This is a quite an interesting place in Central Asia. Tajikistan tourism is really taking off. For the last few years Uzbekistan was the place to be, but now Tajikistan has emerged as the main destination in this part of the world.
You will find many modern skyscrapers encompassing the downtown area of its capital city of Dushanbe. Even though there is plenty to do in the city, you will really appreciate this area once you head out into the countryside. Along the ancient Silk Road you will find many hidden treasures as you wander through the Pamir Mountains, Jisev Valley, and the gorgeous Lake Iskanderkul in the Fann Mountains.
A Little Background
This country is situated in Central Asis with China to the east, Uzbekistan to the west, Afghanistan to the south, and Kyrgyzstan to the north. Over the years this area was inhabited by several ancient cultures with many religions. Also, it was ruled by many dynasties and empires, including being taken over by the Soviet Union in 1929. It was not until September 9, 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved, that they became an independent sovereign nation.
Tajikistan is set up as a presidential republic. Mountains are stretched over ninety (90%) percent of the country, which consists of four (4) provinces. It is the smallest country in Central Asia. Transportation in the country is mainly by rail, air, and roads.
Mostly due to its Soviet-style of free education, there is a high literacy rate in this country. In fact, 99.8% of the entire population is able to read and write. It has a rich Zoroastrian and Muslim history as well.
Some Interesting Facts
- the currency of Tajikistan is the somoni (Tajik: cомонӣ, ISO 4217 code: TJS)
- the official language is Tajik. Russian is also widely spoken
- the population is around nine (9,000,000) million people give or take. The majority are Tajiks, while there is a good number of Russians and Uzbeks as well.
- it is a member of the United Nations
- the economy is fueled by cotton and aluminum production and money sent back home from citizens working in other parts of the world such as Russia ( forty-nine percent of its economy is remittance based making it the world’s largest remittance-based economy). China and Russia are its major trade partners.
- the president of the country is Emomali Rahmon
- the country’s main airport is Dushanbe International Airport. Its airline is called Somon Air.
- Gushtigiri is the national sport of the country. It is a form of traditional wrestling. Another popular sport is similar to polo and is called Buzkashi. It is played by tossing around a one hundred and ten (110) pound (50 kg) dead goat while on horseback. Cricket, rugby, and soccer are also popular sports.
- Safed Dara is the one ski resort in the country near the town of Varzob
- The Khorog Botanical Garden is the highest botanical garden in the entire world
- The Bam I Dunya “Roof of the World” Festival celebrates local traditions in the Pamiri region with song and dance. It takes place at Khorog’s City Park each year, July 27th to 29th.
- The only way to cross the border between Tajikistan and China at the Qolma Pass is by hitchhiking on trucks headed either to Dushanbe or Kashgar in China.
- This is the home of Rudaki, an ancient poet born in the year 858 BC, who was the first master of the modern Persian language and is celebrated today as a cultural figure in Tajikistan and Iran.
- The national drink is green tea
Plenty of Things to Do
You definitely won’t get bored here. Tajikistan tourism is booming because of its natural landscapes, mountains, and numerous (around 1,450 scattered throughout the country) pure alpine lakes. Some of the mountains are so high you are actually at the altitude of airplanes. The country also has a rich history of scientists, poets, and philosophers calling this home.
Here is a short video to acquaint you with this part of the world:
Here are a few things to keep you busy in this area of the world.
* Visit the Lakes — with over fourteen hundred (1400) to choose from it may be helpful to describe a few of the more interesting ones. For example, there is Sarez Lake which was created in 1911 when a part of the Pamir Mountains collapsed resulting in a blockage of the Murghab River. One of the most beautiful of the lakes is Lake Iskanderkul, located in the Fann Mountains in western Tajikistan, which was named after Alexander the Great. Home to many animals (bears, foxes, snow leopards, rabbits, mountain goats, and wolves), it is surrounded by forests and mountains. Here you will find the “Niagara of the Fann Mountains”, Iskanderdarya, a one hundred and twenty-five (125) foot (38 meters) waterfall. One other lake not to miss out on is Lake Karakul, which resides in a meteor crater said to have been created twenty-five (25,000,000) million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch. It is twelve thousand nine hundred and ninety (12,990) feet (3,960 meters) above sea level. You also can check out the Seven (7) Lakes of Marguzor which is filled with much local lore.
* Walk the Streets of Istaravshan — now this is really an ancient city as it goes back to Cyrus who was the Persian king in the sixth (6th) century BC. It has been rebuilt a few times over the centuries. The Islamic history is evident here with the many madrasas, minarets, mosques, and mausoleums. Check out the City Museum where you can pick up a variety of items such as ceramics, fine embroidered fabrics, traditional shoes, hand-made knives, and other traditional items.
* Hike through the Fann Mountains — this will be a pleasant experience as you hike through the mountains taking in the beautiful scenery and gemstoned colored lakes. There are trails for all levels of hikers. You can go on a day hike or a several day excursion.
* Experience the Cuisine — the national dish is qurutob. Although Tajik food is not well-known in other parts of the world or even in the country itself since many dishes originate in other parts of Central Asia, qurutob is the real deal. It is made up of a crisp, thin fatir bread and filled with a bunch of delicious veggies and spices topped off with “qurut” which is a type of yogurt ball. You will find an abundance of local produce, fresh fruits, and other cultural dishes including home-made breads, sweets, nuts, and layer cakes.
* Check out the Shipping Container Bazaar — in the city of Murghab, a small town situated within a gorgeous valley, you will find a bazaar filled with shops which were constructed within old shipping containers. You will find it a most interesting shopping experience.
* Spend some Time in the Capital City — Dushanbe offers plenty of bazaars and beautiful parks such as Rudaki Park. You will also find the world’s second (2nd) largest flagpole here. Besides being a great place to relax between your many outdoor adventures in the high altitudes, there are plenty of things to do.
* Now for a bit of Isolation — the most isolated area of this country is the Yagnob Valley where the locals are the descendants of the very ancient Sogdian Empire. It is situated in the northwestern part of the country between the Gissar and Zarafshan ranges. The people here speak the Yagnobi language and have preserved their pre-islamic customs, beliefs, and lifestyle. There are about ten (10) villages throughout the valley. Another isolated area of the country is the Wakhan Valley. Off the Pamir Highway it goes along the River Panj which is the natural border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Wahki language is spoken in villages here as part of their unique culture. Also the scenery is fantastic with gorgeous pastures and meadows. The Fergana Valley is in the most northern part of the country in Sughd province. This is where Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan meet Tajikistan. Here you will find plenty of Silk Road architecture.
* Don’t forget about the Pamir Highway — this road is the second highest international highway (M41 highway) in the world. The highest is the Karakoram Highway in China and Pakistan. You will get spectacular views as you venture down Shurabad Pass and get a glimpse of the Panj River and Afghanistan. The highest parts of the Pamir Highway go over Ak-Baytal Pass at fifteen thousand two hundred and seventy (15,270) feet (4,655 meters) and the Khaburabad Pass at twelve thousand two hundred and five (12,205) feet (3720 meters). The highway also passes through the village of Murgab which is the highest community in the former Soviet Union at eleven thousand eight hundred and fifty (11,850) feet (3,612 meters). Don’t miss taking this road trip while in Tajikistan as if offers spectacular views of deep gorges and mountains while you are up above the clouds.
* The Buddhist Temple at Ajina-Tepe — the definition of Ajuna-Tepe is “hill of the evil forces”. In 1961 because of the curiosity of archaeologists, a Buddhist monastery was discovered which dates back to the seventh (7th) and eight (8th) centuries BC. Living quarters for monks as well as a temple were discovered with the surfaces covered by paintings and other decorative forms. Also, a forty (40) foot (12 meter) long statue of Buddha was found. The lower half below the waist was original and the rest of the body was recreated for display at the National Museum of Antiquities in Dushanbe.
* The Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve — this park covers one hundred and thirteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight (113,668) acres (460 square kilometers) at the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It is filled with large numbers of endangered species and habitats. It is primarily comprised of tugay, which is a wetland forest which gets its water from flooding and not from rain. Before hunting and agriculture drove it to extinction, this was the home of the Caspian tiger. The park was founded in 1953 and that is when the last tiger tracks were observed. It is believed that the tiger became extinct in the early 1970s.
* Another World Heritage Site — one of the oldest human communities in Central Asis is Sarazm. It dates back about five thousand (5,000) years. With its mines and mills and numerous artifacts, there is much evidence that this was a settlement of advanced development for its time. There are also clues of the people being very knowledgeable traders throughout the Asian continent. It is now a UNESCO Heritage site.
Well it is certainly not for the big city life, as there isn’t a large variety of stuff to do in the capital of Dushanbe other than some interesting bazaars for shopping like the Dushanbe Bazaar where you can test your bargaining skills, the Dushanbe Flagpole, and the Tajikistan National Museum.
Now let me give you a few reasons why this may be an interesting adventure for you in your travels. The history and beauty of this country will most definitely keep you occupied for awhile. It is also such a diverse country with Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks making up the major ethnic groups in the area. You will find much hospitality everywhere you go, whether in a city or a remote village. As a guest you will be honored at all get togethers and feasts.
This is definitely a place for outdoor activities with plenty to do in this mountainous region of the world. You can go hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, trekking, camping, horseback riding, Yak riding, paragliding, or jeep touring.
With three thousand (3000) years of history, you will find much in cultural art, music, dance, literature, monuments, and craftsmanship to pique your interest. You can explore ancient settlements, Islamic shrines, medieval mosques, Buddhist relics, and spectacular fortresses. You can also spot some camel caravans at times. There are also many remnants of the Soviet rule as well. For lovers of history and culture this is the place to be.
Here is a country filled with stunning sights as well as an opportunity to get lost in time among all of this history and culture. Experience the beauty of the sky and stars without any light pollution, and escape for awhile from your hectic day-to-day pace. This just may be a location to include in your current or future travel plans.
Enjoy your Travels,