A photographic love letter from ‘The Roof of the World’
This breath-taking tribute to Tajik photographer Surat Toimastov highlights the epic landscapes that fired his imagination.
The Pamir Mountains are so high that the summits seem to touch the sky. No wonder this rugged, wild region of Tajikistan is known as ‘The Roof of the World’.
Few tourists ever visit this remote part of Central Asia. Those who do come to cycle or drive the Pamir Highway, one of the world’s most dramatic road trips.
But if your objective is to pass through and reach the end of the road, you miss much of what the Pamirs have to offer. The real treasures are in the surrounding valleys, passes, peaks, and plateaus.
In summer 2019, I travelled travelled across the Pamir with Tajik photographer, Surat Toimastov, on behalf of the World Bank.
Part of our journey was along the Pamir Highway, but we also got to explore the far reaches of the Wakhan Corridor – including restricted areas of the Zorkul State Reserve – and valleys of the Murghab Plateau.
The purpose of the trip was to research and highlight places in Tajikistan which tourists rarely see.
This included the natural wonders of the UNESCO-listed Tajik National Park, and manmade sites such as the lost city of Karon, the petroglyphs at Langar, and the ruined fortresses of Kah Kakha and Yamchun.
It was also a chance to experience Tajikistan’s warm hospitality.
Staying in homestays, guesthouses, and yurts, we met many of Tajikistan’s ethnic groups, including Tajiks, Pamiris, Afghans, and the nomadic Kyrgyz.
These images are from Surat and I’s last adventure. Surat died suddenly in autumn 2020.
His photos are his legacy and gift to armchair travellers.
How to visit The Roof of the World
Visiting the Pamir Mountains is not easy. The distances are vast. And public transport is scarce.
If you are considering a guided tour to the area, Sophie recommends OROM travel, a local agency in Tajikistan, run by women.
They a member of Adventure Travel Trade Association and were awarded Adventure Travel Abundance Scholarship for the positive impact of women empowerment in tourism in Central Asia.
For those keen to travel independently, she recommends the Bradt Guide to Tajikistan, an exhaustive and detailed book that she researched and wrote!
Main image: A lush valley in the Pamir Mountains (© Surat Toimastov)