When I first visited Tajikistan in 2009, the only tourist destinations I knew about were the Pamirs and the Fan Mountains. Fortunately, I met the friendly people at the Sworde-Teppa English and Education Centre in Qurghonteppa, and over the years they showed me the best places to visit throughout Khatlon Province. Now I tell everybody that they should visit the south.
Here are the top ten reasons that I usually give to visit the south:
1. Water, Water Everywhere
These are just a tiny fraction of the amazing lakes, rivers, canals, springs and waterfalls that you can find throughout the southern Khatlon Province.
2. History Around Every Corner
The south of Tajikistan may not be Samarkand and Bukhara, but you can definitely find some remarkable historical sites:
3. Lenin Lives!
Just when you least expect him: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. There are dozens of him in the south. I still haven’t found them all.
Hunting for historical sites or Lenin statues may not be everyone’s idea of a good time. But how about something even more ancient?
The diversity of the geology in the south is amazing. You will find an endless variety of beautiful cliffs, mountains and rocks.
5. Magic Trees
In some hidden corners of the south there are trees that can fix your health, make your wishes come true, and even just make you feel happy. Ask the locals what special property a particular tree has. However, sometimes the answer is “It’s just a pretty tree.” And that’s probably just as good.
6. Safe and Peaceful
I’ve never had a problem in the south. Every time I see one of those “Be careful outside of the capital city!” warnings, I wonder if the person who wrote that has ever been outside Dushanbe.
7. Wildlife Gone Wild
I don’t have a big lens on my camera, so I don’t take great wildlife photos. But I see wild animals all the time. Travel up a mountain or in the forest, and you’ll see them.
8. Random Surprises
Sometimes I think I know the south, and that I’ve seen it all. But then one day while driving to Danghara I met a camel who only drinks RC Cola. He will chase you away if you try to feed him water or Diet Coke.
The truth is, on every trip I take in the south, something unexpected and memorable happens. One morning I decided to pay a quick visit to the town of Qubodiyon, and soon after my arrival I was looking at old Russian and Bollywood film reels stored in a Soviet-era cinema:
9. Winter? What Winter?
This photo was taken two years ago in mid-February:
We can’t promise that it is always like this in winter, it does snow and freeze occasionally during the short winter. But most of the south is open when the mountains are closed. You can visit all year-round.
It’s still a novelty for the locals to meet a tourist. So the reception is always amazing.
11. Bonus Reason: Find Your Own Adventure
It is now so easy to find your way around the south and to set off exploring in any direction. This website will, by late spring 2016, provide all the tools you need (maps, directions, advice) to get to any destination in the Khatlon Province. For now, hundreds of photos and dozens of trip itineraries are already listed.
Written by Christian Bleuer and originally posted at Southern Tajikistan.