Tajikistan beckons the more adventurous tourist. A country still little known, it boasts in a relatively small area, a rich variety of scenery, cultures and peoples. It is a jewel of a country perched between China and Afghanistan. The country is blossoming since 1991, when it left the Soviet Union to become an independent state. After a difficult start, the country is now stable and peaceful.
It is largely mountainous, with the Pamir range dominating the eastern half of the country. These mighty peaks, second only in height to the Himalaya/Karakoram range, have peaks over 7000 metres and many over 6000 metres. The mountains are intersected by the Amu Darya a river known in classical times as the fabled Oxus, and many tributaries in steep sided valleys. The Tajik who live their tough, frugal lives here are famed for their friendliness and hospitality.
Dissecting the Pamirs is one of the great highways of the world - The Pamir Highway. It stretches from Dushanbe, the capital, throgh the heart of the Pamirs to Khorog, and then up onto the high plains at 4000 metres. Here the people are Kyrgyz, tough semi nomads who tend their flocks of sheep, cattle and yaks, based in yurts on the summer pastures. The road continues throgh more mountains and on to Osh in Kygyzstan with its famed market.
VARIETY of ATTRACTIONS
The attraction of Tajikistan is enhanced by its civilisation stretching back well over 2000 years, and a rich cultural inheritance intertwined with its Persian inheritance. [The Tajik language is very similar to Farsi, spoken by Iranians]. There are many small scale places of wonder: shrines to Islamic saints on sites with much older religious traditions, caravanserai on the Silk Route, old mosques and madrassas, and ancient fortresses in the Wakhan Corridor set against the backdrop of peaks and glaciers. All this in a country with 300 sunny days a year, with an abundance of delicious fruit and vegetables available in the colourful markets.
Most tourists visiting Tajikistan will start in the capital, Dushanbe. Known as ‘The Paris of Central Asia’, with snow capped peaks to the north. It is a vibrant, elegant city with neo-classical buildings and superb parks, and a developing cafe culture. It boasts a wide range of hotels, including top of the range international style to modest homestays.
OTHER PLACES of INTEREST
Understandably most tourists will head for the Pamirs, but there are other wonderful places to visit in Tajikistan. To the north of Dushanbe are the Zarafshan, Hissor and Fan mountains. As in the Pamirs, the scope for trekking is amongst the best in the world. Futher north is Penjikent - ‘The Pompeii of Central Asia’, where buildings have been excavated with amazingly preserved murals depicting the lives and beliefs of the Sogdians, ancestors of the Tajiks. These people proved the toughest opponents of Alexander the Great. Their language is still spoken in some remote communities.
Istarvashan is a mini Bukhara - without the tourists.
Khudjand in the far north is an elegant Soviet style city on the banks of the other great river of Tajikistan - the Syr Darya.
To the south is the Vakhsh river leading down to tthe Amu Darya , the border with Afghanistan and the remains of the Temple of Takht-I Sangin where it is possible Alexander worshipped and near where the magnificent Oxus Treasure [now in the British Museum] was found.