Forbidden Tajikistan And The Pamir Highway

The border crossing on the Tajik side greets you to the country and to the region with a Soviet monument and reminder of the region's history.

Up in the clouds at 4,655m along the Pamir Highway, a driver and his brother look into fixing the car's radiator.

The odd fence post signifies no man's land between Tajikistan and China but little else separates the countries apart from the huge mountains which are famed and the nickname "roof of the world."

Massive salt lakes of Sassyk-Kul and Tuz-Kul can be found at the Pamir Plateau at about 4400m high.

Although the landscape is very arid at high altitude and the environment is harsh, rivers still flow down some valleys due to snow melt, and thick root grass and moss supply farmers with feed for their livestock.

In Bulunkul a woman walks past a disused and since recycled Lada.

The highway is maintained better in some sections than others. Having little natural resources, Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and the poorest by far of the Central Asian countries. But between major crossing points is kept in better condition than the rest of the country to improve trade routes.

On the Tajik side of the Wakhan valley, people walk between villages or to their fields, the Hindu Kush raising high above in the distance.

Two Aghan girls walk along a small path that separates the villages. The path, like the Pamir Highway, follows the river along the entirety of the border between the two countries.

A dust storm turns into a tornado, whipping up the sand of the Wakhan Valley.

A family herd their livestock up from the river along a major yet much less developed section of the highway.

The Pyanj river winds through and around mountains, exposing both Tajik and Afghan settlements that have set up on flatter ground. A disused settlement on the Afghan side shows Afghan style of housing.

A billboard along the highway showing a map with Tajikistan's main cities and other highlights reads "home is our pride and happiness."

One of the many Chinese trucks makes its way slowly along the highway as it passes a particularly narrow pass. It leans to one side with the uneven road.

The sun sets over the world's largest flag standing 165 meters tall over Dushanbe. This is the capital of Tajikistan and the end of the road for the Pamir highway.

The Kognistani Badakhshan region, commonly called the GBAO district (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region after its Soviet era name), is an autonomous region in the east of Tajikistan. Located in the Pamir Mountains, it makes up 45% of the land area of the country but only 3% of the population.


The Pamir highway is a road that traverses the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. Originally a northern segment of the Silk Road trading route, the Pamir Highway has been in use for almost 2000 years. Today it is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain of the mountains and serves as the main supply route to Tajikistan's GBAO region. The highway follows the Pyanj river from Dushanbe to Osh, through valleys and gorges, the scenery changing constantly from swelling rivers and gushing streams to lush green plains and arid deserts as the greenery disappears with altitude. 


People, both locals and vistiors, have been kept away from the region for many years by the Soviets and a brutal civil war in the 1990s. Restrictions on visiting the area are subject to frequent changes with tension in the region between the Afghan, Kyrgyz and Pamiry minorities wanting seperate rule from the rest of the country and not supporting the President, Emomalii Rahmon who has been in power since 1994.