Tajikistan Travel – top 10 places to see
Tajikistan is the smallest country in Central Asia and yet it is still almost five times the size of Belgium. It is known for being the land of the high Pamir Mountains. Around half of its land lies at 3000 meters above sea level or more. But don’t worry if you cannot travel for a couple of weeks at high altitude. You can still enjoy nature at its beautiful best in places like the Fann Mountains. In fact, the altitude in Tajikistan varies from 300 to 7495 meters above sea level and offers various opportunities to tour the country. So here are picks of what are the top places to see in Tajikistan:
#1 Dushanbe – the capital of Tajikistan
Dushanbe is the largest city as well as the cultural, political and economic heart of the country. Its center contains one of the world’s tallest flagpoles. In the surrounding streets, there’s plenty of modern and Soviet architecture to admire as well as myriad museums, statues and historical sites reflecting the strong Persian influences in the city’s past. It’s a green city, with many alleyways to duck into, but for many, the fun is to be had shopping in Dushanbe’s Oriental bazaars and trying the delicious local food.
#2 Pamir Highway – The second highest international highway
The route going through the Pamir Mountains has been in use for millennia as a part of the ancient Silk Road. In the 19th century, during the Great Game, a standardized route was laid out and later in 1930s, the road construction was completed. Nowadays the road is shaky, only partly paved and it offers an amazing experience for cyclists and road trip lovers. Here, it is true what they say about a journey being more important than the destination. Enjoy the breathtaking ride through this wonderfully wild terrain, pausing to make friends in villages along the way.
#3 Jisev Valley Hiking
To take a break from the Pamir Highway, why not go on a day’s hike with an overnight stop in the Jisev valley? Crossing the river, you will leave not only motorized traffic but also any phone or internet connection. You will walk for around two hours to get to the first village, going up and down a narrow path which follows the slope of the hills. On the way, you’ll pass tumbling rivers and remote mountain lakes. If you go in August, you might even be lucky enough to find wild cherries, growing next to the rivers. Villages in Jisev consist literally of a couple of houses. You can sleep in authentic Pamiri houses and enjoy nature on the way.
#4 Iskanderkul Lake – Lake of Alexander
Hear local legends about the Alexander the Great and his horse on the shore of Iskanderkul. Iskander is the local name of Alexander the Great and Kul means lake. Isn’t it amazing that legend about Alexander’s conquest in Asia is preserved in this far away country? Can you imagine how the legend was told from parents to children from generation to generation for several millennia? Now it’s your turn to find about the great warrior’s story and imagine him beside the lake.
#5 Murghab – the highest city in Central Asia
Murghab is located at an altitude of 3618 meters above sea level. At this height, above the tree line and surrounded by high mountains, it is an interesting place to visit. Most people here are ethnic Kyrgyz, a minority group in Tajikistan. You can try out Kyrgyz food and spot local people in the traditional headwear known as the Kalpak.
#6 Wakhan Valley
Once a hotspot between colonial rulers Britain and Tsarist Russia, today the Wakhan is a peaceful valley. Visit the ruins of the Yamchun fortress built in the 12th century and take a dip in the hot springs of Bibi Khanum. The water is believed by locals to be special and is thought to improve female fertility. The hot spring facility built against the stalactite walls of the cliff cave is an unusual and pleasant experience after several days on the road. Wherever you go in the Wakhan, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country.
#7 Yashilkul Trekking
High altitude trekking for three to four days starting from Bachor village is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the lonely beauty of the mountains. The path follows the steep slopes to Lake Yashilkul and rewards with an amazing view over the valley. Standing on the top of the mountain you will see this vast green lake stretching for several kilometers. Yashilkul literally means green lake from Turkic language and indeed it changes its color from emerald green to deep blue.
#8 Penjikent – ancient ruins
Modern Penjikent is a quiet small city famous for being the home of the most delicious national dish in the country – plov. However, the reason to visit Penjikent is not only plov, but also the ruins of ancient civilizations. UNESCO World Heritage site Sarezm was a city dating back to 3000 years BC. Another astonishing site is that of the ancient Penjikent ruins, in its heyday a city of rich Sogdian traders on the Silk Road. Sogdians played an important role of mediators between China and the Europe, contributing greatly to the cultural and economic exchange between West and East. Their walls were richly decorated and artifacts from different civilizations have been found at the excavation site. The city was abandoned at the time of the Arab invasion of Central Asia in the 8th century.
#9 Yagnob valley – ancient language
Yagnob Valley is a unique place that is inaccessible for around half the year due to the extreme winter weather conditions. Due to this natural separation, Yagnobi inhabitants have managed to preserve their ancient Sogdian language for conversation, however ancient writing system was forgotten. Moving to the valley after the Arab conquest, they limited contact with other civilizations for several centuries and preserved a unique culture and language as if they were put into a time capsule.
#10 Fann Mountains – Outdoor fun
The Fann Mountains attract Alpinists the world over, but especially those from the former CIS nations. You can go for short hikes along the valleys, wander beside mountain lakes or stroll through remote villages.
It is easy here to encounter locals doing household chores, working in the garden or carrying grass from the fields. These atmospheric Fann Mountain villages provide the opportunity for you to immerse yourself into the local way of life and get a glimpse into the traditions found in these parts.