Wakhan or "the Wakhan" (also
spelt Vakhan; Persian and , ) is a very mountainous and
rugged part of the Pamir and Karakoram regions of Afghanistan.
Parts of it are located in Wakhan
The Wakhan is located in and around the extreme north-east of
Afghanistan. It contains the headwaters of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, and
was an ancient corridor for travellers from the Tarim Basin to Badakshan.
Historically the Wakhan included the whole
valley of the Pamir
River and the upper flow of the Panj River known as the Wakhan River. In 1895 the rivers became the border between
Russia and Afghanistan, and the name is now generally used
to refer to the Afghan district.
road into the Wakhan is a rough track from Ishkashim past Qila-e Panja to
from the end of the road to the Wakhjir Pass.
is connected to Tashkurgan Tajik County, China by a long,
narrow strip called the Wakhan Corridor, which separates the
Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan from the North-West Frontier Province and Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan.
River rises in Zorkul lake and
forms the northern border of the corridor.
Wakhan between Pakistan and Tajikistan
flows through the corridor from the
east to Qila-e Panja where it joins the Pamir River to become the
Panj River which then forms the border.
south the corridor is bordered by the high mountains of the
Kush, crossed by the Broghol pass, the
Pass and the disused Dilisang Pass to Pakistan.
Historically the Wakhan has been an important region for thousands
of years as it is where the Western and Eastern portions of Central
Asia meet. Before the advent of Islam the region was disputed
Western Wakhan (休密 Xiumi
) was conquered in the early part
of the 1st century CE by Kujula
, the first "Great Kushan," and was one of the five
or principalities that formed the nucleus of the
The present borders of the Wakhan were set in an 1895 treaty
between Russia and Britain, who had been wrestling over the control
of Central Asia for nearly a century. In what was dubbed the
(a term coined by British Army
spy Arthur Conolly
of the 6th Bengal
Native Light Cavalry), both countries had sent intrepid spies into
the region, not a few of whom had been caught and beheaded.
(Conolly was killed in Bokhara in 1842.) Eventually Britain and
Russia agreed to use the entire country as a buffer zone, with the
Wakhan extension ensuring that the borders of the Russian empire
would never touch the borders of the British
Only a handful of Westerners are known to have traveled through the
Wakhan Corridor since Marco Polo
in 1271, although there were sporadic European expeditions
throughout the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of
In 1949, when Mao Zedong
Communist takeover of China, the borders were permanently closed,
sealing off the 2,000-year-old caravan route and turning the
corridor into a cul-de-sac. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in
December 1979, they occupied the Wakhan and plowed a tank track
halfway into the corridor. Today, the Wakhan has reverted to what
it has been for much of its history: a primitive pastoral
hinterland, home to about 7,000 Wakhi and Tajik people, scattered
throughout some 40 small villages and camps. Opium smugglers
sometimes use the Wakhan, traveling at night.
Wakhan is sparsely populated. Most of its inhabitants speak the
Vakhi or Wakhi language
and belong to an ethnic group known as Vakhi or Wakhi
. Nomadic Kirghiz
herders live at the higher altitudes. The
Wakhi people also inhabit several areas adjacent to the Wakhan in
Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.
- The pass was crossed by a couple in 1950 and by a couple in
2004. See J.Mock and K. O'Neil: Expedition Report
- Hill, John E. 2004. The Western Regions according to the
Hou Hanshu. Draft annotated English translation.
- Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979)
- Gordon, T. E. 1876. The Roof of the World: Being the
Narrative of a Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the
Russian Frontier and the Oxus sources on Pamir. Edinburgh.
Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint: Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company.
- Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979) The Kirghiz and Wakhi of
Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War.
University of Washington Press. 1st paperback edition with new
preface and epilogue (2002). ISBN 0-295-98262-4.
- Stein, Aurel M. 1921a. Serindia: Detailed report of
explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols.
London & Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal
Banarsidass. 1980. 
- Stein Aurel M. 1921. “A Chinese expedition across the Pamirs
and Hindukush, A.D. 747.” Indian Antiquary 1923. From:
www.pears2.lib.ohio-state.edu/ FULLTEXT/TR-ENG/aurel.htm. Last
modified 24 June, 1997. Accessed 13 January, 1999.
- Stein Aurel M. 1928. Innermost Asia: Detailed report of
explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran, 5 vols.
Clarendon Press. Reprint: New Delhi. Cosmo Publications. 1981.
- Stein Aurel M. 1929. On Alexander's Track to the Indus:
Personal Narrative of Explorations on the North-west Frontier of
India. London. Reprint, New York, Benjamin Blom, 1972.
Photos and Online guide to trekking in the Wakhan and Afghan
Development Partnership A project working to improve the lives
of the people of Wakhan since 2003
- Wakhan Corridor Photos from Afghan Wakhan
- Little Pamir Photos of Life of Kirghiz in
Afghanistan's Little Pamir
- Ride Report of two Polish motorcyclists who
rode to Wakhan from Poland in 2009