Tajikistan

Nature has been kind to Tajikistan, bestowing the country with breathtaking beauty: here you’ll find mountains, glaciers, lush river valleys and dense forest, supporting a bewildering array of flora and fauna.

Sophie Ibbotson, author of Tajikistan: the Bradt Guide

Tajikistan is the roof of the world. When you first start to read about the country, this same cliché pops up time and again.

Initially it may seem that such repetition shows a lack of imagination among writers (at least a century of them, and counting), but when you finally come to stand atop a peak in the High Pamir, staring down as a concertina of meringue-like peaks unfolds beneath you, or even swoop down to land on a scheduled flight, holding your breath else the pilot brushes the snow off the mountaintops with the underside of the plane, you too will find the same phrase tripping off your tongue. Tajikistan is the roof of the world.

Nature has been kind to Tajikistan, bestowing the country not only with breathtaking beauty but with a moderate climate too. Mountains and glaciers, lush river valleys and dense forest support a bewildering array of flora and fauna, including the famed (but sadly camera-shy) Marco Polo sheep and the even rarer snow leopard.

Hot springs – either the result of geological faults or miracles enacted by ancient holy men – are scattered through the valleys, their warm, mineral-rich waters both a pleasant diversion on a journey, and, for local Muslims, important pilgrimage sites. Alpine meadows bursting with the bright colours of spring flowers create a patchwork rainbow that streaks across the horizon, the pastures welcome picnic spots for road-weary tourists and grazing goats alike.

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Tajikistan’s rich past has left ample mark on its present. Though the Buddhist temples of Ajina Tepa and Takht-i Sangin are now broken shadows of their former, prestigious selves, walking along the ruined walls here, in ancient Panjakent or in Sarazm, is a poignant reminder that Tajikistan has not always been a remote and isolated place.

For much of its past it has been at the centre of the Silk Road, at the meeting point of mighty empires, and as a consequence its people and cities have thrived financially and culturally, drawing strength and the ability to adapt and survive from the cosmopolitan societies that settled here. 

Thirty years after independence, the country’s cultural identity is still being created, as Tajiks living abroad return to plant new ideas and dreams in timeless soil, and younger generations mature with hope and optimism. Tajikistan is a resilient place, where exceptional beauty is found through every tunnel and mountain pass.

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