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Dushanbe & Surroundings

Dushanbe is the political, cultural and economic centre and capital of Tajikistan modern and brimming with lush green vegetation. Dushanbe (until 1961 was called  Stalinabad) is located in the centre of the Gissar valley at an altitude of more than 800 m above sea level. From the North and East it is surrounded by foothills, crowned with snow – white caps of the Gissar range. The Gissar range reaches from both sides of Varzob River (within the boundaries of the city called Dushanbinka). There are some 120 glaciers in the upper part of the Varzob river basin creating a favourable the mountain gorges and in outskirts of Dushanbe  The Varzob River generously grants drinking water and irrigates neighbouring orchards and fields. And the picturesque mountain gorge offers a place for recreation and a comfortable base where guests from all parts of the world come to relax and explore.

Due to closeness of the mountains, the inhabitants of the capital can feel a light breeze and evening freshness in the hot periods of the summers. There is distinct  continental climate in Dushanbe with arid and hot summers and humid cool winters. The most beautiful time of year is the warm and dry autumn – time for harvesting. 

Modern Dushanbe ironically is an ancient city with great historical heritage and at the same time it is rather young (it is 80 years old). The true age of Dushanbe is subject to scientific arguments as numerous discoveries of archaeologists, ethnographers and historians found buried treasures of Sasanid silver coins, wedge-shaped copper axes of the 2nd century B.C., skilfully made earrings from alloyed gold and silver, bronze and gold-plated detail of horse harness with relief image of a head of Greek god Dionysus), give evidence that almost 2500 years ago this place was inhabited by people who lived in a relatively highly developed culture of handicrafts and city buildings. 

On the slopes of Putovskiy remnants of settlements of the Greek-Bactrian kingdom (end of 3rd century B.C.) were found and an ancient city of Kushan (7th – 8th century) on the left bank of the river Dushanbinka. 
The settlement of the Kushan period is believed to have been rather large. However when it emerged within the territory of the modern city the mystery has not been able to be resolved. 

The first mention of Dushanbe goes back to 1676. In sources it is called “Kasabai Dushanbe” which is indicative of the status of the city. The city was in advantageous location on the crossroad of caravan roads, linking Gissar valley with Bukhara and Samarkand, Pamirs and Afghanistan. The word “Dushanbe” itself is translated as “Monday” refering to the day when the large bazaar or market happened. In the 19th century Dushanbe spanned an area of 272 ha with a population of 710,000 people. 

At the beginning of the 20th century Dushanbe was a small village with some hundreds of people living here. Later it united with villages of Sari Osiyo and Shohmansur. According to memoirs of the Russian officer B.N. Litvinov, there were 42 small shelters and some hundreds of people; there was no electricity, water supply – water was fetched from the river and delivered in waterskins from lamb leather. The first diesel electricity was built in September 1924. 

The more dynamic development of Dushanbe started from 1929 when the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic was established. By this time the first paved street, mill, soap factory, creamery and cotton-cleaning factory, metal workshop and mechanical and joiner’s workshops emerged. The same year a film studio was launched. 

In 1931 Dushanbe was renamed into Stalinabad and had this name for another 30 years. Soon on the Varzob river the first hydro electrical station was constructed and the capital lit up with electricity. In 1938 city development with the population of 170 000 was mapped out. Against the background of snowy mountains and blue sky new buildings such as the Opera and Ballet, the “Vakhsh” hotel, state and specialists houses, and a number of other beautiful architectural creations, which after decades are still giving the capital of Tajikistan a beautiful streetscape. 

In 1938 within the territory of the Tajik SSR Gharm, Kulyab and Leninabad districts were established. In 1961 the capital of Tajikistan reclaimed its former historical name – Dushanbe. 

In mid 2000 Professor Buri Karimov, ex-chairman of Gosplan of Tajik SSR made a statement about reconstitution of the former network of administrative-territorial division of 1944-1947, which coincide with the historical-cultural regions of Tajikistan: Soghd, Zerafshan; Gissar, Vakhsh; Khatlon; and Badakhshan. Now the Republic of Tajikistan consists of 13 districts of republican subordination, 55 villages and 368 sub-districts. 

Dushanbe itself transformed every day into a more beautiful capital with developed infrastructure, modern new buildings and unique sightseeing sites. 

The central road of the capital is Rudaki Avenue, named after the famous Tajik poet. It is almost 12 km long from the railway station to the entrance into the mountain gorge of Varzob. Walking along the avenue allows seeing many places of interest of central Dushanbe. 

The National Museum of the Republic of Tajikistan is located opposite the hotel “Dushanbe” not far from the railway station. The museum was opened in 1934 and it tells interesting stories of the history, archaeology, and art of the Tajik people and in the private museum of musical instruments a substantial collection of various musical instruments from many countries has been collected. 

On the central city square a Memorial complex is erected devoted to the Samanids State of the 9th century with a statue of Ismili Somoni – founder of the first Tajik state. In the right hand of the statue holds the symbol of national unity and revival of Tajikistan – a golden regal sceptre .The architectural memorial complex was constructed in 1999. 

The square to honour 800-years of Moscow is one of the most beautiful squares of the city.  Framed by Indian lilac (white marble) a big fountain features in the centre which is the favourite place for local’s recreation. 

One of the most remarkable old buildings of the town is the State Academic Theatre called Opera and Ballet. The theatre was opened in 1940; except classical repertoire,  traditional national opera and ballets are also performed. 
The Republican library houses some two million books in various languages. It is in deed a true treasure house with a  collection of books by people from the ancient East, with over 2,000 manuscripts of Rudaki, Firdousi, Ibn Sina and Saadi. 

One of the favourite and frequently visited places is the recently built cultural and recreational park surrounded by many beautiful fountains. On the opposite side of the avenue, straight opposite to the park, there is the building of city administration – Khukumat (government) of Dushanbe. 

In the centre of the capital on the right side of Rudaki Avenue performances, unique and famous beyond the boundaries of Tajikistan are performed by the Russian state dramatic theatre. 
On the crossroad of Rudaki and Ismoili Somoni Avenues there is an Art Gallery where art items, original – traditional works of local craftsmen and artists can be obtained. 

The professional Tajik theatre in Dushanbe came into existence in 1929. It was established on the base of a study group of art amateur performances. Now, it is the first professional theatre in the republic – The Tajik State Academic Drama Theatre. 

Each tourist visiting Dushanbe has to visit chaikhane “Rohat”. This beautiful museum of national architecture is located by the Presidential palace. Here you can have delicious food of Tajik cuisine and enjoy original and wonderful Tajik architecture. 

The State complex “Kohi Vahdat” (Palace of Unity) decorates the northern part of the capital. Large scale public and business meetings, forums, conferences, symposiums, congresses and other significant activities are carried out at this building. 

Another name for the northern part of the city is – «studencheskaya. Three of the largest educational institutions – the Tajik pedagogical university (first high education institution of the republic opened in 1931), the Tajik medical university after Abuali ibn-Sina and the Tajik Agrarian University are all located in this part of the city. 

On one of the side streets, in front of the Agrarian University, the Botanical garden of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan was established here in 1933; more than 2,000 species of plants from all over the world grow here in this garden. 

Dushanbe maintains friendly relationships with 13 twin cities and is a member of the World Federation of Related cities including: Lusaka (Zambia), Sana (Yemen), Clagenfurt (Austria), Boulder (USA), Monastir (Tunis), Lahore (Pakistan), Roitlingen (Germany), Tehran and Mashhed (Iran), Urumci (China), Mazar-e Sharif (Afghanistan), Minsk (Belarus) and Saint Petersburg (Russia). 


The Khatlon region is located south-east of Dushanbe. One of the biggest cities of the Khatlon region is Kulyab which consists of Danghara, Vose, Temurmalik, Muminabad, Khovaling, Baljuvan, Parkhar, Hamadoni and Shurabad districts. In the west Kulyab borders with the Kurgan-Tyube zone where the Pyanj River flows in the eastern outskirt of the latter.  The closer you approach Pyanj, the mountain chains slowly lower and a hot windless oasis appear before you. Tairisu, Yakhsu and Kyzylsu – rivers which originate in these mountains carry life-giving moisture to the valley. In the Kulyab oasis even in ancient times crops were cultivated in the dry lands. In the higher mountain areas the population is mainly engaged in cattle breeding. In the  lower mountain areas and the river valleys cotton and vegetables are cultivated and also reich gardens and vineyards are planted. ...more 

Jaloliddin Rumi


The district of Jaloliddin Rumi is situated in Hatlon region of the Republic Tajikistan. He is founded March 21 1933. Before 2007 district was called Kolkhozobad, but since July 19 2007 was named in honour of great tajik-persian poet Jaloliddin Rumi. ...more





The text and photographs below are reproduced with the kind permission of Robert  
Middleton from the website

The Pamirs, located principally in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) in eastern Tajikistan, are one of the highest mountain ranges in the world, containing peaks over 7000m. The territory comprises a large high plateau area (Murghab district in the east) and several deep valleys running west into the Panj river (in antiquity known as the Oxus; in local languages “panj” means “five” and the name Panj is said to come from the fact that the five main Pamir valleys feed into it). GBAO shares frontiers with China in the east, Kyrgyzstan in the north and Afghanistan in the west and south. The Pamirs from the air


The region is inaccessible to road traffic for as much as six months in winter, and was considered during the Soviet period as a strategic border area to which special permission was required for travel. It is therefore very much “virgin territory” for tourism, with little relevant infrastructure. As such, it combines extraordinary attractions for adventure and eco-tourism with untouched high-altitude landscapes and many opportunities for walking and trekking. The Pamirs were on one of the southern branches of the Silk Road and possess fortresses and other monuments bearing witness to the traffic of goods and ideas (petroglyphs, Buddhist monasteries, shrines and caravanserais). The “Great Game” was played in the Pamirs.

The population of GBAO comprises a minority of ethnic Kyrgyz on the high plateau (originally nomadic but today mainly sedentary) and several ancient Iranian ethnic groups occupying the valleys and lower lying areas: their hospitality is legendary, as is their love of music and dancing. During the Soviet period, because of their isolation, Pamiris were able to preserve their religion and culture while benefiting from the remarkable social achievements of the USSR (99% literacy and universal health care). They practice a very tolerant form of Islam.

Access to Khorog, the capital of the Tajik Pamirs is by small plane (Yak 40 or Antonov); all flights originate in Dushanbe and are only operated when there is no cloud cover. The alternative road journey takes approximately 14 hours in a 4x4 and offers en route spectacular views of the Panj river and of high mountain passes. The road journey can be broken with attractive homestays in a relaxing natural environment.


There is a developed road network throughout the Tajik Pamirs, extending up to the furthest villages at the head of the valleys and on the high plateau; it was built during the Soviet period and has not been much maintained since independence in 1991 (N.B. the “Pamir Highway” between the Pamirs and Kyrgyzstan was actually started in the 19th century during the “Great Game”). Access to sites and sights is therefore easy, although roads are bumpy and dusty. The isolation of the region is a risk factor in case of serious illness or accident but the Pamirs are untouched by unrest in neighbouring regions.

Note on traditional Pamiri houses:

One of the most important repositories of the culture of the Pamirs is the traditional Pamiri house, locally known as ‘Chid’. The symbolism of specific structural features of the Pamiri house goes back over two and a half thousand years. It is the symbol of the universe and also the place of private prayer and worship for Pamiri Ismailis (the Ismailis have as yet no mosques in Gorno-Badakhshan) and embodies elements of ancient Aryan philosophy – including Zoroastrianism – many of which have since been assimilated into Pamiri Ismaili tradition. What to the untrained eye looks like a very basic – even primitive – structure, is, for the people who live in it, rich in religious and philosophical meaning. For more information see:

Interior of traditional Pamir house

There are a wide variety of itineraries to choose from that are combined jeep-tours. Longer tours can also be combined with day trip excursion. All the tours on offer by the various tour operators will provide exclusive opportunities to get to know the ancient culture of the Pamirs, its inhabitants, traditions, music and religion.

1) Day Tours from Khorog


1a) Town Tour – comprising:

Bazaar – see how Khorog families do their shopping, talk with traders

Afghan trader at Khorog Afghan market


Afghan Market– Every Saturday Afghan traders are permitted to cross the bridge across the Panj river carrying their wares to a specially created customs-free zone – everything from used auto parts to colourful fabrics and traditional herbal remedies. Buy an Afghan hat, talk to the traders and learn about life in Afghan Badakhshan.


Khorog Regional Museum – with explanations of the history of the Pamir region from the Stone Age and Silk Road to the Great Game and the Soviet Union; see the piano carried on foot from Osh by 20 bearers for the daughter of the Russian Commander in 1914.


Photo Khorog Museum

Picnic in the Khorog Botanical Garden, second highest in the world, with its museum and displays.

Khorog Park – recently redesigned

Tea with a Khorog family


- Site of Aga Khan University Campus with explanation of University’s aims and academic programme

- Visit to Aga Khan Lycée – first private school in Tajikistan – during term time participate in English-language cross-cultural discussion with students

- Visit to a Khalifa (religious leader) for discussion

- Visit to a musician’s home for a concert and dancing

- Visit to Mountain Societies Development Support Programme for discussion of development programmes in the Pamirs.


1b) Shrines tour – with explanations by religious leaders; picnic and tea in traditional Pamiri house:

Tem – Imam Zainulabiddin (third Ismaili Imam);

Porshinev – Piri Shoh Nasir with holy spring and statue of Nasr Khusraw (approx. 1004-1077), who is recognised as one of the great poets of the Persian language and an important Muslim philosopher – in the Ismaili community of Central Asia he is revered as a saint and the founder of Ismailism in the Pamirs; Mir Sayyid Ali HamadoniGumbazi Pir Sayyid Farrukhshoh with superb calligraphic decoration on the ceiling; Sumbi Duldul, named after Hazrat Ali’s horse who is reputed to have left a footprint here.






Shrine Gumbazi Pir Sayyid Farrukhshoh

Nasr Khusraw in Porshinev village

1c) Accompanied Walks– There are several attractive and easy hikes in and near to Khorog. Day excursions with picnic and guide can be organised (e.g. the Shrines Tour above can be done as a walking tour).

1d) Afghan impressions: Guided walking Tour from Khorog across the bridge to Afghanistan and up to the historical site of Kala-i Bar Panj (“Fortress of the upper Panj”), the residence of the rulers of ancient Badakhshan – picnic on the site with views of Khorog, Porshinev and the Panj. A guide will explain the historical background to the site. The round trip is approx. 20km.

In 1880, the pundit and holy man Mukhtar Shah was here spying for the British and described the fortress then:

“Passing for half a mile through the cultivation and hamlets of Bar Panjah village (200 houses) to the right and left I reached the fort of that name with a garden before the entrance to the right. This fort, situated on the left bank of a branch of the Panjah, which river here splits up into three channels, enclosing low forest-covered islands, is an oblong 400 paces east and west and 300 north and south. The walls are more than 20 yards high and 6 yards in thickness, with a rampart and parapets for the protection of the defenders. The wall towards the river is built on a rock rising out of the water. The bastions, eight in number, are, as usual, placed at the corners and intermediately. There is a spring of water in the fort. Behind the fort is a large garden, also well-fortified and well-supplied with all sorts of fruit.”


1e) Garm Chashma – Bathe in the legendary hot spring with reputed magical healing properties. Garm Chashma is located about 35 kilometres south of Khorog up a picturesque side valley from the Panj. Visit shrine to Hazrat Ali. Travel by jeep – Picnic at the hot spring, tea on the way back with a family in a traditional Pamiri house.


1f) Bogev fire temples, ruins of medieval Kafirkala fortress and Mushkilkusho shrine – ten kilometres from Khorog by jeep, picnic at the site and tea in a traditional Pamiri house (option hike)







Bogev fire temple (Photo Peter Burgess)

2) Short Afghan Tour (3-7 days)


This trip takes the visitor high above the river Panj to the beautiful deep blue Shiva Lake (“Kol-i Shewa – 3,110m) and over the mountains on paths worn by local nomads since time immemorial to Ishkashim, where the Panj is crossed again into Tajikistan.






Sheva Lake, Afghan Badakhshan

John Wood (explorer of Zorkul in 1838 – see below) and Dr. Albert Regel (the Russian explorer who was here in 1882) recorded the beauty and size of the lake. Ole Olufsen, leader of a Danish expedition in 1888-9, noted that the lake was believed by the local people to be full of sea-horses, that “come out of the water to graze, and then pair with the horses in the fields, and this crossing is said to be very good for the breed. To venture out on these lakes is death, as the sea-monsters would immediately pull one down into the deep.”


This isolated mountain area has so far been untouched by security problems. The trip can be undertaken by jeep or on horseback. Homestays are available, but camping is an option.



3) Modular Tours to Ishkashim and the Wakhan (2-6 days)


All these tours are modular in the sense that they can be extended from the preceding tour on the list. All offer spectacular views across the Panj river to Afghanistan and the snow-clad peaks of the Hindu Kush; historical and archaeological sites will be explained by qualified guides.

3a) 2 day tour:

Day 1 – to Ishkashim via Garm Chashma (as above under day tours from Khorog) – Overnight in nearby homestay.



Panj river near Ishkashim


Day 2 – visit: ruins of Silk Road Caravanserai in Nut; Kakhkahafortress, named after the legendary leader of the Siahposh(“black robed”) people (now living in Nuristan in Afghanistan), who is reputed to have ruled the Wakhan region in pre-Islamic times; the oldest parts of the fortress are actually dated to the Kushan period (first to third centuries BCE);


Kakhkaha fortress in Namadgut village

Ostoni Shohi Mardon shrine in Namadgut, with fine carving on the doors and the five stone balls with which, according to local legend, Ali juggled when defeating Kakhkaha.



Interior of shrine Ostoni Shohi Mardon

Return to Khorog. Tea in traditional Pamiri house.

Option: Afghan market: every Saturday except in Winter and early Spring (or on official holidays) local inhabitants are permitted to cross the bridge across the Panj to an island in mid-stream where Afghan traders offer their wares, as in Khorog (see above 1a).

3b) 3 day tour: as above.

Day 2 – i) Hike to visit Petroglyphs in Darshay – some dating back to the Kushan period, others with Islamic inscriptions.

Petroglyphs in Darshay and Langar (Photos Vatani Alidodov)


ii) Visit shrine Shoh Isomuddin in Ptup village with a fine garden filled with old twisted sacred trees. The shrine is dedicated to Shoh Hasan Medina who is believed to be one of the first Ismaili envoys who preached to and converted the local people.



Shrine Shoh Isomuddin in Ptup



iii) Visit the vast fortress complex Zamr-i-atish-parast (Fortress of fire worshippers) near Yamchun village, also attributed by legend to Kakhkaha. Parts of this fortress date to the Graeco-Bactrian and Kushan periods (3rd to 1st centuries BCE) – other parts are early mediaeval.

iv) Bibi Fotima hot spring in Yamchun, believed by the local people to improve female fertility

Overnight in nearby home stay. Day 3 – return to Khorog, with tea in traditional Pamiri house.

3c) 4 day tour: as above.

Day 3 – visit:

i) Museum in Yamg village in the residence of the astronomer and scholar Sufi Muboraki Vakhoni (1839-1930). The museum houses his manuscripts and exhibits a collection of traditional tools, musical instruments and clothes and is a very fine example of a traditional Pamiri house with superb carved pillars and beams.

Just outside the museum is the solar calendar used by Sufi Muboraki for determining the start of the Navruz (Spring) festival.






Skylight in Yamg museum




Entrance to Yamg museum


Stupa in Vrang


ii) Vrang village: Buddhist stupa and shrine/museumOsorkhonai Abdullo Ansori, dedicated to the mystic and Sufi poet Abdullo Ansori, who lived in the 11th century CE.

Overnight in nearby homestay.

Day 4 – return to Khorog, with tea in traditional Pamiri house.

3d) 5 day tour: as above.

Day 4 – Travel to the village of Langar and hike to see pre-historic Petroglyphs. Visit shrine Mazori Shoh Kambari Oftob, meaning literally ‘Holy Place of the Master of the Sun’, which would suggest that, like many other holy places in the Wakhan, it was revered already in pre-Islamic times.

Overnight in nearby homestay. Bactrian camels are bred near Langar and camel trekking can be organised.










Shrine Mazori Shoh Kambari Oftob


Day 5 – Return to Khorog, stopping en route in Zong village for hike to visit site of Vishimkala fortress (‘Silk Fortress’ in the Wakhi language, also known by its corresponding Tajik name ofAbreshimkala) dating from the medieval period. According to legend, the fortress was once covered entirely in silk.







Vishimkala fortress in Zong


4) Wakhan Circuit Tours

4a) Wakhan - Shokhdara (7 - 8 days)

As 5-day Wakhan tour, visit Vishimkalaon Day 4 and

Day 5 – travel from Langar up the beautiful Pamir river to the Pamir Highway (look out for Bactrian camels en route) and into the upper Shokhdara valley. Overnight in homestay in Jawshangoz village.

Pamir river Bactrian camels on Pamir river Karl Marx Peak

Day 6 – hike southtowards the Mats Pass with spectacular views of Karl Marx Peak (6,723m) and Engels Peak (6,510m). Return to Jawshangoz. Horses are also available.

Day 7 – return to Khorog, visiting fortresses in Deruj (late Kushan period, 2nd-3rd centuries CE), Shashbuvad (19th century CE) and Roshtkala (7th century CE) and shrine of Sayyid Jalol Bukhori in Tavdem village. Tea in traditional Pamiri house.










Shrine of Sayyid Jalol Bukhori Deruj fortress

Optional additional day hiking above the Shokhdara river with overnight in Tusion village.

4b) Wakhan – Bulunkul - Yeshilkul (8 days)

As 5-day Wakhan tour, visit Vishimkala on Day 4 and

Day 5 – travel from Langar up the beautiful Pamir river to the Pamir Highway and to Bulunkul village for overnight stay.

Days 6 and 7 –visit Bulunkul lake and hike around spectacular Yeshilkul lake (it means green lake and lives up to its name) with Scythian burial grounds and Chinese caravanserai.

Bulunkul Caravanserai in Sumantash Yeshilkul

Photo Surat Toimastov

Day 8 – return to Khorog down the Pamir Highway, with stop in Bogev (see 1f above) and tea in traditional Pamiri house.


4c) Wakhan - Pamir Highway - Murghab (9 days)

This and the next trip are especially suited to visitors continuing to Osh and Kyrgyzstan, e.g. with return air flight from Bishkek – road transport to Osh can be organised as well as flights Osh-Bishkek)


As 8-day Wakhan-Bulunkul-Yashilkul tour, and

Day 8 – Bulunkul to Murghab – overnight in yurt.

Day 9 – to Osh (427km) or return to Khorog (311km)

Optional: the itinerary can be shortened by 2 days (days 6 and 7) by excluding the visit to Bulunkul and Yeshilkul and travelling from Langar to Alichur on day 5 – overnight in yurt in Alichur.

4d) Wakhan - Great Pamir - Murghab (9 days)

As 6-day Wakhan tour, visit Vishimkala on Day 5 and

Day 6 – travel from Langar up the beautiful Pamir river and through the checkpoint at Khargush to Zorkul lake (the first non-local visitor was Captain John Wood in 1838 and the lake used to be called Wood’s Lake or Lake Victoria by British Great Game players) and to the hunting camp at Jarty Gumbez for hot spring bath and overnight stay.

Zorkul Great Pamir to Bendersky Pass Istyk River near

Jarty Gumbez

Day 7 – hiking around Jarty Gumbez with guide from hunting camp who will show visitors the Scythian burial grounds and (if possible) flocks of Marco Polo sheep (Ovis Poli) on the distant hillsides

Day 8 – travel to Murghab for overnight yurt stay

Day 9 – continue to Osh (427km) or return to Khorog (311km)


5) Bartang Valley (various options from 2 to 10 days)


The valley of the Bartang river is one of the most picturesque in the Pamirs (Bartang means “narrow passage” and its people are among the most hospitable, keeping alive many of the old Pamiri traditions.










Yapshorv village (Bartang)









Bartang near Yemts village

Rasuj village (Bartang)

The valley is long (158 km to the last village, Ghudara) and there are many homestays in traditional Pamiri houses on the way. Both jeep and hiking tours can be organised, or a combination of both. A Bartang tour can be combined with the Sarez tour (see below). N.B. This trip and the Sarez tour are best undertaken in late spring, early summer or autumn, as the road along the river is often flooded in the hottest months.


6) Glacier Trek (6 days)


The Pamirs contain, of course, many glaciers, among which the Fedchenko Glacier, the longest mountain glacier in the world (77km – 270 km²). Willi Rickmer Rickmers, one of the pioneers of European skiing, who traversed several of them in 1913 and again in 1928 as leader of an official German-Soviet expedition, linked the distinctive nature of the Pamirs to their glacial formation. “The glaciers of the Pamirs have certain distinctive features. We owe to the climate the wonderful preservation of those elementary geomorphological shapes and signs of glaciation which, in the Alps, are scoured by the rain and overgrown with vegetation. In the Pamirs, rivers have sawn sharp-edged canyons into sediments without carrying away the walls. …. The Pamirs occupy a place in the line of transformations between desert and luxuriant jungle. They are sensitive and react quickly, whereas the Alpine glaciers are sluggish, and their tongues have longer in which to melt. Without the glaciers on the Roof of the World, there would not have been empires in Turkestan.”

Ascent to the Fedchenko and other high mountain glaciers requires much experience, preparation, and specialised equipment. At the end of the Vanch valley, however, there is a relatively accessible if arduous trekking route to glaciers below the Fedchenko. N.B. Glacier trekking is always dangerous and this trip must only be undertaken with qualified mountain guides who know the route well.

Day 1 – Drive from Khorog to Poi Mazor, last village in the Vanch valley. Visit reputed grave of Hazrat Ali. Homestay.

Day 2 – Drive to end of jeepable road beyond Poi Mazor and trek to the snout of the Bears (Medvezhiy) glacier; this gives you a superb view up the steep Russian Geographical Society (Geograficheskogo Obshchestva) glacier, down which, it is said, Soviet mountaineers used to ski after visiting the Fedchenko glacier) with Peak Garmo (6,595m) at its head. Camping.

Poi Mazor


Day 3 – Trek along and across the moraine-covered snout of the Bears glacier, wading through its icy stream, across the snout of theAbdulkhagor glacier and steep climb up the lateral moraine / ablation valley (3,500m). Nice views of surrounding peaks. Trek across moraine to Abdulkhagor Glacier. Camping.


Bears Glacier

Photo Markus Hauser


Day 4 – Trek in and out of the ablation valley – tremendous views down and across the plunging, steep crevassed section of theAbdulkhagor glacier, free of moraine, with smaller feeder glaciers coming in (4,400 metres). Begin descent to Poi Mazor. Camping.

Day 5 – Return to Vanch valley. Overnight in traditional Pamiri house.

Peak Garmo

Day 6 – Return to Khorog - tea in a traditional Pamiri house.


7) High Plateau Yurt Tours from Murghab


Murghab (“river of birds” - 3,650m) is the main town of the Eastern Pamirs and the centre of the district known also as Murghab. The majority of the population are of Kyrgyz ethnic extraction and until the 1950s led an essentially nomadic way of life. Due to a decrease in numbers of livestock at the end of the Soviet period, the population has become sedentary and fewer migrate to yurt encampments with their livestock in the summer.

The tours listed below all begin in Murghab. They are also “modular” in the sense that they can be combined with, for example, tours 5c (Wakhan-Pamir Highway-Murghab) and 5d (Wakhan-Great Pamir-Pamir Highway-Murghab) above. For those visitors who wish to concentrate on the “high plateau experience” these tours can be planned as a combination tour, with Murghab as the primary destination (either from Osh in Kyrgyzstan or from Dushanbe via Khorog) and starting point for all these tours. Day tours can be extended for hiking according to the wishes of visitors. Mountain bikes can be rented in Murghab as another option.


7a) Jailoo tour (2 - 5 days)

Tours of the high summer pastures (‘jailoo’ in the Kyrgyz language), combining yurt accommodation and participation in the life of the herders (most own sheep, goats, yak and cattle), can be organised at variable lengths according to visitors’ wishes. Camel trekking is also available.

Yurt side valley near Murghab Yurt interior Preparing the yak for milking


7b) Karakul (2 days)

This tour is best undertaken either on the way out of the Pamirs, or on the way in, in which case only one day need be planned. The impressive high plateau road to Karakul follows the Akbaital river – in places the desert terrain resembles a moonscape (it was once on the bottom of the ocean).

Pamir Highway North of Murghab Pool on Pamir Highway Akbaital River

Travel is by jeep and the round trip Murghab-Karakul-Murghab (total 270km) requires two days due to the poor condition of the surface on much of the Pamir Highway. The village of Karakul has several yurt stays and homestays.







Karakul looking south

Karakul is a spectacularly beautiful lake. Despite its name (“Black Lake”), for most of the year the cloudless skies and pure air (3,923m) give it a translucent azure colour. Enjoy the views from different points around the lake – follow in the footsteps of the great Russian scientist, naturalist and explorer Nicolai Severtsov, who was here in 1878 and brought back 20,000 plant specimens, 60 mammals, 350 birds and 20 fish.


Drawings from Nicolai Severtsov’s collections (Pamir Archive – Markus Hauser)


At the northern end of the lake, at a place known as Kara-Art, a track turns off west to pre-historic geoglyphs and Saka graves, located about 500m from the turnoff.


7c) Tokhtamish - Shaymak (day tour)

From Murghab town, at the junction of the Akbaital and Aksu rivers – where the river becomes the Murghab – a road branches off the Pamir Highway to the east, leading past the village of Kona-Kurghan with its interesting graveyard, up the Aksu valley (“White river”) to Tokhtamish and Shaymak (approx. 250km round trip). Travel is by jeep and the road leads first in the direction of the border crossing to China at the Kulma Pass (not open for tourist traffic at the time of writing) and then follows the fence protecting the no-mans-land border area as far as Shaymak. The road offers views of the peak of Mustagh Ata (“Father of the Ice”, 7,546m) in the Tashkurgan Autonomous County in China on the other side of the Sarikol range. It also passes several attractive lakes and ancient burial grounds. Some are of pre-historic Scythian origin. A small homestay is available in Shaymak.



Ruins of a caravanseraiKyzylgorum lake View of Mustagh Ata

the road to Shaymak from Tokhtamishon


7d) Shorkul - Rangkul (day tour)

Some 19km north of Murghab town on the Pamir Highway, a road leads east to the beautiful iridescent lakes of Shorkul and Rangkul. Travel is by jeep, but the short distance to Rangkul (65km) and the pure scenery make this also an attractive hiking route. There are yurt stays and homestays in the village of Rangkul. Camel trekking can be organised from here.





Shorkul Rangkul


Opposite Shorkul there are ancient Kyrgyz graves and a large rock outcrop known locally as Chiragh Tash(‘lamp rock’) from the light that supposedly shines from inside a cave on the eastern side some fifty metres from the ground. According to legend, the light comes from the eye of a dragon guarding a treasure in the cave (the entrance to the cave resembles an eye). Two Great Game players, Ney Elias (1885) and Francis Younghusband (1891) were here and recorded the legend.


From Rangkul there are views of the peak of Mustagh Ata (“Father of the Ice”, 7,546m) in the Tashkurgan Autonomous County in China on the other side of the Sarikol range.

Chiragh Tash


7e) Madyan-Elisu (day tour)

At the southern entrance to Murghab town a road leads west along the Murghab river to Madyan and, up a side valley, to the hot spring Elisu. The valley on the way to Madyan benefits from a micro-climate that is significantly warmer than the rest of Murghab district and the land supports some grain crops and lush pasture. A yurt stay and homestay are available at the hot spring.

Khojand & North

Northern Tajikistan includes the western part of the Ferghana cut and the extreme southern-eastern part of Golodnaya steppe surrounded by mountains. The Kuramin range, forming the northern natural border of the region, spreads from the north-east to the south-west. Only some of its parts exceed 2,000m above sea level. The highest areas that are part of it are Kuramin and Turkestan ranges as well as the Mogoltau Mountains. The south-eastern part of the Golodnaya Steppe is a plain that is within the boundaries of altitudes of 250-300m from the south-east to the north-west. Meadow steppes spread out in the highland zone. The plain part is widely used for production of cotton and other heat-loving crops.  From ancient times farmers have been occupied with fruit-growing, viticulture and melon and gourd growing. The bottom parts of the slopes are used for dry farming. 

The findings of the Northern-Tajik archeological expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan discovered remains of a big urban centre on the left bank of the  Syrdarya river, underneath present-day Khojent. Here the first settlements which later transformed into a big populated area emerged on a relatively flat and convenient bank of the Syrdarya river, in the outfall of its full inflow Khojabakirgana. In the 4th – 5th centuries, defensive walls  were constructed. The territory of ancient Khojent in the 6th – 4th century B.C. made itself intensively and all over habitable: a citadel was built, delicate and fine samples of handicraft and hand made ceramic manifacture. Khojent rapidly developed when in 329 B.C. the Greek-Macedonian troops led by Alexander the Great entered Khojent.   

According to the records of ancient Greek historians in 329 B.C. Alexander the Great founded a reinforced fortress on the River of Tanais or Yaksart (today Syrdarya). Alexander populated it with Greek warriors and neighbouring inhabitants. Later, due to its geographic and strategic position the fortress started to be intensively populated, turning into a big city (relatively in those days), which was know in history as Alexandriya the Extream (Eskhata). The city prospered for a long period and grew rich: palaces, mosques and citadels were built. The medieval Khojent produced many famous figures of Tajik and Eastern cultures. The famous scholar, mathematician and astronomer, constructor of astronomic instruments Abumakhmud Khujandi was born and grew up in Khojent in the second half of the 10th  century. 

In the 11th – 12th  centuries a whole group of illustrious scientists, poets and doctors lived and worked in the Iranian city of Isfahan who were from Khojent by birth and known as representatives of the family “Oly Khujand”. Kamoli Khujandi – author of the famous gazelles, was named “the Nightingale of Khojent” in the 14th century. Also the first-rate poetess, musician and dancer Mahasti was just as famous in medieval times. In the 19th century cultural figures such as Toshkhoja Asiri, Sodirkhon Hofiz, and Khoji Yusuf carried out active enlightening activities. 

At the end of the 14th century and begining of 15th centuries Khojent together with the region was part of Tamerlan’s state. In the 18th – 19th centuries the city grew turning into one of the biggest cities of the Central Asia, with its area being as big as Kokand and Bukhara. 

Today Khojent is a booming industrial and cultural centre of Tajikistan. The city attracts tourists due to its numerous uniqe monuments of old times. Medieval citadels and mosques have been preserved here. One of the most famous mosques and mausoleums is of Sheikh Muslihiddin’s dating back to the 17th – 18th centuries. According to folk legends he was burried in the village of Unji (suburb of Khojent) but after some times his worshippers took his ashes and built a mauseleum on his grave. 

Another not less interesting historical-architectural place of attraction, known as Khazratishoh is located in the old part of Istravshan city. It consists of three religious constructions: mausoleums  of Khazratishoh, of Khudoyor Va’lami and Khazratishoh mosques (known as Namozgoh mosque), located in a semicirle around a spring. Khazratishoh is a name of a saint, who according to legends was the brother to Kusamu ibn-Abbasu who was the Prophet Muhammad (a) cousine. 
Travelling accros northern Tajikistan and Khojent you will discover amazing monuments of the Stone Age for yourself: Aktangi shed (neolit IVI century), Sarazm settlement of the bronze age, Nurtepa ancient settlement (VII-VIII B.C.), ancient Khojent (VI B.C.), where Alexander the Great build a fortress Alexandria the Extreme, ancient Penjikent, the big cultural centre of Soghd (VI-VI), Kakhkakha Fortress 1-III centuries, Bunjikat – capital of Usturashan, castles on the mountain of Mug (VI-VIII), Filmandar (V), Chilkhujra (V-VII); Gardani Hisor and Kum settlements (V-VIII); Koni Mansur mine (V-VII). 

Not far from Khojent the famous Kairakum reservoir is located which attracts many tourists. It appeared as a result of the construction of a hydroelectric station on the Syrdarya river. The mild climate, good weather, clean mirror-like surface of the lake provides the ideal opportunity for active rest: boating, fishing, tours of the archeological excavations. 
Mountaineers have long chosen the Ak-Su area located close to Khojent as a perfect destination. This group of mountains stands out for its beauty, wild nature and massive peaks with altitudes exceeding 5,000m (Ak-Su – 5,355 m, Blok-5,239m). Picturesque landscapes, softened by rapid rivers, interesting history of centuries gone past –will leave a lasting impression on you and make your travel across Tajikistan indeed unforgattable. 

Zerafshan Valley

The Zeravshan valley is part of the Soghd region of Tajikistan and is located between Turkestan Mountains in the north and Zeravshan range in the south. The Zeravshan valley received its name from a full, rough and rapid Zeravshan, which is translated from Farsi as “river, carrying water”. Zeravshan originates in the glacies of Macha mountain node. The river provides farmers of this area with water from ancient times. The river is stretched out for 877 km and its length in the territory of Tajiksitan is 316 km.


Often the Zerafshan valley is called Kuhiston, which is translated from Tajik language as “country of mountains”. Great mountain range as high as 2000 to 5500 and more meters widen out to the west and merge in the east into grand mountain swell – the Allai range. Climate in Zeravshan valley is continental and semi arid, winter is relatively mild. 
Tourists are attracted to Zeravshan from all over the world, by its wonderful, absolutely pure Alauddin, Kulikalon and Marguzor lakes, as well as legendary Iskanderkul. This wonderful country of lakes is surrounded by Fan Mountains, located in the north-western Tajikistan between Gissar and Zeravshan ranges, to the west of Anzob pass. 11 peaks placed higher than 5000 meters surround the picturesque barely passable valley. The highest peak – Chimtarga – its height is 5489m above sea level. Not less attractive for mountaineers are peaks of Bolshaya Ganza (5330m), Bodkhona (5300 m.), Chapdara (5050 m.) and Mirali (5120 m.).


The population of the valley is 300 thousand people that populate 254 villages and the town of Penjikent. Ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and community of Yaghnobis live in the valley. Yaghnobis are descendents of the ancient Iranian tribes of Eurasia: Alani, Sarmatians and Skitians. The modern language of Yaghnobis goes back to the ancient Soghdian language, which was spoken by (Skit-sarmatian dialect group) in ancient Central Asia. Until the Arab invasion of the VIII A.D. those who lived in the Zeravshan valley played important role on the Great Silk Road, which roads crossed Penjikent, Samarkand and Bukhara. In 722 A.D. Soghdians were exposed to Arab troops. Abandoning their lands, Soghdians ran to the mountains, to the village Yaghnob, where the village Pskon actually became the new “capital” of the refugees. 
Isolation and inaccessibility of the valley allowed preserving the lifestyle of Yaghnobis. Now, some tens and more villages have remained in the valley of Yaghnob. Difficult mountain paths lead to Yaghnob valley via passes which are 4000 meters.


Very interesting is the archeological monument – ancient settlement of the Ancient Penjikent. The old settlement consists of strong enforced citadel— kukhendiz, as it was called in Central Asia enforced castle of a ruler; namely the city of Shahristan, fenced with a special fortress wall with numerous towers; suburban settlement (rabada) and a big necropolis, consisting of separate vaults – naus. Ossuariy were placed in the vaults (small clay boxes) with the remnants of deceased. One of the most important discoveries on the territory of the old settlements – remains of water supply network in the form of two lines of ceramic pipes of different diameter.


Not far from Penjikent, Sarazm is located – one of the oldest settlements in Central Asia. Sarazm (top of the Earth) - "origin of world", which is more than 5500 years old, is considered a place of birth of civilization of Tajiks. 
Inhabitants of this ancient settlement lived in dwellings with many rooms and with small yards. The monument which is more than 70 hectares distinguishes by its highly developed culture. Many objects of material culture among which painted ceramics, stone made items, bronze knives, daggers and axes were founded. From the materials of Sarazm scientists ascertained that already in III — II B.C. tribes living in upper reaches of the Zerafshan valley had close trade contact with the tribes in Kazakhstan and South Siberia and also with those living in the coast of the Gulf in the valley of the river Ind. The ancient settlement of Sarazm is included in the list of monuments of the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.


Good asphalted roads are laid across most part of the Zerafshan region therefore it is not difficult to get to the tourist sightseeing places. There are eight local tour operators functioning in Zerafshan which are members of the Zerafshan council on tourism The tour operators develop fascinating itineraries and in addition to sightseeing, tours such as following on the tracks of adventure seekers of the past are offered: legendary adventures of Alexander the Great, studying the life and work of Rudaki, travel along the Silk Road. Tourists can hear the language of the ancient Persian kings which has preserved till nowadays, meet with local musicians and famous craftsmen, and familiarize themselves with traditional life style of Zerafshan. Short tours can be made from Dushanbe or from Penjikent to Zerafshan and then back to the city overnight stay. This itinerary is for those who would like to use higher level services.


For those who are interested in holistic study of Tajikistan «sectoral» jeep-tours and other tours which are 2 to 20 days long are offered. All these tours will be organized after learning your preferences. Perhaps one of the most fascinating and substantial tours is a tour to Fan mountains which is 5 to 20 days long.


1) Dushanbe – tour around the city and one day tours 
Most of the international flights to Tajikistan arrive in Dushanbe and tourists as a rule stay in the city minimum a day. This is a quiet city with wide streets surrounded with beautiful plane trees preserved its soviet time atmosphere created by the city architects in 1920. In the centre of the city under the shadow of weighty trees, narrow boulevards and elegant buildings painted in pastel shades are resting. An experienced guide will show the city, tell its history and characteristics of the city buildings, monuments and parks.

  • National history museum after Behzod

Big collection of exhibits of natural history, ethnography and archeology are presented in the museum. A beautiful minbar (mosque pulpit) and mikhrab (a niche indicated direction to Mekka) are of particular importance. After a tour around the museum will go for a walk to Ozodi squire (Freedom), crossing the entire city centre. There is a monument standing in the squire which is devoted to the founder of the Tajik dynasty of Samanids – Ismoili Somoni. The tour will be ended by a traditional lunch at the national chaikhana Rohat.

  • Visit to Gurminj museum of local instruments and shashmakom

The museum of musical instruments famous as Gurminj Museum was founded in 1990 by Gurminj Zavkibekov (1929-2003), People’s Artist of Tajikistan, laureate of the Rudaki State Award. About 100 musical instruments are in the collection, mainly representing the musical traditions of the Pamiris. The museum has also collection of domestic utensils, dishes and national clothes.

  • National museum on antiquity and Botanical garden

The national museum of antiquity has exhibits of the Greek-Bactrian period, Takht-e Sangin (also small images of Alexander the Great from ivory) and Kabadian, original Soghdian statues and frescos of ancient Penjikent. Unique in whole Central Asia, the statue of the sleeping Buddha, discovered during excavation works in Ajina Teppa 1966 is also presented here; «Buddha in Nervana» is 14 m long. After viewing the museum a tour to the north of the city, Rudaki park with a view to the presidential residence and then to the botanical garden is offered.

  • Gissar fortress

Gissar was the capital of the Eastern Bukhara province and was in hands of emir’s deputy Ibragimbek until 1924, when he was defeated by the soldiers of the Soviet Army. The fortress faces with its gates a bazaar squire surrounded with caravanserai and two madrasah, one of which is an ethnographic museum. Other unique historical findings close to Gissar fortress are the Mausoleum of Makhtumi Azam, Masjid-i-Sangin (stone mosque) and mineral spring Chashma-i-Mohiyon.

  • Trip to Varzob with picnic

Varzob gorge is a wonderful mountainous location just few minutes’ drive from Dushanbe. The main sightseeing sites of the gorge are waterfall Guzgarf and Siyom River valley. There are many picturesque places and recreation bases where you can rest and have food.


2) Penjikent – city tours and one day tours 
Penjikent is an ideal point of departure for all long term tours. The city itself is the biggest city in the picturesque Zerafshan valley, located not far from the border with Uzbekistan, 65 km from Samarkand. 6000 years ago the ancient people of this region, Sarazmis, had started construction of this city, where production and trading prospered. From the VI to VIII A.D. this city was one of the most important cultural and art centers of Soghdiana. All tours include visiting local chaikhana, and canteens where aromatic traditional plov of Penjikent is offered.

  • One day city tour

The ancient Soghdian city Penjikent (V-VIII.) was defeated by Arabs and “buried” for centuries. Excavations of the ancient city are still going one. Amazing view open at the new city from here which developed just 1.5km away from the ancient settlement. The modern Penjikent is receptacle of a unique traditional bazaar. Straight opposite the bazaar there is the biggest in the city mosque. Every Friday about 1500 people gather where to make Friday prayers – Namozi Jum’a.

  • Ancient Sarazm

In the old settlement there are houses and fire temple with rounded altar, imitating sun rays. There is also a grave yard – 25 m in diameter (IV B.C.) where there are several tombs including the one that belong to a rich woman, known today as “Queen of Sarazm”.

  • Literature and architecture

To the east of Penjikent, in the village of Mazari Sharif, the mausoleum of Muhammad Bashoro (11 century), famous Islamic scholar, who died here in 866, is located. Next to the mausoleum there is the museum of Loik Sherali, the prominent Tajik poet of the XX century. Rudaki – the founder of the Tajik-Persian literature was born in the village Panjrud, not far from Penjikent, and although he spent most part of his life in Samarkand and Bukhara, he came back to his place of origin to spend the rest of his life. His mausoleum is placed in a garden of his native village.

  • Seven lakes and a picnic

Seven lakes is one of the most fascinating places in Tajikistan. You can enjoy invigorating trip in fresh mountainous air along unique and wonderfully clean lakes.

3) Lake Iskanderkul 
In 2 hours drive from Dushanbe or 4 from Penjikent the legendary lake Iskanderkul is stretched out. Breathtaking peaks of the Fan Mountains are reflected in the blue ice-cold water of the lake. Located at the height of 1295 ì, Iskanderkul is the highest mountain lake. It is 72 meters deep. Many interesting legends are linked with the lake. A local legend says that the army of the legendary Alexander the Great passed through these mountains to reach Samarkand. Another legend tells that the Soghdian leader, Spitamen was followed and died close to this area. Some local people state that they see ghostly figure of the battle horse of Alexander – Bucefal, that comes out to the surface of the water in lunar moonlit nights.

Rasht Valley

The Rasht Valley is known from medieval times as one of the settlements on the Silk Route and the capital of the historical Karategin area in the Pamirs. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the Great Silk Route crossed the Alai mountains and Rasht Valley continuing through Gissar, Khatlon, Balkh, Iran and Iraq and reaching the banks of the Mediterranean Sea to unite East and West. 

The nature of the Rasht Valley is exceptionally picturesque, and the gorges of Kamarob, Yasman and Khait are considered the best places for holidays. There are natural resources such as aluminum, marble and coal which are deposited in Nazarailok. There are numerous mineral springs which are used for medicinal purposes. 

The Rasht district in the valley of the same name was known as Gharm and was considered the centre of the national culture of Darvaz and Karategin valleys. The Gharm district was established in 1931 which was renamed Rasht in 2001. Prior to Soviet rule the people in this area walked thousands of miles in search for education and reached remote cities such as Bukhara, Kabul, Kashmir, Chidda and Delhi. People from Rasht Valley contributed to the development of the Tajik language, literature and culture from ancient times. 

Rich art heritage was left by representatives of literary circles of Rasht: Mawlavi Qosimi, Mawlavi Shohidi, Mavlono Jomii soni, Abdurahimi Gharmi, Khazoni, Hijri, Nasimi, Valei, Gulkhani, and Shaikh Abdulkhai. Two poets of the 15th and 16th centuries Mawlavi Qosimi and Shohidii Rashti became famous for imitating the timeless book “Masnavi” by Mawlono Jaloliddini Balkhi, and created their own unique works. 

The territory of Rasht is about 400,000 hectare. It consists of 14 sub-districts – Gharm and Navabad – are settlements and the rest are villages. Nowadays there are 27 comprehensive schools, 41 secondary schools and 37 elementary schools. The distance from the Rasht valley to the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe is 180 km.


© Consulate General of the Republic of Tajikistan in Istanbul