Printable travel guide for Tajikistan
Travel Guide

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Basic Facts

Official Country Name: TAJIKISTAN Capital: DUSHANBE Population: around 7 million Telephone Code: +992 Time Zone: Area: sq km Language(s): TAJIK(PERSIAN), RUSSIAN Ethnic Groups: Highest Mountain: PAMIRs (Somoni, Kommunizm top more then 7000 metres high) President/Head of State: Government: Currency: SOMONI Exchange Rate: US$1=4.36 SOMONI Health Risks: Electricity: Weights & Measures: Country Name in other languages: TOJIKISTON

Attractions and Things to See and Do

Dushanbe Situated only three hours from the border with Afghanistan is the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, lying in the Hissar valley in the southwest of the country. Known primarily for its Monday market (the name Dushanbe is derived from the Tajik word for Monday), it was no more than a village until the Trans-Caspian Railway reached it in 1929. Soviet power had only been established in the region for six years and, somewhat unoriginally, the city was renamed Stalinabad and proclaimed capital of the new Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan. It was from here that Brezhnev launched his invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The main points of interest all lie on, or are close to Prospekt Rudaki, which runs from the railway station in the south to the bus station in the north. As well as the principal mosque, this area boasts a synagogue that dates back to the late-19th century, a Russian church and a columned opera house. Other features in the city include the Tajikistan Unified Museum, situated just north of the railway station in Ploshchad Aym, which has stuffed snow leopards and Marco Polo sheep amongst its exhibits. The ethnographic museum is on ulitsa Somoni, not far from the Hotel Tajikistan. The Southwest 16km (10 miles) west of Dushanbe lies the Hissar Port, a site built between the 16th and 19th centuries which contains, among other things, a ruined citadel, two madrassahs (Islamic seminaries), a caravanserai and a mausoleum. Further west, at Penjikent on the Uzbek border, lie the remains of a Sogdian fort that are only now being excavated. The frescoes in Penjikent are reputed to be extremely fine. South of Penjikent lie the Muragazor Lakes, a system of seven lakes of differing colors that change as the light alters. There are remains of Buddhist temples near Kurgan-Tyube in the south, from which the biggest Buddha in Central Asia was recovered and is now stored, ignominiously carved up into 60 pieces, in Dushanbe. The Pamirs The Pamirs are at the hub of Asia. Often described as the Roof of the World, these mountains form one of the most unexplored regions on earth. High, cold and remote, they have attracted climbers and hunters from the former Soviet Union for years, but only now are they opening up for the rest of the world. The bulk of the Pamir lies in the semi-autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan and visitors should be aware that some elements have been conducting an armed campaign to gain even more autonomy. However, the campaign has been confined to a number of well-defined theaters, most of which are well away from areas likely to interest visitors; the road between Dushanbe and Khorog is the exception. The only town of any significance on the Pamir Highway, which stretches from Dushanbe into Kyrgyzstan, is Khorog. The capital of the eastern Tajik region of Gorno-Badakhshan, Khorog is a small one-street town with a museum containing stuffed animals and a display of photographs of Lenin. The flight into Khorog from the Tajik capital is said to be the most difficult in the world. Lake Sareskoye, 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. In the north of the Pamirs, Lake Kara-Kul, formed by a meteor 10 million years ago, is 3915m (12,844ft) above sea-level and hence too high for any aquatic life. Pik Lenina and Mount Garmo (formerly Pik Kommunizma) are to the northwest and west respectively of Lake Kara-Kul. At well over 7000m (22,966ft), these two peaks tower over Tajikistan and the neighboring republic of Kyrgyzstan to the north. Helicopter flights are available for those wishing to climb them. Some people are convinced that yetis are alive and thriving in this remote wilderness. The Silk Road This ancient trading route was used by silk merchants from the second century until its decline in the 14th century, and is open in parts to tourists, stretching from northern China, through bleak and foreboding desert and mountainous terrain, to the ports on either the Caspian Sea or Mediterranean Sea. For further details of the route, see Silk Road in the China section. The main highlight for travelers along the Silk Road in Tajikistan is its stunning natural scenery set against the Pamir and Fan mountains and incorporating lush valleys and turquoise lakes. Trekking trips are best arranged from Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Travel along the Silk Road can be quite difficult due to the terrain, harsh climate and lack of developed infrastructure. Visitors to the region are advised to travel with an organized tour company or travel agent.


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Off the Beaten Path and Insider Tips

Suggested Itineraries

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Getting there and away, Getting around by Air, Train, Bus, Car, Motorcycle, Boat, Hitchhiking, BicycleInternational Travel: Note Travelers are advised to avoid all but essential travel to districts adjoining the Afghan border due to the continuing threat from terrorism and unrest in Afghanistan and to the partly-mined areas bordering Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Particular care should be taken in the Gorm Valley. The overall security situation in Tajikistan has improved since the end of the civil war in 1997. Visitors should be aware of the continuing threat from terrorism which Tajikistan shares with other countries in Central Asia. Air The national airline is Tajikistan Airlines (website: Other airlines serving Tajikistan include Air Kazakstan, Eurasia Airlines and Samara Airlines. The UN operates flights for staff and visitors of humanitarian organizations working in Tajikistan. Approximate flight times From Dushanbe to Moscow is four hours, to Karachi is two hours and to Delhi is one hour 30 minutes. International airports Dushanbe Airport (DYU) is 1 mile (2km) south of the city. Bus nos. 3 and 12, and trains 3 and 4, run to the city center 0600-1800 (travel time - 20 minutes). Taxis are also available 0800-2000 (travel time - five minutes). Airport facilities include first aid, left luggage, chemist, post office, restaurants, snack bars, tourist information and nursery. Rail Trains are the most reliable way of reaching Dushanbe for those not arriving by air. Passenger railways are, however, restricted at present. Dushanbe is connected to a spur of the Trans-Caspian Railway which winds down to the Afghan border in Uzbekistan before heading north towards Dushanbe. Travelers are advised to sit with their back to the engine, as throwing rocks at the windows of passing trains seems to be a popular pastime among local children. The journey from Tashkent to Dushanbe takes approximately 22 hours; from Moscow it takes approximately four days. Khojand in the north of the country can be reached directly from Samarkand in Uzbekistan. There is also a train service between Dushanbe and Volgograd in the Russian Federation. Road Tajikistan can be approached by road from Uzbekistan, subject to occasional unannounced border closures and snow. Cars with a Tajik registration, however, are not allowed to enter Uzbekistan, unless the vehicle belongs to a government body. It is not advisable to attempt to cross the border from Kyrgyzstan at present. A new road has recently been built into China (PR). The border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is officially closed. Bus: Services have been severely disrupted by border closures and should not be relied upon. A service normally operates connecting Dushanbe with Tashkent and Samarkand. Duty-Free Reasonable quantities of goods for personal use may be imported into Tajikistan by persons of 18 years of age or older without incurring customs duty; however, certain items attract a 10 per cent import duty. Note A detailed customs declaration form must be filled in and retained by all travelers. Internal Travel: Air The domestic airline is Tajik Air, offering internal flights to Khorog in Gorno-Badakhshan (one of the most technically demanding regularly scheduled flights in the world), Khojand and less frequently to Kulyab. All flights are subject to the weather and the endemic fuel shortages of the region. Flights from Dushanbe to Khorog take one hour, to Khojand one hour and to Kulyab 30 minutes. Internal services are subject to cancellations, long delays and overloading of passengers. Rail Passenger railways are restricted at present. There are only three railway lines in Tajikistan: one leading south from Dushanbe through Kurgan-Tyube and Shaartuz to the Uzbek/Afghan border at Termez; one that leads due south from Dushanbe, through Kurgan-Tyube to Tugul on the Afghan border; and one in the northern region which runs from Samarkand, through Khojand to the Fergana Valley. A branch from Kulyab to Kurgan-Tyube is currently under construction. Note Travelers are advised to store their valuables in the compartment under the bed/seats, to ensure the door is securely shut from the inside by tying it closed with wire or strong cord, and not to leave the compartment unattended. Road There is a reasonable road network in Tajikistan, though some parts may be seasonally impassable. During the winter (October to March), three of the four main roads from the capital and the southwest of the country (east to Khorog via Khalaikum, northeast to Osh via the Garm valley, and north to Khojand via the Anzob Pass and Ayni) are all closed by snow. The only way of reaching these areas is through Uzbekistan. The road between Osh (in Kyrgyzstan) and Khorog is kept open all year round and traverses one of the most beautiful and unspoilt regions in the world, the Pamir Mountains. Recent political and economic troubles have meant that road maintenance has been widely neglected. Foreigners are, in theory, allowed to go anywhere except border zones - it is worth noting that the road from Dushanbe to Khorog is in a border zone for much of its length - without having to get special permission (other than an endorsement on their visas). Tourists should inform their tour operator of their plans. If traveling independently, it is worth getting as many official-looking documents as possible in order to negotiate the many checkpoints. Traffic drives on the right. Bus: There are services between the major towns when the roads are open. In the south, buses go to Kurgan-Tyrube and Kulyab and as far down as Pyanj and Ayvadaz. Buses to the east reach only around 100km (60 miles), as far as Komsomolabad. Information on timetables and fares can be found at the bus station, or autovokzal. Taxi: These and chauffeur-driven cars for hire can be found in all major towns. Many are unlicensed and travelers are advised to agree a fare in advance. Officially marked taxis are safe, but sharing with strangers should be avoided. As many of the street names have changed since independence, it is also advisable to ascertain both the old and the new street names when asking directions. Car hire: Self-drive car hire is not currently available. Documentation: It is in theory possible to bring, or buy, one's own transport: drivers should have an International Driving Permit and have arranged insurance before departure ...


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