Boasting ancient Buddhist temples, soaring peaks, echoes of Alexander the Great, turbulent aquamarine rivers and generous Persian hospitality, Tajikistan is a spectacular landlocked Central Asian republic which shares borders with China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. It’s narrowly separated from Pakistan by the magnificent Wakhan Corridor – a territorial relic of the 19th century’s Great Game between the Russian and British Empires.

With a land area equivalent to that of England and Northern Ireland combined, this crossroads of Asia is dominated by the Pamir Mountains – the fourth highest range in the world. Over ninety per cent of the country is classified as mountainous and the nation lays claim to the world’s longest non-arctic glacier and the world’s highest natural dam.

The poorest of the ex-Soviet states, this easy going, nominally Ismaili Islamic nation consists of many different ethnic groups, including Tajik, Uzbek and Yagnobi in the north and west, Wakhi and Shugni in the south and Kyrgyz on the Murghab Plateau.  Several remote valleys have their own distinct languages and customs.

As befits a mountainous terrain, the climate is hugely varied. It can be searingly hot in the lowlands in summer, whilst the winters are characterized by deep snow and closed passes that can isolate resilient communities for weeks or months at a time.

Wildlife abounds here. You are likely to see eagles wheeling over old Silk Road fortresses, marmots popping up beside ancient caravanserai and the horned silhouettes of rare Marco Polo sheep – named after a certain famous traveller who once passed this way – skittering across high passes. If you’re very, very lucky, you might even spot a Snow Leopard.

History oozes from this country’s terrain. Alexander the Great came this way, as did Marco Polo, Xuanxang, Younghusband, Colonel F.M Bailey and so many more. In places, you can almost hear the rumble of the Silk Road yak and camel caravans of old.

The first time we went to Tajikistan, we couldn’t get over the open smiles and kindness of the Tajik people, the Pamiris in particular. Five years later, nothing has changed. Prepare to be greeted with smiles, waves, stories and traditional music wherever you go.

Among the mountains that encircle the Tajikistani Pamir Highway, every bend in the road provides a vista fit for a coffee table tome. Travelling here is a supercharger for the soul. We’d be surprised if you didn’t want to come back!

Reasons we love Tajikistan

  • Mountain scenery so lofty, humbling and dramatic that it affects your heart, spirit and tear ducts!
  • Charismatic and amiable people who genuinely treat visitors as guests to be treasured rather than cash cows to be milked.
  • History From the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians through to Alexander and the modern era.
  • A lack of mass tourism. Of course, Tajikistan would love – and deserves – more tourism to develop, but right now even the simplest of trips can still bring out your inner explorer.
  • Its rapidly opening borders. Within the last year it’s become possible for foreign travellers to cross both the Kulma Pass into Western China and the Penjikent border to Samarkand in Uzbekistan.