Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

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jorgefallan
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Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2024 11:37 pm

Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by jorgefallan »

Hello,

I am wondering if fellow Tajikistan / Uzbekistan seasoned travelers and locals could help me with this one:

- My wife and I (in our lete 40s) will spend 13 full / effective days in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan this next October (first 2 weeks of the month), We like culture, walking and getting lost in towns/cities, nature, and really try to know different cultures and settings.
- We will land in Urgench in early morning of Day 1 and will fly back home from Tashkent afternoon Day 14
- Will spend 2 full / effective days in each Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and will broder cross to Panjakent in the late afternoon of "Day 7"
- Day 8 plan is to hire a driver and visit all Haftkul at a nice pace

After this is where I need help:

Option 1:
- Day 9 hire a driver to get to Iskanderkul in the morning, and spend the full day and night there
- Day 10 with same driver go to Istaravshan in the afternoon, spend ~2-3 hours and then sleep in Khujand
- Day 11 Spend the day in Khujand
- Day 12 Cross to Tashkent in the morning and sightsee Tashkent
- Day 13 Tashkent

Option 2:
- Day 9 hire a driver to get to Iskanderkul in the morning, and spend the full day and night there
- Day 10 with same driver go Dushanbe in the afternoon, visit and sleep in Dushanbe
- Day 11 Spend the day in Dushanbe
- Day 12 Fly Dushanbe -> Tashkent in the morning and sightsee Tashkent
- Day 13 Tashkent

Basically, my question is should I spend ~1.5 days in Istaravshan / Khujand or in Dushanbe? After the Uzbek cities I am concerned the first option will be a little repetitive and maybe underwhelming? on the other hand they might result in more authenticity than Dushanbe?

What do you think? What advise could you give?
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Kasia
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by Kasia »

Walking in the afternoon around Istaravshan Old town gave me a better insight into everyday life in Tajikistan than Dushanbe. Khujand has a different vibe, a Tajik sample town with lots of money spent on fountains, memorials, the cable car... I liked both very much (and more than Dushanbe, to be honest) and completely different to the Uzbek silk road cities.

So I vote for Option 1, perhaps with the twist to skip Iskanderkul and stay one more night in Haft Kul (or Penjakent) instead.

In my opinion Iskanderkul is not worth a one-night detour this long especially when you travel afterwards once again to the north. And compared to Haft Kul it felt more like a weekend getaway for rich people from Dushanbe.
(With a little more time it could be worth to move onwards to Sarytag and enjoy village life and hiking from there, but better save this for your next trip to Tajikistan.)

Safe travels!
Kasia
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willemspie
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by willemspie »

Istaravshan has a huge market, that's the attraction. Personally I prefer nature attractions such as Iskanderkul to any town in Tajikistan. I rather recommend a homestay in Sarytag (but I also stayed in a homestay in the Khujsnd maze of old lanes).
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jorgefallan
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by jorgefallan »

Thanks a lot for your input. It is really valuable. I completely understand that its all about individual tastes and preferences and there is no right / wrong answer.

How could you frame the main pro's / con's of the dilemma between 2 days in Dushanbe vs 2 days in Istaravshan / Khujand?
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Kasia
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by Kasia »

A you wrote yourself, it depends on your personal preferences.
I myself am interested in learning about the everyday life of the people, so my pro-con list looks like this:

Istaravshan / Khujand
pro: easy to explore on foot, not too big, friendly people that are open for a chat / chai, great bazaar, old town maze, slow vibe
con: in Istaravsham limited accomodation possibilities

Dushanbe:
pro: russian, soviet and post-soviet architecture + dictator cult (if you are into it), international restaurants + western cafés, big hotels
con: has no soul, the old quarters are demolished in favour of "modern" architecture

I hope that other travellers join with their experiences - it will be interesting to read.

Safe travels!
Kasia
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Poney
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by Poney »

I would go for Option 1 as well, for quite the same reasons Kasia described above. I have enjoyed Khudjand a lot during my two visits (last one in 2022).
I have only been once in Istaravshan, for 24hrs in 2011, but I loved the market and the old town.
Sadly, Dushanbe is quickly getting "upgraded" with new buildings that are staying empty, and people getting relocated in the outskirts. But it is a big city, and I guess there are still some neigborhoods which are still alive and not yet converted into new shiny but poorly built high rises.
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StephParis
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by StephParis »

From Khujand you can also "visit" Isfara on a day trip with public transport. Not that much to see, but still interesting. On the road you'll notice the huge damages caused by last Tajikistan/ Kirghizstan clash. Maybe you can make it to Vorukh (tajik enclave in Kirghizstan).
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jorgefallan
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by jorgefallan »

Thanks a lot for your answers.

It seems the best alternative is to go north then: Khujand / Istaravshan vs. Dushanbe. I still think spending a day/night on Iskanderkul is worth it (1.5h from Ayni up and down).

Any other opinions or different suggestions?
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ChrisFitz2024
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by ChrisFitz2024 »

Hi,

I’m planning a trip almost identical to yours in April so I am keen to see what you decide and how you go.

I booked my accommodation today and decided that Panjakent and Khujand are better options than Dushanbe. Both seem more genuine than a big city, I get to see more nature and I can avoid a flight getting back to Tashkent.

What I’m curious about is whether I can arrange a driver to take me to Iskanderkul from Panjakent and then onto to Khujand without the need to go back to Panjakent.
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jorgefallan
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Re: Khujand or Dushanbe after Haftkul and Iskanderkul and before Tashkent

Post by jorgefallan »

Hey Chris, are you going this April? If that is the case then... please tell me how it goes! My trip is in October so I still have time. From this forum and other blogs in which I asked, it seems a private car for the trip Panjakent -> Iskanderkul (1 night) -> Khujand should be around ~250-400 USD (~400km + the time and 1 night), and the hotel in Panjakent should be able to arrange it.

Lets be in touch, our trips seem very very alike!
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