An isolated country surrounded by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, China and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan hosts one of the great road journeys of the world – between Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. One will see fellow travellers following this route in all manner of vehicles – such as bicycle, motorcycle, 4WD/SUV or campervan.
The most picturesque route is to follow the Panj River that borders Afghanistan. From Dushanbe, head south for the Shurabad Pass, after which, the real adventure begins as the road is not without its dangers due to a lack of guardrails, slippery roads and the perils of rockfalls and landslides. Grand, imposing mountains greet the visitor at every turn, and though the journey is longer than the more direct route, the extra time invested is easily rewarded. An added attraction is to be able to easily glimpse the villages on the Afghan side of the river which is in places only metres away, and one can sight livestock being herded and villagers collecting water in the river.
Khorog is worthy of time if you wish to break the journey and acclimatise before heading into the Pamir Mountains (the Pamirs). Again, there are two routes from here. The more direct one is along the famed M41 (the Pamir Highway), but the most picturesque drive is this south road via Ishkashim due to the dramatic scenery and attractions on the way. The two most impressive sights on this southern route are the quaint museum in Yamg dedicated to the Sufi mystic and musician Mubarak Kadam Wakhani. And the most spectacular site was the ruined Yamchun Fort which sits atop a steep escarpment and commands views along both sides of the valley. If you are fit enough to tackle the steep, long walk, ensure you view the thousands of petroglyphs at Langar.
After Langar, you climb to the Pamirs and join the Pamir Highway which will take you to Osh. The major town in this region is Murgab and within its vicinity is the fascinating Ah-Balyk (Whitefish) spring and a Chinese tomb. It is also possible to detour for camel trekking in nearby Rang-kul. Further along the road, and after proceeding through the 4655 metres Ak-Baital Pass, is the village of Kara-kul, next to the lake of the same name. This is a beautiful area and worthy of a couple of nights before concluding your Tajikistan journey and continuing to Kyrgyzstan.
My blogs on Tajikistan: