Varzob valley & 7 bridges: instructions

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Varzob valley & 7 bridges: instructions

Post by Christian77 »

I've given these directions to dozens of tourists, so I figure it would be easier to just put the instructions online.

If you are in Dushanbe and you want to go for a leisurely hike (leave after breakfast, return in time for dinner), then I have an easy to arrange itinerary for you. The destination is referred to by some of the expats and the Dushanbe hiking community as the "7 Bridges" hiking trail, but I have no idea what the locals call it (the river is Adzhuk, Ajuk or Ob-i Juk). Anyways, the elevation is higher than Dushanbe and the air temperature will be lower, plus you spend the hike next to a small mountain river. If it is too hot in Dushanbe, then this may be a good option. Also, this trail is open for most of the year. So unless it's snowing in Dushanbe, you should be fine.

The start of the hike is in the town of Varzob. So be careful as "Varzob" more commonly refers to the district that includes the long stretch of river north of Dushanbe that is lined with restaurants and resorts. You can't just say "Take me to Varzob" if you are getting your own driver.

So, you need the MAPS.ME app in your phone, and all the links I give should be opened with that app. If you don't want to do that, each link will open in a browser with coordinates you can copy and paste into another map app.

Each time you open a MAPS.ME location, you should bookmark it so it appears on the map as a red marker for your reference (you can edit these bookmarks and makes notes with these instructions).

This is where your hike starts, in the village of Varzob:

If you leave from the northern part of Dushanbe, the trip is 22km in a marshrutka (shared minivan/minibus).

You catch the marshrutkas next to the Varzob Bazaar in northern Dushanbe. However, most drivers and locals call this place "Vodanasos Bazaar" or just "Vodanasos." Note that that name is often misspelled in English. To get there you can take a taxi (about 20 Somoni in a metered taxi from the Green House Hostel area, for example). If you are close to the main Rudaki Avenue, then you can take a #1 or #3 bus for 1 Somoni (but you now need a bus card, no more cash, and to get a bus card you need a Tajik phone number to buy one form the electronic kiosk machines). Perhaps near your hostel or guesthouse is a marshrutka that goes to the Vodanasos Bazaar (2 Somoni, probably). Ask at your hostel for that.

You need to get off at or near the crossroads of Rudaki Avenue and Omar Khayam Street (heading southeast) or Gagarin Street (heading northwest). Busses and marshrutkas will take different routes to get here.

Here is where you will get off the bus, near this misspelled and off-location (by about 100 meters) marker for the bazaar: ... osos_Bazar

Do not talk to the drivers at the main crossroads of Rudaki and Gangarin/Omar Khayam. They claim to be able to take you anywhere. They can be aggressive (by local standards) because this is the spot where tourists show up looking for a driver to take them to Iskanderkul, Sarvoda or Panjakent (for big $$$). Ignore them when they say "Varzob? Varzob?"

Once here, head straight west on Gagarin Street to this parking lot where all the marshrutkas wait:

They will be Hyundai Starex minivans or the tiny white Chinese "Tangen/Tangem" micro-vans.

However, this is where the authorities always try to make the marshrutkas stay, but often when they are near full, or during quiet times, they sneak out onto Gagarin Street (about 30 meters closer to the main Rudaki Avenue). It's in this spot on the street where you can also find shared cars. A seat in the marshrutka is 3 Somoni per person (as of summer 2018, but prices are in flux) and 5 Somoni in a car. But I expect prices to change as/if the Somoni continues to weaken in value.

These marshrutkas and cars will go 22km to the town of Varzob: This is the end of the line and the marshrutkas will do a u-turn on the road. If you want a view of the river, sit on the left-hand side of the vehicle.

If you are getting in a car, make sure you are clear on the price and that you are going to the town of Varzob. Just say Varzob "tsentr" (the Russian word for "center"), or say "to the end" in Russian. If the driver gives you a higher price, then just start walking to the marshrutkas and the price will come back down. No need to negotiate with marshrutka guys as the price is set. If you don't speak a word of Russian or Tajik, just hand 5 Somoni to the driver as soon as you get in the van and see what happens.

Your start to the hike is obvious: it is the only village street heading east up through the village. You follow the road until it's a dirt road and then it eventually turns to a trail. You will be regularly crisscrossing the small river. If you are in MAPS.ME, then you will now easily see the road and the trail and the river.

You can go as far up the gorge as you want, but I'm usually headed to the waterfall (which is not on the main river, but up a very small tributary creek). Count bridges as you go up and take a left (north) up the small creek next to the 3rd bridge (counting the car bridge, but if counting only foot bridges it's the 2nd). Here is where you turn off the main trail on the map: ... nown_Place

It takes about 15 minutes of rough scrambling on what can barely be called a trail until you will arrive in a shady nook with a very nice waterfall. You can then hang out at the waterfall or go back and continue further up the main river...

For the return trip, just do everything in reverse. When you get back to the main highway, the marshrutkas will be waiting on the opposite side of the road. If it is about 5 or 6pm, then this means most marshrutka riders are returning home from the city (meaning that drivers are quite happy to see you as they often have to return mostly empty to the city at the end of the day).

As for food, the Vodanasos bazaar has everything (bread, fruit, bottled water, junk food). But the mini market where you get off in the town of Varzob also has all of that (in smaller amounts). Should you drink out of the river? Only if you are desperate. Donkeys and sheep may have taken a bath upstream, but nothing worse than that.

There are not many locals on the trail, but they may yell out "Ot kuda?" (where are you from?). Don't worry, they like everybody from everywhere.

Is it really a $2 trip? Well, on my last trip I paid 1 Somoni for a bus to the Vodanasos bazaar, 3 Somoni for a marshrutka to the town of Varzob, and then the same on the return trip. The rest of my $2 budget was for bread, water and a banana. But prices are going up...

Worried about distances on the trail? Check out the scale on the map. The hike to the waterfall is about 3km one-way. You'll return the same way at about the same speed. If you are really fast then you can go as far up the valley as you like. Eventually there will only be sheep trails.

Looking for photos? Check out this blog (a late fall hike):

These are my photos...

The waterfall:


The first foot bridge:


The traffic:


The view up the slopes:


The view down the gorge:

Last edited by Christian77 on Thu Jun 03, 2021 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: $2 day trip river hike near Dushanbe

Post by Christian77 »

Transportation updates:

The marshrutkas that line up next to the Vodanasos bazaar have evicted the Varzob marshrutkas. Where are they now? I don't know, and the few people I asked don't know. But there should still be shared cars parked outside the bazaar or across the street that are heading to Varzob. Some of them are actually going further on, to: Pugus, Safed Dara, Takob, etc... 10 Somoni will get you a seat and they will drop you off in Varzob.

Getting back is the same as it was before. There are marshrutkas and cars waiting to go back to Dushanbe.
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Re: Varzob valley & 7 bridges: instructions

Post by Rrrrachel »

Thank you so much for your post!! I had one day left in Tajikistan and hadn't seen any mountains yet! Your post saved my trip from being natureless. I dont know if a bridge was taken down or what but I only remember crossing two bridges before needing to walk to the waterfall. And I think it would be more clear if you said that the trail to the waterfall is actually walking along the riverbed of the tributary. I actually saw footprints going up the mountain. I thought it was weird but I followed them till I saw the waterfall below lol. And finally, the marshrutkas were 6 somoni as of May 2022, and on buses, you can still use cash, and least I have been here all week with no problem, even paying with 10s. In your 2019 comment, you said you didn't know where they were, but they were pretty close to the bazaar, just a little up the road.

Also, I couldn't get your links to work, but fortunately, the showed me everything I needed to know. Again, thank you for taking the time to write this post.
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Re: Varzob valley & 7 bridges: instructions

Post by Palu »

Hey I did this hike in late April 2023. You can pay with cash for buses and trolleybuses in Dushanbe, the driver will give you change if you don't give him too large bill. It's 2.5 somoni per ride. The tiny micro marshrutkas leave from Gagarin Street as mentioned in the original post and they cost 6 somoni.

Counting the bridges might be confusing cos there's a lot of construction going on in the village with new houses buying built in the valley so probably new bridges as well. The waterfall is clearly marked on Osmand and Mapsme apps (I prefer to use Osmand as it's more advanced and I can download altitude contour lines and hillshade to have a topo map offline).

I continued to a camping spot where two creeks meet and then went south, eventually reaching the altitude of 2400m. The views were fantastic, but it wasn't an easy hike like before as there were no more bridges, only fords and in springtime the water level was knee high and freezing cold. The current was quite strong and scary sometimes. The last part was scree with loose stones and gravel. I camped two nights in my tent. There were a couple of nice wild camping spots with spectacular views, I just added them to the map. If you can't see them update downloaded maps in Osmand/Mapsme. Enjoy the trek!
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