The Wakhan Valley (also named the Wakhan Corridor) is one of the most beautiful and remote places in Asia and the world. The Wakhan Valley is a mountainous region that belongs to the Pamir and Hindu Kush ranges, most of it being part of southeast Tajikistan and northeast Afghanistan.
For centuries, the Wakhan Valley was an important principate of the famous Kushan, a great empire that 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 dividing 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.
Officially, Ishkashim is the first village in the Wakhan. Just across the border, the first Afghan village is also called Ishkashim as, many years ago, they were one single town. Ishkashim is the largest village in the valley. There’s not much to do in Ishkashim besides wandering around the village and taking pictures of the rural life. Moreover, if you are lucky, once a week, an Afghan market takes places in neutral territory, on an island in the Panj River, just between the two borders.
Coming from Ishkashim, just two kilometers before the tiny village of Namadgut, built on the top of a hill, you find the Kaakha fortress, the ruins of a fort with impressive views to the Panj river, from where you get an awesome perspective of both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. At the top, they have also installed a military base and, to access the fortress, you’ll have to go through it, walking among hanging clothes and tables where they eat.
Built on the top of a cliff, in this cute village you find Yamchun Fort, a fortress which is said to be 2,000 years old and which was used to protect the principate during the Kushan empire. Yamchun Fortress is the most impressive place in the entire Wakhan Valley as, from here, you get stunning views of the valley and the Afghan Hindu Kush, whose snow-capped peaks pop up from the fortress’s background. In Yamchun, there are also some famous hot springs called Bibi Fatima.
The internationally famous Silk Road wasn’t only a set of routes aiming to trade and exchange products between civilizations and empires but, also, many different people from different religions left their religious and cultural footprint as well. That is the reason in Vrang, you can find a Buddhist stupa from the 4th century, whose origin and history, unfortunately, remain pretty unknown. The stupa is built at the highest point in the village, with breathtaking views of the valley.
Zong and Hisor
Zong is another small locality where Abrashim Qala is built, a fortress which once served to defend from the Chinese and Afghan invaders. Moreover, if you are into photography, Zong and Hisor, a village just two kilometers away, are where I found the best opportunities to take pictures of the local, rural life.
Langar is going to be your first or last destination, depending on whether you come from Khorog or the Pamir Highway. Probably, Langar is the most touristic spot in the Wakhan as, over the years, it has hosted hundreds of bikers and drivers in general, which originated the commercialization of many locals’ mentality. At the top of the village, there are the remains of some of the most important petroglyphs in Tajikistan.
Places: Hulbuk Fortress - Kulyab city: Museum of the 2700th anniversary of Kulyab, mausoleum and museum of Mir Sayid Alii Hamadoni - Kalai Khumb (Darvaz) - Khorog city - Ishkashim region: Garmchashma sanatorium, Namadgut, Yamchun, Vrang, Zong, Hisor, Langar.