Area: 143,100 sq km
Major towns/cities: Khujand, Kulob, Qurghonteppa, Istaravshan, Vahdat.
Tajikistan is a newly independent state on the southern tip of Central Asia. Beautiful and remote, Tajikistan has much to offer to the mountaineer, the hiker and the independent traveller in search of remote locations and unusual cultural experience. There are opportunities for alpine mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, horse or camel riding, historical exploration, cultural experiences or simply relaxing among dramatic mountains and lakes.
The area of Tajikistan is 143.1 thousand square kms. The altitudes vary from 300 to 7,495 meters above sea level. The area stretches WE for 700 km, and NS for 350 km. Tajikistan borders with Uzbekistan in the north and west, Kyrgyzstan – in the north, Afghanistan – in the south, China – in the east. In the southeast, Tajikistan is separated from India and Pakistan by a band of Afghan area, from 15 to 65 km wide.
Geographically, Tajikistan is generally subdivided into five natural and geographic zones: Northern Tajikistan, Southwestern Tajikistan, Central Tajikistan, the Western Pamirs, and the Eastern Pamirs. These zones differ from each other in climatic conditions, relief, geological structure, vegetation, animal world, and anthropogenic load.
The climate of Tajikistan is continental, characterized by considerable seasonal and daily fluctuations of temperature, humidity and other meteorological elements. The annual average sunshine varies from 2,000 to 3,160 hours.
The Pamir Mountains considered the hub of Asia, known locally as Bomi Dunyo (the Roof of the World), are the range from which several of Asia’s highest mountain ranges radiate, including the Karakorum and Himalayas to the south, the Hindu Kush to the west and the Tien Shen to the north, straddling the border of neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and China. Described as the Roof of the World, these mountains form one of the most unexplored regions on earth, which have attracted climbers and hunters from the former Soviet Union for years.
Here, in a network of high, wide valleys amid mountain peaks in excess of 23,000ft, is prime hiking territory, populated by wildlife including Marco Polo sheep, rare snow leopards, wild boar, ibex and brown bears, amid deep valleys, swift-running streams and unspoilt mountain meadows.
The Fan Mountains are famous for their fantastic lakes and peaks and are perfect for trekking, horse trekking or rock climbing. Little known and rarely visited, these mountains form part of the Pamir Range tucked away in northwest Tajikistan. This beautiful wilderness renowned for its high summer pasture is a haven for the amateur botanist and ornithologist and offers spectacular vistas of flower-strewn meadows, turquoise lakes and Snowmelt Rivers with a backdrop of 5000m peaks. Like many remote areas in Central Asia with a tradition of warm hospitality, your journey here will likely be punctuated with pressing invitations from local nomads and herders.
The Muzkol Range – these mountains are considered totally unclimbed with a number of 4.000m and 5.000 m unnamed peaks of varying difficulty. Climbing should be adventurous without being extreme, and there will be opportunity to enjoy some
trekking in stark but beautiful surroundings. There is also the possibility of encountering wildlife such as Marco Polo sheep, wild camels and snow leopards.
Lake Sarez, in the heart of the Pamirs, was formed in 1911 when the side of a mountain was dislodged by an earthquake and fell into the path of a mountain river.
Iskandarkul Lake -Established in 1969. Area 30.0 thousand ha. Elevations range from 2,000 to 3,500 m. The following animals are represented here: loach, muddier, green toad, water snake, Himalayan rock agama, geckos, Central Asian viper, Levantine viper, wood pigeon, blue hill pigeon, rock pigeon, and other. The lake is known as the lake of Alexander Macedon) with alpine meadows, forests, crystal clear water of the lake and rivers, pure mountainous. On a hiking tour tourists will have to spend nights in a tent camp or cottages, which are available at Iskandarkul Lake.
Kara-Kul Lake – in the north of the Pamirs, formed by a meteor 10 million years ago, is 3915m above sea level and hence too high for any aquatic life.
Tajik National Park -is the largest nature protection area in Central Asia, with a wide spectrum of mountain and high-mountain ecosystems. Established in 2002, the park contains 2.6 mills. ha and includes numerous species of flora and fauna, including Marco Polo mountain sheep and ibex and snow leopard. It also contains a number of glaciers, encompasses rather big mid-mountain and high-mountain territories, which conclude 14 types of ecosystems and numerous natural monuments as well.
“Beshai palangon” Nature Reserve – spectacular woodlands inhabited by Bukhoro Deer, pheasant, hyena, riparian and foxes. Established in 1938. The nature reserve (49, 9 thousand ha) is located on the south of Tajikistan.
Prevailing landscape is flat delta terrace of Vakhsh River 7 km wide. It includes 10 lakes and bogs with predominance of tugai forests as well as deserted and foothill ecosystems of southern Tajikistan and agro-ecosystems.
Romit Reserve – established in 1959, 16,2 thousand ha. It is situated on the southern slopes of Hisor mountain ridge, within the Romit gorge. Split rocky landscape with an elevation from 1200 to 3200 meters above sea level characterizes its territory. Forested area is less 3 thousand ha. Flora of reservation includes few rare and endangered species of plants while fauna is very diverse.
Dashtijum Reserve – established in 1983, area – 19,7 thousand ha, situated on southern slopes of Khazratishoh mountain ridge. An original rocky landscape with an elevation from 850 to 2400 meters above sea level characterizes its territory. Forested area is about 3 thousand ha. Flora includes few rare and endangered species: Fissidens karataviensis, Ostrowskia magnifica, Iris darwasica, etc. The largest population of Tajik Markhur Capra falconry inhabits here. Other fauna includes: Himalayan rock agama Stelio himalayanus, geckos and snake-eyed skinks Ablepharus, among many others.
Sari-hξsor Nature Park – established in 1959, since 1979 the area has been extended to 196 thousand ha. Since, in view of development of the South-Tajik territorial cattle-breeding complex the Sari-hosor protected area exists only conditionally. Average elevation 1400 – 4000 meters above sea level. Primary goal of protected area – conservation of mid-mountain and high-mountain ecosystems, especially broad-leaved forests.
Zorkul. Established in 2002. Area 80 thousand ha. Elevations range from 4,100 to 4,200 m. Primary goal of the protected area is conservation of habitats of rare and endangered species of birds such as bar-headed mountain goose Anser indicus, brown-headed gull Larus brunnicephalus, Himalayan snow cock Tetraogallus himalayensis, Tibetan snow cock Tetraogallus tibetanus. Besides, few rare and endangered mammals are protected: argali Ovis ammon polii, snow leopard Uncia, etc.
Shirkent Natural-Historical Park – Established in 1991, area – 31, 9 thousand ha. Average elevation 800 – 4500 meters above sea level. Geological basis of its territory consists of Paleozoic sedimentary-metamorphic and igneous rocks as well as Carbon granitites and other rocks. On the territory of the park more than 30 regular watercourses have been registered and 8 types of ecosystems have been identified. Shirkent Park is characterized by the series of 40 unique historical-geological monuments, including geomorphologic, lithologic, paleontology, tectonic, hydrologic, glacial and historical monuments. Most important objects are the three different age places of dinosaur’s footprints, totally more than 400 footprints. The monuments of human history include more 50 archaeological objects and some monuments of ethnography with unique natural-recreational resources. The park provides conditions for organizing tourism-related activities among which mountaineering tours.
Peak Somoni and Mount Garmo are to the northwest and west respectively of Lake Kara-Kul. At well over 7000m these two peaks tower over Tajikistan and the neighbouring Republic of Kyrgyzstan to the north. Helicopter flights are available for those who wish to climb.
Yashil-Kul, or Green Lake (3734m). From the end-of-the-world Tajik settlement of Bulunkul it’s a short drive or one-hour walk to Yashil-Kul. It’s a turquoise lake framed by ochre desert, a couple of sandy beaches and warm springs on the southern side. A dam is being built at the west end of the lake. Trekking routes to Sarez Lake start nearby.
Dushanbe – is situated in the center of the Hisor Valley, 800 meters above sea level. It is a young city, and cannot compare with such ancient Central Asian town as Samarqand and Bukhoro in age, history or architectural monuments. We first heard mention of Dushanbe in 1676. At the time it was a small, poor village on the crossroads of caravan routes connecting the Hisor Valley with Bukhoro and Samarqand, the Pamirs and Afghanistan. The Tajik word “Dushanbe” means Monday. The weekly bazaar was held in the village on Mondays, and that was what the place came to be called. The city does have some interesting museums. First of all – the new National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan, second – Republican History, Regional Studies, and Fine Arts Museum named after K. Behzod. It’s worth seeing a performance at the Ayni Opera and Ballet Theatre since it has the finest interior in the city. There is a theatre for children in the capital. It is a Children’s Puppet Theatre “Lukhtak”. To be in Dushanbe and not to be in “Rohat” Teahouse means not to visit the capital of Tajikistan. This famous teahouse is situated in the center, just near the President palace.
Khujand – the second largest city in the country, it’s one of Tajikistan’s oldest towns. Commanding the entrance to the Farhgona Valley, Khujand enjoyed great prosperity and its riches spawned palaces, grand mosques and citadel, before the Mongols steamrolled the city into oblivion in the early 13th century. In XVIII-XIX centuries Khujand has become one of the largest cities of Central Asia, in spare not less than Kokand and Bukhoro. Now city is a large industrial centre of Tajikistan. Main sights are certainly known Panjshanbe Bazaar, attracting attention by its multy-colorful, exotic sounds and odours, variety abundance of fruit and vegetables, and the architectural complex of mosque and mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin, which is located here, near to market. Kayrakkum Reservoir (The Tajik Sea) stretches out the east of city. The “Sea” was created as a result of damming of the Syrdaryo River by an earth and concrete dam of the Kayrokum Hydroelectric Power Station of 130 meters of length. Length of the reservoir is about 65 km, width is from 8 up to 20 km. Several attractive, sanatoriums, holiday centres and tourist bases having an appropriate infrastructure are located on its shores.
Kulob – the on of the largest city of the country. From the capital of republic in direction to the south-east up to Kulyab there is about 200 km of an asphalt highway. People lived at mountains and valleys of modern Kulyab and its vicinity are mentioned in ancient sources, by antique, Arabian and Persian authors. In the park there is a two-storied mausoleum of the writer, philosopher and thinker Mir Said Alii Hamadoni, who lived in XIV century. 20 km to the west of the town there is an unique natural monument – Khoja Mumin Salt Mountain, raising in height over than a kilometre and going into the entrails of ground almost by 4 km. Having been here many years ago famous Venetian traveller Marc O’Polo wrote: “Salt is so much, that it will be enough for whole world up to the doomsday”. “… In Kulyab and Baljuan the silver works prospers, the cotton and silk fabrics are woven; the cooper, wooden and clay utensils are manufactured.
Nomads felted thick felts, weave carpets, palaes, gilems. They also possess large herds of horses”. So the ethnographer, archaeologist and traveller A. Bobrinsky wrote at the end of XIX century. On 2006 will be held anniversary of 2700-years of Kulyab.
Istaravshan is situated 73 km north-west of Tajikistan, near Khudjand. The town is one of the most ancient urban settlements in Central Asia, dating back to the first millennium BC. The recorded history of Istravshan dates back to 6 century BC when the region was a province of the Persian Empire under the Achaemenids. From the II-Ist centuries BC to the I-IInd centuries AD, much of what is now Istravshan was known as Usturavshana, the capital of which was Bunjikat. It was a trading center and benefited greatly from its position as an important staging post on the commercial roads that linked the civilizations of East and West, through Khudjand, Samarqand, Bukhara and Ferghana Valley. Modern Istravshan is a town of craftsmen. Until recently they lived in specific quarters (guzars) of weavers, potters, bazier, smiths an so on. Wonderful pieces of carving, remnants of decorative clothes, painting, pottery, mural paintings, jewelers, embroidery, and pottery of burnt clay glazed with calligraphy are the evidence of the high interest people took in art and handicrafts.
Panjikent is a small town, on the banks of the Zeravshan River, is situated 65 km east of Samarqand. Many archaeologists of the world aspire to Panjikent, one of the centres of ancient civilization, a major sogdian city founded in the 5th century. In the Southern suburbs of modern Pendjikent there is a site of ancient settlement – ancient Pendjikent. Ancient Penjikent was a small but rich town of the Soghdians, an Iranian among the most important people of pre-Islamic Central Asia. The ethnic and territorial name “Soghd/Soghdian” occurs in historical sources as early as in Iranian Achaemenid times (6th century B.C.). In their heartland, the Zarafshan valley, they founded several city-states, as well as colonies along the ancient Silk Routes from Eastern Europe (Crimea) to the Chinese border and Mongolia.
South of Penjikent lie the Marguzar Lakes, a system of seven lakes of differing colours that change as the light alters.
Sohgian city – flourished during 5th to 8th centuries, very well preserved, also called “The Central Asia’s Pompeii” (a sumptuous governor’s palace, homes, and temples can be seen here). Once Sogdiana controlled a key section of the Silk Road.
Hisor Fortress was the central town of Hissar valley, named in manuscripts as History Shodmon. Hissar Fortress and the town had been settled from VI BC to mid of XIX. It was the main administrative, political and economical centre of Hissar valley. The total area is 28 ha, surrounded by one defensive wall. Fortress-citadel consists of three parts and is located on the natural hill. Hissar fortress from the epoch of Timur and Timurids was considered as the center of Eastern Bukhara, where the representative of Tsar Dynasty (son or brother of Bukhara Ruler) was in reign.
On the basis of revealed and reconstructed architectural monuments in 1978, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tajikistan has organized a Hissar historical and cultural preserve. Materials are kept in the fund of Institute of History at Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan and Hissar historical and cultural preserve.
Hisor Historic and Cultural Reserve, is situated not far from the capital city, is a fascinating archaeological complex, which dates back to the XVth century. A number of mosques, a caravanserai, a mausoleum and a madrase have all been excavated and are on display.
Houlbuk town IX- XII centuries is located in Kurbon Shahid village of Vosse region. It consists of citadel, palace of ruler and the town. The total area is 70 ha. The palaces of ruler, separate halls are fully excavated. The particular value present the exit portal- gates of Houlbuk, ganch-chasing thread, which decorated the walls of the palace, in which geometrical and flora ornament is blend with Kufic inscription and figures of lions.
Buddhist monastery Adjina-Teppa V-VIII centuries is located 12 km east of Kurgan-Tube. The fortress is in the form of a rectangular, with two parts, including the monastery and the temple. In the temple yard a large cruciform mortar was located. The building of monastery was erected from the raw brick and blocks. Arches, cupolas and etc covered the building. The wall of the temple and halls were decorated by the numerous sculptures of Buddha and bodhisattvas, among which there was 12 m statue of Buddha laying in Nirvana. The walls of the corridor were covered by the miniature paintings, reflecting the sermon of Buddha, surrounded by people and scene of gifters.
Buddhist monastery Vrang, IV-VI-VII centuries. Located on the rock on the left bank of the Vrang Darya River over the Vrang village. It has two-stepped mortar, (the third is not saved). At present on the top of mortar there is quadrangular house, which functions as ostana (worship of stone); yard, surrounded by the wall with corner tower. Inside, the premises for servants and monks are located. Arch premises are cut on the slopes and terrace on the opposite bank The monastery is build on Vakhin or Great Buddhist route, which passed via ancient Vakhan after opening Great Silk Route from east to west.
“Khoja Mashad” Mausoleum IX-XII centuries. It is the unique monument of the oriental architecture. It is located in Saiyod village in Shahritus region. That mausoleum was built in the X century; originally it had only one central building. The archaic elliptical, not lancet arches were preserved. In XI-XII the dense decorative arcade in the facade adjoined century’s new dome-shaped building to the mausoleum, with. This building was richly decorated by ornamented brickwork and terracotta fretwork in the style of Ismail Samanid mausoleum. The dome-shaped structure was connected with the first building by the portal, with the brick laid arch behind it. In the corners of the facade there are the towers- guldasta, and behind the mausoleum there were the vast yards with aivans and vaulted cells- hudjars. The compound “Khodja Mashhad” has the most ancient structure among all known madrases.
Mahdudi Azam Mausoleum XI – XVI centuries is located in Hissar historical cultural preserve. It consists by plan of three cupola premises, overlooking the sides of the world. It is constructed of burned bricks on ganch grout. The most ancient element is small dome space – gurhona in the shape of “chortok” with four arches. It was constructed in XI century. In XI- XII, to the south of Gurhona, the Zierathona is added with the common central axis. In XVI, one more gurhona is constructed, by plan it is cruciform with the additional portal to the west. Mausoleum is restored in 1990; It will host a museum of the history of Islam in Hissar historical cultural conservation.
Mir Said Alii Hamadoni Mausoleum XIV-XVII centuries (Kulyab) it’s a burial place of famous Persian-Tajik scientist, Mir Said Alii Khamadoni and his successors. He was known as the author of the books on philosophy, sophism, ethics, and didactics. Mausoleum has a portal cupola structure with asymmetric plan. The building is made from the burned brick on glue grout, and cupolas are made with alabaster grout. Central hall is covered by twin dome. Mausoleum was renovated several times.
Mirzo Tursunzoda Mausoleum. The monument was created in 1981, over the grave of the distinguished Tajik writer, Mirzo Tursunzade. The monument consists of three open books-pylons, decorated with light marble; personifications clear thoughts and deeds of the writer. The height of the central pylon is 13.5m, and two side ones are 12m high. The internal diameter of the tomb construction is 5.5m. There is a marble bust on the top of the central pylon. The tracery cupola crowns this vertical composition.
Ismoili Somoni Monument. A 40-metre high monument built to the memory of Ismail Saman-Khuda, founder of the Samanid dynasty in the 10th century. The base contains a permanent exhibition on the Samanids and is paved in granite slabs. The upper part of the statue is coated with gold.
Ancient part of Istravshan city – historical monument of culture of XII – XIX century, it occupies an extensive area surrounded by 2 rows of high massive walls of 6,4 km. There were 60 mosques, 8 madrases, 7 baths, commercial stores, and workshops.
One of the oldest settlements in Pamir, Khoruhg was originally a complex of two villages, which, in 1925, became the centre of the region on the Pamir Highway. Presently it is the capital of the eastern Tajik region of Gorno-Badakhshan and is a small one-street town with a museum containing stuffed animals and a display of photographs of Lenin. Nowadays, city has a population of 22,000, a number of plants for the production of milk, meat, and bread and several factories for the manufacture of shoes, metal goods, building materials, and processed food.
Cultural institutions. By the mid-1980s, more than 1,600 libraries were operating in Tajikistan. Of particular importance is the Firdavsi State Library, which houses a significant collection of Oriental manuscripts.
Among the most notable museums in Tajikistan are the Behzod Museum of History, Regional Studies, and Art, and the Ethnographic Museum of the Academy of Sciences, both in Dushanbe. There are also significant museums of history and regional studies in several of the republic’s cities.
The Soviet era saw the introduction of opera and ballet to Tajikistan, as well as the organization of Tajik-style song and dance troupes. Dushanbe opera and Ballet Theater was the first large public building in the city; its construction began in 1939. Dushanbe also has theaters devoted to Tajik and Russian drama, as well as a drama school. There are theaters for music, musical comedy, and drama in several other Tajik cities as well.
In Tajikistan, teahouses are centers of hospitality, easily found near bazaars or by listening for music coming from them onto the street. People (mostly men) meet there for green tea, food, conversation, and chess. The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse offers dishes from Persia and more than seven other countries with uncompromising quality. Tea drinkers will appreciate the generous selection of full-leaf, handpicked teas that are served in a Chats ford pot. Between the ornate Tajik surroundings and the tastefully prepared food and drinks, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is a memorable spot you will want to revisit.
Fine fabrics and carpet making. For the people of the near and Middle East, carpets, runners, curtains and various types of cushions essentially took the place of furniture. Carpets were divided into three types on the basis of the purpose to which they were put: wall carpets; floor carpets and runners; and, lastly, the felt rugs, which were placed under the most richly, decorated carpets.
Carpets of Kayrokum – Carpets and carpet goods from Kayrokum are sold throughout the world. Widely using modern patterns and color combinations, Tajik carpet-makers at the same time-keep a perfect harmony and balance between the form and colors and it is this combination that makes Kayrokum carpets so original and elegant.
Embroidered skull caps (tyubeteikas) have always been popular among the Tajiks. During the Soviet years, they became even more popular and were manufactured by numerous artels as well as by individual needle workers. The tyubeteikas for brides and grooms are especially beautiful. Many Tajiks continue to wear their traditional tyubeteikas with the rest of their western-style wardrobe.
Ceiling Painting and Decoration Art. The painted wood ceiling is an old art among Tajiks (Persians) in Central Asia and Iran. The masterworks can be seen on beautiful mosques, palaces and other buildings in Khojand, Samarqand, Bukhoro, Isfahon, etc.
Costumes. The youth of Tajikistan prefer brighter colors, the elderly moderate tones, and the old dress in fabrics of a dark or pure white shade. Although sharp contrast is essential, the gamut of favored colors is broad, vivid and cheerful, never garish.
The costumes are richly embroidered in tinsel, silk or wool, both by hand and by special chain-stitching machines. Although receding to the outskirts, embroidered garments continue to be cherished in the southeastern mountain ranges of the Republic.
Men’s garments are simple in cut and less varied. Men’s undergarments consist of a shalwar drawn in at the waist and a tunic-like shirt over which a robe is worn. Men’s belts, whether made of leather or fabric, are ornamented with massive silver buckles.
The manufacture of jewellery, and also armour, constituted a separate branch of artistic metalwork. Archaeological finds from excavations in various medieval towns provide evidence of the level of development of the jeweller’s art during the pre-Mongol period. Entire urban districts have been found which jewellers and armourers occupied. Women’s jewellery, elements of horses’ harnesses and of military equipment were made of gold, silver, copper, brass and other metals mined in the mountainous regions, and these might be ornamented with insets of emerald, turquoise, cornelian, chalcedony, garnet and crystal.
Musical instruments. A general observation that can be made about the music of the Pamiris is that they have a strong predilection for plucked short- and long-necked lutes. Among the variety of lutes used by them, the most specific to Badakhshon is the rubobi pomiri, an unfretted three- (double) stringed short-necked lute, played with a wooden plectrum. Other common lutes are the tanbur, a seven-stringed lute with a varying number of sympathetic strings; the setor, which has a fretted long-necked lute with three melody strings and six or more sympathetic strings, and imported lutes like the Afghan rubob and the Azerbaijan tar.
- Kayaking or white water rafting trips – possible for those who can bring their own rafts.
- Skiing / biking.
- Hunting / safaris.
- Jeep Tours.
Khoja Obi Garm health resort – treatment of cardiovascular system, respiration organs, gynecological, gastrointestinal circuit, liver as well as skin diseases and other.