Did you know that more than 90% of Tajikistan is covered in mountains, earning the name “Switzerland of Central Asia”?
No? You’re not the only one. Most people can’t even point out the country on the map, despite being a close neighbor with the infamous Afghanistan.
Not only that, Tajikistan also shares borders with several more-heard-of countries including China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. Yet, it is often overlooked by most travellers making it one of the most remote destinations.
Here is why the more you should consider Tajikistan as your next travel destination.
It is easy to obtain an e-visa
Although most visitors need a visa to enter Tajikistan, but there are 121 nationalities eligible for an E-Visa which is super simple and can apply through Tajik Government Website. The single-entry visa used to be valid for 45-days, however since March 1st 2020, visa validity has extended to 60-days. The visa costs US$50 and it took us 3-days to receive it through e-mail. If you are going to take a trip down the Pamir Highway, you will need a GBAO Permit. This will cost you additional US$20 when applying with your Tajik e-visa.
Border crossing without much hassle
Despite many negative rumors about Tajikistan’s immigration checks, we had no issue on our 2-times land border crossing at all. There was no strict bag checks, nor rude attitude towards us. Instead, we got a warm welcome when entering the country, and some small talks about if we enjoyed our stay in Tajikistan.
You will be forced to take a social media detox
This is the time when you should stop looking down t your phone but look up and admire how blue the sky is. Electricity is rare in most part of Tajikistan. Having said that, don’t expect any Wi-fi or data connection once you are out of Dushanbe. Even in bigger towns, the connection can be pretty bad. This means that you can put down your phone and appreciate the beauty of Tajikistan without much distraction. But be sure to have your maps and essential websites downloaded before hitting the road.
You meet friends more than strangers
Without much distraction from your phone, you will soon realize it’s actually not that hard to make human connection after all. Throughout the 1-month in Tajikistan, we received authentic hospitality from locals across the country. We got free hitchhiked which is rare in here, we’ve been offered tea and bread from random locals. There was one time we had a dispute with driver and 2 young locals came forward to help us. I truly hope this hospitality will not be ruined by tourism too soon.
Go on an epic road trip
Travelling the Pamir Highway is an exciting adventure in itself. One of the ancient Silk Road trade routes, the Pamir Highway passes through the beautiful Pamir Mountains and Hindu Kush. Being the second highest road in the world after the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan, enjoy an exhilarating feel of road-tripping the “Roof of the World”!
And of course an epic hike
Tajikistan is the best trekking destination you might have never heard of. It is safe and beautifully untouched. Where to start? The Fann Mountains, Yagnob Valley, The Pamirs, Bachor, Pik Engels, the options are limitless and all will be well worth the effort. Even though there are more and more travellers coming to take in the scenery, but it’s still far from being crowded like Everest Base Camp.
The beauty of Wakhan Valley
The Wakhan Valley is one of the most unique and intriguing places we’ve ever set foot, where history feels alive and life seems to be from another time. At some point, the River Panj narrows so thin that you feel like you could touch Afghanistan. From Wakhan Corridor, you get to witness the peaceful side of Afghanistan which was never reported on the news before.
You can boost cities/towns names that never been heard of
You must have heard of Bangkok, Hanoi…Paris…Beijing…How about Dushanbe, Khujand, Panjakent and Khorog? Surprise other travellers on your next hostel stay and show off your story-telling talent!
It’s the safest way to enter Afghanistan
If Afghanistan has always been on your mind but not sure how to go about it, Tajikistan is to place to start with. From Khorog, you can apply your Afghan visa for a fee of US$200. We heard the process and paperwork is much easier than applying from your own country. After which, head over to Ishkashim where it is the easiest and safest access border to Afghanistan. We had not heard anyone returning from Afghanistan regretted making the trip. If you don’t wish to pay for the costly visa, you can try your luck visiting Saturday Afghan Market at Khorog.
Off the beaten adventure
If you are a sucker for breathtaking scenery and off-the-beaten path destinations, then adventuring in this remote country is definitely for you! In this region, we met a whole new level of travellers different from the party-goers we met in Southeast Asia. Their stories are undoubtedly more exciting and we got to learn other exotic destinations, adding to our never-ending travel list. And of course, there won’t be any photobombers all the time. So, What are you waiting for?
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!