A Travellerspoint blog


The Wakhan Valley

This is a longer than my usually video but documents the stunning Valley and mountains of the great Pamirs and stunning views of the Hindu Kusch. A road totalling 440 km it covers the full journey along the Wakhan Corridor of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

All the images were taken with my Canon 1100D and my two lenses the Canon Kit lens 18-55 mm and the Tamron 70-300mm(which I used mostly for this journey)

Welcome to my pictures from the Wakhan Valley. This was a journey through some of the most breath taking, unspoilt places on this Earth in 2012.

We picked up our car in Dushanbe and took the Wakhan corridor to Khorog and then onto mugharb, then the epic crossing to Osh in Kyrgystan. This is a longer than my usually video but documents the stunning Valley and mountains of the great Pamirs and stunning views of the Hindu Kusch. A road totalling 440Km

General info: Courtesy of; https://againstthecompass.com/en/wakhan-valley-tajikistan/ A guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan The Wakhan Valley is a mountainous region which belongs to the Pamir and Hindu Kush ranges, most of it being part of northeast Afghanistan.

For centuries, the Wakhan Valley was an important principality of the famous Kushan, a great empire which extended from southeast Tajikistan to the Ganges Valley itself in India. For this reason, despite being a very mountainous area, in the valley you find several fortresses located on the top of very high hills, offering the most epic and impressive views ever.

Historically, the region served as a division line between west and east Asia, so the valley became an important Silk Road route as well. In the 20th century, it also marked a clear border between the Soviet Union and the British Empire. With all this historical context, its incredible landscape, and awesome people, the Wakhan Valley is the ultimate adventure and a place you can’t miss in your journey through Tajikistan. By the way, even though most of the valley is in Afghan territory, the Lower Wakhan is located in Tajikistan which, unlike the Afghanistan Wakhan Corridor, is very easy to visit with just a bit of planning, a little money and following the advice shown in this comprehensive guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:08 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky water desert view wildlife nature park hiking landscape travel mountain river rocks clouds valley panorama holiday summer way life beautiful countryside hill day stone farm wilderness highway road shore cliff sunny flood asia tourism outdoor wallpaper corridor altitude riverside tajikistan pamirs wakhan afghanistan panj pamir khorog badakhshan wachan Comments (0)


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.


Well to be honest we ummed and awed about going to Tajikistan, If I remember rightly we spent three days in Tashkent(over a weekend) deciding what direction we wanted to go into next!(we always knew Tashkent was a bit of a crossroads for us)I know you are wondering why we had not planned all our trip from start to finish, the idea was that we had a date pretty fixed (Turkmenistan’s fault) up to that point, and as we all know visas are not so flexible, they all want a start and finish date, and either a “where are you going next?” or a “Have you got an exit?” paperwork first. We knew we wanted to go Kyrgyzstan try and get through to China and we had to get our Kyrgz visa and Tajik in Tashkent if we were (see visa section). What we wanted at this point was a degree of flexibility. Well reasons debated were – Visa & its cost, cost, our own physical abilities, what we wanted to see etc.

Well I just want to say I am so glad we did, it’s a “no brainer” really! On all counts,Tajikistan meets all our concerns and then some. We have been absolutely wowed by the North, the SevenLakesof Shing, or their official name the Margozar Lakes, the stunning FanMountains, which no one should miss if they have time in their itinerary.

The first part of our stay in Tajikistan we did independently from Khojand [Khojand-travel-guide-1358665] –Istavarashan-Pendjikent. We booked our Northern,Fan Mountain trip through ZDTA in Penjikent, who managed to organise us transport and a guide in one hour. Be aware that we ended up with a private car and NOT a 4x4 as advertised, which did prove to come up short on more than one occasion. If you do book with them (yes we did email in advance but got no reply) be firm and insist on a 4x4. Their guide was superb and a credit to the company and gets paid way to little compared to other guides.

We visited six out of the seven lakes, stayed in some lovely homestay with some genuine and very hospitable peoples. They will be reviewed separately.

We stayed at Hamsafar Homestay/Guesthouse in Dushanbe, we arranged this through ZDTA, but had already had it in our sites of places to stay when we were researching Tajikistan. A creditworthy stopover for any traveller.

We had also decided that we would like to travel through the Wakhan corridor, down to the Afghan market at Ishkashim(which the Taliban managed to scupper), and through the Pamirs, we started in Dushanbe-Kala-I Khum-Khorog-Wakhan Valley-Bibbi Fatima Springs-Langar-Alichur, before finding that Angela did actually suffer from altitude sickness which hit her at 4,200mtrs, and having to make a hasty detour to Murghab(yes we had already stayed at 3,600mtrs at Alichur [Alichur-travel-guide-1193157] without incident), but remember at the higher altitudes smaller hundreds of mtrs makes a big difference to the body. So Murghab it was and Angela recovered well enough for us to spend two nights here before our progress onto Osh.

We booked this part of our journey through Pamir Guides with a Mitsubishi Pajero, more than man enough for the terrain we encountered. We delighted in the hot spring at Bibbi Fatima and thoroughly enjoyed our first stay in a Yurt at Alichur, where we enjoyed Yak Yoghurt and cream,(unpasteurised) and yes it is lovely, saw Yaks being milked etc. The scenery of the Wakhan and Pamirs is stunning, waterfalls, Snow topped mountains of the Hindu Kush, coupled along with desert environments, Geysers and abundance of wildlife made this a fascinating place to journey through. That is why I am only doing this short section of Blog; I will upload the pictures will I know will speak for themselves! I will add short editorials to accompany some of them.

Posted by TheJohnsons 00:11 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky architecture sunset view nature park landscape monument culture history traditional travel mountain trekking town lake city soviet building famous panorama holiday summer beautiful country hill top national stone skyline tourist scenic central destinations evening asia tourism historic state landmark peak wallpaper structure freedom government symbol tajikistan dushanbe pamir Comments (0)

The Fann Mountains

During my Silk Route trip across Central Asia I spent some of the best time I had in Tajikistan. In the North there are the Fann mountains and the seven lakes of shing, which are stunning. Here in this show you will see my view of these awesome mountains form my stop in an unmapped village called Sargob. Breathtaking views ans stunning blue skies (yes they really are that blue!) are worth the effort. Unlike most of the mountain ranges in Central Asia, the Fann showcases a unique blend of barren and verdant outlooks. Nestled amidst high mountains you will come across traditional villages and picturesque green meadows, turquoise lakes, gurgling rivers, and scenic valleys. Tajikistan is a paradise for mountain lovers, and as the Fann range is only a few hours driving from the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe, you can combine trekking with an immerse cultural experience. On a footnote the music entitled "fond memories" was a perfect match and did remind me along with the images of "fond memories" of my time there.

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:40 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky snow water view nature park hiking landscape scene travel vacation mountain trekking lake green adventure sport scenery blue panorama summer beautiful top national rock stone road scenic high central destination reflection natural asia tourism recreation outdoor peak extreme tajikistan background pamir tranquil mountaineering terrain fann Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Aydar malikmadove Musician in Tajikistan

Ayadar Malikmadove is the leader of the village of Yamg near Langar in Tajikistan. During my tour through the Wakhan Valley we stopped in Yamg and were treated to Ayadar's famous hand crafted Guitars used for traditional folkk music of this area. I was very honoured to be allowed to video him performing, and to have been a part of this moment. He also is curator for a small and personal museum of the history of the area and it's people. If you are planning a trip through the Wakhan Valley Ayadar's place is a must stop point.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:32 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged art wedding culture traditional performance dance hand holiday country music concert party national old object neck macro central focus asian asia details style sound musician folk oriental closeup musical classic cotton instrument decor wooden finger song decorated device strings string uzbek elements melody turkmen dutar lute fretted chord tajik rubab selective tajiks Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Zeravshan Valleyand 7 Lakes of Shing

During my trip across Central Asia I journeyed to this amazing area of Northern Tajikistan. I will let the images speak for themselves. Yes the sky is that blue and yes the lakes are that colour! and glacial cold too! The Zeravshan Valley (also Zarafshan or Zarafshon) is situated in northern Tajikistan, embedded between the impressive mountain ranges of the western Pamir-Alai massive.“Zeravshan” – which means “Golden River” in Tajik –is the main stream which crosses the valley and which supplies its inhabitants with a most precious resource: water. The area is famous for its unique mountain landscapes and its beautiful lakes: the Alauddin lakes, the Kulikalon lakes, Iskanderkul Lake, the seven lakes of Shing among many others. While being an important tourism and recreation destination during the Soviet era of dispatch tourism, it is now an insiders' tip among those interested in mountain trekking, alpinism and the little travelled branches of the silk road

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:23 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains buildings architecture landscape culture temple travel ruins mountain river province scenery valley famous heritage rural hill old road historical medieval central destination tradition asia ancient tourism fortress archaeological journey outdoors civilization sunlight silk remote citadel discover location tajikistan magnificent pre-islamic zeravshan zoroastrianism sogdiana clay-bricks pendjikent proto-urban sughd panjakent sarazm geographical soghdians Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Istaravshan to Penjikent

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large_1842667_13407922047966.jpgour 4x4 being loaded with everyones stuff. This one eventually took 9 adults one small child and a cage of budgies x4! Oh and I got the front seat.


Not really a great place! We got there by first getting a taxi to getting the old bus station in Khojand [Khojand-travel-guide-1358665] and then getting a shared minibus to Istaravshan [Istaravshan-travel-guide-1193313]. The shared minibus cost us 23TJKS each, so much cheaper than private taxi. We then paid another 4TJKS to get from outside the town into the centre (quite common in this area). We got dropped off just outside the Bazaar where we picked up a taxi to try and find somewhere to stay. Yes this time we had not booked anything in advance and decided to “go by wire”. Epic fail! We visited two establishments in the LP which were nothing short of dire! Our taxi driver managed ot find us the only decent place in town, near the 5D complex, you can’t miss it it looks like a fairly new build complex with children’s rides and peddelo pools etc.large_1842667_13407922058829.jpg We paid $50 a night for two people, it was very clean, and fairly modern. It was easy to pick up shared taxis to the bazaar from outside the road (anywhere along it you like) for just a couple of TJKS (flat rate). We were able to walk to the sogdian fort where Alexander beat them, as this was so close to the Hotel. We then picked up a taxi to the other two small sites, That was it for Istaravshan, nothing remarkable at all. I think I am glad we did visit it, but on the other hand I would say if you do not have the time, then don’t bother! You won’t miss much.

We decided that the next morning we would get up early to get a shared 4x4 to Penjikent [Penjikent-travel-guide-1325512], so back to the bazaar and this time it was very easy to find a car to get onto, negotiations on price done 150 TJKS each got us the 4x4 and decent driver you see in the pics.large_1842667_13407922063864.jpg We did however have to wait until around11.00a.m.before departure, as what these drivers seem to do is come in from Istaravshan with locals who then go to the bazaar (which is much bigger) do their shopping then get a shared 4x4 back over the mountain. Sweet! So we waited while our driver loaded up the roof rack with our luggage and various other goods (inc. watermelons) and squeezed 9 adults and 1 small child into the car, along with a cage of budgies(pic as proof!).

The climate here was noticeably cooler than we had been experiencing in Khojand and especially cooler thanUzbekistan. As we left the “one horse town” limits we noticed a rather noisy and cold rain storm making its way towards us, or maybe we were making our way towards it! I haven’t actually felt rain on any part of my body for 8 weeks, oh my! So lovely, I nearly asked the driver to stop and let me get out, but I was mindful that we had a minimum 6 hr journey ahead, so enjoyed a brief fling in the rain whilst the driver checked the taup on top of the rack on the luggage again.large_1842667_13407922063813.jpgYou didn't believe me about the budgies did you?Please be aware that no one else in the car spoke English, and neither of us speak Russian or Tajik, although my understanding of Russian is getting better, I guess I am just not confident enough to start the words, as I don’t like getting it to wrong and a. insulting their language and b. getting the wrong response. But jestures and smiles and mime go a long way with a few well placed English words they do understand. The will at least try. So do we, spectacularly badly!

I was a bit interested to see how and if I responded with any altitude sickness as we would be climbing upto the pass on the Mazar-i-sharif, approx. 3600km. The road up was a decent width for mountains and we passed lots of 4x4 and Lorries going both ways and strangely keeping to the rules of the road.large_1842667_13407998828271.jpg I was also a bit concerned as our driver kept opening and checking the driver’s side of the vehicle as we drove along, the reasons for this will become apparent later.

We were of course treated to spectacular views of the mountain and surround slightly smaller mountains and hills, looking down I could see the road below us winding its way like a ribbon on the side of the mountain, with a couple of toy looking cars as we ascended. The air did seem to become clearer and cleaner as we progressed and I did watch myself for signs of altitude sickness as this was my first ever climb at anything over a few hundred feet. All seemed ok, and other people in the car seemed to take the opportunity to start their lunch, I decided that the bumpy gravel track was not worth it, and I could eat later.large_1842667_13407998831468.jpg I did however keep up with sips of water. I must say our driver was top gun, he negotiated hairpin bends and snow and mud-sludge roads, carefully and at correct speeds. I guess as I do now, you know when your driver is a good ‘un. We did feel fairly safe with him. There was an elderly tajik couple with us, who were so chuffed that we were travelling with them all to see their beautiful country. He was really impressed to see me taking so many pics of our journey, and delighted in seeing them on my DSLR screen afterwards. I actually felt quite sorry for him; he had the budgie cage stuck between his legs the whole journey and they were not even his! When we did arrive at Penjikent I joked with the recipient of the budgies that they owed the old guy a few hundred TJKS for having gone thro torture with the birds, they did all think that was very funny inc.large_1842667_13407998836490.jpg the old guy.

As we neared the top of the pass the clouds did get a bit close, and it did get darker, and colder, surprise surprise! Bearing in mind I have never been this high! Hah, so once over the top, it’s all the way down, much steeper at first and a few crashed and mangled vehicles as a sober reminder of what goes on when the weather is bad or too dark or they don’t drive safely. None of them too recent it seemed. But still I noticed everyone in the car went quiet when we passed them.

As we got nearer the bottom of the valley I noticed and photographed works, and various heavy plant. This is apparently where the Chinese are “helping” the Tajiks build a tunnel through the mountain instead of having to maintain the pass at the top. Don’t worry it didn’t look like it was going to fast, but who knows we maybe some of the last few hundred or so people to go over the top, as I suspect it will get more expensive as not so much traffic will be passing that way in the future, which means it will be down to the expensive tour companies to make a killing.large_1842667_1340799884231.jpg

After the plant works we drove about another forty minutes before stopping at the Chaikana stops, of which there were at least four plus much needed squat toilets. Drinks had and refreshed, driver having finally eaten, and rested we were off again. We continued along the Zeravshan river valley we came across some stunningly carved gorges and towns perched on the edge of them with that Mediterranean look of tall cypress trees and houses close together, huddling for warmth. As we climbed gently back above the river valley our driver did one of his “open door” checks, for me the sound was unmistakable, loud hissing of rather a lot of air from the d/s rear tyre could be heard. We had a flat. He pulled over, and everyone out! He was quick and the old guy got some chock shaped rocks and we both stuck them under all four tyres.large_1842667_13408000126183.jpg As our driver was getting bottle jack out and spare tyre out from underneath the car another 4x4 which we had seen (friends of the driver) at Istaravshan pulled up, and 7 men jumped out! Hah so they thought we needed help and tyre was actually changed in about half an hour. We had lost time, and our driver then drove along at a quicker pace than before trying to keep up with his leader car, I put my seat belt on, having been told I was sitting in the front seat for the whole journey, I did so, but right now at around 70kmh I didn’t fancy it if he lost control, as soon as I did that he did slow down a bit, I think he realised that he was going just a tad fast for us chickens!

We arrived in Penjikent around5.30p.m.the rule seems to be be that these shared 4x4’s drop you off to your location so we asked to be dropped at Elina GH as per LP, and some blogs seem to suggest might be a good idea.large_1842667_13408000134828.jpg (Review later).


Posted by TheJohnsons 00:04 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Lake 5 of the Seven Lakes of Shing

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Lake five was smaller than all the other lakes and it's interesting feature was the sink hole at one end. This is used to feed water to the small village that exists at the edge of it. I tried taking a picture of the sink hole, I am not sure if it shows that well. This one was a very populated lake side with quite a few youngsters swimming(very quickl) in the icy cold water, it is also one of the shallowest lakes so maybe not as cold as the rest. I didn't want to try it out, as we had plenty of walking still left to do!


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:39 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Lake 1 (Margoza Lakes)

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Lake 1 of the Seven Lakes of Shing [Shing-travel-guide-1193585], or Margoza Lakes, this was our first view of the first of these stunning Lakes, as you can see this one is a deep deep blue! You will not fail to be impressed by this lake and along with lake 5 is my favourite lake, primarily as it wasmy first view and second because of the stunning colour, which you can only really get by being there.


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:39 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Ak Baital Pass Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 01:40 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

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