Weather: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan

Almost half of Tajikistan sits more than 3000m/9900ft above sea level. What's distinctive about the desolate highlands of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is how dry they are. Pinched off from the Indian monsoon by the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau, these peaks get most of their winter snow as weak systems arrive from the west. Across the Pamirs, the snow line can rise to 5000m/16,400ft during the summer. Still, snowpacks of more than 20cm/79in are not uncommon in favoured spots during the winter, and temperatures at elevation can plummet to dangerous levels. Summers are mild in the highlands and warmer below. A hellish, localized east wind called the harmsil has been known to raise readings in lower Tajikistan as high as 47°C/117°F.