ITINERARY & MAP
Your travel to Tajikistan begins just outside its capital, Dushanbe. The earliest parts of the ancient fortress at Hisor date from the 7th century but this citadel sits so beautifully in its setting that it looks like it’s been there forever. Its location high on the hill, together with meter-thick walls of almost impenetrable stone punctuated with gun and cannon slits, make this the perfect defensive structure.
Returning to Dushanbe, we take a city tour- just as impressive is what is currently the second tallest freestanding flagpole in the world – after Jeddah – a whopping 165 meters high with a flag measuring thirty by sixty meters. A visit to the Central Museum takes us to lunch and afterwards, we’ll make a visit to the Gurminj Museum with its fascinating collection of traditional musical instruments. But we can’t really say we’ve shown you Dushanbe unless you’ve been to the bazaar so we’ll end our excursion with a trip to this most Oriental of markets, vendors’ stalls piled high with fruit and vegetables from the everyday to the exotic. Over dinner, you’ll try more of this fresh produce as you dine Tajik-style in a typical restaurant.
Leaving Dushanbe this morning, we’ll drive over the 3372m Anzob Pass. Our destination is the city of Penjikent, whose name translates as “the city of five villages”. It is located in the verdant and picturesque Zeravshan river valley. Dating from the 5th century, Penjikent was a thriving regional hub, a city as cosmopolitan as they came. Outlines of thick stone and adobe walls provide a sense of what it would once have been like and although the sculptures, pottery, and manuscripts that were found here are now in far-flung places like Tashkent and St Petersburg, our guide will help paint a picture to bring this wonderful place to life. In the evening you will be able to participate in a master class of cooking traditional Central Asian dish – plov. In Tajikistan, it is said that the best Plov (or Pilaf) is made in Penjikent.
We’ll be back on the road again today following a route which takes us through the Shing Gorge, with its famous seven pearls of Tajikistan – seven mountain lakes each with its own distinctive color, microclimate, and flora. We’ll start with Padrud Lake, moving on to Mizhgon Lake, Soya Lake and Khushyor Lake before reaching the village of Marghuzor, where we will stay for overnight with a local family. Before dinner we will drive up to the sixth lake and hike from there about half an hour to the seventh lake. Then we return back to Marguzor village for dinner and overnight.
Our trekking support crew joins us from Pasrud this morning, and we’ll pack up our belongings to trek from Teogli towards the Towasang Pass, climbing steadily as it is at an altitude of 3300m. The exertion is well worth the effort, though, as we’ll be treated to an incredible view over the stunning Sarmat Gorge. We’ll continue on through the breathtaking Danisher Gorge, camping along the way.
Fortunately, what goes up must come down and it’s downhill all the way today. We’ll stroll down the trail that leads through dense forest to the small village of Khomori Goitan before crossing the Archamaidon and Sarmat rivers. We’ll be glad of our crew and their pack mules who’ll take the hard work out of carrying our gear, leaving us free to focus our attention solely on the unmissable scenery that unfolds before us. Our goal today is to reach the Duoba campsite, located at 1870 metres above sea level at the confluence of the Archamaidon and Sarmat rivers.
Another day’s trekking begins this morning, and a very pleasant walk it is too. Our route hugs the banks of the Archamaidon River; in comparison to the rocky slopes, the meadows which surround the river are lush from the water used to irrigate them. We’ll follow the main road past the villages of Voru and Gaza where we’re sure to get a friendly wave and a warm welcome from those who live there. Central Asia is well-known for its hospitality and in that respect Tajikistan is no different to its neighbours. Locals will want you to take a photo and will be as keen to learn more about your life as you are theirs. Having broken for lunch somewhere along the way, we’ll hike until we reach the village of Zimtut, our campsite for the night.
The group will need to make a collective decision on the route today, as there are two options if we are to reach Chukurak Lake. They each involve hiking up to a mountain pass, either Ghuytan at 3000 metres or the longer trek to Zurmich at 3260 metres. Whichever you choose, the scenery will imprint itself on your memory as you soak up the delightful rocky slopes pricked with evergreen spruce trees. From the pass, we’ll head to Chukurak at 2450 metres, its vivid blue colour the result of minerals washed into the water by melting ice in the spring. After a short rest we hike down to nice Artuch Alpinist camp, where you will be able to sleep in double rooms with private bathroom and take a shower.
Today we will take an easy path from Artuch camp via Kulikalon Lakes to Bibijanat Lake. In good weather, this region offers some of the most spectacular vistas in the world, the rocky summits of the taller mountain peaks framing the views perfectly. We will set up our tents next to the lake.
We depart Bibijanat and climb towards the incredible Alauddin Pass. Our aim is a high altitude picnic at the top of the pass at 3860m. Our reward, other than the tasty food, is a clear view of Chapdara Glacier, high on the mountain of the same name which tops out at an impressive 5050m, as well as Mounts Odamsang (4579m) and Marriya (4790m). We’ll settle for the view rather than the ascent and instead descend to our camp for the evening, at the shore of Alauddin Lake.
Today’s trek might be short but again we are at high altitude and amidst scenery that demands not to be rushed. We’ll begin by climbing towards Mutnoe (3500m). If we look north, we’ll get a fabulous view of Alauddin Gorge and to the south, glaciers and peaks as far as the eye can see. Our guides will point them out to you: Zamok (5070m), Energiya (5120m) and Chimtargha (5489m), the highest peak in the Fan Mountains. After a picnic at Mutnoe Lake we will return to Alauddin Lake and hike down half an hour the Russian base camp “Vertical” where you can sleep in a cottage.
Today morning we depart from the camp and drive to Lake Iskander Kul. Named after Alexander the Great, this tranquil lake offers a serene location to mull over the sights and experiences we’ve had since arriving in Tajikistan. Triangular in shape, it’s considered one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations. It’s also known for its bird-spotting potential and if there’s even the tiniest bit of twitcher in you then you’ll be keen to see if you can catch a glimpse of numerous avian species including finches, warblers, falcons and vultures. If your feet will allow, there are some beautiful spots just a short stroll away, around the lake and to several local villages. But with the surrounding hills and forested banks perfectly reflected in the still water, we know how hard it will be to drag yourself away. If you want to just sit and drink it all in, well, that’s fine by us. We will spend the night in cottages at the shore of the lake.
Now it’s time to give those muscles a well-earned rest as we transfer to Dushanbe. The route is a delightful one, past landscapes that have smoked since ancient times, a crossing of the Anzob Pass at 3437m which affords expansive views over the Zarafshan Range of the Fan Mountains and a drive along the Varzob Valley. There’ll be free time in the evening to adjust to being back in the city once more.
Today it’s time to say a fond farewell to Tajikistan. Our driver will accompany you for your transfer to Dushanbe International Airport. We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed your trip and will return soon to trek in the Pamir mountains or as they call them here, the “Roof of the World”.