Where Great Game spies and explorers once ventured, Tajikistan's awesomely dramatic highland landscapes are now testing playgrounds for hardy climbers, trekkers and adventure travellers. Nascent rural homestay programs mean you might stay in timelessly photogenic rural villages hosted by gold-toothed, white-bearded patriarchs in iridescent joma robes. The people, predominantly Persian rather than Turkic, speaking, are enormously hospitable but little English is spoken and rural transport is so irregular that you will probably want to fork out for a rented 4WD. But the marvels of the Wakhan Valley, the starkly beautiful Roof of the World Pamirs and the breath-taking lakes and pinnacles of the Fan Mountains all contribute to making Tajikistan arguably Central Asia's most exciting destination.
Republic of Tajikistan
Dominant-party semi-presidential republic
The nation's largest ethnic group are the Tajks, who comprise 84% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Kyrgyzs and other smaller ethnic minorities.
The Tajik language is the mother tongue of around 80% of the citizens of Tajikistan.
The population of Tajikistan is 98% Muslim. Approximately 87%-95% of them are Sunni, roughly a 3% are Shia, and a 7% are non-denominational Muslims. The remaining 2% of the population are followers of Russian Orthodoxy, a variety of Protestant denominations, Catholicism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.