelled on through the mountain passes, eventually rolling across the border into the soft green hills of Kyrgyzstan.
There you have it – 25 photos that will make you desperate to visit Tajikistan. For the most awe-inspiring scenery, hospitable people and authentic travel experience you are ever likely to have.
By Natasha von Geldern
Cicerone have a new guidebook out on Trekking in Tajikistan – it’s very inspiring!