The region around Dushanbe, together with the Rasht valley leading up to the Kyrgyz border, form the central region of Tajikistan. Dushanbe is a pleasant enough town to hang around for a day or 2 to resupply, take a hot shower, drink coffee and learn about Tajikistan in museums.
Travelers are fixated on the Pamir highway, so it’s mostly expats who visit the attractions surrounding Dushanbe. The border crossing with Kyrgyzstan at Karamyk remains closed. That’s too bad for the Rasht valley, which continues into Kyrgyzstan. If one day the borders open, more people will discover this forgotten bit of Tajikistan.
Khatlon region, south of Dushanbe, is mostly a winter destination, or a place for day trips away from the capital. There are no spectacular mountains here, and in summer, it gets boiling hot. That is when you want to be in the Pamirs. On the flipside, in February and March, while the rest of the country is covered in snow, the south is already a pleasant place to be.
Dushanbe & surroundings
Dushanbe is the capital and pretty much unavoidable. Great to recharge, but don’t overstay – the real beauty of Tajikistan is elsewhere. Day trips from Dushanbe are the fortress of Hisor, the Sufi mausoleum in Faizabad, and the Romit nature reserve. The southern province of Khatlon is also within reach for day or weekend trips, especially outside of summer.
Good hiking close to Dushanbe lies in the Karatag and Shirkent valleys east of town, or the Varzob and Sioma valleys north. In winter, you can ski the slopes in Takob.
Rasht (Gharm) valley
Heading east from Dushanbe, you head into the Gharm or Rasht valley, before turning south towards Tavildara and into the Pamirs. Before you get there, though, a dip in the hot springs of Obi Gharm is a rite of passage.
It’s a great place for independent trekkers, who can find beautiful scenery and undisturbed villages several days walking from the nearest road. For the culturally inclined, the Jafr botanical gardens, headed by philosopher-farmer Mirzoshoh Akobirov, are the place to be.
- Pamirs: The Pamir Highway winds its way through landscapes from another planet
- North: Khujand, Panjakent, 7 Lakes, Fann mountains and Iskanderkul
- South: The Khatlon province is a great 3-season alternative when the rest of Tajikistan is covered in snow.
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
- Southern Kyrgyzstan: yurts, horses, and rolling pastureland
- Ferghana Valley: Uzbekistan’s traditional heartland
- Central Uzbekistan: The Silk Road cities Tashkent, Samarkand. Bukhara and Khiva