This former Soviet Republic is one of the highlights of Central Asia. If jaw dropping scenery, uber-friendly locals and a minimum of tourists are your thing, this is the country to go to. Want to hike without the crowds that clog the more popular backpacker destinations like Nepal? Come to Tajikistan!

Make no mistake, Tajikistan isn’t the easiest destination in the world. Visas can be a hassle, transport can be difficult, and hotel options aren’t plentiful. But what it offers in return makes up for it all.

Here are some reasons you might want to give it a try:

The Pamirs, at the northern end of the Himalayas, are also referred to as the ‘Roof of the World’, here, you can hike among beautiful valleys, while staying in a traditional Pamiri houses. Visit the Wakhan Corridor, straddling the border with Afghanistan, sit at Yamchun Fort and take in the views, soak your weary bones at Bibi Fatima or Garam Chasma (translation: Hot Spring), or hop over the border at Ishkashim into a safe slice of Afghanistan. The Fan Mountains, north of the capital Dushanbe lie as lesser known, but equally scenic mountains, where you can hike along the string of turquoise jewels, called the Marguzor Lakes. Visit Fergana Valley and see the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia in Khujand.

While Tajikistan is nominally Muslim, as with all former Soviet Central Asian Republics, the government is secular and the constitution provides for freedom of religion. The Soviet past is noticeable in the nearly universal literacy rates, the widespread knowledge of the Russian language, and the large amount of Tajiks that work in Russia.

The official language of Tajikistan is Tajik, which is a form of Farsi (Persian). Russian is widely understood and spoken, while English is near non-existent.

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