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TOURISM - WHAT TO SEE

 
   
  Spectacular Landscapes
  Highest Mountains
  Archaeology
     Petroglyphs
     Shrines
  Warm Hospitality
  Music and Dancing
  Development Programme
  Virtual Sightseeing:
     Khorog Park
     Wakhan Corridor
     Shokhdara and Pamir Valleys
     Pamir Highway 1
     Pamir Highway 2
     Pamir Highway 3
     Murghab/Rangkul/Madyan/Shaimak
     Bartang Valley
     Jisev Valley
     Helicopter flight to Dushanbe
 

 

 

Gorno-Badakhshan

(with kind permission from
Markus Hauser)

 

 

Gorno-Badakhshan is in the far Eastern part of Tajikistan. It borders Afghanistan in the South and West, China in the East and Kyrgyzstan in the North. The Southern and Eastern boundaries are determined by the Pamir and Pyanj rivers. The Pyanj is better know 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.

Gorno-Badakhshan offers:

The following itineraries are recommended (click on the link and then on the place names for “virtual sightseeing”):

  • The Wakhan corridor, with views across the Pyandj and Pamir rivers to the peaks of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan; the Wakhan contains many traces of the multicultural history of the Silk Route and the spread of major religions (see also the section on Archaeology)

  • The valleys of the Shokhdara and Pamir rivers; here, in beautiful natural surroundings, there are vestiges of the centuries-long struggle for control of the fertile lands of the Pamirs

  • The Pamir Highway, the lifeline to markets in Kyrgyzstan (and, in future, China); this is the real Pamir: high plateau desert and multi-coloured rock formations resembling more a moonscape than mountains; 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.

  • The unspoilt and undiscovered beauty of Murgab, Rangkul, Madyan and Shaimak (Little Pamir), with the legendary Dragon Lake known to Chinese geographers

  • The Bartang valley, the longest in Gorno-Badakhshan, with idyllic villages nestling against the valley walls and access to Lake Sarez.

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 (up to 7 hours flying time from Western Europe to Dushanbe, then some 16 hours by road to the regional capital, Khorog). Osh-Khorog takes 14 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.

The road from Dushanbe travels a considerable distance along the Afghan border and offers magnificent scenery and views of life in Afghan villages.

 

pamirs kalaihusain


pamirs afghanistan mountains vanj pamirs afghanistan village darwaz
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 village of Saryk Mongol on Kyrgyz territory (inhabited by very hospitable Tajiks from Murghab)
 

pamirs people sary mogol alai


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 (of which the highest is Akbaital 4,655m)

 

pamirs murghab river
The Murghab/Aksu 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 as yet no comprehensive guidebooks on what to see and do – the Lonely Planet book is good but only scratches the surface. Odyssey Publications will, however, fill this gap in mid-2007with the first guidebook devoted exclusively to Tajikistan and the Pamirs. See here.

Gorno-Badakhshan is almost “virgin territory” for tourism. Do not expect an organised programme of cultural visits and events: the culture is found in the eyes and hearts of the people and in their singing and dancing.

Sanitation in most private houses is relatively primitive: corresponding elementary precautions should be taken. See section Health and other practical advice.
 

pamirs house tusyan roshtkala shokhdara

 House in Tusyan


Travellers to Murghab district may be able to stay in a yurt.
 

pamirs murghab yurt pamirs murghab yurt
pamirs murghab yurt


There are 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 (Yamchun - 72km from Ishkashim above the Wakhan)

  • Issyk-Bulok-Madyan (10km West of Murghab)

  • Djelondi (about 110km from Khorog on the road to Murghab)

  • Shaimak (126km from Murghab)

The Botanical garden in Khorog is the second highest in the world.

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
 

pamirs man jonboz musician fortune-teller

 



All text and photographs (c) Robert Middleton 2002


Web master Romanyuk Mikhail