Still bearing the scars of Tajikistan’s brutal 1990s civil war, the Rasht Valley was an opposition stronghold for those battling the pro-Rahmon government. The area was heavily landmined back in those days and many have been since been removed following the dark days of war.
The Rasht Valley was historically an important passage that tied Western China and Northern Afghanistan together, known then as the Karotegin route, a name you'll still find used on older maps.
The Rasht Valley is a culturally fascinating area of Tajikistan. Originally it was inhabited mostly by ethnic Kyrgyz but following a deadly plague in the 18th century, Tajik settlers began to move into the area. It’s not uncommon to meet people who have parents of mixed backgrounds and have knowledge of Tajik, Kyrgyz, Russian, and sometimes other languages.
While the Rasht Valley is a bit inconvenient to get to with the closed-to-foreigners Tajik-Kyrgyz border crossing at Karamyk, those who make the journey out here will be rewarded with a unique experience in a location that sees few tourists.
Meaning ‘warm water’ in Tajik, Obigarm is famous for its surrounding hot springs.
Garm is a district center in the lower reaches of the Rasht Valley. Its main attraction is its lively Central Bazaar.
Tajikobod is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. From Tajikobod it’s possible to hike into the Nurshor Valley, a great place for wildlife spotting. Within Tajikobod itself there are two Sufi Shrines dedicated to Fathabad and to Hazrat i Bir Pustin.
Jirgatol is the final stop before reaching the Tajik-Kyrgyz border crossing at Karamyk which is still unfortunately only open bilaterally. The small city is a jumping-off point for those wanting to climb Peak Ismoil Somoni where it’s possible (with advance notice) to charter a helicopter to pick climbers up in Jirgatol for transfer to Peak Somoni Basecamp. It’s also a jumping-off point for those who plan to take the multi-day hike from nearby Jelondy village and over Gardan i Kaftar Pass to reach a village called Langar in the Khingob Valley.
Mentioned above the trek over Gardan i Kaftar will take most 3-4 days to complete starting from Jelondy to reach a lake by the name of Yashilkul and enter the Karashura Valley. Eventually, you’ll leave the valley and reach a plateau where you’ll have to climb down to cross over the Ziurazamin River to get to the Gding Plateau and Pulisangin River where you’ll have sweeping views of the Peter the I Range before crossing over Gardan i Kaftar Pass to end along the Khingob River Valley.
Those that want to visit the first couple villages of the Rasht Valley will swing south beyond Obigarm to reach the small town of Tavildara which is sat along the northern route of the Pamir Highway. Tavildara is a great stopping off point for sanatoriums (old Soviet-era spas) before continuing over Sangirdasht Pass and toward Qala i Khumb.