The Lonely Caravanserai at Tash Rabat

This photo essay by Christopher Wilton-Steer is cross-posted from his website.

In a remote valley of Naryn province in eastern Kyrgyzstan, not far from the border with China, you can find the remains of a 15th century caravanserai called Tash Rabat.

Caravanserai were where travellers and traders would rest, recuperate, wash, pray, tend to their horses and camels, share news and gossip before continuing along the old Silk Road; the network of trading routes that connected China to the Roman Empire from the 2nd century BC to around the 1500s.

What makes this caravanserai unique is how isolated it is. Usually, caravanserai were built at 30km intervals – a day’s journey – but Tash Rabat is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town, Naryn, is 115km away; a 2.5 hour drive. Perhaps there were other caravanserai on the way that have since disappeared.

For travellers from China, Tash Rabat would have provided an opportunity to rest after crossing the treacherous Torugart Pass before taking on the next leg of the journey through the Tian Shan Mountains.

Today, Tash Rabat is a popular destination for tourists. Caretakers and their horses live in the nearby yurts. If you have the time, it is well worth a visit.

Tash Rabat is located in a remote valley in Kyrgyzstan miles away from the nearest town, Naryn. To reach it you have to take this road.
Tash Rabat is located in a remote valley in Kyrgyzstan miles away from the nearest town, Naryn. To reach it you have to take this road.
Then turn off onto this rocky road to reach the mountain valleys
Then turn off onto this rocky road to reach the mountain valleys.
And eventually the caravanserai comes into view.
And eventually the caravanserai comes into view.
A view of Tash Rabat from the other direction.
A view of Tash Rabat from the other direction.
Horses belonging to the nearby villagers galloping through the mountains.
Horses belonging to the nearby villagers galloping through the mountains.
Running free and wild.
Running free and wild.
Almost taking off!
Almost taking off!
A nearby village of yurts.
A nearby village of yurts.
Getting closer to the caravanserai.
Getting closer to the caravanserai.
And now much closer.
And now much closer.
Some nearby yurts and cow by a stream.
Some nearby yurts and cow by a stream.
The front of the caravanserai.
The front of the caravanserai.
Another view of the caravanserai which looks like something from Tataouine in Star Wars (and Tunisia where it was filmed).
Another view of the caravanserai which looks like something from Tataouine in Star Wars (and Tunisia where it was filmed).
Walking to the entrance.
Walking to the entrance.
A nearby horse with some yurts in the background.
A nearby horse with some yurts in the background.
A portrait of my driver.
A portrait of my driver.
A nearby farmer with his cattle.
A nearby farmer with his cattle.
A boy running after his cattle nearby to Tash Rabat.
A boy running after his cattle nearby to Tash Rabat.
A graveyard nearby to Tash Rabat.
A graveyard nearby to Tash Rabat.