WHAT TO SEE
The Pamir region of Tajikistan (Gorno-Badakhshan)
is in the far Eastern part of the country. It borders Afghanistan in the South
and West, China in the East and Kyrgyzstan in the North. The Southern and
Western boundaries are determined by the Pamir and Pyanj rivers. The Pyanj is
better known by its ancient name of Oxus, and becomes the Amu Darya after being
joined by the river Kunduz from Afghanistan, before continuing along the Uzbek
border on the way to the Aral Sea.
Spectacular landscapes and the warm hospitality and vitality of its people, with their love of dancing and music, both religious and secular.
Of particular interest are:
The Wakhan corridor, with views across the
Pyandj and Pamir rivers to the peaks of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Here there are traces of the multicultural history of the Silk
Route: pre-islamic shrines and castles. (See also the section on
Unspoilt valleys with meandering rivers and
tumbling streams as well as hot springs, including the Bartang Valley and
lakes Sarez, Yashilkul, Bulumkul, Karakul, Turumtaikul and Zorkul.
Some of the highest mountains in the world: Pik
Somoni / Communism (7,495m), Pik Lenin (7,134m), Pik Karl Marx (6,723m) and
Pik Engels (6,510m) and the Fedchenko Glacier – one of the longest in the
world (77km). From Murghab there are views of Mustagata – “Father of Ice”
(7,546m) just across the border in China.
one of the most successful development programmes ever implemented
For most travellers, a visit to the Pamirs is
likely to be different from any previous travel experience. This is in itself
one of the attractions of the region, but a few words of warning may be
necessary, since the experience is both physically and mentally challenging.
Travellers should be aware that the distances involved in just getting to Gorno-Badakhshan are enormous (over 7 hours flying time to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, then some 14 hours by road to the regional capital, Khorog). The alternative route from Osh in Kyrgyzstan to Khorog takes 16 hours by road and distances between destinations within Gorno-Badakhshan are significant. A visit to the Pamirs can not be hurried and travellers must be prepared for much driving over difficult roads at high altitudes. A former US Ambassador to Tajikistan described it as follows: “Gorno-Badakhshan is not the end of the world – but you can see it from there”.
|The road from Dushanbe travels a considerable distance along the Afghan border and offers views of life in Afghan villages.||The road from Osh in Kyrgyzstan is uninhabited between the last Kyrgyz town of Sary Tash and Murghab.|
A short excursion West from Sary Tash to the Tajik enclave Saryk Mongol on Kyrgyz territory (inhabited by very hospitable people from Murghab)
offers spectacular views of
Pik Lenin (7,134m).
The road from Sary Tash to Ali Chur follows the Chinese border for about 200km and goes over some very high passes (e.g. Akbaital 4,655m) and offers views of a multi-coloured desert landscape that looks more like the moon than planet earth: this region used to be at the bottom of the sea and was pushed up by the geological phenomenon of continental drift and the clash of tectonic plates.
|“Death Valley” near the frontier of Gorno-Badakhshan at Kizylart Pass||The Murghab River|
The archaeology of the region is barely explored and most of the work that has been done has not been reported in Western languages. This means that there are no comprehensive guidebooks on what to see and do – the Lonely Planet book is good but only scratches the surface. Gorno-Badakhshan is almost “virgin territory” for tourism. Do not expect an organised programme of cultural visits and events: the culture is readily apparent in the eyes and hearts of the people and in their singing and dancing.
Sanitation in most private houses is relatively primitive and corresponding elementary precautions should be taken.
House in Tusyan
Travellers to Murghab district may be able to stay in a yurt.
There are therapeutic hot springs in:
Garm Chashma (near Anderob, 30km from Khorog on the road to Ishkashim)
Oudzh (30km from Ishakashim on the road from Khorog)
“Bibi Fotima” near Yamchun village (72km on the road E. from Ishkashim)
Issyk-Bulok (Madyan Valley, 30km West of Murghab)
Djelondi (about 110km from Khorog on the road to Murghab)
Other less easily accessible hot springs can be found at Djarty-Gumbez (40km South of Murghab, just off the main road to Khorog), Bulumkul (20km North from the main road Khorog-Murghab at about km 150) and Shaimak (about 130km Southeast of Murghab, near the Afghan border – “little Pamir”).
The Botanical garden in Khorog is the second
highest in the world. Khorog has an interesting museum, located close to the
MSDSP guesthouse on the main road.
The rewards for the unhurried and open-minded traveller are:
a wealth of new visual impressions
a new perception of the meaning of some common-place terms such as “happiness”, “poverty”, “joy”, “hope”, “faith”
a chance to get some current political and economic terminology in better perspective: “fundamentalism”, “capitalism”, “communism”, “free enterprise”, “progress”, “development”
an understanding of the strategic importance of this region (from the time of the Silk Route and the “Great Game” to contemporary geopolitics)
and, perhaps, time for self-discovery
Have your fortune told.