Wakhjir Pass

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Wakhjir Pass
Elevation 4,923 m (16,152 ft)

Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan

Xinjiang, China
Range Pamirs
Coordinates 37°05′14″N 74°29′03″E / 37.08722°N 74.48417°E / 37.08722; 74.48417Coordinates: 37°05′14″N 74°29′03″E / 37.08722°N 74.48417°E / 37.08722; 74.48417

The Wakhjir Pass (simplified Chinese: 瓦赫吉尔山口; traditional Chinese: 瓦赫吉爾山口; pinyin: Wǎhèjí'ěr Shānkǒu; Wade–Giles: Wa3-ho4-chi2-erh3 Shan1-K'ou3;[1] ( کوتل وجیر Kōtal-e Vakhjīr) also spelled Vakhjir Pass, is a mountain pass in the Hindu Kush or Pamirs at the eastern end of the Wakhan Corridor, the only pass between Afghanistan and China. It links Wakhan in Afghanistan with the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang, China, at an altitude of 4,923 metres (16,152 ft), but the pass is not an official border crossing point. The border has the sharpest official change of clocks of any international frontier (UTC+4:30 in Afghanistan to UTC+8, China Standard Time, in China).


There is no road across the pass. On the Afghan side the nearest road is a rough road to Sarhad-e Wakhan (also known as Sarhad-e Broghil), about 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the pass by paths.[2] On the Chinese side there is a jeep track about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the pass, which leads through the Taghdumbash Pamir to the Karakoram Highway 80 kilometres (50 mi) away. In the summer of 2009 the Chinese Ministry of Defence began construction of a new road to within 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of the border, for use by border guards.[3] The pass is closed for at least five months out of the year and is open irregularly for the remainder of the year.[4]

Just below the pass on the Afghan side is an ice cave, at an altitude of 4,554 metres (14,941 ft). This is the source of the Wakhjir River, which ultimately flows to the Amu Darya (or Oxus). The cave is therefore claimed as a source of the Amu Darya.

The terrain is extremely difficult, although Aurel Stein reported that the immediate approaches to the pass were "remarkably easy".[5] There are few records of successful crossings by foreigners. Historically the pass was a trading route between Badakhshan and Yarkand used by merchants from Bajaor.[5] It appears that Marco Polo came this way, although he did not mention the pass by name. The Jesuit priest Benedict Goëz crossed from the Wakhan to China between 1602 and 1606. The next accounts are from the period of the Great Game in the late 19th century.[6] In 1868, a pundit or Indian surveyor known as the Mirza, working for the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, crossed the pass.[7] There were further crossings in 1874 by Captain T.E. Gordon of the British Army,[8] in 1891 by Francis Younghusband,[9] and in 1894 by Lord Curzon.[10] In May 1906 Sir Aurel Stein crossed, and reported that at that time the pass was used by only 100 pony loads of goods each way annually.[11] Since then the only westerner to have crossed the pass seems to have been H.W. Tilman in 1947.[12]

In 1895 the pass was established as the border between China and Afghanistan in an agreement between the British and the Russians, although the Chinese and Afghans did not finally agree on the border until 1963.[13]

It is believed that in more recent times, the pass is sometimes used as a low intensity drug smuggling route, and is used to transport opium made in Afghanistan, to China.[14]


  1. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec. Historical and political gazetteer of Afghanistan Vol. 1. Badakhshan Province and northeastern Afghanistan. Graz : Akad. Druck- und Verl.-Anst., 1972.p. 185.
  2. ^ J. Mock and K. O'Neil (2004): Expedition Report
  3. ^ Jamestown Foundation China Brief 7 January 2010
  4. ^ Townsend, J. (June 2005) China and Afghan Opiates: Assessing the Risk Chapter 4
  5. ^ a b Stein, Mark Aurel (1907). Ancient Khotan. p. 32. 
  6. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979) The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War University of Washington Press, Seattle, ISBN 0-295-95669-0; 1st paperback edition with new preface and epilogue (2002), ISBN 0-295-98262-4 p.27
  7. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979 and 2002) p.31
  8. ^ Keay, J. (1983) When Men and Mountains Meet ISBN 0-7126-0196-1 p. 256-7
  9. ^ Younghusband, F. (1896, republished 2000) The Heart of a Continent ISBN 978-1-4212-6551-3
  10. ^ Geographical Journal (July to September 1896) cited in Mock and O'Neil 2004 Shipton Tilman Grant Application
  11. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif (1979 and 2002) p.37
  12. ^ Mock and O'Neil 2004 Shipton Tilman Grant Application
  13. ^ International Boundary Study No. 89 (1969) US Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  14. ^ "Afghanistan Border crossings".