Qalai Khum - A view from our expert author

Gateway to the mighty Oxus River, this small town boasts one of the most perfect settings in the country.

Qalai Khum’s alternative name, Darvaz, means ‘gateway’, which is fitting, as this is undoubtedly the gateway to the Pamirs. The Panj River changes direction here, making a gigantic U-turn, with Tajikistan to the north and Afghanistan, now just spitting-distance away, to the south.

Few people seem to live in Qalai Khum, but everyone passes through. The chaikhana on the bridge has one of the most perfect settings in Tajikistan, poised as it is overlooking the confluence of the Panj and Khumbob rivers. We’ve spent several happy hours here watching the waters swirl and small, semi-clad boys dive off the rocks for what must be one of the chilliest baths around.

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