This former Soviet Republic is one of the highlights of Central Asia. If jaw dropping scenery, uber-friendly locals and a minimum of tourists are your thing, this is the country to go to. Want to hike without the crowds that clog the more popular backpacker destinations like Nepal? Come to Tajikistan!
Make no mistake, Tajikistan isn’t the easiest destination in the world. Visas can be a hassle, transport can be difficult, and hotel options aren’t plentiful. But what it offers in return makes up for it all.
Here are some reasons you might want to give it a try:
The Pamirs, at the northern end of the Himalayas, are also referred to as the ‘Roof of the World’, here, you can hike among beautiful valleys, while staying in a traditional Pamiri houses. Visit the Wakhan Corridor, straddling the border with Afghanistan, sit at Yamchun Fort and take in the views, soak your weary bones at Bibi Fatima or Garam Chasma (translation: Hot Spring), or hop over the border at Ishkashim into a safe slice of Afghanistan. The Fan Mountains, north of the capital Dushanbe lie as lesser known, but equally scenic mountains, where you can hike along the string of turquoise jewels, called the Marguzor Lakes. Visit Fergana Valley and see the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia in Khujand.
While Tajikistan is nominally Muslim, as with all former Soviet Central Asian Republics, the government is secular and the constitution provides for freedom of religion. The Soviet past is noticeable in the nearly universal literacy rates, the widespread knowledge of the Russian language, and the large amount of Tajiks that work in Russia.
The official language of Tajikistan is Tajik, which is a form of Farsi (Persian). Russian is widely understood and spoken, while English is near non-existent.
Highlights from Tajikistan
Hints and Tips for Tajikistan
- The best time to visit Tajikistan is in the summer. Snow can block the high mountain passes the rest of the year, and the Pamir’s can be especially inaccessible for days during the winter.
- Visas for any former Soviet Central Asian country can be a hassle, though Tajikistan is trying to promote tourism so it is becoming easier to obtain a visa. That said, do your homework and find out what the current rules are, and whether you can get a visa upon arrival at the airport, or if you have to apply for one in advance.
- There are many community based tourism projects in Tajikistan. It is a good way to stay with a local family and contribute to the community. However, even if there is no official homestay in a village, there is always somebody who will take you in for a small fee.
- Remember, Tajikistan is all about mountains, hiking, lakes and valleys, and the people. If you are looking for beaches, this is not the place to be.
- Know that (public) transport can be difficult, Tajikistan isn’t set up for backpackers. Shared jeeps and marshrutka’s are the norm, and sometimes hitching a ride is the only option.